Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Dear Martin (Nic Stone)

Stone, Nic - Dear Martin

★★★★★★☆

Title: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Genre: Fiction/YA/Contemporary
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

I read this novel in one day, very rare for me! I just needed to continue reading. It felt important and all too relevant.

This novel deals with topics that unfortunately are all too current; racial profiling, police brutality, injustice and white privilege. It does so with elegance and conviction. The main character Justyce is easy to like. He tries so hard and yet he is always confronted by the fact that no matter what he does, he is black and therefore people, white and black,  will be prejudiced.

I really enjoyed the way this was written. Some as letters that Justyce right to Rev. Martin Luther King diary style, some as scenes from a play and some as a normal novel, in present tense. It really worked well. I loved the friendships in this book and the slowly developing relationship. I was also impressed by the way race and racism was handled with a careful hand that (unfortunately) most likely spoke from experience.

I would whole-heartedly recommend giving this book to your teen sons/daughters, cousins, pupils to read to get a better understanding of what it is like to be a black teen in a white man’s world.

I only wish it was longer and I will definitely look into other books by this author.

6 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Among The Boat People (Nhi Manh Chung)

Chung, Nhi Manh - Among The Boat People

★★★★★★☆

Title: Among The Boat People
Author: Nhi Manh Chung
Genre: Non-Fiction / Memoir
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Autonomedia, courtesy of the author

Nhi Manh Chung lost her mother Lieu, her brother Kwok Chieu, and her younger sister Bao to the ravaging dark sea while trying to escape Vietnam. Finally settling in New York, her hardships gradually ease as she works her way through college, marries and works as a bilingual teacher. Here she writes her own story, revisiting her past. 

When I was contacted regarding this book, I knew immediately I wanted to read it. There is something about first person experiences that I love to read about. In a way, I feel like every time I read a memoir like this, my world expands a little bit and I love that feeling.

This is only a short book, but it tells a rich story of a life ever evolving. Nhi tells us about growing up in post-war Vietnam, escaping the communist regime and losing close family members in the process, her arrival in New York and the life she built for herself there, teaching immigrant children. She does so in very much her own voice. This is not a particular eloquent polished memoir, but I think that is exactly what lends it its character and power. It is what I loved about this. It reads like you just met an incredible person and they are now relaying the story of their life to you. As in conversation, her memories flow from one into another. Recounting one experience will remind her of another and so she builds the picture of her life and those whose life touched hers and whose lives she touched herself.

This book highlights the plight of refugees and the perilous lengths a person would go to in order to find a better life. It also touches on the Amerasians, children born from US soldiers and Vietnamese women, that arrived in the US, ostracised in their own country, in the hope to find their home in the USA.

Is this a really well-written book? No, the author is not a natural writer, but she does not need to be. Had it been heavily edited, I think it would have lost something. I really enjoyed reading this book and I hope others will as well.

6 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Meet Me in the Bathroom (Lizzy Goodman)

Goodman, Lizzy - Meet Me In The Bathroom

★★★★★★☆

Title: Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011
Author: Lizzy Goodman
Genre: Non-Fiction/Music/Culture   Pages: 596 (+index)
First published: 2017
Edition: Paperback, published by Faber & Faber in 2017

New York, 2001. 9/11 plunges the US into a state of war and political volatility-and heralds the rebirth of the city’s rock scene. As the old-guard music industry crumbles, a group of iconoclastic bands suddenly become the voice of a generation desperately in need of an anthem.

This was such a fun ride. It basically tells a story of a specific group of people in a specific time in a specific city and the music that came from that. It takes us through the stories of bands like The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Sound System and Vampire Weekend, as well as some lesser known (to me) bands.

The book is told via quotes and stories told by various people, including the bands themselves. To learn more about their stories through their own words and through those of people that were part of that scene, sometimes with conflicting memories, was something I really enjoyed. It really a snapshot of a moment in time.  It took a while for me to get into, but this way of story telling brought so much energy, which seems synonymous with the music that was being made at the time.

This book is full of excess, debauchery and of course egos, but it also tells a story of people who share a passion for music and  in the end it is the beating heart of the City that is at the centre of this book.

Apart from Vampire Weekend, these are not bands that I listen to a lot these days, but I loved this book. Simply because there is so much passion in it and it is a story well told.  It is the story of the beginning of a scene and a little bit of the end, but I feel it still simmers.

If you have no affinity at all with these scene or these bands, I doubt you would find it very interesting, but to me, who was a scene girl of sorts in my teens and early twenties, this was a lot of fun.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts; This Savage Song ( V E Schwab)

Schwab, V E - Monster of Verity 1 This Savage Song

★★★★★☆☆

Title: This Savage Song
Author: V E Schwab
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Dystopian
First published: 2016
Edition: Paperback, published by Titan in 2016

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his own father – but his curse is to be what the humans fear. 

*

I enjoyed this one. It took me a while to read it, but that was not the book’s fauly.

I was engaged from the beginning and I liked both Kate and August, the main characters,  well enough. I really liked the way this world was set up and the mechanics of it. The concept certainly felt pretty original and different. However, I felt it could have been a bit more fleshed out.

I think that is how I felt about this book as a whole. I really enjoyed it, but despite it’s distinctive world, it simply felt a bit predictable and at times I felt like it was simply going through the motions a little bit. I am not quite sure why I feel that way, as I enjoyed what I was reading, but nothing felt surprising or particularly sticks out now I have finished it.

Overall, I really did like the writing itself. I will definitely be reading the second book in this duology and I am sure I will try another on of this author’s series in the future.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: High Fidelity (Nick Hornby)

Hornby, Nick - High Fidelity

★★★★★☆☆

Title: High Fidelity
Author: Nick Hornby – Narrator: Russell Tovey
Genre: Fiction/contemporary
First published: 1995
Edition: Audio book

Do you know your desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups? Rob does. He keeps a list, in fact. But Laura isn’t on it – even though she’s just become his latest ex. He’s got his life back, you see. He can just do what he wants when he wants: like listen to whatever music he likes, look up the girls that are on his list, and generally behave as if Laura never mattered. But Rob finds he can’t move on. He’s stuck in a really deep groove – and it’s called Laura. Soon, he’s asking himself some big questions: about love, about life – and about why we choose to share ours with the people we do.

*

I listened to this on a whim as an Instagram ‘book club’ I love was reading this. It is one of those books that had been on my radar for years, but I just never really felt like actually reading. I knew I had watched the movie in the 90s, but could not really remember it at all.

It was an interesting trip reading this book. It is kind good and bad at the same time, which is a curious thing to achieve! The book is mostly about relationship and emotional attachment and is told from the point of view of a guy, who is a bit of an arse really.

I like my music, so I loved how much the main character, Rob,  loves music and the fact that he owns a record shop, but apart from that…. He needed a good slap. To be honest, so did his (ex?) girlfriend Laura, also a bit of an arse. I got way too annoyed with all the characters at one point or another, but kind of rooted for Rob at the same time.

I do like this type of oddball book, which is sort of about nothing, but simply looks at human nature and the world from a rather ordinary perspective.

Russell Tovey’s narration was fine for the most part. His tone was a bit off sometimes, especially when doing the ladies’ voices, but overall I liked it.

When I finished it me and my husband sat down to watch the movie for the first time in 20 years.

The book feels very British and I kind of enjoyed that about it. The movie adaptation (with John Cusack) sort of misses that Britishness (obviously being American it would!).

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Wilding (Isabella Tree)

Tree, Isabella - Wilding

★★★★★★★

Title: Wilding
Author: Isabella Tree
Genre: Non-Fiction/Natural World Pages: 384
First published: 2018
Edition: Audio Book (& Hardback)

Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp in West Sussex was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

*

I had a feeling I was going to love this book. I love books that are about someone going on some sort of journey and learning about a subject with them. This kind of felt like that and it felt like a revelation.

As I followed this couple with a farming background return their estate in Sussex to a natural state (or as close as possible with modern rules and regulations in place) I learned what nature actually means. I discovered how manufactured what I think of as nature actually is. But what I learned most is how Mother Nature in all her glory knows exactly what is best for her. One creature’s actions can cause a chain reaction with far reaching consequences for all the creatures and plants around it. This goes for us humans, but also for a Tamworth pig or a beaver.

Of course I loved hearing about nightingales and butterflies, deer and Exmoor ponies, but surprisingly I found the passages on farming incredibly interesting. Both in how farming and government incentives have helped destroy our natural diversity and health and how changing farming practices can be our saving grace.  This book deals with a lot of environmental arguments and it made me much more aware about the world around me and how we can still turn things around. I found it both profoundly sad, but also gave me hope for a brighter future. 

I am not doing justice to this gem of a book, but if you are at all interested in nature and the environment, this is a must-read book.

7 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Mix Tape (Jane Sanderson)

Sanderson, Jane - Mix Tape

★★★★★★★

Title: Mix Tape
Author: Jane Sanderson
Genre: Fiction/Romance Pages: 408
First published: 2020
Edition: Kindle e-book

Daniel was the first boy to make Alison a mix tape. But that was years ago and Ali hasn’t thought about him in a very long time. Even if she had, she might not have called him ‘the one that got away’; after all, she’d been the one to run. Then Dan’s name pops up on her phone, with a link to a song from their shared past. For two blissful minutes, Alison is no longer an adult in Adelaide with temperamental daughters; she is sixteen in Sheffield, dancing in her skin-tight jeans. She cannot help but respond in kind. And so begins a new mix tape.

Let me start by stating that this is one of my favourite books I have read this year. I adored it.

Although it is billed as a romance book and the cover suggests a light read, I feel that this is slightly misleading. This books deals with a lot of trauma, such as alcoholism, rape and suicide. If you go in expecting a fun light read, this is not that, and in my opinion all the better for it.

The novel follows two people during two time lines – one in 1979 and the other in 2012/13. In the later timeline both are in their late forties, have other partners and adult children and yet they find their way back to each other, reconnecting through music that they send to each other via Twitter. I loved having older protagonists that still felt young at heart. I guess I recognised much of myself in them!

It does deal with adultery, which is not a subject I am particularly fond of, but somehow it works here and it did not bother me too much.

I loved the main characters, as well as the quirky cast of side characters. There were some really endearing dynamics.

I loved the big role the music aspect played in this narrative. Music is very evocative for me personally, so for me this novel made a lot of sense and I felt wave after wave of nostalgia whilst reading it.

I adored this so much. This was perfect for me.

7 out of 7 stars

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 13 May 2020

It’s a cloudy day. My daughter has gone back to school for the first time in two months. It feels odd. I miss her! I have enjoyed all this time together. She goes to school two days a week now with homeschooling the rest of the week.

We will see!

***

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

I am still listening to Wilding by Isabella Tree. It’s incredibly interesting and challenges a lot of theories on conservation and what nature means, whilst documenting what happened when they let their estate go wild. Amazing read/listen.

I am slowly making my way through Meet Me In The Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York: 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman. I am enjoying the experience of reading this, but I have not reached for it all that often in the last week. I will try and prioritize it a bit more, because the little I have read was really well done.

Finally, I am reading Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson. which is billed as a romance book, but 50% in I am pleasantly surprised that this appears much more than that. We follow two time lines, one in 1979 (my birth year!) and one in 2012/2013. We follow two people in their late forties reconnecting from afar through music. It’s full of nostalgia. Halfway through, I do wonder where it’s going from here. So far, I really connect with it.

Thomas, Angie - The The Come UpWhat did I recently finish reading?

I only finished one book since last week, but it was a good one! This was On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. It was six out of seven stars for me. I really enjoyed that one!

What will I be reading next?

I may continue reading books with a musical theme. This Savage Song by V E Schwab is an option or maybe Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel, which is the first book in The Vinyl Detective series. It depends on my mood, as always!

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: On The Come Up (Angie Thomas)

Thomas, Angie - The The Come Up

★★★★★★☆

Title: On The Come Up
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: Fiction/YA/contemporary  Pages: 435
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Walker Books

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

Having absolutely loved The Hate U Give, I must admit I was pretty apprehensive to read this one. What if it did not live up to expectations?

I am glad to say I really enjoyed On The Come Up as well. Did it capture my heart the way The Hate U Give did? Maybe not quite, but it was the same straightforward writing that is so easy to read, combined with a story and characters that feel utterly real and believable.

It brings to life the struggle people have to deal with, simply because of the colour of their skin and the prejudices that make life a hell of a lot more difficult than it needs to be, limiting the life choices available. This novel deals with that issue so well, at the same time creating strong female characters in both Bri and maybe especially her mother Jay.

Bri’s encounters with the rap business were well handled and eye openining. I imagine the real business could be very much like this, though I know very little about that! I enjoyed the lyric parts, though I did wish I could hear them instead of reading them (audio book?). That there are pitfalls on the road to success should not be surprising.

Another highlight of this novel were Bri’s family’s dynamics. I loved how much they all cared about each other and how supportive they were, even if their choices were not always the best ones. The love and support of your family can mean so much. Also,  the friendship triangle of Bri, Sonny and Malik was just perfect.

On a side note, I really appreciated how this dovetailed into The Hate U Give, with little references here and there.

I did not love this quite as much, but I still loved it a ton.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 6 May 2020

The sun is shining and I am about to go and do some gardening!

***

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

I am reading On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. I am only just over 50 pages in, but enjoying it! I really like the writing style. I hope I will love it as much as I did The Hate U Give, which was one of my favourite books I read last year.

I also started the audio book of Wilding by Isabella Tree yesterday. It’s a non-fiction book about rewilding a country estate. I love books about nature and I am already loving this one! It’s narrated by the author – always a bonus!

Finally, I have just started Meet Me In The Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman. This is a chunker of a book that tells the story of bands like The Strokes, Vampire Weekend and Interpol and cultural shift at the beginning of this century in New York. It’s an oral history kind of book with a lot of first hand experiences and views.  I love a lot of bands from this era (definitely not all), but I don’t know a lot about it and this books looks right up my street. I am planning to take my sweet time with this book.

What did I recently finish reading?

I just finished reading a manga today, which was The Promised Neverland, Vol 1 by Kaiu Shiray (story) and Posuka Demizu (art). I really enjoyed that one and will be continuing the series for sure. There is also an anime and I would like to watch that at some point.

I also finished Face It, the autobiography of Blondie’s Debbie Harry on audio, which was interesting, but is not one that will stick in my mind.

Finally I read Sweet Thing by Renée Carlino. This was a romance novel. It was ok, but the main female character was simply annoying, especially since the male lead was very likable for a change.

What do I think I will be reading next?

I will probably continue one of my series. Maybe Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn & Grim #2) by Juliet Marillier, or Drift (Flow #3) by Clare Littlemore. Both are long overdue.