Frankenstein in Baghdad

READ THE WORLD – Iraq: Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi

Translated by Jonathan Wright

From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Hadi, a scavenger, collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His aim is for the government to recognise the parts as people and give them the proper burial they deserve. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city. Haidi soon realises he has created a monster, a monster that cannot be killed and one that needs human flesh to survive.

At the beginning of Frankenstein in Baghdad there is a rather helpful list of characters that give you a short description of what each character’s job/relationship is. There are a lot of characters in this book, and you follow the perspectives of some but not all of them, and most of the characters lives intertwine with one another at at least one point in the story.

Frankenstein in Baghdad is described as “darkly funny” but I didn’t find it amusing at all, not even in a black humour kind of way. Potentially that’s because it’s a translated novel and humour isn’t always something that can be translated and work for people outside of its place of origin. It is a creepy novel at times, though not as horrifying as the quotes on the cover make out. The descriptions of the creature and what it does to people is unsettling and disgusting. However, the actual story of the creature, Hadi and the many characters they both interact with, was slow-paced and in the end dull. There’s so many characters and their side plots often have little or nothing to do with the creature, which makes the story meandering and hard to follow if you put down the book for a day or two.

The setting is the best thing about Frankenstein in Baghdad. Having it take place in Baghdad with the presence of American troops always being felt made it a setting where anything could happen. There were explosions, suicide bombers, and hints at corruption in the security forces. Everything in Baghdad is so uncertain that there’s always a sense of uneasiness and having the creature on the prowl just adds to that. At the same time though, the people of the city are so used to the noise of gunfire and explosions being a constant threat, that they go about their day as normal. It makes the situation feel somewhat surreal. From the outside, this constant state of danger is not normal nor OK, but here it shows how it unfortunately is normal for a lot of people.

Frankenstein in Baghdad has an interesting premise, but it unfortunately isn’t an interesting or compelling story. 2/5.

Thoughts on… Reading Slumps

I like routines especially when it comes to my blog. On Monday’s I post a film review and on Thursday’s I post a book review and if there’s something else I want to write about it’ll go live on any other day – that’s how I’ve done it for years now. I’m pretty consistent when it comes to that “schedule” but it’s tough to keep up with it when you’re in a reading slump.

I’ve read two books this month and I’m currently in the middle of two more; The Dry by Jane Harper on audio and I’m reading a physical copy of Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. It’s not unusual for me to be reading one book on audio and another in physical format at the same time, but what is unusual is that it’s two and a half weeks since I started the physical book and it’s less than 300 pages long.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a reading slump.

I think this one has been brought about by life being a bit more busy than usual. I’ve started a new job, I did a movie marathon for charity, and I have family-related things I’m perhaps I’m subconsciously worrying about. I say subconsciously as I’m very much a person who doesn’t think they get stressed, until my body gives up in some shape or form and I realise I wasn’t feeling that great. Time to read and being in the right headspace to read is definitely the main factor. And while I do find the premise of Frankenstein in Baghdad interesting and I like how it has a large cast of characters, I never feel compelled to pick it up even though when I am reading it, I enjoy it. It’s a weird situation to be in.

This long weekend I plan to either finish Frankenstein in Baghdad or consciously put it aside and pick up something else. I can always go back to Frankenstein in Baghdad when I’m more in the mood for it. Because that’s something I’ve learnt about myself over the many years I’ve been reading – I am a mood reader.

That’s why my TBR’s are often pointless as I might read one or two books from them but the rest of that week/month/whatever I’ll read completely different things. With my Read the World Project I do think I put pressure on myself to read certain books and quickly. The plan with that project was to read a book from every country in the world before I turn 30 which is in less than two and a half years now and I have about 100 countries still left to read. While I enjoy reading books from different people in different places, and I’ve certainly found some favourites that I would never have heard of if it wasn’t for this challenge, there’s sometimes an underlying sense of guilt if I’m reading books that don’t fit for the challenge.

I think really for me, reading slumps are something that happens when I’m drained, can’t focus on the physical act of reading, and can’t find a book that suits my mood. To get myself out of reading slumps I tend to go to graphic novels as they are so much shorter and quicker to read than a novel. If I read a couple of graphic novels, I feel like I’ve achieved something and can then attempt to read a novel next.

I’m still learning to tell myself that putting aside a book to try it again at a later date, or just admitting that it’s not for me and DNF-ing it, is absolutely fine. I haven’t “wasted time” on that book and it’s totally OK to just have a break from reading if my mind is not up to it – blogging schedule be damned!

I hope this all makes sense. I was trying to write through how my feelings on reading and how that relates to blogging. I also have a clearer idea of how I’m going to think about my current read, my reading slump, and what kind of book(s) I want to read next. Have you ever had a reading slump? And if you have, how have you gotten yourself out of it? It’s always good to hear other people’s tips and tricks.

Avengers Readathon 2019 TBR

Even though I’m already in the middle of the OWLs Magical Readathon (you can check up on my progress on Twitter) I happened to spot on Twitter last night another readathon that was very much my brand. The Perks of Being Noura is hosting an Avengers themed readathon from 14 April to 14 May. Needless to say, as soon as I saw the hashtag I knew I had to take part.

For the Avengers Readathon you can choose up to two profiles. There are 18 different SHIELD profiles, each designed after a different Avengers character, and they each have between three and nine assignments/challenges that you fit each book to. There’s more information on the readathon, including a google doc with all the different characters and their prompts, here.

Choosing a character was the hard part for me. Should I choose my favourite character, or should I be more pragmatic about it and choose a character that had fewer prompts, or where there’s a character profile that I could definitely complete? There is the option to skip no more than two of the assignments from a chosen profile, so there is some wiggle room if needed. Also, it’s totally fine to cross over your Avengers Readathon TBR with any other readathon TBRs you might currently be participating in at the same time – so in my case that’d be the OWLs.

After looking through my TBR and all the prompts (I had a colour coded spreadsheet and everything) I figured out the character profile I would focus on and that’s Ant-Man! Ant-Man had three assignments and then you had to pick one assignment from any other character profile.

Ant-Man’s Suit: Book with red on the cover
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This is a very red cover and it’s one on my OWLs TBR and one I will definitely be reading this month as I need that OWL for my chosen career path.

Ant-thony: A book with 100 pages or less
Trout, Belly Up by Rodrigo Fuentes, translated by Ellen Jones
This is the one book I have that’s under 100 pages! It’s a collection of interconnected short stories that comes in at 97 pages.

Ant-Man & the Wasp: Book with multiple points of view or buddy read a book
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
This book is from three characters points of view. It is a contemporary story where three girls plan to get revenge on the boys who have hurt them.

From Loki’s profile – God of Mischief: Retelling
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright
Another one from my OWLs and as this has been at the top of my TBR since the start of this year, including it on this readathon’s TBR as well means I’ll definitely be reading it.

Now if I manage to read all of them (which I should as two of them are for the OWLs readathon anyway), the second character I’ve chosen is Hawkeye aka my ultimate fave. Hawkeye has just three assignments on his profile.

Hawkeye: Heists and Espionage
Hawkeye: Avenging Archer by Jim McCann, David López, Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia and Paco Diaz
This graphic novel is a collection of four different story arc, and they feature super spy Mockingbird so that totally counts for espionage.

Ronin: Debut book
Viper by Bex Hogan
I got this in a subscription box very recently and I’d like to read it sooner rather than later so this works out perfectly.

Master Marksman: Book with an archer protagonist
West Coast Avengers Vol. 1: Best Coast by Kelly Thompson, Stefano Caselli and Tríona Farrell
Another one that’s also on my OWLs TBR and as it features both Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, I’ve got two archer protagonists.

I better get reading! I’ll probably start a Twitter thread to track my progress and like everyone else I’ll be using the #AvengersReadathon19 on Twitter and anywhere else. Are you taking part in the Avengers Readathon? I’m glad I heard about it when I did because it starts today! I’m currently reading a book for my OWLs that’s not mentioned here, but I think my next read will be The Angel’s Game – two birds, one stone and all that!

O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon 2019

The O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon is the invention of Gi at Book Roast on YouTube. It’s a challenge I heard about last year, but I wasn’t aware of it in time to take part – this year I’m more prepared! The challenge is based on the Hogwarts examinations in the Harry Potter series but you neither have had to have read the Harry Potter books or be a Harry Potter fan to take part.

