Jane Austen July TBR! 2022

Thank you for baring with a little post break. I might have gotten back from my hols on Tuesday but that didn’t mean I was recovered! (We got in at about 3am, boy was I tired) But that isn’t what you’re here for. It’s tbr time!

I chose not to pick something from my tbr jar this month. I clearly just need a bit of a break and so I’ll leave that for now. If you want to see my tbr in video form then please check that out here!

Considering just how badly I did in June (seriously, just wait for the wrap up, it’s bad) I tried to keep this tbr on the smaller side, as well as transferring over some books from last month.

The first book I transferred over was The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien which I want to read via audiobook. I’ve never read the Lord of the Rings book, and I’m determined to change that sooner rather than later!

Secondly I transferred Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch which is a high fantasy following a DC in the Met Police in a magical London. I took this all the way to Italy with me, and didn’t read a single page. But I did see that the font was pretty big, so this should actually be a nice and easy read.

The final transferred book is Book of Night by Holly Black which is another one that I just didn’t have time for. This was the Illumicrate book for last month and it kind of works out that I’m reading it this month, as I don’t intend on reading We All Fall Down by Rose Szabo because of the racist issues that some have highlighted. So I can read last months instead.

The first of my “new” tbr books is Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro which is the Goldsboro GSFF book I got last month. I knew nothing about it until I filmed my tbr, and I read the first paragraph of the synopsis and fell in love. So despite this being around 600 pages I’m really excited to dive in! Goldsboro seems to know my reading taste so damn well!

Pompeii by Salvatore Nappo is a non-fiction all about the buried Roman town. Possibly this is one I should’ve read before we went and had a tour by an active archaeologist… but regardless I think it’ll be fun. It is quite out of date, as it’s technically been on my tbr since 1997. When I was 1… So it’s not the most up to date but hey, it’ll be interesting nontheless!

The prequel to Pet, Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi is a short little book that arrive at the very end of June and I’m hyped for. It’s a fantasy that follows Pet’s mum when she was younger. I don’t want to say too much in case it spoils Pet!

And then finally, onto the title of this post. Jane Austen July.

The book that is definitely on my tbr is Northanger Abbey (by Jane Austen of course) because it’s the shortest one left of Austen’s that I’ve not read yet! Look I’ve been having a time and I need to make things easier on myself.

And the second Austen book, and final book on my tbr, is Sense and Sensibility which is the next shortest, and is also (I’m simplifying massively here) like a first draft of Pride and Prejudice. So I won’t be mad if I miss this one, but I think it should be one I can get through without too much trouble. We’ll see ūüėŹ

And that’s my tbr! 7 books in total, smaller than my usual tbr’s, but I hope I can actually get through them all and make a good dent. And if I read them all? Well then I can get through some of the books I’ve gotten so far this year that I’ve not read yet!

What are you wanting to read in july? Will you be reading any Austen? Please let me know!!

Non Fiction Books on my TBR

Non fiction isn’t talked about much on the bookternet, and truthfully I don’t know why! There are some absolutely wonderful non fiction texts across so many subjects, and they range from textbooks to stories! So I thought today I would put the spotlight onto non fiction and mention 5 books that I’m really wanting to read!

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex:  Amazon.co.uk: Angela Chen: 9780807013793: Books

Ace by Angela Chen is a book all about asexuality that I really want to pick up! As a demisexual (on the ace spectrum) this is something super interesting to me and I would love to learn more. And it totally doesn’t hurt that the cover is absolutely gorgeous. This one is sitting on my Amazon wishlist, waiting for the day that I’ll treat myself!

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold | Waterstones

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold tells us about the lives of five women killed by Jack the Ripper. Whilst he became infamous these women faded into obscurity. Historian Rubenhold brings their stories back to the forefront where we can focus on Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary-Jane and the lives they lived. This on I was able to find on a supermarket shelf for quite cheap and I couldn’t resist! So it’s currently sitting on my tbr and I’m having to use all of my willpower not to read it at once!

