Review: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

51mac7aobsl-_sl500_
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Published by Bloomsbury on 1 June 2017
Length: 5 hours and 53 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Free download via Audible
Add on GoodReads

In February 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge posted an impassioned argument on her blog about her deep-seated frustration with the way discussions of race and racism in Britain were constantly being shut down by those who weren’t affected by it. She gave the post the title ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. Her sharp, fiercely intelligent words hit a nerve, and the post went viral, spawning a huge number of comments from people desperate to speak up about their own similar experiences.

Galvanised by this response, Eddo-Lodge decided to dive into the source of these feelings, this clear hunger for an open discussion. The result is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today, covering issues from eradicated black history to white privilege, the fallacy of ‘meritocracy’ to whitewashing feminism, and the inextricable link between class and race. Full of passionate, personal and keenly felt argument, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is a wake-up call to a nation in denial about the structural and institutional racism occurring in our homes.

Race is such a delicate subject that I’m struggling to phrase how I feel about this book. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race was written after Reni Eddo-Lodge’s original blog post of the same name went viral. Given that so much of the literature surrounding race relations is US-centric, it was interesting to read (or rather, listen to) a book that focuses on the UK, specifically England. Often I think of the UK being socially divided more by class than race, so looking at the ways in which people of colour are marginalised in the UK, and the ways in which ethnic and class identities intersect and said marginalisation is compounded was eye-opening.

When I write about white people in this book, I don’t mean every individual white person. I mean whiteness as a political ideology. A school of thought that favours whiteness at the expense of those who aren’t.

Eddo-Lodge has split her argument into seven chapters, and provides a well-structured argument as to how structural/institutional racism affects people of colour. Eddo-Lodge asserts, “being accused of racism is far worse than actual racism,” which is something that resonates in modern Australia as well. It’s amazing to see how people of colour are essentially disadvantaged from birth by the colour of their skin, and the ways in which white people benefit from their race without even realising it. Eddo-Lodge addresses so many important points in this book, however her evidence to support her arguments occasionally feels very generalised and not a lot of hard evidence to back up what is essentially just her opinion. I also would’ve liked to see some points expanded upon further and felt that the quoting of Twitter altercations was a little heavy-handed (I’m sure there’s actual research that could’ve illustrated the same point and add credibility to Eddo-Lodge’s arguments), however this does feel like a personal essay in many ways, so I understand its inclusion.

Not seeing race does little to deconstruct racist structures or materially improve the conditions which people of colour are subject to daily. In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.

For me, the most interesting chapter was the one on race and feminism. Feminism started off as a movement that was white-centric and middle class-centric, and even today doesn’t really address the concerns of women of colour and/or poor and impoverished women. Feminism shouldn’t be a homogenous entity and it’s important that we work to raise up all women, not a privileged few.

I didn’t agree with Eddo-Lodge 100% obviously, but her voice is a powerful one that forces us to examine our prejudices and change our societal structures. A thought-provoking read.

Recommended for: those who liked The Hate Race

★★★☆☆

Review: Unearthed

61bs69kotil-_sl500_
Unearthed
(Unearthed #1) by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Published by Allen & Unwin on 22 November 2017
Length: 12 hours and 44 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Free download via Audible
Add on GoodReads

When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study… as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first. Mia and Jules’ different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race’s secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race…

It took me awhile to get through this book. The second half was definitely stronger than the first, but this felt a lot like a YA-version of Firefly with a bit of archaeology thrown in. It was mildly entertaining — and the story made for a good audiobook, I must admit — but it ultimately it felt like a lot of wasted potential.

I really, really loved Jules. When it was mentioned he was a scholar, I expected it to be in a STEM field, and was pleasantly surprised to find out he was a linguist. Jules is a little awkward, dorky, and occasionally unsure of himself, but also quite earnest and it’s impossible to not like him. It took me a little longer to warm up to Mia. I found her to be a little prickly and her backstory didn’t really move me, but I enjoyed her wit and quick banter. She felt a little in the realm of manic pixie dream girl, but she grew on me eventually. I would’ve liked to see Jules & Mia’s relationship move at a more realistic pace — it was kind of like instalove — but understand why it developed the way it did. As a team, Jules & Mia have skills and knowledge that complement one another well, and it was great to watch them work as a team. Their dialogue is great. Their hot-and-cold relationship? Eh.

