Title: Tender Morsels
Author: Lanagan, Margo
Length: 436 pages
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher / Year: Knopf / 2008
Why I Read It: I had heard too much about it, and too many bloggers I love and trust recommended it.
Date Read: 21/11/12
Rape, abuse, incest, and other traumas – these are things that young adults deal with, but they are also topics that we rarely discuss with them. Think of the statistics: 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted, 44% will be under 18, and of those, 93% knew their attacker. In reading, we all want to see ourselves and learn about life, about ourselves, and about how to cope. Sexual assault is a huge area around which we are largely silent, especially in our literature for teens. In this book, Lanagan has taken on these topics and explored themes surrounding sexual assault, helping to fill an important gap.
Liga, like many young victims, doesn’t understand what is happening to her, and only later comes to realize what exactly her father was doing and what it means. Her understanding grows, and along with it, her knowledge that she will also bear the shame and disgust of the villagers. The second assault examines the way that others often respond to and treat victims of abuse. When she tries to end her life, she instead has a magical encounter that allows her to escape. The result of this is two young children, Branza and Urdda, and, we come to find, a safe place.
For many who are assaulted (most?) there are stages that must be worked through. At various times, there are dreams of revenge, at others, the only thought possible is to escape. Using fantasy, Lanagan has explored these ideas. The dream of escape comes first. Rather than ending her life, Liga is taken to a magical world where she is safe. The villagers are kind and caring rather than harsh and judgemental, her children are safe, and she can slowly learn to cope with what has happened to her.
Through this ‘safe space’ fantasy, Lanagan is able to show Liga’s slow healing, and how slow it actually is. It gives a way to work through the escape desire and show the benefits as well as the flaws. Liga is safe, but she is also lonely. And despite being safe, she still has the memories and associated triggers affecting her that keep her on edge. The impossibility of true escape and safety is highlighted, as well as the myriad dangers surrounding isolation and a lack of knowledge of how to act and the needs of protection.
With the eventual return, Liga eventually tells Urda, the younger daughter, some of the events of her life. This leads to the revenge fantasy. In this part, Lanagan uses the fantastical element of the story line to have cut out men assault Liga’s assaulters, getting ‘revenge’ for their original acts. Here we see how empty revenge truly is. Neither Urdda nor Ligga get anything from this, they are still in the same position they were before, with the same feelings, though now Urdda also feels some measure of guilt.
The language that Lanagan uses was just off in dialect, which forced extra concentration and closer reading, ensuring that each point was delivered. The book was truly fantastic, and it tore me apart reading it. The Feminist Texican summed it up best when she called it “emotionally exhausting, but awesome”. For anyone looking for a different and interesting fantasy read, one that explores difficult and emotional topics, this is a book you won’t be sad you read.
Books Read: 5
Pages Read: 1364
Hours Listened To: 0
- Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates
- Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
- The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly
- Neuromancer by William Gibson
- Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Expores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti
Bloggers (and other online friends) visited: Alix
Places visited through reading: USA, Canada, Australia
Places visited irl: Missouri, Florida, Alberta, Ontario
Book Purchases: Me? Buy books? What a silly thought.
Thoughts and ramblings: Oh, another month gone and still no reviews? I’m working on that I promise! This past month I was in Missouri for two weeks – including for the US election, which was interesting. I also had VACATION. It was wonderful, and it definitely helped restore me to semi-normal sleep and energy levels. I spent a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday with Alix, and then spent a few days with my family in Calgary celebrating my Opa’s 88th birthday.
Fingers are crossed that one of these days, very soon, I’ll write a review. I’ve read a few really interesting books, so I definitely have lots to talk about – I just need the time to write it down for you!
What DID happen at the end of November was #graffitireviews. The Literary Omnivore has a full post that I highly recommend, outlining how the entire thing started. But the short version is that there was a silly article, Cass made a few comments on Facebook that I found so hilarious I recommended she share on Twitter, it grew into a thing, and now we’re doing it for real! Reviews are going viral! Check out the Tumblr, and then do a few of your own!
Happy December all.
