Mid Month Mini Reviews – May

Hello bookworms!

Welcome to my a-bit-later-than-planned-mid-month mini-reviews!

I’ve been trying to read more diversely recently and so today I’m focusing on black female authors. All of these books are absolutely excellent and they’ve all made me think about race, racism and privilege (amongst other issues) from entirely different angles. I’d highly recommend them all.

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

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I didn’t go into this book with high expectations but I was blown away by it – not only by the sheer force of Michelle Obama’s drive and ambition but by how well written and engrossing it was. As a British person I don’t understand the system that the US uses to elect its politicians so I had hoped the autobiography wouldn’t get too politically technical and thankfully, it didn’t. What it did do, however, was show what a truly inspirational person Michelle Obama is. Her sheer determination to do well in life was astounding – just the lengths that she had to go to just to get a good education were ridiculous and her constant willingness to defeat the obstacles put in front of her was amazing.

I loved hearing about how Michelle took the role of First Lady and made it her own, with her unique blend of optimism, personality and hard work. I also loved getting a behind-the scenes glance at what life in the White House was really like, especially when you’re also trying to bring up a young family. It was great to hear about what a nuisance the Secret Service were when you were trying to organise your daughter’s sleepover or what it was really like to meet the Queen when you’d only a vague idea of protocol!

Overall, I thought this was a super-interesting look at an amazing woman and her incredible life so far. My only criticism would be her cheese on toast making skills – guys, she used the microwave. Whaaaaat???

    

Four “That’s not how you make cheese on toast, Michelle” out of five.

 

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #2 Read an alternate history novel.

Oh. My. God.

I don’t know that anything could have prepared me for this book – especially with that ending – but safe to say that I loved it, even though it was upsetting and graphic and difficult to read in places.

Noughts and Crosses is set in a world where power has been flipped on it’s head – black people (crosses) are the ruling elite over the just-out-of-slavery whites (noughts). Sephy (a cross) has been lifelong friends with Callum (a nought) but when their friendship begins to develop into something more, the trouble begins.

There’s a lot of adult themes in the book – not just around privilege, power and racism but also rape, abuse and murder. These topics are handled incredibly sensitively though and although in parts it’s a difficult read, the writing is so outstanding that you’re unable to put the book down. The characters are multi-faceted, complicated individuals who often act irresponsibly – entirely how teenagers should behave – and this made the story seem all the more real to me.

Overall, I thought this was a great book with a very important message – I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

 

Four and a half “You can’t do that to a main character!” out of five

 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

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This is an odd book to review. On the one hand, I enjoyed reading it but I found that it was only after I’d finished that I truly understood how great it was. I just couldn’t. Stop. Thinking. About. It. And every time I considered the novel from a new angle, I found a whole slew of other issues hiding behind it.

An American Marriage is the story of a married couple, Celestial and Roy, who become separated after Roy is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Roy goes to prison and Celestial is left to build a life on her own, with just the shadow of her husband looming in the background.

It’s the omnipresence of Roy in Celestial’s life that really gives the book some tension. Their marriage is always there in the background, overshadowing every move they both make. The issue of their legal union binds them together and creates all kinds of questions about freedom – it acts as a kind of metaphorical, socially driven prison of their own making. It really made me think about injustice and how punishment of an individual ripples out to affect the whole family.

There’s many things about the book that mean it shouldn’t work – the characters are unlikable, the plot isn’t particularly dynamic, the ending is a bit disappointing. However, there’s something about the writing that compels you to keep reading. I should have hated it but instead I loved it.

 

Four “those dolls sound hella creepy” out of five. 

 

So, have you read any of these books? Do you make an effort to read from a diverse range of authors? Let me know in the comments!

Review: All Day by Liza Jessie Peterson

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Photo credit: http://www.netgalley.com

Bugger me, America is messed up. I’m sure the UK has some pretty shocking practices when it comes to children awaiting trial for criminal offenses but as far as I’m aware we don’t lock them all up together and stick them on an island, like some kind of Lord of the Flies for black kids. However, that’s exactly what happens in this true-life account of incarcerated children – children! – who are awaiting trial for seemingly minor misdemeanors on Rikers Island, New York.

