Claire x Nikki Review July 2015

BitchinRundownA lot has gone down in July. SO MUCH TO CATCH UP ON!

Claire x Nikki Mash Ups

We didn’t do any other mash-ups? Oh we are bad….

Nikki

This month: The fella and I got to keep RUBY again!! Yaaaay!

rubyThis time we had her for two whole glorious weeks instead of just two days. And, believe you me, shenanigans ensued.

But now she’s gone back home and I don’t know how to live anymore. But my clothes are no longer covered in hair so I guess there’s that. :(

As for reading…

Posts

Books Read

Book of the Month

 Miscellaneous Favourites:

House guest: Ruby

rubyTV: Claire has (pretty effortlessly) made me a total Parks and Recreation convert.

leslie knopeFood: Mikado

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Band: Depeche Mode. Because every song is gold…even though it’s from the 80’s (oooh buuurn, 80’s! burrrrnnnn!)

I have since been informed that they are not screaming “JUDE LAAAAW!” in Wrong (song in the video) but I am always too lazy to find out what they’re saying and I don’t think it would matter anyway.

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Claire

Oh my goodnesssssss! I miss the blog so much. I’ve been a bit busy this month and my computer is broken, so I’m doing this on a not-ver-user-friendly tablet. So, July! It’s been full of highs and lows, I found out that my best work friend has quit and I will miss her terribly. It’ll be an excuse to meet up with her out of work and chill though.

In good news, utter random and good news, I saw a job I liked and bugged the heck out a recruiter who decided to actually give me a shot! I’ve had 2 interviews for a company I love and I don’t know the result, but everyone. please cross your fingers, I really, really want this job! I haven’t been able to read as much because of it- doing prep for interviews and writing job essays, but I am sincerely hoping to get in some hardcore reading.

In other July news, I went to YALC this year and had a blast. I love the general comic-con bit as well. It was great fun being around all those books and listening to the lectures. Up next? Operate have fun with Rinn!

Some shots from July, I said goodbye to a dear friend who bequeathed her entire tea collection to me. I also got a new umbrella featuring work by one of my favourite artists Gustav Klimt.

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Posts

Books Read

Books of the Month

This month I decided to read a Robin Hobb book. This month, my life changed. This month, I fell in love. She has some problems in that she takes a bit long to get to the point but I love her work. You’ll be seeing some reviews coming up and if you’re a fan of dragons, oh my goodness, get on this book right away!

 Favies

Movies: I treated myself to Jurassic World this month and it was surprisingly good. It’s cheesy and I have issues with that chick running in heels but it’s genuinely good. It’s all about the Chris Pratt for me, I wish he got to joke around a bit more though.

That’s about it fo the favies though, haven’t had much time for music or even TV. Sigh, I miss TV.
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DividerHow was your July?

NameNikkixClaire

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Books I’m Looking Forward To For Autumn

Although I’m not a huge reader of contemporary books (well, I tend to read much more contemporary non-fiction than fiction), there are a few books I’m actually looking forward to coming out in autumn of this year. (Yeah, I know it’s still the middle of summer, but I’m looking ahead.) Let’s take a look!

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes (11 august 2015)

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From the creator of Wild, I love Emily Hughes’ illustrations and her stories are fun and inclusive. I also can’t help but feel a weird sort of affinity with her because she’s also from a tropical island (Hawaii) and when to Bournemouth which is where I VERY nearly went for uni having got an unconditional offer to attend. Somehow that makes us bros in my mind.

ADDENDUM: I bought this at ELCAF (21 June). I think it’s either out earlier in the UK than the US or the date is just the Waterstones website’s availability date (I think it’s in Waterstones brick & mortar shops).

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (22 september 2015)

binti

sci-fi novella

Look at that cover! *O* It’s kind of beautiful. To tell you the truth, the story doesn’t sound terribly original, but I really like the way Okorafor can transform the stereotypical feel of a genre we thought we knew well into a world fresh with new meaning and wonder, creating a more palpable, fleshy flavour of fantasy. This is her first sci-fi title and I’m interested in seeing how she repurposes an old idea and what she brings to the genre. This is also one of four titles launching Tor.com’s move into novellas. “Binti will be available in ebook, print on demand and audio editions”.

