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by Wendy Pearlman

Powerful collection of tales, vignettes, comments and thoughts of Syrian refugees collected over half a decade or so. (Pearlman speaks Arabic and so the stories are as undiluted as possible considering they are written in English after being told in Arabic.)

From stories recounting years to simple paragraphs in which a person conveys the single most important element of their life, none of these will leave you untouched.
The brutality and humanity are evident in equal measure in these stories – I was flooded with sadness, anger, despair and horror as I experienced these stories.
These stories need to be read. heard, listened to, learnt from – we as a species needs to start treating each other with the humanity we claim to have/be. No family should have to walk across countries just to be safe. No children should drown falling out of crowded boats. no families should be split because one members has to run from persecution because of their political beliefs.
These stories remind us that this is still happening – that the global community allows this to happen. We are all responsible


by Doris Pilkington, Nugi Garimara

This is my #ReaderHarder prompt 8 #ownvoice from Oceania book

Very simply written but deeply moving and disturbing story of three little girls who ran away from a school they were sent to because they were of mixed race.
The children of white men and Aboriginal women in Australia they were shipped off to a residential school designed to develop the white in them and control the black.
They escaped and walked across a huge chunk of Australia to get home again.

This story is honest and raw and terrible. What colonists did (and do) to indigenous people is horrific and shaming.

Clearly not written by a professional writer the value of this book is not in how the words are spun, but in the simple, atrocious story it tells.

by Anjali Sachdeva

I am using this book for Popsugar prompt 28: A book recommended by a celebrity you admire

While she didn’t recommend this book in any kind of public way, when I saw Roxane Gay’s review of this book on Goodreads I knew I wanted to read it
Roxane Gay called it, “One of the best collections I’ve ever read. Every single story is a stand out.”

This is a really good collection of short stories. I simultaneously wanted to gobble the stories up, one after the other, in a frenzy of consumption, and wanted to slowly savour each story.  As  finished one I wanted to ponder and think about it, revisit sections and reread phrases. But I also wanted to know what the next one held in store.

I managed, sometime, to pause and enjoy, but other times i did rush on, consuming. This means this will definitely be a reread, probably more than once.

Each story is complete and complex with full 3-dimensional characters living interesting moments shared with the reader
Really well worth reading

The first story haunts me still

by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This is my (first) book for Popsugar prompt 32: An author from Africa
I must admit I am not sure that Braithwaite meets this requirement as the only bio info I can find on her starts with being at a British university.
So I am not sure if she is Nigerian or British
But the book is clearly Nigeria in setting and voice.
I liked this book a lot. It is funny and witty and really quite dark. While it is easy to read it is not a a superficial story. There are all sorts of interesting comments on society, gender expectations, family links and the secrets we keep out of love and fear.
I found this book an interesting mix of completely believable and quite ridiculous – often exactly the same scene being both at the same time.
I’d read something else by this author very happily

by Robert B. Oxnam

An interesting read for #ReadHarder prompt 13 – written by someone who identifies as neurodiverse.

I thought this a very interesting book. I liked the fact that is was written by the different egos within the author rather than the dominant person telling everyone’s story. It is, essentially, a multiple POV story with a single body encasing all the points of view.

I found the discovery and description of the castle within him where everyone lives fascinating. As a single personality I do wonder how and where these egos live. The inner workings of Oxnam’s mind are fascinating. My heart broke for Baby and for the adult egos who finally heard him and understood why they were they way they were.

I let this book slide through my rule of no cishet white men because, while Oxnam may present as such, he has a multitude of egos and one of the three surviving ones is a woman. I found this integration of egos an interesting philosophical question, and one Oxnam grapples with. Because one ego loves a person do the other have to too? Are they not allowed relationships because the strongest ego has pledged fidelity to someone; someone the others may not even like or fancy? Who decides the sexual orientation of the body they all live in?

The collection of egos that is Oxnam deals with this, together with a very understanding wife.

I continue to ponder this life and the lives other people with similar neurodiversity live.
Yep – an interesting book that still has me thinking days later.

by Anissa Gray
I absolutely loved this book.
It could meet Popsugar prompt 4 – should be a movie, prompt 6 – plant on cover, prompt 19 – multiple POV, prompt 25 – debut novel, and the one I am using it for, prompt 43 – an ‘own voices’ book.
And if you are not doing Popsugar read it for the personal prompt of Really Good Book Worth Reading.

The narrative follows a family primarily of women after the older sister, and de facto matriarch, is arrested and sent to jail along with her husband. Her sisters are left behind to look after her young daughters. Her brother is there too but not really.

The family dynamics and personal experiences are revealed chapter by chapter as each character tells us the story from their point of view. There is damage and hurt, poor intention and misguided emotions. There is cruelty and misunderstandings. And so much love, hurt and pain – like an actual family really.

The personalities populating this story are varied but Gray manages to make each one complete. We may not get a full history of each but we get enough to know what she is struggling with and how. The reactions of each person to what is happening is believable and they feel like real people. This story feels biographical rather than fiction. It is so full and nuanced and relatable I feel sure these women actually exist.

