Category: Book review


bad feminist

what an amazing book – another in my no-cis-white-straight-male authors challenge of 2017
I read it on my kindle but will buy a hardcopy because I want to reread these essays, and make marks in the book and underline bits I love.
I want to pick it up and delve into Gay’s words again and again

In these essays Gay looks at many aspects of popular culture through her own, admittedly imperfect, lens. And in doing so makes the critical thought processes she follows available to more of the general public. Because she says that it is hard to get it right all the time, hard not to be a bad feminist sometimes, she creates a space in which it is okay to realise, acknowledge, and then hopefully work on, your own flaws, weaknesses and bad feminism.

We can all only become better feminists if we examine where we fall short, and why.
And, as Gay says, better a bad feminist than no feminist at all

Love love loved this book
I am going to read it again, this time stopping to watch the movie Gay is talking about, read the book, engage with the pop culture.

And i will add reviews and comments on each essay as I go along. This is to multi-faceted a book to receive a single review

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The birthday lunch
by Joan Clark

birthday-lunch

I liked this book.

It is, on the surface, quite gentle. But beneath the surface, the slow-paced life of a small village, the shock sleepwalking of bereaved family members, beneath all of that lies family history, betrayal, sadness, a sense of failures and being deserted, a swirling pool of mixed and misunderstood emotions – all the things every family holds within the emotional walls of relationships.

The book charts the detailed life and activities of a family after the unexpected death of a member. In a really still way this book will take you along the path of grief with the mourners. It is funny at times, and really quite sad too. It captures perfectly that period between death and burial when life carries on, but also is so markedly different it doesn’t fit any more.

The characters are all people we know, people we are related to, us. The relationships are familiar, and not always in a good way.

Misunderstanding, long held grudges, mistakes and anger are all there to be seen, and how they separate and join people is so human it made my heart ache.

And the end surprised me a little, in a variety of ways.

This is a lovely book which is absorbing and emotional.

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

What an amazing collection of stories from a truly incredible author. Adichie shows the reader, through these 12 stories, so many of the stories of Nigeria and Nigerians. From women living in America, separate from their Big Man husbands to students hiding in empty shop front to escape from a riot these stories tell a multitude of vibrant, real and often heart-breaking realties.

Africa is so present in all the stories, possibly especially those of Africans in America. Adichie tells it as it is, no sugar-coating or misty-eyed out of focus view. She addresses the fear and loneliness of immigrants as well as the pride and strength they have. She looks at the connections between loved ones and those lost, and makes the protagonist, and therefore also the reader, examine preconceptions and opinions.

These stories will grab you and suck you in; make you want to know more and wish that each were part of a full novel about the characters. Each story is complete, but they did leave me yearning to know more of the people. I wanted their past and future – I wanted to demand to know more, dammit!

Adichie is all she is cracked up to be – I feel so lucky to be an aware, developing feminist reader at the time she is producing.

A note: when I first started reading this book I didn’t realise it was a series of stories. So I read the first few stories as though they were chapters in a book, storylines that would join up eventually. As soon as I did work out that this was not the case it was worth going back and rereading the first few stories as complete pieces. And I realised how differently short stories require the reader read.

1 million stars out of 10

2017

If you want flowers, plant flowers

nature-collage

that’s my motto for 2017 – I want a good year with positive results, self growth and happiness. so I am planting those seeds right now

this is the year I turn 50 so I refuse for it to be anything but amazing

50

I will achieve Level 50!!!!!!

I have many plans for the year but the first two I am addressing are:

  • eating primarily plantbased meals
  • read primarily authors who are not cis-gendered white men

so expect book reviews and recipes

 

Room

Wow – what a book. This book is trending at the moment because of the recent movie so many people have read and reviewed it recently. But I wanted to add my wow to the noise about it.
It claims to be a book you’d read in one sitting, and were I able to sit for long enough, it certainly would have been. Instead I read until later at night and then woke up earlier than I needed to, to read more.

