Friday, 24 October 2014

Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley

Pages: 377
Publisher: MiraINK
Release Date: 3rd October 2014
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

It’s 1959.

The battle for civil rights is raging.

And it’s Sarah Dunbar’s first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High School.

No one wants Sarah there.

Not the Governor.

Not the teachers.

And certainly not the students – especially Linda Hairston, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist.

Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise each other. But as a school project forces them to spend time together, the less their differences seem to matter. And Sarah and Linda start to feel something they’ve never felt before. Something they’re both determined to ignore.

Because it’s one thing to stand up to an unjust world – but another to be terrified of what’s in your own heart.

All I’ve been hearing for the last month or so is how bloody good thins book is. But also how affecting and powerful Sarah and Linda’s story is; I can’t say I disagree!

I have to admit that I was a little worried that Lies We Tell Ourselves was taking on a little too much: a lesbian relationship between a white and a black girl in 1959 during the early days of desegregation. Hmm. Strangely, it worked. The focus, of course, was the reaction the first ten black students to attend Jefferson High in Virginia. The treatment that they received made me feel sick. Verbal, physical and mental abuse from students, parents and teachers. I think that one of the worst things is that the ignorance of the children was inherited; they were spouting what they had been taught to spout. Linda was definitely the finest example of this.

Linda and Sarah shared the narrative of Talley’s debut, exposing the ignorance, confusion and hatred that a white teenager felt about a black one. I loved watching her thoughts evolve and grow. It was so realistic, right down to the second-guessing of her own thoughts and realising that she may be wrong, and the fear of admitting that to herself and those around her, but particularly her white supremacist father. Her developing feelings for Sarah were a lesser part of her narration but they were definitely there, and I think furthered her severe reactions to Sarah in the beginning. Sarah, having realised her ‘sinful’ feelings for girls years before, was a lot more open about her reaction to Linda. Their relationship was surprisingly touching and I loved the soft and slow burn of it; anything else would have been incredibly unrealistic and a little too much on top of the racial issues in the novel.

Sarah’s feelings led her to question her faith, and so did the treatment she and her friends received at Jefferson High. And I loved that that was an element of the story. How could He let them be treated as if they were less when He created them too? How could something He described in the Bible be so wrong, along women lying with women is never explicitly mentioned, feel so right and make her so happy?

Though homosexuality isn’t the strongest theme in the novel, it carries a heavy message. If the attitudes to the LGBT community are changed and accepted soon, there is the possibility that what happened during desegregation, and our horror at that, could be something our children are looking back on with the horror and disgust that we see this period with.

Though I can’t quite say I enjoyed read Lies We Tell Ourselves; it was too painful to read to be enjoyable, it’s an incredibly powerful and important book and I really hope it makes it into schools.

Thanks to NetGalley and MiraINK for the review copy.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Books Have Made Me Want to Visit...

I imagine every single person that has read Daughter of Smoke and Bone finished the novel with a burning urge to walk to old, cobbled streets of Prague, watching the weird and wonderful street artists and tucked away cafes. The museums and architecture. The sheer beauty of that city sends me dizzy and I’ve never even been there; I think I’d collapse when faced with the real thing.

I mean, really, who doesn’t want to go and get a cheesy picture on the TFiOS bench? I totally do. And I’d also like the ride a bike along the canals and visit the Anne Frank museum, see all of the multi-coloured houses and basically act like I’m in a movie.

North Carolina
So many authors that I love and have loved live, write and set books in this beautiful Southern state: Sarah Dessen, Nicholas Sparks, Stephanie Perkins and that’s actually all I can think of at the moment... But they made a profound impact on me. I have visions of a lush, idyllic countryside and beautiful sandy beaches with tall rustling grasses, whitewashed boardwalks and crumbling wooden shacks. And the indie bookshops sound incredible – Malaprops, Quail Ridge Books, Flyleaf Books – ugh, someone take me.

No brainer, this one. And I’m finally going to fulfil a lifelong dream next year and I am going to go to the city that never sleeps (once I can come to terms with the inordinate amount of money it’s going to cost me...). The city of Broadway, diners, music, The Strand, Books of Wonder, Friends and all of these things bring alive books set in NYC. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, City of Bones, Where She Went, The Luxe, Jessie Hearts NYC, The Geography of You and Me and I could keep on going.

Wizarding World
Another no brainer. Who in their right mind doesn’t want to be fitted for their want at Olivaders, sneak to Honeydukes via the secret passageway, drink Butterbeer in the Leaky Cauldron, have Christmas at Hogwarts, meet nearly Headless Nick, learn to play Quidditch, have Hermione tell you it’s Wingardiam leviOsa, not levioSA. It’s every child (and most adults’) dream to receive that letter welcoming you to a world of magic and danger and extraordinary friendships. Eve at 22, I’m still holding our hope...

Where have books made you want to visit? Have you ever visited somewhere you fell in love with on the page?


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Exquisite Captive, Heather Demetrios

Pages: 480
Publisher: RHCP Digital
Release Date: 9th October 2014
Edition: UK e-book, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: Something Real

A jinni of tremendous ancient power and Empress to Arjinna, Nalia was sold into slavery on the dark caravan, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their masters’ every command. She’d do anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arijinna’s revolution and Malia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother. But freedom comes at a heavy price and danger is everywhere.

In this gorgeous fantasy debut, Heather Demetrios brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than light.

I sometimes find fantasy difficult. It takes me a little longer to read and it occasionally feels too foreign for me to fully connect with the characters and the world, but I thoroughly enjoyed Exquisite Captive.

Heather Demetrios has created a complex and intricate world of jinni. Even though we never set foot on Arijinna, the hierarchies of the different jinni races and their histories are vividly recalled and we get a picture of the beautiful, mysterious world that Nalia calls her home. But this world has now been ravaged by war, rebellion and the Ifrit jinnis and Nalia has no idea of the extent of the damage. I do hope we get to see Arijinna in the next book.

A lot of problems on Arijinna that led to the revolution and lots of jinnis on Earth stem from prejudices between the jinni races. Each class has a different type of power and at a different strength, and naturally, those at the top are the strongest. Nalia was one of those jinni: the Ghan Aisouri, hated by the rest of the jinni, and the first deaths in the uprising when the lowest class, the Ifrit, fight back. I didn’t expect the politics of the jinni to be such a strong theme in the novel, but it was really interesting. The Ghan Aisouri, Shaitan, Djan, Marid and Ifrit all had they role to play in Arijinna, roles that fit their skills and powers, but there was unrest and hatred. Even when marooned on Earth with their world in tatters, it remained. It’s a deep rooted hatred that the relationship between Nalia and Raif shows promise for.

But it was the relationship between Nalia and Malek, slave and master, which drove the novel. Malek made my skin crawl. His weird version of love for Nalia was obsessive, controlling and abusive. It was the moments when Nalia’s affection-starved brain turned her reaction to Malek into something she might have wanted. His actions made me so angry and it made me feel sick. He couldn’t comprehend how Nalia couldn’t love him; it was strange and unnerving, especially when Nalia showed signs of Stockholm Syndrome in her responses to him. It is an interesting dynamic, however, and propelled the story forward with urgency.

Exquisite Captive is the fantastic first book in what promises to be a dark, seductive and completely compelling fantasy series. I’d really quite like to still be reading this, actually...


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Books I Couldn't Finish (3)

I used to finish ever book I started, whether I was enjoying it or not. But life is short. I’ve realised that I don’t have time for books I’m not fullly involved in any longer so if I don’t like something or don’t connect with it as much as I want to, I’ll put it aside. It still makes me feel guilty though, especially if I received them for review so I still want to talk about them, explain why I didn’t like them. Here are the most recent books I DNF-ed.

Black Ice, Becca Fitzpatrick
I struggled finishing the Hush, Hush series for the same reason I didn’t get very far with Black Ice: the characters. Britt is an entitled, spoilt ass who I immediately disliked and I couldn’t see that changing anytime soon. Now, I don’t believe that characters have to be likable, but they have to be at least vaguely redeemable, or at least interesting, and Britt isn’t. I had no connection with her and so her story felt over-dramatic and unimportant to me.

Magisterium: The Iron Trial, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
My love for these two authors is no secret. I worship the books written by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and they have written some of my favourite worlds and stories ever, but I just didn’t feel it in The Iron Trial. Lots of the beginning felt very familiar to me, but not familiarity with the authors; it felt like Harry Potter. Magical school, messy, black hair and a mum who died to save him all reminds me of a certain boy wizard... I would have been able to move past this if I could feel the spark and promise of these authors, but I couldn’t. I have been told that it gets better so I intend to give it another go.

Naomi and Ely’s No-Kiss List, David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
I’m a huge fan of David Levithan but I struggled to connect with this one. Levithan’s characters are usually complex and interesting and slightly obnoxious, but I didn’t feel anything from Naomi and Ely. Add to that the emoticons that litter Naomi’s chapters and you get pure annoyance. I didn’t really enjoy Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist either – where’s my David Levithan love going?!