All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Mini Reviews {10} – What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Thought I’d do another round up of mini-reviews, books that I’ve read lately that haven’t really warranted a longer review or are similar or were read a while ago (and in some cases here, read before). So here are a few books I’ve read lately that I wanted to have some thoughts on.

Obernewtyn & The Farseekers (Chronicles of Obernewyn 1&2)
Isobelle Carmody (narrated by Isobelle Carmody)
Bolinda Audio
2016
Personal purchased copies via Audible

So recently I’ve discovered the success for audiobooks, in terms of me enjoying them and it’s listening to books I’ve already read. I really enjoyed the version of Pride & Prejudice that I read, narrated by Rosamund Pike and when I finished that, I went looking for something else to read and came across the Obernewtyn books.

I have loved this series for forever and also, the audiobooks are narrated by the author, so this is how she intended them to be read. I’ve discovered a bunch of things I’ve been pronouncing wrong in my head for 20+ years (starting with Innle!). I have listened to the first 2, which are relatively slim books – the first was just under 7 hours, the second was over 8. I’m also well into the third book, which is 14+ hours.

I have really enjoyed revisiting the series in a different way and just being able to determine tone and intent behind the words. Isobelle Carmody does have a great speaking voice and she lends a large variety of accents to the characters as well, which also helps connect those from similar areas, who speak in the same ways. The books after 3 are significantly larger and will take a long time to listen to, so I may take a break and listen to something else first, before going back to them. I’ve also only read the last book once so it’ll be an interesting experience to listen to that too. These first 3 books at least, I know inside out as I started reading them in 1996 and read them a lot. I’m sure a lot of info has left me over the years from the later books, which I am not as intimately familiar with.

These were both excellent!

9/10

Books #125 & #128 of 2020

488 Rules For Life 
Kitty Flanagan
Allen & Unwin
2019, 302p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

488 Rules for Life is Kitty Flanagan’s way of making the world a more pleasant place to live. Providing you with the antidote to every annoying little thing, these rules are not made to be broken.

488 Rules for Life is not a self-help book, because it’s not you who needs help, it’s other people. Whether they’re walking and texting, asphyxiating you on public transport with their noxious perfume cloud, or leaving one useless square of toilet paper on the roll, a lot of people just don’t know the rules.

But thanks to Kitty Flanagan’s comprehensive guide to modern behaviour, our world will soon be a much better place. A place where people don’t ruin the fruit salad by putting banana in it … where your co-workers respect your olfactory system and don’t reheat their fish curry in the office microwave … where middle aged men don’t have ponytails …

I love Kitty Flanagan, I think she’s hilarious. I first remember coming across her in Full Frontal, an Australian sketch comedy show that aired in the mid 1990s that I used to watch. She’s very funny, and is a regular on Have You Been Paying Attention which is a show my husband and I both watch together.

This is a funny clever book that is pretty much just as it says – her rules for life, starting with #1 which is if you don’t agree with the rule, forget about it and move on. There are plenty of rules here that you’ll find yourself nodding along to, and it’s broken down into fun sections. At the back there’s a section for you to add your own rules (mine was an electronic copy, so I couldn’t do this).

The sort of book easily read in snatches, perhaps on public transport (whilst people around you break all the rules maybe!)

6/10

Book #113 of 2020

488 Rules For Life was book #39 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020

Artistic License
Elle Pierson
Self-published
2014 (originally 2013), 178p
Personally purchased copy

Blurb {from Goodreads.com}:

When of the world’s prestigious art collections comes to the resort town of Queenstown, New Zealand, shy art student Sophy James is immediately drawn to the pieces on display – and to the massive, silent, sexy presence keeping watch over them. She’s completely fascinated and attracted by the striking planes and angles of his unusual face, and can’t resist sneaking out her pencil when he’s not looking.

Security consultant Mick Hollister is used to women looking at his ugly mug – but not with the genuine pleasure he sees in the face of the girl with the charcoal-smudged fingers and terrible skills at covert surveillance. A security breach brings the two into fast and furious collision, and an unlikely friendship begins to blossom. And an even more unlikely – and very reluctant – love.

Introvert Sophy is content with her independence and solitude. She’s never looked for a long-term relationship, and isn’t sure she wants one now. Mick, apparently born with a face that not even a mother could love, has given up all hope of having one.

They have nothing in common. They shouldn’t even like each other. And they can’t stay away from one another.

