And That’s a Wrap: September Edition

Nine months of 2018 down, only three to go. Somebody pass me some chocolate stat, because I’m freaking out. Anybody got a timeturner? That’d be much appreciated too. No? Okay, well, I better get on with looking back at another month that went all too damn fast.

Books I Read

Other than my first read of the month, September was a bit of a bleh month with a lot middle of the road star ratings. I managed to get through almost all my sister’s TBR picks except for The Poppy War and added in Wildcard (which I was too keen to wait til October for). Overall, seven books isn’t bad and I’m satisfied with the effort for the month.

Sep reads

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★★| Review

Gosh, I loved this book. Definitely one of the best novels I’ve read all year. The plot is interesting, the characters are layered and feel real, it’s diverse, the structure is well done…just everything really. A perfect example of fantastic historical fiction!

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diane Wynn Jones ★★★.5

My tendency to like whichever medium I come across first holds true with this one – it turns out that I’m more a fan of the anime film, which is very different to the book. I liked the book, don’t get me wrong, it just felt a little young in style at times and I often found my thoughts wandering. The characters are endearing though and the creativity of the world building is still great.

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli ★★★.5

More proof that Becky knows how to write inclusive and sweet stories with relatable characters. The plot is slighly juvenile and it’s not the most compelling one I’ve ever read but with the characters the age they are, I can understand it. I really related to Molly and a lot of her thoughts were ones I’ve had, myself, in the past. The chemistry with her love interest, Reed, was also really adorable. However, the diversity was a little forced at times, a lot of the side characters felt kind of underdeveloped, and I really wish Molly had found her confidence without the help of a relationship.

My Oxford Year – Julia Whelan ★★★★

My sister & I  picked this one expecting it to be light, fluffy chick-lit but about half way through, the book completely changed tone with the reveal of a big secret about the male lead.  I quite liked both Ella, our American MC, and Jamie, her British romantic interest, and the chemistry between the two is great, but I have to say, this book broke my heart a little. The ending isn’t exactly break down in tears sad but it definitely leaves a hole in the chest. Still, I liked that the book encourages you to pursue your passions and make the most of important people and experiences in your life while you have them.

Stormdancer – Jay Kristoff ★★★.5

Normally I’m a big fan of Jay’s books but this one was lacking in a lot of areas for me. I was even tempted to DNF after the first fifty or so pages. The world building is quite complicated and there’s a lot of mish-mashing of different asian inspirations which left me feeling lost. It also takes ages for the story to finally get interesting. After a while though, things did pick up and I ended up having a fairly enjoyable time. The best part is definitely the relationship between the lead, Yukikio, and Buruu, the legendary Arashitora (Thunder Tiger) which gave me major Eragon vibes.

Wildcard – Marie Lu ★★★| Review

I had high hopes for this one after really enjoying Warcross earlier this year. The plot is quite focused, complex and deals with some big ethical questions. Some elements, such as the resolution of the kidnapping storyline, were well done, while others ended up feeling messy and unbelievable. I was let down by Emika’s role, which is largely passive for most of the book, and the ending itself, which felt almost rushed and failed to attribute appropriate consequences to actions/events. The climax of the book managed to recapture some of the magic from book one but overall I was a bit disappointed with this installment. Darn, high expectations! Get yourselves under control!

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi ★★★.5 or ★★★★ (Depending on End)

Okay, so technically I’m not finished this one yet but I will be by tonight! This book was HUGELY hyped but unfortunately, I just don’t think I’m as on board as everyone else. It’s certainly good in parts and the fact that the world is African-inspired is fantastic, but there’s just a few things that have bothered me. The book starts off really strong but after a while I started to get frustrated with the fact that the characters seem to change attitudes/ideas in the blink of eye – it’s giving me whiplash. I also don’t get why everyone in the core group of characters has to be in a romance with one another. The plot itself also seems to just hit points of being well…kind of boring. I keep varying between feeling like ‘eh’ and then perking up when something engaging, such as the gladitorial-boat sequence or prison break out, happens. Guess I’ll see how this ending goes – apparently there’s a twist.


