Author Archives: beexactlywhoyouwanttobe

Books Bought and Read – February 2019

Books Bought

This year I’m not buying any new books. There are a few exceptions though, and this month it might seem like it’s all got a bit out of hand. I am starting a short story writing course – one session a month over the next six months. So, for academic purposes you understand, I bought a lot of short story books. But it’s ok, because I had to 😀

I’ll just list them all:

  • The Elephant Vanishes – Haruki Murakami
  • What We Talk About When We talk about Love – Raymond Carver
  • Unthology 7 – edited by Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones
  • Dear Life – Alice Munro
  • Any Other Mouth – Anneliese Mackintosh
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories – Ernest Hemingway
  • The Overcoat and Other Short Stories – Nikolai Gogol
  • The Collected Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield 
  • Dubliners – James Joyce
  • My Oedipus Complex: and Other Short Stories – Frank O’Connor
  • The New Yorker Stories – Ann Beattie
  • Stone Mattress: Nine Wicked Tales – Margaret Atwood
  • Bradbury Classic Stories 1: The Grand Master Editions – Ray Bradbury
  • Four Bare Legs in a Bed and Other Stories – Helen Simpson

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Plus Cold Bath Street by A. J. Hartley for book club.

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And I got a book voucher and so pre-ordered a couple of books I really wanted!

  • It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race edited by Mariam Khan
  • Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men – Caroline Criado Perez

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Books Read

I seem to be really struggling with reading this year. I’ve only been reading a book every two weeks, rather than my usual book a week. Just gonna go with it! Probably just a symptom of stress associated with an imminent house move.

Click on the book title to go to my review of the book.

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

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A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

Other blog posts

review of my 2018 Reading Challenge

My 2019 Reading Challenge

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Pussy: A Reclamation – Regena Thomashauer

Oh wow. This is like self help on the strongest drugs currently available. To empower myself I need to locate my inner Goddess. She is accessed via my pussy. We are reclaiming that word by the way, and therefore it must be said 100 000 times over the course of the book.

I’m not normally one for such insanity. Really, really, it is not my thing. At one point it is claimed that via accessing the energy of your pussy, the outcome of a national sporting game can be influenced. I mean, urgh, come on. That is clearly BS of the highest order.

Having said that, 95% of this book is just hardcore female empowerment. Fucking the patriarchy, standing up for other women, and having the power to do what you want with your own life. I am totally on board with this.

She is basically trying to give women the power to make decisions that are the best thing for them, regardless of how society, or other people around them, will react. Live your best life sisters.

Combined with this, and how you become so empowered, is by harnessing the power of your pussy, and the goddess within you. Stay with me, I know we are heading into the land of batshit crazy. But we stay on just the right side of this line. Juuuussstt about. Although it’s all dressed up a bit crazily, the message is sound. Part of being a strong, empowered women, is being in touch with your own sexuality, and sexual power. There a chapter where Thomashauer takes you through some exercises you can do to get in touch with this part of yourself. Frankly, I know a lot of women who could do with taking this advice.

Thomashauer runs The School of Womanly Arts, in New York, as Mama Gena. Is this Hogwarts for female empowerment?? I’d like to think so. We hear a lot about it in Pussy, and honestly, I would attend a class at it if I could.

In summary, this is a REALLY EXCELLENT book on the power of female empowerment and truly embracing equality. It gives sound advice on putting yourself first and helping smash the PWC (the patriarchal world culture). It talks utter sense on being at one with your own body and embracing your sexuality. It absolutely then encourages you to support other women and help them free themselves from a lot of this PWC bollocks (sister goddesses, yes). And even though there was quite a lot of fluff and bullshit, that I have barely any tolerance for, it was still a great book full of sound advice. Yes, I managed to even cope with talk of the GPS (the great pussy in the sky). please read the book for further details. Haha. Then buy it for your friends who need it.

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

Four scientist women discover how to time travel. They successfully keep control of the technology and therefore become very rich and powerful, except one who is ostracised after the very first successful time jump.

We follow the women’s stories throughout their lives, and through their descendants.  Of course, not in any completely sensible linear way, because half of the characters are time travellers.

It’s a really good, quite thrilling read and I enjoyed a slightly unusual take on time travel. There’s no danger of anyone messing up the timeline because they live in a deterministic Universe. So we don’t have to deal with the Grandparent paradox or any classic time travel dangers. No split timelines, or parallel universes. It’s a nice straightforward way to do time travel! And yet, somehow, even though the events are predetermined, there’s still quite a good exciting story line!

Because there are no dangers associated with someone seeing themselves in this Universe, it means someone can hang out with themselves from different times. This leads to some great scenes, and some of my favourite moments of the book. For example, two characters are newly entering a relationship, when an older version of one of the characters shows up at their flat to restock the kitchen and do a bit of cleaning.

I had a little bit of trouble keeping up with all the characters – this would probably be ok if I had a paper copy of the book, rather than an ebook, because I would have just flicked back to remind myself who everyone was. It wasn’t that confusing though really 😀

Over all I enjoyed this book. An interesting, fun take on time travel, weaved into a thrilling adventure. Great fun.

The Jhalak Prize longlist 2019

The Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour is in it’s third year. Last year it was won by Renni Eddo-Lodge for Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (my review). A completely marvellous book – one of my favourites from last year.

This years longlist contains two books I read last year and were amongst my favourites of the year: Ponti by Sharlene Teo (my review), and In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne (my review). Also two more books I really want to read, but haven’t got round to yet: Built by Roma Agrawal, and Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch. It’s not often that I see a prize longlist and can say I know so much about even one book! 🙂

The shortlist announcement is on the 5th April – this week! I’m hoping for Ponti by Sharlene Teo.