The basic premise is that each Hogwarts subject has its own prompt, you read a book that fits that prompt and then you’ve achieved an O.W.L. in that subject. This readathon lasts the entirety of April so it gives you plenty of time to try and cram in as many O.W.L.’s as possible. For more information on the readathon see Gi’s announcement video. It’s clear she puts in a lot of work into this challenge, she makes study guides and a career guide that has information on lots of magical careers and the subjects you need to study in order to be able to progress in that career.

The career I’ve chosen is Ministry Worker with the idea that I’d specialise to be able to join the Department of International Magical Cooperation after taking my N.E.W.T.’s in August. That means I’ll need O.W.L.’s in Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, History of Magic, Potions, Transfiguration and Muggle Studies – meaning my aim is to read six books for this challenge.

I’ve had a look at my bookshelves and theoretically I would be able to get 11 out of 12 O.W.L.’s based on the books on my TBR. Below are the books I plan to read to get my O.W.L.’s for my Ministry Worker job, but also the books for the other O.W.L.’s in case I do better than expected and can fit in a couple more books during the month.

Ancient Runes – Retelling
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
As the title suggests it’s a Frankenstein retelling. This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for ages so even though it doesn’t fit with my chosen career path, if I finish the O.W.L.’s/books I have to read, this will be my priority.

Arithmancy – Work written by more than one author
Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam edited by Linh Dinh
A collection of short stories from Vietnamese writers.

Astronomy – “Star” in the title
This is the one subject I don’t have a book that would fit so any careers that needed an Astronomy O.W.L. was automatically ignored.

Care of Magical Creatures – Land animal on the cover
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Technically I think this could also work for retelling (though you’re not allowed to use the same book for multiple prompts) as it’s inspired by the Evil Queen in Snow White I think? It’s a book I got from a subscription box a while ago and I’m pretty sure it’s the only book I’ve got with an animal on the cover.

Charms – Age-line: read an adult work
Augustown by Kei Miller
I actually tend to read mostly adult books so the way I chose this book was to find one of the shorter adult books I have – at just over 200 pages, Augustown was the winner.

Defence Against the Dark Arts – Reducto: title starts with a “R”
The Red Beach Hut by Lynn Michell
This is the only book I’ve got that has a title that begins with the letter R. I was pleased I found a book as Defence Against the Dark Arts is a subject needed for many career paths.

Divination – Set in the future
Old Man Hawkeye Vol. 1: An Eye for an Eye by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto and Andres Mossa
Comics are totally allowed for this readathon which is great. I recently bought a bunch of Hawkeye-related comics and this one is set in an apocalyptic future where nearly all of the superheroes are dead.

Herbology – Plant on the cover
West Coast Avengers Vol. 1: Best Coast by Kelly Thompson, Stefano Caselli and Tríona Farrell
Another one from my Hawkey-binge-buy as he’s a part of this team. It has some palm trees on the front which totally counts as a plant.

History of Magic – Published at least 10 years ago
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
It’s a classic so it’s definitely over 10 years old. Plus it’s pretty short which is always helpful for a readathon.

Muggle studies – Contemporary
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
I received this in a subscription box a while back and know nothing about it except it’s the shortest contemporary book I have on my TBR. I read We Were Liars years ago and sped through it so hopefully the same thing will happen with this book.

Potions – Next ingredient: sequel
Old Man Hawkeye Vol. 2: The Whole World Blind by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto, Francesco Mobili and Ibraim Roberson
I don’t actually have many sequels (because I’m terrible at reading series) so my recent comic book purchases have definitely come in handy here.

Transfiguration – Sprayed edges or red cover
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This is the longest book on this TBR but it’s one of the only books I have that has a red cover. There’s rumours that the Tome Topple Readathon will happen in April so as The Angel’s Game is over 500 pages, that’ll hopefully give me an extra push to read it.

So, this is my TBR for the O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon and pretty much my TBR for the whole month of April. Are you taking part in the readathon and if you are which O.W.L.’s are you focusing on? In August there’s the N.E.W.T.’s readathon which you use to build on what you achieve in this readathon, so I hope I manage to read all the books I need to be able to apply for a job at the Ministry of Magic.

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Top of Your TBR

Top 5 Wednesday is a great feature hosted by ThoughtsonTomes. To find out more about Top 5 Wednesday and the upcoming topics, check out its Goodreads page. It’s a new year and a new chance to tackle that TBR and this week’s Top 5 Wednesday is all about what books are at the top of our TBR pile and are the ones we want to read ASAP. I have an extensive physical TBR with almost 40 unread books with me in my flat, and then around 60 more unread books taking up residence in my mum’s flat. Oops! Here’s five books I do really want to read soon though!

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadwi
I got this for my birthday last year and I somehow have yet to pick it up. While I’ve not read the original Frankenstein, I know the story and am interested in seeing how this retelling works in US-occupied Baghdad.

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
This is a book I hadn’t heard of before but got it one of those Buy One Get One Half Price deals in Waterstones. I’ve not read anything by Jenny Han (Though I’ve watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and really enjoyed it) but I read The List by Siobhan Vivian a couple of years a go and liked it a lot, so I’m interested to see what I make of this collaboration.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
This was a Christmas present via the #TBTBSanta exchange and is probably one of the most recent additions on my TBR. I read and loved Eliza and Her Monsters, so I hope I like Made You Up just as much.

Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma
I’ve owned Allah is Not Obliged for almost a year now after I bought it on last year’s London Bookshop Crawl, so I really should get to it soon. It’s a pretty short book, just over 200 pages, but it sounds like a hard-hitting one as it’s about a child soldier.

Burning Cities by Kai Aareleid
Another birthday present from last year, I think the reason I’ve been putting off Burning Cities is because of its size. It’s just over 300 pages but the edition I have makes it look much longer. It is a multigenerational story which I do enjoy but I do have to be in the right mindset for it.

What books are at the top of your TBR pile?

Tis The Seasonathon TBR

Tis The Seasonathon is a week-long holiday themed readathon that takes place from midnight on Monday 3 December to 11:59pm on Sunday 9 November, whatever your time zone. The hosts of this readathon are Bookables, A Court of Crowns and Quills, Super Space Chick, Between Chapters and Chelseadolling Reads.

I’m using this readathon to get me back in the reading zone. Last month I read three books, which isn’t as many as I’ve usually read a month, so I want to get more reading done over the next week and finish my 2018 reading on a high. To be honest my TBR is isn’t that festive but I have chosen some books that go with some of the optional challenges below.

1. Read a book with red or green on the cover.
2. Read a book while listening to holiday music.
3. Read a warm & fuzzy book
4. Read a short book (200-250 pages)
5. Read a holiday themed book
Extra/Bonus Challenge: Read the Buddy Read, Snow in Love.

Uprooted by Naomi Novak
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
A Fortune Foretold by Agneta Pleijel
The Fox was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller

Uprooted is going to be my main focus of this readathon. It’s been in my possession for years now, plus I need to read a book with a title beginning with the letter U to complete the A-Z Reading Challenge.

Uprooted, Frankenstein in Baghdad and The Fox was Ever the Hunter all complete the first challenge as they have either red or green on the cover (I don’t have the dust jacket of Uprooted to hand at the minut). A Fortune Foretold and The Fox was Ever the Hunter are both under 250 pages long so they class as a short book. Not sure which book I’ll read while listening to festive music but I’m sure I can cross off that challenge too.

So that’s my TBR for the Tis The Seasonathon! Wish me luck! We all know that readathon’s can be hit or miss for me, but I do really want to read these books so hopefully that’ll help. There’s a Twitter and an Instagram for the readathon and you can use the hashtag #tistheseasonathon to follow all the action.

Are you taking part in the Tis The Seasonathon? Or any other end-of-the-year readathons? I think it can sometimes feel like a mad rush at the end of the year so we can hit our reading goals but I hope everyone’s still having fun with their reading and remember – goals aren’t that big a deal.

Just going to take this moment to give you all a heads up – I’m planning to challenge myself with blogmas this month! So that’ll be a blog post a day on the run up to Christmas, there’s going to be the usual film and book reviews but there’s going to be a whole host of other stuff too. I think I have ideas for all 25 days, but if you want to suggest anything to me, feel free!