Books I Bought

September Purchases

This month’s purchase total is a reasonably healthy figure of 6 (+ 2 comics). I’m not feeling too bad about this because I read two of them straight after purchasing and the rest are short YA contemporaries (okay, I’ll Give you the Sun is a little chunkier) so they shouldn’t take very long. I’ve got a few popular ones here and I’m looking forward to seeing what the fuss is all about.

Have you read any of these? Thoughts?


Blog Posts

Another light month. I’ve been low on time and focus.

Top 10 Tuesday

Books by my Favourite Authors, and Authors with the Potential to Become Favourites, that I Still Haven’t Read

Binge-Worthy TV Shows

Discussions

Picking Books to Review

Other Book Reviews

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Miscellaneous

WWW Wednesday | 19.09.18


Hiatus

As you may have seen in last month’s wrap up, I’ve been thinking about taking a hiatus for a little while now and have decided to take it now going into October. Work is quite busy at the moment and it’s been messing up my schedule so finding time to write and edit my posts has been challenging.

A hiatus will also be a nice break for me to think about looking at some of the writing ideas that have come to mind in the last few months which I haven’t had time to do anything with yet. I’m still unsure if I want to tackle NaNoWriMo again this year so this is the perfect time to figure that out. Plus, I think I’d like the chance to do a few other R&R activities for a bit to rest and recharge. I’ll definitely still be around the blogsphere though, reading your wonderful posts!

So until next month…maybe…

Ash

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Prepare Yourself for a Headache and Some Heartache: Wildcard by Marie Lu

3 starswildcard

After reading Warcross back in March, I had high hopes and major excitement going into Wildcard. I mean, after that ending, how could I not? But the big question is, did Marie Lu’s latest sequel manage to live up to expectations?

Unfortunately not.

Focus & Direction

I found Wildcard to be a big change of pace to Warcross in terms of its approach to plot. In book one, while the story centred around Emika hunting down the mysterious hacker, it was also filled with other elements such as the fun Warcross matches, memories to develop Emika’s backstory, and lightweight interactions to create friendship or romantic links between characters. Wildcard is different in that every scene feels focused and purposeful. There isn’t a lot of extraneous material and if you do get it, it’s often because the scene was also necessary for the main plot. That is, until the end sequence, in which character details about the Phoenix Riders are thrown at the reader in succession a bit like a tennis ball machine.

This approach wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I did miss some of the more light-hearted parts of Warcross, especially considering how dark sections of Wildcard became. However, if there’s one thing I can say it’s that after a slower start, the rest of the book maintains a constant, and good degree, of momentum.

No Warcross

I’ll be blunt: There are no book-one type Warcross matches in Wildcard. We get a one on one match between Emika and Zero and then a slightly Warcross-esque section at the end of the book, but neither fully reaches the excitement of the book one matches. Admittedly, these wouldn’t really fit into the plot of Wildcard, but my whiny, irrational brain just can’t help but feel sad about it.

Emika, Where Are You?

I really enjoyed Emika as a protagonist in Warcross. She was bold, curious, quick thinking, and given a good degree of emotional backstory. In Wildcard, however, I feel as though she wasn’t used to her full potential. Emika spends most of this book either being shuffled around by other big players or simply trying to find the answer to the next question in what seems like a never-ending line of questions. She’s not sure who to trust or what to do which leaves her in a largely passive position until late in the game.

My other problem is that Wildcard adds almost nothing to Emika’s character and backstory except for her starting to rely more on others. We get a few mentions of her father but the only new info we’re given is one fragmented memory sequence. The memory is one Emika considers to be her worst, but it’s never explained why and the context surrounding it is almost non-existent. Because of this, I found its inclusion out of place and confusing.

I won’t even talk about just how problematic the whole Emika-Hideo relationship is in this book. Good lord. Essentially Emika: Hideo, you created a mind control algorithm with the potential to kill people or turn them into mindless slaves, but I love you and keep dreaming about you, so let’s just forget all that. 