The book is the account of one teacher’s perspective on what it’s like to work with these kids. Locked up, far from their families, with just the clothes they were wearing when they were arrested, the full extent of what happens to these poor (in both senses) young men is portrayed with brutal honesty. From gang fights to mental health issues everything is recounted with no sugar coating. It’s a morbidly fascinating glimpse into a world very few of us (hopefully) will ever get to see first hand.

*At this point, I am going to have a little bit of a rant. This is tenuously linked to my review but only because of my involvement in the UK justice system. You have been warned*

As someone who spent a few years working in the UK police force at a time when they had just been branded “institutionally racist” I have a little bit of experience of the ways that we worked to change the organisational culture. We aimed to include diversity in everything we did, not just with training (a full two day session that was actually really fun) but by embedding it into everything we did, from appraisal and job interview questions to marketing and branding. We had area Diversity Action Groups with targeted action plans. We attended events like the Caribbean Carnival and Pride. We targeted recruitment adverts to specific interest publications to increase the number of female, LGBTQIA+, disabled and minority ethnic applicants. We had support groups for all the different diversity strands that reviewed all of our policies and procedures to ensure fairness and transparency. We monitored the ethnicity of anyone stopped and searched and published the figures on a monthly basis (if anyone is interested, they were always overwhelmingly white men). Of course there were still problems, but I witnessed myself the amount of work and the dedication of many, many officers and staff to really engage with the idea. And things changed. Slowly, teeny tiny bit by bit, things got slightly better. We recruited record numbers of females and minority ethnic staff. We had awareness days for religious and cultural celebrations where staff and officers brought in food and talked about what the day meant to them. It was really fun (and the free food was a huge, yummy bonus). Everyone seemed really positive about the changes that were being made. I believe (obviously I can’t prove this) that as a result, Drtection rates for hate crimes increased as more emphasis was put on outreach work within communities that were previously very hostile towards the police. I really felt like the actions that we took were having an effect on the community that the police force served.

So I was horrified to read that almost every single inhabitant at Rikers Island was black or Latino – and that it was just accepted that if they had been white they would have been let off with a slap on the wrist. I literally can’t believe how blatantly racist the system is -and that no-one is doing anything about it.

*Ok, rant over. Back to the book review…*

It was really interesting to see how working in such a place was incredibly difficult for the staff – something that often gets neglected in such stories. Peterson is understandably frightened at being left in charge of a class of potential criminals who are disinterested in learning – what’s the point when your life will forever be tarnished with a criminal record? The way that she engages with the kids, enlightens them about their options and inspires their creativity is really impressive. However, the anxiety that she has about taking the job, the sheer effort of designing interesting ways to teach the curriculum and the massively long hours (not to mention the incredibly low pay) all take their toll and I really felt for her when she had to make tough decisions about continuing in the role.

It’s a shame that, as a reader, you don’t get to understand more of the back story about the inhabitants of Rikers Island. Understandably, Peterson has to maintain a professional distance but it would have been fascinating to understand what the young men had been through in order to end up where they were. There are certain issues that get alluded to (violence, drug abuse, sexual abuse etc.) but you never get to find out a full back story.

Despite the fascinating subject matter, I also found the storytelling a little clunky. There were parts that went into massive detail and parts which were skimmed over. I thought that with better editing the book could have been really great, but as it was I gave it…

Rating: 3/5
Could have been more engaging with emphasis on the background of the inhabitants and needed editing – but worth a read for a glimpse into the murky world of reform for minors.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Netgalley! I also read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017 #19 Read a book in which a character of colour goes on a spiritual journey and the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 #32 Read a book about an interesting woman.

Priorities, Plans and New Pencils

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Hey guys,

Well, it’s September (how did that happen?), so new stationery at the ready – it’s time to plan ahead for the remainder of the year. I’ve had some time off from my blog recently but I’m back now and raring to go. I always feel like this time of year means coloured pens, new shoes and timetables, with the promise of starting something new and exciting – so it’s definitely time for me to get back into writing. Do any of you feel the same? I think the academic year has been hard wired into me, like how a lunar cycle makes people go crazy on a full moon (or is that just a myth?)  

