Mach book wrap-up

This is my wrap up for the books I read in March. I didn’t have a great reading month. It was fine, but it might also be my general mood, because I’m really grumpy these days, but it was fine. Hoping April gets better.

Every day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

I read this for the Read Harder challenge a book written by an immigrant or with a central immigration perspective. Teju Cole was born in the States and grew up in Nigeria, where his parents are from, I think he now lives in the States. The unnamed narrator of this short novel is also Nigerian, and lives in the States, is now coming to visit his aunt in Lagos. It’s very short and it’s very beautiful, and it’s… sort of spare. He doesn’t really use too flowery language. The narrator is very disillusioned with the corruption of Lagos, where you can move fairly unencumbered if you’re willing to pay off police and military on your way. He also sees this corruption in the States and he seems so disillusioned and lost in this world he doesn’t like. There is a scene where a boy is caught stealing and executed on the spot, and the narrator doesn’t seem upset or anguished, he just relates the horror of what is happening and it was horrifying, and his spare and monotonous writing style makes the whole thing really good. It’s so good.

Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Him is about two young men who used to go to the same hockey camp when they were kids, and were best friends. Now they’re both in their last year of college and they haven’t talked in years because of something that happened the last year they went to camp. Jamie Canning is straight, as far as he knows, and Ryan Wesley is gay and made a bet with Jamie that pushed their boundaries and then he basically cut Jamie out of his life. And then their teams are going to face off in a hockey championship and they have to meet again and smut ensues. So it’s a M/M romance new adult sort of thing. I don’t think it was perfect, it was fun, and Jamie and Wes are cute squishes, and weirdos. I liked that they used the word bisexual, I liked that it wasn’t just “straight-except-for-you.” I liked that the important people in their life were supportive and helpful. I also liked that Wes’s family weren’t necessarily supportive, because it’s more honest. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun, and cute and adorable and I was almost in a slump, and I read this in like two days because it was so compelling, so that helped.

The Transmigration of bodies by Yuri Herrera

For the Read Harder challenge I had to read a book set 5000 miles from where I live, and Mexico is about 5500 miles from Norway, so I picked this. That was a lot of preamble. Anyway. I read Herrera’s debut novel, and I really liked his way of writing and his way of telling stories. This is about a man called the Redeemer who works for the two crime families in town. When the two families kidnap a child of the opposite family’s it is up to the Redeemer to make sure a gang war doesn’t break out. The language is spare and sparse and Yuri Herrera does not use ten words if he can use two. It’s so beautiful and raw. And it is very crime noir and it shows that violence mostly impacts unintended victims who just happened to get in the way. It’s beautiful and wonderful and I loved it.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Most of March was taken up by me reading Don Quixote. It’s 1000 pages of weird knighthood. This is the story of a man who has read too many books about knights and decides to go out on adventures. He brings along a man who lives in his village named Sancho Panza. He is a farmer and Don Quixote makes him his squire and promises him the rule of an island. In the beginning it isn’t entirely clear if Sancho knows that Don Quixote is crazy, or if Panza actually believes him, but after a while it’s clear he isn’t particularly clever. I liked it, it’s so massive it took me a while, but it was fun. It also drove me a bit crazy that it was so massive. I think that has more to do with my general mood being a bit low these days, and if I’d been in a better mood it wouldn’t have bugged me so much that it was big, but hey. The writing is so sumptuous and beautiful and it’s hilarious.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

So I finally finished this. It won the 2015 Man Booker Prize and it’s big and complex and complicated. It’s set in Jamaica and New York mainly and the first part is focused on the murder attempt on Bob Marley who is referred to as ‘the Singer’ in the book. It also looks at the politics of Kingston mainly and the changing rulers of Jamaica, and the different gangs of Kingston. It is told from multiple perspectives, gang members, a receptionist at a hotel, a CIA operative, a journalist, and a dead peer of the realm who sometimes come into the story and give an overview, among others. The book then moves on to New York and the 80s and we see what happened next and how fun crack was. It is beautiful, and I thought the story was incredible. I will admit that I sometimes struggled with the language, because a lot of it is written in patois and sometimes I had to read sentences a couple of times to make sure I knew what people had said. It did however take me way too long to finish it. I don’t know why. I think because whenever I put it down I didn’t feel a strong urge to pick it up again. Anyway, I liked it, it was fine.

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland all the Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente

This is the last book in the Fairyland series. It focuses on the last adventure that September goes on. She is now the queen of Fairyland, but because of how Fairyland works she has to compete in a derby to keep her throne. She, Saturday, A-through-L and Blunderbuss go on to compete. It’s funny and beautiful and the story is so lovely. I feel like I need to reread the whole series in a more compressed amount of time, because they meet people who I didn’t remember at all. So I think I lost some stuff. So I need to read it again. Anyway, I always love September and Saturday and I love A-through-L so it was lovely.

