November 2018 Round-Up

11 books altogether in November, which is pretty good, given it was exam season (for my students and for me! I took and passed (found out yesterday!) a piano exam, for which I was practising fairly hard).

Total Expenses in Nov: ~127BND (my book expenses really ramp down towards the end of the year, which is great)

And two more notable books:

Julia Alvarez In the Time of the Butterflies Historical fiction based on the true story of the Mirabel sisters, three of whom died as revolutionaries in the fight for freedom in the Dominican Republic. It was the most female revolutionary novel I’ve ever read, and a wonderful counterpart to the writings of Junot Diaz. We had a good talk at Feminist Book Club about which of the sisters we would have been, which is to say we talked about the kind of person we hoped we would be if it ever came to crisis point, and the kind of person we thought we actually would be. I really liked this novel, it was very readable and – aspirational.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Thing Around Your Neck A collection of short stories from the acclaimed Adichie – to be frank, I have not loved her novels, but I did really like this collection (ala my feelings about Jhumpa Lahiri). Precise, firm, generous. I liked this very much.

To hit my 150 target for the year, I have to zoom through 19 books in December. So far I’ve read 1, haha and I’ve been drawn to Christopher Pike re-reads, which I don’t count. Well, what will be will be. Onwards!

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November 2018: mid-month round-up

I have read 8 books so far in November, and am barrelling through a 9th (Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, a re-telling of the Iliad through the POV of Queen Briseis – caveat: I’m not very well-versed on the events of the Odyssey and Iliad, I sort of know the major events but not the difference between canon and retelling, but this book is great so far; and a welcome companion to Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, which I read last month)

Of note:

Alice Hoffman The Rules of Magic The prequel to Practical Magic, which I absolutely came to first through the movie (Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman!) before the book, which I remember loving. This prequel was lovely, Alice Hoffman is underrated as a magical realist, and I wish I could write something like this.

Josie Guillory One Day in December A British missed-connections novel, about a girl who falls in love at first sight, meets the guy again when he ends up dating her best friend, and gets married herself after. What I loved about this book was that it treats all kinds of love – best-friend love, platonic love, temporary love, love that makes us want to be better – with kindness, respect, and understanding. I really, really liked this book.

Tara Westover Educated The memoir of a girl raised by survivalist fanatics in Idaho, who makes the difficult decision to strike out on her own, get a formal education, and has learn to see the world through other lenses. It’s amazing, she’s clearly and enviably brilliant and strong, and I…really want a sequel in ten years, because she deserves all good things. This book has been appearing on my IG feed all over the place, shoutout to my book-recommending friends!

Kevin Kwan Rich People Problems The ending to the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy starts out bananas with rich people problems, and ends in a surprisingly pragmatic, puncturing way. I enjoyed it.

Honorable mentions: Michael Uslan’s Archie Marries… story arc (because Betty and Veronica!), Caitlin Kunkel et al.’s New Erotica for Feminists which is absolutely a great gift for feminists in your life. It’s quick and bite-sized and thought provoking.

22 books to go to hit my 150 target for 2018!

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Belated October 2018 Round-Up

Quickest numbers post since I’m so late on this!

Number of books read in October: 13

Number of books left to reach 150 goal for 2018: 30

Amount of money spent on books in October: BND286.1 (Amazon UK and Kinokuniya Singapore)

Other noteworthy books in October after the mid-month round-up:

ed. Kate Mosse I am Heathcliff Collection of short stories influenced by Wuthering Heights – I’m a sucker for this glorified fanfic stuff

Mira Grant Feed A smart, meaty zombie novel told by bloggers, an indictment and defense of the media

Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm This one is a re-read (the only re-read I’m putting on my list!) because it’s one of my favourite books ever. Flora is a fantastic, cocky, clear-headed and pragmatic heroine; the premise is hilarious (that woodshed doe), and Aunt Ada and that ending in the end-of-summer field is still one of the most romantic scenes I’ve ever read.

 

12 days and 4 books into November. 26 books to go to the end of the year!

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October Mid-month Round-Up 2018

Mid-way through October, with 2.5 months left to 2018. Definitely ready for a break (from 2018? From the semester? From writing and reading and washing and repeating? Who knows).

books  so far in October. Of note:

Ling Ma Severance Zombie novel, but the zombies don’t really pose a threat. So it was more like a meditation on what’s left when everything is gone. Sort of The Road with shades of Dawn of the Dead (extended mall section). This wasn’t amazing, but sometimes you just want a good zombie novel. A friend has recommended Mira Grant’s Feed to me, so that’s what I’ll be tapping next time I want some good mindless zombie fun.

Mary Robinette Kowal The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky The Lady Astronaut series! A meteor hits the earth post WWII. This is an extinction event – a slow one. In x number of years, the earth will be uninhabitable. Mankind looks to the stars. Amazing amazing take on the Space Race, with insights into race and politics. A little like World War Z in global scope. The protagonist, the Jewish Elma York, who flew planes during the WW, is so so human and wonderful, and her relationship with her husband and the other astronauts is fleshed beautifully out in the second book, The Fated Sky. (The first was good but slower than the second, which I really loved, even with a mildly abrupt ending.) I had to stop every so often so I wouldn’t cry.

Aisha Malik Finding You The third halal romance from this Bruneian writer. It’s worth reading – the prose is getting better and more fluid with each novel, although the ending here is a little too abrupt also and I think sometimes the plots are constrained by the need to fit in the “this is how we do romance the halal way” exposition.

