Book Haul: London + #VersoBooks Sale

haul post pic

What’s a vacation without splurging on books? Exactly, that’s why I love city trips and especially the wonderful bookstores and charity shops in London. The only downside of my trip was that I could only take 10kg. I’m pretty sure security had a blast at my bookshelf in a bag, but what can you do. Here’s what I got in London (all links to goodreads):

jane And Prudence

Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

This one was dirt cheap in a charity shop, so with my library not carrying any of her books, buying it used was actually the cheapest option. Life is weird!

rupi kaur

Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

Have loved so many poems by Rupi Kaur, I wanted to take a look at the whole collection.

rosemary and rue

Rosemary & Rue by Seanan McGuire

Also dirt cheap and I enjoyed this one. Now that I’v read more by McGuire I want to go back and see if the reading experience is different.

obelisk gate

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

I just had to get Jemisin’s new book while I had a book budget or I’d have gone green with envy!

depicting the veil

Depicting the Veil by Robin Lee Riley

A bit unsure about this one. It’s written by a white academic feminist, so we’ll see, though I do think it’s an important topic especially for feminists who are white to tackle and work through.

safe house

Safe House edited by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey

This one I had to get cause Whitney made it sound amazing. It’s creative non-fiction by writers from Africa, can’t wait to explore!

3body problem

The Three-Body Problem Cixin Liu, transl. by Ken Liu

Read this one already via Scribd, but it was really good and thought I’d get it for the shelves and a reread.

phoenix

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

Wanted to get Who Fears Death but they didn’t have it. Shame on you UK bookstores for not carrying more books by Okorafor.

let the right one in

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Queer horror for creepy season and also maybe a good read for the R.I.P. challenge.

decolonizing methodologies

Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith

This is a book I’ve been eyeing for quite a while and I just couldn’t resist any longer. It’s also a keeper for the library I’m trying to build.

*****

And then Verso Books had a flash sale of their e-books for 90% off, how to resist!? I got some works I’d wanted to try for a while and some I wasn’t sure enough about to buy a hardcopy of.

VersoHaul

Dominating Others: Feminism and Terror After the War On Terror by Christine Delphy

More adventures in exploring how feminists who are white take on Islamophobia and the war on terror. We’ll see how that goes, can’t say I’m a fan of the cover.

Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties by Karen Ishizuka

This one I’m very excited about, it discusses the radical Asian American movement of the 60s.

The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, And the Domestic War On Terror by Arun Kundnani

This one looks at the intersection of Islamophobia, policing and surveillance in the US while the war on terror supposedly only happened somewhere else.

Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter by Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatheron, eds.

Very timely publication and I wanted to review this but with graduation I didn’t manage to finish before it archived on NetGalley. Well looks like I’ll get to finish the book finally, but less enthusiastic about NetGalley now.

Letters to Palestine: Writers Respond to War and Occupation by Vijay Prashad, ed.

This collection looks really great, it brings together voices Remi Kanazi, Robin D.G. Kelley, Teju Cole and Junot Díaz who discuss a growing awareness in the US of the sufferings of people in Gaza.

Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race by Patrick Wolfe

This work examines regimes of race brought by colonizers and is written by an Australian academic who does settler colonial studies, so I’m hoping it doesn’t disappoint. Guess there’s a theme here of looking at what potential allies are writing.

Have you read any of these books? Let me know about new books on your shelves or your library stack!!

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Review: Yetunde + Author Interview

yetunde

Remember that I wanted to try to read some works of self-published writers and make sure these writers knew they would get the same chance at reviews here as traditionally published authors? Well, here we are! 🙂 Also, make sure to scroll down to the author’s interview after the review!

Yetunde by Segilola Salami is a story about caring and family, that will make you want to hug your mother (figure) and/or your daughters. Unconventionally, Yetunde is told through the eyes of a 9 month old baby, the titular Yetunde. The narrative voice is more complex than that of course, but it presents readers with an interesting new angle from which to explore mother-daughter relationships and Yoruba folktales. Yetunde is also a lovely character, she is fierce, curious and loves freely. With just under 30 pages, this is a short story that also functions as a piece of Yoruba praise poetry, in which Yetunde’s mother tells an ode for her mother who died recently.