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies: Amazon.co.uk:  Barrister, The Secret: 9781529009941: Books

Fake Law by The Secret Barrister is one that I regret not picking up when it was published in hardback, and I really need to get a hardback edition! (another one sitting on my Amazon wishlist) This is the second book published by “The Secret Barrister”, a practicing barrister in the UK who remains annonymous in order to provide real life insight into our laws and court systems. Their first book was so interesting and definitely an easy read (so don’t worry if you’re not keen on legalese) so I’m excited for this one.

Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class - Owen Jones; | Foyles  Bookstore

Chavs by Owen Jones is one I spotted whilst sat in a bookshop one day for a job interview (I didn’t get it ūüíĒ) and ever since I’ve wanted to read it! Classism is a big thing here in the UK, and I have feet in both ends given my unusual upbringing (don’t ask, it was a total mess) so this is something that I would love to learn more about and I think it’ll be such an interesting and enlightening read! One day I’ll buy it from my wishlist haha.

Natives by Akala is last but not least. As I mentioned above classism is a big thing here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have racism as an issue too. This is another book on my Amazon wishlist (there seems to be a bit of a theme here, I need to buy the books on my wishlist!) and it sounds as though this is going to directly face the issues in a very non-British way that I am totally here for and I can’t wait to get stuck in!

And those are the non fiction books I’m most excited to read! I’m kinda mad that I only own one of these!! Please give me some recommendations down below and add more non fictions to my tbr! I’m always interested in learning more, and as you can kinda see from this list (a little) I have very varying interests! So shout out your fave and I’ll see if it’s up my street!!

Born a Crime – a review

The wonderful Olivia-Savanah from Olivia’s Catastrophe gifted me Born a Crime, she read it and really enjoyed it and thought that I would too. And she was right!! I loved this book and my copy has got so many tabs!

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I’ve not specifically sat and watched any of Noah’s comedy, but what I have seen has always made me laugh, and I was really looking forward to getting an insight into life as a “Coloured” person in South Africa so I had high hopes for this memoir which spans all of his childhood after being born to a white Swiss father and a Black Xhosa mother, at a time where relationships between Black and white people was illegal.

As always I’ll start with my negative, which in this case is that the timeline of the book jumps around quite a lot. The events which it jumps to are related, but we do go back and forth with at least one event being repeated. This does mean the book feels a little disjointed and it takes away from the natural flow. That was what brought this book down to a 4 star rather than a 5, but other than that? This was an amazing book.

My tabs can be broken down into basics:

  • Funny
  • Sad
  • Learning
  • interesting

The funny is self explanatory, Trevor Noah is a comedian and this of course bleeds through into this book. He’s lived through some very funny moments and gotten up to a lot of antics as a kid which were fun and cringy to read about! Even just the reactions of himself or those around him in mundane points of life was a lot of fun to read about. And going to three different churches every Sunday rain or shine? Well of course I loved reading about mama Noah!

There were some sad points in this book, as there are in almost everyone’s lives. There weren’t too many here, but the ones that were there were poignant and heartfelt. Given that I was tabbing up the book anyways it felt wrong to leave these sections unmarked as they made me stop and reflect.

Whilst I had learnt about apartheid in school, as many of us do, the technicalities of the overarching laws and regulations doesn’t exactly tell you what it was like living within the country at the time. For example, Trevor’s mother and father having a relationship was fully illegal, and yet here he is. Whenever there are laws there will be people who break them, and sometimes that’s a good thing! It was really interesting to learn those intricate facts about daily life growing up during this time.

The “interesting” tabs came about because there were points that I already knew, but that I really enjoyed the way he worded them and which made me think about things in a new light. I almost put them into the “learning” section but it didn’t feel quite right, so instead this category was born.

