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RWC 2020 - Personal Challenges > Sarah's 2020 RWC - 2nd year in a row!

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message 1: by SadieReadsAgain (last edited Dec 25, 2020 02:06PM) (new)

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments This will be my second RWC, and I'm excited! I do a few reading challenges, and I found in 2019 that the RWC was the most...well, challenging! I think that's indicative of a couple of things. Firstly, I'm trying to clear (and not add to!) my huge TBR shelves that I've built up over years, years in which I wasn't so conscious of reading as widely as I want to now and years in which the publishing world wasn't as dynamic as there is a push for it to become. But I do use my library service too, and so the second thing I think shows through in some of the struggles I had filling prompts last year is that there is still so far to go in upping the representation of authors who are not white, straight males.

I don't doubt that this year will be just as challenging, but that is what makes this challenge (and what Kendra and Autumn are doing with their podcast) so important.

My 2019 challenge home

✔ 01. A Book by an Author from the Caribbean or India :: The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani
✔ 02. A Book Translated from an Asian Language :: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
✔ 03. A Book about the Environment :: No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
✔ 04. Picture Book Written/Illustrated by a BIPOC Author :: We All Belong: A Children's Book about Diversity, Race and Empathy by Nathalie Goss
✔ 05. A Winner of the Stella Prize or the Women’s Prize for Fiction :: The Power by Naomi Alderman
✔ 06. A Nonfiction Title by a Woman Historian :: Scottish Women's Fiction, 1920s to 1960s: Journey into Being by Carol Anderson
✔ 07. A Book Featuring Afrofuturism or Africanfuturism :: Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
✔08. An Anthology by Multiple Authors :: #MeToo: Essays About How and Why This Happened, What It Means and How to Make Sure it Never Happens by Lori Perkins
✔ 09. A Book Inspired by Folklore :: The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
✔ 10. A Book About a Woman Artist :: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
✔ 11. Read and Watch a Book-to-Movie Adaptation :: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
✔ 12. A Book About a Woman Who Inspires You :: All Made Up by Janice Galloway
✔ 13. A Book by an Arab Woman :: The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
✔ 14. A Book Set in Japan or by a Japanese Author :: Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki
✔ 15. A Biography :: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold
✔ 16. A Book Featuring a Woman with a Disability :: Still Alice by Lisa Genova
✔ 17. A Book Over 500 Pages :: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
✔ 18. A Book Under 100 Pages :: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
✔ 19. A Book That’s Frequently Recommended to You :: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
✔ 20. A Feel-Good or Happy Book :: Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
✔ 21. A Book about Food :: Eat Up: Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want by Ruby Tandoh
✔ 22. A Book by Either a Favorite or a New-to-You Publisher :: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
✔ 23. A Book by an LGBTQ+ Author :: The Whole Story and Other Stories by Ali Smith
✔ 24. A Book from the 2019 Reading Women Award Shortlists and Honorable Mentions :: Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson

✔ 25. A Book by Toni Morrison :: The Bluest Eye
✔ 26. A Book by Isabel Allende :: The House of the Spirits

message 2: by SadieReadsAgain (last edited Feb 12, 2020 02:34PM) (new)

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 20 :: A Feel-Good or Happy Book

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West ★★★★★
Shrill by Lindy West

I love a good feminist read, but I think my favourite type of feminism is that which relates the more high-brow theory to real life and does so with a hefty dose of humour, well seasoned with gutter talk. Lindy West serves up just my kind of dish. That she does so from the perspective of someone with a fat body just made this even more delicious. She slays trolls, comedians who trawl the trauma of rape for cheap laughs, and the nonsensical anti-abortion right, all whilst remaining honest and vulnerable about who she is and where she has been. As a comedy fan myself, she puts into words a lot of the feelings I have had when male comics make jokes about things which a) victimise those who have experienced them and b) which their privilege of being male means they are much less likely to experience. I know that crushing disappointment when a comedian you admire lowers himself to shock tactics to milk some laughs. I love that she takes a stand against the "you just don't have a sense of humour" argument used to silence minorities when they dare to question what is or isn't funny. I didn't know anything about Lindy before I read this book, but that doesn't detract from the reading experience, and having read her book I absolutely want to read more of her work.

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 07 :: A Book Featuring Afrofuturism or Africanfuturism

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman ★★★★☆
Noughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses, #1) by Malorie Blackman

I'd heard a lot about this book over the years, and the concept is so simple but totally genius. What would the world and life for those in it look like if we lived in a black supremacist society rather than the white one we're all stuck in? And reading it was fascinating and threw up so many interesting points. It's crazy to me that so many people have shelved this as dystopian, when really it is so close to the lived experience of many people in our society even today. The reading of this book should really make that more than evident, and I'd question anyone who walked away from this book without pausing to think on that.

That this is a YA book really makes me happy, because it doesn't shy aware from such a real topic and instead makes it relevant to readers at an age where their opinions are hopefully still malleable. As an adult reader, the writing and characters didn't do a whole lot for me, but I don't think that matters. It was still an enjoyable read, one I feel is accessible enough for even reluctant readers.

The negative, for me, is the assumption that black people (Crosses) would be just as awful to white people (noughts) as white people have been (and sadly often still are) to black people if the tables of power were turned. Obviously, I understand why Blackman made that supposition - without it there would be no story. But it just made me sad to think like that, especially considering that in some ways the powerful Crosses are actually worse to the noughts - in this world, slavery lasted a lot longer and segregation still exists despite it being set in what I assume to be more modern times. But maybe that says more about my naivety regarding the corruption and malice that comes with power. Perhaps the very fact of gaining and holding power is a great equaliser, in that it makes those who have it act in disgusting ways to those who don't...I hope not, for all our sakes.

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 26 :: A Book by Isabel Allende

The House of the Spirits ★★★★☆
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

I came to this book with no expectations, knowing only that I'd heard that of all Allende's books this is probably one of the best and it felt like a good place to start. And I wasn't disappointed, particularly as this book is a family saga set in a country I don't know a lot about - two things which will always appeal to me. But it takes more than a good premise to make a book worth reading, and this book has so much going for it. I loved the touches of magical realism, but that they were more accents to a book much more fully grounded in reality. And that reality was so fascinating - the power struggles of Chile throughout the 20th century, the class divides and prejudices of a society and how those play out within a family when the generations have different views, or when their hearts draw them to people across those divides. The story allows the ripples of time to pass so that the actions of one person or group can be seen as they spread across generations. There is so much sadness and violence in this story, it is a story of endurance and change. At times it can make for tough reading, and not all the characters are likeable. But at the same time, none are without understandable motivation. I was engaged the whole way through this story, and I'm intrigued to read more of Allende's work.

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 25 :: A Book by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye ★★★★☆
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

This is the second book I've read by Toni Morrison and I should have known after Beloved to expect another gut punch. I value her writing so much, particularly as a white person who has no experience of the race politics of America. And this book, to me, is much broader in terms of the wealth of characters and the examination of the contributing factors to the way those characters live and treat others. There are still elements that are just as shocking and deeply disturbing to read, but I think I'm learning that this is where Morrison's talent comes to the fore -these plot points are shocking but not for shock value. She doesn't flinch from the unpalatable, but she approaches these elements with a raw honesty and there is always a vital point that she is making with them. The internalisation of racism and the impact of life experiences (particularly early life experiences) are at the core of this story, and it is heartbreaking. But rather than being a tough read, this is such a page turner. I loved how interspersed with the main story are character studies of others who either play a role or who just add depth to the small universe in which the story takes place. This is a really engrossing read, and I know I need to read more of her work because her voice and the stories she told with it are so important.

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 01 :: A Book by an Author from the Caribbean or India

The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani ★★★★☆
The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani

I think it takes a special book for me to see past factual inaccuracies, implausibility and cheesiness. So this book must be special. Yes, the details of both modern-day and historic India were glaringly...wrong, verging on hokey. Even to me, as someone with basically no experience and very limited knowledge. And absolutely there is a lot of artistic license taken in terms of language barriers and societal factors. I wont even touch on the saccharine ending. But you know what? I didn't care. Because I didn't feel that those were offensive or minimised any struggles, and because this book has such a pure heart. India comes alive on the pages, I fell (even more) in love with the country, particularly in the descriptions of the Hindu celebrations. The story opens up like a blossoming rose - yes, you may know what it's going to look like when the petals are fully open but who doesn't appreciate a beautiful rose? Particularly given the themes in this book - pregnancy loss, family alienation, persecution of a race - it's odd to say this, but it is heartwarming read. The story flew in, I just had to know what happened next, and I devoured it.

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 18 :: A Book Under 100 Pages

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman ★★★★★
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I am so glad this story wasn't any longer, because I couldn't have taken much more of it. I don't think I've ever read such a razor sharp, terrifying depiction of a mind caving in on itself. Any more, and I'd have been clawing at that yellow wallpaper myself, desperate to rescue the narrator in order to save us both. The claustrophobia and detachment from reality is suffocating as you observe this highly articulate and self-aware narrator fall deeper into her illness. The wry comments on how she is treated allows you to see just how those around her and the general mindset of the time facilitate her plunge into psychosis. The whole thing just comes together as a true horror story of just how close any of us could be to that invisible (at least to the sufferer) line between sanity and mental illness. I was so thoroughly creeped out by the end that I haven't even been able to organise my thoughts on how this is also such a brilliant statement about the rights of women... What an incredible story.

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 08 :: An Anthology by Multiple Authors

#MeToo: Essays About How and Why This Happened, What It Means and How to Make Sure it Never Happens by Lori Perkins ★★★★☆
#MeToo Essays About How and Why This Happened, What It Means and How to Make Sure it Never Happens by Lori Perkins

I think the subtitle basically tells you what this book is all about. But I will add that it is a collection of essays from different individuals, including men*, so the perspectives and experiences shared or alluded to are mixed. But they all come together with a powerful message, and that is really what the purpose of this book is. As with many anthologies, the pieces are on a spectrum. They range from analytical to emotional, and there are pieces that are stronger than others. But this is a protest book, it is raw and reactionary, maybe unpolished. That doesn't detract from the fact that it is important, and it still managed to be a good read. My only criticism is that it is very US-centric, but it's only a nit-pick at best because the movement began in the US, it's key antagonists are from the world of Hollywood, and unfortunately sexual abuse and harassment translate easily into every culture and language on earth.

*I didn't realise this until I was reading it, but I think there are only 2 at most so I'm still counting it.

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 11 :: Read and Watch a Book-to-Movie Adaptation

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier ★★★★★
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This book is perfection. From just a few pages in I was hooked, and the story whipped me along its gloomy passageways as if caught in a current. I don't even know where to start - what did I love about this so much? Perhaps it was the gothic tone, the imposing presence of Manderley or the atmosphere of menace within its walls. Perhaps it was the ever-present ghost of Rebecca, whose hand touched everything our young, naive narrator touches as she attempts to fill her shoes in the role of Mrs de Winter. Perhaps it was the mystery of Rebecca's death and the shady, shifting house staff with their secrets and loyalties. Or perhaps it was because this book is a total masterpiece, elegantly written and never showing its hand until the crucial moment. Sometimes I struggle to review books I've absolutely adored because anything I want to say sounds naff or hyperbolic, and this book is no exception. So perhaps less is more, and I'll leave it at that?

I watched the Hitchcock adaptation, which I thought was pretty faithful although there were some changes and I really didn't agree with the casting of Mrs Danvers!

message 10: by SadieReadsAgain (last edited May 21, 2020 12:55PM) (new)

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 21 :: A Book about Food

Eat Up: Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want by Ruby Tandoh ★★★★☆
Eat Up Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want by Ruby Tandoh by Ruby Tandoh

This book was so much more than I hoped it would be. I saw Ruby on the Bake Off and really liked her, and when I heard this book being discussed on a podcast I knew I needed to read it. They'd discussed how this book reaches deeper than just recipes, and it so does. This is a book about how food is part of and contributes to everything in life. As someone who has struggled with disordered eating and extremes of weight all my life, this is something I struggle with. Ruby understands that, her writing is rooted in the dichotomies so many of us wrestle. But she always makes a compelling case for food being the angel rather than the devil on our shoulders, and I felt that like a bear hug. This book covers so many topics - religion, family, emotion, class...its scope is so wide. But it doesn't feel like it's overreaching, it's a cosy and succinct read with a gentle flow. Ruby is a talented writer, with a sense of humour. Like many foodies, she romanticises food. But the food she romanticises is the stuff in your cupboards, or at the very least in your local Spar, and it's through her understanding of those ingredients that the love comes through. This is such a warm, comforting book...and her recipes are the perfect accompaniment.

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SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 19 :: A Book That’s Frequently Recommended to You

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern ★★★★★
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Someone tell me why I resisted this book for so long? I was so busy claiming not to like fantasy that I nearly missed this absolute treasure. But what could be more fantastical than an enchanted circus, the monochrome arena for a contest between two wielders of stunning magic and their shady puppet masters. The true magician here is Morgenstern, as even for a sceptic like me none of this felt unbelievable. I had no doubt that everything in this book was real. And maybe that was me being enchanted by the circus, perhaps I was also under a spell. Because I can acknowledge that the characters were not as deep as they could have been, that the romance felt a little cool for the stakes. But it didn't matter. And why? Because this book isn't a love story, it isn't a character study, it is a pure celebration of the power of magic. The beauty of illusion...when that illusion is completely real. The joy of something without purpose, which exists simply for the enjoyment of being in it. What begins as a competition between two egomaniacal old sorcerers becomes something so much more, so separate from them, that it has to endure. At any cost. Stunning.

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SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 117 comments 09 :: A Book Inspired by Folklore

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan ★★★★★
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

I went into this book expecting Scottish folklore and fairy tales...I didn't get that, at all. Instead, I got something I didn't even know I wanted, and I'm so glad for it. A world flooded, where people identify not by country or religion or colour, but whether they live on the little land that is left or whether they make their life at sea. A sailing circus, with genderbending acts and a girl with a bear, run by a deep-hearted ringmaster with a misplaced trust in his arrogant wife. A banished woman who makes her life as a Gracekeeper, putting to rest the bodies of the sea-dwellers and tending to their watery graveyards. I read this at the same time as The Night Circus, and it was as if they were ganging up on me to prove see, you do like fantasy. Say it!! Turns out, an otherworldly circus is totally my jam. North and Callanish are two women caught between land and sea for different reasons, brought together by the mysteries of the water. The world building in this book is incredible, and Logan's writing has such a clean beauty about it that I was utterly mesmerised by this book. The ending would have broken me if it weren't for the hope that lay within it. I want to cuddle in to North's bear and read the next book, as my coracle is gently rocked by the sea. I would definitely be a dampling.

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