Saga, volume 5 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples (6 October 2015)

Saga

sci-fi/fantasy/space opera graphic novel

I have been really loving this series so much. I actually borrowed a bunch of the single issues from a friend so I know what’s going to happen in this volume already. And the single issues are great because, even though they’re super short, there’s always fun extra content like cosplayer photos, correspondence with fans, etc. But I will continue buying the trades so there are no gaps in my collection and because they’re sturdier and keep better.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink (20 october 2015)

Welcome to Night Vale

fantasy/sci-fi/weird/mystery/comedy novel

This podcast is soooo my type of humour and I’ve been a fan of it for a while now. I love all the characters and ideas and the style. (Jasika Nicole plays one of the characters.) It’s just perfect Nicole bait. I’m not sure how the show will translate to book form, but I have confidence in the writers’ creativity and I’m very intrigued.

Are there any books you’re looking forward to in the second half of 2015?

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Diverse Authors In Your Favourite Genres

So I recently commented on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge video about African Author recommendations.

Disclaimer: Take everything I say with a grain of salt. There are a lot of generalities, but this is something that’s been bouncing around my head before (completely inelegantly) being poured out here…

I think another difficulty in reading more diversely is that the content that we get tends to be (from what I can tell) a lot of family/immigrant stories and stories about race and other ‘outsider’ hardships and heavy-hitting issues which can all be super fascinating BUT (and this is a big one) I’m sure those aren’t the only stories POC are capable of telling and they certainly not the only stories I’m interested in hearing from them.

What if you’re mainly a fantasy or sci-fi reader who wants to read more diversely too? Where are the authors of colour and LGBTQ+ authors in those genres? How about if you’re into historical fiction? What about romance? Or non-fiction like philosophy and psychology and natural sciences?

WELL, I feel like one great way to get a better variety of content from authors of colour, is to look for translated works directed at an author’s own people. I believe that in many instances, an author writes differently for their own people than for outsiders. Outsiders need to be initiated, shown things, oftentimes they need to be told how they are implicit in oppression, etc. But when a book is directed inward to a people rather than outwards (except in certain instances of ‘author as teacher’ as one might come across in a lot of classic African literature) concepts are proposed, the conversation is more open and less admonishing, the text can often be more conceptual or flighty or whatever. Take, for example, the works of Haruki Murakami. His books are (arguably…?), or certainly initially were, for a Japanese audience. He was not thinking of Western audiences when he first set pen to paper. There is no explanation or juxtaposition of West and East. He is surreal and the underlying themes are both less overt and concerned with different types of problems. The differences his characters have are nothing to do with where they are from or the fact that they’re Japanese and the way they interact with people like us, the Western reader. These people are different in some other, often unplaceable way, and it is perhaps more universal. There is no dropped-in cue “I, your narrator, am Japanese asian”. That is the assumed default because the book is for Japanese audiences in the same way that (bizarrely* for the whole of the west…) straight white male is our default narrator.

*It is bizarre because Japan is way more homogeneous than all the many countries that comprise “the West” combined and yet we still have a ‘default’ narrator…the same default narrator we’ve always had: straight+white+cis+male… But moving swiftly on!

None of this is to say that those stories about family and race and immigrant stories aren’t brilliant and needed or that they shouldn’t be read, because they absolutely should be read and they definitely are needed! I can’t stress that enough. But I find it problematic that authors of colour often seem pigeonholed in a certain genre and are confined to telling certain kinds of stories. And you can’t tell me those are the only stories they want to tell because as a black chick who dabbled in fantasy writing as a teen (don’t we all?), I was interested in telling all sorts of different stories and I know I cannot be the only one.