I saw this recommended on the romance reddit when someone wanted a recommendation where the people weren’t perfect looking. Apparently, Mick, the hero in this, is considered ugly by most but Sophy is an artist and she doesn’t perceive him that way. To her, his face is fascinating! She sketches him trying to be subtle at the museum where Mick works security (although Sophy is not exactly inconspicuous, so Mick does notice her).

I loved the setting in this – Queenstown in NZ is high on my visit list, in fact my husband and I had been considering NZ as a trip for my milestone birthday and it was the frontrunner….before all of this *gestures vaguely* So that was a big tick and I liked that Mick, although son of a wealthy family, had gone his own way and worked a job that isn’t often typical in romance books. There’s a bit more to it than just security guard, but it was something different. This was a perfectly fine romance, a bit different although there were a few things that I felt were just there to try and create conflict, like Sophy’s freaking out about being in a relationship meaning she’d lose her sense of self. It wasn’t very well explained.

6/10

Book #132 of 2020

Talking To My Country
Stan Grant
Harper Collins AUS
2017, 240p
Personal purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In July 2015, as the debate over Adam Goodes being booed at AFL games raged and got ever more heated and ugly, Stan Grant wrote a short but powerful piece for The Guardian that went viral, not only in Australia but right around the world, shared over 100,000 times on social media. His was a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australia and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an indigenous man. ‘We are the detritus of the brutality of the Australian frontier’, he wrote, ‘We remained a reminder of what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed to scaffold the building of this nation’s prosperity.’

Stan Grant was lucky enough to find an escape route, making his way through education to become one of our leading journalists. He also spent many years outside Australia, working in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, a time that liberated him and gave him a unique perspective on Australia. This is his very personal meditation on what it means to be Australian, what it means to be indigenous, and what racism really means in this country.

Talking to My Country is that rare and special book that talks to every Australian about their country – what it is, and what it could be. It is not just about race, or about indigenous people but all of us, our shared identity. Direct, honest and forthright, Stan is talking to us all. He might not have all the answers but he wants us to keep on asking the question: how can we be better?

I bought this recently. Stan Grant is an Indigenous Australian journalist. He wrote and is featured in a doco/movie called The Australian Dream which is currently sitting on my satellite tv box until I’m in the mindset to watch it, along with The Final Quarter. Both revolve around the booing of Indigenous AFL footballer Adam Goodes (who is my favourite player of all time and played 17 seasons with my team, the Sydney Swans). This book also touches on that issue, towards the end.

But this book also details a lot of Grant’s life and that of his family, incidents over the years that have reflected the treatment of them as Indigenous people. Grant outlines times like when he was 15 or 16 – the government was paying his family for every term he stayed in school, in an attempt to keep kids of Indigenous heritage enrolled, getting educated. “Bridging the gap” in education between Indigenous kids and others has long been an issue. However, Grant says that the principal of his school pulled him and several other Indigenous kids into his office and basically told them they were done at school, it wasn’t for them obviously, it was time to go and get a job. Which was in direct contrast to the message the government was trying to send, of keeping children in school. And what must that have been like, for teenagers? To be told that. That you weren’t wanted, shouldn’t be there. You can pretty it up any way you like but Grant and others like him were specifically singled out for their heritage and told to leave.

There’s a lot about identity in this, what it was like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia. There’s a lot about family and history, interesting stories about some of Grant’s relatives, like a white grandmother who chose a life with an Indigenous man and was turned away from a hospital when time came to give birth to her child. It seems inconceivable that a place responsible for help and caregiving, would refuse entry to a woman because she carried a child that would be Aboriginal. But it happened. I mean, this is a country that basically stole an entire generation away to “better them” by placing them with white families so it shouldn’t really be that shocking but yet it still is, every time you read one of these stories and connect it to a real person who endured it.

Grant has an appealing way of writing, very conversational but also informative and this does a fantastic job highlighting a lot of the inequality and systemic racism faced by Aboriginal Australians. He talks of places stained with the blood of his ancestors and their fellow tribespeople, places where brutal massacres took place. He also takes his son to some of these places, to share stories and history so that it is not forgotten, that each member of his family is privy to the path that has led them to where they are. He is passionate and informative but also measured and thoughtful. He’s not afraid to lay himself bare either and talks extensively of his struggle with identity and also his depression, later in life.

I feel as though this is an important book, one all Australians should read. And that anything I really have to say on it is inadequate.

