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!!

Thoughts: Paper Girls Vol. 1

paper gilrs

As you can see, I’m still in my exploratory comics phase. This time I have even tried a comic set in the 1980s! I know, right! Not at all my favorite decade. But I was told there’d be dinosaurs, so here I am.

Paper Girls is another work by popular writer Brian K. Vaughan, he of Saga fame, wonderfully drawn by Cliff Chiang and with the most amazing color palette courtesy of Matt Wilson. Started in 2015, this volume collects the first five issues, and the story is apparently already plotted with quite a few more issues planned.

Set in 1988 Ohio, the story stars a group of 12-year-old girls who deliver the newspaper on their bikes. Mac, Tiffany and KJ are joined by “new kid” Erin and they make their rounds together in groups. The story drops us right in the middle of Halloween night and it soon becomes apparent that very strange things are at work.

First, our protagonist Erin has a weird apparently recurring dream about an apple and aliens and a sibling in hell. I had no idea what was going on and to be honest it just got a lot more crazy as I read on, so I still have only an idea of what all is happening. The paper girls crew saves Erin from some teenage dude who is harrassing her, sadly with unnecessary use of homophobic slur. At least Erin intervenes, educates Mac on this issue and there’s a nod to LGBT history. Still could’ve done without this. Cue some weird wrapped up ghost speaking an unidentifiable language stealing one of the girls’ walkie talkies, cause this is he 80s. There’s strange technology and some new strangers appearing in astronaut-like gear, barding it up in some futuristic Shakespearean language and riding pterodactyl! Which is super cool, but they also appear to be the villains. We’ll see!

As you can see craziness in plot abounds! The imaginative world-building is awesome, but it’s also a lot of stuff piled up and we don’t get to see it go anywhere much at the end of the volume. I can only hope that volume 1 is similar to a pilot and the next issues will show a clearer path with more concrete plot lines. But I’m willing to suspend judgement and wait how it all unfolds.

paper girls

Our main characters are a group of very different and happily somewhat diverse preteen girls. This is pretty great as this group doesn’t get much limelight in comics to my knowledge. Their dialogue is spitfire, and lively, but apart from Mac’s hardened attitude they are not yet round enough characters to rest the crazy plot on. I really enjoyed seeing a bit of their complicated home lives and in the case of Mac, what’s behind the front she puts up. The cliffhanger at the end of the volume shows that we might be confronted with different sides to these girls and hopefully this will make them stronger characters, #6 needs to step on it!

Considering this a long pilot, I will give Paper Girls Vol. 1 a generous 3.5 star rating. The preteen protagonists and the different groups of strangers as well as the apple(icon) disk the girls find hint at a generational conflict of epic and timey wimey proportions. I’m really interested in finding out how this plays out, so if I manage to get my hands on the next issues, I will definitely read on.  But don’t go into this expecting something epic like Saga, perhaps Paper Girls will develop into an amazing comic but it’s not there yet. Being a science fiction comic about four girls, I’m also disappointed to see that the creative team is made up solely of men. They write and draw these girls well, but there are currently enough men publishing comics, it’s time to let women tell their stories.

Are you a fan of the 80s? What’s you favorite book set in or from that time?

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

Source: I received Paper Girls Vol. 1 as an egalley, thanks to NetGalley and Image Publishing. But I’ll remain my opinionated self!

Thoughts: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

lagoon

Lagoon is my second book by Nnedi Okorafor and one I chose for Sci-Fi Month. I didn’t manage to post this short review last month, but having really gotten into science-fiction and fantasy this year I feel that every month should be sci-fi month 🙂

Lagoon is the extremely imaginative story of a first contact, where an unidentified object crashes into the ocean in Lagos, Nigeria. Three people are at Bar Beach when the crash occurs and become embroiled in saving Lagos: Adaora is a marine biologist, Anthony is a rapper from Ghana and Abu a soldier. The three are asked for help by the alien ambassador Ayodele. Of course, word gets out that aliens are about and chaos breaks out in Lagos. The aliens calling themselves – and claiming to seek change, inspire everything from war and scamming to LGBTIQ adoration (Ayodele can shift genders amongst other things).

Lagoon has everything: a superhero story, magic, folklore, Nigerian mythology, eco-warriors and Okorafor has a lot of fun imagining fantastical creatures and giving many a voice, too.  The story is chaotic and teeming with ideas and concepts all happening at the same time. There is a wonderful multiplicity of narrative voices. It might take a few chapters to get used to, but this really works in the book’s favor, creating complexity and chaos, while simultaneously connecting different strands, different voices of the city.

While this may seem a fun romp and riff off District 9 (it is! and seeks to break the film’s stereotypical representation of Nigerian villains), Lagoon is rife with weighty issues that pack a punch. Okorafor explores everything from racism and domestic violence to the treatment of the LGBTIQ community. I wish there had been a chance to get to know many of the characters in more depth, as it is the female main characters are wonderfully complex and the other characters remain walking ideas and aspects of Lagos life. But Adaora and Ayodele are amazing characters, I’d love to meet them in other works. As usual, I am left wanting more so I’m glad Okorafor is such a prolific writer. My advice is to take a deep breath and jump, and you’ll love Lagoon!

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

November is Sci-Fi Month! #RRSciFiMonth

scifimonth

Turns out I do have November reading plans after all! Sci-Fi November is the yearly excuse to completely binge on all things science fiction with official stamp of the internets. This year, Sci-Fi Month is hosted by Rinn @rinn reads and Lisa @Over the Effing Rainbow and let’s you run wild, books, games, tv, comics, it’s all sci-fi all the time.