The story on its own could have been any number of books, some even good. But what makes Donoghue’s telling of the story so amazing is her narrator. I think the story is well known now – a woman and her son live in a single room, captures of a man who visits, abuses the woman and brings them their necessities. The son, Jack, is five, and was born in Room. Room is narrated by Jack.

Jack is completely believable as a 5 year old with wildly slewed development – he is incredibly mature in some ways and so completely immature in others, as might well happen if you lived in just a room with your mother.

That Ma and Jack actually do happen, that there are people who have lived this story as real life made Room so much more powerful. I could not help but think of Fritzl and the women he held captive while reading Room.

A wonderfully told, amazingly real story – I loved it
And I shan’t see the move for fear it may ruin everything.

The Dot Spot

The Dot Spot by Dorothy Black

dot spot

This book is bylined as ‘Adventures in love and sex’ and while it is that, it is so much more. It really is adventures in you; adventures and voyages.

Ms Black is a sex columnist who finally, thank everything you believe in, decided to write a book.
“A sex columnist?” I hear you say, shocked and slightly titillated (if you were honest).
“We don’t really need another book about all that!”

Oh yes we do. And this is the book we need. This is the book every single woman needs, and probably quite a few men too. It’s the big sister we never had, even if we had a big sister. It’s the friend we can trust who knows more than we do but never makes us feel stupid. It’s the slightly crazy aunt we adore because she makes it okay to say stuff and ask questions, and she tells us the truth.

Because this book is not just about sex and what to do, how to do it and where to find people to do it with. It’s about finding out who you are, what you really truly want and need, and then being empowered enough to go ask for it.

It is chocful of information and opinion as well as experience. Ms Black is not some expert tut tutting at you for not knowing stuff, but rather your mate sitting around a dinner table admitting what she didn’t know and telling you how she gained the knowledge. She shows you the way, she doesn’t drag you down the path.

One of the many things I took from this book is the idea that we should stop speaking of our sex lives as though they are separate from our actual lives. As Ms Black says, it’s your life and how you choose to express yourself sexually. They are not separate things, one of which is active at a time. If one aspect of our lives is not healthy, you can be sure all aspects will be affected.

Ms Black takes women’s sexuality out of the basement cupboard of shame and has created a space where women, and men, can learn, grow and develop as rounded, satisfied sexual being. She simply and succinctly reminds us that we are going to be sexual creatures, and be sexually active – we may as well do it the right way for each of us. It’s too fundamental an aspect of life to screw up really.

The line ‘We do the best we can with what we have’ is used in this book more than once. There is no judgement is what anyone chooses to do, but what Ms Black is doing here is making sure that we all have more, know more, believe more, so that we can better make decisions about what we do.

And that has to be a good thing for the whole world.

The only problem I have with this book is that I didn’t have it as a 20 year old when I set off into the sexual wonderland. I made so many crappy decisions and did so many stupid things because I just didn’t know. Every single responsible loving mother who can admit their daughter will be a sexual being one day should get this book for her. In fact, every woman should read this book and then pass it on to the men they love, be they brothers, lovers, or friends.

Life changing, liberating and empowering – a wonderful book.

dead ends

Dead ends and Sharp bends by Angela Meadon

I got this book in exchange for an honest review.

Short stories are tricky things – the author has very little time to get the reader sucked in, in harmony with their writing style, and understanding everything that is not said as well as that which is. And as the reader, you have to be able to get the author immediately to fully appreciate the story. There is no ‘it gets better after the first 100 pages’ with a short story. Liking or disliking a short story really is about how well and quickly the author and reader mesh.

All of that being said, I found this anthology of short stories a bit of a mixed bag. I really liked some of the stories, while I thought others had great potential not quite realised. There were also some which I didn’t get at all, and some which felt a little forced.