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February book wrap-up

I read twelve books this month. I decided to split my wrap-up in two, and these are the books that I read with my eyeballs. And I will make a different wrap-up for the eight audiobooks I listened to. So these are the four books I read in physical or ebook form.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfeg

Eileen was a big buzzy book in 2015, and it was nominated for the 2016 Man Booker award and I finally read it, I’m slow. Anyway. It’s about a woman named Eileen who is currently in her 60s-70s and is telling the story of something that happened when she was 24, in the 70s. She lives with her alcoholic father near Boston and she works at a boy’s prison. She is incredibly disgusted by her body and even though she is tiny she is terrified of being fat. She’s obsessive about the boys in the prison and one of the guards. And she’s fairly lonely and without friends. And then a woman arrives at the prison. She’s named Rebecca and she’s very beautiful and Eileen is obsessed with her. She feels like she has to be Rebecca’s friend. It is a thriller, sort of, but it’s more of a character study, the thriller-y bit doesn’t arrive until the end of the novel. It’s a study of Eileen and her strange obsessions. She talks a lot about her body and how disgusting she finds it, and the disgusting things it does. She likes stewing in her own filth. She also obsesses over one of the guards, but the idea of him or any other man ever touching her also repulses her. I thought it was fascinating, I found Eileen fascinating, and I really liked the writing. Moshfeg really leans into the disgust and the repulsion, and I thought it was great. I also completely understand why people wouldn’t like it.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

This is a companion novel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. It’s about two people from that novel, and this might be a bit spoiler-y. But it’s about Lovelace and Pepper. Lovelace comes with Pepper to live with her. The chapters alternate being from Lovelace and Pepper’s perspective. It’s very different from The Long Way, but I really loved it. It’s a very quiet and slow novel. It’s not hard-core sci-fi. It’s more about what it means to be a person, and what that means, and learning to be a person, and what it means to be family and friends. I really loved it. I thought it was great. It’s really different from the other novel, but it’s so great.

Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone

Lazaretto is set in the late 1800s in Philadelphia in the US. It focuses on Sylvia, a black woman who is learning to be a mid-wife, Meda a black maid who gives birth to her boss’s child, and Linc and Bram, two brothers who grow up together in an orphanage. The climax of the novel is set on the Lazaretto, a quarantine hospital where people who are entering the US have to go if they seem to be sick. It’s really beautiful. It’s a very interesting look at different ways of living in the late 1800s and different friendships and relationships between people. I thought it was really sweet and fascinating. I really like historical fiction. It sort of annoyed me, because it had a tendency to swap point of view within chapters. And that really bugs me. There’s nothing wrong about it, but I personally find it incredibly irritating. I still liked it, and I would definitely like to read another book by McKinney-Whetstone, because I loved the characters in this book and their stories. So, yes.

Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction edited by K.M. Szpara

This is a collection of short fiction written by trans, genderqueer, agender and non-binary writers. They’re all speculative fiction, obviously. I thought it was good. In some of the stories gender and being trans was a very important of the story, and in some it was just a metaphor and not as important. I thought the stories were beautiful, and I really liked the different ways of exploring gender and sexuality. It was really cool. I’m going to look into the different writers in the collection to see if they have published work anywhere else.

 

January wrap-up

This is my wrap-up of books I read in January. I was going to try and read fewer books in 2017, but I don’t have a job, so I have nothing to do in the daytime except work out, clean and read all the things. So there are quite a few books here. If I have a review of the book I will link to it.

Mine brødre (My Brothers) by Adel Khan Farooq

This is a new Norwegian Young Adult novel written by a second generation immigrant who grew up in Oslo. This book is about a second generation Pakistani immigrant who lives in Oslo. He’s sort of disillusioned with his life. He is also in love with a girl in his class, a Somali girl named Faisa. He and Faisa become close and talk about Islam. He starts praying, and finds a quiet calm in it. He also meets with a young man who is part of a Muslim brotherhood and the narrator becomes part of the brotherhood. I liked it. I thought it was an effective story. It’s not something I know anything about, but it is fascinating. I thought it was a bit trope-y. And I thought the narrator was easily persuaded by both Faisa and the brotherhood. I also think the ending was way too simple, but it was a fascinating look into something that I know pretty much nothing about. I wrote a review, here.

God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke

God Collar is Marcus Brigstocke’s memoir and exploration of god and his relationship to god, and religion. He focuses the book around losing his friend and not knowing how to cope with it because he never really believed in god and thus has nowhere to turn really. He talks about the criticisms he has against religion and why he can’t believe. He talks about why he would really like to believe, how he feels like he has a void in his life that religion should fill, but he doesn’t know how to believe. It feels a lot like my own atheism. I don’t believe in God, and I feel like people should be able to believe in what they want so long as they don’t hurt anyone. And religion seems nice, but I can’t believe in anything. Anyway. I liked it, it was fine. I listened to the audiobook and Brigstocke read it himself, which was nice. I thought it was fun, but nothing fantastic. I wrote a review here.

How we got to now by Steven Johnson

This is an illustrated history of great innovations that led us to today. The book is filled with weird and surprising stories of accidental genius, and people making mistakes. And people discovering the same thing at the same time. The book talks about the history of everyday objects we use every day. It was fun and an interesting look at different innovations. There was however a fault in the audiobook I listened to, so I missed a chapter. I have no other way of listening to the book, so I’m not sure how to solve the issue, so for now it’s just how it is.

Vindeltorn (The Twistrose key) by Tone Almhjell

Vindeltorn is a Norwegian middle grade novel about a young girl who has lost her pet mouse, Rufus, and also had to move from the country side to the city. She finds a key and a door to a different world, Sylver, where dead animals who were loved by children live. She has been brought there to find a lost winter lord to save Sylver from doom. I thought it was fun. It had a great Narnia vibe. I think it worked well as a children’s book, but it didn’t work as well for an adult audience. It was sweet, it had some absolutely lovely moments, but it lacked some world building. It was perfectly alright though. I wrote a review here.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

This is the first Charles Dickens I’ve ever read, and I’m quite impressed with myself, because it was a big ass book. It’s about a whole ensemble of characters. A man named John Harmon has inherited his father’s estate, a dust-heap where rich people throw away their trash, and with that he also gets a young woman in marriage, miss Bella Wilfer. Sadly Mr. Harmon dies and the money and estate goes to Noddy Boffin and his wife, Mrs. Boffin. They decide to take in Bella out of sympathy since she lost her future husband and the money she would inherit. Meanwhile the man who takes lodging in Bella’s father’s house becomes Mr. Boffin’s secretary. The money that Mr. Boffin inherits seems to go to his head. It was delightful and funny, and it’s a great satire, and commentary on what money does to people. Dickens is snarky and funny and I loved it and I will read more Dickens.

Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

This book is about Venetia Digby, a real-life woman who lived in the 1600s. The book is a fictionalised version of her life. She was incredibly beautiful and people wrote poems about her, paint beautiful paintings of her, and all that. In the book she is starting to get older and her beauty is fading, so she starts drinking this beauty-fication drink called Viper Wine. I liked it, it was interesting. It’s also interspersed with journalists from these days appearing in the story, so it’s also commenting on our current obsession with beauty. I wrote a review of this here.

Papergirls volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

This is the second volume in a graphic novel series. The story is about four paper girls in the 1980s. In volume 1 they meet time travelers and three of them end up in 2016. In this volume they hang out with the adult version of Erin and try to avoid being killed by time travelers and aliens. It’s very cool. I really love the 80s theme, it’s reminiscent of Stranger Things, and I love that. I like the art style, and I always like Brian K. Vaughan’s stories. It’s very cool and I’m looking forward to volume 3.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

This is one of Carrie Fisher’s memoirs. It’s about Carrie Fisher’s struggles with alcoholism and drug abuse, and her mental health issues. It’s really great. She’s very honest and self-deprecating and cool. And I have loved Carrie Fisher for a long ass time, because my parents made me watch Star Wars when I was ten. I also always loved the Blues Brothers. My parents are weird. Anyway. I haven’t really delved into Carrie Fisher’s other work, like her books, until now, and I’m very excited about it. I love her writing style. I listened to it on audio, which was a bit horrible, because she read it herself and she died recently. She also makes a reference to her mother saying that when she died Carrie and her brother should go through her house and take what they want or whatever, and that broke my heart a little bit, since Debbie Reynolds outlived Carrie Fisher by a day or two. I loved hearing about Carrie’s crazy upbringing, she was the daughter of two Hollywood superstars, and her parents were clearly a bit eccentric. I really loved it, and I really want to read the rest of Carrie’s books. I also want to read anything by or about Debbie Reynolds.

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake

So I’ve had this book on my shelves forever. And I had a lot of time on my hands so I decided to read it even though I was already reading a long-ass book. It’s about this castle-thing, called Gormenghast. It is the home of the Groan family. And the current earl Groan has just had a son called Titus. The book just goes through the lives of the Groan family and Gormenghast. It was fine. It’s so involved and there are so many family members and minutiae. And there are a lot of people. And I got sort of exhausted by it, so I had to listen to it on audiobook to get through it. It is supposed to be a classic fantasy story, but fantasy stories need to have plot, at least a bit of plot, and while this book has a villain and a bit of plot I don’t feel like it had enough. It might have been the wrong time for me, but it just felt like it dragged and it annoyed me. I thought the characters were interesting, but it was too slow. Also Titus was the most annoying person ever created.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

This is the second Jacqueline Woodson book I’ve read and it was beautiful. It is about a woman named August who has come back to Brooklyn to go to her father’s funeral. On her way home she runs into an old friend on the subway and she thinks back to her youth in Brooklyn in the 1970s. It is beautiful and poetic, and it’s such a beautiful story of different kinds of childhoods and different kinds of families. It’s great. And I wrote a review here.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is a short story collection by Lahiri. It is the first of Lahiri’s books I’ve read and I really liked it. All the stories feature Bengali people, and are usually centered around an immigration theme. The narrator or main character isn’t necessarily Bengali, but they interact with a Bengali person. I thought it was really great. I am not a big short story reader, but I thought this was great, and I’m very excited to read more Lahiri. I really loved the title story, which is about a Bengali man who works as a guide for people on weekends and on weekdays he works as a translator at a doctor’s office and I thought that was beautiful.

Those were the books I read in January. Excited about February.

 

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

another-brooklynThe book

Another Brooklyn is about August, who grew up in Brooklyn in the 1970s and then moved to Rhode Island to go to college. She goes back to Brooklyn for her father’s funeral and she runs into an old friend and they don’t actually speak, but it makes her remember her childhood in Brooklyn and the book is basically her Brooklyn childhood, and her friendships and her relationship with her brother and father.

Thoughts

This was really beautiful. I have also read Brown Girl Dreaming by Woodson, and it’s basically about her real life childhood, and it’s written as poetry. And her sort of poetic writing style is also a big part of this novel. It’s not written as poetry, but it feels poetic.

I loved her sort of stream of consciousness writing. It’s not actual stream of consciousness, it just feels a bit like her story just poured out of her, and it was beautiful.

I really loved the story of August and her friends. It was a beautiful story of four fierce black girls growing up in Brooklyn together and everything that went wrong, and everything that went well. It was fascinating to see the different ways that people are raised, and that being black in Brooklyn in the 70s isn’t a monolith. August is quite poor, she has what she needs, but never has all new clothes, and while she’s happy she knows she’s poor. She lives with her father and brother because something happened to her mother and August left Tennessee with her brother and dad to her dad’s old hometown. August and her brother are basically released into the street and they are left to themselves. In another family the girls are kept on a tight leash, live in a traditional family and are expected to be perfect and are always in new clothes and go to private school.

I loved how it was written. It was always hinting to what happens in the future. It’s clear that one of the girls did something that made her family disappointed and also hurt August somehow. And I liked that writing style. It built a lot of tension, and even though I guessed what it was it was climactic and hurt when the explanation came.

This is a really small thing, but adult August is an anthropologist who studies death and death rituals, and I really loved that. Because I love anthropology, and I’m fascinated by death rituals, because of course I am. The book is also a lot about death. And it is death and the confusion around death through the eyes of a child, who doesn’t understand everything that isn’t going on. I thought it was beautiful.

Finally

I thought this was beautiful, I really liked it. I love the writing style and the poetry of the writing style. It was wonderful.

Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

The book

Viper Wine is about Venetia (née Stanley) Digby, who lives in 17th century with her husband Kenelm Digby, and her two sons. The book is based on the real Venetia Digby who was known as quite a beauty in her time, who had poetry written about her and paintings painted by the biggest and best painters of the time. This fictionalised version of her life is about her seeing that she has begun to age, because she’s a human. And she starts to take the most extreme measures to avoid aging. She meets a man named Lancelot Choice who sells her viper wine, which makes her look young and fresh and those great things.

Thoughts

First of all, Hermione Eyre has the coolest names of all time. I thought it was a pseudonym, but it’s not, it’s great. Anyway.

I thought this concept was really interesting. I didn’t know about Venetia Digby, because I can’t know everything about every English nobleman. But I don’t think you need to know much about her, or her husband. I did look into him a bit, because I thought the story was interesting. He was the son of one of the men in the gunpowder plot, which is also quite fascinating. His wife was known to be an amazing beauty, and she died mysteriously when she was in her mid-thirties. And she actually had an autopsy performed on her, which wasn’t too common at the time.

It was interesting to read about 17th century beauty regimens. What Venetia and the other women do is basically 17th century Botox. Their faces become stiff and frozen and her husband at one point says that he can’t pick her out in a crowd. He keeps seeing a bunch of women who look the same, and he isn’t sure where Venetia is until she waves at him.

The book has quotes at the beginning of chapters and they are often from people who actually lived in the 1600s, but a lot were also from people who live in 2017, and who are in the beauty industry, like models and actors, and the like. Kenelm Digby is a scientist and explorer and he has “press conferences” where current journalists, including the author, interview him. I thought this was a really interesting way to show how beauty is still something we obsess over today, and something women in particular do as much as possible to remain beautiful.

It was interesting to see how Lancelot Choice basically got the ladies he worked with addicted to his concoction. I think there’s opium in the viper wine, so they’re actually addicts, and I thought it was an interesting way to show people getting sort of addicted to their beauty regimes. That’s sort of an obnoxious thing to say, but I think that when you do something enough times you feel sort of naked without the beauty thing you do, and it feels like you should do it.

Finally

I really liked it, I liked how the women hid all their beauty regimens and their makeup from the men in their lives and the men are just clueless and dumb. I liked that it brought the 17th century and 21st century together and how some things haven’t really changed so much. I liked Eyre’s voice and her writing. I thought it was really fun.

Vindeltorn (the Twistrose Key) by Tone Almhjell

vindeltorn

The book

Vindeltorn is about Lin, who has moved with her mom and dad from their big farm in the countryside to an apartment in the city. She really misses her best friend, and her pet mouse, Rufus, who died when they moved to the city. One day she gets a key and finds a door in her basement which leads her to Sylver. This is a world where all animals who were once loved by a child goes when they die. So Lin is reunited with Rufus, who is now about six foot tall and can talk. Since she’s a child sent to a fantasy land she gets a quest and has to find the prince of Sylver, and return him by nightfall, or she can never go home and Sylver will be thrown into chaos. And all that jazz

Thoughts

So this is a middle grade novel and it is very sweet and lovely. It’s also very Norwegian and wintery and beautiful. It was also released first in English, which is quite interesting. Anyway.

I thought it was fun, I thought Lin was clever and fierce and strong. She was afraid, but she never let that stop her, which I loved about her. She was sort of relentless, in the best kind of way. She also had a tendency to not take her predicament seriously. Like a lot of kids in fantasy lands she seems to think that she can’t be hurt there, which is silly.

I think that the idea of animals who were loved by children going to a land where they live and thrive and have fun was absolutely lovely. I thought it was so incredible. It was a great nod to Narnia, eternal winter, a fairyland and talking animals. There is also an absolutely heart breaking moment that reminded me of Susan and her relationship to Narnia. I thought it was beautiful, and I don’t want to say what it is, but it has to do with the fact that kids do grow up.

I think it probably works really well as a kid’s book. A lot of kid’s books work for adults as well, but I don’t know that this one did. There were some issues with world building. Like they meet trolls when they’re out on their missions, and Lin says she knows what kills these trolls, and what kills those trolls, and there is no reference to how she has this knowledge. I think there should have been more world building. I also think the timeline was a bit messy. I didn’t entirely know where they were or how much time had passed, and where they were.

Finally

I still think this was a completely fine middle grade fantasy book. I thought it was fun, and I thought Lin was great, and I thought it was a beautiful concept. And I thought it handled the way children love their pets and how serious that love is.

#Diverseathon 2.0

The second installment of Diverseathon will happen and from the 22nd to the 29th of January and I wasn’t planning to take part, because I had other books planned, but then I thought, I decide what I read, screw this, I want to do the Diverseathon. I’m an adult. I do what I want.

Then I remembered I wasn’t planning to buy books, and I have to use the books I already own, and I haven’t been good at buying diverse books up to this point, but I do have some so I will read those. I also have an audiobook app full of audiobooks. It’s a bit like Netflix, but for audiobooks, and if you’re Norwegian (and possibly Swedish?); Storytel is great.

The Diverseathon is hosted by Joce from Squibblesreads, Christina Marie from the channel Christina Marie, Monica from the channel Shemightbemonica and Simon from Savidgereads. The group book this time is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I won’t read it because I don’t own it and I’d be behind five other people to get it from my library.

What will I read you say? My TBR consists of four books, two books I own, and two books from Storytel.

  1. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. This won the Man Booker Prize in 2015. It is about the Bob Marley assassination attempt in Jamaica in 1976, the crack wars in New York in the 1980s, and a changed Jamaica in the 1990s. I don’t think Bob Marley is referred to as Bob Marley, but it’s partly about him. Marlon James is a Jamaican man himself so it’s partly an #ownvoices novel as well.
  2. Transcendent: the Year’s best transgender speculative fiction edited by K.M. Szpara. I bought this on a whim in my local comic book/fantasy/sci-fi store. It’s an anthology of short stories written by trans authors and featuring trans characters. Either the fact that the characters are trans is central to the story, or it isn’t. I very rarely read short stories, so this is very exciting to me.
  3. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. I’ve read another book by Woodson called Brown Girl Dreaming. It was gorgeous. This is about a lady named August, who meets a long-ago friend from Brooklyn. It sounds really fascinating. I really liked Brown Girl Dreaming and Woodson’s writing style. Jacqueline Woodson is an African-American woman and the book is about an African-American woman. I’m going to listen to this on audio, and it’s going to be great.
  4. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. I love Carrie Fisher, this audiobook is read by her, and I’m pretty sure I’ll cry, but I will prevail. Carrie Fisher, if you don’t know, played Princess Leia/General Organa in the Star Wars movies, and she died right around Christmas 2016. And apart from that she was a badass ambassador for mental health. Carrie Fisher had bipolar disorder and was addicted to cocaine and prescription drugs for quite a while. She has spoken openly about both. This is her memoir, based on her one-woman-show of the same name and it’s about her addiction and her bipolar disorder, and her life in general. So I’m excited, and nervous. I am not very good at reading about mental health issues, so I should be better. And I will start with Carrie Fisher.

 

So those are the books I’m reading. I’m very excited.

God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke

The God Collar

This is Marcus Brigstocke talking about his own search for God. Brigstocke is a stand-up comedian and talks quite a bit about not believing in god. In this book he talks about how even though he doesn’t believe in God he would like to, he feels like he needs god because life is heinous sometimes and it seems like people who believe in god have a better time of it. He talks about different religions, his own meetings with religion, his thoughts on how religion makes things better and makes things worse. It’s also focused around him losing his friend James to James’ shitty heart. He talks about being an addict and god being a big part of AA and NA and people getting clean. So for a while religion was a big part of his life.

 

Thoughts

I thought this was interesting. I listened to the audiobook version, which was read by Brigstocke himself, which I really liked, because I like his voice and I like when comedians read their own books. I thought he had a lot of interesting ideas, and I think he has good points.

 

I also realize he is preaching to the choir to me, cause I am not religious and I have what I think is a healthy scepticism to religion. I wasn’t raised religiously. I’m from Norway, most of us aren’t religious, but a lot of people in Norway go through religious rituals for traditional reasons, so baptism, confirmation and church weddings. I wasn’t baptized, I am not a member of the Norwegian church. I don’t think my mom and dad ever told me “there is no god” in those terms, but I also don’t remember ever believing in god. I find religion fascinating, because I find stories fascinating, and I like reading about how people interact, and how people, no matter where, always find something to believe in.

 

I do also understand Brigstocke’s desire to believe in something, because sometimes I do wish I had a god to believe in, but I just can’t. It feels like something is missing in me sometimes. I don’t need something to believe in, I’m completely comfortable with us being alone in the universe and the thought that when I die I’ll just die and that’s it. And if I’m proved wrong then that’ll be surprising, but fine. It just seems like some aspects of religion are lovely, the community, and the faith and the desire to do charity and so on.

 

Something Brigstocke talks a lot about is the fact that it seems like the Abrahamic religions in particular hate women. And they might say they don’t, but they do. I don’t think every individual Jewish person, Christian, or Muslim, hates women, but the religions do not like women, if they did they wouldn’t make up so many rules to keep women down and abuse them so spectacularly. He also talks about how religions seem to give power to people who use their position to abuse people less powerful than them, like the catholic priests’ widespread abuse of altar boys.

 

I feel like the book was a bit messy and not as structured as I would have liked. I also don’t feel like there was a lot of criticism of mainstream atheism. A lot of the “big” atheists in the mainstream often seem to treat people with religious leanings with contempt and have no interest in even talking to them and discussing with them. And while that is obviously also true for religious people that is no reason for atheists to behave the same way.

 

Finally

I liked this. I thought it was fun and interesting. I like Brigstocke and his voice, both his literary voice and his actual voice. I like books about religion. And while I thought it was a bit messy, I still liked it.

 

Review Mine Brødre (My brothers) by Adel Khan Farooq

Plot

Mine Brødre is a new Norwegian Young Adult novel by a second generation immigrant to Norway. It’s about a second grade Pakistani immigrant who lives with his family in Oslo. He’s Norwegian in that he was born in Norway, has a Norwegian passport, speaks Norwegian, speaks pretty much no Arabic, and can’t write in Urdu. He does normal Norwegian-teen things, he plays soccer, smokes, drinks, hangs out with his friends and you know. He has a massive crush on a Somali girl in his class called Faiza, who is a dedicated, modern Muslim girl, and who loves talking to him about her faith. The protagonist is a casual Muslim, he doesn’t pray, he can’t read much Arabic, and he doesn’t see the point, but likes reading the Qur’an in Norwegian with Faiza. The book is set right before and after the Paris terrorist attack at the Eagles of Death Metal concert. The protagonist is continually disappointed, and is sliding towards depression when Faiza moves. He then finds a Muslim brotherhood in Oslo where he finally feels accepted, and where he finally finds people who take him seriously.

