Monday, 18 April 2016

Books I read in March!: Rebel of the Sands, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, A Gathering of Shadows

I read and marked like a zillion essays and dissertations in March so my reading brain was very tired, but I did manage to read three whole books! I also read some graphic novels and you can read my round up of the ones I read in February and March in their very own dedicated post. The few books I did manage to read were the wonderful Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, Ayisha Malik's Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, which I loved, and much anticipated sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic- A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab. 

Rebel of the Sands

I may have initially judged this book by its beautiful shiny cover, but the contents were no disappointment. Set in a desert land with magical sand beasts and a Rebel Prince uprising against the king, Amani Al'Hiza is determined to leave her tiny dead-end town and head for the bright lights of the big city. Our heroine is particularly skilled with guns, and can definitely fend for herself, although it helps that she can pass for a boy. The world building is brilliant- I had amazing imagery in my head of this Middle Eastern meets cowboy Western land, especially appreciating the train scenes, there's just something about a desert train that I really love. Romance, adventure, mythology, and gun-slinging are all woven together beautifully, in what I was very pleased to learn is the first part of a trilogy. Follow Alwyn on social media too, she's great! 

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged 

I took the recommendation of Leena Norms in her Fresh Reads video, and I regret nothing! I loved this book. It was so much fun and I learned so much about British Muslim culture. Sofia Khan has just broken up with her boyfriend, due to his unwillingness to move out of his parents house after their potential future marriage. Discussing her dating experiences at work, as a publicist at a London publishing house, her boss convinces her to write a Muslim dating book. This book is essentially that, a British Muslim dating book. Full of wit and humour, balancing religion and relationships, marriage-obsessed relatives, racists on the tube, praying at work, writing her book,  and joining a Muslim dating site, Sofia's story is extremely entertaining and engaging. 

A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows is the much anticipated sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, and I was very excited to see what would happen next after the very fast paced first book. This sequel takes place four months after the events of book one, and spans several months too, so we get a real feel for the wider world. Lila is the more central protagonist this time and she has essentially become a pirate and it's great. She has also been practicing magic under the tuition of her ship's captain, Alucard Emery, and learning as much as she can about Red London. Back in the city itself, Kell and Rhy are under much closer protection after both almost dying to defeat the Dane twins in White London, with Prince Rhy busy planning the massive international event, The Element Games, to be hosted in the city, and Kell essentially just pining after Lila. I really enjoyed the book, it was a great sequel, picking up the pace from the first book, and continuing this great pacing throughout. I loved Lila's new pirating life, and oh! that amazing opening scene. The bustling crowds of the Games really reminded me of the Quidditch World Cup, so that obviously sat very favourably with me. There was an effort throughout to remind the reader of details and events from the first book, which I found to be very elegantly executed and helpful, and that certainly isn't an easy thing to pull off. I found the chapter lengths to be perfect too; there is really just an overall brilliant attention to detail throughout. An amazing sequel- so excited for part three!

I'm currently reading Riverkeep, so far so good, and I have such a big tbr pile right now it's a little overwhelming but as far as problems go, it really could be worse! I just got a copy of The Girl From Everywhere from Hot Key Books and I have a sneaky feeling it's going to jump to the top of the pile...!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Feminist Orchestra: I Call Myself A Feminist- Edited by Victoria Pope, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Alice Stride, Martha Mosse.

The first book for March in Jean (BookishThoughts)'s book club, The Feminist Orchestra, is I Call Myself A Feminist: The view from twenty-five women under thirty. An edited collection of essays, written by women under thirty, this book offers various perspectives from women on their reasons for calling themselves feminists. There is plenty of discussion going on the thread on the Goodreads page where everyone one seems to be coming to a similar consensus.

One common comment is on the feeling that some of the chapters could go a little more in depth than they do. Depth was a bit of an issue for me in some of the essays. Some of them almost felt like first drafts... and this was all the more obvious next to the stand out chapters, where I became really aware of the difference in quality of writing. However I'm willing to chalk this up to an earnest attempt to get multiple voices of women under 30. Not meaning to imply younger writers are not good writers, but more that in some cases this will have perhaps been their 3rd essay on feminism and not their 100th.