I also, accidentally, was reading Long Walk to Freedom at the same time as I was reading this (I’d been reading it for a few months already, it’s a big boi). Somehow I had a section where the two lined up, I read a chapter from Born a Crime about the destruction of Sophiatown and how this directly impacted Trevor. I decided I wanted to read a chapter from Long Walk to Freedom and what would you know? Sophiatown was being destroyed! I wasn’t very far into Mandela’s biography so I hadn’t been expecting the two to line up at that moment in time and it was a little surreal. It also, for me, added an extra layer to how I was think about these events because I had the perception of both a political activist and a child. And those two together? They’re powerful.

Honestly this book is fantastic, and I think even those who don’t usually read non-fiction or memoirs will enjoy this book as well as getting a lot out of it! Not only is there important commentary on race, both in South Africa and around the globe, but it’s humorous, insightful and just a fun time to read!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: domestic abuse, racial slurs, racism, violence

Thank you so so much to Olivia for gifting me this! I adored it and I’m sure I’ll be re-reading it in the future!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – a review

In light of my blog post about being more chill with my book blog, this is going to be my first post where I don’t sit and write an academic article about my thoughts on a book! Ironic that I’m doing this with a science based book but here we go, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

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This books is a biography written by a white woman, Rebecca Skloot. With this being about a Black woman who was exploited I was concerned about this going in, but she actually addresses this within the book itself. Of course as a white woman I can’t speak on this properly, but it did seem like she really cared for the wellbeing of the Lacks family and wanted to truly tell Henrietta’s story to the world. But I would look for own voices reviews of this to get a view on that part.

I liked that there was science mixed in with the personal, it wasn’t all just about her life and it wasn’t all just about the science, the two intertwined. It shows the impact that the HeLa cells have had on society, saving so many lives, as well as the impact the treatment of Henrietta had both on her and on her family around her. And that difference is pretty stark.

I like that Skloot chose to write about how she got in contact with the family. It shows the exploitation that they’ve been subject to before, as well as hopefully keeping her accountable for how she was getting in contact with them. Given that they’re able to pick this up and read it.

Overall I gave this 4*s. On my CAWPILE spreadsheet I rated it:

  • 10 for characters
  • 7 for atmosphere
  • 7 for writing
  • 8 for plot
  • 9 for intrigue
  • 8 for logic
  • 8 for enjoyment

The CAWPILE rating isn’t designed for non-fiction books so I’ve had to just make this fit for the book the best that I can. And my rating came out at 8.14, so a solid 4 stars!

Highlight for trigger warnings: mention of sexual abuse, cancer, racism, classism, medial procedures, death

Honestly I really recommend picking this one up. It’s a really interesting book that focuses primarily on the human impacts of the work carried out, both on Henrietta and on what the HeLa cells have been able to achieve and it’s really important to remember and honour the woman who’s cells were stolen, who has enabled so many scientific advancements.

Flash Forward by Rose Evereth

Having listened to this podcast for a few years now, as soon as I learnt Rose was publishing a Flash Forward book I knew I needed it! I would’ve pre-ordered it but that was only available in the US and Canada, I’d just resigned myself but then I spotted the book on NetGalley and I requested that thing so fast!!!

The book follows the same format as the podcasts, where in each section the book looks at a possible, or not so possible, future and see’s how this could play out and how it would impact everyday people. In the podcast this is done through a small acted segment and then through discussion. To transfer this into a literary medium, Rose instead went with comics! This is part graphic novel and part discussion, with there first being a strip which is the same as the acted segment from the podcast, and then afterwards Rose would have a discussion about what we’d just read and how this could come about.

There were a few futures that were taken directly from podcast episodes, but they were from older episodes, so if you’ve not listened to them all then this won’t be an issue for you, and if you have, well it’s a nice reminder! I enjoyed being reminded of these possible futures and Rose’s takes on them, as well as seeing how my reaction differed a few years on.

Overall, I recommend getting this content into you somehow! Whether that’s through the podcast (of the same name: Flash Forward) or through this graphic novel. Rose Eveleth puts so much effort and hard graft into each episode and each story, doing so much research and talking to a vast amount of professionals and experts. Also I really liked the artwork inside the book as well, something that isn’t necessarily the main part of a graphic novel like this but that’s lovely to see all the same! A very ramble-y but very positive review of this! Pick it up!

