50 Book Challenge 2017

In 2016, I attempted the 50 Book Challenge for the first time. By the end of December, I had read 52 books – an average of a book per week.

So, I am doing the 50 Book Challenge again this year, but this time around, I am adding some rules for the books I read in order to broaden the spectrum of books I read, and to support under-represented voices in literature.

Here are my rules for my 2017 50 Book Challenge.

  •  At least half of all books must be written by female-identifying people  (F)
  •  At least half of all books must be written by people of colour/non-white people (POC)
  •  At least ten books must be translated works (T)
  •  At least ten books must be non-fiction (NF)
  •  At least ten books must be written by Australian authors (AUS)

I will be keeping a record of all the books I read this year on this page, with the codes above next to the titles, to keep track of how I am going with this challenge, and so you guys can see what I read this year.

I would encourage all the avid readers out there to join me in doing this challenge, and please let me know if you adopt these rules (or a version of them) for your own reading goals this year. I’m curious to see what you end up reading.

50 Book Challenge 2017

  1. Sula by Toni Morrison (F, POC)
  2. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (F, POC)
  3. The Mothers by Brit Bennett (F, POC)
  4. The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri (F, POC, T, NF)
  5. The Last Summer by Ricarda Huch (F, T)
  6. milk and honey by Rupi Kaur (F, POC)
  7. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (POC, NF)
  8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (F, POC)
  9. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (F, POC)
  10. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (F, POC, NF)
  11. American War by Omar El Akkad (POC)
  12. We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan (F)
  13. The Orange Grove by Larry Tremblay (T)
  14. Release by Patrick Ness
  15. Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare (F)
  16. One by Sarah Crossan (F)
  17. The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
  18. No Way! Okay, Fine. by Brodie Lancaster (F, AUS)
  19. Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (POC, T)
  20. The Cut by Anthony Cartwright
  21. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (F, AUS)
  22. All That She Can See by Carrie Hope Fletcher (F)
  23. Hunger by Roxane Gay (F, POC)
  24. Tin Man by Sarah Winman (F)
  25. City of Thieves by David Benioff
  26.  Everless by Sara Holland (F)
  27. Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
  28. Moonrise  by Sarah Crossan (F)

Why I Am Not Entirely Okay With “Passengers”

Or, A Commentary on a Good but Problematic Film

This piece includes minor spoilers for Passengers, though only those that have been openly discussed by many large media outlets.

When I first saw the trailer for Passengers, I was genuinely excited. I love a good film about humankind taking to the stars as much as the next person, and any film with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in the leading roles is going to get my attention. I didn’t go into the film expecting something particularly mind blowing or intellectually challenging, I just expected to enjoy the plot and love the concept that the trailer had portrayed.

And sure, it was a good film, with an interesting take on the humans-in-space film genre. I laughed more than once at little moments of wry humour and cleverly constructed scenes. The visuals were stunning and seeing two actors inhabiting most of the vast space of film by themselves was incredibly interesting, and unlike anything I had seen before.

But walking out of the cinema, I found myself conflicted as to whether I was actually entirely okay with the story that Passengers told.

Passengers opens with a glitch in the incubation system that keeps the five thousand passengers of the starship Avalon travelling to Homestead II, a human colony planet some 120 years away from Earth. This glitch causes the hibernation pod of engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) to malfunction, and Jim wakes up only to find he is the only person awake on the ship, and has woken up 90 years too early. Jim spends a year alone, struggling with the knowledge that he will die long before the ship ever reaches its destination, and will live the rest of his days alone on the ship.

Up until this point, I was not surprised with this development, as much of this is explained in the trailer for the film. However, it is from this point that I realised that the trailer had left out a crucial plot point – how Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes up.

In the trailer for the film, it is made out that Aurora wakes up due to a similar pod malfunction caused by a glitch in the ship’s system as that which woke Jim up. However, this is not the case. In fact, it is Jim who wakes Aurora up, largely due to his own loneliness. This act not only wakes Aurora up early, it also sentences her to an early death aboard the ship, long before it reaches its destination. Effectively, Jim has murdered her.

But this is not the story that the film wants you to remember, sugar coating that act of personal violence by forcing these two characters to fall in love despite this act of murder. Even when Aurora eventually finds out what Jim has done, and is angry about it for a while, the end of the film sees Jim participate in an act of great heroism and sacrifice that sees Aurora proclaim her love for him all over again, as though this demonstration of the White Male Saviour complex somehow redeems his earlier act of murder. Even when a member of the crew is woken up by a failure in his hibernation pod’s system, he tells Aurora that whilst Jim did the wrong thing, she shouldn’t let it rule the way she interacts with Jim for the rest of their lives aboard the ship. It is almost like he was woken up to tell Aurora to get a grip and move on because there are bigger problems than her feminism and self-preservation – and that straight up hurt me to see.

Look, I get it, this is not the first time that a film has allowed the lead male to ‘redeem’ himself via the White Male Saviour complex nor will it likely be the last. But that doesn’t mean that I can forgive this film, and the marketing machine behind it, for its deliberate misrepresentation of the film’s plot in the trailer. Sure, if Aurora’s pod had malfunctioned in the same way Jim’s had, I might not have the same problem with this film – in fact I would probably have loved seeing two people trapped in a terrible situation find themselves with their perfect partner. But to see Jim’s character deliberately sentence Aurora to death for his own selfish purposes, and then be forgiven because she magically falls in love with him, by fact of sheer proximity, doesn’t sit right with me. In fact, it coloured the way I saw the entire film, even in its best moments.

What puzzles me most is that the two lead actors, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, signed up for this film knowing that the plot would play out in this manner. I have been a long time fan of both actors, and both actors have been very vocal about feminism and the representation of women in film. Jennifer Lawrence has been particularly vocal, and has become something of a role model for young women, and so to see her in a role where her character, though presented as a strong woman, is eventually okay with the circumstances of her murder because she happened to fall in love with the perpetrator, was disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant in this film, but it was her brilliance in a role that seemed to undermine her public feminism that made me feel uneasy. I’m not about to boycott either Chris Pratt or Jennifer Lawrence because of their involvement in this film. Indeed, I will continue to see their films because they are incredible at their craft (though this doesn’t excuse this film for its blatant endorsement of Stockholm Syndrome). However, it does make me wonder why the marketing team behind the film decided not to show this crucial plot moment which happens so early in the film, in any of the promotional material, or why the writers felt that this would be an excusable element of the plot.

I am interested to hear your thoughts about this film, especially if you have seen it and have felt as uneasy I have about this plot point, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear what you did and didn’t like about this film, and how you felt about seeing these two beloved actors in these roles.

 

© Hayley New 2017

A Siren Call to Remember – A Review of Christine Dibley’s ‘To The Sea’

I have often shied away from novels set in Australia, largely because most of the Australian novels I was forced to read in high school were ‘bush books’, books that pigeon-holed Australian stories as tales that were dependant on outback settings and dry bushland. Whilst so many Australian stories are set in these places, these have never been the stories I have been able to feel connected to – my Australia has always been a coastal Australia, about cities bordered by the sea. Christine Dibley’s To The Sea is perhaps one of the first Australian novels set in Australia that I have truly felt at home in. Whilst I have never been to Tasmania, where this novel is set, the feeling of being so close to the sea and the city felt like home.

To The Sea follows the stories of four different people caught up in the disappearance of seventeen year old Zoe Kennett, a young girl from a well-to-do family, and the most recent in a long line of women who share a strange secret originating in Ireland. From the perspectives of her father John, her mother Eva, her sister Sadie and DI Tony Vincent, we get a strange mystery that brings the worlds of small town crime and Irish folklore crashing together.

I first read about the mythological Selchies (or Selkies) in a book picked up from a primary school book fair years ago, and I instantly fell in love with the myth of these transformative people, shifting between human and seal form. Whilst this might sound strange to those unfamiliar with the myths, I love that the folklore surrounding Selchies is so removed from the popular myths that are brought to life in film and TV. For me, Selchie folklore is linked almost exclusively to literature, and that is part of their magic.

But To The Sea does something more than just play into my love of Selchie folklore. By centring the novel so much on the power of mother-daughter storytelling and sharing, To The Sea reminded me of all the times I have spent sharing stories and personal histories with the women in my family. Much like my own family, the women of this book are linked by storytelling and sharing memories, and I love the power that this gives the women in this book. The women of this book are not only physically strong, being able to swim long distances and survive incredibly survivable events and conditions, but they are also granted an emotional strength that endures all the worst possible things. This book shows these women dealing with incredible loss, heartbreaking choices between love and family, mental illness and being labelled as crazy because of belief in a folklore that has been passed down through generations.

On a completely different note, I loved getting to read this novel at the time I did. The plot takes place in the days between Christmas and New Year, and I was fortunate enough to read it in the days between Christmas and New Year in 2016, completely by chance. Whilst this is not the only way to read this book, I recommend re-reading it later in the year to get the same feeling that the story weaves around this time (especially if you have a large family – you’ll understand when you read the book). The cover has also been beautifully designed, with the most beautiful colours that just seem to bring this story to life even further.

There is something enchanting about this book, about the way it discusses the power of storytelling, and the way it portrays women as the people who pass down power between generations. Christine Dibley has achieved something incredible with her debut novel and I look forward to seeing what else she can accomplish with her work in the future.

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To The Sea by Christine Dibley is published by Pan Macmillan Australia and is now available at all good bookstores. As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from and support local independent bookstores.

Thanks to the lovely Clare over at Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of To The Sea for review and inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Whilst I was sent a copy for review, I was not paid or financially obligated to write this review.

 

© Hayley New 2017

My Top Books of 2016

At the start of 2016, I set myself the goal of reading 50 books over the course of the year. By the end of the year, I had read 52 books, averaging a book a week. I read so many brilliant books, some of them from authors I had never come across, some from authors I have been reading for years, and some that seemed to come out of nowhere and steal my heart.

So, to celebrate all these wonderful books, I thought I would share my top picks (in no particular order) from the list of 52 books I read in 2016.

 

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi9781447299363What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

I think that this might just be the book that sticks with me the most from 2016. A gorgeous collection of short stories that sit somewhere between fairytale and real life, I always find myself coming back to the magic that this book held for me. I want to press this book into the hands of everyone I know.

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

 

Fight Like A Girl – Clementine Fordfight-like-a-girl-cover

Fight Like A Girl was the book I didn’t realise I needed until I read it. Clementine Ford’s unapologetically upfront and blunt take on modern feminism is more than just a manifesto, it is a battle cry. It also taught me one of the most important lessons I learnt in 2016 – “It’s okay to be angry.”

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

 

Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin1000x2000

Lauren Elkin’s brilliant book is just one of the many feminist books I read in 2016, but it is one of the best of them. Part memoir, part cultural history, part commentary, Flâneuse recounts the experiences of women artists and their relationships with the cities they lived and worked in. As a female writer in a very male dominated city, this book really struck a chord with me.

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

Licence to Quill by Jacopo Della Quercialicensetoquill

In amongst all the very serious literature I read last year, I definitely needed a good laughter filled adventure, and Licence to Quill was just what I needed. As an avid fan of Shakespeare, there was no way I wasn’t picking this book up. A clever mix of Shakespearean style mystery and history with a James Bond edge to its humour and adventure, I giggled my way through this brilliantly written story. I still smile just thinking about it.

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

Hide by Matthew GriffinHIDE2

Books like Hide don’t come along very often, but when they do, they break your heart. This brilliant book tells the story of Wendell and Frank and their relationship, from just after the war, to their old age. It is more than a tale of struggling with sexuality in a time that discriminates against your love, but also a tale of watching the one you love slip away whilst they are standing right in front of you, and the brutality of deterioration. It was one of the most harrowing books I read in 2016, and it has stuck with me ever since.

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh9780702254048

I cannot sing my praises loud enough for this book. Julie Koh has quickly become one of my all time creative crushes and I loved this collection of short stories for all the wit, humour and intelligence she brings to them. I implore everyone to go out and get yourself a copy, if only so when people are talking about Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them you keep accidently replacing beasts with breasts in the back of your mind (damn you Julie).

Read the full review I wrote for it last year here.

 

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti 9781472234377

I was lucky enough to be given an uncorrected proof copy of the upcoming The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by the lovely folks at Hachette Australia and it was completely addictive. The day after I finished it, I had a book hangover – the mark of a truly amazing book. I don’t want to say too much about it other than it is the kind of book that everyone will love, regardless of their taste in books, it is that sort of book. Keep an eye out for it when it is released in April 2017.

 

 

Honourable Mentions

  • Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

There was no way I could not write a list like this without mentioning at least one of the new editions to the Harry Potter Universe. Whilst I have not read Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them as yet, I am so grateful for J.K. Rowling’s new books and potentially my favourite line in Harry Potter history – “Ethel. Cancel the goblins.”

  • Browse edited by Henry Hitchings

This brilliant collection of essays about books, bookshops and the magic of those spaces is one of my favourite yet. I devoured it in a few train trips.

  • Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisago Buchanan

A beautifully enchanting tale combining themes broken family, art, parenthood, relationships, immigration, the sixties, New York, Berlin, Japanese culture together to create one of the best books I have read about art and identity in a while.

  • Soft In The Head by Marie Sabine Roger

This is a book that climbs into your heart and sets up camp there for long after you have turned the final page. The whole time I was reading it, I was mesmerised by the gentle and understated loveliness of it. Perfect for lovers of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time and The Rosie Project.

  • The Man I Became by Peter Verhelst

I came across this book in one of my favourite indie bookshops. Whilst it gifted me with an incredible fable like story, it also re-ignited my passion for literature in translation and introduced me to the brilliant work of London based publishing house Peirene Press.

 

I read so many great books in 2016, and while many of them aren’t listed here, I am incredibly grateful for all the people who worked to write, edit, translate, publish, and sell them. Stories are one of the best things in the world, and I can’t wait to lose myself in more of them in 2017.

So what were your favourite books of 2016? Please share them with me in the comments below, and tell me what books you are looking forward to reading in 2017.

 

© Hayley New 2017