!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4.5 Stars
Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum
Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum - Jessica Posner, Kennedy Odede

It took me quite a while to find the time to start this book, but once I did I had mainlined it in about 1 1/2 days before and after work, staying up till dawn to finish the last third. Not gonna lie: I cried. The story is written by both Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner in alternating chapters progressing in roughly chronological orders although they both start their narrations at different points, eventually overlapping towards the end. As is mentioned in the ending notes, they wrote everything in hindsight based on their memories and journal accounts. As such, things were elided or perhaps forgotten as tends to be the nature of memory and some of their personal opinions were probably sharpened by maturity.


SHOFCO is the abbreviation for Shining Hope for Communities, the name of the organization started by Kennedy to instigate change in the slum he lived in, called Kibera, in Kenya. (Linked to the official website if interested.)


The introduction provides a concise summary of the book and tells you ahead of time that Kennedy and Jessica will eventually develop a romantic relationship, but be warned this is not exactly a fairy tale. See below: 

"SHOFCO is a love story, but it’s also a lesson in development. The organization succeeded in part because it had someone with local knowledge and charisma to lead the way, and in part because it had a policy wonk foreigner who could help open overseas wallets. That’s a potent partnership. If it’s just foreigners, there’s a risk that locals will see them as cows to be milked, or that a project won’t have the necessary buy-in from local people. Indeed, SHOFCO is successful partly because it didn’t begin as an aid program at all but as a local empowerment movement, with Kennedy and his buddies organizing soccer games and street performances decrying rape. Only after it was well established did it take on a more structured dimension, building effective partnerships."

One of the things I really liked was how brutally honest the accounts were. There is no hiding or holding back of the horrible endings some people faced, many of the persons mentioned, especially in Kennedy's narration, ultimately die. The matter of fact way it is related is sobering and reminds you that this a real life story, and yes, it really is that bad outside of our Western bubble. That brings me to the other thing I liked about this book - Jessica's narration is bluntly relatable, acknowledging how privilege is like a lottery we don't choose to be born into and how difficult it is to find a "right" way to react to that realization.


Jessica's quotes:


-- "“Do NOT get married while you are here. There is always a student who ends up married. Don’t be that student,” warns Donna. I roll my eyes." I love this quote in connection with this later one which shows how young and impetuous Jessica was, a key part of her personality that bore fruit to her and Kennedy's later joint efforts. "I am always willing to sacrifice convenience for fashion. My mother couldn’t understand why I so desperately needed to bring my new sundress. How could she be so dense? I. Just. Needed. It. In that dress, I felt ready for anything. In the end, her sense had won out."


-- "I realize how wedded we are in America to knowing all the details." The insightful realizations about her own culture is very interesting each time it is brought up.


-- "I realize I came here in part to prove my openness, to be able to say that I survived it, but that is not what Alice needs. She needs to get her husband out of jail, and to bring her kids home. It’s not altogether unreasonable that she hopes I might be a pathway to that. I feel a faint disappointment—in us both."


-- "And I can’t help but think how unfair and utterly random it is that I was born into a place that gave me so much; to be so blessed that I was concerned mainly with finding happiness, not consumed by the daily drudgery of survival. No matter what I feel for Kennedy and he for me, we are from two different worlds: mine of plenty and his of want."


-- "I think of what it means to be a teenager in America, necessarily pushing boundaries, making expected mistakes. Here there is no margin for error: a mistake, no matter how insignificant, dashes any small hopes to break the cycle of poverty. Here in Kibera the world is relentless and unforgiving." I remember reading somewhere that teenager culture in America was the first of its kind back in the 50s due to the unique set of socioeconomic and political circumstances at the time, and it has just developed since then. A good reminder that things are not the same everywhere.


-- "None of these life events are unfolding as we’d imagined. When I left Kenya, I was sure that our romance was over. Now we’ve resuscitated “us”—in response to extreme circumstances. A life-changing love has been reduced overnight to a practicality, boxes checked off on a marriage application." This, and other events that happen in their personal relationship, make one question the nature of it. Is it truly romantic? Was it romantic, ended, and then became a partnership built upon mutual trust and admiration and fueled by their passion to change the world via the girls' school? It is never actually quite explained, and maybe it doesn't have to be.


Kennedy's quotes:


-- “I could have had it before. I just never needed it. You know the problem with Americans? You always think the rest of the world is just waiting for your money.”


-- "Being tied to Catholic doctrines meant contradicting goals for our group. The church was adamantly against family planning and the use of condoms. This made no sense. I had watched too many teenage girls become mothers and lost too many dear friends to HIV/AIDS. Using protection seemed the only option." An opinion and truth that is not commonly expressed in Western literary sources due to the popularity of the Catholic church.


-- "For too long my community had been told that we could not do anything by ourselves without money from the outside, without the financial support and wisdom from the Western world. But since we were the ones who understood all the challenges we faced, we also had the best shot at finding the solutions." This feeds back to an earlier bit about how being told one is poor and good for nothing fuels poverty and poor decision making, perpetuating the cycle for generations; and how Kennedy's determination eventually snowballed into something greater.


-- "African problems would never be solved as long as advantaged people from the Western world thought that they could save our communities by starting organizations, or volunteering in Africa, without the actual and deep engagement of the communities they sought to improve. Without mutual understanding and real community leadership, foreign-led interventions ultimately do not succeed..." Self-sustaining movements, ideological.


-- “American men are so funny,” I tell her. “I don’t understand why they like women who are so thin they have to search the bed to find them.” LOL, in tribute to Rosemary who once told me the exact same thing. ;)

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
Servants' Hall
Servants' Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance (Below Stairs Book 2) - Margaret Powell

Took me a while to find the time to read this. Somehow I just never seemed to have had the time to read it on my breaks at work or be able to stay awake to read it at home. Oh, well... This sat in my drafts folder for an extra month too as I tried to find time to pick apart the quotes that I had saved and record my thoughts about them. Et voila~


-- "An extensive vocabulary was in no way comparable with the right accent." One of the lessons in a business class I took was about how you can't discount the oil executive's intelligence just because he has a Texan accent... dialectal prejudices are a real thing!


-- "The tea was strong and black... Just like the way Mother made it for my father if he was in work, and if she had the money. When it was weak tea, my father would say, 'What's this then? Water bewitched and tea begrudged.'" That last bit would probably be amazing embroidered on a tea cozy.


-- "...but it wasn't easy then for an unmarried daughter to be independent. Miss Helen had no income of her own, hadn't been brought up to work and, furthermore, was rather plain." The descending order of importance in necessary feminine traits for independence: money, skill, and beauty.


-- "Young Fred said he had liked talking to me, but personally I'd have derived far more pleasure and satisfaction if he had seized me in a violent embrace and kissed me passionately. A good brain was something but a lovely face would have earned more in dividends." Haha, this is the truth, ain't it?


-- "Doris made us laugh even more by saying there was a seventeen-year-old girl at the orphanage who hadn't any hair at all; not on her head, under her arms or down below. But it wasn't the poor girl's bald head that the matron cared about, it was the baldness down below; matron said it was indecent." Huh, how times have changed! Reminds me of that 'unspoken defense against unwanted sex' phenomena thing - ladies not shaving; interesting morals contrast. 


-- "And I thought... how difficult it is for the poor to be romantic. They have nowhere to go for privacy. If you take a boyfriend home, your family, having only the one sitting-room, are always there. So it's 10p at the pictures, fish and chips in a newspaper, and kissing as far away from a street lamp as possible. It's easy for the rich to have a 'grande passion'; they can dine, drink and dance to induce the mood, and have somewhere to retire for the privacy and pleasure." This reminds me of the first book by Margaret Powell where she alludes to the fact that her parents had so many children, despite being too poor to care for all of them, because sex was the cheapest source of entertainment, and the consequence was more children. The economic influence of wealth on culture (and/or behavior?). Compare with this piece from later in the book: "Most of our male conquests were measured by the degree of generosity they showed in buying us chocolates, a decent seat in the cinema and a drink afterwards. But in return for this they expected, and we were prepared to give, a certain amount of petting such as kissing and hugging in dark corners; certainly nothing more than that, though occasionally more was attempted. // No doubt the daughters above stairs were not required to give anything in exchange for an evening's entertainment, but then their escorts had not needed to work long and arduous hours to acquire enough money to take a girl out." There is also the social obligation or expectation that the woman should repay the man in... something... for the fact that he spent money on her. My contemporary mindset is disgusted by this while at the same time... huh.


