Ten Books Which Feature Characters with Agency


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.

agency characters

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


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

Incredible Quotes


Work has been busy, so I find myself working on an unscheduled Top Ten Tuesday post because how can I let the opportunity to wallow in quotes go by? Brace yourself, you’re getting a fresh post!

1. Words and their Meanings by Kate Bassett

Base image by Deviantart: Holunder. Click for link.

Base image by Deviantart: Holunder. Click for link.

“Everyone gets one last line. But first lines, stories of love and loss and hope floating on backs of paper cranes? We choose how many of those we get to tell.” Continue reading

I Read a Book About CIPA


Remember that episode in House, M.D. with the girl who can’t feel pain? I remember watching that and thinking, THIS CAN’T BE REAL. (Hey, I was just a little first year at the time.) Google showed me the light, though, and so I learned a pretty important physiological lesson: pain has purpose.

Yeah, she had a six-foot tapeworm in her, in case you forgot the gory details.

I love reading YA with protagonists that aren’t perfect. Give me protags with OCD, PTSD, porphyria, cerebral palsy, autism… I want to read about all of the people in the world! I was elated when I heard that someone had written a book about CIPA – congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis. Continue reading

Reading Lumikki Andersson, the Finnish girl-sleuth


Lumikki is a Finnish-Swedish high school student with a propensity for landing in the middle of trouble that has nothing to do with her. She is independent, talented, and a little bit of a BAMF. In the middle of the Finnish winter, she stumbles upon blood-stained money (literally) and can’t not get involved. A while later, during the Prague summer, she gets involved with a dangerous cult and – guess what – can’t NOT get involved.

The Lumikki Andersson books are the kind that are action-packed, but they do require the reader to suspend their disbelief a little. This high-schooler has a lot of skills with virtually no reliable origin for obtaining them (no secret KBG-training, for example). She is intelligent and manages to outwit police officers, drug bosses and big corporates who just clearly have not managed to gain any wisdom during their many years on earth. Continue reading

Did You Know That Seeds Are Freaking Awesome?!


I love micro-histories – books that delve into the history and specifics of one small specific thing. One of my favourites is The Big Necessity by Rose George, about human waste (and the toilet). Just for balance, my least favourite is Stiff by Mary Roach.

The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson is about, well: seeds. I requested the book because the cover looked pretty cool and because, as I already said, I enjoy finding out really random and extensive things about one focused object. Continue reading

New Old Fairytales [Reviewing The Turnip Princess]


Most kids have a penchant for fairy tales, but as a kid, my favourites were the stories my dad made up for me. Legally-blind, he made up special characters just for me that far surpassed any Snow White. Of course I loved Disney, but I only really started appreciating the Grimm Brothers’ tales when I participated in a MOOC on Coursera called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. (It’s still a hugely popular course, check it out here.)

When I saw The Turnip Princess on NetGalley I could not resist it. Franz Xavier von Schönwerth is described as a “contemporary of the Brothers Grimm” so that grabbed my attention immediately!

When reading fairytales as an adult one perhaps should not expect to be quite as transported as a child would be. That said, these tales are probably not as suitable for children to begin with. Continue reading