Anyway, my colour coded, bullet journalled, super organised plans are:

1. New blogging timetable
I’ve had a look at my blog stats and I can see that anything posted on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday gets far more attention than anything posted in the week. I’ve always said that I don’t care how many followers I have or who reads my stuff, but it seems silly not to take advantage and post when most of you are likely to see it. So, from now on I’ll be posting on Fridays and Sundays, with the option of a Wednesday discussion type post.

2. Complete my reading challenges
I’m doing both the Popsugar reading challenge 2017 and the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017 and to be honest I’ve lost my mojo a little bit. There’s just so much good stuff coming out at the minute and Netgalley seems to be getting all of my attention. My current stats are:

Book Riot: 12/24 books read (3 books currently being read)
Popsugar: 23/40 books read (3 books currently being read)

*blinks in surprise* that’s actually better than I thought and although I’m a little behind I think I can complete both by the end of the year.

3. Work on making my blog prettier
I’ve always thought that I’m quite creative but other than sticking up a picture of the book cover I don’t bother with graphics. It actually annoys me when other bloggers put a million gifs into their blogs because I think it interrupts the narrative and my crappy old kindle fire struggles to play them. Does anyone else have this problem/bugbear? I’ve got a vague idea of what I want to do but sometimes I just find it so time consuming and tedious – I’ll have to see how this one goes *reads this back and immediately knows this isn’t something I’ll pursue for long*. Does anyone with a super adorable, graphics heavy blog have any tips?

4. Engage more with the blogging community
I’ve neglected you guys lately so I need to show you some love! I’m sorry and I missed you all, but I have been pretty busy (see previous post).

I think that’s all for now, I can’t focus on much more than that without getting overwhelmed.

Are you all making plans and prioritising specific tasks that you’d like to achieve with your blogs, or in your lives in general? Does everyone have that back-to-school feeling? Do you find it a positive motivator or do you get a mild sense of panic? Let me know in the comments!

Super big love,

Lucinda xxx

Review: The Revenant by Michael Punke

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The year is 1823.
Location: the Rocky Mountains, USA.
The task – go with the men of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, find as many wild animals as possible, kill them, bring back their pelts. Oh, and don’t die.

One man takes these instructions far too seriously.

Hugh Glass is one of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company’s most experienced trappers. However, a surprise encounter with a mama bear leaves him seriously injured and fighting for his life. Out in the wilderness, with no medical provisions and only a rudimentary knowledge of first aid, Glass’ fellow trappers do what they can, but they’re fairly sure that he’s a dead man. The only problem is, Glass refuses to die quickly and waiting for him is putting the rest of the team in danger of being found by hostile Indians, as well as putting them behind schedule. Therefore, they decide that the only practical solution is to leave him behind. However, they don’t want Glass to die alone, so two of his colleagues agree to stay with him until the end.

Except they don’t.

The two men wait with Glass for a couple of days, but concerns for their own safety lead them to decide to abandon him. They reason that he won’t need his kit anymore and raid his stash of weapons and personal items before leaving Glass for dead.

Except that Glass STILL refuses to die.

And now he wants revenge.

And his weapons back.

But mostly revenge.

Glass then drags, crawls and limps his way back to the men who wronged him, almost dying on a daily (sometime hourly) basis. Apart from his injuries, Glass has to deal with surviving in a hostile wilderness, alone; having no food; being surrounded by enemy Indian tribes and wild animals completely unarmed, unable to walk, bleeding, with infected wounds and with no definite idea where he’s going. I would have said that the story was completely unbelievable if it hadn’t been based on true events.

The book is a complete Boy’s Own survival adventure – it’s a very literal account with almost no discussion of interpersonal relationships. It seems that every man (and it is all men, the only time women are referred to are in passing references to whores) is out for themselves, as life is so tough and death is just around every corner. This held my attention for a while, but I did begin to get a little bit bored of the endless hardship. The book became a series of descriptions of dangerous situations, near misses and bloody deaths and their frequency meant that their impact began to wane.

I got a bit annoyed by the occasional different points of view that the text was written from, especially as some short chapters were set in different time periods. Most of the characters had kind of merged into one by this point so I kept having to refer back to see what was going on.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

I know a lot of people didn’t like the ending, but I didn’t really have a problem with it. I won’t give away too much but things don’t turn out exactly as planned – but fine, whatever, more dangerous situations, blood and guts, blah blah blah. It was a bit of an anti climax but I’d kind of lost interest by that point.