Book #131 of 2020

 

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Review: With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With The Fire On High 
Elizabeth Acevedo
Hardie Grant Egmont
2019, 388p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Ever since she got pregnant during freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions, doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela.

The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen. There, she lets her hands tell her what to cook, listening to her intuition and adding a little something magical every time, turning her food into straight-up goodness.  Even though she’s always dreamed of working in a kitchen after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible.

But then an opportunity presents itself to not only enrol in a culinary arts class in her high school, but also to travel abroad to Spain for an immersion program. Emoni knows that her decisions post high school have to be practical ones, but despite the rules she’s made for her life — and everyone else’s rules that she refuses to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

I heard a lot of wonderful things about this book last year when it was published and it was always on my radar to read. Then I realised that it would fit neatly into at least one category for my Reading Women Podcast Challenge, which bumped it up my priority list a bit. I hadn’t read anything for that challenge yet and I’d like to make steady progress in each of my challenges throughout the year, rather than trying to scramble to find reads to finish them when it’s coming to the end of the year. So I requested this from my local library.

Emoni had a baby about two years ago when she was around fifteen. She’s now seventeen and her “baby girl” is old enough to go to daycare. Emoni fought hard to stay in her regular school, rather than going to a school specifically for young teenage mothers and she finds her plate full up with not only parenting her child and finishing school but also working part time at a burger place in order to earn some extra money. She lives with her grandmother, who also raised her after Emoni’s mother died during her birth and her father wasn’t able to cope with the idea of single fatherhood, heading back to Puerto Rico. He visits every year, appearing and vanishing at will, leaving Emoni with some very complicated feelings about him. She’s no longer in a relationship with her daughter’s father although the two do have a relatively amicable coparenting agreement, albeit one that favours Tyrone in that he only has every other weekend now that she’s getting old enough to have sleepovers away from Emoni. The day to day parenting load is all on Emoni and her abuela, who has helped Emoni from day one.

Emoni’s passion is food and she’d love to work within this industry, but she’s not sure how to map out her future. School can be a struggle for her and university is just more years between her and earning enough money to support her daughter (and grandmother). Plus she’ll graduate with debt. Then her school introduces a culinary arts class, which could help Emoni realise the future she wants for herself.

I adored this book. From the very beginning I was hooked on the story and really became invested in Emoni’s life, her attempts to balance everything and make the best life she could for herself and her daughter. She’s dedicated and determined and works so hard. She is pretty honest about her abilities as a student – plenty of work doesn’t come easy for her and she knows a lot of colleges will be out of her grasp. She’s a natural at cooking though, instinctively knowing what ingredients complement each other and how to really give a meal something extra. Her food evokes memory and she just has that true connection with food. She’s not a recipe or rules person however, which causes her some conflict with the chef in charge of the culinary arts class she enrols in at school. He knows she’s incredibly gifted but in order to do the job, you have to learn the theory and have that background knowledge. I really enjoyed the way the two of them clashed a bit at first but I think deep down you could tell how supportive he was of her and how he thought she had a place in the future in that industry. The ideas and motivations that Emoni has to raise money for a trip to Spain is really impressive – she thinks outside the box, practical ideas that not only help them in their goal but give them experience.

I appreciated the balance in this story – there’s equal parts devoted to Emoni’s struggles with her ‘load’ – school, work, her daughter, her grandmother as well as her complicated feelings for and relationship with her father, as well as her precarious co-parenting agreement with her ex-boyfriend and the difficulties faced in sharing that as well as the complications of his family not approving of her. There’s also a new boy at school who wants to be friends with Emoni but she definitely wants to make sure that he’s not just looking for one thing. Seeing as she got pregnant very young, she saw how that changed the way people looked at her, and how they continue to still look at her that way. She didn’t get pregnant alone but her ex doesn’t face the same sort of judgement that Emoni does and he also has very little in the way of responsibility. He also wants to tell Emoni what she can and can’t do in regards to other boys and who she can and cannot bring around her home and have around their daughter. I liked the way Emoni stood up for herself calmly but firmly. It’s the same when she feels looked down upon by his mother, or judged for not doing the right thing. I admired her restraint at times, the way she managed to keep herself collected even when she was being unfairly treated.

I should also mention the food, and Emoni’s love of and devotion to preparing the food of her culture. Her grandmother is from Puerto Rico and her father has gone back there to live. I love reading books about food, where food makes up an important part of the narrative and this book has some mouthwatering descriptions and Emoni’s passion for cooking leaps off the page. I especially like the way her cooking played back into her relationship with her father and his complicated feelings about eating her food. It was such a small part of the book but it was very powerful. Also Emoni emails her aunt, her late mother’s sister a lot and they swap recipes back and forth, Emoni often altering them or adding her own flair and then sending it back. It was a way for her to be able to stay connected to her mother’s family. So many subtle ways in which the author explores relationships and connections.

I really enjoyed this. I know Elizabeth Acevedo’s Poet X is also well lauded but I generally do not do well with poetry. However I might just be tempted to try it…and I’m definitely looking forward to future offerings.

9/10

Book #19 of 2020

I’m going to count this one for prompt #1 – author from the Caribbean or India (with the diaspora counting for this prompt). Elizabeth Acevedo was born in the US to Dominican parents. This is the first book completed in the challenge!

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Review: Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

Stay With Me 
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyò
Canongate
2017, 296p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

There are things even love can’t do …If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love …’

Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything – arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, appeals to God. But when her relatives insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.

Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of 1980s Nigeria, Stay With Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. Ayobami Adebayo weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. It is a tale about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak.

I have heard a lot of amazing things about this book and this writer, for the last couple of years now. This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time and when I returned from holidays, I made a flurry of requests through my local library, books on a list I had, that I was dying to read. This was the first one to become available.

It’s split between two timelines, 2008 and around the late 1980s, with the bulk of the story taking place during the 1980s in Nigeria. Yejide and her husband have been married for four years – it’s a love match but after all that time, there’s still no babies and the pressure from both families has been enormous. Yejide has been to doctors, fertility specialists all of whom say there is nothing wrong, she is perfectly capable of having a child. Her husband has also been tested but yet there is still no baby. Yejide is devastated when that family pressure leads to her husband taking a second wife, the general feeling being that if her husband can get his second wife pregnant, that will spur on Yejide’s own fertility and she will soon be blessed with a baby as well. Yejide is hurt, angry, feeling utterly betrayed, by the man she loves, she made it clear early on that she was never going to be about that lifestyle. She’s the daughter of a man with many wives, her own mother died in childbirth and the remaining wives were not kind to her. She has no mother to confide in, no sisters to support her. Just a mother-in-law who won’t let up about her giving her husband a son and her father’s other wives who make no secret of her disappointment.

There are so many layers to this story. Everything you think you know about Yejide and her husband Akin ends up being completely turned upside down over the course of the narrative as more of the story unfolds and you realise what is going on, how much of their marriage has been orchestrated to appear as one thing but is in fact actually another. Even Yejide herself is in the dark for the longest of times. Her life ends up becoming filled with such pain and suffering – her mental state takes such a severe beating after Akin marries his second wife. Even though he’s reluctant to take another wife, has done so because he believes that will be the end of the badgering and pestering from his mother and Yejide’s father’s other wives. She goes from despair to joy to despair again and again until she just doesn’t seem to be able to cope anymore, especially after the truth about her husband and what he has done is revealed.

Yejide is such a complex character. She’s short tempered but loving, she’s desperate for a child, a family of her own after the lonely upbringing she experienced. She wants her mother-in-law’s approval, she’s even willing to undergo rituals for a child. I really could understand her hurt and confusion and anger at her husband marrying another woman, her helplessness against her and the intrusion into their lives. And the effects that it has on her psyche is quite heartbreaking. Akin gets his own chapters here and he’s concerned about Yejide, he tries to talk to her, broach the topic of what is happening but she cannot/will not hear it. I think he loves her – but he makes mistakes. Huge mistakes and it causes them so much pain and anguish, instead of just being honest with her, even though that would come at great personal cost to him.

I found myself so invested in this domestic story, set against the backdrop of an unstable political situation in Nigeria, with various coups. The author has created the type of story where there doesn’t need to be a lot of information – not much time is wasted on backstory, etc. The characters have a few conversations or make a remark or recall a memory and that’s all you need to put the pieces together. Yejide’s life growing up has shaped her adulthood, her wants and dreams and desires and the ways in which she goes about it. And Akin’s fears shape his actions, his desperation to please his wife as well as complete their lives and stay their family’s harassment.

This is clever, insightful and well written.

8/10

Book #16 of 2020

 

 

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