Thoughts

I thought it was very interesting to read about such a casual Muslim boy who sees what IS are doing, who sees the terrorist attacks in Paris and is horrified by both, being slowly turned into someone who considers going to Syria to fight. I feel like it was an interesting concept, I’m not sure it was executed as well as it could have been. I also realize I’m not in any way a Muslim teen from the East side of Oslo, but he seemed to flip really quickly. He seemed so naïve.

I did however really like seeing how young men get recruited to these brotherhoods, and it does seem very honest and real. The charismatic leader of the Oslo brotherhood seems charming and he seems like a guy who could easily trick boys to go off to Syria. He uses charm and all the good parts of Islam to bring people into the brotherhood, and then slowly turns them.

I thought it was clever to make a sort of light and dark part of the protagonist’s life through Faiza and the brotherhood. It’s a bit heavy-handed at times, but I thought it worked pretty well.

I thought the ending was a bit of an easy out, but I also thought the author managed to work up quite a bit of tension and I was terrified that the protagonist would do something incredibly stupid. I also think that the ending I think it needs would have been a bit boring, so I think I prefer this one which is a bit sweeter.

Finally

I think this was a fairly good book. I think it’s a really important subject and I think it’s a fascinating subject. I have another book on the same subject, but it’s a non-fiction book, I think I’ll still push it up the reading list though and read it sooner.

My favourite TV shows of 2016

This is an overview of my favourites among the TV shows I watched this year. They didn’t necessarily come out in 2016, but I’m a binge watcher. This is not necessarily in order. I will also indicate if the show is on Netflix or HBO or where you can see if I can remember.

  1. You’re the Worst

This is a romantic comedy for people who don’t like romantic comedies. It’s about horrible people and it’s just the best thing. It’s about Jimmy, a British author who has written one book and is struggling to write the next one. He is rude and “tells it like it is,” basically insulting everyone. He meets Gretchen, who is a publicist for a rap trio who is a walking ball of chaos. They hook up, planning to never see each other again, and then they just… keep hanging out. It’s beautiful and sweet, and hilarious. The secondary characters are hilarious. Jimmy’s roommate is Edgar, a veteran with severe PTSD. He is incredibly portrayed. The jokes are never making him the butt of the joke. In season 2 they deal with Gretchen’s clinical depression and Jimmy’s inability to cope with his girlfriend being severely depressed and it’s absolutely incredible. Season 1 and 2 are on Netflix.

  1. The People vs O.J. Simpson

The People vs. O.J. Simpson is a drama show about the O.J. Simpson trial from the 90s after O.J. (allegedly) killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. The show is incredible, the acing is wonderful; Sarah Poulson is magic on two legs. Cuba Gooding Jr. does an incredible job. Sterling K. Brown is just… so good. It’s great. There is obviously also silliness. O.J. Simpson’s best friend was Rob Kardashian, and the Kardashian kids are in the show a lot more than they would probably be if it hadn’t been for Keeping up with the Kardashians. David Schwimmer did a good job of being Kardashian, even if he got a slightly silly job. It was fascinating to see how the case was handled, and I don’t see how he could ever be acquitted. It was so fascinating. Because I was obviously alive when the case happened, but I was too young to know much about it. So this was a good primer.

  1. Stranger Things

Obviously I was going to mention Stranger Things. It’s like the show of the year. I loved it so much. I love things from the 80s more than I can explain. I love eighties movies and shows, so much. And this was so in my wheelhouse. If you have somehow missed it Stranger Things is about a young boy named Will Byers who disappears one night, and then his friends try to find him. They meet a girl called Eleven, who is telekinetic, and who is the most badass character on the planet. The story is amazing, the feel of it is incredible, the actors; oh my God, the child actors are amazing. The adult actors are astounding, look at you Winona Ryder. It’s so good. It’s only 8 episodes, and I need more. This is a Netflix original.

  1. Rectify

Rectify is the slowest TV show I watched this year. It’s just, so slow. Basically I watched Making a Murderer and needed instantly to watch more shows that talked about the same thing. Rectify is a drama about a man named Daniel Holden who has been on Death Row for about 20 years for raping and murdering his girlfriend. He is then let out on a technicality and the police try to find new evidence and Daniel tries to go back to normal life. It’s so beautiful. It’s a Southern Gothic and I love that aesthetic. I loved the way Daniel tried to cope with returning to his old house where his family has obviously moved on, except have they? The first season is 6 episodes long I think and it only shows one week of Daniel’s life. It’s that slow. It’s astounding. Season 1 to 3 is on Netflix.