Overall, this book was definitely not the kind of thing I’d usually read. I have very, very little interest in historical novels (fact or fiction) and the relentless struggle for every meal, every mile travelled and every search for a shelter to sleep in became quite tiresome. I did enjoy learning about various survival techniques and some of the characters that Glass encountered were quite interesting but overall it just wasn’t my cup of tea. If 19th Century American history is your thing then I’m sure you’ll get more out of the book than I did. Oh, and it’s apparently quite different to the film (which I haven’t seen) so don’t let Leonardo DiCaprio put you off.

Rating: 3/5

Neither hated nor loved it, found some enjoyable parts but didn’t really engage with the subject matter.

Please note that I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017 #11 Read a book that’s set more than 5000 miles away from your current location and the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 #24 Read a book that’s set in the wilderness.

Review: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 – #2 Read a non-fiction book about science.

The quote on the front cover of this book says it all really; “the sort of popular science writing that makes the reader feel like a genius”. I have learnt so freaking much from this book I don’t even know where to begin.

Firstly, I really like Richard Dawkins. He’s often angry and pernickity and this comes through in his writing (case in point – a paragraph on how to correctly pronounce algae (hard g) in case you’re American and don’t know how to do it correctly) – but I love that. It adds real personality to the text which otherwise could be quite dry. Weirdly, there were moments of humour (his criticisms of other scientists with rival theories are always proper put downs) that made me snigger. In anyone else this could come across as big headed but because Dawkins’ arguments are so meticulously put together you always end up on his side.

I loved the way that such complex ideas were broken down, without being patronising. Lots of examples were used so that you really got a clear picture of what he was trying to say. Peppered throughout the text are some real mind blowing sentences which Dawkins presents as throw away one liners – which for me only added to their impact. For example: of course, all of our ancestors were successful enough to reach maturity and breed, going back to the first primitive species. Woah, wait, surely….oh yeah!

Interestingly, as The Selfish Gene was written in the 70’s it is weirdly sexist. All pronouns are “he”. Take this sentence from the preface “three imaginary readers looked over my shoulder while I was writing…first the general reader, the layman. For him I have avoided technical jargon…but I have not assumed that he is stupid”. I found my inner feminist interrupting my reading whenever I came across these comments which in itself was quite jarring – but obviously this was the given convention at the time so I can’t hold it against the author. My copy of this book was from 1989 so I’m not sure if it’s been updated since? I also came across this absolute cracker of a paragraph;

“It is of course true that some men dress flamboyantly and some women dress drably but, on average, there can be no doubt that in our society the equivalent of the peacocks tail is exhibited by the female…women paint their faces and glue on false eyelashes. Apart from special cases, like actors, men do not. Women seem to be interested in their own personal appearance and they are encouraged in this by their magazines and journals. Men’s magazines are less preoccupied with male sexual attractiveness and a man who is unusually interested his own dress and appearance is apt to arouse suspicion…when a woman is described in conversation, it is quite likely that her sexual attractiveness, or lack of it, will be prominently mentioned. This is true whether the speaker is a man or a woman.”

So many things wrong with this…

Again, I accept that this was written in a time when sexism was rife but for a scientist to present AS FACT what is written above is just bullshit. I particularly enjoyed the part about mentioning another woman’s sexual attractiveness prominently when describing her in conversation…”you know my friend Kathy? Yes you do, she’s really sexually attractive. Like, an 8 out of 10. Great boobs. Nice legs. You know.” What woman has ever talked to her friends like that? Even in the 1970’s? Also, great insinuation that any man who is interested in his appearance is gay (or arousing suspicion, as he obliquely calls it). Again, I know this is a product of the time but surely, such a great thinker as Dawkins could have based his words on actual evidence instead of bland assumptions? I actually agree that in the 60’s and 70’s women did, on average, spend more time than men on their appearance but a simple bit of data regarding male average spend on cosmetics vs female would have sufficed. Oh, and we don’t all wear false eyelashes.