-- "We wanted to get married not just to get out of domestic service, but because to be a spinster was looked upon almost with contempt as indicating a woman who lacked what it takes." Again, the difference in morals between today and then when this was written and the time she was writing about even further before that. I suspect the later line: "Lack of money, with the approach of old age and inability to work, was a constant anxiety to domestics." Also had a ring of truth to it. Especially in a society where work for women was limited to begin with. Sharing the burden with a marital partner is a feasible solution.


-- "One of my history books describes the [General Strike] as 'one of the most controversial and significant events of the inter-war years', but at the time it made little or no impression or difference to us in domestic service." A topic that fascinates me as I become old enough to read events that happened in my lifetime in history books taught to children today. Was it really as bad or as good? How does the teaching of history distort the actual history itself?


And then there is the crux of the second book, the "plot" that elicits the advertisement slogan of "True life inspiration for Downton Abbey!" or whatever it was on the library's page. The circumstances of fellow maidservant Rose after she marries the heir of the household they all work for. And it doesn't go well at all... "...I for one remembered what young Fred had said... apropos of Rose and Gerald. 'I think that it's Gerald who will regret it'. What was Rose giving him in return for a lovely home, beautiful clothes and a life of ease? She refused to acquire an education, to read about current events; as an intellectual companion she was hopeless; now we heard that she was loth to be a bed-mate. And although she was even prettier now than when he'd fallen in love with her, Gerald had a right to expect more out of marriage than just gazing at a pretty face."


Does he? But on the other hand, doesn't he? In the fictional world, Rose would be the hailed protagonist and we would feel sympathy for her, but in this true-life account, Rose is not portrayed as sympathetically. She clings to her family's ideals which heightens the class differences between her and her husband, and she absolutely refuses to compromise with him in any way. Over time, she is noted to be as uncompromising as her mother, Mrs. Lawton, to the point where this is: "I couldn't argue with Mrs. Lawton... but I did not agree with her firmly held opinion that only disaster could follow a deviation from the master-servant relationship; that above and below stairs were so divided by class, education and lineage, they could never mix. If Rose had not been so stubborn and narrow-minded, so determined not to change from the Rose Lawton of a back street in Manchester to being Mrs. Rose Wardham, mistress of a fine house and servants; if she had acknowledged her husband's genuine desire to make his wife socially acceptable, then the marriage could have been a success." That Rose rues the upper-class expectations of her new status while enjoying the luxuries (fine clothes, a house, servants of her own) further divorces her from the sympathy of the reader, while also underlining the envy of her friends in the story - Margaret and Mary - both of whom are confident they would have changed to suit their (wealthy) husband's tastes in a heartbeat. Yet is that really better?


Before they can seem too mercenary, this relatable bit is mentioned at the end of Mrs. Lawton's rant about what marriage meant to women of her age and status: "'What's love got to do with it? That's not what marriage is all about. Marriage is leaving your parents' home to look after your man, have his kids, make one shilling go as far as five, and keep a clean, respectable and God-fearing home.' // Mary and I looked at each other and I knew the same thought was in her mind; that such a description of marriage was far removed from our ideas on the subject." Perhaps it is the difference in expectations of romanticism and pragmatism in a relationship that I, as a reader in the 2010s, am bothered by.


Then there are these last two quotes. The first I find terribly relatable because of how true it is to have your expectations of the outside bashed by the reality of the inside and contrasted by those who live there: "The cottage was very pretty, creeper-covered and thatched roof, just like a picture-postcard cottage. But of course postcards cannot show the drawbacks to what appears to be picturesque - and here they couldn't have shown the tiny leaded window panes that excluded the sunlight, the lack of piped-water, electricity and drainage, the erratic path - well, erratic anyway in the pitch dark for visitors - to the primitive lavatory at the bottom of the garden. To us three city girls, one night only was a laughable experience, but I'm sure we'd never have coped with the lack of amenities as did Elsie's mum. She'd always lived in the cottage and was used to it."