We learn a bit about the Yoruba language and the first part of the story translates terms into English so readers should have no trouble following the story. And during the folktale part, sentences are presented in both English and Yoruba. I found this quite accommodating but I think this approach should manage to draw in readers willing to actually learn from context or look up words and those that expect to be catered to. But this is not a story for people who cannot deal with bilingualism, but it will provide those of you who grew up bilingual with points of recognition. Identity, here Yetunde’s Yoruba Nigerian-British identity, is intrinsically linked with language. If you’re interested in Yoruba language, check out the author’s book about learning to count, it’s for children but might help you get started or connect if you’re Yoruba and have children.

The story’s main part consists of Yoruba folktales and through the focus of motherhood, these tales explore the role and importance of women in Yoruba culture. From water benders to Orishas, I especially loved these sheroes who summon deities and save their daughters. These folktales are a tad darker than the charming first section focusing on Yetunde, but they provide depth.

What I enjoyed most about this story was the centrality of women’s close relationships and positive representation of women of color, especially Black women, as loving mothers. Yetunde is about three generations of women: Yetunde, her mother and her grandmother. It’s also about working through your grief and teaching the next generation, about passing on your history and culture.

I found this a lovely story even if I am not a mother, however I am close with mine. You’ll probably enjoy this story if you value close relationships between women and are interested in learning about Yoruba culture. I love that between this story and Nnedi Okorafor’s fiction I am learning more about the different people and culture of Nigeria.

The story shines when it presents Yoruba folktales and depicts the loving relationship between Yetunde and her mother. I found the final section a bit confusing, but overall recommend this story. I’m glad to hear there will be more Yetunde stories and will be following Yetunde’s as well as the author’s development.

Make sure to enter the goodreads giveaway to win a paper copy of Yetunde! The giveaway ends August 31st!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book by the author, but never fear I remain my opinionated self!

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Author Interview Segilola

Segilola Salami is a “Mom first, author, host of The Segilola Salami Show and Self Publishing strategist (helping aspiring authors navigate the minefield that is self publishing).”

Bina: What made you start writing and who do you write for?

Segilola: I think of myself as an accidental writer. Writing just sort of fell into my laps. I write the types of books I would like my little girl to read.

Bina: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Segilola: My little girl . . . being a mom changes or should I say helps you refocus.

Bina: What is your process with regard to feedback and editing as a self-published author?

Segilola: I ask as many people that I see online that show an interest in reviewing books. I take every critical and complimentary comment on board. It helps me know what I need to do more of and what I need to improve on. After every feedback I receive for my unpublished manuscript, I go back to the drawing board and see how the feedback best fits in with the story. I don’t always use all feedback, especially if they don’t fit in well with the story.

Bina: Yoruba culture is a central aspect of Yetunde. Can you tell us a bit about your own background and your stance on representation in (children’s) literature?

Segilola: I am a Yoruba woman, Nigerian-Brit. I spent my early years in Nigeria, so was exposed to the diverse cultures in Nigeria. As a mom bringing up a little girl in London, I want my daughter to identify with her roots. There’s this saying “you don’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you are coming from.”

Also importantly for me, there are hidden snippets of wisdom in my books (well I think so). I hope when my daughter is old enough to read them herself, she can learn something. Rather than me just telling her everything.

Bina: Do you feel that self-publishing gives you more leeway with regard to diversity?

Segilola: Absolutely . . . I write the way I feel is best . . . I think I would not have a single book published now if I was waiting for a trade publisher.

Bina: Lastly, are you currently working on a new project and will there be more Yetunde stories?

Segilola: Oh my gosh yes . . . so I have taken a short break from writing children’s books. I wanted to do something for myself. So I wrote an adult book (that no one under 18 should read). It’s called Abiku: A Battle Of Gods, you can read about it here http://www.segilolasalami.co.uk/abiku-a-battle-of-gods/

Once this book is released, I hope to start writing the next Yetunde book. So watch out next year.

Bina: Thanks for answering my questions!

-> You can connect with Segilola Salami on twitter @iyayetunde1 or visit her website.

 

October in Books

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October was a great reading month for me, I managed 10 books (counting 5 Lumberjanes issues as one book). Mostly this success is due to the readathon, my first one and which was a lot of fun.  Sadly, with the end of October also comes the end of two reading events: Diversiverse and R.I.P. X.

For Diversiverse, I read Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season and Also by Mail by Olumide Popoola. But I read more works by authors of color: The Good House by Tananarive Due, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Of course I won’t stop reading non-white authors now that the event is over and luckily there are tons of amazing recommendations to be found in the #Diversiverse tab on Aarti’s blog, take a look at this wonderful growing archive!

For me the creepy reading season basically goes till February, so I’m sad that R.I.P. X is over already. But I’ll continue with the suspenseful, eerie, creepy and terrifying…mwuahaha 😀 My creepy R.I.P. X reads in October were The Cutting Season (overlap with Diversiverse) and The Good House by Tananarive Due, and also the first Zombillenium comic. And I guess my Halloween reads The Walls Around Us and Halloween Party count as well. I’m only sad I didn’t manage to write up all the reviews, but hopefully that’ll get done in the next few weeks.

Looking at my list of books read, I just cannot pick a favorite. I enjoyed them all, and loved quite a lot of them. I knew I would love The Cutting Season and Also by Mail, but Aristotle and Dante really surprised me. Turns out I can do YA romance after all when it’s amazingly written LGBTIQ+ of color and about friendship. I also fell hard for Lumberjanes.

I don’t really have grand reading plans for November. I’m still pacing myself with The Fifth Season, which I fell for at the dedication page already. And then my birthday is on Sunday, so maybe there’ll be some new books for me to enjoy 🙂

Hope everyone had a great October! Any reading plans for November?

September in Books and a Peek at October

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September was a good reading month for me, as it’s been ages since I managed 6 books in one month. September also marks the start of the R.I.P. X challenge and I completely immersed myself in creepy fall reads. I hope to manage separate reviews for most of them, so this’ll be just a quick overview. I read Lockhart’s hyped work before signing up for the challenge and can recommend it as a YA mystery-ish quick read.

During my last migraine, once the absolute worst was over and before I even managed to face the house outside my bed in sunglasses, I tried listening to The Body in the Library, an old comfort read, on audible. Earplugs were out, but the narrator was great and the story a very familiar one and so it was nice to drift in and out of the migraine haze with a cozy crime. I haven’t really given the newer tv adaptations of the Marple books a go, but I think they’ll be great fall tv (even without a fireplace). If you’ve watched them, let me know how you liked them! What with my goal to read more YA literature and fantasy, I chose Cinder and Rosemary and Rue for the R.I.P. challenge and enjoyed them both quite a lot. I’ll post a review of Cinder sometime this week, and I’ve already put both series on my tbr.

September was also the month I discovered e-book flats and I managed to finish two books on Scribd: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and NOS4A2. The first was a children’s book I think, but it was creepy as hell along the lines of Coraline, so I maybe kid’s are much tougher than I am. But it was a great read and I’ll definitely try more of Legrand’s works. NOS4A2 was even creepier and at times a tough read, but it was a quick read despite the 450 something pages and had a great main character.

Now in October, I’ll be continuing with my R.I.P. list and this month I’m also taking part in Aarti’s Diversiverse challenge. The challenge is a simple but important one: Read and review and book written by a person of color during October 4th and 17th. I already have the new Jemisin book The Fifth Season and Due’s The Good House on my R.I.P. list, so if I’m short of time, I might combine both challenges. But I’ve been thinking of what would make my reading more diverse and also be more connected to my own context and place and so I thought I’d read a book by a German woman of color:

Popoola-Also-by-mail_rbg_web

Also by Mail is a comedy-drama by London-based Nigerian-German author, speaker and performer Olumide Popoola. It’s about two Nigerian-German siblings traveling to Nigeria to bury their dead father, fitting in with their Nigerian family and their grief and loss as well as being racialized in Germany. I chose this work for how it resonates with me and also because it’s available in English.

This month I will also be continuing my Scribd trial and I have so many books on my wish list, I think I will continue the e-book flat. At the top of my list is The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, I’m about 200 pages in and love it so far. This is what I want from fantasy and speculative fiction more generally, complex ‘other’ worlds to explore matters of multiple genders, colonialism and genocide and trump the horn for social justice matters.

That’s it from me, how was your September? And what’s on the tbr for October?

Thoughts: Vera

vera

I finally made use of my kindle again, for the disconcerting reason of not having any unread novels at my place. This has never happened to me before, and frankly, I’m still a bit shocked. But since I only moved to my current place for the first semester and am moving again (at least in the same city) soon, I only packed one small box of books. And then I found out I was out of unread books at night on a weekend…well I’m so happy there are great free e-books and that I own a kindle. Deciding on one book wasn’t easy, but I finally started Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim. I had this vague notion of having read a short story by her about Germans and a pension- and then realized that was Katherine Mansfield! And then after googling von Arnim I remembered why I had never tried her works, it’s the plants. I like flowers in my home, but other than that gardens and plants and such are not really my thing. Luckily, Vera is a plant-lite book. So, Vera is my first von Arnim experience and I have to say I absolutely loved her writing and characterization and want to try another one soon (Any recommendations? I thought of trying Fräulein Schmidt next).

Vera is about Lucy Entwistle, who is vacationing with her father, when he suddenly dies. Then, she meets Everard Wemyss, who has just lost his wife under tragic circumstances, and they bond, fall in love and get married. That sounds all very romantic complete with a happy ending, but that’s actually only the first part of the novel. It gets very much darker, and quite sad after that. I’m horrible with spoiler warnings, simply forget about them when I want to discuss a book, but even if I won’t reveal the ending, if you don’t want to know more about what happens and why the tone gets darker, better stop reading, I guess.

When Lucy and Wemyss get married, she comes to learn that her husband is controlling, has a temper and sulks like a child. She is still very much in love with him, but his character makes it nearly impossible to hold onto those feelings. Having only recently lost a father who protected Lucy, she is very much an innocent, and in part relishes Wemyss’ protectiveness. But he infantilizes her, calls her his “little one” and his “baby” (part of what first attracted him to Lucy was her girlish hairstyle and that she looked so young, much younger than her 22 years) and will not allow her any time to herself or make any decisions.

As Lucy mostly fell in love, because she understood Wemyss to be as bereaved as she was, she is horrified that he takes her to the house where his first wife died and never even thought of changing anything and later flatly refuses to. Thus, Vera, named after the first wife, is somewhat of a forerunner to DuMaurier’s Rebecca. The books are completely different, and yet like in Rebecca, Vera’s presence seems to linger. Thus, Lucy has to eat under the watchful gaze of the life-sized portrait of Wemyss’ first wife and her room is now Lucy’s. However, there is no Mrs. Danvers and as her husband turns out to be a completely different person and the love is difficult to hold onto, Lucy rather takes comfort in Vera’s lingering presence (for Vera was married to Wemyss for 15 years).

I really enjoyed the way Lucy was only first portrayed as somewhat simple, the intellectual circle of her father and their discussions were something she never felt part of and freely admits to finding their arguments too difficult to comprehend and too exhausting to follow. But, Wemyss, whom she first considers so wonderful, because he likes to keep things simple and has a clear-cut black and white view of the world, completely resistant to change, begins to feel strange to her and Lucy comes to realize the importance of ideas and discussions for herself. I really liked that she wasn’t simple, but instead grew when she finally experienced life outside of her father’s influence, even if her marriage is hell. Wemyss in contrast is basically a bully and the baby he always calls his wife.

The other character of importance is Lucy’s aunt, a spinster, who wants the best for Lucy, but also feels that as an old spinster, she cannot decide for her young niece who is so in love. While the smart, spinster aunt is a stereotypical figure, I really appreciated how von Arnim’ characterization of her was complex, even if she provides readers with something of a heroine character, who we can cheer for and sympathize with. Because that is not really possible with Lucy, who is trapped in a marriage, and not really the person to take a stand and be decisive. Lucy’s portrayal is great exactly because of that, but I still appreciated Miss Entwistle.

One other thing I loved, von Arnim knows how books should be treated! Absolutely loved this passage:

“She was accustomed to the most careless familiarity in intercourse with books, to books loose everywhere, books overflowing out of their shelves, books in every room, instantly accessible, friendly books, books used to being read aloud, with their hospitable pages falling open at a touch.”

(The context: Wemyss has a library of books he doesn’t read, what matters is that they are the best and most expensive editions and he keeps them behind glass doors, which he keeps locked with only him having the key.)

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!)

Thoughts: An Instance of the Fingerpost

Iain Pears’ novel has been sitting on my tbr pile for quite a while, but this month I gave myself a push, motivated by Anna and Iris’ “longawaited-reads month”. Long awaited it was indeed, but I am so happy to have finally read the book.

 An Instance of the Fingerpost is a historical, scholarly (according to the blurbs) mystery set in 17th century England, mostly Oxford. Charles II is only just back on the throne, the country is still reeling from the civil war and everyone with at least a passing interest in power and politics is still scheming. The book consists of four narratives: The Venetian Marco da Cola, the student Jack Prescott, the cryptographer Dr. John Wallis and the archivist Anthony Wood. All write down their version of the events surrounding the murder of the Oxford don Grove, years after it happened, each contradicting the others’ narrative.

At the heart of the story, however, is Sarah Blundy, a young woman, who is caught up in the events and intrigues spun around her. She is from the lower classes, something of a herbalist, educated and holds progressive views on gender equality. As a result, she is alternately taken for a witch, a whore and a prophetess. The way she is treated is abysmal, but of course many of the attitudes regarding women are only articulated differently today. She was by far the most interesting character, but the prophetess thing threw me I have to admit. But then I couldn’t relate to the religious aspects at all.