I wish that we’d had more time to get to the big plot point, although I supposed that’s what the sequel is for! However, this book was filled with Jules & Mia moving from place to place and try to solve the puzzles (which, honestly, weren’t that hard to solve). The puzzles are also hieroglyphs (from what I could tell) and we ended up with lengthy descriptions of what was happening — this is one book I would LOVE to see adapted as a graphic novel (although it WILL be interesting to see what the film adaptation does with all of this!). I was listening to the audiobook, and I did find my attention wandering at times. There was a tendency to dump information on the reader, but there were still fundamental world-building elements that were left unaddressed. The last… two or three chapters were by far the most interesting of the book, and I’ll be interested to see what’s in the sequel and whether or not this could’ve all been one book. I would’ve liked to see a little more world-building and being able to explore this fantastic universe that Kaufman & Spooner have created. Gaia and the Undying sound very cool. It just felt a little too narrow-focused for my liking. The plot also moved very slowly. Listening to audiobooks are often a very slow affair for me, and with Unearthed there was a lot of stopping-and-starting, but I was surprised by how little the plot progressed between listens.

Finally, I don’t think first-person works for multiple perspectives (it’s a gripe I’m also having with my current read, A Reaper at the Gates). It just felt… off, and continuously threw me while listening. We were constantly looking at the same event from two perspectives which, for the most part, just frustrated me. Nothing new was added by looking at the same plot point from two perspectives and the constant expounding of Jules & Mia’s emotions kind of made their relationship seem contrived.

Overall, this book had a lot of potential and I kind of want to see where that cliffhanger goes (I mean… if you paid attention to all the clues, you could see it coming). I much prefer Kaufman & Spooner’s Starbound trilogy, but I am hoping that Undying will be the action-packed thriller I was hoping for.

★★☆☆☆

 

Review: To Kill a Kingdom

to kill a kingdom
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Published by Hot Key Books on 6 March 2018
Length: 12 hours
Format: Audiobook
Source: Free download via Audible
Add on GoodReads 

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

I seem to be on a good run with picking books lately; I absolutely loved this one! I love a good anti-hero(ine), and I feel like both Lira and Eilan fall into that category. This book was everything I wanted from Into the Drowning Deep and more. For a YA fantasy, it gets pretty dark and gory and if you’re going in thinking of a retelling of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, you’ll probably be disappointed — it’s closer to the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, if anything. I could see parts of the story that honoured the Andersen’s tale, while still being an entirely original story.

Lira is the Prince’s Bane, a siren known for only taking the hearts of princes. Eilan is the Siren Killer and a pirate. Her mother is the Sea Queen, who conditions her to be hard-hearted and ruthless. He does not want to inherit the throne and finds his home onboard the Saad, the ship he captains. When he hears the tales of the Eye of Keto hold the secret to defeating the Sea Queen and her sirens, he goes in search of it. When the Sea Queen punishes Lira by turning her into a human, she is picked up by the Saad’s crew. Eilan isn’t aware that Lira is the Prince’s Bane, although he is suspicious of her.

If you enjoy your books with a lot of romance, this will probably not be the book for you. This book takes slow burn romance to a new level. It takes Lira and Eilan a good 30 chapters to realise that they even like each other. I did enjoy their relationship development, though. They don’t trust one another in the beginning, but their dialogue is filled with quips and witty banter. Both are morally questionable, and if this were any other story, Lira would be a straight-up villain. I enjoyed the questioning of ‘nature vs nuture’ and whether or not Lira could be anything more than a murderer.

In the pits of our souls – if I amuse myself with the notion that I have a soul – Elian and I aren’t so different. Two kingdoms that come with responsibilities we each have trouble bearing. Him, the shackles of being pinned to one land and one life. Me, trapped in the confines of my mother’s murderous legacy. And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.