But the last quote, here, is the one that reminds me what I disliked about Ms. Powell's narration. Is this a tendency that crops up as we age? I feel that I am starting to do it myself, but why do I do it? Why do we look back at the past as being better, when really it was probably just as bad or worse, we just didn't pay it no mind at the time? Too much time reflecting? A change in how bad things happen or are shared, as is the case with the spread of instant news media? What is it? Anyway, here's the tone shift that often occurs in the middle of narrative bits:


-- "Yet there was one vast difference between the terrible Depression of the early thirties and living in England now. In spite of Mr Lawton's bitterness against the government, he, and the tens of thousands like him who'd lost their jobs and were living on the poverty line, never resorted to the violence and vandalism that prevails today. Nobody of my generation could ever have dreamed that the day would come in England when it wasn't safe to walk through the streets in the evening for fear of being mugged, when quiet country lanes and city parks were to be avoided if one was alone. How smugly did we read about the violence in America and say, 'It can't happen here'. Of course there always have been people who are just plain 'bad', but at one time if they were caught, they had to pay for their crimes; now they get therapy."


So preachy? Yes. But otherwise an interesting story. Don't read it for the Downton Abbey angle, however, for you will just be disappointed.

Would I have been happier if I'd been able to do what I wanted when I was young? I might have been. I'm not one of those who pretend that because you're poor there's something wonderful about it. I'd love to be rich. There's nothing particularly beautiful about being poor, having the wrong sort of clothes, and not being able to go to the right sort of places. I don't particularly envy rich people but I don't blame them. They try and hang on to their money, and if I had it I'd hang on to it too. Those people who say the rich should share what they've got are talking a lot of my eye and Betty Martin; it's only because they haven't got it they think that way. I wouldn't reckon to share mine around.

Powell, M. (2012). Below stairs: The classic kitchen maid's memoir that inspired Upstairs, downstairs and Downton Abbey [Electronic]. New York: St. Martin's Press.

4 Stars
The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs (Audio) - Thomas Harris

I didn't realize this was an abridged copy.


I was so excited by how amazing Kathy Bates' voice sounded narrating the sample clip that I streamed the entire book over the course of two days. It's just over 3 hours long but I honestly could not tell it was abridged. Is it abridged because parts were cut out or because Bates talks so fast? Hmmm... For reference, this version, at least, is like a text version of the movie. I didn't realize how closely the movie followed the original source material. As usual, however, I feel the text is superior, if only because the imagery (or lack thereof, which is freaking terrifying when it's used) is amazing. Not a single wasted word. The only reason it took me so long to listen to the whole thing is because I kept falling asleep while listening, so I had to go back and try to find my spot again to pick up from.


Another plus: Bates's accents are ah-mazing~~! I don't know if it's her pitch or tone, but she manages the same inflections used by both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in the movie that made their characters so memorable. Got chills when she did the humming and sighs as the characters. Spectacular performance.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
2 Stars
Marriage of Inconvenience
Marriage of Inconvenience - Cheryl Bolen

I don't remember why I wishlisted this. I have a thing for regency romances, I think. (Hello, Mr. Darcy.)


Quick read, or rather it is better as quick read. Don't slow down to think about how the motives of the heroine to get married change radically between one page and the next. It is a bit annoying that the male protagonist figures out the heroine's "super secret identity" in the span of about 3 paragraphs when no one else in the country ever realized it, yet he keeps the secret for the majority of the story only to hold it over the heroine's head at the end. Sigh.


I liked the focus on development of the characters (even if their motivations and internal monologues were so wishy-washy at times) and emotional romance instead of physical romance. Also, it is adorable that winning over a large family of step-children is one of the heroine's goals. (Spoiler: she succeeds!) I wasn't particularly keen on the blatant Americanisms thrown in - no, it is not cool to move to England with the sole intent and purpose of tearing down their cultural system because it does not jive with your contrived American sense of "freedom and equality" and the way you intend to accomplish this is by fulfilling your princess countess fantasy by marrying a peer with influence with the government. WTF.


But, ahem, other than that, and with a great deal of reminding myself that it is just wish-fulfillment  historical romance fiction, it was a cute story. :)

2.5 Stars
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective - Kate Summerscale

I was intrigued by the blurb. Read the preview on Scribd, liked it enough to pay a credit for it, whizzed through the first third - very interesting! Ohhhh, was it the governess? The parents? The step-siblings? An outside party with a grudge against the unlikable master of the house?! - and then slowed in the second third - rehashing the evidence, why do we need full excerpts in the original Victorian language of the trial? Recounting the fall out of the trial in pop culture of the time, oh, and Mr. Whicher's life sucks but hey, let's throw in side stories, although they were kind of interesting peeks into contemporary life - and the last third just dragged and dragged.


The person we thought did it, well, did it. Maybe. Some nice, twisted speculation at the end there. A lengthy epilogue of sorts for the family and what happened to them. The cultural fascination with the detective genre grew and expanded after the murder mystery occurred.


I liked the linguistic nuggets of trivia, found the unedited transcripts of the trial to be padding for length, and would have preferred less redundant recaps every five to ten pages, but, eh, wasn't a bad read overall.

4 Stars
World War Z: The Complete Edition
World War Z: The Complete Edition (Movie Tie-In Edition): An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks

This is the extended version audiobook - the original abridged audiobook with the "lost files" added in. I am not 100% sure that it includes every last word from the original book without a hard copy to reference, but it includes the chapters that I thought were important to fleshing out the in-story universe. My favorite things are the creepy music byte they play between chapters and the persons chosen to voice the added-in chapters. Love, love, love how they went for (okay, a little bit Americanized) accent authenticity.


I would recommend this version over the abridged audiobook.


As a note, my "copy" used the movie poster cover.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
2 Stars
The Girl in the Spider's Web
The Girl in the Spider's Web - David Lagercrantz

It took me forever and a half to trudge through listening to this book. The narrator remains the same as the previous three of the original series in audiobook format, however, the quality of writing does not. One can attribute that to the fact that no two authors have the same style, no matter how much the second may try to imitate the first. Actually, maybe the problem was that Lagercrantz tried too hard to emulate Larsson's style and the result was a seemingly amateur attempt at trying to cram in the entire cast of (surviving) characters from the series into one vaguely comprehensible storyline.


A lot of plotlines seem to be recycled: Millennium magazine is endangered (again); Blomkvist is disillusioned with journalism (again); Lisbeth's family is evil - well, her only known and surviving family member anyway - and out to get her (again); and so on.


One of the most irksome bits was a tiny detail, which was the same investigation squad getting lumped back together to investigate the situation that arises in this book, and it includes the heavily prejudiced cop who apparently suffered no consequences after the previous story. In fact, seems like no one learned anything after the last book.


A lot of tiny threads forcefully woven back in together to make a lumpy quilt of a story. And, perhaps this only happened towards the end of the book or I just only noticed it by that point, a lot of the action is told in flashback form, with a third party telling the story or the action being retold with added insight, minus the actual insight. Nothing seems to happen in the moment, there is no... excitement. A lot telling, no showing.


Meh. I can't even write out proper thoughts about this story, it is just so mish-mash blah.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Quote
News flash! Today, Americans no longer consider beaver tail a desirable food. It's the type of thing you eat to show that you can, sort of like eating live bugs. Beaver tail is essentially gamy-tasting fat, with swampy overtones. However, it is not complicated to prepare if you have an open fire at hand. Then again, chances are, an open fire is not a challenge for you if you're planning on eating beaver tail.

O'Connell, Libby Haight. The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites. Naperville: Source, 2014. 11 Nov. 2014. Web.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
1.5 Stars
The Isle of the Lost
The Isle of the Lost - Melissa  de la Cruz

I had no knowledge of this book or series prior to reading this story. In fact, I distinctly remember marking it for my library hold list based purely on the pretty cover art. I am so shallow. -hangs head in shame-


Anyway, this is a fast read purely because it doesn't take much brain power to understand. It was listed in the regular fiction section of the online library catalog, but it is actually meant for the children's/young adult demographic. I don't mean to degrade children's ability in reading comprehension; rather, every detail of the (weak) plot and character development is spoonfed to the reader. I actually find it a bit insulting that they (the author? Disney? the subsidiary publishing company?) don't think young readers can understand implication and context.


