Category Archives: review

New Erotica for Feminists – Caitlin Kunkel, Brooke Preston, Fiona Taylor, and Carrie Wittmer

I first saw this book without the tagline: satirical fantasies of love, lust, and equal pay. I just thought it was erotic, feminist stories. I’d quite like to read that book too, but this one is still brilliant. I’m assuming the tagline was added so as not to confuse people like me.

Inside is a collection of feminist fantasies. For example:

He calls me into his office and closes the door . . . to promote me. He promotes me again and again. I am wild with ecstasy.

It’s really funny, although I would have liked to see more longish stories – most are only a few lines long.

You get some slightly extended stories in the historical and literature section. For example, a feminist retelling of Adam and Eve. In this one Eve decides to not bother with eating the apple, because she’d prefer to carry on living her great life, in the Garden of Eden, full of guilt-free sex.

The extra funny thing was when I told a friend about this story he was baffled ‘I’d never associated sex with guilt’. No shit, male friend, no shit.

If you want a book that will make you laugh, and laugh, and then make you hate the world just a little bit more for the fact that these fantasies are just fantasies, this is for you. The last part of the book gets you to take that anger and direct it at changing the world.

This book would be perfect to give as a gift too.Β  I want to be gifted book like this. πŸ˜€

 

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I Am, I Am, I Am – Maggie O’Farrell

A memoir told through seventeen near death experiences. Wow. Some of these stories just floored me. Maggie O’Farrell has had a lot of adventures, and not all of them very much fun. This is a fascinating look at her life, and the way she has chosen to present her memoir is brilliant.

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As much as I want to dissect many of the different stories, I won’t. I don’t want you to read this book already knowing the outcome, or surprises, or the details. It’s a much better experience to take O’Farrell’s hints about things she hasn’t fully told you about yet… and wait for her to get around to that bit.

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The seventeen stories are not ordered chronologically. We are time travelling through O’Farrell’s life and piecing the timeline together ourselves. Each story is named for the body part involved in the near death part of each story. The beginning of each chapter has an accompanying medical illustration, and I loved these. The book title is from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath:

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.

Gorgeous.

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I Am, I Am, I Am is brilliantly moving, unbelievable – yet believable,Β  jaw dropping, tense, and magical. So much is horrendous, but there are moments of sheer joy. There are true quiet heroes in I Am, I Am, I Am.

I loved how O’Farrell took every near death moment in her stride – though I feared for her recklessness too! Some moments are truly chilling. Come and find me when you’ve read it too, then we can talk about it!

Wild – Cheryl Strayed

I’d already seen the 2014 film made of this book, starring Reese Witherspoon, but knew I wanted to get around to reading the book one day. I loved the film and wanted to read the book to get the full story. I was not disappointed. I loved Wild.Β  It was as moving and inspirational as I was expecting it to be.

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Strayed’s story is that she lost her mother, and lost her way. She ended up divorced and taking heroin. To hopefully sort herself out she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, alone, for three months. This trail goes from Mexico to Canada. Strayed had been an outdoorsy person all her life, but was never a hiker. And she had a lot to learn very quickly.

What I learned from Wild is that Cheryl Strayed is a badass brave woman. She’s made me want to go on more adventures. To be less afraid. To do stuff. Wild made me weep tears of sadness and joy. It had me on the edge of my sofa with fear for her safety, and envious of the joy she describes at certain parts of the journey.

It’s a great story and it’s also great to read. Strayed’s descriptions of the landscape are beautiful, her writing about her hardships are heartfelt and moving. Absolute top, brilliant, inspirational, motivating read.

Anyone want to come for a hike?

Heartburn – Nora Ephron

Funny, but I couldn’t identify with the life of the main character easily. It’s all flying here and commuting by plane, and having important friends. Affairs seem to be no big deal. I really enjoyed it, it’s really funny. I put it in my top fiction reads of the year! But I can’t seem to articulate anything about it! It’s taken me months to write this review, and I almost forgot to review it at all.