What I was most excited about was the history of medicine, I always get a kick out of that. This is the time during which the Royal Society is beginning to emerge and Robert Boyle figures in this novel, too. It was fascinating to read a fictional account about how blood transfusion could have been first attempted and it is during the 17th century that methods are beginning to change from the humours approach and the set of the stars etc, to more “modern” approaches. In fact, the characters hold very different opinions on what is legitimate medicinal treatment and constantly argue in Aristotelian fashion.

 I don’t think this worked for me as a mystery, but I really enjoyed its other aspects so I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. The first 100 pages were a bit hard going, but after I had oriented myself so to speak, I got really into it. I was scrambling to remember classes on English history, but in the end a bit of googling helped me picture the time and the connections between the historical characters better. Perhaps the blurbs are a bit misleading, this is not a page-turner, but this is one well-researched historical novel, nt some crap put together after glancing at a Wikipedia page and if you’re interested in 17th century politics, gender relations, religion and the history of medicine, I doubt that the amount of pages without instant gratification will bother you. Oh and it’s extremely well-written, too!

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link.

Thoughts: Some Tame Gazelle

Last weekend I read Barbara Pym’s first novel, Some Tame Gazelle. I think I’ve read two other books by her but I honestly cannot remember. But I know I’ve at least read her Excellent Women which made me an instant Barbara Pym fan.

Some Tame Gazelle is typically set in an English village, sometime during the 1950s. The two spinster sister Belinda and Harriet Bede are like all Pym’s ‘excellent’ women, and help a lot in the parish. Belinda has been in love with the village’s eccentric married archdeacon Henry Hoccleave, while Harriet regularly refuses proposals of marriage from an Italian gentleman and focuses her attention on the village’s newest curate. Visits from a librarian and an African bishop disturb their lives.

This first novel is as wonderful as the excellent Excellent Women, but much funnier and less bittersweet. And while the story may appear simply charming and quaint at first, Pym has a wicked sense of humor, which made me read the whole thing in one afternoon.

Belinda and Harriet are very different. While Belinda is reserved and proper, Harriet is plump, fashionable and cheerful. Belinda also shares a love for 18th century poetry and sermons with the archdeacons and she often rummages around the house humming hymns. Of course, being a spinster in the 1950s may often have been only marginally more fun than in the late 19th century, but Pym presents the sisters as happy and far from lacking in romance. Belinda’s love for the archdeacon might have made her extremely happy, had it not become “like a warm, comfortable garment, bedsocks, perhaps, or even woollen combinations; certainly something without glamour or romance”. Indeed, the more we learn of Henry, the more we sympathize with his wife Agatha and come to feel that Belinda has actually been lucky.

The other villagers are also quite funny and even though they are types, they are somehow still believable. One of my favorite parts is when the congregation is listening to one of the elaborate and fear-inducing sermon of the archdeacon about the coming of judgement day, and their thoughts about not wanting to feel that could be tomorrow, or that scientists had proven that it wouldn’t happen!
Pym observes their ‘small’ lives with its pains and pleasures, and her commentary is wicked and yet not mean. I’m pretty sure Pym novels are the type of books that many people feel lack action and real plot (probably not many of my readers though), but there is so much going on, it just happens on a smaller scale, which does not make it any less important or true.

Some of my favorite passages:

“On the threshold of sixty,’ mused Dr. Parnell. ‘That’s a good age for a man to marry. He needs a woman to help him into the grave.”
“Of course it’s alright for librarians to smell of drink.”
“Belinda waited. She doubted now whether it would be possible to be back for tea at four o’clock. She could hardly break away when the Archdeacon was about to deliver an address on the mortality of man.”
“But surely liking the same things for dinner is one of the deepest and most lasting things you could possibly have in common with anyone,’ argued Dr. Parnell. ‘After all, the emotions of the heart are very transitory, or so I believe; I should think it makes one much happier to be well-fed than well-loved.”
“The trouble was that Miss Prior wasn’t entirely the meek person one expected a little sewing woman to be. Belinda had two feelings about her- Pity and Fear, like Aristotle’s Poetics, she thought confusedly.”
“…the sermon was at an end. There was quite a stir in the congregation, for some of them had been dreaming gay dreams most of the morning, although many of them had given the sermon a chance, and had only allowed their thoughts to wander when it had passed beyond their comprehension.”

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!