Books Read: 10
Pages Read: 2798
Hours Listened To: 9
Books Read: 2
Pages Read: 461
Hours Listened To: 0
- Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip – Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- Zarhar the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
- Ender’s Game by Scott Orson Card
- In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
- Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin
- The Survival League by Gordan Nuhanovic
- Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing up Latina by Rosie Molinary
- Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Desctruction
- Swoon by Caledonia Curry (Swoon)
- Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto
Bloggers (and other online friends) visited: Rhiannon, Carin, Eva, Colleen, Kelly, Cait
Places visited through reading: USA, Nigeria, Croatia, Dominican Republic
Places visited irl: Toronto, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, California (Sacramento, Lake Tahoe), and Albuquerque, NM
Book Purchases: I refuse to admit anything In September I made a purchase from the Book Depository for some really great books, as well as picking up a few sequels to titles I had read earlier in the month (Octavia Butler and NK Jemisin). I also bought some great titles on Amazon when I found them on sale (This Bridge Called my Back, for example). In all, too many to list, and slightly embarrassing given that I hardly read for half of the period we’re discussing.
Thoughts and ramblings: This has been an incredibly busy and roller-coaster fall for me. As you can see from my reading, things have changed quite a bit in my life. To begin with, September was a month of travel. If you recall, I ended August with a mini-cross-Canada road trip to a wedding in New Brunswick. I began September with the long drive back home to Toronto, only to fly out the very next morning for work. Between the two busy weeks of work, I was incredibly lucky to fit in the highlight of my month: finally meeting Carin in person! We did a chile festival, ate great food, and did some hiking in the mountains.
After the work trip, I flew back to visit my parents in PEI. Here I foolishly agreed to do some biking with my mother and aunt… and biked halfway across the island before my knees gave out. I then travelled with Colleen to Halifax for their first book launch with Fierce Ink Press, which was a fun party. I spent a few days there and then it was back to Toronto again.
Back in Toronto… I crashed. It’s hard for me to admit how much being back in PEI is still a struggle for me, but it just drains me completely and leaves me nervous, terrified, and hyper-vigilant. I came back home to stress around work and not knowing if my new position was going to start in less than a week or not, and that combined with the fact that I was already drained meant a couple of weeks of basic survival until I got myself back to normal (well, close enough, still working on that). I am very thankful that I don’t need to go back any time soon, as my parents have agreed to visit me for the Christmas holidays, saving me a trip there.
The first of October for me meant the start of a new position at work. I was really excited for this as it is allowing me to try out a few new skills and utilize the ones I’ve already learned in my time with my company. Unfortunately it also means a daily commute of anywhere between one to one and a half hours, and work days stretching to ten or twelve hours. This fully explains the fact that in October I managed to read only two books – my lowest since university when I was reading only textbooks.
October was a great month still though, for two reasons. The first was that I got to cat sit for Rhiannon. You may remember her cats from her Feline Friday posts, and now you can be jealous that I got to hang out with them for a few days. They are the cutest cats, and if I could, I’d have tried to sneak them out to keep them. The second great event of the months was a visit from Eva! It is always so great meeting online friends in person, and I was extra excited to finally being the one hosting.
So that has been my past couple of months. I am on vacation now, which is why I’m finding time to write this post. I am hoping, though, that work will settle down, giving me more time to read and to review. I hope that everyone else is enjoying their fall, and that everyone has had a great Thanksgiving. I miss you all!
Title: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness
Author: Thaler, Richard and Sunstein, Cass
Length: 312 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Economics, Psychology
Publisher / Year: Penguin Books / 2008
Source: Unsure… purchased from some unknown source prior to 2010
Why I Read It: I am terrible at decision-making. This seemed a useful aid.
Date Read: 08/08/12
Do you believe we make every decision on our own? How many decisions do you make a day that you feel unqualified to make? And do you think you ever show any unconscious biases in your decision-making? In this book Thaler and Sunstein lay out the ways in which the options we are given and the way in which they are presented unconsciously sway our decisions. They also lay out the ways in which choice architects could use this knowledge to aid rather than leaving us all to our own devices.
Thaler and Sunstein call their concept libertarian paternalism – what they mean by this is that every option is still possible (i.e. junk food isn’t banned), but that the person designing the choice layout uses their knowledge to help people (i.e. the junk food is on a back shelf and healthier options are at the cash register) via small nudges. In this way the consider themselves libertarians because they do not want to in any way limit options, but paternalistic by using our biases in a good way.
Other examples include things like automatically opting in to the work savings plan, or the best health plan, or so on rather than having to make a conscious decision which could get forgotten. Another is simply to keep in mind wording – if a form tells you what percentage of people are organ donors, for example, you are more likely to sign up than if it only mentions the need and how many people could be donors.