Kevin Kwan China Rich Girlfriend Much more enjoyable than Crazy Rich Asians! Smaller, more humanized cast. The prose isn’t amazing; especially the shifts in POV, and the characters’ inner thoughts are pure exposition, but I really did enjoy this one because it delved more into the details of social climbing, the meanings of certain brands – it mapped out affluence more rather than just putting the affluence on the page. (Two Brunei mentions in this one!)

36 more books if I’m going to hit my target of 150 this year. Not sure I can make it, but am powering on.

 

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September 2018 Round-Up

October, and not a moment too soon. September has been an incredibly stressful month, so am very glad to say goodbye to it.

13 books in September, so not a complete wash! Of note

Charlotte Perkins Gilman Herland Yes! This was awesome. I’ve read and taught The Yellow Wallpaper, of course, who hasn’t (and I’ve been texting Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s text interpretation of the short story to everybody since reading Herland) but it had never at all occurred to me to look up any of CPG’s other stuff. The elucidation of a female Utopia, rudely barged into by three male explorers, is amazing. I really liked the bits where heterosexual relationships are reconceptualized, how the idea of legacy without war and bloodshed is re-thought, and the swift, drive-by denunciation of the meat and dairy industries. Amazing.

Helen Fielding Bridget Jones’ Diary I’m 22 years late to this party, and was very cognizant of that fact while reading this. I had to keep checking and re-checking myself while reading, to remind myself of that fact, especially as feminist and race issues cropped up. On the whole I think the novel feels very of its time, but not necessarily dated. And it was such a fun, easy read from the doyenne of chick lit. I am inspired to read the sequels.

Alfian Sa’at Malay Sketches A series of vignettes of Singaporean Malay lives – poignant, insightful, prose that is so carefully carefully precise that you don’t even feel where it cuts into you. I can’t wait to pick up his plays.

43 books to go to the 150 goal. 15 books in October, here we come.

Expenses

I did SO good this month.

Waterstones Ealing BND 76.01

Amazon UK GBP12.96

Total: 99.15BND

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September 2018 mid-month round-up

I’ve hit the 100 book mark for 2018! My 100th book was, perhaps fittingly, Mary Beard’s manifesto, Women and Power, in which she draws links to the Western world’s Greco-Roman heritage to argue how the silencing of women in the public sphere is historically enabled, and how a correction of this silencing entails rethinking what we “know” and feel about power. (She also references a novella, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, of Yellow Wallpaper fame, which sounds amazing – Utopian civilization composed entirely of women.)

6 books so far in September, two others of note:

Margaret Atwood The Penelopiad A retelling of Homer’s Odyssey from Penelope’s POV, featuring the hanged maidens as Greek chorus. Light-footed, lethally sharp, so sharp you don’t even know you’ve been cut – the essential cruelty of human nature in forgetting and erasing and holding female life so so undear, so carelessly, in unsentimental, even blackly humorous prose. Like so many others, I’ve always loved that phrase wine-dark seas, and it takes on a fresh, fertile, febrile new meaning here.

Holly Bourne How Do You Like Me Now? Tori Bailey is a breakout social media success and bestselling author and motivational speaker, whose success is built on authenticity, and refusing to buy into “conventional” tropes about what successful feminine identity mean in the social media age – it turns out, by buying into other tropes about what “authenticity” looks like. Now, however, Tori is 31 and her life is falling apart, and not in a social-media friendly way. What to do? A powerful callback to Bridget Jones, it introduces some interesting ideas about how we prettify authenticity for other people’s consumption, and how success at 25 and 31 look very very different. And ultimately, how it’s okay to change, and to want change.

Louise Candlish Our House A really fun thriller about a woman who comes home to find her house has been sold out from under her feet.

3.5 months and 50 books to go to hit my 150 book target for 2018. That means I should be reading 15 books a month, and another 5 books by the end of September.

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Have a picture of my book haul from the Waterstones in Ealing Broadway last week.

Onwards through September and definitively into the final quarter of the year.

xxoo

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Handful of Quotes: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel Lecture

I’m not a huge fan of Ishiguro’s fiction in execution, but I do love their core premises (sort of the reaction I have to Neil Gaiman’s fiction), so I picked up a copy of his Nobel lecture when I was in the Ealing Broadway Waterstone’s last week. Some quotable bits:

On writing international fiction

“In fact my new book, to be called The Remains of the Day, seemed English in the extreme – though not, I hoped, in the manner of many British authors of the older generation. I’d been careful not to assume, as I felt many of them did, that my readers were all English, with native familiarity of English nuances and preoccupations. By then, writers like Salman Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul had forged the way for a more international, outward-looking British literature, one that didn’t claim any centrality or automatic importance for Britain. Their writing was post-colonial in the widest sense. I wanted, like them, to write “international” fiction that could easily cross cultural and linguistic boundaries, even while writing a story set in what seemed a peculiarly English world. My version of England would be a kind of mythical one, whose outlines, I believed, were already present in the imaginations of many people around the world, including those who had never visited the country.”

On a moral life lived

“…by failing to take moral and political responsibility for his life, he has in some profound sense wasted that life.” (This really hit me – the necessity of choosing, of taking a stand, even when – maybe especially when – it would be easier not to.)

On good writing

“The reason why so many vivid, undeniably convincing characters in novels, films and plays so often failed to touch me was because these characters didn’t connect to any of the other characters in an interesting human relationship.”

“A character in a story became three-dimensional, he’d (E.M. Forester) said, by virtue of the fact that they ‘surprised us convincingly’.”

“But in the end, stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?”

“..we must take great care not to set too narrowly or conservatively our definitions of what constitutes good literature. The next generation will come with all sorts of new, sometimes bewildering ways to tell important and wonderful stories. We must keep our minds open to them, especially regarding genre and form, so that we can nurture and celebrate the best of them…”

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