I really enjoyed Lira’s arc. Christo did something really interesting by imbuing this protagonist with so much power, and then immediately taking that power away. Lira as a human is vulnerable and has to learn how to adapt to her new surroundings. This book is essentially Lira learning that being powerful does not necessarily mean wielding incredible strength.  I also really enjoyed the side characters — the crew of the Saad are loveable and funny, with Kye and Madrid being obvious standouts. Christo does a great job of showing motivations through actions, rather than exposition.

Christo excels at world-building. This book obviously borrows heavily from Greek mythology — the underwater kingdom of Keto was named after Ceto, the Greek goddess of the dangers of the sea, and I’m pretty sure that Lira’s native tongue is based on the Greek language — and there’s so much that nods to myths and fairy tales while completely turning them on their head. In the Hundred Kingdoms, there’s countries like Midas, the city of gold — even the water looks golden, thanks to the reflection of the city’s golden buildings. Or Eidyllio, the land of romance. While not the point of the story, I would’ve loved to see more of the political systems of the kingdoms and how they interlock (they seem to work together, but I’m not sure if its supposed to be like the United Nations  — multiple countries working towards a common goal  — or the European Union  — political and economic union).

This book is well-paced, and I found myself on the edge of my seat while listening to the climax of the book. So many YA books are turned into series that don’t really need to exist, but To Kill a Kingdom is so fascinating that I’m almost a little disappointed that it’s a standalone.

★★★★☆

 

 

Review: Gemina

9781925266573
Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Published by Allen & Unwin on 1 November 2016
Pages: 672
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Add on GoodReads

The saga that began with breakout bestseller Illuminae continues aboard Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station commander’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station crew one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon, Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

This book has been on my TBR list for awhile. Like, I pre-ordered the YA Chronicles Gemina box and it’s been sitting on my shelves ever since. However, I’m finally catching up on my never-ending list, and I have to say… I prefer Gemina to Illuminae. I think it’s because the romance took a backseat to the action and the book was much better for it.

While Illuminae followed Kady and Ezra (and a few other survivors) and their escape from Kerenza, Gemina focuses on Hanna and Nik on the jump station Heimdell — which our Illuminae protagonists are headed for (as far as I can tell, Gemina picks up immediately where Illuminae finishes). I felt like there was a lot more going on in this novel.

As with IlluminaeGemina is told through video footage transcripts, chat records, and various documents collated by the Illuminae Group. I loved the addition of Hanna’s diary (drawings provided by Marie Lu) and the court transcripts. It gave me a better idea of where the story was at. I wasn’t a huge fan of Aidan’s appearances, if only because I was twisting my book in all different directions to read it (which got me a few weird looks in the breakroom at work). While I get the whole ‘text mirroring the action on the page,’ it just frustrated me.

Hanna and Nik are wonderful additions — if Kady is Willow Rosenberg, Hanna is Buffy Summers. She is trained in multiple martial art forms, and her father is the commander of the Heimdell, which means that his idea of father-daughter bonding is running military strategy. Nik comes across as more… morally grey than most YA protagonists, and I really liked that I never knew what to expect with him. His relationship with his cousin, Ella, is wonderfully depicted (I really hope that they reappear in Obsidio). In fact, it was probably my favourite relationship in the book, if only because it seems so rare to have strong familial relationships in today’s YA.

With the jumping between the actual names and the code names of the members of the BeiTech team, I found it difficult to keep track of who was who, so I appreciated the little infographics reminding me of who was on the team and what their role was. While some members of the BeiTech team — Cerberus and Kali stick out the most — were developed more than others, I really enjoyed that Kaufman and Kristoff focused on characterising even the smallest of characters. It would’ve been so easy in a novel this epic to fall back on lazy stereotyping, but they don’t do that. Also, Jackson Merrick is dead to me (okay, thank you).

I loved the slew of pop culture references (I mostly picked up on the musical theatre references and the Whedonverse references, which I think were Kaufman’s doing, based on what was said at the launch for Obsidio), but to whoever included the Serenity reference: how dare you.

★★★★☆

Review: Children of Blood and Bone

9781509871353
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Published by Macmillan Children’s Books on 13 March 2018
Pages: 525
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Add on GoodReads

They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. 

NOW WE RISE.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers – and her growing feelings for an enemy.