Ok, rant over…

Of course, the Selfish Gene is by no means a light hearted romp through evolution. There were some passages that I had to re-read several times and I had to be in the mood to pick it up. I found that reading 10 or so pages at a time was about my limit before I had to take a break to absorb what I’d just read. It also helped that my partner is a scientist so I could talk through some of the concepts with him.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone. It taught me so much and helped me to understand a broad range of ideas, not just about evolution and genetics. In particular, there is a really interesting chapter towards the end of the book on game theory which was so intriguing I’m going to have to read more about it. In parts, I did feel like Dawkins was labouring the point but his style of writing was so easy to follow that it was always engaging.

Right, I’m off to read my “journal of false eyelashes” 🙂

Overall rating: 8/10

PS If you don’t mind a bit (a lot) of swearing, Love Letters to Richard Dawkins is an incredibly funny video of the man himself reading his hate mail. I can’t think of a better way of dealing with trolls than this.

Review: Three Thousand Miles for a Wish by Safiya Hussain

I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 – #13 Read a book that is set in the Middle East.

Three Thousand Miles for a Wish is the story of a young British woman who has suffered a difficult relationship breakup. She doesn’t know how to handle the situation and becomes very depressed about it; drinking, going out and neglecting her faith. As a last chance to redeem herself, she decides to complete the Hajj pilgrimage with her parents.

The book contained a very detailed account of the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. I had previously thought that the story might be a little boring but actually it’s an incredible journey and a very well written and honest account. There is such a real risk of death when completing Hajj that makes the novel so dramatic – in places it was a real page turner. I found it amazing that so many people complete such a difficult journey .

As a non Muslim I think that reading this book will be the closest that I get to seeing what Hajj is like. I thought the author did a great job of explaining all the rituals and getting the reader to fully understand what happens and why.

However, I struggled with the religious fervour element of the book. In my opinion It seems like the author has some troubling issues that she needs to fully explore with a doctor or therapist. I sensed that she had turned her depression into anger and was still coming to terms with what had happened. I was concerned that she seemed to believe that by devoting her life to Allah it would magically make her problems go away. I had no issue with her turning to her faith as a source of strength but she seemed to believe that she could just pray for things that she wanted instead of asking for the strength to make them happen for herself. There still seems to be a lot of hatred within her regarding her ex which she seems to use religion to mask – she talks about forgiving him because Allah has told her to but I think she really needs to forgive him because she actually wants to. I worry that if she doesn’t get what she’s prayed for she won’t be able to cope.

I also struggled with the way that the author accepted as gospel everything that she was told in relation to the way that she was expected to live her life. She seems extremely worried that she will go to hell despite her devotion to Allah and this seems to have a very negative impact on her mental state. Again, I though this was indicative of the author needing professional help and made for some challenging reading.

Despite finding it difficult to read about someone who is obviously depressed and not getting help, I thought that the author gave a great first person perspective on Hajj. I did notice a few typos and a couple of bits that would benefit from editing but overall I thought that the book was quite well written. 

Overall rating: 6.5/10.

Review – If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I’m reviewing this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016. This book is what I read for #12 read a book by or about a person who identifies as transgender.

I was really excited about reading this book. I love YA fiction (if there is such a thing) and I thought that making the main character trans would add a new dimension that I hadn’t encountered before. I have a few trans friends so I’m broadly familiar (from an outsider perspective at least) with some of the issues that they face, not just from a transphobia perspective but also on a practical level (which bathroom do I use? Where do I buy clothes that will fit? What if I don’t want to wear makeup?) etc. I was expecting this book to touch on some of those areas – but it didn’t. Instead, it glossed over the entire transition process, assumed the young trans female ‘had won the genetic lottery in terms of passing’ (as female), took for granted that she would want (and indeed, could afford) all of the surgery and medical procedures to transition and that she would be a straight female who would move to a new town where no one would be able to tell.

In fairness, I read a note from the author at the back of the book, and she explained that she was terrified that cisgender readers would take the story as gospel, but that she wanted her readers to have no barriers to understanding the main character ‘as a teenage girl with a different medical history from most other girls’. I get that. I also understand that as this book is aimed at a younger audience that it may be a lot of readers first experience of a transgender person (real or imaginary) and that this is just a story about a girl meeting a boy. However, to me this came across as a little too simplistic. I think the character could have been much more interesting (and perhaps believable) if they had discussed some deeper issues. I don’t think that readers would have had any trouble understanding that the main character is just a teenage girl if, say, they were bisexual or hadn’t undergone all of the surgical procedures. Perhaps I’m just viewing the book from my liberal UK viewpoint though.

