Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

32075671Thiiiiissss was a really bad book to read right after a book that reminded me of the current state of our government (or rather the giant shitshow going on in DC). This was yet another book that reminded me of some seriously messed up stuff that is not just a fiction; it is actually happening, has happened, in our reality. So after this book I decided I would pick up something fun.

While this book made me angry, it also made me laugh, made me sad (in several different ways), and it endeared me to all its characters seemingly without trying. Not only was it about racism, it was about friendship and family and how growing up is tough enough without being discriminated against.

The Hate U Give gave a very personal view of a prevalent issue most of us only experience on a screen. Even though it’s a fiction, this book gives a very accurate portrayal of what a person, a family, and a community go through after a terrible tragedy. I appreciate how it gave voice to the different stances people might take. Starr had as much reason as Khalil’s family to be mad as hell (which she certainly was, I think) but she did her best to not escalate the situation and contribute negatively (tear gas throwing aside, we all have our moments of weakness).

I hope a lot of people read this book. Even if a lot of us might not ever be near a situation like our best friend getting shot on the side of the road for no reason other than the color of their skin, this book helps to make those people that have been that much more human. It helps us see just how ridiculous and illogical the behavior of some people are. We can’t let the stereotypes propagated by a few affect our view of an entire race, or culture, or anything.

Remember, Thug Life.

~Ren

 

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Review: Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

29939270So this was a terrible book to read at this particular moment in time. Events in the book were very similar to things happening in our own political system and it just got me down a bit. But still a great book!

Amberlough is sexy, funny, and excels at heart-breaking. The characters are great. Cordelia is a feisty, take-no-shit-from-anyone, kickass woman. She knew how to take care of herself but also had a good heart and tried to take care of the people she loved.

I couldn’t stop picturing Cyril as this frumpy middle aged dude (mostly because of Archer) but then my coworker described him as a worn down, young Daniel Craig and that helped. I had a love/hate feeling about Cyril, because while he seemed like a decent guy with good intentions he was helping everything get fucked! Again, with good intentions, but dammit Cyril!

Aristide I liked for his pick yourself by your bootstraps attitude. Though his story also makes me sad. Clearly he wanted to leave his old life behind and change things but it always gets me down knowing someone felt trapped somewhere. And damn him and Cyril for not saying how they really feel!

Anyway, like I said, a really terrible book to read during this exact moment in our existence but I won’t say more than that as to not give away the ending. But this is a great debut novel and a fantastic story of love, betrayal and trying to find, and keep, a space for yourself in the world.

~Ren

Review: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

lotf-front-coverFucking kids, man. There is a reason I don’t want any. I read this as part of the reading challenge my mom and I are doing for 2017. This is the classic we chose. When I think of Lord of the Flies I think of that scene from Silver Linings Playbook where Jennifer Lawrence gives a synopsis. And it’s pretty spot on.

I also think of the Stanford prison experiment, where they were looking in the psychological effects of perceived power. These boys are on an island with no adults, who were the authority figures in their life back home. But now they are their own authority. So what do they do?

I didn’t totally expect Ralph to be as diplomatic and reasonable as he was. He was still a bit of a jerk but he was also trying to get everyone off the island. But then of course someone doesn’t like not being in power so they go and make a fuss and abandon any sort of lawful, respectful behavior. They create a “my way or the highway” sort of order and treat anyone who doesn’t want to follow them like shit.

I won’t say the book shows that their are only two kinds of people in this world. The two different factions that form on the island are not the only way things could go down in a situation like that. Lord of the Flies reminds me that it’s hard to really know a person until you’ve seen them in extreme circumstances, or at least a wide range of different circumstances. When people are tested and exposed to new pressures lots of things can happen that you might not have guessed.

I think Jennifer Lawrence was right when she said, “Humanity is just nasty,” but not as right about there being no silver lining.

~Ren

Review: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

51urprxs1ql-_sy344_bo1204203200_This time I picked up the right book! In NZ I confused Patricia Briggs for Carrie Vaughn. But in my defense the stories are similar. Anyway, onto review stuff.