WOW. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Children of Blood and Bone is genuinely one of the best debut fantasies, the best young adult fantasies, the best books I have read in a long, long time. It demonstrates what happens when publishers choose to publish something original rather than jumping on the bandwagon and publishing whatever happens to be popular right now. The closest book I can compare it to is N.K. Jemesin’s Dreamblood duology, but even then… it would only be in the way in which it draws on mythology (Dreamblood draws on Egyptian mythology, while CBB draws on West African).

I was a little apprehensive going into CBB, mostly because of its size. I’ve found — particularly with fantasies — that books of this size usually suffer from a multitude of issues, from pacing to the need of a good edit. While I would’ve liked to see more realistic development of relationships — I got whiplash from how quickly Zélie and Inan’s and Amari and Tzain’s relationships developed — the pacing of the story itself was well-done. I did find that things were often resolved quite quickly, so by the end of the novel I found that the stakes weren’t high enough for me. Like so many other reviewers, I found myself captivated by Adeyemi’s prose — there is something lyrical about it; something that lends itself well to a story about finding magic. Adeyemi moves easily from describing Zélie’s inner struggles to describing characters waging a war. It’s hard to believe that this is her debut novel.

The characterisation was really well done. I think my favourite character is Inan, although I did find myself being a little puzzled over his reactions to certain events. They didn’t always feel natural and his growth didn’t always feel organic. On the other hand, Amari’s development is outstanding. It’s amazing to watch her grow from a meek princess to a warrior. I was completely hooked — the characters were so complex and I was completely invested in their growth and development. As this book was told from multiple points of view, I would’ve also liked to see a little more distinction between the voices, as often I could only tell whose chapter it was by who was being mentioned in third person.

The plot is intense and action-packed. There are so many parallels drawn between Divîners in Orïsha and people of colour in our world. It forces you to consider systemic racism and injustices caused by those in authority who are supposed to protect the community. Adeyemi did manage to throw in a couple of surprises. Towards the end I was virtually speed-reading, on the edge of my seat while reading. I was utterly captivated. The cliffhanger was cruel, though. I cannot wait for Children of Virtue and Vengeance next year.

★★★★★

 

Review: Am I Doing This Right?

9781760632236
Am I Doing This Right? Life Lessons from the Encyclopedia Bri-Tanya by Tanya Hennessy
Published by Allen & Unwin on 13 June 2018
Pages: 260
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Add on GoodReads

An honest, hilarious, and incredibly relatable A-Z guide to adulting from one of Australia’s most loved entertainers and radio presenters. 

Tanya Hennessy can’t tell the time on an analogue clock, was once employed as a stilt-walker and still sleeps with Morris, her childhood teddy bear, so naturally, she is the most qualified person to write a guidebook for growing up. 

AM I DOING THIS RIGHT? is an encyclopedia of life lessons that Tanya has learned so that you don’t have to. From A is for Awkward, to B is for Bodies, right through to V is for Viral and Z is for, well, ZZZZ, Tanya has compiled an entire alphabet full of hilarious, horrible, humbling and happy experiences that will make you laugh, cry and ultimately leave you feeling less alone in this complicated world.

This book wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. In hindsight, that was my own fault for not reading the blurb (I enjoy the digital content that Tanya creates, and just bought the book without looking into it any further). I prefer books that follow a traditional structure (i.e., that have a beginning, middle and end), whereas this is a collection of anecdotes.

I really enjoy Tanya’s voice. Much like Em Rusciano, she writes the way she talks, so it’s really easy to read in her voice. Tanya did a great job of capturing the highs and lows of her career — it was actually really harrowing to read the online bullying she received for… taking over from a popular radio duo in Canberra? Reading how isolated she felt, reading how someone had started a hate page for her after she spoke up on RUOK? Day, reading how she wished she could crash her car so she wouldn’t have to be in this world anymore — it was really distressing, and I appreciated Tanya’s honesty. I’ve never paid attention to the other side of public life; I’ve never thought about the vitriol that people in Tanya’s position must receive (and honestly, Tanya’s comments just bolstered my opinion that the Internet is where human decency goes to die). I also loved the parts where Tanya talked about having imposter syndrome and anxiety, which I think a lot of people — particularly women — can relate to.

However, there were a lot of anecdotes in this book that felt familiar — whether there were similar jokes making the rounds on the Internet, Tanya had already done a video about a similar topic or talked about the topic on the radio (the most obvious one that comes to mind is Tanya’s story about Googling ‘women on top’ while at work, thinking that she’d get high-powered business women and not… pornography), and I think this stuck out to me more given how short the sections were. The format of the book also felt like… the book version of her videos (I hope that makes sense), in that there’d be bits that’d be like ‘a new friend says this in this situation, but an old friend would say that.’ I’m just not sure how well it worked as a written format. There were also sections I thought dragged on a little too long (namely, the section on kids), and I found myself skimming them.

Nevertheless, this book is a good reminder as to why I love Tanya’s content in the first place: it’s funny. Like, laugh-out-loud funny, something I very rarely do while reading. Nothing is off-limits. She is quite happy to poke fun at herself, talk about embarrassing incidents, or reveal the incredibly rude-but-hilarious comments small children make about her in the name of comedy. The bulk of this book is light and funny, and it is a very quick read — I read it in about four hours.

This is a fun, fluffy book that covers the highs and lows of Tanya’s personal and professional life that I’m sure her fans will devour. Her voice and and comedic style are as original as ever.

★★★☆☆

Review: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

33958230
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Published by Philomel Books on 15 October 2017
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Add on GoodReads

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

This book is not going to be for everyone (is any book?), especially those who need to like the hero(ine) in order to like the book. However, I love me an anti-hero and think there is a severe lack of them in fantasy YA. Xifeng is ruthless, ambitious, cunning — a Slytherin through and through. Viewing love as a weakness, she prizes power over everything else and will stop at nothing to possess it.

She knew her own worth. She would seize her destiny with all the strength and spirit within her, and bend them all to her will: every man kneeling and every woman overshadowed.

I feel like overall, this book is about the currency of female beauty in a patriarchal society. It does not matter how talented or qualified a woman is, it is her looks that will allow her succeed. Xifeng is obsessed with her own beauty, which her Guma has told her will get her on the throne of Feng Lu. Xifeng hates or is jealous of pretty much every woman she meets, but here it doesn’t feel misogynistic. I normally find girl-on-girl hate in YA fiction irritating, but here it has a point: to demonstrate that in this society, it is either them or her, and Xifeng is determined that it be her. In a society where a woman’s looks are valued over everything else she has to offer, Xifeng is determined that she will be the most valued.

If you’re looking for romance, there’s none to be found. Xifeng comments that she loves Wei as much as she can love another, but she is not willing to put aside her ambition to marry him. He refuses to stay by Xifeng’s side while she pursues Emperor Jun. It’s also made very clear that she does not love the Emperor, and views him as a means to an end — being the Empress and being the most powerful woman in Feng Lu. I would go so far to say the Xifeng uses both Wei and the Emperor to achieve her goals — Wei gets her to the palace, and the Emperor gets her to the throne.

I will admit, I did find this book a little on the gory side — I found the murder of a certain character particularly horrific and felt like vomiting while reading (so, I guess well done Julie Dao on excellent writing?) — but it never felt like gore for the sake of gore. It was compelling and well-placed. I also found the pacing to be a little slow — I would say most of the action occurs in the last 100 or so pages.

I was Guma’s, and now you want me to be yours. I have my own soul and my own destiny, and I’m tired of belonging to someone else.

There were seeds sown in this book for a Snow White retelling in the next book and let me tell you, friends: I am here for it! I have a feeling we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of how dark and nasty Xifeng can be, and I cannot wait to see what Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix has to offer.