Here is a list of a few authors of colour (and/or specific books by AOC) I’ve come across that have peaked my interest and that I believe will lead to the discovery of not only other diverse authors, but a broader breadth of topics covered by authors who also write more stories outside of just family, immigrant tales and race issues.

authors in italics (loose genre description bracketed) books I’m particularly curious about in bold books I’ve read struck-through

FICTION

Ryū Murakami (thriller/mystery): In the Miso Soup, Coin Locker Babies, Audition

Natsuo Kirino (thriller/mystery): Out, Grotesque, Real World

Nnedi Okorafor (SFF/middle-grade/YA): Akata Witch, Zarah the Windseeker, Binti

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki (classic): Some Prefer Nettles, The Makioki Sisters, Naomi

Kōbō Abe (surrealist/literary fiction): The Box Man, Secret Rendezvous, The Face of Another

Haruki Murakami (surrealist/literary fiction): Norwegian Wood, A Wild Sheep Chase, Sputnik Sweetheart

Xiaolu Guo (romance): I am China, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth

Banana Yoshimoto (literary fiction): Asleep, Kitchen, Amrita

Kazuo Ishiguro (literary fiction): Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day

Hiromi Goto (fantasy/YA): Half World series, Kappa Child (fantasy/LGBT)

Young-Ha Kim (thriller/mystery): Your Republic Is Calling You

Ruth Ozeki (mystery/literary fiction): A Tale for the Time Being

NON-FICTION

Ha-Joon Chang (political economics/development economics): 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, The East Asian Development Experience, Economics: The User’s Guide

Michio Kaku (astrophysics): Physics of the Impossible, The Future of the Mind, Physics of the Future

Neil DeGrasse Tyson (astrophysics): Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet

Suki Kim (memoir/travel/culture/politics): Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite

All titles and authors are, naturally, tailored to my interests because these are authors and titles I’ve come across in my own personal book searchings (most of which are directly from my TBR). I’ve tried to show a mix, but there are obviously many genres I can’t recommend for at all because I simply don’t have enough active interest in them to have searched that area.

It hasn’t gone without my noticing that many of these titles are by Japanese (or otherwise asian) authors. This is probably not so much due to any keen interest in Japan itself as much as it is more reflective of the theory that books written for the author’s own people are possibly a good starting point for finding less didactic stories. Many of these works don’t really focus on many common themes found in books by more popular non-Western authors written for the Western market. I also wonder if asian authors can largely escape explaining themselves and “the asian experience in the context of living in the West” to Western audiences because we are happy to hear stories from that area of the world which don’t involve a lot of reminders of culture clashing because Japan (and many asian regions in general) is very homogeneous. I don’t know. There’s something there that I wonder at but I can’t explain well yet…

I would appreciate suggestions from elsewhere around the world though!

Comics (which includes graphic novels, graphic memoirs, anthologies, short story collections, single issues and bindups) are both terrible and good at representation… Alternative comics can be really great where mainstream comics are constantly falling into terrible potholes despite new (commendable!) efforts with characters like Kamala Khan and Cindy Moon. But I can if anybody is interested, I can do a comics version of this post.

Anything to add about your own struggles and successes with reading more diversely?

As always, I really appreciate any recommendations!

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A Well-Read Jaunt: The Southbank Centre Book Market

awellreadjauntSo I was told that I had to see the Southbank Centre Book Market by a friend and by chance this past Saturday I found myself there. It wasn’t what I expected but goodness it was a fun! I recommend perusing through Stacey’s (Pretty Books) feature A Tour of London Bookshops to go through a London Literary Tour!

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The book market is under the bridge, and when I went it was by chance a dark and gloomy day (that makes it seem way more dramatic than it actually was), so there weren’t as many people there as I imagined would be. If it was hot and sunny, I’m sure that place would have been packed! It’s set-up in a standard way, a few tables, each owned by a particular establishment and had so many goodies! There were books and postcards, lithographs and prints, vintage magazines and notebooks. I loved it and had to clutch my pounds to my chest, or I was going to splurge on everything.

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“The Distraction”

I was also massively distracted by Snog and got myself a huge bucket of mango froyo. Isn’t that bus cute?! I didn’t know it then but Snog is part of a chain (I saw another version later in the middle of Covent Garden that afternoon and went oh, I thought it was this great vintage-hipster thing!), but the yogurt was great.

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Back to the main point. There was a big range in books and ended up buying an old cover of Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice that reminded me of a copy I had in high-school. What I liked that they had offerings from every genre, some fiction, a few fantasy tomes, great nonfiction, and children’s tomes.

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All in all I loved this and I think everyone should go to the book market. Even if just for a moment! And when you go, either get some froyo or stop off at Foyles, buy another book and then get some food from the great foodmarket nearby. Seriously, go, the food is amazing (I had fries fried in duck fat with truffle mayo, like what? What?! I didn’t know you could do that! Such fancy fries!).