Complicated & Heavy (My Head Hurts)

Wildcard is a lot more complex than its predecessor and full of big moral dilemmas regarding technology. I admired Marie’s ability to take on these massive ethical questions and look at different sides of them, to the point where even I wasn’t sure where I stood at times. Although in order to deal with some of these ideas, the book does require you to suspend a degree of belief. For example, only 2% of the world’s population doesn’t use Hideo’s new contact lenses, the villain of the story can physically do what they’re supposed to have done to Zero, Hideo’s algorithm does have the power to turn people into walking zombies, etc. Because of this, I reached a stage late in the book where it started to verge into almost silly for me. To my relief, Marie managed to course correct this with her action-packed climax.

On the smaller scale, there are a lot of layers of mystery in this book. Each answered question led to another and another, causing me to jump back and forward between confusion, immense engagement, and just plain frustration. But, I can’t deny, I still powered through, determined to finally see the bigger picture (if only to stop my brain hurting in the attempts to force everything to make sense).

My Heart Hurts

For me, the Zero/Sasuke storyline was both the best and worst part of Wildcard. The more grounded and human moments of this plot, such as Emika watching records detailing the years after Sasuke’s kidnapping, are extremely heartbreaking and beautifully written. The conclusion of this storyline was also so well done that I found myself almost on the verge of tears reading it – it’s just that good. However, where this story connects into other elements of the novel is where the book started to lose me a little.

Climax & Ending

Following a turn in the Zero plotline, Wildcard delves into an action-packed, although too drawn out, almost-Warcross like sequence involving Hideo, Emika and the Phoenix Riders. This section was well done in that it managed to showcase the magic between the characters we saw in Warcross and some of the excitement of the original book, just with higher stakes.

Without giving much away, there were components of the ending that I thought worked very well and others, far less so. I liked the positive idea the book expressed regarding our relationship with technology, the sense of duality between the ending and Warcross’s beginning, and the resolution of the Zero story. BUT, the end also felt slightly rushed, as if certain complications were tied up too neatly and other elements weren’t given a proper degree of consequence at all – I’m looking at you, Hideo.

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While Wildcard may excel beyond Warcross with regards to its bold subject matter and high emotional impact, it’s let down by an at times messy and unbelievable plot, lack of lighter moments, and a weakened protagonist. There are certainly a number of things to like about the second instalment in this duology but at the same time, I can’t help wishing certain things had been different. Overall, mildly entertaining but largely disappointing.

3 Stars

 

 

 

 

Fame, Money and What it Costs to Keep it: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

5 stars

Evelyn Hugo

There are some books that you just know, after only a few pages, are going to be magical. For me, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of these books. Like any bookworm, I read a lot of novels that I describe as being great, enjoyable, well-written, or exciting. The word ‘love’, however, I reserve only for a select few.

I loved this book.

Who, What, Where?

In 2017 NYC, journalist Monique Grant is surprised to learn that she has been specifically requested by legendary actress, Evelyn Hugo, to conduct the star’s first interview in several years. Monique just hopes to get a few personal details beyond the upcoming charity auction. Instead, she’s shocked to find that Evelyn has called her there to begin work on a tell-all biography in which she plans to finally put everything on the table – her rise to fame, efforts to stay in the limelight, all seven husbands, and the true love of her life.

Rich & Real Characters

Evelyn Hugo is a very people-centric story and its success is due in large part to Reid’s fabulously written characters. As you’d expect, Evelyn, herself, is the heart of this novel. In creating Evelyn and her story, Reid has incorporated characteristics of many famous starlets – Marilyn Monroe’s sex symbol status, Elizabeth Taylor’s marriages and friendship with Monty Clift, Rita Hayworth’s immigrant roots, and Ava Gardiner’s desire to write a tell-all biography. She is a fantastic representation of women in the film industry – the struggles they experience to stay relevant and be taken seriously. Yet, at the same time, Evelyn is so clearly her own person.

“I’m cynical and I’m bossy, and most people would consider me vaguely immoral.” 

Evelyn is vain, not particularly kind, and often selfish in her relentless pursuit of fame and acclaim, but at the same time she’s a very complex, strong and, dare I say it, feminist character. She knows what she wants in life and despite numerous setbacks, refuses to let others stop her from achieving it. You can’t help but love her and watching Evelyn evolve over the course of the book is one of its most compelling components.

While Monique may start off TSHOEH, once the ball gets rolling, she mostly fades into the background and doesn’t return as a strong presence until the climax. Despite this, Reid still manages to make her relatable and give her a good degree of depth, making the most of her limited page time.

Aside from our two leads, Evelyn’s world is filled with an array of interesting and diverse characters. With seven husbands, there was always the risk of these men blending together but each manages to feel distinct from one another, particularly with regards to the roles they play in Evelyn’s life and the effect they have on her character.

Sexual Diversity & Representation

TSHOEH features not one, not two, but three non-heterosexual major characters, as well as several others in smaller roles. The love and care given to these individuals is evident from start to finish and it’s truly wonderful to see queer individuals as dramatic and romantic leads. Evelyn, herself, is bisexual. Living in the public eye as she does, and during the decades she has, this plays a huge part in the trajectory of her story. Despite the time difference, many of the issues Evelyn experiences connected to her sexuality are still faced by bisexuals in today’s world – how she can possibly be attracted to both genders, the jealousy and insecurity of romantic partners regarding her bisexuality, and of course, the fear of being completely misunderstood.

“Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box. Don’t do that.”

Romance

Evelyn’s romantic relationship with her great love, actress Celia St James, is another wonderful addition to the novel. This relationship is far from easy but it’s also sweet, bitter, intimate, and beautifully crafted. Their story is a rollercoaster of emotion and it’s simply impossible to look away. Yet, the fact that so many of their troubles stem from a need to hide who they are, and their love for one another, is what makes it truly heartbreaking.

“I love you more than anything else in the entire world.”

“It’s not wrong,” Celia said. “It shouldn’t be wrong, to love you. How can it be wrong?”

“It’s not wrong, sweetheart. It’s not,” I said. “They’re wrong.”

Old Hollywood Glamour

“You should know this about the rich: they always want to get richer. It is never boring, getting your hands on more money.”

Despite the rampant sexism, racism, homophobia and a whole host of other issues, there’s always been something glamorous about old-school Hollywood. The beauty, romance, youth, freedom – we can’t help being dazzled by it, but at the same time, we’re very aware of Tinseltown’s darker, seedier and more twisted undertones. TSHOEH embraces this contrast completely and Reid handles it wonderfully. The decision to start Evelyn’s story in the 1940s and progress right through to the 80s suited the themes and natural progression of the book perfectly, and I was hooked from the start right til the very end.

Successful Structure & Style

POV:  The novel is technically written from Monique’s perspective, however, the majority of it consists of what Evelyn is verbally describing, largely uninterrupted, to Monique about her life. Except for the brief segments in which Monique voices a question or the two women stop for the day (and we spend some time in Monique’s head), the story feels like Evelyn’s POV. It makes sense from a narrative standpoint but also ensures an intimate connection with both women.

Parts: Evelyn’s story is broken up into seven parts, each named after one of her many husbands. It’s a choice that works very well as each man represents the start and end of a particular stage in Evelyn’s life. The descriptors for each husband in the section titles also act as a fun teaser for what’s to come next.

Style: Along with the traditional narrative, Reid also incorporates numerous “news articles” in between chapters to showcase public perceptions of Evelyn and her loved ones, and to mark big moments in her life. These were great inclusions as they served to enhance elements of the story but also really drove home one of the ideas of the novel which is that what the public sees of people in the limelight is rarely ever the true or full picture.

“But of course, they got it wrong. They never did care about getting it right. The media are going to tell whatever story they want to tell. They always have. They always will.”

Twist Ending with Emotional Impact

I won’t say too much because of spoilers but using a dramatic twist, Reid is able to link Monique and Evelyn’s stories in an emotional and engaging way. Beyond this twist, there isn’t much of a happy ending but it feels exactly right for the story told and I can’t imagine the novel finishing any other way.

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Summing up the absolute brilliance of this novel seems impossible. So, I’ll simply say, that if you enjoy historical fiction with raw and real characters, fantastic writing, and intense emotion, pick this one up. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

I’ll just be over here recommending this new favourite to pretty much everyone I know.

5 Stars

WWW Wednesday | 19.09.18

It’s time for another  WWW Wednesday or as it should be titled, ‘Ashley has yet to upload anything to her blog this week and this is an easy, last minute post’. Successful blogger, that is clearly (not) me. This meme, hosted by Taking on a World of Words, requires you to answer three simple questions: 1) What did you just finish? 2) What are you currently reading? and 3) What will you read next?

Recently Finished

35820405My Oxford Year – Julia Whelan | Goodreads

I picked this one expecting it to be some light, fluffy chick-lit featuring a romantic Oxford setting and a sexy literature professor as the love interest. Tick to the setting and double tick to the hot professor but NOOOOOOO to the light and fluffy. About half way through, the book flips in tone with the reveal of a big secret about the male lead.  I quite liked both Ella, our American protagonist, and Jamie, her British romantic interest, and the chemistry between the two is great. BUT man, this book broke my heart a little. The ending isn’t exactly sad in and of itself but thinking about what will happen after it definitely leaves a bit of a hole in the chest. Still, I liked that the book encourages you to pursue your passions, and reinforced the idea that while not all things last forever, it’s important to make the most of them while you can.

Currently Reading

30653853The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli | Goodreads

Yep, after putting it off for ages, I’m finally doing it. After missing out on my light and fluffy with My Oxford Year, I definitely needed it going into this one. As in Becky’s other books, the characters feel realistic and there’s a lot of diversity but I’m not as in love with them as I was with those in Simon. There are a few things about the plot that are bugging me but a lot of it I can narrow down to teenagers thinking and acting like teenagers – things that seem so important at that age, really aren’t in the overall scheme of things. I definitely relate to Molly a lot though and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in a lot of the self-confidence issues I have. Even some of her thoughts feel like somebody secretly copied and pasted them straight from my head. I’m almost finished, should be done tonight. Here’s hoping for a cute ending.

Up Next

29386918Wildcard (Warcross 2#) – Marie Lu | Goodreads

Yes, yes, I know I’m supposed to be following my sister’s TBR list for this month and I promise I’ll go back to it but I just can’t resist reading this book. It’s FINALLY out! YAYYYYYYYYY! I’m a little excited, can you tell? I almost jumped for joy when I found it a few days earlier than expected at the book store. I’ve seen some mixed reviews from those with ARCs so far, so I’m slighty concerned but hopefully it’s for nothing. I really enjoyed Warcross when I read it earlier this year so fingers crossed this one lives up to it. It’ll be good to spend some more time with my gal Emika again. Looking forward to seeing her kick some more virtual ass.

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What’s your current read & what’s up next?

Ash

Let’s Talk: Picking Books to Review

As book bloggers, one of the biggest components of what we do is writing reviews. However, also being book lovers, we tend to read a substantial number of books every year. Writing lengthy reviews for each and every one just isn’t possible (especially when you’re as slow as I am) – we’d go grey before we even made a dent. So how is it that we pick which books we want to spend several hours discussing with our computer screen?

It’s Absolutely Fantastic (Five Star that Baby)

There’s nothing like finishing a ridiculously amazing book to send you running for your keyboard. When a book has completely rocked your world, the first thing you want to do is tell the world about it (well, after jumping up and down, and searching the internet for fan art, of course). You want everybody else to see just how much of a gem this book is so that they can enjoy it, too.

You’d think these reviews would be easy to write but sometimes they end up being even harder than those for books you don’t like. I find that this is usually because, while I know I enjoyed the hell out of a book, the struggle is breaking down the exact reasons why. Why did I fall so completely in love with the MC, what was it about the plot that shocked me so much, why is this couple my new OTP? Still, these are definitely the most heavily featured types of reviews on my blog because they’re just so much fun to write.

You Hated It (1 Star that Sucker)

In much the same way as an overly positive reaction can push you to write a review, so too can a particularly strong negative reaction. Anger, disgust, frustration, disappointment – these are motivators behind many reviews, especially where the book is something you were led by others to believe was great. I find that I rarely run out of things to say with these types of reviews but the problem is ensuring you don’t cross the line from constructive to cruel. Critiques are a natural part of any art form but we need to be mindful that we’re criticising the work, not the person.

It’s an ARC

Yes, yes, I know this is an obvious one and pretty self-explanatory. The majority of the time when you have an ARC, you’ve been given it by the publisher for the express purpose of writing a review. Therefore, these books are almost guaranteed review picks. If it’s a book people are looking forward to, you’d be silly not to use the opportunity to get extra traffic to your blog. People want to know about this book and you get to read it before everyone else! Use it!

It’s Hyped/Popular

I can’t be the only one who sometimes chooses books to review on this basis (can I?). This reason only really applies, for me, to books that have just come out. If I’m reviewing a popular book that’s a little older, it’s probably for reasons 1 or 2 above. However, if the book is a new release and people have been waiting around for it, much like with an ARC, I’ll review it because I know it’s what people are interested in. Not everyone reads hyped books right on release, some people wait a few months. At least this way people know whether to bump it further up their TBR or perhaps let it linger on the bottom for longer.

Good but Flying Under the Radar

I have to say, I don’t read a lot of not so well known books and that’s a weakness of mine. There’s just so many popular ones that I constantly feel like I’m catching up! However, when I do read something that’s not as well-known and actually a pretty solid read, I’ll usually write a review.

There are so many big name books out there which have ended up being mediocre that I feel it’s important to get the word out when you find something good (or even great) flying under the radar. Give a less known author/book the credit they’re due, you may just help someone find a new favourite read.

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I’m sure there are book bloggers and reviewers out there with very different motivations behind their review picks. I mean, for all I know, there are some crazy superheroes out there that manage to write legible and amazing reviews for most of the things they read (HOW?? I spend like five hours on just one damn review). Still, this is at least an accurate summary of mine and I feel like they’re pretty reasonable. Recently I’ve been trying to increase my reviewing frequency so perhaps new motivations will arise as time goes on.

Why do you review the specific books you review? And what motivates you to read some else’s review?

 

The 80s Movie Tag (Original Tag)

While looking at book tags last month, I came across one labelled the 90s movie tag. I thought it was a really great idea for a tag, and it got me thinking about other movies I consider classics worthy of many, many rewatches. As it turned out, a bunch of the ones that came to mind were 80s movies, and so this tag was born!

There are so many popular movies from 80s. However, finding prompts for them that wouldn’t be ridiculously difficult to answer and hadn’t been done a million times already was very difficult. So if I haven’t included one of your favourites, it’s probably because my silly brain couldn’t come up with a decent prompt for it (You have no idea how sorry I am to skip The Breakfast Club, GhostbustersThe Terminator, and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back).


80s 1A Book That Kept You Up All Night

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J. K. Rowling)

When I first got into Harry Potter, I was about four years old. My mum and I would read the books together and we did this until about book four. By the time Half-Blood Prince came out, I was in my teen years, a very competent and quick reader, and just dying to get my hands on it. I read it during school lunch break, in between netball quarters, in the car, and late into the night. I just couldn’t put it down, I needed to know what happened next! I definitely gave myself a headache from eye strain but it was so worth it.


80s 2A Wonderfully Quotable Book

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)

While I definitely quote Harry Potter A LOT, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has some really lovely lines about life, growing up, friendship, and love. Many of them actually made their way into the movie which is wonderful. Here are some of my favourites:

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” 

_

“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” 

“I just want you to know that you’re very special… and the only reason I’m telling you is that I don’t know if anyone else ever has.”

_

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”


80s 3A Character Who Loves Breaking the Rules

Kady

Kady Grant (The Illuminae Files – Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman)

With Kady, if you tell her one thing, you can pretty much guarantee she’s going to do the exact opposite. Kady purposefully fails the testing to place refugees from Kerenza into service and then spends the rest of Illuminae hacking into whatever the hell takes her fancy as well as running around parts of ships she probably shouldn’t. Told to get rid of the crazy AI? Nah, let’s just save it to a datapad. You can also be sure that no matter what’s happening, she’ll be putting her two cents in.

(P.S. How cool is the Illuminae character art by Kira Knight??)


80s 4A Book Couple That Took An Eternity To Get Together

Image result for the captive prince series

Damen & Laurent (The Captive Prince Trilogy  – C. S. Pacat)

So, you start this series and get a general idea of the kind of books they are – it’s fantasy but mostly romance involving a lot of questionable content (don’t say I didn’t warn you). It also happens to involve a great deal of banter, sexual tension, and loads of sexual references. For this reason, you’d expect the two leads to get down to it some point soon, right? NOOOOPPPE. You’ve got to make it through the whole of book one AND THEN about two-thirds of book two before you get just about anything. This series redefines slow burn romance. If you’re into these kinds of books (book 2 is a lot better than book one and with far more substance, just sayin’), be prepared for a long wait.


80s 5A Book Involving Time Travel

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11.22.63 (Stephen King)

I read this book after watching the mini-series across a few international flights. It’s a bit of a change of pace for Mr King but it’s very well done. Time travel is key to the plot in that it revolves around an English teacher travelling back to the early 60s in an attempt to stop the assassination of JFK. The characters are good, there’s some mystery and romance, and as usual for King, the writing is great.


80s 6A Character With Unique Style

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Magnus Bane (Shadowhunters Books – Cassandra Clare)

If there are two things we can say about Magnus Bane, it’s that he’s (a) sassy and (b) got some interesting fashion sense  (or perhaps ‘flamboyant’ would be a better word). Glitter, shiny fabrics, bright makeup, leather, crazy prints, Magnus does it all and somehow makes it work, even when he’s running around to help save the world. It’s definitely out there but it’s also an essential component of his character.


80s 8Your Favourite Book involving the Training/Mentoring Trope

See the source image

Eragon (Christopher Paolini)

I was definitely not short on choices for this one – you guys know how much I love this trope. So I’ve gone with Eragon. I really love this book. It’s so tropey in general but I don’t care. I enjoy Brom teaching Eragon how to fight, use magic and just generally be a decent dragon rider. Eragon’s a bit of a rash idiot at the beginning but he gets there eventually and this relationship has a big impact on him for books to come.

Special mentions: The Final Empire (Brandon Sanderson) & Nevernight (Jay Kristoff)


80s 9A Book with a Trip that Doesn’t Go to Plan

29283884

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzie Lee)

Poor Monty, Percy and Felicity. All they wanted was to see a bit of Europe and get away from their stuffy parents for a while. Next thing you know, they’re being held up by bandits and on the run from a very angry French aristocrat whilst trying to protect the work of a famous alchemist. Boy, travel is stressful.


IndianaA Book with the Central Character’s Name in the Title

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

I’m going with my most recent read for this one, which I loved immensely. Evelyn is the heart of this story and the book details the events of her life from her teen years up until her 80s. She’s not perfect but she’s certainly interesting.


80s 11A Female Character who Comes out of her Shell

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Piper McLean (The Lost Hero – Rick Riordan)

Piper was my favourite of the newly introduced demi-gods in Riordan’s The Lost Hero. For large parts of the book, Piper’s quite down on herself. She doesn’t realise the full potential of her abilities, chastises herself for not being able to do more in bad situations, and lets herself get pushed around by others. By the end, she realises her value and power, and finds a new sense of confidence. She plays a crucial rule in saving the day, stands up to a bully, takes leadership of the Aphrodite cabin, and convinces herself she’ll win “back” her guy. Go Piper.


80s 10A Death That Took You By Surprise

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XXX (Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor)

Avert your eyes if you don’t want to be spoiled. Sarai’s death is actually disclosed in the first few pages of Strange the Dreamer but for some reason, my brain just didn’t process it as being real. I was like, maybe it’s the past or a dream? Even when I got to the scene in context later in the book, I was like…nahhhhhh, Sarai can’t be dead. Later: Wait, she’s actually dead? Now she’s a GHOST. WHAT THE HELL? Let’s say I wasn’t expecting the story to take the direction it did going into book two.


80s 12An Ending that Left you Both Happy & Sad

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The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

THUG was such a fantastic and yet gut-wrenchingly real book. The conclusion to the main storyline isn’t satisfying but it’s sure as hell realistic. The fact that this was the way things turned out made me feel absolutely awful for the characters, especially Starr, but worse still because this is what actually happens to African-Americans in the United States. At the same time, Starr’s final pages of monologue are extremely empowering and positive – she’s found her voice and won’t let anyone stop her from standing up for what’s right. She’ll keep fighting. The fact that it’s necessary is terrible but it’s a really strong and wonderful way to end the novel.

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And that makes an even dozen. There are actually two movies on this list that I haven’t seen, Nightmare on Elm St and Pretty in Pink. The first is because I don’t do scary movies and the second, I just haven’t got around to it. Perhaps in the near future?

How many of these 80s classic films have you seen? What’s your favourite 80s movie? 

I Tag 2

I know I actually tagged a list of people when I created my Six of Crows tag a while back but this time around I’m sticking to my usual practice and not tagging anyone. If you’d like to give my 80s Movie Book tag a go for yourself, please do! I would love to see your answers so make sure to tag me!!

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Never Forget, Never Give Up, Never Be Quiet: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

5 stars

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Now that’s how you write an author debut.

Over the years, I’ve seen quite a lot of books raved about online, but there are only a few that reach the level of The Hate U Give. This book deserves all the love it receives and more.

I confess, I spend most of my time buried in books that don’t really deal with very heavy, real-world issues. I usually read books to get away from the real world, which is why it’s taken me so long to finally read THUG – I just wasn’t sure whether it’d be something I’d actually enjoy. As usual, I shouldn’t have worried, because this book is fantastic and, above all, eye-opening.

I’m not going to write an extremely lengthy review because it’s been done thousands of times before and probably far better than I’d ever manage. So let’s keep it short and sweet.

Who, What, Where?

The Hate U Give is YA contemporary novel set in the poverty affected, crime-ridden, and heavily African-American populated area of Garden Heights. This is the home of our protagonist, sixteen-year-old Starr Carter and her family. After attending a house party, Starr gets a ride home with an old friend, Khalil. On the way, they’re pulled over by a police officer who, shortly after, shoots and kills Khalil. As the only witness, Starr is placed in a terrifying position – does she speak up, risking the wrath of not only the police but the local gangs, or stay silent, even if it means sacrificing justice for her friend?

Thoughts

One of the most basic pieces of advice people give to young writers is ‘write what you know’ and that’s exactly what Angie Thomas has done. Thomas grew up in an area of Mississippi not too different from Garden Heights and because of this she has intimate knowledge of the poverty, crime, domestic abuse, drug issues, prejudice, education barriers, fear, and violence African-Americans face in parts of the US. But instead of just preaching to us about these issues, Angie places us smack bang in the middle of it so that we can experience them through the eyes of someone who sees it all every day.

When Starr sits in the passenger’s seat of Khalil’s car, her mind running over every piece of advice her parents have given her for dealing with police, we actually feel her terror. The idea that this is what people of colour experience when they come in contact with those who are supposed to protect them horrifies me. I don’t think I have ever been more aware of my privilege than I was in that moment and that is the power of Angie Thomas’ writing.

However, the most wonderful thing about THUG is that it’s not just about the negatives. As outsiders, we look at neighbourhoods like Garden Heights and all we see are the problems. In this book, Angie helps us realise that despite these issues, this is still someone’s home and there’s so much good we don’t see – loving families, kids playing on the street, thriving local businesses, and a tight-knit community.

THUG’s success isn’t just about its subject matter, it’s also well written, engaging and filled with memorable characters. The plot itself is very multilayered – Starr dealing with issues of race in her friendships and romantic relationship, community issues in Garden Heights, particularly in relation to drug lord, King, and then the treatment of black people by law enforcement and the media. Because of this, the plot has a lot of room to move which allows Thomas to address some intense topics with a character heavy and personal focus

Each of the characters in the novel, even the smaller ones, leave an impression, whether it be good or bad. They’re developed, distinct and actually feel like real people. As a protagonist, I found Starr to be very strong. She’s brave and possesses great emotional complexity. I sympathised with her, felt concern for her, rooted for her, and raged with her.

I wish I could explain just how big an impact this book has but even with thousands of words, I don’t think I’d succeed. Instead, all I can say is, read this book – it’s educational, emotional, and an important reminder of just how far we all have to go to achieve equality.

5 Stars