Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Hello World

I read a lot of stuff last week – ticked a few more states off my 50 States Challenge and read a bunch of romances (with some favourite authors and some new ones), but I do like to mix things up a bit with my Book of the Week picks, so this week I have some popular science for you.

The cover of Hello World

Hello World is an examination of what algorithms are and how they work for (and against) us. Dr Hannah Fry is a mathmatician who specialises in looking at patterns and how they affect human behaviour. She’s also a broadcaster, podcaster and public speaker and her experience in communicating complicated theories over those mediums really shows in this. Now unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know that algorithms are a thing. They dictate what you see in your social media feeds, what comes up in search results but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hello World looks at the role of algorithms in data, healthcare, crime, art and more. If you’ve ever wondered how far off a fully autonomous car is, this will tell you and explain the challenges along the way – for the car and for the drivers. Could algorithms help with solving crime or predicting where crimes might happen. Do they have a role in sentencing or bail decisions fairer? How are they making decisions – and how do they say they’re making decisions?

As usually I’m a little bit behind the times – this came out in 2018 (and was nominated for some of the nonfiction writing prizes) so somethings have moved on a little from my copy (an advance copy for the hardback release that I got given by someone) but I found this absolutely fascinating – sometimes a little scary but also actually quite reassuring as well. I read a fair bit of non fiction but mostly history with occasional bits of science and medical non fiction and I find that books in this end of the spectrum are sometimes too technical or get too bogged down in the details but this absolutely does not do that. I don’t consider myself mathematically or scientifically minded, but this was clear and concise and easy to follow. And I think it’s a great book to read at the moment – we’re all trapped at home and more dependent on technology than ever before and this will give you an insight into some of that and although it might make you rethink some things it won’t but absolutely terrify you and make you want to disconnect everything!

You can get Hello World from all the usual sources. I’ve seen it on the popular science table in the chain bookstores and on the shelves at the supermarket. And of course it’s available in Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook from your audiobook vendor of choice. And if you’ve read this and liked this and want more popular science, can I point you in the direction of Mary Roach and her books.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 6 – July 12

Having lost what felt like pounds of hair, I am feeling a lot lighter in spirit as well. A lot of genres in this week’s reading – romance, non-fiction, horror, Girls Own, Literary fiction, mystery – aka pretty much the whole spectrum of what I read. Still got a lot of ongoing stuff though, but I’m working on it.

Read:

Hope Flames by Jaci Burton

On the Rocks by Sawyer Bennett

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Hello World by Hannah Fry

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Chalet School and the Lintons by Elinor M Brent-Dyer

First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde*

Started:

Not a Creature was Stirring by Christina Freeburn

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward*

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley

Still not counting…

Bonus photo: As the most important thing that happened last week was getting my hair cut, here is an in-progress picture. This is a lot of hair coming off (for me!!) after nearly 4 months without a cut!

Evidence of haircut!

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley

Book of the Week, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Not Your Sidekick

June was a tough month, and July started off looking like it was going to be more of the same. But I’m feeling much better about things now, because the Formula 1 was back at the weekend, and so life felt a little bit more normal. And it’s very much first world problems, and people have problems that are a lot more serious, but I’m due to get a hair cut this week, which has been something to look forward to because when you have hair as short as mine and you haven’t been able to have it cut for 15 weeks it looks a right state. I’ve never regretted cutting my hair short before – but there’s a first time for everything. Anyway, to the reading. Back to YA this week for Not Your Sidekick by C B Lee, a superhero-adjacent (sort of) adventure story.

Cover of Not Your Sidekick

Jessica Tran’s parents are superheroes. Ok, so they’re only C-class, which means they mostly just save their town from the pranks played by the town’s villians, the Mischiefs. Jessica’s sister is in superhero training, but Jessica herself hasn’t got any powers yet, and it’s not looking like she’s about to develop any. So when she gets an internship at a fancy tech company, it’s the most exciting thing that has happened to her in ages – and she gets to work with Abby, the school volleyball star she’s had a crush on forever. Except it turns out that she’s working for the Mischiefs, and it looks like there might be a dark undercurrent in the world of heroes and villains that she’s used to.

This is a fun and exciting adventure caper, which reminded me a bit of the Incredibles, with the juxtaposition of superpowers, secret identities and ordinary lives. Jessica is a great lead character, but she’s got a great gang of friends too. It doesn’t info dump on you, it really just puts you down in the world and leaves you to work out what has happened to Earth, and how everything works, which I though really helped with the pacing as well as giving you a level of uncertainty about who were the good guys and the bad guys. I had part of the plot at the tech company figured out fairly early on, and I’m not sure I was meant to – but I’m not in the target age range, so it may have seemed less obvious to the younger audience. But it’s a lot of fun, the unravelling at the end is great – although there is somewhat of a cliffhanger situation going on here – and Jessica and Abby are great fun together. It’s a lovely twist on the high school story and on a one girl to save the world type story (see also Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here). And there are two more books in the series (even if the sequel looks difficult to get hold of in the UK) with a third on the way.

My copy came from the library, but Not Your Sidekick is available now in paperback, audiobook, Kindle, Kobo and all the usual formats. I suspect the paperback will probably be a special order in the UK.

Happy Reading

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: June 29 – July 5

A much better week in reading – mostly because I used my days off at the start of the week to chill out and read. My next target is to try and clear the still reading list.

Read:

The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie Lau

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

Sisters by Raina Telgemaier

Welcome to Ballet School by Ashley Bouder*

Murder on a Mississippi Steamboat by Leighann Dobbs

The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine*

Harbor by Rebekah Weatherspoon**

Guts by Raina Telgemaier

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Started:

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde*

Hope Flames by Jaci Burton

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Hello World by Hannah Fry

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward*

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley

Still not counting. I ordered a few things this week, but I was much better behaved than I had been.

Bonus photo: Never have I regretted having short hair so much as since the hairdressers cut. I have an appointment booked for tomorrow and I cannot wait. It’s been 15 weeks since it was cut (instead of 5!) so it hasn’t been this long in probably a decade. People keep telling me that it looks fine (some even say it looks great!) but living with it is not so much fun – if a gust of wind catches it one way I have early 90s boyband curtains, another and I look like a budget Justin Bieber look alike.

Me in a facemask with out of control hair!

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley

books, stats

June Stats

New books read this month: 30*

Books from the to-read pile: 1

Ebooks read: 8

NetGalley books read: 7

Library books: 14 (all ebooks)

Non-fiction books: 6

Favourite book this month: Really hard to chose between the Talia Hibbert novels and The Vanishing Half

Most read author: Talia Hibbert – two full length novels

Books bought: still not counting

Books read in 2020: 161

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 584

As I mentioned over and over in my June posts, I was trying to focus my reading on books by non-white authors. And it turns out that although I had a lot of options in my unread books, most of them were ebooks, so the physical to-read pile has not diminished that much last month. I’m going to try and boost the number of actual books read this month.

Bonus picture: I may have impulsively decided to try and read a book set in every US state, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico before the end of the year. And as it’s made it into my journal, I’m going to have to do it now! I’ve been back through my reading so far this year since I drew this and I have around 20 ticked off already. Go me.

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (6 this month)

 

book round-ups

Recommendsday: Mini Reviews from June

Stats coming up tomorrow, but like last month, I want to keep to my posting schedule of first Wednesday of the month for the mini reviews, and it just happens in July that that is the first of the month!

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Cover of The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett’s first novel The Mothers, was a BotW pick here, but her second is maybe even better. The Vignes sisters are identical twins. They grew up in an African-American town in the Deep South, but ran away at 16 to start new lives together. Ten years later, one sister is back in their home town with their daughter, the other is passing as white, living a life where no one knows her racial identity. But their lives are still linked and fate will bring them together again. I got a copy of this book from NetGalley – but I enjoyed it so much I bought myself a (signed) copy of the hardback as well. It’s just brilliant. The stories are incredibly powerful and readable, the language is so wonderful – it absolutely conjures the variety of settings and times it features, and I loved the structure too – slowly revealing more and more of the stories of the women as it jumps around in time. Gorgeous.  Days (nearly weeks) later I’m still thinking about it. And if you do read it (or have already read it), the Book Riot podcast have done an episode about it, which I found really interesting too.

Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri*

Cover of Don't Touch My Hair

This is a wide ranging and compelling look at why black hair matters and why matters relating to it are so complicated. It’s about hair, but it’s also about the history of the oppression of black people across hundreds of years – from pre-colonial Africa through to the present day. I read this not long after reading A’Leila Bundle’s book about Madam C J Walker and it made for an interesting contrast – I thought that was a bit overly sympathetic at the time and I think now if I had read this first I wouldn’t have finished the other! This covers Madam CJ and puts her in her historical context as well as looking at other black entrepreneurs in the spectrum. But it’s much much broader than that. I learnt a lot. And if you’re looking for more books by black authors about black history and culture to read at the moment, this is a great choice. It’s also just come out in the US, but under a different title – Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture.

The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu*

Cover of The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney

This is a touching and readable first novel that looks at identity and belonging. Half-Nigerian Nnenna lives in Manchester, where she’s been brought up by her white mother who has never answered her questions about her father. She’s always had a close relationship with Joanie, but as she starts to explore her Igbo heritage, their relationship starts to fracture. Through the course of the novel the reader finds out what happened between Joanie and Maurice as well as watching Nnenna exploring who she is, who she wants to be and trying to work out a new sort of relationship with her mother. This would be a good read at any time, but as a white reader in this moment, there is so much here that is being talked about with the examination of systemic racism that is going on in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Made me think a lot as well as being an enjoyable read. A wonderful debut -and don’t just take my word for it, it has just been nominated for The Desmond Elliott Prize for the most outstanding novels of the last 12 months.

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

Cover of The Honey-Don't List

I’ve recommended Christina Lauren before, but just wanted to give this a quick mention too because it is a lot of fun. Carey has worked for Melissa and Rusty Tripp for a decade. She was there before their home design empire took off, and now she’s ringside for for the launch of their next TV show and latest book. Trouble is the Tripps can barely tolerate each other anymore and Carey has got to try and keep that fact a secret with only the help of Rusty’s new assistant James. James thought he was getting a job as a structural engineer, not as a PA but he can’t afford another gap in his CV so he’s stuck trying to keep the wheels on the Tripp bus with Carey. The two of them get on better than either of them every expected – but how can there possibly be any future for them as a couple? I was hoping for a bit more from the ending but hey I forgive it because it was so good and such a clever idea. Also I wonder what Chip and Jo think?!

And that’s your lot for this month. If you’ve missed the previous posts, here are the mini-reviews from May, April, March, February and January. And just in case you missed them, here are the books of the week from June: Me and White Supremacy, Take a Hint, Dani Brown, The Boyfriend Project, This Book is Anti-Racist and The Good Thieves.

Happy Reading!

*an asterix next to a title means it came from NetGalley, in return for an honest review (however belated that might be)

Uncategorized

Book of the Week: Me and White Supremacy

It’s nearly the end of June, and this week’s pick is one that has been on the in progress reading list for a few weeks. But that’s because it’s a work book, designed to do a day at a time and I’ve been really trying to do that. Last week was the week I got to the end of the book, but the work isn’t over and will never be over. I’m still thinking about what I learned and unpacking everything that I have discovered about myself.

Cover of Me and White Supremacy

Me and White Supremacy started as an Instagram challenge. In fact, the two year anniversary of the challenge fell this weekend just past. It became a free workbook and now in its expanded and published form it has become a New York Times bestselling book. If you’ve been seen the best seller lists or the anti-racism reading lists these past few weeks you’ll have seen this one on there. The idea of the book is that over the course of four weeks, readers will look at difference aspects of white supremacy and examine your own behaviours and biases. As a white person, it’s not comfortable, and it’s not easy. And it’s not something that you can dismiss as being an “American problem” – no matter how much you would like to. Layla F Saad is an East African, Arab, British, Black, Muslim woman who was born and grew up in the West, and lives in Middle East and writes from her experiences and perspective. Your reflex response may be not to agree with her, but do think about that and think about why you might be reacting that way, and then sit with it.

Reading one book isn’t a solution what’s going on at the moment, but it’s a good way to start and if you are white, you definitely want to read a book like this before you decide to wade in and try to “fix” things yourself. If you don’t know what I mean by that, then you probably need to read a book like this. You’ll find out why when you read it. Everyone wants to think of themselves as a good person, but you need more than good intentions to achieve that. Self-reflection is always hard, but add racism to the mix and it becomes even harder. So do yourself a favour and read this book (or something else from an antiracist reading list, preferably written by someone who is not white) in a quite corner, google anything you don’t understand, and think about what it’s telling you. And then go and read some more books and listen to some more people. And keep working at it.

Now there’s a lot of people doing this work at the moment, so it’s hard to buy a physical copy of this book – or most of the others on the various reading lists that are circulating. So place an order with your local indie – or with a black owned bookshop – and then be patient while you wait for the next print run to come through. They can’t make publishing work any faster. Alternatively you can buy the ebook in Kindle or Kobo. It’s £4.99 at the moment.

Keep Reading.

 

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: June 22 – June 28

So. I think this might have been the week that broke me. I mean I worked the weekend but I had days off during the week, but this list is shorter than usual. I feel like I read quite a lot, but I found it hard to keep my concentration going. And then there was the heat. I mean it wasn’t Nevada, but 30+ degrees is a lot for the UK – where we don’t have air-conditioning and really aren’t used to it. Still there’s a good mix of books on here, and there are more that are nearly finished.

Read:

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

On the Corner of Hope and Main by Beverly Jenkins

Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu*

Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad

Started:

The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley

The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie Lau

Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Hello World by Hannah Fry

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward*

The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine*

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Still not counting, still unable to stop myself from buying books at the first sign of any trouble or stress.

Bonus photo: Spotted in the office this weekend, and making me smile. I present: the Goat Cupboard.

A cupboard labelled Goat Cupboard

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Take a Hint Dani Brown

Back to my happy place in romance for this week’s Book of the Week. You might have noticed two Talia Hibbert books on yesterday’s reading list and they’re both excellent, but Take a Hint, Dani Brown is out today (Tuesday!) so it’s getting the pick, but I’m basically going to talk about both of them.

Danika Brown knows what she wants from life: professional success and whatever the academic equivalent is of her name up lights. There is no place in her plan for relationships – she’s tried that before and got burned. So after her latest friend-with-benefits decides she wants more from the relationship than Dani is prepared to give, she asks the universe to send her the perfect no-strings partner. So when Zafir, the grumpy security guard she chats to on the way in to work, rescues her from a firedrill gone wrong, she thinks it a sign. Trouble is, that someone filmed the rescue and now it’s trending on the internet and is one half of #DrRugbae. But it turns out that Zaf has a sports charity – and it could really use the publicity and soon the two of them are playing along for the internet and fake dating. Dani’s plan is to try and seduce him behind the scenes, but Zaf is a secret romantic, with some issues of his own. Life is about to get very complicated.

I have mentioned before that I love a fake-relationship story and this ticked all of my boxes. Dani and Zaf are great leading characters and both have a backstory that totally explains why they are the way they are. And as they go about faking their relationship for social media, the two of them have the best banter. Dani’s sisters (more on them in a minute) are great – as are Zaf’s best friend and nieces. The resolution at the end is totally in keeping with their characters and what’s gone on before so it just left me with a big happy smile on my face. As well as the banter between the characters, the narrative has such a witty turn of phrase that it will make you giggle.

Cover of Get A Life Chloe Brown

Now this is the second book in the series – the first was about Dani’s older sister Chloe, and the last in the series will be about the other Brown sister, Eve. And as I mentioned at the top, I also read Get a Life, Chloe Brown last week. Chloe is a computer geek with a chronic illness, who comes up a plan to get a life after a sort-of near death experience. Top of the list is getting her own place and that’s where she meets Redford Morgan, her new building’s handyman who paints at night when he thinks no one is watching. Except that Chloe sort of is. Chloe and Red make a great pair and I love the way that they navigate their relationship as well as their personal hurdles. They’ve both got legitimate reasons for all of their understandings, and pretty much every time I thought things were about to get derailed by something that could be fixed with a conversation, they immediately had the conversation. I also really liked that Chloe’s health problems weren’t cured by a magic penis/amazing sex – she’s still got them at the end of the book, but she’s also got a partner who understands her and supports her. Chloe (and Red) make supporting appearances in this book, as does Eve in both books and I’m throughly looking forward to seeng what Hibbert has in store for her in the final book in the series, Act Your Age, Eve Brown which is coming next year. And if you want an example of that witty dialogue that I mentioned earlier, here’s a quote:

 

Since Gigi wasn’t wearing a head scarf this afternoon, her chic crop of white coils on display, Chloe had absolutely no idea where the Marlboro had been hidden. Her knickers? Up one nostril? In an alternate dimension she accessed at will? God only knew.

I bought my copy of Get a Life, Chloe Brown, but my copy of Take a Hint, Dani Brown came from NetGalley. You should be able to get hold of both of them fairly easily I would hope – because they’re published by Piatkus. If you want an ebook here are your links: Chloe Brown Kindle and Kobo and Dani Brown Kindle and Kobo. And Chloe is only £2.99 as I write this, which is a bit of a bargain.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: June 14 – June 21

Another weird week in Verity-world, with a newly chipped tooth and more problems concentrating the main causes. But it could be so much worse. And as with all the other weeks in this month so far, I’m concentrating on black and other non-white authors for my reading – except when library books are coming up to the end of their loans and aren’t renewable.

Read:

Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri*

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

sugar, butter, flour, love by Nicole Falls

Take A Hint Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert*

Crystal Clear by Beverly Jenkins

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett*

A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones

Started:

The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine*

Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu*

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Hello World by Hannah Fry

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward*

I’m still not counting, but among my purchases were pre-orders for the new books from Tracey Livesay and Kwana Jackson, and the Beverly Jenkins on the read list and Alyssa Cole’s The AI Who Loved Me

Bonus photo: Some nice calming leaves and sky. Because nature and calming is good right now.

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.