I loved the way the older women handled their nieces when their sister went to jail. I loved their confusion and screwing up because that’s what would really happen. But under it all was a fierce love the girls couldn’t help but feel even through their anger, fear and sadness.

I will miss these characters and really hope that Gray writes another book soon. What a marvelous debut novel this is – bravo Ms Gray, bravo!

River of Teeth

by Sarah Gailey

This is my book for #ReadHarder 2: An alternate history novel
I didn’t even know what this category was until this challenge so well done #ReadHarder – mission accomplished

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought it was fun and entertaining and a jolly good caper.
The premise takes a ludicrous idea that was vetoed in the 1800s (that of bringing hippo to America to farm for meat) and runs with it for a couple of hundred years until there is a feral hippo problem.
And gambling river boats and bayous and all sorts of wonderfully seedy things going on.

This is all the perfect breeding ground for revenge and love, all carried around on the backs of hippos.

I liked the additional touch of non-binary gender and fluid sexuality simply being woven into the story. It is not a big deal, no attention is drawn to it; it simply exists as how things are in that future. People have pronouns which others respect without question, people find people attractive – beautiful eyes being more important than gender identity or genital configuration, one character describes how she is drawn to wearing skirts and flounces some days, and mustaches and suits on others. These elements of the characters are woven into the book and in one case, save the day.

Race is treated similarly – it was refreshing to have white people described as such making the white reader’s assumption that everyone is white lurch a bit. People are always people in books until they are described as black – not in this book! Most of the people are raceless until the characters realise that they have lost their only white man and then we, the white readers, have to face our own preconceived ideas of how we have pictured all of the characters thus far. But this is done so with the flow of the book I think many people may not even consciously notice – but their assumptions will be questioned and their image of the characters possible shifted.

We need more of this sort of thing just as part of what we read and watch.

All of that being said, this is mostly just a lot of fun, a bunch of people on an adventure riding hippos.
I am off to read the next one – I want to know what happens and about love and babies and hippo ranches

by Judy Dlamini,

This is my #readharder book 17: a business book.

This was an interesting, if occasionally frustrating book. It was truly amazing to hear all of these successful women’s stories. These women have raised themselves from humble beginnings (in most cases) to positions of great power. They worked hard, fought prejudice and excelled.
Truly incredible and inspiring.

What I found frustrating was what I perceived to be deeply rooted sexism within some of these women. I got so tired of hearing how women became chairmen of organisations, of how feminism is a bad word and that quotas are not necessary because women must just put their hands up for positions of power.
Whether quotas are the answer are not, saying women should just put their hands up implies that we are the reason sexism exists in the work place, that if we just offered to be the boss the men in power would happily let us.

It must be said that these frustrations are the result of the women’s life stories, and NOT the author.

What truly saddened me and will make me so much more aware, as a white woman, is that women of colour do not perceive white women as allies. And that’s on my people- white women. We need to be allies, so obviously and loudly that all women of colour cannot not know.

An amazing collection of life stories everyone should read – every single person could learn a lesson from this book.

Hell to Pay

by Rachel Amphlett

Another very engaging book in the Kay Hunter series from Amphlett and my book for #ReadHarder prompt 9: a book published before Jan 2019 and with fewer than 100 reviews.

This time a body is found in the boot of a car involved in a crash, opening a can of very disturbing worms.

Amphlett is not afraid to tackle topics and sets her books in very interesting and always gritty gruesome situations. It’s fabulous.

The crime solving and police procedure aspects of the story will keep the reader turning the pages until way too late at night. The human interactions between the characters feels very real – people make mistakes (including Hunter) just like real people.

I still believe this would make an amazing tv series – it is British crime solving at its best.

A great series and a great book within the series that deserves more reads and more reviews.

A solid five stars from me, with much joy because I know there are more in the series to read!

Murder at the Lighthouse

by Frances Evesham

This is my book for the #ReadHarder prompt: A cozy mystery (14)

A body is found under the lighthouse on the beach of a small town, by a relative newcomer to the town, Libby.
The body is discovered to be that of a pretty famous export of the small town who everyone has an opinion about, mostly not good.

Libby and Max, one of the town residents, and the head cop’s father, set to investigating the death when the cops decide it was an accident. A second death and they know they are right.

This is a readable easy cozy murder – just as is expected.
As an older reader I liked that Libby and Max are older characters and interact like older people do. I liked the parallel story lines of Libby’s late husband, her desire to cook and bake, and the book she is trying to write.
The sub-plot of Bertie, his wife and Mandy also helped create more depth to Libby as a character.

I do think that this book could have been a little longer with some of the threads more fleshed out. For example, the second murder wasn’t clearly a murder; no evidence was found to prove or even strongly suggest it was, not really.

But a very readable cozy, and the first of a series. I will keep the next one available for when I feel the need for this kind of gentle but still interesting and engaging story.