  1. Game of Thrones season 6

I was really annoyed with season five of Game of Thrones and all the weird creepy shit that went on. The sixth season was incredible. It had low points obviously, but the high points were amazing. I think the writers are both well served by, and hurt by not having source material. They could do what they wanted, but some episodes were really hurt by that too. The episode where we find out why Hodor is named Hodor was incredible. The battle in episode nine was great. The writers also clearly moving shit along and people are meeting and doing stuff and it’s dynamic and exciting and I want season 7 right now. This is an HBO show and is on HBO Nordic.

  1. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

So I love Hitchhiker’s guide, I haven’t yet read Dirk Gently, but I have it. I was so excited and worried about this show, because I really hate the Hitchhiker’s adaptation from about 10 years ago. I don’t know how this stacks up as an adaptation, but it was hilarious. Dirk Gently is basically a manic pixie detective who runs around doing his thing. Elijah Wood is so grumpy and I love him. Farah Black has basically too settings; fucking badass and nervous wreck. There’s a fucking Corgi, who is amazing. It was weird, and I can see why people don’t like it, but it was hilarious and twee and English. And I loved it. This is a Netflix original.

  1. The Fall

The Fall is a serial murderer TV show set in Belfast and it focuses on Stella Gibson, played by the beautiful and wonderful Gillian Anderson. She is a DCI who goes from London to Belfast to do a review of how Belfast police is running an investigation of a murder, and while she’s there the murderer kills someone else. It’s one of those where you know who the murderer is the whole time, it’s not a who-done-it. It’s astoundingly creepy. The way they cut scenes of murder and sex, or murder and caring for your kid, together is so fucking creepy. I realize it’s the point, but I’m unnerved all the time. Jamie Dornan is amazingly awfully creepy. Season 1 to 3 is on Netflix.

  1. Insecure

Insecure is an HBO-show by Issa Ray, and it’s so good. It is based on Issa Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl and is about Issa who works for a charity called We Got Y’all which works with minority middle school kids, and is in a long term relationship with Lawrence. Her best friend Molly works as a corporate lawyer. She has the career she wants, but has trouble in her dating life. It explores social and racial issues that relate to the black experience today. I love Issa, she’s insecure and awkward, and weird, and she’s strong and fierce. She’s also messy and self-destructive. Molly is strong and composed and incredible, and she complicated and a mess and all over the place. I love the side character, Frieda, who works with Issa at We Got Y’all, I identified strongly with her desire to be empathetic and inclusive, and not racist, and ends up saying just really weird, confused things. I loved this, I feel like I’m also in the demographic, of a young woman in her late twenties who isn’t entirely sure if she has the life she wants, it’s so good. And I’m excited for season 2. This is an HBO original.

  1. Making a Murderer

This came out in 2015, but I watched it in 2016. This is a documentary TV series about a man named Steven Avery who was wrongfully accused and jailed for raping a woman. He was released 18 years later when the right man was caught, and then he was arrested again for the murder of a young woman. The documentary looks at what the police did, what the prosecution did and what the defence did. How the police and prosecution coerced Avery’s nephew, a child, into giving testimony without his parents present, and how his lawyer colluded with the prosecution. It was so fascinating. I don’t know if Avery killed Teresa Halbach or not, but I do think police have a duty to do their job correctly, and you can’t use the excuse that the suspect probably did it to do whatever you want. I’ve listened to two different podcasts about this TV show. It’s incredible. This is a Netflix original.

  1. Lethal Weapon

I feel like the last two choices are typical guilty pleasure shows, but I have no guilt, they’re both awesome. Lethal Weapon is a movie series from the 80s with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. This TV show stars Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford and it’s absolutely delightful. It’s a buddy cop show about a middle aged family man who is teamed up with a self-destructive crazy man who lost his wife in a tragic accident and has taken up alcoholism and suicidal thoughts as a hobby. The actors are great, the show is pretty much exactly what you think it’ll be, which is great. I watched this on Viaplay, which is a Norwegian streaming service.

  1. Wynonna Earp

So this is a great show. I watched it over a weekend. It’s about Wynonna Earp, the great-great-grand daughter of Wyatt Earp. The premise is that she has to break the Earp curse, by sending the souls of the 77 outlaws Wyatt Earp, called revenants, killed, back to hell. Yeah, it’s great. She lives with her little sister Waverly, and is haunted by the loss of her father and oldest sister Willa. She gangs up with a US Marshal who is working for some creepy ass government agency, and the immortal Doc Holliday (friend of Wyatt Earp’s). It’s about as stupid as it sounds, but it’s also incredible. Wynonna is messy, and weird and confused and broken, but she’s a feminist badass who takes none of the shit. Waverly is strong and sweet and a research mage. The show turns the whole Bury Your Gays trope on its head, because this show has a lesbian who wears Kevlar, guys. It gave me Buffy-early-Supernatural-vibes and it’s my favourite thing. I loved it so much. Season 1 is on Netflix.