But that is not to say I don’t think it is an anthology worth reading – I certainly think it is. Meadon has some interesting ideas and twists, and sometimes I put my kindle down at the end of a story and actually physically shuddered saying ugh because the story was so vivid.

The book could have done with a slightly tighter edit – little things like using a character’s name twice in a sentence when he is the only participant, instead of using ‘he’ is an editorial thing, not an author thing. And it jars unnecessarily.

If Meadon produced another anthology I’d read it too because, for all the little things and the few stories which didn’t work for me, I think she is an interesting author.

I have decided to move the book reviews i am writing in my round the world project to their own blog

i am doing too many things at the moment that i want to blog about (have started at chef school and dealing with mom’s illness) and i do not want the book reviews to get lost in all the other nonsense i write

 

so they will all be here

http://readingoneworld.wordpress.com/

i will slowly move the ones from here across but am also putting new ones up as i go along

 

so any readers interested in my book project, please just wander across to readingoneworld and find them all there

 

also – i can then follow book blogs from that blog and have a less cluttered reader

 

Ta

The Misremembered Man

Christine McKenna

Irish

A short while into this book I did roll my eyes and wonder if everyone in Ireland had a terrible childhood filled with Catholic-fuelled abuse.  And then I began to care about the characters and got really caught up in their simple rural Irish lives.

Jamie, one of the two main characters is a lonely and sad man with very few social skills. The cause of this becomes apparent throughout the book and the sense of hopeless he feels is very believable and real.

Lydia, the other main character, is a woman trapped in a life with her mother, beholden forever. The dusty despair which permeates her life is also very real and as the reader you can almost feel the cloying demands of her mother.

Despite the apparently doom and gloom foundation, this book is actually a wonderful celebration of the inner human light that exists and can survive, regardless of the shit life throws at you.  

 

Towards the end of the book I was reading as fast as I could to see what would happen. Sitting on the edge of my seat I hurtled towards the resolution. Because the book is about the grittiness of life as well as the possible joy to be found, whether the end was going to be happy or not was not clear, until it was revealed.

 

As a postscript the books informs that the type of orphanage described in the book continued to exist in Ireland until as late as 1996. This horrifies me.  

 A very readable book despite, or because of, being very real, gritty and harsh.

Keeping Hope Alive: How One Somali Woman Changed 90 000 lives

keeping hope alive

Hawa Abdi is one of the most amazing people in the world. She has the Mandela gene in buckets. In 1991 when things fell apart in Somali Abdi was there, a newly qualified doctor trying to make a small difference. How she chose to respond to the catastrophe in her country positively affected hundreds of thousands of Somalis.

A refugee camp sprung up around a small hospital Abdi had created outside Mogadishu and at its height there were hundreds of thousands of people living on her land, looked after, fed and protected by her, and loyal to her.  Abdi would not engage in the clan warfare in Somali, always preaching that people should be united by their Somali-ness rather than separated by their clan divisions.

Abdi got international recognition for what she was doing, and used this to increase the international help available to the people she was looking after. At great personal risk, to herself and her family, Abdi hung in there, believing in Somali and in its future.

To do this in a civil war is amazing. To do this as an African woman in a civil war with religious (Muslim) overtones is simply astounding. Abdi was captured and a lot of what she had established was destroyed at one stage simply because she was a woman and would not let the feuding warlords tell her what to do.

The sadness of Somalia is a character all of its own in this book; Somalia and all other countries ripped apart by this kind of senseless violence.  Then all the journalists and other international  participants in the situation in Somalia dash out of Somalia to report on the Rwandan situation, the hopelessness of the situation globally is almost overwhelming.

Hawa Abdi finally had to leave Somalia and despairingly, despite all the years and all the efforts, Somalia is still a mess. An entire generation of children has been born into a war-torn country. What hope do these countries have when their future leaders are ex-child soldiers and victims of awfulness?

A valuable book worth reading.