Thursday, December 29, 2016

My November Reading: Unicorns, Africa and Manhwa

My November books are introduced to you by Magnet Mouse!

  • Julia Ember “Unicorn Tracks” [USA/UK]
  • “10 Years of the Caine Prize for African Writing” [Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt/Sudan/UK, Uganda, Zimbabwe/UK]
  • Ji-Un Yun “Cynical Orange” vol.1-3 [South Korea]
  • Rebecca Ascher-Walsh “Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life With Dogs” [USA]
  • Anni Nupponen “Putoavan tähden prinsessa” [Finland]
  • Marissa Meyer “Scarlet” (The Lunar Chronicles #2) [USA]

Unicorn Tracks
“After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.
Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.”

Although it's a short book, Unicorn Tracks is densely packed with adventures, kissing, mysterious creatures and danger. Two girls who cannot be together are trying to navigate their growing feelings for each other while saving lives of people and animals. It's a diverse fantasy novel with unicorns and magic, and you should totally buy it already! ;) By the way, it's Julia Ember's debut!

10 Years of the Caine Prize for African Writing
“Celebrating ten years of the leading literary prize for African fiction (dubbed "The African Booker"), 10 Years of the Caine Prize brings together the ten winning stories along with a story each from the four African winners of the Booker Prize: Chinua Achebe, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, and Ben Okri.”

Author list:
Kenya - Binyavanga Wainaina, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
South Africa - Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, Mary Watson, Henrietta Rose-Innes
Nigeria - Ben Okri, Helon Habila, S.A. Afolabi (Segun Afolabi), E. C. Osondu
Egypt/Sudan/UK - Leila Aboulela
Uganda - Monica Arac de Nyeko
Zimbabwe/UK - Brian Chikwava

Although most of these stories were too literary for my taste (as in, less plot, more thoughts and I was often confused =D), it was very interesting to visit so many countries and meet so many different cultures and people in one volume!

A quote from Discovering Home by Binyavanga Wainaina:

“Back on the choosing to see business: I know, chances are I will see no elephants for the weeks I am here. I will see people. It occurs to me that if I was White, chances are I would choose to see elephants - and this would be a very different story. That story would be about the wide, empty spaces people from Europe yearn to get lost in, rather than the cosy surround of kin we Africans generally seek.
Whenever I read something by some White writer who stopped by Kenya, I am astounded by the amount of game that appears for breakfast at their patios and the snakes that drop into the baths and the lions that terrorise their calves. I have seen one snake in my life. I don’t know anybody who has ever been bitten by one.”

Cynical Orange vol.1-3
“The life of hottest girl in school is not easy. Sure, all the boys in school are in love with you, but it also means that every girl in school is trying to destroy your life! Vicious rumors and gossip follow everywhere you go. But Hye-Min Hwang is not a delicate damsel in distress. She knows that there is nothing more satisfying than sweet revenge. That is, if it were not for her secret crush, Jung-Yun. He makes her want to hide her cynical dark side, put on an innocent, pretty face, and endure all the backstabbing lies. But when she finds out that he's the only guy in school who hasn't fallen for her, it's time for Hye-min's sweet revenge.”

The more I read, the darker it all seemed under the surface. Hye-Min has a strange relationship with her cousin, I think it might be very unhealthy. Is he helping her or is he pushing her to become what he wants her to be? I wonder how things will develop for them in later volumes.

Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life With Dogs
“In this heartwarming gift book, author Rebecca Ascher-Walsh presents a collection of inspiring dog stories and touching photos – dogs who comfort veterans, dogs who learn to surf, dogs who detect cancer, and dogs who save the day: Each one is devoted. These 38 uplifting dog stories showcase the most amazing dog rescues, accomplishments, and abilities that fascinate us and touch our hearts.”

Many, many touching stories about pups and their owners, with photos and information about various dog breeds. You might need a handkerchief for reading this book! :)

Putoavan tähden prinsessa
“Rhéta on syntynyt prinsessaksi Rhiandarin satuvaltakuntaan. Näkijöiden mukaan hänen kohtalonaan ei kuitenkaan ole hallita, joten hänen on mentävä lumottuun uneen odottamaan herättäjää. Mutta kun hän herää, maailma on muuttunut ja taikuus, joka ennen piti valtakuntaa pystyssä, on nyt kiellettyä. Mitä on tapahtunut ja mikä merkitys on tähdellä, joka oli syöksymässä maata kohti juuri ennen kuin hän vaipui uneen?”

Finnish fantasy with a non-white protagonist! A princess wakes up from her magical sleep in a new world. The magic is gone, the royal family is nowhere to be seen. Will she find her place in this new world? This novel is written in present tense which felt so strange at times – I'm not used to Finnish books in present tense. It's a dark story, with torture, suicide, war, but when I finished it I didn't feel gloomy. There were many positive things to think about! Bonus points for casual bisexuality of most (all?) characters.

“Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.”

I liked it a bit less than Cinder, but it was fun, too! Adventures of fugitive cyborgs cannot be boring. ;) Plus this time there were also “werewolves” and a tough farm girl. I'll keep reading this series.

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