I did have one issue with the book, and that was in the section in which they talk about applying libertarian paternalism and nudges to other areas such as schooling, medicine, and marriage. While I completely agree with the authors that marriage as a state affair isn’t really useful for anyone and has lost it’s purpose, I disagree that marriage as a personal decision and civil unions only as a state recognized benefit union would solve the gay marriage dispute. It’s not simply a matter of politics, but of human rights. The same wouldn’t be put forward today for those ministers who refuse to marry interracial couples, surely? Right? The bible has many odd things in it, most of which are ignored selectively.
One thing I did like was the discussion of ethics and how nudges by corporations and executives (who stand to gain financially) are not necessarily better than nudges by government officials. While many would argue that the government should make no decisions and have no role, clearly that isn’t an actual option.
Really interesting book that I recommend to anyone interested in daily life, the choices we make, how to improve the offering of choices, and more.
Title: The Brothers
Author: Sahlberg, Asko
Translator: Jeremiah, Emily and Fleur Jeremiah
Length: 112 pages
Publisher / Year: Peirene Press / 2012 (originally published in Finnish as He in 2010)
Source: Peirene Press subscription
Why I Read It: I have enjoyed all Peirene Press books I’ve read to date.
Date Read: 04/08/12
Although short and concise, this novella tells of a family saga. Although covering but a few days, the novella, through invoked memories, tells of childhood, wars, and growing old. Full of twists and turns and unexpected news, this short contains a lot of story.
Henrik and Erik fought on opposite sides of the recent war over Finland between Sweden and Russia (the novel is set in 1809), and are only now meeting again after that time. As we come to learn more about them and the other members of the family, we learn about how the brothers were raised, and what originally caused Henrik to run away, eventually joining the army.
There were a few coincidences too many, but in all I really enjoyed this short tale and could have read much more about the family. Each member faced his or her own dramas and joys, and each had their own private thoughts and concerns. By showing us a bit of each character they all became real.
Recommended to lovers of epic family sagas, of historical fiction, or of stories about families and how they come together and break apart.
Title: In the Time of the Butterflies
Author: Alvarez, Julia
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Publisher / Year: Algonquin Books / 1994
Source: Second book received from my LibraryThing SantaThing last Christmas.
Why I Read It: It was a gift, and it sounded interesting.
Date Read: 05/09/12
On November 25, 1960, three of the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic were killed by the dictatorial regime. In this book, Alvarez imagines the life of the four sisters (the three who were murdered and the fourth who survived) from when they were little through to their death.
The novel opens with Dedé preparing for an interview, yet another, about her famous sisters – the butterflies of the revolution. From there, she moves to flashbacks of what she remembers, which moves smoothly to the next three chapters, one narrated by each of the martyred sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Marie Teresa. Each of the three sections is written in this manner, advancing in years as the novel progresses.
While my (obvious) preference would have been for a non-fiction biography of the sisters, this was an incredibly moving novel that worked so well. All four sisters had such a distinct voice and feel than the others. Their lives interacted so well through their stories and the family dynamics were believable and interesting.
The novel also gave an interesting portrayal of life under a brutal and suppressive dictator. It highlighted the ways that people are hidden from the truths and brainwashed into believing fabricated truths. It also showed the ways that people slowly come to learn, and the ways that people act when confronted, at long last, with the actual facts. Each of the sisters reacted in different ways to the knowledge of this truth, and it took some time for all of them. It was a fantastic portrayal of the different ways we all act under pressure and stress.
Highly recommended to all who enjoy stories about families, about revolution, about strong women, and / or about the ways in which we all choose to cope.
Title: The Thorn and the Blossom
Author: Goss, Theodora
Length: 82 pages
Publisher / Year: Quirk Books / 2012
Source: Picked up at Chapters.
Why I Read It: Jodie recommended it.
Date Read: 25/08/12
This is a beautifully packaged little book, with the pages all connected and folded like an accordion between two thick hard covers. The entire book is then nestled in a beautiful box. The book tells the story of a young American girl and a young English man who meet, and whose lives are forever changed and impacted by a fable and book that they share. One side of the accordion gives her story, the other side gives his. In this way, the reader gets two stories and two points of view.
Evelyn and Brendan were both well written, full characters who came to life off the pages. The perspective the reader gets of each within their own telling, as well as featured in the opposite telling, work together so well, and both characters seemed completely believable and like real people. The story that Goss shares in this book is incredibly thought out and works wonderfully. The magic is just right, as is the romance, the history, and the coincidences.
A short tale (or rather, two short tales), that are very worth the read. And the full package makes the book even more worth it! Certainly completely different from anything I’ve ever read before.