★★★★☆

Review: Not Just Lucky

9780143783534
Not Just Lucky: Why women do the work but don’t take the credit by Jamila Rizvi
Published by Viking Press on 3 July 2017
Pages: 303
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Add on GoodReads

Australian women are suffering from a crisis of confidence about work. Accustomed to being overlooked and undervalued, even when women do get to the top, they explain their success away as ‘luck’. But it’s not. Not Just Lucky exposes the structural and cultural disadvantages that rob women of their confidence – often without them even realising it. Drawing on case studies, detailed research and her own experience in politics and media, Jamila Rizvi is the warm, witty and wise friend you’ve been waiting for. She’ll give you everything you need to start fighting for your own success and for a more inclusive, equal workplace for all. (She’ll also bring the red wine.) This unashamedly feminist career manifesto is for women who worry they’ll look greedy if they ask for more money. It’s for women who dream big but dread the tough conversations. It’s for women who get nervous, stressed and worried, and seem to overthink just about everything. It will help you realise that you’re not just lucky. You’re brilliant.

This is a book that has been out for awhile, but I’ve only just gotten around to reading (it’s been sitting on my bedside table for at least three months. I left it there in the hopes that I’d be inspired to pick up a book and actually read, for I have been in a reading slump of late). To be honest, I’d never heard of Jamila Rizvi before picking up this book, but some of my favourite media personalities – Zoë Foster Blake, Clementine Ford, Rosie Waterland – were telling me to read the book. So I read the book (eventually). If you are highly susceptible to endorsements (as I am), it also has Julia ‘I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man’ Gillard and Lisa Wilkinson (rightfully) singing its praises.

Rizvi specifically states in the introduction, ‘the entirety of this book might not apply to you… take from it what is helpful and applicable to your life and leave the rest of someone else.’ I think that Not Just Lucky will be most beneficial to recent graduates and women who are just starting out in their careers. While Rizvi acknowledges that a lack of confidence and doubting yourself is not a trait exclusive to women, she does focus on the gendered nature of our society and how that impacts the workforce. There was a lot of information about the challenges women face in the workforce, the root of these problems, and how women can navigate the workplace and build relationships with other women.

The tone of the book is quite conversational, as if you were sitting down to afternoon tea with a good friend. There’s a quality about it that’s very readable, and Rizvi managed to hold my attention even while breaking down statistics and studies to explain inequality in the workplace. If you are looking for a feminist manifesto that seeks to change the system, this book is not for you. Rizvi gives women tools to survive the system and work it to their advantage. She points out that traditional workplaces were built for men, and encourages women to network with other women and to pull one another up. It was refreshing to read a feminist work that focused on the collective rather than the individual. One of my favourite parts of the book was when she talked about Ian Chubb amplifying her voice as a student at ANU, and the idea of ‘sponsoring’ other women in their careers.

Not Just Lucky is a written pep talk that reminds you that you didn’t get to where you are by luck – you got there through hard work. No one should diminish that, not even you.

★★★★☆

Review: Leah on the Offbeat

9780241331057
Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
Published by Penguin Random House on 30 April 2018
Pages: 339
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Add on GoodReads

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat – but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mum, and her life is decidedly less privileged. And even though her mum knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends – not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting-especially when she realises she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

I went and saw Daniel Sloss at the Sydney Comedy Festival on Saturday night, and as I had some time to kill before the show, I stopped in at Better Read Than Dead and found this gem on the shelves. All sources point to its official publication date being 30 April, although the bookseller working said it had been out for a week (we were discussing how it felt like a book that was being published later in the year). I liked Leah on the Offbeat much more than The Upside of Unrequitedalthough I wasn’t quite as enamoured with it as I was with Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda; I think because Leah is a sharper-edged, more polarising character than Simon.

“I’m basically your resident fat Slytherin Rory Gilmore.”

Leah is a delight to read. She’s brash and unashamedly herself – she knows who she is, even if she doesn’t want to share every aspect of who she is with those around her. Albertalli is great at dialogue, characterisation, and building relationships and all of these elements really shine in Leah on the Offbeat. She doesn’t define herself by a romantic relationship, she doesn’t feel insecure about herself because she’s overweight, and she strives for perfection in all that she does. It was eye-opening to ‘watch’ Leah put herself down because her drumming/artwork wasn’t technically perfect. She really is her own worst enemy and is abrasive with herself as she is with other people. It hurt to see Leah acutely aware of the fact that she and her mother are poor and so she therefore can’t afford the luxuries that her friends don’t even think about.

“I’m the Draco from some shitty Drarry fic that the author abandoned after four chapters.”