Rachel, a cookery writer, finds out her husband is in love with someone else. Rachel is seven months pregnant at the time. Heartburn is semi-autobiographical, a roman-Γ -clef, because this happened to Ephron. She has turned a completely tragic time in her life into an hilariously funny book. Rachel and her friends discussing how they will now never get into bondage was just ridiculous and so funny.Β  As is the incident with the pie. I will reveal no more.

I can’t think of much to say about it, other than it is great, but I took some nice pictures of it though because it has the prettiest cover.

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Calypso – David Sedaris (Audiobook)

I’m used to Sedaris’ books making me cry, always with laughter before this one. Now I can add tears because of how heartbreaking some of the stories are in Calypso. Here, Sedaris has hilarious stories mixed in with tragedy, most notably when talking about his sister, Tiffany’s, suicide, but they also cover relatives becoming elderly, and the death of his mother, who was an alcoholic.

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A lot of the stories in Calypso are about family. His father is ageing, his sister has committed suicide, he reminisces about his mother’s death, but this is not a depressing book. Of course it isn’t, Sedaris is hilarious. Most of these more sombre subjects are still dealt dark humour.

I found myself laughing out loud at some of this book – particularly the stories to do with language and observations about strangers and their behaviour. His discussion of creating his own ‘English for business travellers’ is a highlight.

Additionally, parts of Calypso were very moving. His sister’s suicide is so tragic. But he also talks emotionally about the US allowing gay marriage at last. Calypso is a true emotional roller coaster, and you get the feeling you are actually seeing some of the real Sedaris – mostly missing from his other books I’ve read.

It still leaves so many questions though. Did Sedaris really let someone who came to a book signing cut out a benign tumour he had, in order that he could keep it and feed it to his favourite turtle? Did he??

You go on an adventure of emotions with Sedaris, and you come out the other side with a renewed sense of wanting to make life more interesting. He makes you want to explore opportunities and to make the most of what presents itself to you. And he will make you laugh, that’s for sure.

My top Non Fiction Reads of 2018

For the purposes of my yearly wrap ups I go Dec 2017 to Nov 2018, because I can’t accept that I might not finish more amazing books over the next week. That means I read 15 non fiction books this year. I think I could have done better, but never mind! I read 22 last year, but I’ve read less over all this year in general. Last year I split them into politics and feminism, biography and memoir, and science – but I don’t have enough books to do separate ones this year, so they are all getting put together!

So here are my top non fiction reads from this year:

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Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

I’ve been recommending this book to everyone since I read it, and I was so happy that my book club chose it for their December read. It’s about race relations in Britain. It covers many different aspects from education, feminism, and black history. This would be my top book of the whole year. My review is here.

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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century – Timothy Snyder

Twenty practical things you can do in your life to help combat the rise of tyranny. Each one backed up by twentieth century history. Brilliant and made me feel less useless in the face of what seems like the world imploding around us. My review is here.

 

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The Descent of Man – Grayson Perry

Masculinity, what’s wrong with it, and how ideas about it should change to be healthier for everyone! It’s also very funny. My review is here.

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Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood – Hollie McNish

Poems about pregnancy and motherhood, with McNish telling her story from finding out she was pregnant, up to her daughter being about three years old. So honest and brutal, yet full of love. My review is here.

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The Mother of All Questions: Further Feminisms – Rebecca Solnit

A follow up to Men Explain Things To Me, Solnit covers all things feminism that aren’t already covered in Men Explain. It’s no exaggeration to say I found the title essay life affirming. I would really highly recommend this book, but read Men Explain first if you haven’t already read that. My review of The Mother of All Questions is here, and my review of Men Explain Things to Me is here!

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A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf addressed a women’s college 1928 and talks about women and writing fiction. This extended essay is based on those talks. My review is here.

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Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting – Robert McKee

An unexpected top book entry here! I never expected that a book about screen writing would be that interesting to me, but I found this analysis of what makes a good story fascinating. There’s a huge list of films at the back too, and I love a list to work through. My review is here.

