#REALshelfie

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Perfect rainbow shelf people, I wish I was you. None of you are going to one day be taken down by the ever increasing, ever precarious pile of books stretching toward your ceiling.

Perfect rainbow shelf people, I wish I was you. But, the truth is I just can’t be bothered.

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TTT REWIND: Books I’d Want on a Desert Island

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday REWIND, hosted by the lovely folks at The Broke and The Bookish. This week we were invited to take a step back in time and choose an old TTT topic. I went for the subject of the second Top Ten Tuesday ever: books to take to a desert island.

(that I chose it just because it’s the second on the list is something I will deny)

The Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

harry potter

Because books about magic, defeating evil and growing up are exactly the sort of thing I’d need to pass the days.

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

to kill a mockingbird

Because Atticus Finch reminds us to always be kind.

Paper Towns – John Green

paper towns

Because we must imagine people complexly (especially when on a desert island. Don’t want to go getting too self obsessed).

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

why not me

Because I’ll need a friend to keep me company on the island.

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

infinite jest

Because maybe the long stretches of uninterrupted time will make me FINALLY read this one. It’s suuuuuuupppperrr long.

Any mystery by Sophie Hannah

the other half lives

Because who doesn’t enjoy a sexually frustrated detective and a mystery so full of twists it’ll leave you dizzy?

First and Then – Emma Mills

first and then

Because of the romance.

The Diviners – Libba Bray

the diviners 2

Because of the richly imagined world of 1920s New York. When I read this book, I time travel.

The Shades of London series – Maureen Johnson

the name of the star

Because sometimes when you’re stressed – which, even on a desert island, I imagine I would be – you just need a paranormal read to get you through.

Yes Please – Amy Poehler

yes please

Because Amy makes everything better.

Podcast of the Month: The Bright Sessions

Up until this point, my radio drama listening has been sporadic at best. I liked the idea of a continuous story but hadn’t found anything that kept my attention enough to listen week-to-week. Then Ashley C. Ford tweeted about The Bright Sessions. I decided to check it out, and was obsessed immediately.

the bright sessionsThe Bright Sessions are the recorded appointments of Doctor Bright, a therapist for the strange and unusual. Her atypical patients include Sam, who travels in time when she panics, Caleb, an empath who can feel other people’s emotions, Chloe, a mind reader, and Damien. Doctor Bright won’t share what Damien can do, but she’s afraid of him.

Doctor Bright has a plan for her patients. She has chosen them carefully. She needs their abilities. We just don’t know what for.

There is just something so damn intriguing about this story. Doctor Bright is a figure half in shadow. We don’t know much about how she came to know of atypical people – she isn’t one herself. Sometimes it seems like she’s one of the good guys. Other times… not so much. It is difficult to get to her true motivations. Chloe catches glimpses of them in her head until Doctor Bright decides they would be better off doing their appointments over the phone (so Chloe’s ability won’t work).

Each revelation is delicious, and leaves you begging for more. The short twenty minute episodes never quite give enough time with the characters. Just as you start to feel that you’re getting a sense of them and Doctor Bright, they are snatched away from you again.

When I reached the end of the season I literally shouted NO in my kitchen and my brother rushed in to ask me if I was okay.

I was not! And I won’t be until the autumn, when season two begins.

I recommend downloading every episode and putting aside an afternoon to binge listen. Once you start this story, you’ll lose interest in pretty much everything else.

Half of a Yellow Sun

In 1960s Nigeria, a country blighted by civil war, three lives intersect. Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university lecturer. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. The third is Richard, a shy Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. When the shocking horror of the war engulfs them, their loyalties are severely tested as they are pulled apart and thrown together in ways that none of them imagined…

half of a yellow sun

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a novel that captivates and rips your heart to shreds. Repeatedly. The narrative is split between two times, the early sixties, right after Nigeria won independence, and the outbreak of the Nigeria-Biafra War in the late sixties.

In the first and third sections of the novel, the early sixties, we are invited to explore middle class Nigeria. Ugwu, moving to Nsukka from a small village to become a houseboy, marvels at the plentiful food in his new boss, Odenigbo’s home. He listens in on the political debates Odenigbo and his university colleagues have every night over the dinner he painstakingly cooked. He is intrigued by London university educated Olanna, who has moved from Lagos to be with Odenigbo.