Vesuvius: History of the Volcano – a review

This is going to be a review on the shorter side today, because I know a lot fewer people will be interested in this book compared to my usual reviews. Not only is this book non-fiction, which the online bookish world isn’t as keen on (which breaks my little heart) but it’s also in the style of a kids textbook and covers the topic of Mount Vesuvius. See? Told you this wouldn’t be up your alley. But I still want to talk about why I loved this book.

Vesuvius: History of the volcano and it’s eruptions

This book doesn’t even have a listed author, because it’s just a little touristy book to pick up when you’re visiting Naples, Sorrento or Vesuvius itself. That’s where I picked this up! At the shop just before you start upon the trail up the volcano to the summit. I’ve been up this volcano a number of times, and I picked this up when I was 19 (so back in 2016) and last visited the site with my parents. It’s taken me a fair bit of time to get around to it, but I’m kinda glad about that, because it’s allowed me to have a pretty different viewpoint on this.

Since I bought this book I started and finished an MSc in GeoHazards where my thesis focus was actually on Vesuvius, and reading this after I had carried out my studies meant I could really appreciate the accuracy of the information and how scientific and detailed it was without being too complex. It reminded me of the non-fiction books I would read as a child because I was so so interested and whilst some of the information was even new to me (you tend to hyperfocus for a thesis, don’t @ me) at no point does it overwhelm the reader, nor does it talk down to them. Instead it states the facts in a clear and understandable manner whilst also being engaging for a non-fiction reader.

In essence, I was quite surprised by this book. I had expected it to be fluff, or to be boring. But no. I judged it!! Literally the only fault I had with this book was that it had been translated from Italian and clearly hadn’t been done by a native speaker because some sections were a little weird. But nothing that wasn’t understandable and it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. If you’ve somehow made it to the end of this review and are vaguely interested, I really do recommend this little book!

Strong women in media

 

Matt Killeen is an author I love from his Orphan Monster Spy WWII YA series, so when I saw that he had a small (like 45 pages small), free, eBook I knew that I needed to pick it up! It’s a collection of short essays about the strong, powerful women portrayed in media and how it shaped his childhood to end up in him becoming a feminist.

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I will be honest and say that I hadn’t heard of all of these women. I don’t watch many movies, so that was part of it, but also just from exposure to different media. I did, however, really enjoy learning about them and I can see how this would be a great book for teenagers to delve into and find more women to admire.

This is a short review for a short book, but overall I believe you should pick this up. It’s free and quick to read so there’s no loss to you if you don’t like it, and it mentions some fantastic women who should be praised more often.

Do we need prisons?

 

Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Y. Davis is a work which introduces the idea of a prison-less society to the reader and discusses how prisons came about as well as how the world would work without them. As a white Brit who has never come fowl of the police, I’ve not had much cause to think about the prison system, both here and in the US. I have thought about and had discussions on the unfair treatment in US prisons and the abuse that female prisoners go through. But I had never actually entertained the idea of abolishing prisons all together.

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That way of thinking, obviously, comes from a place of privilege, and so I’m very grateful to Davis for opening the doors to this topic and blowing away the cobwebs to reveal truths that I knew but had not actioned.

In terms of the writing style, Angela Davis has walked the fine line between academic and accessible. This does indeed feel like an academic text whilst you’re reading it, however, the words used are not inaccessible and I believe most people would have no issues with reading this work.

This book does, of course given that the author is American, focus on US prisons. There are, however, mentions of prison systems around the world and she also talks about how the European system of justice came to be almost worldwide (hint: colonialism). The personal factors, thought, remain universal no matter where you are. We are so used, as a society, to prison being the de facto punishment for those who committed any crime that we cannot imagine how our justice system would work without it. It was only relatively recently, however, that the prison system came into widespread use and the United States worked its not-so-great magic and turned the system into a capitalists wet dream.