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Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher

Fisher’s story of her life. She is hilarious. And her life has been bonkers. My review is here.

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I’m a Joke and So Are You: A Comedian’s Take on What Makes up Human – Robin Ince

About brains, and the strange things they do. Really interesting read and funny, of course! My review is here.

Honourable mention to Ad Astra by Dallas Campbell. It would have made the top list, but it was covered by my list from last year (read it here) before I decided to make my year go Nov to Dec!

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Here are all the non-fiction books I read this year. Click the book title to go to my review of it:

My Top Fiction Reads of 2018

I managed to read 37 fiction books this year, out of a total of 53 books. Really happy with that. For the purposes of my yearly review, I go December to November because I still might read something brilliant over the next week! Here are my top ten:

 

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The Pisces by Melissa Broder

A struggling PhD student breaks up with her long term boyfriend and has a bit of a breakdown. To aid her recovery, she house sits for her sister on Venice Beach, attends group therapy, and falls in love with a merman. It’s clever, filthy, sweary, funny, and dark. I loooooved it. My review is here.

 

 

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Sight – Jessie Greengrass

Our narrator is pregnant for the second time, and contemplating the significant relationships in her life; with her mother, grandmother, partner, and daughter. Long, beautiful, poetic sentences mixed in with three science stories that complement the main story. Contemplative and moving. I adored this book and felt greatly moved by parts of it. My review is here.

 

 

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The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Inspired by Black Lives Matter, The Hate U Give is the story of Starr Williamson and the aftermath of her being witness to her friend’s murder by a police officer. The book follows Starr’s move toward activism, and explores her life as a black student at a mostly white school, and how she is treated in her own neighbourhood because she is sent out of the local district to school. It’s emotional! My review is here.

 

 

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The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

A gay Iliad adventure! We follow the life of Patroclus from his banishment for killing another child, his new life being brought up as a companion of Achilles (his father takes him in), to his adulthood as Achilles lover, and their adventures in the Trojan War. Special shout out to Thetis, Achilles’ Godess sea nymph mother, who does not like Patroclus. She is terrifying and brilliant. My review is here.

 

 

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In Our Mad and Furious City – Guy Gunaratne

Five residents of a London estate are followed in the aftermath of a terrorist killing that happens nearby. Β It’s a brilliant book about life in London, and struggles against racism, oppression, religious expectations, and uniting them all – poverty. I just wanted good outcomes for all the characters so desperately! My review is here.

 

 

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Ponti – Sharlene Teo

Ponti follows the relationships between three Singaporean women. Szu, an awkward teen, her beautiful, cruel, one time film star, mother Amisa, and brash Circe, Szu’s only school friend. We go back to Amisa’s childhood and teenage years, and forward to Szu’s adult life in 2020. The women are all interesting and complicated, and I really enjoyed being immersed in their world during Ponti. My review is here.

 

 

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Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

The Iliad written from the perspective of Briseis, the war bride taken from Achilles, by Agamemnon, that kicks off the whole story of The Iliad. We join Briseis while she is still a princess, before her city is destroyed by the Greek fighters. I loved the different perspective given to the Trojan war by the women’s story. My review is here.

 

 

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White Tears – Hari Kunzru

Audio nerds and their descent into obsession with an old blues song that may be cursed. It’s about privilege, racism, ‘authenticity’ and cultural appropriation. Eventually it becomes a quite strange ghost story too, but I liked this weird element! My review is here.

 

 

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Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

A wide ranging story, set over eight generations, of two separated sisters, beginning in the 1770s. One stays on the Gold Coast in Africa as a slave trader’s wife, one becomes a slave and is shipped to North America. You follow each generation of the family up to the present day. My review is here.

 

 

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Heartburn – Nora Ephron

Hilarious book about a woman coping with her discovery of her husband’s infidelity. I haven’t managed to review this yet! I don’t know whhhyyyyyy. I’ll add the link when I do!

 

Here are all the fiction books I read this year. Click the name of the book to go to my review of it: