The Hate U Give

 

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.

Along with All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, this book truly captures what is going on in today’s society. Starr Carter lives in a poor neighborhood with her family. Her father, once part of a gang, has reformed himself enough that Starr is able to attend a fancy prep school in the suburbs. While her mother worries about the family’s safety, her father is reluctant to move so he won’t be considered a sell-out to the neighborhood.

Starr lives two lives: her home life and her school life. She acts and speaks differently at school because she doesn’t want to be thought of as ghetto or a thug. Life isn’t always easy for her and it gets harder when her friend Khalil is killed by a police officer right in front of her eyes. Understandably traumatized, Starr doesn’t want to be known as the witness to the shooting. She fears the backlash it would cause. Her voice during this time is so authentic and so heart-wrenching that I wanted to hug her and help her get through this.

I haven’t read a book like this, where a character is so split between her two selves and how she eventually makes peace with herself. I could not put it down. It was powerful, heart breaking, made me learn, think, and cry. Even though the book is very much a part of what is going on in the world right now, it is one that will definitely stand the test of time.

Rating: 5/5

About Me

I haven’t posted anything really about me on this blog. I will rectify that now.

Hi, I’m Natalie. I am a public librarian in NY. I have five fur babies, read mostly YA fiction (though my go-to for “big people” fiction books are fantasy and romance), I watch a lot of TV and have many many fandoms, and am plagued with some annoying, but not life threatening chronic illnesses (osteoarthritis, IBS, interstitial cystitis). I also have dysthymia (the nicer way of saying chronic depression) and anxiety disorder.

My brain likes to pick at things. It could be work related, life related, health related, it doesn’t matter. Today it’s picking at the IBS bloating and how it’s making me feel about my body. It’s ridiculous. I have no right to complain about how I look. I’m fine. If I mention it to my friends who are struggling with their weight, they rightfully roll their eyes at me. There are times when I let my brain be and times when I worry about why I’m thinking about. It’s never dull in my head, that’s for sure.

I’m also an open book and and over-sharer. If you read my tweets, you probably figured that out. I know I should be more private and I am working on keeping more things to myself, but most of the time, I honestly don’t care who knows what’s going on with me. It’s not like any of it is a federal secret or anything, but I should learn to keep some stuff to myself.

I will write more posts like this in between book reviews, I promise!

 

 

 

Red Queen

 In a world divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities–seventeen-year-old Mare, a Red, discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. But Mare risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard –a growing Red rebellion–even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction.

This book sounded right up my alley. Fantasy? Check. Royalty? Double Check. Girl with secret powers? Triple check.  I kept wanting to love the book, but I couldn’t do it. The world building is good, but the characters fit too easily into tropes: the best friend who could be more, the sainted sister, the evil Queen, the two Princes. Mare should have been an amazing character, a girl who kicked ass and took names, but she wasn’t. She was way too passive. She let the action happen around her, let the resistance recruit her. She never took charge, never took ownership of her powers and used them. She only really gets some spine at the end of the story, but it wasn’t enough for me.

I don’t mind romance in my fantasy novels, but the love triangle made me cringe. Mare liked one brother and wanted another, neither of which I felt fully attached to. Both boys were not well developed and rather cringe-worthy. Even the female rival really isn’t one. She’s nasty, borderline evil, basically a stock character of the female rival. Even the evil queen seems a shade too evil. The characters are all ones we’ve seen before. Reading about the same type of character doesn’t bother me if there is some depth to them or some twist to their story that makes the book worth reading. Most of the characters in this book had neither.

I had to skim big chunks of the book to see if it got interesting. It didn’t, at least not for me. I know there is a huge fan base around this whole series and I had really high hopes of falling in love with a new series.

Rating: 2/5

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life.

Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw is not a typical athlete. In fact, he has no athletic training at all. He stumbles upon a track team’s training session, and on a whim, decides to join a race. Wearing beat up sneaker and jeans, he manages to amaze everyone, especially the coach. Ghost hasn’t had the easiest of lives. His Dad is not in the picture and his Mom works long hours. Joining the track team is his chance to make friends and stay out of trouble. He has some problems becoming part of the team and staying out of trouble, but he eventually finds himself on the right path.

I am a huge Jason Reynolds fan and have not been disappointed by any of his books and this is no exception. This is a short novel, but it still has lots of depths to it. Ghost’s story tugs at your heartstrings. He makes a bad decision during the novel, but instead of being angry with him about it, all I felt was empathy and sympathy. The secondary characters are wonderful, especially the store owner Mr. Charles. Mr. Charles shows Ghost the much needed kindness he needs. Someone I follow on Twitter captured their relationship perfectly by stating she will never see sunflower seeds in the same way again.

