Monday, 19 March 2018

What I read in February

I had so many ideas and posts planned for this month but as usual, life happened and my blog went down to the bottom of my list of priorities. February ended up being pretty difficult so I had a bit of a break from being online, which was well needed.

Because I was spending more time offline, I distracted myself with books and so I actually managed to read seven books this month. It was a nice thing to focus on while everything else was slowly descending into utter chaos.

I am determined to try and get back into some sort of blogging schedule so – although more than a little bit late – here are my thoughts on all the books I read in February:

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
After being told to read this novel years ago, I finally got round to buying a copy. I have no idea why it took me so long - after all I had been told it was queer and usually that’s more than enough to convince me to add a novel to my list.

Under the Udala Trees follows main character, Ijeoma and explores war, religion, family and how these intersect with Ijeoma attempting to make sense of and understand her own sexuality. It’s incredibly bleak at times; it’s very hopeful at times and describes the futility of trying to conform to fit a society ideal when it just feels unnatural.

Chinelo Okparanta has a beautiful writing style which perfectly illustrates how pure and natural Ijeoma’s attractions are, even while other forces are trying to convince her otherwise. The novel has a dedication at the end which says that Under the Udala Trees attempts to give LGBT+ Nigerians a more powerful voice and a place in history, as homosexuality in Nigeria is punishable by death or imprisonment, depending on where you are in the country. 

For me, it serves as a stark reminder of how the fight for LGBT+ rights is far from over. Although Nigeria may seem like an extreme example if you're living somewhere like England, it is a hideous reality for many people and we are far from equality, even for those of us who are in the UK. Until we are all free, we are none of us free.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
As I mentioned in my previous book post, I’m trying to read more non-fiction and The Good Immigrant was a perfect book for this. It’s made up of 21 essays exploring ‘what it means to be black, Asian and minority ethnicity in Britain today’ and although some of the topics discussed in the essays were more familiar to me than others, I feel like I got something from every single one.

I especially enjoyed reading Riz Ahmed’s “Airports and Auditions”, Nish Kumar’s “Is Nish Kumar a confused muslim?” Varaidzo’s “A guide to being black”, Salena Godden’s “Shade” and Darren Chetty’s “You can’t say that! Stories have to be about white people”. In case you can’t already guess by my inability to pick one or two favourites, I had a lot.

I’ve said previously that I think everyone can do with looking at the world from other people’s perspectives more often and if you’re white, then this essay collection allows you a little insight to do just that. There were ideas I had never even considered and it was full of accounts of prejudices that I’ll never experience and that’s why it’s all the more important that we make the effort to elevate these voices and hear their stories.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
My nana loved Agatha Christie and a few years ago my granda bought her a really lovely collection of her novels. Sadly, we lost my nana at the beginning of the month and when I was thinking of what to read next, one from her collection seemed fitting.

I have no idea why but I always assumed Agatha Christie was read more for her plots than her style but I have been happily proven wrong. I loved the way this novel was written, the characters came to life on the page and it had me hooked from the first few pages. I am really terrible at guessing whodunit at the best of times but the big reveal in this novel absolutely baffled me. If anyone has ever read that book and figured out the killer before Poirot spells it all out for you, then I am in awe.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t put this novel down and it was a nice, easy read that was a welcome break from the stress that this month has brought. I’ll definitely be making my way through my nana’s collection; my only regret is that I didn’t read them earlier so we could have discussed them together.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan used to be my favourite author. Whenever I see his books in second hand book shops I’ll always buy them so I have quite a pile of unread novels to get through now. Amsterdam was a really bizarre read. I read it very quickly because the story is very fast-paced but the ending completely threw me.

I spent 90% of the book thinking that the novel was going to take me in one direction and then by the end of it I was left feeling quite confused and unsure of the final destination.

I ended up googling the novel to see what other people had made of it and reading other people’s reviews did clear my head a little, but for the most part I’d describe Amsterdam as a really engaging novel with a lot of potential that sort of fell flat at the final hurdle. My expectations for Ian McEwan are high but unfortunately, Amsterdam was no Enduring Love.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
After binge watching all four of The Hunger Games films during a hungover Sunday, all the reasons I was so obsessed with the series six years ago came flooding back. I needed more and I’d run out of films so the logical progression seemed to be to go back to the novels that started it all.

The novels are super easy reads so even though they’re long, they’re quick to fly through. I didn’t enjoy them as much as I did the first time round and I’ve now formed the opinion that the films are better than the books (shock horror) but they were a really fun read and a nice distraction for everything that’s been going on recently.

If you like the films then the books are definitely worth reading because there are many details that the films just weren’t able to fit in but if, like me, you thought Katniss kissing ALL THE BOYS in the films was a lot, then reading the book you’ll see that actually the films really toned it down. For a character who never seemed that bothered about kissing Gale OR Peeta – the girl sure manages to do it a lot.

Thanks to my The Hunger Games binge I’m actually ahead of my reading challenge (I definitely didn’t think that was ever going to happen) but considering some of the heftier reads still left on my shelf, I’m sure I’ll be behind by the end of March.

As always, if anyone has any recommendations for what I should add to my reading pile then please let me know!


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