The YA Review: Malala

Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño

The epic trials and tribulations of Malala Yousafzai are quite rightly well-known around the world. Her battle for the rights of women everywhere to have an education is inspiring to everyone though most particularly, I reckon, to young women like her who can perhaps even more readily imagine themselves in her shoes.

Although what I’m personally after is the full autobiography aimed at adults, I was lucky enough to read and review the young adult version for the awesome We Love This Book not so long ago and decided, afterwards, to pass it on to my budding bookworm friend Liv (still at school herself) whose opinion I was so desperate to hear (and I’m sure you’ll love as well):

Malala is the autobiography of Malala Yousafzai. Malala had a difficult life. She started off a happy child with a family who cared for her but, when she was only ten years old the Taliban took over her region and her world slowly started to fall apart. They said music was a crime which I would hate as I l love my tunes and that women could not go to the shops and that girls could not go to school. She was taught to stand up for herself and her freedom and many others. She felt that it was her right to be educated, however I do not feel that way as I am made to go to school but if I wasn’t then I probably would feel the same. She was shot point blank on her way home, along with two of her friends because she stood up for this. No one believed that she could survive, but she did, this made me realise that miracles do happen if you believe they can.

Malala is an inspiration to many people around the world, young and old. She stood up for what she believed in and was treated horribly for it and because of this, she will never be the same again, but doesn’t care because she knows that no matter what happened she is lucky to be alive. On her 16th birthday the United Nations declared that the 14th July will officially be Malala day. She also won a Nobel peace prize. She didn’t ask for these things all she asked was to have an education, and, with a lot of hard work and determination she got it.

Ever since I heard about this inspirational girl I wanted to know the full story behind it so when I got the opportunity to read it I was really happy. It tells us about all the tragic things that happened in her life. It’s a very powerful and strong story that, after I read it, made me re think the way I lived and the way I thought about things. It made me want to be more thankful for the things that I already have, but, also try harder to get the things that I want, instead of sitting here on my butt and complaining about the things that I don’t have.

Livy  x

Thanks Liv!

Have any of you out there had the chance to read Malala’s autobiography? In what ways does her inspirational tale effect what you think about your own life?

The Book of Tea

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Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered two entirely different, yet equally entertaining bookish quarterlies that, along with so many of you book bloggers out there that I try to catch up with, have taken my reading and book-love to the next level. Along with the cosy, beautifully produced Slightly Foxed, which I’ve rattled on about on here a couple of times before, the wonderful folk at Penguin have just recently brought out their own publication to help us reignite our enthusiasm with the changing seasons.

The two editions of The Happy Reader that have landed on my doorstep so far have been simply awesome. Concentrating on a classic of world literature every quarter, the magazine splits itself in two; concentrating on one hand on an interview with a well-known book lover (e.g. the charming Dan Stevens for Winter ’14) and on the second with exploring the many different themes and facets of a famous work of literature. So far I’ve exercised some serious self-control not to race to the end to see what book is in-store for the following edition. It’s sort of like being in a long-distance book club since you can only really get the most out of the magazine after having read the book in question.

Our treat for Spring 2015 was The Book of Tea; the ever-philosophical ode to ‘Teaism’ by early 20th century Japanese author Kakuzo Okakura. Born in Yokohama in 1862, Okakura grew to be a well-respected scholar of the arts who was both well-traveled and deeply aware of the advantages and beauty of Japanese ascetic life; the tea room and rituals being central to this.

Divided into several sections that take us from the general concepts of Tao and Zenism to the use of art and flowers in the tea room, this slim volume takes us through each step, from the more general and philosophical to how to make the perfect brew, making The Book of Tea essential reading for anyone wanting to achieve that perfect harmony and quietness of mind that makes some Eastern philosophies so attractive.


Finding myself a cosy little corner one sunny Sunday afternoon, this book19413957 was the perfect accompaniment to a cheeky glass of wine, leaving me with a profound sense of serenity I rarely get from just any book (NB: as a perfect test this feeling remained unbroken through the ten minute break in which I had to chase and catch a mouse around the living room; a ‘present’ my over-excited cat dragged in).

Did some of the philosophy go way over my head? Sure. Was this experience teetering on the edge of an abyss where beauty and learning becomes study? Perhaps. However, regardless of my ignorance the exploration of exquisite Japanese traditions and the school of learning that encourages its’ students to appreciate the very simplest joys in life was not only calming but fascinating all the same . Although Okakura’s English was far better than my own and indeed many English-speaking authors I’ve read, there is a slight foreign flavour in the prose that really works, dragging us back to comprehend just how pivotal this little leaf has been in crucial moments throughout history (e.g. the Boston Tea Party).

I don’t know about you other Englishes out there but I’m sure many of you find, like me, that a good brew does help to break the ice/calm one down and I honestly for one don’t know where I would be without my quiet afternoon pause.  Cultures across the globe, no matter what method they use to make it, or situation in which they drink it, would I’m sure be lost without it. Okakura certainly takes this message home. Don’t take your Tetleys for granted, there’s some real magic and medicine in that little bag…

Are you partial to a mug of the hot stuff? What does a cup of tea mean to you?

The Humans

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Since the beginning of the year I’ve been making a *slightly* conscious effort to get cracking on that long languishing TBR (hence why I’m currently reading Cloud Atlas after all these years) but also to have a little more fun. 2014 was exciting but, for someone who can only manage a book a week MAX, I think I became far too focused on reading and reviewing for other publications instead of focusing on simply enjoying myself.

Realising the error of my ways it turns out that, in 2015, Lucy is back in charge and I’m having a much better time for it. In this new relaxed mode it also appears my mind might be opening up just a tad, leaving room to consider all kind of genres (yes, even crime fiction might be on the horizon!)

Matt Haig’s The Humans, while hardly pushing the genre boundaries, certainly fitted with my carefree reading vibe and, since I’m certain this has been a book club runner-up on at least two occasions, I was confident to be in for a treat.

Professor Andrew Martin; world-renowned academic and mathematician has just made an immense discovery that is certain to set the course of human endeavour and technology on a mind-boggling leap all the way into our solar system and beyond. The only problem is that, in a desperate bid to prevent the human race from destroying both themselves and potentially other civilisations in the process, an alien body has entered his and deleted all trace of the discovery from his computer.

Not content, ‘The Hosts’ from a planet in a galaxy far far away (yikes, did I just do that?) allow our alien to remain on earth in his scholarly guise to penetrate deeper in to the Professor’s life, relationships and make sure all knowledge of his work is erased forever, whatever the cost. Gradually however, the visitor’s in-built resolve crumbles as he discovers baffling qualities in the human race, and in Martin’s own family, that he grows to love, sacrificing his own safety in the process.


Haig writes well. Mr Alien and his frequently hilarious reactions to everyone 21265230and everything around him actually reminded me of a good friend who, although he doesn’t know it, will shortly be receiving a copy of this sweet little book.

The way ‘ordinary’ human behaviour (wearing clothes), habits (hiding their feelings) and obsessions (with money) is described is often nothing short of fascinating. As if a one year old were given the ability to observe the world fully and articulate it properly. However, although there is a certain loveliness in the logic and simplicity of the narrative and the ideas are often very poignant and beautiful truths about our own existence, the book stopped short of the poetry I craved. A shame considering some of the perfect ideas our alien expounds.

The vision of an alien world so different from our own and the concept of how advancements in mathematics could so drastically alter our future (‘because mathematics is everything’) is fairly mind-boggling and actually led to me looking up mathematical theories online – NOT my area I assure you. I just love when a book gets your brain ticking. It’s so important, and you don’t necessarily need to be a reading ‘a great classic’ for it to happen.

Beyond our alien chappy the supporting cast of Andrew Martin’s family/friends/work colleagues are strikingly ordinary and slightly clichéd, even the wretched teenage son, but in context these stereotypes are needed for our deeper musings on the human race. The ending? Predictable but lovely. And what more do us poor, blinkered humans need than a bit of loveliness in our lives?

My copy of The Humans was obtained in the wonderful library in the centre of Manchester. I didn’t think they’d have it in but they even had the hard copy for me to take away! Marvellous. 

When Manchester met….Kazuo Ishiguro

 

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Although I generally find it superbly difficult to drag myself away from the countryside any time I’m not supposed to be working, I do have (as I’m sure I’ve said a million times before!) rather a soft spot for our Northern capital, having spent my university years there and a fair amount of time hob-knobbing around afterwards.

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Our Spoons Came From Woolworths

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You know those books that you pick up every week, read the blurb on the back or even the first few pages but for some reason never buy? The ones you see whilst window shopping on your lunch break and are dying to get but, despite the cash jangling happily in your pocket, never do? Barbara Comyns’ novel Our Spoons Came From Woolworths was one such book for many months, attractive to me a) because of the marvellously mundane title and b) because Comyns’ name had been floating around in my head for a while thanks to knowledgeable folk in the book world, resulting in that nagging sensation that I really should get around to reading her at some point.

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