The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: April 2017
Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ .5
Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. 

I hate to say what almost every single review of this book has said, but I’d rather say it now than talk about it at length. This book is important. I’ve used it to describe books before and I’m kind of getting sick of it. It does it’s job, but at the same time, is that all this story is good for? Of course not. Stories are important, of course, but I don’t think people should feel like they have to read it because it’s important. It should be read to have a better understanding of what’s going on in the U.S. today, and why it needs be written about.

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I loved The Hate U Give, for many reasons, but none of them were because this book is important.

I loved this book because it was different. I love looking for new stories to devour that aren’t the same old same old that we see cover the shelves at Waterstones. This was a story that I had only seen in the news; twisted and manipulated by the media to only show us one perspective. While this story is a work of fiction, it’s very real and and no doubt accurate. It was a change, and refreshing.

I loved this book because it was entertaining. I loved Starr’s family dynamic and the relationships she had with her parents, her siblings, her boyfriend, and her friends. The community she lives in that, while riddled with crime and neglected, still gave me a warm, familial feel that showed us that family stretched further than the walls of your house. Starr’s personality shone from the page, even when she was going through such devastating events. She wasn’t a ‘strong female character’, she was a real female character.

I loved this book because of the impact it will have. As a white woman who hasn’t even set foot in the U.S., I’ve seen my fair share of black stereotypes, and often it was odd for me to read depictions and passages and dialogue and not think it racist. I think, if this were written by anyone else, it would have been deemed questionable, but you cannot question the experiences of a black person about black culture. This was one depiction, but it was a true and experienced depiction (obviously not word for word, The Hate U Give isn’t an autobiography). But the thing is, I was thinking about it along the lines of ‘white people are going to read this and think all black people talk/act like this in this ‘ghetto way’ oh no’. But to be honest, this book isn’t really for them if they’re going to read it and come away with that rather than any of the other very explicit messages in this story. And plus, this story was written to inform yes, but mainly, to represent. There are so many young POC who love to read and yet all they get to read about are people they cannot relate to, about people who wouldn’t listen to them if they tried to share their story. So to have The Hate U Give depict one of the frank and honest and accurate depictions of being black in the U.S. today to black teens who are living this shit is by far a better thought to come away with than what white people may think about it.

You may be wondering why I’ve only given it 4.5 stars after raving about it for so long. I’ve literally just taken away half a star just because this wasn’t a book that I was glued to. I was easily taken out of the story because a lot of the dialogue I had to go back and read because I wasn’t sure if I’d ingested it correctly. I’ve had this with other books before that are either written with a dialect or even in phonetic speech (damn you Trainspotting!) and so that was a pain. But thankfully, it didn’t take away from the story and I was still able to enjoy despite being a slow reader!

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MOVIE REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Welcome to my FIRST EVER MOVIE REVIEW ON HOLLIEBLOG.COM!

*double checks*

Ok, I’ve reviewed some TV shows but they don’t count.

A loooong time ago, I used to run a Tumblr called ‘Hollie Reviews’ (which is still there), where I posted a review of every film that I watched. Whether that was in the cinema or even just at home on Netflix. Nobody read them, and I left it like an abandoned theme park to work on my booklr and, eventually, this blog right here.

But today, while not making a habit of reviewing movies, I wanted to talk about a recent book to movie adaptation that has left me feeling a little…strange.

Strange because I never prefer a film to the book.

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I read Call Me By Your Name back in February, falling in and out of love with passages that were either beautiful, intimate and making me yearn for the summer, or so purple that I lost track of what was happening (a thing that happens to me a lot when reading text that’s too flowery). You can read the whole review on Goodreads, where I compete with the two sides of my brain; one side that wanted more of the book, and one side that thought the whole thing laughable.

But the film was different.

Firstly, this year I’ve started going to the cinema alone. At first it was to combat my monstrous anxiety that I was battling at the beginning of the year, where the thought of going outside was horrifying. I thought to myself if I can go to the cinema and then eat lunch, alone, with no one to distract me, I can do anything. I usually pick films that I want to go see that I don’t think anyone else would want to see with me; films that maybe only get a few showings and are screened in the smallest room in the multiplex. Call Me By Your Name wasn’t even in the multiplex, and I had to go to the local indie/arthouse theatre which I knew wouldn’t accept my 3 years out of date student card and would also be a lot more intimate.

But hey, intimacy is what Call Me By Your Name is all about, so the atmosphere was spot on.

So I sat there, in a plush red chair with only a smattering of people, most of them on their own too (this always helps). Turns out Friday at 1pm is not prime time indie film watching. I’d decided that I was going to be really excited for this film because, let’s be honest, a film adaptation of a queer book deserves money thrown at it. It needs success because through success brings more LGBT focused films. Plus I’d seen the trailer and it looked precious af. So, despite having mixed feelings about the book, I was sat there in a small cinema on a Friday afternoon with a bag of 80 calorie popcorn, and I was READY.

[MINOR SPOILER AHEAD]

I was actually surprised about how much I remembered the book, and was super disappointed about the scenes set in Rome not in the final cut of the film. Those were my favourite scenes from the book, but it felt like the adaptation was a lot more focused on the build up to their relationship, rather than the part where they were free from hiding from Elio’s parents and their friends and could just be themselves.

But, I liked how their dynamic was a little different from the book.

As I stated in my book review, Elio meets Oliver and that’s it, he straight up worships him, and while it’s harder to express so much thought in a film without having a voice-over (which honestly, can be awful), I definitely found that Elio was a lot more pissed off by Oliver. He was here, taking over his space, winning over his friends,  and talking over his parents like some ‘loud American’. I loved it a lot; they talked quickly, moved around each other but never collided until they did and WOW. WOW. I forgot I was alone in a cinema full of strangers because beauty? What is it? It’s this film.

So, better dynamic? CHECK!

Beautiful music (Sufjan Stevens baby!) CHECK!

Cinematography which makes me nostalgic for Italy and the 80s despite being born in 1993? CHECK!

There were definitely scenes that were a bit strange and made me cringe a little. And no, not the peach scene, but just some hammy scenes that I don’t know if they were improvisations from Timothée Chalamet (who plays Elio) or directions from the director but hey, it’s an arthouse/indie film, a little weirdness is expected.

If this film is showing near you, go see it! Have a little day to yourself, grab some food! Read a book, then go watch this!

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Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicles #2) by Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: 7th September 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Mia Corvere, destroyer of empires, has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry do not believe she has earned it.

Her position is precarious, and she’s still no closer to exacting revenge for the brutal death of her family. But after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it is announced that Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself into slavery for a chance to fulfill the promise she made on the day she lost everything.

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Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold, secrets are revealed and the body count rises within the collegium walls, Mia will be forced to choose between her loyalties and her revenge.

WELL SHIT HAS CERTAINLY HIT THE FAN HASN’T IT LADS?

Falling in love with Nevernight was such a surprise for me. I hadn’t heard of it, was given an ARC, and fell head over heels with the language, concept, the setting, and just everything about it. I still can’t decide whether to call it YA or not, and whether it would be insulting to assume that this is not for adults just because of the violence, swearing and sexual scenes (like come on, young adults watch Game of Thrones, it’s not like they’re new to it), but at the same time, I can never find these books in the YA sections of bookstores, so the marketing is different, who knows.

But I’ve always shied away from adult fantasy because of some of the content; primarily male writers who can’t or won’t write female characters, with plots that are all just Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones regurgitated en masse. And while Nevernight and it’s sequel, Godsgrave, don’t have the most unique plot you’ve ever heard of, I am still enthralled by the twists and turns that this series has, and what it will do to keep you on your toes.

It’s getting better and better too, I cannot wait to stick this on lists of fantasy reads you SHOULD be reading this year and talking about it lots all over my social medias. If you love foul mouthed, bloody thirsty anti-heroines who possess the magic of shadows and will stop at nothing for revenge against the death of her family, including competing in one of the deadliest fighting matches in the country, then look no further than Mia Corvere.

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The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice & Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins)
Release Date: 27th June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

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Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

So this book was not what I expected, which, is kind of disappointing. But it doesn’t stop it from being a really fun adventure that made my need for LGBT+ Historical YA to sore through to the sky.

Judging from the synopsis, I imagined a ‘romp’. I think maybe that word was used once or twice in one lined reviews slapped on some promotional material. Yeah, ‘romp’ and ‘raucous’. I love, and I mean LOVE, cheeky male characters with soft hearts and giant smiles, and that’s definitely what Monty was in the beginning, in the very beginning, however. He’s just woken up after a huge piss up and he’s seeing the antiques from the night before. But, while I understand that character development and change are a thing in books where the character has to learn a lesson,I was disappointed that Monty was kind of carried through by his sister and his best friend, Felicity and Percy.

I expected a lot more laughs and silliness from a rather naive-to-the-world rich teenage boy going on a Grand Tour (which were quite an important thing for a young man before he became ‘responsible’), but what we got was a lot more serious and a bit boring.

Things I did love; Percy and Felicity defying expectations, stereotypes, and social norms of the time. Considering when you read historical fiction, authors don’t bother including POC characters at all and only have female characters as speaking mains if it’s a bodice ripper and they’re sleeping with a king/prince, so it was nice just to have them there, with plots and personality and futures! Oh my!

I did thoroughly enjoy this novel, despite the fairly critical review, and the fact that it took me a while to even write one. But, I think the synopsis could be worded a little differently just so you’re not surprised that you’re not laughing as much.

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The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Publisher: Hodder
Release Date: July 2014
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the star chart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

I just clapped my hands together and shouted ‘SO’ to an empty room because I have a lot to say on this beauty of a book.

My expectations were fairly low; I rarely wander to adult sci-fi with space and spaceships and aliens because either I find the plots fairly similar and boring and copy cat versions of what they imagined space travel to be like in the 60s. But in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was not just a story but a commentary told through an highly imaginative and distinctly different storytelling that was just…WOWIE.

cropped-2017-03-13-05-03-25-11.jpgSo The Long Way is told over a good few years or ‘standards’ which I believe is longer than 12 months, where a crew have a job waiting for them on the other side of the galaxy. This is the over-arching plot that kickstarts everything, but the real stories are tucked inside the very characters on the Wayfarer where each person is given depth and development but it’s so much more than that. I’ve never read a character study that’s also paired with a whole new setting; writers like to explore deep characters and the flaws of what it means to be human in a setting we understand to better ground the characters in a more familiar place that won’t divert from the things the author is trying to do. But here, Becky Chambers manages to successfully juggle the two at the same time, WHILE not all the characters are even human.

Yeah. Incredible.

So we have these incredible characters, many of whom aren’t human, but are still telling this greater story of humanity and the greater good. How, we as sentients, need to look out for one another and respect customs, cultures and other languages. In the story’s universe, it’s a known fact that humans are a self-destructive and competitive species and that it had to change when allying with other species that were far more compassionate and advanced. It was amazing to read about these other fictional species who were just so different from other imaginings of aliens where, I often found, the aliens were still just humans but green, or blue or even were exactly like humans in every way. These species were nothing like humans; they had different languages, customs, body parts. Some had scales and feathers, some communicated through coloured lights in their cheeks, some didn’t wear clothes, some changed biological sex through age. There were differences in family dynamics and they way children were reared (as you can tell, the Aandrisk species was my favourite to learn about). It was just so interesting to read about and watching this crew grow into a family made my heart grow warm and fuzzy.

The Long Way definitely felt like a series of episodes, rather than one large quest, and so if any networks are looking for a sci-fi book to adapt into a show which is kind of like Firefly but SO much more imaginative, then this is your book. Get on it.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 21st January 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful and cruel father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Continue reading “Caraval by Stephanie Garber”

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: June 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads:

Plot: Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

25437747I love reading books set in Britain, and it’s kind of a sad sentence. Because despite living in the UK, and having a passion for books, I still find it difficult to find them set in Britain and written by British authors. So, when I do, I snap them up pretty quickly.

Beautiful Broken Things was no exception. And, since it was in the Zoella Book Club last year, I thought it’d be nice to pick up a book that supported a campaign to get young people reading, as well as hearing that it touches on serious subjects well.

And it did, however, it was one of those stories when the main character was over shadowed by another character who clearly had too much sway in how the story was going to be told. Caddy is an alright main character, but she’s so privileged that she’s jealous of her new friend Suzanne. She ends up saying and doing silly things and then gets upset when people react badly, and there isn’t necessarily any development for her.

Despite this, I really enjoyed the themes discussed in this book. There is no romance (unless you found the scenes between Suzanne and Caddy to be borderline romantic), and the story solely focuses on the dynamic between teenage girls, and what they’ll do to be liked and fit in. It’s hard to find a story that focuses on female friendships in a healthy and realistic way, as well as promoting the idea that girls can actually be friends (who’d a thought it). It’s tiring seeing so many YA novels where girls automatically dislike each other because of a boy or just for the sake of it. So, with that in mind, I gave it a 4 stars. It was gripping, with a great message, but with a bland MC with very little action until the end.

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