Are there any other bloggers who prowl their surroundings? I’d love to read about it! Link it in the comments so I can write them here!

Name

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Be A Good Human Tag (pt. 2)

I brought up Jen Campbell’s Be A Good Human Tag a few weeks ago and today I’m going to share a few books that I felt have helped me learn to be a slightly better person. These are certainly not the only books I’ve learned valuable lessons from, but they’re just a few of the ones that have elicited positive change in me/my thoughts.

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Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay shows that it’s not easy being a feminist, and that’s OK. There will be contradictions…or things that seem like contradictions but aren’t. It’s OK to like pink. It’s OK that you aren’t an outdoors woman. It’s OK to be friends with other women rather than rivals. It’s OK to wear makeup. It’s OK to wear baggy clothes. It’s OK to fart. It’s OK to be competitive. It’s OK if you’re not the best at everything. You’re human. And you just want to be treated like all the other humans (You know, the ones with the perks). You don’t have to be perfect just because you’re a feminist. You don’t have to be someone else’s feminist ideal. But feminism does need to be intersectional to really work.

 

little knife

Little Knife by Leigh Bardugo was so charming with big messages wrapped into one well-told story. And, because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, I’m just going to say: I didn’t even realise I was falling into a pothole built and managed by the patriarchy until I read this story.

 

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath felt sooo…familiar to me. I have never suffered from depression (I don’t think…would I necessarily know? I guess I might not…But I don’t think I have). However, Esther’s feelings so perfectly reflect so many feelings I’ve had these past few years during and after university. Esther’s relatable-ness shows, in similar (if much less dramatic!) ways as The Yellow Wallpaper how smooth the decent into depression can be. I already assumed that people with depression were not just wallowing in self pity, but watching it unfold—and knowing the author’s intimate knowledge of the subject—shows how naturally and quickly it can happen to anyone even if they seemingly have their life together. Depression is not logical. And depression can happen to anyone.

 

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Harry’s Last Stand by Harry Leslie Smith makes you realise how much we still have to learn from our elderly and how much will be missed when they’re gone. We don’t have much time to take what we can from them (we’ll never have all we need from them). Harry Leslie Smith, 92 year old British Great Depression survivor and WW2 veteran, takes you through the sad stories he’s lived through including (but not limited to) watching his loved ones die off one by one over his long lifetime before, during and after WW2, how the government has or hasn’t helped at these many different times, how people’s intolerance leads them to hateful places. He talks about Britain’s political climate as well as giving titbits on other countries he’s lived in like Canada and the USA (among others). He talks about the dismal backwards steps we are making today. It is a very sobering read. But he also makes some brilliant, solid, actionable suggestions to make things better again. He made me realise how much pain a person can take and still remain optimistic. And he made me really want to be a politically aware person who gets involved to make the change she wants to see in the world.

 

Herland by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman showed me a whole new way that our system could be run! Some ideas seem obvious but many struck me like ‘Oh…Yeah! I suppose that could work! (Or it is, at the very least, an intriguing thought-exercise)’. Perkins-Gilman’s approach is light and full of grace with no hint of blame. It is understanding and it is welcoming. I may not have agreed with everything, but I felt excited by the wealth of new ideas she presented for running a society. With so much positivity, I was shown how things could be run for the betterment of all citizens if we would only choose to think a little more holistically/cooperatively and a little less individualistically/competitively.

 

Some Honourable Mentions

Books that maybe didn’t teach me anything terribly new, but that I think might be new ideas for some and/or are really great reminders.

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The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman is an interesting look primarily for its religious commentary. There are ideas about appreciating someone despite their different beliefs. Thoughts on whether or not to try to ‘save’ those you care about from their own choices. Understanding that the other person probably genuinely thinks they are doing what’s best for you. By all means, enter (healthy) discussions about differing beliefs and stand by what you believe/think/know to be true, but ultimately, it’s not your job to think for anyone else and make decisions for them. Even if you care about them…because you care about them.

 

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Wonder by RJ Palacio was a brilliant reminder that kindness is a choice and people who are different from you are still human. It seems pretty clear, but it isn’t always so black and white. I love that Palacio explores both sides of the coin: the person with the difference and the people around that person. It’s not always easy. And it’s not always simply about acceptance and not being a bully. And there are so many perspectives in here (other than just “the bully” and “the victim”). There are burdens, there is unintended awkwardness. There is a lot still to learn. All people deserve respect regardless of what differences they were born with or develop. We aren’t always aware when we’re not “choosing kind” but we can work on being better at it.

 

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The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, with similar ideas to Wonder can be a metaphor for a developed physical or mental difference (a degenerative disease or the result of some accident) as well as for any kind of difference at all (homosexuality, transexuality, depression, extreme anxiety, etc). It was interesting to watch how Gregor Samsa’s family’s attitude changed towards him (especially as it was realised his condition was not temporary). Their tolerance slipped away (if it was ever truly there at all) and shows how weak the links of their love and respect were when he is no longer able to support them. How they have used him as a crutch and are unwilling to return the favour (and, even when helping him temporarily, it is a burden of duty). I hope to always remember to really appreciate each person for who they are and not what they can do for me because that is not love and it cannot last.

 

Ignore Socrates’ creepy face.

Apology by Plato reaffirmed for me that even thousands of years ago in ancient Greek times, knowledge (and those who seek it) were being quashed for political reasons or because of petty reasons like jealousy, aversion to change, fear of losing power over the ignorant masses and many other reasons besides.As new things happen and times change, our preconceptions will have to be reassessed. And when our preconceived notions are confronted and found dubious, we should try to be happy the lapse in logic was found (and so can be corrected) rather than angrily trying to hide it. It showed me that reason doesn’t always win and that sometimes we lose a brilliant mind at the claws of a regressive society. Being open-minded is a constant struggle, not a constant state of being. I want to always be reassessing to build on my strengths and strengthen my weaknesses. I want to be a little more like Socrates.

P.S. It’s worth noting that Plato’s Apology is non-fiction, not myth. I know we don’t always remember to separate actual Ancient Greek politics from Ancient Greek Mythology.

 

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In part one I’d asked for books that you think have made you a better person and received some good ones (one or two of which ended up on my TBR). I’m going to ask again for more recommendations:

What books do you think have made you a better person?

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Review: Uprooted

Book: Uprooted by Naomi Novak
Publisher: Del Rey, 2015
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating:
Source + Date Read: Own + May 2015
Recommend: For those that want a great kick-butt fantasy novel set in an old-European style world.
Book Pro’s: It’s an all-round ball of awesome.
Book Con’s: Uhh… that ending is a bit neat and tidy.
Favourite Line: “If you don’t want a man dead, don’t bludgeon him over the head repeatedly”

Summary: Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia – all the things Agnieszka isn’t – and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.
From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan

More Information: GoodReads

So I wanted to read this the minute I read the synopsis and immediately entered The Daily Prophecy’s giveaway. I never win giveaway, never, but to my surprise one day, I saw an email at work and it said that I won! Hazzah! There was much whooping at the office and a bit of a victory dance, which is a mix between a jump and a shuffle by the way, and waited anxiously till I got my hands on it. And oh, it did not disappoint!

Uprooted

First of all, let me talk about how amazing a job the publishers did with the cover- even the American version is nice, though I prefer this snazzy, illustrated British version. I think it embodies the story quite well and is engaging yet quite clean in its design. Overall, they definitely got an A+ for the cover.

Uprooted is an intriguing tale of budding magic and a woman finding her inner strength. What I like about this is though Agnieszka is the protagonist here, the supporting characters are richly infused with life and drama. I didn’t find anyone to be a cookie-cutter stereotype but rather a fleshed out and three-dimensional being. The book is also great because it gives you someone to hate. I never hated the Wood and it’s mystical and terrifying hold on the villagers. I rather, hated those pompous royals and city wizards, I must say that this book doesn’t exactly portray urbanites in the most flattering manner. They come across as petty and just plain shallow.

What I found to be the strongest part of this book is its old-world, old-European cultural infusion. I don’t know how others took this but it felt very, old-Russian to me and I haven’t read many books with this style. It felt like the author took a history and culture and infused magic and intrigue to make it all the more fantastical and real. It’s a fairy styled cautionary tale. Yes, there were some parts of this that lagged and I was not overly fond of the quick-ish romance (I have trouble judging pace in a book so I am open to hearing thoughts on this, was it quick? Was it not?), but it was neither forced or heavy.

