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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Thoughts: The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

liminal people

Taggert, the main character of Ayize Jama-Everett’s debut novel The Liminal People, is one of a growing number of people with supernatural powers, called the liminal people. Taggert’s power is his ability to heal, which also gives him the abilitiy to read body functions, change and stop them. The Liminal People reads like a superhero comic told in a noir prose style. Now, there are a lot of superhero stories in lots of mediums available at the moment, and I’m usually hesitant when it comes to this trope. But The Liminal People gripped me and drew me in, and I found Jama-Everett’s work manages to offer a fresh spin on the genre.

Taggert is part of the razorneck crew in Morocco, hired muscle to the mysterious and extremely dangerous Nordeen. When his ex-girlfriend calls for his help in finding her missing daughter, Taggert asks for leave and flies to London’s seedy underbelly. In a smart move, the author tells the story in the first person perspective from Taggert’s point of view. He presents something of an anti-hero, acting in a morally ambiguous area between his power as a healer and his work interrogating and harming others and liminal people with his abilities under Nordeen. His relationship with his boss is more of master-slave than mentor-mentee relationship, and over the course of the story, Taggert comes to seek freedom and his own version of a family.

In a genre that still loves white characters, a Black superhero main character is a welcome change. And not only is Taggert a complex character but he is furthermore allowed to be an anti-hero. I also loved the global aspect of the book, showing us characters of color as on the move and at home in different countries, travelling and making connections in all of them. The whole cast of characters is diverse and the author’s willingness to adress such issues as racism and slavery is one strong aspect of what sets The Liminal People apart from most superhero stories we are flooded with everyday. Because Taggert’s powers over bodies also means that he is capable of altering his appearance, and so he is very aware of how stature and lightening his skin tone allow for entering different spaces. This is a wonderful perspective from which to comment on issues of race and class. This is how you demonstrate the perspective of characters of color, the everyday issues, without it being the plot of the story.

I may have one or two nitpicks with Taggert’s approach to the female characters but overall this is a strong story with good pacing and wonderful world-building. Having the stomach for genre-typical violence is a requirement but other than that definitely recommended, I am looking forward to seeing this author and his stories grow. The one benefit to always being late to reading exciting books is that there’s already a sequel out. The second book is called The Liminal War and there’s also a spin-off, The Entropy of Bones, available already. This is the second novel I’ve read in a short time that was published by Small Beer Press. I’m happy to see some of their books offered on Scribd, so that I get to try them. I think I need to browse their catalogue!

The Liminal People counts towards the Diversity on the Shelf challenge as well as the #weirdathon.

What’s your favorite superpowers novel? 

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

Thoughts: Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

lifeKate Atkinson’s Life after Life tells the stories of Ursula Todd’s lives, from each birth to each of her deaths, in their many variations. Thus, Ursula is stillborn on a cold winter night in Englang in 1910. Or, she is born and just saved from being strangled by the umbilical cord.

The premise of being reborn is not a new one, but Atkinson’s execution is so well-done that each re-living of a moment of Ursula’s lives showed not just a what-if moment, but presented a broader picture of family life and life in Edwardian England and the Blitz. Focusing on a few of these important moments and examining how one difference affects so many lives, the lives of Ursula are never repetitive and despite knowing that Ursula would simply be reborn, I was always invested in each version of the events.

This is due to the wonderful characters around Ursula, especially her mother Sylvie who outshines Ursula as one of the strongest characters and, as always, Atkinson’s writing style. Even if I actually prefer her crime series, the dark humor and sharply-drawn characters are a delight in all her works. Perhaps it’s because she is not afraid of making fun of her characters and I always look forward to the sometimes biting comments and insights that can be found in the narrative and opinion characters have of each other. Surprisingly, I found myself less invested in the main character Ursula. Some longer moments helped round her out more, and shows how especially women’s lives can be heavily impacted and changed by gender-specific violence. But for the most part, what made me turn the page were all the other characters. This is likely due to the sometimes choppy nature of the premise, but Ursula seemed to be a conduit more than anything else to me.

The thing with this sort of premise is that of course the really is no definitive version, no ‘real’ life, despite Ursula becoming more aware of this and attempting to change events and get ‘it’ right. Even though the book is over 600 pages long, it did not feel too long. The latter part explores the idea of changing history by killing Hitler and giving Ursula one life in Germany during the 1930s, thereby connecting it to the novel’s opening. I do appreciate Atkinson not making this the focus of Life after Life, but these parts fell somewhat tacked on to the rest of the story and I finished the novel more dissatisfied than I would have without the last 100-200 pages.

And so I really did enjoy reading this novel, especially the writing and the imagery of summer days in Ursula’s home and the vividness of the horror of the Blitz. But perhaps, I appreciate the premise and set-up just a bit more than the actual story. Still, even if this one does not have me raving, I definitely recommend it. Also, I just found out that a companion novel called A God in Ruins, focusing on her brother Teddy’s story, will be published in May. So now would be a good time to pick up Life after Life, if you haven’t read it yet.

Have you read Life after Life? What did you think?

Review: Excellent Women

Barbara Pym´s Excellent Women is set in London in the 1950s and narrated by Mildred Lathbury, an unmarried woman in her thirties. Mildred is one of those excellent gentle women who are always so helpful and always ready to pour tea. She leads a quite life one might say, with church, dinners at the vicarage and tea and boiled eggs, but one that she seems relatively happy with. However, when a young couple moves into the appartment beneath hers, she suddenly finds herself in the middle of lots of other people´s affairs and quite dramatic lives. It isn´t really that Mildred wants to help them sort out their affairs but she is so very capable and people seem to expect this from a spinster.

“I suppose an unmarried woman just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved or interested in other people’s business, and if she is a clergyman’s daughter then one might really say there is no hope for her.”

It´s very comical how Mildred goes from leading a quite, independent life to being in the middle of a lot of drama, all of which comes from other people. She has to try and negotiate the Napiers´ marriage, which is quite volatile because Helena has no interest in housework and order but instead focuses on her anthropological work, and the boring and serious anthropologist Everard Boone. And her husband Rockingham has only recently returned from duty in Italy where all he did (and still does) was to e charming. Of course there can only be tension with such a triangle, and especially Rocky and Helena seem to love the drama. Mildred finds herself in the middle of this triangle while each of these three people takes her into their confidence and needs her to do them a favour.

Apart from this, there is also trouble on the home-front so to speak. Mildred has long been friends with the vicar and his sister, but enter Allegra Gray, a beautiful widow who sets her eyes on the vicar and tries to foist his sister on Mildred. Now Mildred is pitied because everyone assumes she wanted to eventually marry him, and she is afraid that the sister will want to move into her appartment, and put an end to Mildred´s independence.

Pym introduces a lot of potential husbands for Mildred, from the charming Rocky to serious Everard Boone, but although Barbara Pym has been compared to Jane Austen, the ending Pym chooses for Mildred might surprise you. But the comparison does make sense in regard to their style of storytelling, the dry wit for example and sharp observation of people´s lives and manners.

I found Excellent Women to be an excellent book, and was pleasantly surprised that Pym manages to explore such themes as postwar England, the lives of unmarried women, and marriage, without making this a depressing and sad book. It is rather comfort reading, and that is mostly due to Pym´s description of everyday life, of small events instead of earth-shattering ones. I wish I had more of these novels, which are quiet, warm-hearted but also have some substance to it. And yes, I drank lots of tea while reading this one!

I can´t believe it has taken me this long to discover the delight of a Pym novel, but now I can hardly wait to read more by her. Any recommendations?


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