Posted in Book review, Uncategorized

Our Women on the Ground Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World by Zahra Hankir

We all believe that we know the Arab world. We see it on our screens and in our newspapers. We see Arab men fighting. We see other men, generally white western men, filming those male fighters. It’s easy to believe that women don’t exist within this world. We imagine that, if they do exist, they are absent from the public life of the realm. Actually, this is far from the truth. Female journalists are very active in this part of the globe. We just don’t see or notice them. They are reporting for; the international press, local media, blogging outlets, personal blogs, and, social network platforms. They have a wealth of experience to share. But, that experience often goes unreported. This book seeks to put that right.

‘Our Women on the Ground‘ is made up of the stories of the female journalists who have experience of reporting on, and from, this region. It includes women from all, or at least many of, the countries that make up this diverse part of the world. There are the stories of journalists who are active. There are the reminiscences of those who have retired. There are essays from women who still live in the region. There are articles from those women who are now, sadly, in exile.

Each essay has a different tone and focus. Some focus on the choice, or dilemmas, involved in juggling work and family life. Others speak of being active in a world that expects women to be passive. They speak of fighting, family editors and other journalists, for the right to write. They speak of the perils of being an out-spoken journalist in a world hostile to journalists. These women talk of; hope, despair, fear, and burn out. But, most are imbued with a sense of survival and resistance. They are totally different. They are all indispensable reading.

Posted in booker

Man booked long list announced

The 2019 longlist, or ‘Booker Dozen’, of 13 novels, is:

  • Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
  • Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)
  • Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)
  • Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
  • Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)
  • John Lanchester (UK), The Wall (Faber & Faber)
  • Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive (4thEstate)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)
  • Max Porter (UK), Lanny (Faber & Faber)
  • Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)
  • Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
  • Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)

I plan to read the list. What about you? Are you excited? Anything you wish was on the list?

Posted in Uncategorized, Weekly wrap up

Weekly wrap up


For the week ending 29th June 2019


Rain, Rain and more rain, will it ever end?  I have managed to put up three posts this week, or at least I will when this one goes live.  I have read two books:  My name is Monster, by Katie Howe and The Hounds of Justice by Claire O’Dell.  (both of which were given to me by the publishers in the hope of an honest review),   Both were good books.  I will review Hounds of Justice in full later. 



My name is Monster focuses on the experiences of an eponymous protagonist as she moves through a desolate landscape.  Her world has been destroyed: first, by a war; then, by a deadly infectious disease. She, one of the survivors, travels through a destructed physical landscape. As monster travels, she is engrossed with her own mental landscape; a mental landscape of half formed memories. Her memories of childhood return in flashes and dreams.  One by one, she pulls out memories of the events, and people, that constitute the landscape of her childhood.    This bleak, but ultimately hopeful book, explores: – gender, self-identification and survival. 


The book utilizes lyrical writing to bring alive its world. The slow pace really mirrors the characters slow progress through this empty physical landscape and the confusing mental landscape of her childhood memories.  Yet, these same factors, the boring tempo of both plot and language, could make for   a difficult read, particularly if you like a fast-paced plot.  I highly commend this book for those who like, or who can get past, its slow pace.


I am presently still making my way through Sara Sheridan’s back list.  In addition, I have just started the Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite.  I am listening to; How to Survive a Plague by David France and the Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan.






Posted in throwback Thursdays

Throw back Thursday; To Turn the World Keisha N. Blain and Tiffany M. Gill Source Netgalley (in the hope of an honest review)

Black Studies, and activism, have always had an interest in studying and participating in; Pan-Africanism, Black internationalism, and the connections that exist between various sections of the international Black Diaspora. However, as Keisha N. Blain and Tiffany M. Gill inform us, the focus of these studies centred on the activities of men. To Turn the World seeks to rectify this omission, highlighting the role of women in the struggle for an international Black identity.

To Turn The World is an anthology of essays concerning the role of women within the Black internationalist community. The various authors explore the lives of a varied sample of these women. It takes a look at the lives: of the wives/widows of Black activists, such as; Eslanda Robeson, and lesser known women who were simply acting as tourist activists. The Authors focus on women occupying the roles of; tourist, journalist, unofficial diplomats, or activists. The book spans the globe; from the USA to Europe and from Australia to Haiti.

These essays give a glimpse of the activities of a hidden group of activists, adding to an ever growing cannon of works that seek to explore the role of women within history. It is an enjoyable, and informative work.

Posted in Book review

Frankissstein A Love Story By Jeanette Winterson

This book, based on Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein, has two narrative streams. The first, follows the circumstances around Mary Shelley’s creation of the book Frankenstein. The second centres upon the narrative of a transgender doctor, called Rye, and their relationship with the AI specialist Victor Stein. It poses two questions. What will a future, dominated by AI look like? And, will that future hold a place for women? Along the way, it looks at; Bodily autonomy, gender, sexuality and performance.

This book is an interesting read, but there’s very little new stuff here. Winterson is being Winterson. We have her standard stylistic tics, combining a modernist structure with a lyrical, almost Victorian writing style. After a lifetime of reading this author, her writing feels like a comfortable blanket rather than a shocking ride. In addition, the stories, and themes of this book have been covered time and time again. There have been many tales of the creation of Frankenstein and many retellings of the Frankenstein story.

In addition, there have been many books dealing with AI. The science fiction canon is full of them. Writers, such as; James Tiptree and Madeleine Ashby have all looked at issues around AI. This is not to say that there is no room for another book. It is just that the themes feel familiar.

However, Winterson’s focus on the main transgender character and her emphasis on women’s future give this work a slight edge. It’s always nice to get something new from this author, but this work didn’t blow me away.

Posted in Weekly wrap up

A very wet Weekly wrap up for the week beginning 10th June 2019

Credit Jon Ly (with many thanks) Via upslash

Will it ever stop raining. It’s been another wet and grey week. I have done a good amount of writing. Two blog posts have gone up this week. At least they will have gone up when this has been posted. I have two posts awaiting review and will, hopefully, appear next week.

Reading wise, I Have read Nine Flush Unicorn. This is the second in a series that began with the book Unicorn Space. This series is wonderfully surreal. While, at the same time being, very socially aware. The world of this book has; unicorns, ghosts, dryads, and other mythical creatures. Humans have gone into space. They have come into contact with planets full of mythical creatures with who have very useful magical powers, including the ability to enable very fast space travel. So, of course, humans do what humans do. They conquer the planet and enslave its inhabitants. This book examines the experiences of some of this world’s inhabitants. The series has a diverse group of characters, including people with disabilities and people who identify themselves as Queer. In addition, I read ‘notes to self’. This will receive a full review next week.

I am currently reading the second in the Brighton Belle series. (See last week’s wrap up). So far so good. Talk to you again next week.

Posted in throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday; bumper edition


I’ve still got a backlog of arcs needing review. So, this week I am reviewing three books

When most people think of James Baldwin they tend to think of the earlier work, written during the Civil Rights era. They tend to forget that Baldwin was alive and working during the Eighties. ‘James Baldwin in the 80’s’, by Joseph Vogel, seeks to rectify this omission. This work looks at: the films which Baldwin wrote at this time; the books that make up his later oeuvre; and his attitudes towards the issues of the day, such as; AIDS, gay rights and race relations. It argues that Baldwin disregarded the dominant dichotomy between high and low culture, exploring the films which Baldwin made during the early Eighties. In addition, Vogel explores Baldwin’s individuality, emphasizing his dual identity, being both; African American and gay. The author argues that these aspects of Baldwin’s life, and work, make him a perfect inspiration for our post post modern, intersectional, age.

Strip by Catlyn Ladd outlines the author’s experiences of being a stripper. It looks at her reasons for her choice of occupation and the positive benefits she gained from her choice, saying that it made her more positive about her body and sexuality. In addition, it looks at the abuses faced by the author and her colleagues. She compares her experiences with the narratives of her colleagues, before contrasting them with the myths surrounding, both; sex work, and the people who work in that sector.

Anyone who reads books will be interested in those works that got away. Anyone who loves the writing of a dead author has always dreamt of finding that lost manuscript. ‘in search of lost book’, Giorgio Van Straten, looks at those manuscripts, that primary sources tell us once existed, but have been either lost or destroyed. It is a highly informative, and enjoyable read.