It's also maybe a taste thing. I was really drawn to the more stylised or topic specific essays like Naomi Mitchison's 'A Typical Engineer', which focussed on feminism in the male dominated engineering industry, and Alice Stride's 'This is NOT a feminist rant: the language of silencing women' , which looked at the all too persuasive 'sexist whisper', and 'My journey to feminism' by Louise O'Neill, which had a similar outline to other chapters, but was full of O'Neill's clever wit, sarcasm and humour. In these essays the author's personal voice or writing style really strongly showed through, and I preferred these in contrast to the almost schooly personal statement vibes I got from a few.

The effort to include non-white and non-cis and non-straight feminist voices, however was so great to see. I felt like my claims of intersectional-feminism were bolstered by these diverse stories. Maysa Haque's 'Islam is my feminism and feminism is my Islam' was so interesting, and I always appreciate some cat love. '"Roti kamana": stories of survival' by Samira Shackle was equal parts immensely illuminating and horrifying. And the words of Meltem Avcii in her essay 'Why I call myself a feminist' were seriously powerful.

So I have finished with the feeling that I could probably manage to get my teeth into some more advanced/academic feminist writing, which is an exciting thought as I'd quite like to have a bookshelf full of feminist books that I've actually read AND understood. 

This month it's Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, which I plan to read in a much more timely manner than I did with this one!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Graphic Novels of Feb and March: In Real Life, Skim, Embroideries, Fun Home, Chicken With Plums

This year I'm counting graphic novels in my reading challenge because they totally count and as I read 5 over February and March I thought I'd round em up here in this very post. It turns out my local library has a pretty good collection so I've been working my way through that!

In Real Life
I picked up this beautiful graphic novel by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang on my birthday. As usual I was drawn in by its beautiful illustrations but the story was worth staying for. Anda is a high school student who loves online gaming, specifically the massively-multiplayer role-playing game Coarsegold Online. Anda is REALLY GOOD at this game, and is part of a all-girl guild. Real life and online life collide as Anda makes friends within the game with another kid in playing in China. I loved the art, I loved the story. I feel like it has a really strong moral heart within it. Also the physical copy is a beauty. The colours are wow!

I found Skim in the library, and was drawn in by the authors Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki who also wrote This One Summer, which I read last year. I also remember reading excerpts of this in my Sequential Narrative class in Toronto. So I was happy to finally read this story of Kimberly Keiko Cameron, nicknamed 'Skim', a wannabe Wiccan at high school in the early 90s. There's a suicide storyline, when a classmates' boyfriend kills himself, and the school becomes obsessed with spotting depression in its students. Skim is secretly meeting her English teacher Ms. Archer during all this, while also figuring out her friendship with her best friend, finding dates for the formal, and generally navigating teenage life. A really nice coming of age story, encompassing all the complications of high school. Has the same kind of thoughtful nostalgia as This One Summer .

The beginning of my Marjane Satrapi season. I had recently rewatched the Persepolis film (of which I now have a book copy and will read soon!), and spotted Embroideries in the library. This is such a funny and truthful little book. It's only a hundred or so pages, but there is so much good stuff packed in there! Over an afternoon of tea drinking, we learn of the love stories and sex lives of several generations of Iranian women in Majane's family. Her grandmother, mother, aunts, neighbours, cousins, all have stories from their various marriages and romances. I absolutely love Marjane Satrapi's humorous narrative style and her artwork is just great, capturing the personalities of each character in simple ink. 10/10 definitely read this! If anything. it's super enlightening!

Fun Home
I listened to Fun Home being discussed on the SRSLY podcast and then, once again, spotted it in the library. I'd been looking out for Alison Bechdel work, so I was very pleased to find it. This is a longun, with Bechdel looking back over her childhood at her relationship with her father, who died when she was in college. His death came just a few weeks after she came out as a lesbian to her parents, at which time her dad also came out as gay. Bechdel looks back over events in her childhood to unravel the mysteries of her father and their relationship and come to terms with his death I guess. This was a really interesting graphic memoir, mostly set in the family's funeral home business. Thoughtful, unapologetic storytelling and detailed artwork. Definitely wroth reading.

Chicken With Plums
Continuing Marjane Satrapi season, the library also had Chicken With Plums! Set in November 1955, Nasser Ali Khan is a celebrated tar player, and Marjane Satrapi's great-uncle. The story takes place over the eight days leading to his death, after he has given up on life due to the breaking of his beloved tar. Satrapi tells stories of his past and of his childrens' futures too, again with the same humour and wit she is known for. Offering glimpses into Iranian culture pre-1950s, and handling issues of death, love, life, and music with humour and grace. Also now I want to eat chicken with plums mmmm.

Any graphic novel recommendations are most welcome! Lemme know!