Olanna moves to Nsukka because she is bored of her life with her parents. She can no longer take being thrust in the path of prominent – and single – political figures and ignored by her twin sister, Kainene, with whom she was once close. In Odenigbo she sees her intellectual equal, and is drawn to his revolutionary beliefs.

Richard is a rich white boy from London who desperately wants to write the great African novel. He is disgusted by his racist peers and their reductive views of the Nigerian people, but ignorant of the problems inherent in his mining of Igbo culture for story ideas.

In the second and final sections of Half of a Yellow Sun we watch the war dismantle their lives. It is a novel that studies what war does to a person. Nsukka, where Olanna and Odenigbo live, is one of the first towns to fall at the beginning of the civil war. Their need to escape arrives suddenly, so they are not able to take most of their belongings with them. Their books, the symbol of their education and their concerns up until that point are left behind to be destroyed by Nigerian soldiers.

In the times before the war, Adichie pauses over long descriptions of food. Ugwu cultivated his own herbs to make Odenigbo’s food tastier. He cooked rice to Olanna’s exact specifications. When Odenigbo’s mother visited she took over the kitchen, not trusting anyone but herself to properly sustain her son. Harrison, Richard’s home help, is proud to present his idea of British cooking, and ridicules those who can’t do it – while they do the same to him for his obsession. When the war comes, it’s all stripped away. One of the war tactics used by the Nigerians to regain Biafra was to block aid from reaching the Biafran people. The prices of things like salt and milk soared. Olanna is forced to queue at relief centres that are forever running out of food. Alcohol is no longer a dinner time companion so much as a numbing medicine against the pain, violence and uncertainty. Harrison starts using beetroot (the British food he was so obsessed with) to fake injuries so he can travel without being conscripted into the untrained Biafran army.

Adichie also uses the parallel timelines to ask who should be telling Africa’s stories. Before the war, Richard is constantly failing to start his novel. He goes on about his obsession with Igbo art – as if the existence of artists in Africa is surprising to him – and begs Ugwu to take him to a ceremony in his village to look for story ideas. His novels never get very far. He goes through various different titles and approaches to the story, convinced that if he assimilates into Igbo culture enough then the perfect narrative will come to him. It is only toward the end of the war, after he proposes a novel called ‘The World Was Silent While We Died’ that Kainene finally points out that which should have been obvious from the beginning: Richard was not a part of that ‘we’. When your government can pull you out as soon as you wish it and the soldiers are never coming for you, present or not, it is not your war. While everyone else is trapped by the war, Richard is ultimately choosing to remain in it.

Through a beautiful twist that comes out of a lot of horror, Adichie makes the political point that Nigerian people should be the storytellers of their country.

Half of a Yellow Sun is a difficult novel. It doesn’t give you what you want – I wanted to scream when I realised the page I had turned was the last – but it gives you something else. In choosing authenticity over closure, Adichie has created a story that will be stuck in my head for a long time.

 

 

 

 

July Wrap-Up

This morning I woke up and realised I will be 24 in just over three months. I have been feeling like I might throw up ever since.

I’ve started another job. I’m waitressing again. I work three twelve hour shifts and have the rest of the week off. The plan is to use the time to figure out what I’m going to do with my life. If there are any updates on that front, I’ll let you know.

I’m going to Dublin, Ireland next week! That’s exciting! I am looking for a really great book to take my mind off of the fact of being on a plane. Recommendations are welcome.

So, the month in books.

july

This month I reviewed…

The Dead Ladies Project – Jessa Crispin

Thoughts: A beautiful book about travel, literary history and figuring out how to make these messy lives our own.

You Know Me Well – Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Thoughts: A cute summer read about gay pride, finding your best friend and starting the process of getting to know yourself.

The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson

Thoughts: A romantic contemporary with some serious family drama.

I also wrote about…

Books to Escape Into

5 Reasons to Love Daredevil’s Karen Page

Ten Facts About Me

A Case For Cheating In YA

How To Cure Book Review Block

Let’s Talk TV: Shows I’m Watching Now

5 Things I Loved About Ghostbusters

Reasons NOT To Read Me Before You (spoiler alert: telling disabled people they should kill themselves is considered offensive in some circles).