The author, armed to the teeth with evidence from history, interviews, research and her own personal stories, teaches the reader about the damage that the prison system causes and how in the US (and likely many other Western countries) Black and other ethnic minority individuals are much more likely to end up in jail despite making up a smaller amount of the countries population. This is¬†not because these people are committing more crime but because these communities are targeted unjustly due to racist discrimination by the officers maintaining the law. There is also the issue that in the US many laws were created purely to target Black populations after the demolishment of slavery. The white plantation owners weren’t going to give up their free labour and superiority so easily.

Life whilst inside prison has its own horror stories for both men and women, with the absolute power held over them weaponised to the guards advantage. The lack of access to facilities that could allow these people to improve their lives, to educate themselves, to gain more skills. This isn’t an accident. It’s by design.

All this and more is covered in a 128 book, this really does seem to be a great starting point for those learning about the anti-prison/prison abolishment movement. As mentioned at the start of this review I am new to this movement as well, so I cannot speak to how well this text compares to others. It has, however, opened my eyes to the corrupt systems in place and I definitely want to learn more about the prison systems in my own country. Non-US countries like to pride themselves on “not being as bad as the US”. I need to read more to discern if this is even true, and also if it’s true to any important extent. Just because it’s “not as bad” doesn’t mean it’s good.

I gave this book 4/5 stars as I did struggle to read it a little, but I was pushing myself to finish it in one day rather than reading at a natural pace. I really do recommend this book to anyone unfamiliar or just starting to learn about anti-prison sentiments. It’s an eye opener that will lead you to further information whilst providing what I currently believe to be a good basis to learn from.

Undertaking Southern America in the 70s

Having watch the¬†Ask A¬†Mortician YouTube channel for a number of years now, coming across The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield had me intrigued. A memoir about growing up in a funeral home in the south of the US, that’s an area I’m not familiar with and so I decided to pick the book up.

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We follow Kate all throughout her childhood, starting from around the age of 6 and progressing up into her later teenage years and her desire to escape from this small town and the gossip that was prevalent within it. I don’t know if it was intentional but this town was written exactly to the stereotype that I’ve always been shown about the southern US. It was filled with gossip-mongers, the status-quo was never to be breached and there were so SO many blatant racists. And as always those who were raised by the Black nannies/maids etc are confused about why everyone is being racist. I’m never quite sure how to read these, as it feels a little self-congratulatory but at the same time if that’s how they experienced their life who am I to judge? It’s a little complicated. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

We do get some really interesting insights into how the funeral business did run and how the common burial practices of the US came to be, adding to the knowledge I had already gained.

If you’re interested in the southern US in the 70s and in funeral homes/undertaking etc then this is the book for you. It’ll show you a lot about the cultural mindset of the time as well as informing you how funeral homes were run. If this isn’t your interest, however, I wouldn’t recommend picking this up. It’s not the most universal of reads.

A niche market

A niche [nee-sh]: an¬†area¬†or¬†position¬†that is¬†exactly¬†suitable¬†for a¬†small¬†group¬†of the same¬†type. This book is definitely in its own niche. The¬†Ultimate guide to the Avengers from Marvels comic books! I’m about to make you mad: I don’t read comics. I know, I know. I just need them to be in a bind up to enjoy them (they’re too short otherwise) and I can’t really afford to read them!

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I picked this book up from The Works (a discount shop in the UK) because I really love the MCU and I wanted to learn more about the world in the comics because I know it is so different. Whilst this isn’t going to be my new favourite book, I am really glad that I picked it up. I learnt quite a bit about both old and new (to me of course) characters and I found that I recognised a surprising number of them! Sadly for comic lovers, I recognise them from the Lego game on the PS4…. Sorry?

Overall, this could be a great gift for a young or old fan of Marvel comics and as someone who was interested in learning a little more about the background that the MCU was based on I did find it really interesting. I would love to read the comics one day, but it’s just not a big priority for me right now.