Having said that, I did enjoy the book. I liked that what could have been quite a formulaic story was given such a twist and that the overwhelming message was one of positivity and acceptance. I liked that the characters had flaws and the story was fast paced, sweet and thought provoking. I think this book is definitely worth a read – providing you accept that it is a work of fiction.

Overall rating: 7.5/10.

Footnote: I would also like to add that I’m well aware that as a cisgender reader I’m viewing this book from an outsider perspective with no real experience of the subject matter. I hope that I’ve conveyed my thoughts clearly and I’m always happy to discuss/learn more!

Review: The Wicked and the Divine – The Faust Act by Gillian McKelvie and Wilson Cowles

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This comic was #17 on my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge list: read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years.

Discaimer –  I love a good comic/graphic novel, so I was expecting to like the Wicked and the Divine. It looked exciting. I had high hopes.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I thought that the concept of Gods reincarnating in a ‘normal’ person really interesting. There is a murder mystery element to the storyline which I thought was quite original and worked really well.

But can we talk about the drawings. Ohhh, the artwork is, well, divine. Every page is beautiful. There are characters who look like David Bowie. Characters who look like Florence Welch. Characters who look like Rhianna. They’re all incredible. Super pretty. Glamorous. Slick. Gorgeous.

Loved it.

Overall score: 8/10

Review: Yes Please! by Amy Poehler

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This book was #9 on my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge list: listen to an Audiobook that’s won an Audie award.

I really struggled to like Amy Poehler’s book. I found myself amazed that it had won an Audie Award. Like, really?

I think I may have liked the book more if I had been American and a) understood the humour (the last chapter was read in front of an American audience and it took until then to realise where the jokes were) and b) understood her references to what I assume are big tv programmes (SNL) and other actors/commedians.

As an autobiography I felt that Amy put in as little information about herself as possible (I’m getting a divorce but ehhhh, I don’t want to talk about it). I found her rambling fashion hard to follow – I think it would have worked better if the book was organised in chronological order. A lot of the content felt like filler to me – in one part Amy names every cast member of Parks and Rec and states ‘I laughed the most when (name)…’ ‘I cried when (name)…’ like she was answering a feedback form for a particularly self indulgent therapy session.

Amy constantly reminds us how hard it was to write the  book. Am I supposed to empathise? I know that she’s busy with other projects and being a mum but it’s not like she has to make a story up!

Thankfully I listened to this book rather than read it so I could have Amy on in the background while I was doing other stuff and not feel like I’d wasted a few hours of my life that I’d never get back.

Oh, and it contains Parks and Rec spoilers with no notice beforehand. Unforgivable!!!!

I have nothing against Amy Poehler, I love Parks and Recreation and she comes across as a warm, lovely person but I found this audiobook really boring. Sorry Amy, no thanks!

Overall score: 4/10.

 

Review: Animal by Sara Pascoe

This book was #19 on my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge list: read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes.

If you’re ever feeling a bit depressed about your body, you should read this book and rejoice in your fat thighs, persistent unwanted body hair or cellulite. Sara Pascoe is here to help.

With an almost painful honesty about her own body insecurities, Sara examines the female body from a genetic and evolutionary perspective to explain that IT’S NOT JUST YOU and that WE’RE ALL MEANT TO LOOK LIKE THAT. Sara shouts many important concepts at the reader but the book never feels preachy or judgemental.

The overall tone of the book remains fairly light throughout despite touching on really emotive subjects such as rape and abortion without trivialising them. Sara adds some very personal annecdotes which makes the whole thing really engaging, despite the fact that the book uses scientific explanations for many of the concepts discussed. Funny and entertaining whilst also being informative and educational, Animal is one of those books that you encourage all of your female friends to read. I wish I had had a copy as a teenager, I genuinely can’t recommend it enough.

Sara Pascoe for PM! (or failing that, my new BFF).

Overall rating: 8.5/10.