As always one of my favorite things to do is make a list of books I want to read. Usually what I end up reading is maybe half of what was on my list, but TBRs are more like guidelines anyway! I’m not big on artificial genre distinctions, so maybe some of these are more speculative, fantasy or dystopian. On with it:

fifth season

I’m currently reading this brilliant book, I guess I would put this somewhere along sci-fi/fantasy. The Fifth Season is as wonderful as Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy, and I’ve been basically reading this one in slowmo, just because I don’t want to finish it. But, I guess I will do it for Sci-Fi Month.

lagoon

I also want to go through Nnedi’s backlist as slowly as possible, she’s become a fast favorite of mine with Binti. But, I’ll just have to read Lagoon for Sci-Fi Month (can you tell I’m making big sacrifices here 😉 ), because Lagos and aliens.

radiance

I’m nearly done with Carry On, so I think Radiance will be my next audiobook. It features a solar system Hollywood, a girl protagonist, and alternate history!

ann lecke

This one was on my November tbr anyway and I don’t wanna fall for the hype, but it does sound so good I cannot resist. Singing spaceship protagonist, gender, cool cultures, evil empire, yay!

Also, I’ve been wanting to watch Advantageous, and it’ll fit nicely with Sci-Fi Month. Here’s the trailer:

Are You a Science Fiction reader? Who Else is Participating in Sci-Fi Month?

Thoughts: The Windup Girl

 

Paolo Bacigalupi’s first published novel, The Windup Girl, has made quite an impact on the reading world. I honestly enjoy science-fiction, even if I don’t read too many books in the genre. I’d heard a lot of good things about this book and so thought myself lucky to find a used copy. And I’m so glad I read it, because it is amazing in many ways, even though it is problematic in others.

The novel is set in a near future, probably a century after ours if I had to guess, in the kingdom of Thailand. In this dystopian vision, global warming has led to rising sea levels and wiped whole nations from the face of the earth. We learn that Thailand has survived through strict policing of calories and their own seedbank. With its concerns of energy management, The Windup Girl taps into current concerns over renewal forms of energy and global warming. Bacigalupi conjures up a world in which generippers and caloriemen are in control. Calories are currency and seedbanks the most important resource that can decide over survival or downfall.

It is a world that divides its timeline into contraction and expansion. Colonialism and independence are crucial to the story. I was intrigued by the fact that the story is set in Asia, that the author thus moves away from the Western world and furthermore examines the power dynamics between East and West and a renewed colonialism against which Thailand has thus far been able to hold out thanks to its own seedbank. Political intrigue is abundant in Krung Thep. Trade and the Environment Ministry (the white shirts) fight for power, while the two heads of organizations are about to break their tentative peace. Thailand is a kingdom ruled by a child Queen but her protector appears to be pulling a lot of the strings. Additionally, it is a nation that relies on religion, where the characters each pray to their own gods and hope that kamma will allow for a good rebirth.

The titular character, the windup girl, is Emiko. She is another one in the long line of imagined human-shaped beings, with a tell-tale stutter motion, smooth skin and a tendency to overheat. Imagined and constructed in Japan, Emiko has been left behind by her owner and is regarded as unworthy of life, unnatural, a heechy-keechy, always in danger of being shredded.

What humans come up with when they imagine human-like beings is something that interests me most in science fiction. It reveals so much about what people think central to humanity, what are our best features, our worst, and what is that elusive quality that makes us so different from other life-forms? In literature, these imagined beings often have the capability to become something better than human, something more. This ability is what makes them both more than and less than human. They often have the capability to replace humans as the dominant species and the traits which make this possible, lead to them being considered less than human by humans. The humans in Bacigalupi’s world do not consider the windups capable of emotions and their ignorance has them treat the windups with revulsion and fear as they do not think they have souls. To ensure that these windups do not supersede humans, the windups in Bacigalupi’s novel are created without the capability to reproduce. And as a further means of control over the windups, they were engineered as slaves, with the intrinsic wish to please and serve. We learn that they were created with a cheap workforce in mind.

So when it comes to imagining a world post global warming and without oil, Bacigalupi does a great job. I believed in his dystopian vision and the decisions and actions of its people. But that brings me to the problems I had with the book: the characters. Their intrigues, colonialism and such rang absolutely true, but they are more or less all clichés. And the female characters were worse. Emiko is basically of the likeable whore trope, having been engineered as a slave with the all-dominating wish to serve, she now earns her living by getting raped every evening. So the sex in this novel is not the good kind of sordid but non-consensual and I really hope the very detailed descriptions of how Emiko cannot help but respond because she was engineered to please are not supposed to be a turn-on! Her struggle against this servant-“gene” made me hope but I was somewhat crushed by the ending. Maybe I’m too pessimistic, so let me know how you read the last chapter.

Then, as this is a novel about genetic engineering, there is of course the figure of the mad scientist. Bacigalupi does not do anything too radical gender-wise here, the mad scientist is naturally male. The other characters are mostly along the same lines. But I’d still recommend this book and I really hope that his next works will show progress in that regard as the rest is pretty fantastic.

 Has anyone read Bacigalupi’s short-stories? I hear a lot of them already sketch out the characters of this novel.

Other thoughts:

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