Jhalak prize long list

The 2019 longlist is:

Roma AgrawalBuilt : The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures (Bloomsbury)

Akala, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of the Empire (Two Roads)

Raymond Antrobus, The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins)

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff (ed.), Mother Country: Real Stories of the Windrush Children (Headline/Hachette)

Yrsa Daley-Ward, The Terrible (Penguin)

Aminatta Forna, Happiness (Bloomsbury)

Guy Gunaratne, In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder)

Afua Hirsch, Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (Vintage)

Damian Le Bas, Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain (Chatto & Windus)

Roy McFarlane, The Healing Next Time (Nine Arches)

Onjali Q. Rauf, The Boy At The Back of The Class (Hachette Childrens)

Sharlene Teo, Ponti (Picador)

Books Bought and Read – January 2019

Books Bought

I ordered The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid for book club. Although it still hasn’t arrived! So I have just cancelled the order and ordered it from elsewhere. Hope it turns up soon…

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It did eventually turn up! but not until near the end of february!

Also purchased The Rough Guide to the USA in preparation for a trip. I can’t travel unprepared, so this gets an exemption from the not buying books rules.

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Books Read

I only finished two books in January. But I did spend most of the month reading a quite dense history book! I just didn’t finish it until February. Click on the book title to go to the review:

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Marching Powder by Rusty Young

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Other Blog Posts

I published a few of my 2018 wrap up posts in January:

My 2018 Reading in Statistics

2018 Reading Bingo

A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn

An American history book written from the perspective of people’s movements rather than great leaders and politicians. A People’s History of the United States is an EXCELLENT book, taking us from Columbus (a massive twat btw, really didn’t know enough about him before) all the way to 9/11.

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On a coach to Washington DC

And considering the time span of the book, it’s not too bad at around 700 pages. It’s dense text though, as you’d expect, and it took me around 6 weeks to read. I’m normally a book a week kind of reader. So it’s messed up my reading stats, but it’s been well worth it.

Why did I want to read a book on American history? Two main reasons. Firstly, the lovely politics department at college allowed me to accompany them on a politics trip to New York and Washington. I said I’d better learn something about US history and politics before going, and they recommended this book. Secondly, I am part of an online quiz league and American history is one of my weakest areas. And I want to be better at that.

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Zinn’s book is apologetically told from the perspective of the people. It is biased toward a certain world view and he says this is fine, because 99% of other history books are biased the other way to great leaders, usually men, dictating the course of history. Zinn also wanted to make this book accessible to most readers (and it is), by not having footnotes scattered through the text. It is very easy to read.

I felt a bit shocked by the first chapter on Columbus. Shocked and embarrassed that I didn’t already know just how horrific the actions of early European settlers were. I’ve studied history before, but it was modern European history mostly. I’m so ignorant about a lot of what has happened in the rest of the world, and I am trying to change that. In the Columbus chapter, Zinn explains some of his choices with regard to what he decided to include in his book. Sorry this is a bit of epic quoting, from across 4 pages in the book, but I think it really sets out the tone of this book:

To emphasis the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to deemphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves – unwittingly – to justify what was done.

… the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Horoshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilisation; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all) – that is still with us.

The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks) – the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress – is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders.

..in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.

…I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the viewpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott’s army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans,the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America. And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can “see” history from the standpoint of others.

… this book will be skeptical of governments and their attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to common interest.

Other things I found particularly eye opening: the Clinton years, US foreign policy for the last 100 years, just how little difference it makes whatever party is in charge – they are all basically following the same pattern of keeping the few percent up at the top.

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New York hotel room reading

I imagine there are people reading this review who are rolling their eyes at me not knowing all this already. But, there you go, I’m a physicist, so know a lot about that, and I do try to continuously educate myself about new things, and I think that’s a good thing 🙂

Special shout out to the Iroquois society, where land was owned and worked in common, women were important and respected, and the family line went down through the female members. Zinn quotes from Gary B, Nash:

This power was shared between the sexes and the European idea of male dominancy and female subordination in all things was conspicuously absent in Iroquois society

Ahhh, just imagine.

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Overall, I am really glad I have read A People’s History of the United States. I feel like it was well worth the effort and time. I should probably read something similar for the UK. What should I read??

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light bed time reading

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

This is the story of Lale Sokolov, an Auschwitz survivor who met and fell in love with Gita Furman, another prisoner. They meet after the war and spend the rest of their lives together. Lale had a privileged position in Auschwitz due to his role as the tattooist of new arrivals.

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Lale told his story to Morris when he was an old man. His story has been verified with records from Auschwitz, but I feel it’s important to note that this is a work of fiction, and isn’t presented as a memoir. There are many historical inconsistencies and it isn’t an attempt to present a real history at all.

It’s a nice enough story. But it left me weirdly emotionally unmoved. And considering this is a book about the actual holocaust, that’s really strange. You couldn’t get a setting that should automatically have me weeping through the story. But I just wasn’t feeling it at all. It felt like an easy read. Too easy. Lale’s Auschwitz experience seemed charmed compared to most stories.

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book club

It read like Holocaust-lite. And that was just bizarre. Also, a lot of the details of the story just seemed fanciful and unreal. This was a book club read, and it split the book club. Seems you either really like it or hate it.

I really wouldn’t recommend this book, I could recommend many books with the same setting that are so moving. I would actually be unhappy to thing someone might read this and think it gave a great representation of what life in Auschwitz might have been like. Read Night by Elie Wiesel instead.