The Kitty Norville series is urban fantasy. Kitty is a werewolf living in Denver and of course from time to time the clashing of the supernatural and natural worlds cause problems. The first book in the series is a coming of age tale where we meet Kitty and watch her come into her own as a person and a werewolf (you know, while she deals with murderous werewolves and hosting a talk radio show).

I enjoyed the book but these types of novels aren’t something I dedicate a lot of time to. They are fun, quick reads to intersperse between the heavier stuff. But if you are more into these kind of books I will tell you why I enjoyed it and maybe you can pick up a new series.

Kitty has a strong voice in the book. Her personality shines through clearly as a sassy, stubborn, but also sort of lost individual just trying to figure out her life. All the other characters have their own strong personalities and everyone compliments each other nicely. They mysterious, gruff werewolf hunter Cormac butts heads with Kitty but they also have a rapport. Key members of the pack are well represented and not just there for dramatic effect or because Kitty needs a pack. Things moved at a nice pace and the radio bits were very amusing.

I don’t plan to read the rest of the series just because it’s not really my type of book, but I would recommended it to anyone who is a fan of urban fantasy or is looking for an easy series to have in the wings when they need it.

~Ren

Review: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

31y1ackaprl-_sy344_bo1204203200_David Levithan, we meet again. Those who have been following my reviews will know I’m a David Levithan fan. His writing is always solid and he does such a fantastic job of putting visceral emotions into words that are always spot on. Sometimes he even captures them in new ways you never even thought of. But anyway, point being a really like his stuff.

Boy Meets Boy has been on my list for a while and it filled the I-need-to-read-one-more-book-for-the-year requirement nicely. I saw someone describe the book as set in a “gay utopia” or something like that. Which I can agree with a bit. It’s definitely a world different from our own. The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the star quarterback is also homecoming queen, and people are pretty tolerable of all types. But it’s not a utopia.

Feelings still get hurt and people are still unhappy about things. Utopia can’t exist as long as people exist because we are inherently “flawed” just based on our hardwiring. But this book also shows that a world that is different from our own (and in some ways better) can exist and life won’t implode. David Levithan’s books make be believe in love, like the true, deep, passionate love a lot of us dream about and secretly hope for even if we’re cynical as hell on the surface.

Levithan’s characters are funny, complex and have their shortcomings, but when you put them all together they create a diverse group of friends that you feel a part of when you’re reading.

~Ren

Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

trevor-noah-book-born-a-crime-stories-from-a-south-african-childhoodLike many people, I was first introduced to Trevor Noah through The Daily Show. And I liked him. So when his book came out I decided to pick it up, and I’m really glad I did.

Even though he’s young, Trevor Noah has had a very exciting, if not unorthodox (at least compared to my own) childhood/life. That was one of the big things I liked about the book. It immersed me in a life that I can hardly imagine growing up in. It gave me a closer look at what life was really like during apartheid and helped me to understand just what apartheid really meant to the people that lived through it.

Even though the book deals with awful, hateful things, the tone is generally lighthearted, and there are quite a few funny moments. The end almost had me in tears though. There was what amounted to a huge spoiler right at the start of the book but I couldn’t figure out the whole time whether…something bad was going to happen. And then I was dragged through the last 10 pages like I wasn’t reading a memoir but a freaking thriller novel!

I would recommend this even for people who aren’t the biggest fans of memoirs. Also, Trevor Noah’s mom sounds like a total badass.

~Ren

Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

22299763*sobs uncontrollably for a minute*

Okay, better.

So, I read Six of Crows and loved it. And then I moved to NZ for a year and books were expensive so I haven’t read Crooked Kingdom until just now and oh my god. What everyone (and by that I mean my co-workers) were telling me was totally true! And of course it didn’t make it any easier to handle when I actually read it.

Soooo, this had all the stuff I loved about Six of Crows in it. Diverse, complex characters, deception, scheming, action, emotions. Each character got a sort of “deep dive” chapter about their past, which I ate up. And they happened so seamlessly with what was currently going on I sometimes found myself thinking, “What were we talking about? Oh right, screwing someone over.” It also occurred to me, during these intimate looks into these characters’ lives, how attached I’d gotten to them even though this is only a two book series.

I could go on more about how the subject matter in this book is rather topical, how Ketterdam could be seen as a hyperbolic representation of our own world where money and the market rule and people are the last things to be concerned about. But I don’t want to ruin the book for myself. I want to just focus on the characters and how, even though they do terrible things that does not make them terrible people (not entirely anyway).

If you have not read Six of Crows, read it. And then read Crooked Kingdom and prepare to be sad.

~Ren

Review: The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar by Matt Simon

51ja8inrg8l-_sx346_bo1204203200_Okay, the title alone is great, come on. And I’m a big biology/zoology buff so this was a great book for me.

If you’re someone who is interested in the many creatures that live in the world around you but you fall asleep when things get to technical and “science-y” this is the book for you! Matt Simon writes in a very accessible voice the is peppered with sarcastic jokes (and some bad jokes) and has the undercurrent of a smartass telling you something you don’t know (but not in an annoying way, at least to me).

The book is broken into sections and within those sections are short chapters on each different animal. This made it easy to pick up, read for a bit, and then go off to do something else. It was a very amusing and informative read that I would recommend to any animal/nature/science lover in your life.

~Ren

Review: Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

41r8yicxm-l-_sx339_bo1204203200_While this book is short, it took me a while to get through because the content is very heavy.

The human race seems to have a lot of issues we just can’t seem to get over no matter how much they are talked about, studied, and fought against. The oppression of women is certainly one of those. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve come a long way, but we still can’t seem to shake this skewed dichotomy.

I appreciated Rebecca Solnit’s book because she did a very good job of not being accusatory. She wasn’t just going on a tirade about how men are bad and they treat women poorly and they are all just awful. She addressed the larger scope of the problem. She didn’t compartmentalize each issue (rape, murder, what have you) as it’s own separate problem. She acknowledge those things as symptoms of an over arching disease.

There are a lot of things to consider, lots of variables when looking at a topic like this, and Solnit tries to consider more, if not all of them, in this collection of essays instead of just a few. Sometimes it may seem like a topic is being talked to death, being pushed in our faces over and over again. But if we don’t talk about it and we don’t keep fighting against the problem, it will never go away. We can’t afford to become complacent.

~Ren

Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

savagesong-hc-cVictoria Schwab never fails to impress me. Her characters, her worlds, her imagination. Uh, just, I love all of it.

So the quick way to sort of sum up This Savage Song is Romeo and Juliet with monsters and no romance. And without the ridiculous ending where the two main characters kill themselves. What’s up with that? Kate Harker and August Flynn are the two least likely people to meet and get along. They live in the same city but it is divided down the middle, with Kate’s father running one half and August’s running the other. And they don’t play too nice together.

Kate is a total badass, kind of what I imagine my own kickass alter ego would be, but that version of me only exists in my head. She’s sassy, smart, tough, but she has a soft sentimental side in there somewhere. She’s just gone through a lot of shit and I can understand why she’s chosen to suppress that side. August is the exact opposite. He is soft, sweet, caring. So of course he and Kate were gonna get together, right?

Victoria Schwab once again puts a fresh, interesting spin on something that is common place in our own world. These monsters of Verity are created through horrible acts. Murder, violence. These acts leave things in their wake, but in the world of Verity they become very very real. But there is a dynamic to them. While Malchai and Corsai are vicious, the Sunai are the sort of embodiment of retribution and justice. Once again, a physical presence of the different responses people have to terrible acts of violence.

Victoria Schwab has a way of exploring deep, complex themes without getting too philosophical about it. It makes her writing interesting and compelling while also being immensely entertaining and fun. Can’t wait for the last book!

~Ren