Reading challenge part 3 (11-15).

Zeroes

Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

Category: The first book in a series you haven’t read before

Such a fun read! I really enjoyed Zeroes, I found the narrative compelling, the characters well-realised, the take on superpowers to be incredibly interesting and the writing tight. 4.5 stars.

Binti

Nnedi Okorafor

Category: A book with a title that’s a character’s name

This is a novella, and it’s particularly teeny at 90 pages (I couldn’t find a word count for it online but I’m very curious–I just reformatted my 22000 word novella and it came in at 137 pages). I have mixed feelings about it and a scan of Goodreads tells me I’m not alone. I’ll start off by saying the main character is likeable and there are a whole bunch of really cool and creative ideas expressed throughout the story. I wanted it to be more fleshed out… there was a major plot point that would have been traumatic for Binti and the other people on the planet she was heading to and yet that was glossed over. I felt quite distanced because of the speed of the plot, I would have loved a lot more detail and grounding in the world of the story. I’m going to give it to my 12yr old and ask her thoughts on it. 3.5 stars

I am Malala: The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban

Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb

Category: A book about an interesting woman

Who hasn’t heard of Malala? I remember the international outcry when she was shot, catapulting the everyday struggles of Pakistani girls and women into the international spotlight. I didn’t know anything about Malala before that moment, and I couldn’t understand why the Taliban would shoot a schoolgirl. This book provided the perfect opportunity to educate myself.

I struggled through the sections on Pakistani history, even though I found it interesting (I was woefully ignorant I admit!) I most enjoyed the sections relating to Malala’s life. I now feel I have a lot more understanding and insight into the context in which she was shot, and to be perfectly honest I am horrified. To illustrate: “We were warned not to be out late on Broad Street on weekend nights as it could be dangerous. This made us laugh. How could it be unsafe compared to where we had come from? Were there Taliban beheading people?” (p. 253)

If only to get some perspective into the lives of ordinary Pakistani people, you should read this book. 4 stars.

Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance

Christopher McDougall

Category: An audiobook

I figured the audiobook section of this challenge was going to be the most difficult for me. I love to read, but I’m not a big fan of listening to storytelling. I lose track of the narrative, my mind wanders, and you can’t re-read something you’ve missed. It’s also much slower for a speed-reader like myself. So I went looking for something non-fiction in an area I have an interest in, in the hopes it would hold my attention.

I stumbled across this one while browsing the BCC’s Borrowbox library (I can recommend this app for audiobook listeners too, but it didn’t have a lot of the books I was interested in – other than that it is easy to use). The blurb of this (and, I admit, the cover) made me think this book might be about parkour. I’m going to post the Goodreads blurb here:

While researching Born to Run, Chris McDougall encountered the story of Pheidippides, the legendary ancient Greek “all-day runner.” Later, when McDougall met a dedicated amateur historian, he saw a connection to one of the most fascinating mysteries of World War II: How did a small band of Resistance fighters surrounded by German troops kidnap a top German general? What he discovered is that ancestral techniques for extraordinary endurance, natural movement, and nutrition allowed ancient Greek soldiers and Cretan shepherds to race across mountains on all-night missions. Inspired by their heroic acts, McDougall sets off to discover the lost art of the hero, both throughout history and across the world. Just as Born to Run inspired casual runners to get off the treadmill, out of their shoes, and into nature, Natural-Born Heroes will inspire casual athletes to leave the gym and take their fitness to nature doing cross-training, mud runs, parkour and free-running to bound–and climb, swim, skip, wade, and jump–their way to heroic feats.

I mean, it even mentions parkour! So basically, yes it had stuff about parkour in it (though the author did seem to conflate parkour with freerunning although they are not the same thing). It also has a historical war mystery, stuff about acts of heroism (mostly by ordinary people), nutrition, Greek mythology, etc etc. I thought it might be a bit sexist but the author obviously wanted to ensure it was an inclusive message, and I appreciated that he tried. I thought the biographical stuff about the British dirty tricks fighters was pretty boring, and my attention wandered a lot when hearing about them. The book did ramble quite a bit, and maybe if I’d read it rather than listening to the audiobook it wouldn’t have been so noticeable, but the way it jumped around messed with my processing. There were definitely a lot of things I liked about the book, and some stuff that was maybe a little out there for me. I found some of his messages a little contradictory and prescriptive and lacking in science, but overall I definitely got some cool things from the book. Am I going to read more audiobooks? Not likely. 14 hours is way too long! >_< 3 stars.

The Shining Girls

Lauren Beukes

Category: A book involving travel

Ok so the thing is, The Shining Girls is about time travel… in terms of geography, Harper doesn’t go very far. But he doesn’t need to because the girls are in different time periods, not different places! I am a fan of Beukes, she can really tell a story… I loved Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls had come highly recommended so when I saw it at the library I decided I needed some escapism.

Hahahaha.

Well, sure, I read the book quicksmart! But holy shit… it has one of the most intense scenes I’ve experienced and I had to put the book down and regather myself, even though I knew it was coming. NOT for the faint-hearted. There were elements I didn’t enjoy (Dan reminded me a bit too much of Jonno from Broken Monsters, though a much more likable character) but I am always impressed by Beukes’s writing and her world-building and attention to detail without slaving over it. It all seems effortless even though it obviously isn’t. Anyway, enough rambling, time-travel-murder-mystery-thing 4.5 stars.

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