Also how would you categorize this book, YA? NA? I’ve read books that had sex scenes as a teen but now that I’m older I don’t know how appropriate I found it. But then again, I’m just not a fan of sex in books in general (unless you’re Anne Rice, then have at it).

Have you read this? I’d love to hear your perspectives on it!

Name

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Claire & Nikki Book Club Review :: We Need New Names

I feel like I should explain the Book Club a little bit before just jumping straight into this post. At the end of May I was feeling sort of “meh” about the Goodreads book clubs I’m part of. No offence meant to them at all! I like them. But they’re just so BIG that the books I’m particularly interested in don’t often (read: ever?) get picked and there doesn’t feel like there’s enough incentive to take part sometimes. I wanted something that was smaller so, even if I’m not super jazzed about every single book, I feel motivated to read each one because I knew the other member(s) of the book club are reading too and because of the discussion that will ensue.

SO, of course, I voice messaged Claire about it and we decided on a book within the hour!

How it works is that one of use will pick the book one month and the other will pick the book for the next month. This month, was my choice: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.

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Claire’s library hardback (left) & Nikki’s paperback (right)

Book: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Publisher: Vintage, 2013
Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary: Darling and her friends live in a shanty called Paradise, which of course is no such thing. It isn’t all bad, though. There’s mischief and adventure, games of Find bin Laden, stealing guavas, singing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voices. They dream of the paradises of America, Dubai, Europe, where Madonna and Barack Obama and David Beckham live. For Darling, that dream will come true. But, like the thousands of people all over the world trying to forge new lives far from home, Darling finds this new paradise brings its own set of challenges – for her and also for those she’s left behind.
More Information: GoodReads

Nikki’s Thoughts & Rating:

*Spoilers are indicated like thisAny struck-through text from this point on is a spoiler.

Although it initially felt a little slow for me and I had to adjust to the novel being written in the present tense, by page 30 I became somewhat invested in the story and by page 52 I was really getting into it had fully committed. The social commentary throughout the book is just really great and at those two points in particular, religion and developed nations’ attitudes towards developing nations (respectively) are called into question perfectly. This careful analysis is told from the perspective of Darling who, while very insightful, is also very ignorant. Taking only one of these aspects of her personality into consideration does her character an injustice. She has opinions which are sometimes misguided, she is cliquey like children often are, she is easily influenced by her friends and the myth of America, she is insensitive even when she gets a little older, but she can also be empathetic and she has a conscience and she can think critically about situations. She is a very realistic character which I appreciated.

Several (read: six) times throughout the novel, Bulawayo references the title of Things Fall Apart and this is no coincidence. There are certain loose parallels we could draw about Africa ‘before and after’.

Darling never actually mentions her country’s name and I think this does two things. For one, it makes you see her country more broadly. Although we are reminded not to think of Africa as a single country (or to give it a single story) and that the countries are each different and have different issues to deal with, at the same time, it doesn’t matter which specific one she comes from. In fact, she could almost be coming from a different continent altogether – certain central strains of the story would be the same – it just so happens to be a country in Africa. It is a story of immigration and the desire for better things.

Secondly, this purposeful omission seems more obvious when contrasted with all the other things Darling is very specific about: soda brands, store names, phone and laptop brands, etc. While, in general, it actually annoys me to see cultural references (especially current ones) littered throughout a novel (it dates the book and feels distracting to me), one has to assume it was done to contrast the absence of these things or the difference in the way they might appear where Darling is from. I think Darling’s vagueness about her country paints it with a sort of fantasy and intrigue; especially when contrasted by the brashness of American consumerism in the latter half of the novel.

I don’t think it matters, but we can safely say the African country in question is Zimbabwe, where Bulawayo is from, (there is mention of Rhodesia at one point) and I’m sure other more subtle cultural cues would reveal that too.