I don't hate the story, but it reads very much like fanfiction to me. The main characters are all the children of villains from Disney movies, their names are kitschy derivatives of their parent's; all of them seem to come from single parent homes and their other parent is never mentioned (I honestly can't think of any Disney villain who ends up as part of a couple pairing, that is usually reserved for the hero/heroine characters); and, while some bits are amusing - like Ursula runs a fish and chips shop - and even clever, it is pretty poor world-building besides "they are evil so they live here and they are good so they live there." I had to give credit, however, to the fact that the author seems to poke fun at that a little by having the sidekicks in the Happily Ever After-land (called the United States of Auradon, for crying out loud!) protesting their menial jobs without pay working for the protagonists of Disney fairy tales, in addition to other metafictional commentary.


Overall, an okay-ish story.

World Books Challenge

Slow but steady progress!




Per the idea borrowed from Merle, the goal is to "travel the world" by reading one book set in every country of the world as listed below with preference given to books by a native author.


List format is also borrowed from Merle. :)


11 out of 200 countries = 5.5%


North America and the Caribbean 
2 out of 24 countries = 8%

Canada: ?
United States: Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts
Mexico: ?

Costa Rica
El Salvador

Antigua & Barbuda:
Cuba: Adios Muchachos by Daniel Chavarria
Dominican Republic:
Haiti: ?
Puerto Rico:
St. Kitts & Nevis 
St. Lucia
St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Trinidad & Tobago 

South America 
0 out of 12 countries = 0%

Chile: Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar? / My Documents by Alejandro Zambra?

1 out of 54 countries = 2%

Egypt: The Automobile Club of Egypt by Alaa Al Aswany

Cape Verde:
Ivory Coast: 
Liberia: The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper?
Nigeria: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin?
Sierra Leone:
Burkina Faso

Democratic Republic of the Congo: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver?
Sao Tome & Principe: 
Central African Republic
Republic of the Congo 
Equatorial Guinea

Kenya: Find Me Unafraid by Kennedy Odede
South Sudan

South Africa: 

2 out of 49 countries = 4%

France: Marivaux?
Ireland: Colm Toibin?
Netherlands: Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier?
Spain: Manolito Gafotas?
Sweden: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
United Kingdom: The Dead Duke, His Missing Wife, and the Secret Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell
Belgium: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque?
Malta ?
San Marino
Vatican City

Greece: Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis?
Bosnia & Herzegovina 
Czech Republic 

Middle East 
1 out of 16 countries = 6%

Iran: Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi? / Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani?
Saudi Arabia: In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta A. Ahmed

Yemen: Henna House by Nomi Eve?
United Arab Emirates


5 out of 31 countries = 16%

Afghanistan: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg? / In My Father's Country by Saima Wahab

India: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Sri Lanka: A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman?

China: Leaving Mother Lake by Yang Erche Namu, Christine Mathieu? / Four Sisters of Hofei by Annping Chin?
Japan: Geisha, a Life by Mineko Iwasaki
North Korea: In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park
South Korea: The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

East Timor: 
Myanmar: The Lady and the Peacock by Peter Popham?
Philippines: Monstress by Lysley Tenorio?
Singapore: Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu?
Vietnam: The Novice by Thich Nhat Hanh
Cambodia: First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

Australia and the Pacific 
0 out of 14 countries = 0%

Australia: Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay(?) / Fly Away, Peter by David Malouf(?)
New Zealand: The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera?
Marshall Islands 
Papua New Guinea 
Solomon Islands 

5 Stars
Macbeth - William Shakespeare

So I borrowed this from the library purely because James Marsters face was on the cover. Let me tell you, it was a nice way to spend 2+ hours listening to Shakespeare: chilling in my cozy chair, cup of tea in hand, cat in lap, and a full screen view of James Marsters brooding face in half-light. Yes... <3


Infatuation aside, what really sold me on this version was not just the quality of voice acting, but the sound effects were fantastic. If you closed your eyes (you would miss James Marsters face), it was like you were in the front row of the theater itself. Amazing.


Not going into detail about the story of Macbeth because everyone with a Western education should have studied at least part of it at sometime in their life. And heck, it's been around like 500 years, I'm pretty sure you can google a decent summary from someone who's read it in that time if you were especially curious. :P

3 Stars
Equal Rites
Equal Rites - Terry Pratchett

Finished this up today. Not quite as riveting as the first two Discworld books, by which I mean that I didn't feel compelled to devour it within hours. It actually took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the reason it didn't seem as funny is because all of the jokes were about sex. Once that clicked in my head, I started to pick up on the humor a bit better and the pages passed more quickly.


