[Saman Booker 2019] Serial Killers, Boats to Tangier, and Frankisses

Since the Booker Shortlist was announced yesterday and I didn’t have time to type these up before I accidentally spoilt myself and discovered the results, I’ve taken out the prediction sections of each review.

Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister, The Serial Killer

Start date: 22 August
End date: 26 August
Total reading time: 1 hour 36 minutes (in 2 days)

Initial impressions:

What I liked:

  • The portrayal of gender roles, female agency and oppression, family
  • Fast-paced!
  • Pretty humorous

What I disliked:

  • Too humorous – more seriousness would’ve given it a better balance so the humour could shine through even more
  • Unsatisfying conclusion
  • Not enough character depth

A quick read that was enjoyable at the time, but won’t leave a lasting impact on me.

Personal rating: 2.5/5
Personal shortlist: Nope
Personal winner: Nope

Kevin Barry – Night Boat to Tangier

Start date: 28 August
End date: 30 August
Total reading time: 1 hour 33 minutes (in 2 days)

I’m not bothering with much of a review on this one because it was my least favourite of the longlist so far. I didn’t like the voice, writing style, or the characters. There’s something to be said about the subject matters explored (masculine identities, ageing, coping with change), but other than that, it was all pretty meh to me.

Personal rating: 2/5
Personal shortlist: Nope
Personal winner: Nope

Jeanette Winterson – Frankissstein

Start date: 1 September
End date: 3 September
Total reading time: 3 hours 15 minutes (in 3 days)

What I liked:

  • Frankenstein is one of my favourite novels, so I adored everything about this premise!
  • All the amazing 21stC character! Ry is fantastic! <3
  • The explorations of sexuality and identity
  • The glorious intertextuality, especially re: Shakespeare
  • Oh, the ideas and philosophies in this novel! <3
  • The writing style in the 21stC sections
  • The creation of the monster

What I disliked:

  • Most of the 19thC parts. Was it really necessary? Could the writing have been less…21stC?
  • I just couldn’t deal with Mary Shelley’s 1st-person POV

This is definitely my second favourite of the longlist so far. I enjoyed all the big questions the book raised, and I’m definitely going to re-read this in the future, possibly along with a re-read of Frankenstein. The novel also achieves a nice balance of literary and accessible, which means I’ll incorporate it into my teaching curriculum – all the themes and values are so pertinent today!

My only qualm was with the bits set in the 19thC, but this is possibly due to my knowledge of the time period (my MA was in Romantic and Victorian Literature, and I have a keen interest in the long 18thC). I couldn’t turn off my scholarly brain every time Mary Shelley’s character narrated from her POV. Since I read a loooooot of fanfiction, I just wasn’t impressed with Winterson’s take on literary real-people fic. But don’t let that deter you, because this novel is pretty fantastic overall!

Personal rating: 4/5
Personal shortlist: Definitely
Personal winner: Possibly

[Saman Booker 2019] Max Porter – LANNY

This was the novel I didn’t know I needed. <3


Start date: 14 August
End date: 15 August
Total reading time: 1 hour 41 minutes (in 2 days)

Initial impressions:
An intriguing voice and style – it took me a few pages to unravel what was going on, but once I got there, I was hooked.

What I liked:
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[Saman Booker 2019] John Lanchester – THE WALL

My second ‘Saman Booker 2019’ novel!


Start date: 3 August
End date: 4 August
Total reading time: 2 hours 47 minutes (over 2 days)

Initial impressions:
The narrative voice and dystopian premise got me from the first few pages – I was really keen on discovering more about the world, the characters, and where the story was going! Unfortunately, the first 20% of the novel was probably the best bit.

What I liked:
– The timely dystopian premise: sea levels have risen to the point where Great Britain has erected a wall to keep water and outsides (known as ‘Others’) out
– The main and supporting characters initially
– The overall setting – not just the wall, but the other parts of Great Britain where it was more or less business as usual

What I disliked:
– The characters didn’t really develop, so they were quite flat by the novel’s end
– The ‘romantic’ plot just didn’t work for me
– The anticlimactic ending (and really the second half in general)

Despite an intriguing start with sections I enjoyed, The Wall was ultimately an unsatisfying novel that had a thought-provoking dystopian premise but failed to use it well. Fortunately, it was a fairly quick and easy read so it didn’t drag on for me.