Oddly, although our situations are vastly different, there were a lot of small things that I could relate to as someone who has moved from my country to another one to live. Small things (that many people can probably relate to just in the process of growing up, not necessarily moving to a different country) are falling out of touch with close friends and not knowing how to be around them or what to say anymore. It’s a confusing and difficult and frustrating feeling. And there is a little guilt too, even though that’s just how things happen sometimes and no one is at fault.

There is also a weird feeling about having moved and still feeling like your country is yours and identifying with it, but being so far away and distanced by both space and time. You start to realise you don’t know the most recent news. Even if you were to try to keep up with things by searching out the news, there are unexplainable details that can’t be grasped from abroad. That along with with not feeling like you’re really allowed to fully claim your new adopted home as yours no matter how long you’ve lived there and have seamlessly integrated, starts to create a small feeling of a “gap” in your identity.

There’s a point near the end where Darling goes from living a certain way to watching that way be lived by others who she has left behind that has a sort of soft, winding tension that echoes her friend Godknows‘ question, near the beginning, “What exactly is an African?”.

“Chapter 16: How They Lived” feels a bit like a narrative essay which seeks to elaborate what Darling’s story has already been successfully revealing without the inclusion of this straightforward exposé. It is beautifully crafted–like the rest of the book–and so I feel bad saying this, but it feels a little unnecessary. Like its purpose is for drama. I suppose there is no harm in an intermission for poetic emphasis and it doesn’t detract from the book. But I didn’t think it was needed and I just wanted to get back to the story especially since it was further along in the book which I find an odd place for stylistic changes.

There are no surprises in this story really. Pretty much all the pieces of your quintessential immigrant story are there. But it is full of beautiful similes, metaphors and juxtapositions that perfectly describe a very specific sort of feeling or that expose a certain way of thinking: a set of culturally constructed priorities. And, while I wasn’t completely blown away by the book overall, I really valued the way it was told and I think Bulawayo’s criticism is demonstrated effectively through the scenes, characters and happenings described.

3.5 stars and I would recommend it to others. ★★★☆☆

Nikki’s favourite line(s):

“If you are stealing something it’s better if it’s small and hideable or something you can eat quickly and be done with, like guavas. This way, people can’t see you with the thing to be reminded that you are a shameless thief and that you stole it from them, so I don’t know what the white people were trying to do in the first place, stealing not just a tiny piece but a whole country. Who can ever forget you stole something like that?”

And this beaut:

“And so the spirits just gazed at us with eyes milked dry of care.”

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Claire’s Thoughts & Rating:

As Nikki has already said, this is part of our Book Club. It was Nikki’s turn to pick and I think she did a great job!

I approached We Need New Names eager to sink my teeth into a different book. I’ve read a ton of Fantasy lately, as well as a number of YA novels, and that hasn’t led to a lot of diversity on my part. I wouldn’t have picked this book up out of my own interest, though I do find it interesting, because that isn’t the type of thing I read lately.

However, when Nikki picked it, I had to admit she made a good choice. We Need New Names is a complex and engaging read that brings up so, so many issues and topics. What I liked the most is the author’s tongue and cheek attitude, her snarky writing style that is both simple and detailed. She doesn’t shy away from the realities of poverty and goes into depth the simple hopes and pleasures that living can have.

Thematically, she talks about poverty and safety but most importantly (in my opinion), “the grass is greener syndrome”. I suffer from this most extremely, but it’s something I’ve seen back in The Bahamas. Everyone sees each other’s lives through rose-colored glasses, they cannot see that each lifestyle, American or African, has its own struggles and pains, and its own redemptions of course.

Though I liked this book, and I would highly recommend it,  I’d give it heartheartheartHalfHeart. It’s engaging and well thought out, and I left it thinking good things but I wasn’t wowed. It’s good, no, it’s great, but not wow.

Claire’s Favourite Line:

“Look at the children of the land leaving in droves, leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps. Leaving their mothers and fathers and children behind, leaving their umbilical cords underneath the soil, leaving the bones of their ancestors in the earth, leaving everything that makes them who and what they are, leaving because it is no longer possible to stay. They will never be the same again because you cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same.”

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Have you read this book yet?

If you have, what did you think? If you haven’t, do you want to?

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Claire x Nikki Review June 2015

Claire x Nikki Mash Ups

 Nikki

This month: My fella and I went down to London and hung out with Claire for a weekend and it was SO FUN! The first stop was ELCAF (where we met up).

I got to have a portfolio review with Jillian Tamaki (where I thoroughly embarrassed myself..haa…) and listen to a talk from Sam Bosma (fyi, they are both internationally renowned illustration/comics champs), and I even got them both to sign my copies of their books :)

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FYI We stupidly forgot to take any pictures aside from one shot of two books we wanted to read and not forget about (though I did take some video clips that I want to put together later…) so all these photos are not ours (unless otherwise indicated).

We ran into some other friends and had lunch at Look Mum No Hands where I devoured a gooorgeous, moist, delicious Red Velvet cake that I was waaay too busy wolfing down to have time for pictures. Just imagine the best cake ever…then you will almost understand what this cake was like.

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Look Mum No Hands

Then we just roamed the streets of London for a few hours until we were drop-dead tired.

The next day was filled with museums! The British Museum (a.k.a. Beautiful House of Colonial Loot. No shade. Just sayin’…) and the Natural History Museum (both total favourites) while Claire gave commentary about museums that was both really interesting and totally obscure that I would probably not have known/thought about if I didn’t happen to be roaming the museums with her.

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The British Museum

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Dippy the Brontosaurus in the vestibule of The Natural History Museum

I even reconnected with Dippy (pictured above) for the third and possibly final time before s/he gets replaced by a blue whale. Word on the street is s/he’s going to America which is total B.S. because s/he should go to a museum up North because London always tries to hog all the cool stuff. /mini-rant over.

SOOOOOooooo that whole weekend was really great! It definitely lived up to my excitement, but was over all too quickly. We’ll have to go down there again soon.

But, back to books!

Posts

Books Read

  • In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami ★★★☆☆ thriller
  • Yesterday by Haruki Murakami ★★☆☆☆ literary fiction
  • Goliath by Tom Gauld ★★★★☆ graphic novel/biblical fiction
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo ★★★☆☆ literary fiction
  • Vacancy by Jen Lee ★★★☆☆ graphic novel
  • The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes ★★★★☆ kidlit
  • Saga (single issues #25-#29) by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples ★★★★☆ graphic novel
  • Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie ★★★★☆ graphic novel
aya of yop city

Book of the Month

Miscellaneous Favourites:

Museum: Natural History Museum

Game: This is more of a “movie” for me since I watched it rather than playing, but The Last of Us.

Song: Laura Mvula’s That’s Alright

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Claire

Nikki put it so well above. This month has been trying for me, it’s been hard work wise but socially it’s been great! I finally managed to graduate with my MSc and I admit, I got a bit teary when I put on those robes, I couldn’t believe it actually and finally happened. My friend Jess came down for that and it was good to feel that familiarity again. I met up with Nikki at ELCAF and had a ball, it was so great to see her and the fella! We laughed and talked foolishness but such good foolishness!

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I also went to Pride this year (hence the sticker) and it was my first pride ever. It was a magical day for me, I got to see another good friend from Oxford and made new ones as well. Anyone who knows me, knows that I consistently struggle in that department. Also, it was the first time I’d gone to anything remotely gay or been public about my sexuality. I blog about it and the people who know me know, but I’ve never been to a club, or been seen in public with a partner. It’s not on purpose, but when you learn to hide at a young age because where you live it isn’t safe to be who you are, it’s hard to get out of that habit. But it was so good to jump and shout. I screamed for every Caribbean flag I saw, every country that I recognized. Magical I tell you.

Posts

Books Read

  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
  • The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon
  • The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) by Samantha Shannon
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  • A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1) by V. E. Schwab
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1) by Laini Taylor
  • Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #2) by Laini Taylor

Books of the Month

This was the Book of the Month, hands down. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and its characters.

 Favies

TV: I am obsessed, and I mean really obsessed with Parks and Recreation. Leslie Knope is my idol and everything that I want to be in the future. I cannot wait till it happens!

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Leslie Knope is my idol.

Food: For some reason, I’ve developed a crazy craving for sushi. I like sushi, always have but this month, it’s like all I want to eat for lunch and dinner. I even had it for breakfast once, what the heck right?

How was your June?

NameNikkixClaire

Posted in Bitchin' Rundown | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments