Top Ten Reads of 2015 So Far

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Hurrah for a Top Ten Tuesday – and one where I’m not working, to boot. I had no idea what to expect of my reading this year. On the one hand: no more formal studying! On the other hand: real-life doctoring with long calls and boring admin. But it has gone well – in fact, as of 18 June I was done with my 2015 reading goals (namely to read 30 books). Not, you know, like that is going to STOP me or anything.

I’ve read some great books these six months! And… some awful ones too. But we won’t dwell on those. Here are the top 10 I’ve read so far.

10. The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson (non-fiction, science)

If you doubted my nerdiness then this book should confirm it. But seriously: my least favourite part of high school Biology was Botany, and I do think that I would have felt different had I read this book. It’s AWESOME. Not an awkward dinner party goes by where I don’t bring up something I’ve read in this book.

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9. My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp (YA, contemporary)

Moonshine and a Southern romance. I enjoyed this a bit more than I anticipated.

8. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (YA, mental health, contemporary)

So like me to include a book about mental health; very unlike me to enjoy a book that is fairly light and chick-litty.

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7. Death of a Saint by Lily Herne (YA, horror)

The sequel to Deadlands (Zombies! Cape Town!) and a South African roadtrip. I liked this one MORE than the first book and so wish more people would read the series. Currently waiting for the third book to arrive in the mail, whoop!

6. White Cat by Holly Black (YA, fantasy)

WELL KNOCK MY SOCKS OFF. Most underrated series EVER, and you should read Cait’s review because I didn’t write one.

5. The Milk of Birds by Sylvia Whitman (YA, contemporary, African)

Sudan, war, pen-pals, girls. I was annoyed by a few things but it made me cry and since I’m a total masochist it wins all the stars.

4. Undertow by Michael Buckley (sci-fi, YA)

It’s a series and I fully intend on reading the sequels. It’s that good. I’m just waiting for the fandom to sprout like a mushroom circle. Any day now!

3. Suicide Med by Freida McFadden (mystery, thriller, med school)

Ah. This one. Just. Lovely. Thrilling. Funny. So good.

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2. Finders Weepers by Penny Lorimer (contemporary, crime thriller, South African)

I was so impressed with this book! It’s set in my HOME PROVINCE and it is so gorgeous and somehow still a great crime thriller. Everybody should read it. South Africans, but everyone else too. Review pending.

1. A Man of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg (journalism, African, non-fiction)

Well now. THIS book is probably one of my top ten books of ALL TIME. (I don’t have such a list but if I did it would be on it.) It’s short-listed for the 2015 Alan Paton award so I’m not alone in this either. Since about 59.5 million people worldwide are currently forcibly displaced and 19.5 million are formally classified as refugees, it’s more than relevant; but the beauty of it is that this book reads beautifully – as I have come to expect of Steinberg’s work.

Top Ten Top-Tens

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Happy fifth birthday to Top Ten Tuesdays! I first did a TTT in November 2010, but TTT debuted in June 2010. In celebration, this week’s TTT is about our ten favourite Top Ten Tuesdays. So, here you go! Each time I will link to my post and also to the link-up on The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Top Ten Bookish Memories | My Post | TTT

I’m very proud of this one because I did it for a freebie on 10 July 2012, and then it was chosen as a topic for 5 February 2013. Also, I got a lot of interaction on this post and it made me happy.

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A Lighter Take on Mental Health | Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

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If you’re a regular here, you know how much I care about mental health, not just in the medical sense (although I do LOVE psychiatry!) but also in terms of the way it is presented in popular culture. Including books. Books count as popular culture, right?!

I must admit that before Finding Audrey I had never read a book featuring any of the anxiety spectrum disorders (I think…). Weird I guess. But I’ve had a good number of patients with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder (with and without agoraphobia) so at least I’m not entirely unschooled.

Sophie Kinsella is kind of a big deal, and this is her first foray into YA. To be honest, I’ve heard of her but I’ve never read her before.  But it could have been anyone who wrote it really, I was still going to request it on NetGalley (thanks, Penguin Random House Children’s UK!). Continue reading

Sea Aliens! Secrets! Coney Island! (Read this Book)

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Every once in a while, NetGalley sends out these emails where the first 500 members get an eARC to READ NOW. I love these, because they are usually from publishers who are notoriously stingy with their review copies, especially to non-US reviewers. So, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I know I’m not your favourite kind of reviewer, but this South African reviewer is very happy I got the chance to read this. Bring this book to ZA!

Now that that’s done: it’s no cliffhanger that I enjoyed this book. I’ve actually had a spate of poorly-chosen review titles (e.g. this one), so it was really nice to read a review copy that didn’t feel like WORK.

That said, when I first read the blurb (AFTER I already requested this book) I kind of went, “Oh. Shit.” Because the description focuses a whole lot on ROMANCE and if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s when a good action book is ruined by an overload of romance. Continue reading

The Best Med School Fiction I’ve Read

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I read a lot of medical fiction. I even have some lists about them (fiction and non-fiction, actually). I think I just read one of my favourites: Suicide Med by Freida McFadden, aka Fizzy McFizz. She also wrote The Devil Wears Scrubs, which I reviewed here.

In all honesty, I don’t think the blurb does it justice:

There’s a reason Southside Medical School has been nicknamed “Suicide Med.” For the last six years, every year one student has taken his own life. Except for last year. Last year was a murder-suicide.

The press has pointed to the heavy workload as the culprit in the high suicide rate. Some students believe that the school is cursed. And others believe that the deaths may not be suicides at all—that it’s no coincidence that Dr. Conlon, Southside’s quirky but beloved anatomy professor, joined the staff on the very year that the suicides began.

Either way, the same question echoes through the minds of every first year student at Suicide Med: Who will be next to die? Continue reading

Ten Books Which Feature Characters with Agency

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Sometimes I get really tired of reading books where characters don’t have control. Some of the most popular books out there have plots that happen to people. I don’t want life to happen to me, I want to happen to life, and I like to read books like that too.

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I first learned about the concept of “agency” during my Illness Narrative class during Semester at Sea. It’s still a concept that is hard to describe, but I think the gist of it is that someone with agency is able to act within and upon their environment.* To illustrate, the conclusion of Mockingjay really annoyed me because it essentially stripped Katniss of any semblance of agency she had (if you’ve read the books, I think you’ll understand). Continue reading

Paired Reading: Refugees and Displaced Persons in Africa

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While on holiday in Zambia I read two absolutely breathtaking books. I bought both of these books myself and was not asked to review them, but I feel the need to share them with everyone.

A prelude: The number of displaced persons in Africa is huge. We have many refugees and many internally displaced persons and in South Africa, the supposed land of milk and honey, many foreigners have been victims of xenophobia. This year especially has seen flares in violence against persons perceived to be foreigners There are a lot of politics underlying the whole story, and it’s not something I necessarily understand well enough to explain in simple terms, but it is tangible in this land.

Abandoned Somali shop, Makause, East Rand. By Richard Poplak. Click for link.

Abandoned Somali shop, Makause, East Rand. By Richard Poplak. Click for link.

Continue reading