There are glimpses of Ghost’s teammates, who also have their own stories.  Even Coach has his own story, which he shares with Ghost to help him get on the right path. He’s a wonderful mentor and every troubled youth should have a person like Coach in their corner to support them. You get some glimpses at Ghost’s Mom, which is refreshing. Parents in YA novels tend to be absent.

This is the first in a series and I cannot wait to read the others.

Rating: 5/5

The Masked Truth Review

Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for. Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal. The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues”. But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage. The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree. Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next–but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

This book is basically a suspense movie in written format which means you have to suspend a lot of disbelief. If you can, it’s a great ride. The action starts slow, but as the book progresses, so does the body count. Riley and Max are the most developed characters of the story. Riley is traumatized by experiencing the murder and Max has his own demons to fight, which the reader earns about before any of the characters do.

It takes a while before the true motivation for the killing spree is revealed, but it’s a doozy. The identities of the masked men is also another twist. I admit that I skipped ahead because I had to know who the bad guys were. There isn’t much depth to the plot, but the action was so good that it didn’t matter. This was a really good suspense book. I kept wondering who was going to get killed next and how. The secret Max keeps adds a depth to what would otherwise be a slight novel. His and Riley’s mental status are big part of how they handle the situation and what they do to survive.

Rating: 3.5/5

Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Review

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F**k positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.” Th is book is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up. Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better.

Here are the quotes that stood out for me:

**There is little that is unique special about your problems. Don’t be special. Don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator.

If it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really you versus yourself.

The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.

Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our own feelings. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Being wrong opens up to the possibility for growth.

**Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you. Many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you. This is because you always get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things.

**Popularity is a bad value. The value/metric isn’t based on reality: you may feel popular/unpopular, when in fact you have no fucking clue what anybody else thinks about you. (Side note: As a rule, people who are terrified of what others think of them are actually terrified of all the shitty things they think about themselves being reflected back at them.)

I starred the three that really hit me. I mean REALLY hit me. I spoke about them in therapy. I am still processing what I got out of that session. The last chapter of the book about death was a bit too mundane and anxiety inducing for me, but I truly enjoyed the rest. Even though there was some repetition, I didn’t care. Manson writes in a style that made me laugh and then think all in a span of a paragraph. What he says isn’t groundbreaking or new, but how he says it made the difference for me. I paused so many times as I read this book to reflect on what I just read. I don’t know if I will ever perfect not giving a f*ck, but this book helped me start down a path that I haven’t travelled before and that’s exciting.

Rating: 4.5/5

Undefeated Review

Jim Thorpe: Super athlete, Olympic gold medalist, Native American
Pop Warner: Indomitable coach, football mastermind, Ivy League grad

Before these men became legends, they met in 1907 at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where they forged one of the winningest teams in American football history. Called “the team that invented football,” they took on the best opponents of their day, defeating much more privileged schools such as Harvard and the Army in a series of breathtakingly close calls, genius plays, and bone-crushing hard work.

I am a huge fan of Steve Sheinkin and he did not disappoint with this book. He writes non-fiction in a way that’s interesting and captivating. He writes the story almost like a novel. I admit, there have been times I’ve forgotten I’m reading about actual people.

There are a few stories in this book: a short one about Pop Warner himself, one about the Carlisle Indian School, and the one about Jim Thorpe. I had heard of the Carlisle Indian School, but I admit to not knowing very much about it. It was supposed to be a way to give Native American children some sort of skill training so they could find work. While it did train the students there, it also have a very negative impact on them all. All students were forced to wear the same uniform and have their haircut, which for some, was an important part of their Native American identities. Lastly, they were forbidden to speak their Native language while at school.

Most of the story centered on the football team. Football had just been invented when the team began to play and reading about how the game used to be played was eye-opening. At one point, players were allowed to punch each other in the face! The team itself is the epitome of inspiration. A movie could (and should) be made about their rise. They began with a horrible record, but ended up beating some of the most elite college football teams around.

I also learned a lot about Jim Thorpe. I knew about his Olympic victory, but little else. Sheinkin shines a light on his background, personality, and life beautifully. I had admired Jim Thorpe before reading this, but I admire him even more after. He was an interesting figure: determined, athletic, quiet, fierce. There are so many adjectives that can be ascribed to him.

Rating: 4.5/5