Albertalli never intended for Leah or her love interest to be bisexual, that was a non-canon ship that was popular in fan fiction (the dedication of the book reads ‘for the readers who knew something was up, even when I didn’t’) and eventually turned into a book… and it feels that way. Other reviewers have commented that Albertalli basically committed character assassination and let fans’ wishes drive the story. I can’t really comment on it because I haven’t reread Simon and can’t say for sure how the characters have changed to make this book work. However, I can say that Leah doesn’t really say anything that Simon didn’t, and narratively, it’s just too similar. Structurally, Simon is the stronger book – while Simon had conflict because of Martin, and kept the reader hooked because of the mystery surrounding Blue, Leah only really had any conflict because of… Leah? It’s hard to review this book without giving away the ending because the plot is simply Leah and her love interest realising that they’re bisexual.  Leah had a problem with her love interest coming out as ‘lowkey bi’… so that threw a spanner in the works. It was very frustrating to feel like the story was just going around in circles because Leah doesn’t look at anything from anyone else’s point of view.

Leah on the Offbeat is a feel-good story (and a slew of pop culture references) that will warm your heart while still tackling serious issues like racism and sexuality. Albertalli is a skilled YA author and while Leah is not as strong as her debut novel, I do highly recommend it.

★★★★☆

 

Review: Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

x293
Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty
Published by HarperCollins Australia on 19 March 2018
Pages: 
448
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Add on GoodReads

Poppy’s world has tipped sideways: the husband who never wanted children has betrayed her with her broody best friend.

At least Annalise is on her side. Poppy’s new friend is determined to celebrate their freedom from kids so together they create a Facebook group to meet up with like-minded women, and perhaps vent a little about smug mums and their privileges at work. Meanwhile Frankie would love a night out, away from her darlings – she’s not had one in years – and she’s sick of being judged by women at the office and stay-at-home mums.

When Poppy and Annalise’s group takes off and frustrated members start confronting mums like Frankie in the real world. Cafes become battlegrounds, playgrounds become war zones and offices have never been so divided. A rivalry that was once harmless fun is spiralling out of control. Because one of their members is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And she has an agenda of her own .

I love the Moriarty sisters (they even have their own shelf on my GoodReads page!). They all have their own distinct voice and style of writing, yet they complement one another well. While Nicola’s writing is probably closer to that of Liane’s than Jaclyn’s, it shares the whimsy that permeates Jaclyn’s writing.

I did enjoy the fact that first and foremost, this is a story about women. It’s about the ways in which women build each other up, and tear each other down. We create these relationships and networks and can pull each other up, but we also judge one another harshly for not living up to our own expectations (when we all prioritise things differently!).  I also liked that Nicola managed to capture the fact that, while the Internet is basically where human decency goes to die, it’s also where some magical things can happen.

It’s been great to see Nicola’s growth as a writer since her debut, Free-Falling. She’s always been great at characterisation and dialogue, but I definitely feel like she gets even better with every book. She managed to create characters who were realistic – who weren’t always likeable, but who you rooted for anyway; who felt like a friend or a co-worker. They were perfectly shaded with bits of grey, but never seemed to grate on me (a criticism that I had with her earlier work). The book opens on Poppy discovering that her husband has cheated on her with her (now-pregnant) best friend, and while I’m not sure that it worked as an opening scene, it does make you feel sympathetic towards Poppy and establish characterisation quickly.

Being from the area that the story is set, it was nice to be able to visualise everything as I was reading. The setting kind of hang around in the background, present but not overwhelming. The book is well-paced, although perhaps a little slow in the beginning, and while I did figure out who the double agent was fairly quickly, I did not see Annalise’s back story coming. Without giving anything away, I would’ve liked to see the heavier aspects of the story to have a little depth added to them, as they seemed to be handled a little quickly and wrapped up neatly. They didn’t really seem to impact the characters and I never felt like there was any risk for them. The ending was a little treacly, but I appreciated the overall message it sent – we’re all doing our best, and we should hold each other up and celebrate our differences, rather than hold one another to an impossible set of standards.

All in all, a quick read that most Liane Moriarty fans would enjoy.

★★★★☆