Personal rating: 3/5
Personal shortlist: Possibly
Personal winner: Nope

Professional rating: 2/5
Booker shortlist: Unlikely
Booker winner: Unlikely

[Saman Booker 2019] Intro + LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE

Ever since I’d discovered the existence of the Man Booker Prize, I’ve wanted to read all the longlisted titles and devise my own shortlist and winner. Life, of course, has the tendency to get in the way of that particular ambition – until this year! I prepared my calendar, list, book purchases, pre-orders, and so on – and I’m pleased to present the Saman(tha) Booker 2019!


I’m giving myself a 15-minute timer to convert all my scribbled notes into semi-structured reviews for each book. The first one is Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive!


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My 2018 in Books

Happy New Year from Sydney, Australia! Throughout the past 2.5 years, I have been constantly ashamed to see I haven’t updated my blog since June 2016, when I was frolicking around in Finland – in fact, some of the posts on my homepage were from the glorious pre-Brexit days!

A lot has happened over the last 2.5 years (I was awarded my PhD, I moved back to Sydney semi-permanently, I started an English tutoring business, etc etc), but the one thing that’s remained the same is my passion for books. In fact, I am now more determined than ever to make time to reading – and I would very much like to share some coherent thoughts about the books I’ve read and loved (primarily because my memory has become quite shocking).

On that note, I’d like to say a few things about the best books I read in 2018. According to Goodreads, I read 69 books last year (yes, I did in fact excuse myself from family festivities for an hour on New Year’s Eve to finish Northanger Abbey, because I am evidently very mature). The full list and statistics can be found on my Goodreads page here.

Of these, my favourites are (in no particular order):

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Best of 2015 – Top Five-ish (books, films, TV, shows, meals, and moments)

Now that I’m firmly in 2016, I can finalise my “Best of 2015” list—and I’m glad I waited, because there were some wonderful last-minute additions! Here are some of my favourite books, films, TV shows, shows, meals, and moments from 2015:


Since I only read 37 “funfunfun” (i.e. non-academic/work-related) books this year, it wasn’t too difficult to choose my top five. I’m particularly glad I did my three reading challenges, because I wouldn’t have discovered some of these otherwise! I’ve included the “overall” reason I’ve picked these books, but do please click on the titles to read the full “review”. These are listed alphabetically, because I’m indecisive enough as is. ;)

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10 books in the second half of December? Yes, please!

I’ve only got about an hour left in 2015, but I can proudly declare that I’ve finished my reading challenges! The last few days have been a mini-readathon—yay books! Will post my Best of 2015 tomorrow, but for now, here are my final books of the year:

28. Alice Hoffman – Fortune’s Daughter (18 Dec)
29. Ken Hunt and Mike Taylor – The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Aussies (20 Dec)
30. Carrie Vaughn – Kitty and the Midnight Hour (26 Dec)
31. Anne Ursu – Breadcrumbs (28 Dec)
32. Eva Ibbotson – Journey to the River Sea (30 Dec)
33. Yamaguchi, Noboru – Zero no Tsukaima (The Familiar of Zero), Vol. 1 (30 Dec)
34. Malcolm X – Speeches By Malcom X: The Ultimate Collection (31 Dec)
35. Paul Zindel – My Darling, My Hamburger (31 Dec)
36. Scott Westerfield – Uglies (31 Dec)
37. Eimear McBride – A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (31 Dec)

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Books from July to December (Music, comedy, erotica, Russian greats)

Yup, this post is looooong overdue. Over these past few months, I’ve read the following funfunfun books:

18. Vikram Seth – An Equal Music (11 July)
19. Stephen Fry – The Liar (2 Aug)
20. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – The Communist Manifesto (3 Aug)
21. Leo Tolstoy – Resurrection (7 Aug)
22. Fyodor Dostoevsky – Netochka Nezvanova (9 Sept)
23. Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees (18 Sept)
24. Kit Rocha – Beyond Shame (30 Nov)
25. Miles Jupp – In and Out of the Kitchen (3 Dec)
26. James A. Grymes – Violins of Hope (6 Dec)
27. Euripides – Electra and Other Plays (7 Dec)

An eclectic selection, perhaps, but books are books are books. ♥

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April to July(-ish): 8 funfunfun books

It seems real life has gotten in the way of reading and “reviewing” again… And so, here’s what I’ve read since March (I know, I know–but better late than never!):

10. Marian Keyes – Watermelon (25 April)
11. Roberto Bolaño – Antwerp (25 April)
12. Cicero – On the Good Life (trans. Michael Grant; Penguin) (3 June)
13. Lois Lowry – Messenger (5 June)
14. Ruth Ozeki – A Tale For the Time Being (12 June)
15. Sarah Quigley – The Conductor (27 June)
16. Anne Bishop – Murder of Crows (28 June)
17. Evelyn Waugh – A Handful of Dust (3 July)

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