Although this book was next in my chronological list of Discworld books, it doesn't feature the protagonist(s) of the first two books, instead introducing new characters as far as I could tell. I grew to like the main character, Esk, but it was definitely a slow-building sort of affection. The pointed satirical commentary on the education system and the, well, I guess you could say medicinal field, pulled a few chuckles. +1 for the ultimate triumph of girl power over the Unseen University. :)

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
1.5 Stars
The Thoughtful Dresser
The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter - Linda Grant

So I didn't bother to look up any background on this because by the time I finished the book (forced myself to blitz through the last 40% tonight in one shot to get off my Currently Reading list) but I gather from context that the author, Linda Grant, started a fashion style blog some years ago and this book was later spawned. It seems like she just expanded on some blog posts; sometimes she directly cites posts and comments from her blog.


I was initially intrigued by such writing as this paragraph from the section I was able to preview on Scribd:


-- "The purpose of this book is to advance no theses, to break no ground in the history or theory of fashion, but rather to explore what is already known but rarely thought about by the ordinary mass of humanity who is interested in fashion and might, quite wrongly, feel a little ashamed of this passion. Might fear that they are not going to be taken seriously. That in announcing this preoccupation they will have confessed that women are not really fully grown up; unlike our male counterparts, who have mature and adult preoccupations without which the human race could not survive, such as moving balls from one end of a grassy field to the other with the aid of the human foot."


Splendid, I thought. Sarcastic, too, even better!


I regret the credit I wasted on Scribd for this book now. I accept that the author claimed there was no defining stance on the topic, and given that the topic is fashion, can there really be any firm ground to stand on at all? Yet that is exactly what she tries to do! Ping ponging from how clothing and adornment was a vital part of reestablishing self-identity to Holocaust survivors (agreed) to slamming women who dress unsuitably based on how the people around them (read: the author) react to promoting feminism in the form of being able to wear whatever a woman feels empowered wearing back to deifying the mythical standard of Old Hollywood Glamour which no one is able to achieve in the modern day because the author hasn't been able to, end discussion. The part that irritates me about this flip flopping, which okay, perfectly reasonable to spend 250+ pages rambling about to a paying public if we're sucker enough to buy it, is that her writing voice comes across as so darn condescending and prejudiced.


If I could throw this book across the room, I would. Alas, e-books and the fragility of my electronic devices.


Not to say I didn't find the book entirely devoid of enjoyment. If you can speed read through it, then the sharply written bits are quite funny and you can brush off the rest. The hard part was forcing myself to keep coming back to it to read more after being interrupted.

2 Stars
Audiobooks to Help You Sleep
To the Far Blue Mountains - Louis L'Amour

Picks up where the previous book left off. Still can't fault L'Amour's writing style, always putting his characters in dangerous situations and coming up with creative endings, it's really no wonder that so many of his books were turned into movies. The problem, however, is that the narrator is so BORING. I thought the first one was okay, but this time around I was literally falling asleep during some parts, because whilst the characters are having battles and life-or-death situations, the narrator's voice doesn't inflect at all, just stays soft and smooth. Nice, but where's the emotion? How can I believe "he shouted, angrily" when you use the same tone of voice one inquires the time with?


+1 for the female characters not being shrinking violets, but that's not really an archetype that fits into the pioneer story model to begin with.


Time skip was strange, but then I realized that it ties into the other books in the series and expands on the family's descendants roughly in order it looks like so worth paying attention to - if you can stay awake.

It used to remind me of a furniture remover who was packing china and broke a plate. And the owner said, 'Oh dear, that plate was over a hundred years old,' so the fellow said to her, 'Oh was it? Well, it was high time it went then, wasn't it?'

Powell, M. (2012). Below stairs: The classic kitchen maid's memoir that inspired Upstairs, downstairs and Downton Abbey [Electronic]. New York: St. Martin's Press.

currently reading

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Cyrano de Bergerac - Evelyne Amon, Edmond Rostand
The Night Manager - John le Carré
The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim