279: Spartacus: Morituri (Spartacus #2)

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Synopsis

BLOOD UPON THE SANDS Spartacus is the hit TV series which has captivated viewers with its blood-soaked action, exotic sexuality, villainy and heroism. This original novel from the world of Spartacus: Blood and Sand relates a thrilling new tale of blood, sex and politics set in the brutal world of the arena. Spartacus and his fellow gladiators endure bout after bout of fierce and bloody fighting, while their opponent’s numbers never seem to shrink. Can Batiatus’s ludus survive against such odds? An epic battle ensues against a vicious enemy determined to soak the arena in the blood of his rivals.

The Good

This book is set around season 1

  • Seeing stuff from season 1 that does not exist past that season
  • Captures the characters voice and their motivations well- which is what you want from a novelization. Seeing words that I could see coming out of the characters mouth made me ultimately decide to buy this book.
  • Diverse cast: just like the show
  • Hits on the important povs: most of the people who have a point of view in the show make an appearance
  • Intrigue- like the show
  • Roman mythology

The Bad

  • Repetitive- feels like the story got stuck in a loop for a large amount of the novel and only got out of it in the last 100 or so pages.

The Meh

I question if the sexual violence shown in the book was handled well. Then again does the show handle sexual violence well?

What next?

I did a Top Ten Tuesday list of my novelization tbr

Currently reading: Man of Steel

 

 

 

280:The Hate U Give

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Synopsis

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.

The Good

I have a lot of thoughts which makes me wish that I would have done a readalong for it. I  wish someone else did one too but I think I understand (possibly/more than likely) why. I believe many people did not do a readalong for it because  there are so many touchy subjects in this book. Anyway, on to what I liked about this book…

  • Not white centered: One of my fears was that it was going to be for white people thus watered down/sanitized. My fear came from many other y.a. novels with black main characters that I have read who go to a boarding school or a school that is majority white/mixed racially (which many people see as the dream for interracial harmony but do not talk about the reality of what assimilation has meant for poc in general). My fears were mostly unfounded because Starr was not cut off from the black community.
  • It is set in modern black lives matter world through the eyes of a black girl: black lives matter and police brutality is not all new all different it is a thing in this world.
  • So much black culture is shown: it made me think about how much I do not hear books talk about black culture.
  • Shows the trauma that comes with being involved with police brutality: seeing friend be murdered and people’s reactions to it
  • Allowing Starr to grieve and not fall into the strong black woman trope. Her trauma does not go away after five minutes. Also, she does not just have bad days of her being sad.
  • Bringing police brutality and all the issues in T.H.U.G to a young adult novel-thus a young audience. By putting everything into a young adult novel it can reach a wider audience than a literary novel.
  • Cuts all ties that would lead to respectability politics
  • Poc solidarity
  • White feminism: I mean you can have entire middle grade books about white feminism casually but it is something else to have one about racism
  • Intraracial black issues
  • Reality of interracial relationships: I don’t know how I feel about Chris and Starr relationship. For a long time the only thing we see Chris partaking in is black culture like making references to Fresh Prince of Belaire but at the same not knowing that much about police brutality (appreciation vs appropriation). It annoys me because going along the points above people think that the work of solving racism is just putting poc and white people together. His ignorance/naiveté got on my nerves at many points but he is not terrible like Hailey but still… They are in high school too so growth can come later. Then characters in THUG said he ain’t white he light skinned, nah. Nah!
  • Moral ambiguity to black characters: they are not one dimensional tropes.
  • Stay in hood vs suburbia: suburbia≠utopia
  • White privilege
  • and so so so much more

Emotionally it was an enjoyable book to read.

The Meh

Police are given nuance with Uncle Carlos- which I get but at the same time it is annoying that black people have to go not all cops when talking about police brutality.

The story lightly treads some things that it could go harder on (but also I know it could not be everything, do everything, and hit everything)

The Bad

Do I think it wants to jampack every issue in one book? I can’t get mad because this info all of it, the entire book needs to get out to everyone who can read it.  Nonetheless, there are moments put in the book that felt unnatural/inorganic to the story.

The story wrapped up some things in a way that was too neat and convenient.

Ending Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book a lot. I just would love to see more critique about it (that is not obvious/blatant/just plain anti-black racism because there is a lot of those on goodreads). I am enjoying all the love that her book is getting and cannot wait for her next novel.

Here is a critique of the book that is notable: http://blacknerdproblems.com/the-hate-u-give-blm-gets-the-novel-treatment/

288: Best of Possible Worlds

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Synopsis

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.

The Good

Whenever I come into a sci-fi/fantasy novel I go through an overwhelming sense of disappointment because they are almost always never action-y. The Best of All Possible Worlds first chapter started the book off seeming like this was going to be an action book. I’m so glad that I did not give this book a DNF when I realized it was not going to be what I though it would be. I would have missed out on the quiet subtle quality of this book.

Whenever I read this for a while I got this good feeling. It is actually pretty rare now that I get a good feeling or any feeling from a novel so it is amazing (and kind sad actually) to even look back on this. It all felt like a journey.

One of the main things I liked is the world building – learning about the new worlds and civilizations. The feeling of going on an adventure is one of the parts of fiction I miss.

Black female main character and her families dynamic was interesting.

Romance is built! You do not know how rare this is. A lot of romances in books are insta-lovey or sex=love. The romance even managed to not derail the plot.

The Bad

Could not remember who half the people on the ship or what they did for the ship. This is probably completely my fault for not paying attention but I feel like the other characters were introduced sporadically or something.

Who all the crew mates were was not the only thing that confused me. I was kind of lost a lot of times to what happened. Some people on goodreads brought up that this story is episodic, picking up stories then dropping them. I think the episodicness of the story made it possibly easy to get confused. I agree that this was a slightly annoying aspect of the novel but these mini adventures felt like a journey so I enjoyed them mostly.

Towards the ending the romance went into some tropey gender roles stuff when it could have have been more progressive. I bring this up because it was progressive in other aspects of the story.

The Meh

Best of All Possible Worlds is going to set me up for so many mediocre/terrible sci-fi books I will not end up liking.

[Image and synopsis of Best of All Possible Worlds is from goodreads]

300: A Garden Where Friendship Grows

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A few tiny seeds have grown into a very big idea! Nahla’s science project turns out to be the start of a group garden on her school’s rooftop. During their lunch hour, students put on their gardening gloves to plant, weed and water. Thanks to the school, yummy veggies are turning up everywhere, including the school cafeteria and the Heling Hands Kitchen.

School spirit is at an all-time high. But it seems like not everyone is happy. Somebody is trying to ruin the success of the Get Fresh Tomato Fest, the rooftop garden party.

Is it her classmate who calls himself “the potato chip king” and makes faces when he sees all the new healthy choices at the lunch counter? Is it the girl who loves playing tricks? Or maybe it’s the maintenance crew, who complained to the principal about dirt being tracked through the school. Nahla is determined to save the day and the garden.

The Good

  • Black family
  • Illustrations

I got this book with my Nahla doll which was awesome. I enjoy seeing a story where a young black girl having fun. This is especially important because there are not a lot of Our Generation dolls that are black with books.

The Bad

The biggest problem with this book is that it is not for me, so it just read too young for me. A Garden Where Friendship Grows had similar problems that another chapter books I read had: it is everywhere and goes from one point to another without there being a main problem then a main conclusion. Instead it is a bunch of little problems resolved throughout the story. All of this is not a problem because it is meant for little girls so yeah.

Conclusion

Overall, it was not for me because I’m an old lady but I’m happy it exists for little girls (especially the black ones).

286: The Vegetarian (Possibly Spoilery)

Synopsis

Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea, but also a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.

The Good

It is interesting reading the first part of this having been a vegetarian for so long because  it has some experiences of when I first started (even though, she would actually be classified as a vegan).  It made me think about my vegetarianism which is something I haven’t read about that much or at all. Honestly, it is not really about her just being a vegetarian for that long. This book is really about mental illness, trauma, and misogyny.

I enjoyed the varying states that this book showed of misogyny and mental health

Mental Health

In the two different mental health states one person is considered outside bounds of mental illness aka they seem ok so they aren’t the ones who look like they need help. Then you have someone who obviously in societies eyes needs help.

Misogyny

When I first started this book the heavy-handed misogyny bothered me. I don’t have a problem with it being portrayed but it felt so obvious. I felt showing misogyny that is more quiet and everyday would actually help to challenge misogyny. I do feel that later on it did show a form of everyday misogyny.

Obvious misogyny ~ sees a woman as anything more than an object or vessel for him and has no remorse about it.

Everyday misogyny/nice guy misogyny ~  quieter but just as vicious if not even more  because the character has  moments of empathy that even in my eyes made me think so many times he was going to do the right thing. He knew things were wrong and felt bad about it but kept doing said things. The result ended up being the same with the first misogynist.

I really liked the surreal/weird parts and wish that this book was longer to talk more fully on these topics.

The Bad

The misogyny still felt like it went in ways that were in your face vs quieter but it is short so that may be why. I did not like the ending because it left me feeling like the story really wasn’t over. The Vegetarian could have easily been longer.

The Meh

I did not like the ending because it left me feeling like the story really wasn’t over. However, I can’t say I dislike it because in a way I respect the ending. I respect the way it did not give easy answers when dealing with mental illness.

Overall, I liked it and was sucked into it for two days but  when it ended I  kind of felt like o.k. that’s it.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

[synopsis is from goodreads]

304:EAH: A Wonderlandiful World

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Synopsis

At Ever After High, everyone is expected to sign the Storybook of Legends, pledging to follow in their fairytale parent’s footsteps. But when Raven Queen came along, things became fairy, fairy confusing. Now no one’s destiny is certain, not even for the most royal of them all, Apple White.When a mysterious being from Wonderland begins to infect Ever After High with a strange magic, everything goes topsy-turvy. The students transform into animals and objects, palace mice talk, and the beautiful green grounds on campus fade to black-and-white. Lizzie Hearts, Wonderland’s future queen, Cedar Wood, daughter of Pinocchio, and Madeline Hatter, heir to the Mad Hatter’s Hat and Tea Shoppe, seem to be the only ones who haven’t completely lost their heads. It’s up to them to save their best friends forever after from a curse that threatens to give their school-and their lives-a very unhappy ending.

The Good

  • Does anyone not find Apple White annoying? 😉

(Yes, I do like her but find people’s reaction to her justified and funny. I’m ok with her because not only is she being checked on things but also seems to be growing.)

  • Lizzie Hearts point of view  and seeing the difference between how Apple White is being trained to be queen versus Lizzie Hearts.
  • Cedar Wood has a point of view
  • Deals with the trope Madeline plays as a character
  • Breaks the 4th wall with Maddie (which it has done in the past but goes further)

The Bad

The treatment of Cedar Wood in the books bothers me so much. It bothered me so much for this particular book that at a certain point I stopped reading it for a couple of months. At this point I found the time to finish Once Upon A Time: A Story Collection, Next Top Villain, and Kiss and Spell. One of the things that bothered me is Cedar not having any real true friends. She supposedly is friends with Raven Queen but they never hangout. There is a moment in the book when Cedar says she is sad and Raven says something then moves on. Raven does not try to go deeper into why she sad or anything. It bothers me because Cedar was/is the main visibly black/brown character. I guess it is when I started noticing the microaggressions stuff (like throwing an object at Cedar but not having the character apologize) they do towards the brown skin girl characters. Cedar is not the only issue that stopped me from completing this as quickly as I could have.

The story should have been amazing since it did have heavy adventure in it. The problem is that I did not care for the Jabberwocky storyline last books so for it to come back for this one, eh.

This story was not terrible and did have really good writing behind it but I am happy they moved on to the new series which has problems of its own (and some old problems like randomly harming the brown girls in the series, yeah -_-). This review feels like a bummer so I am going to move on.

298: Belle

 

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Synopsis

From acclaimed biographer Paula Byrne, the sensational true tale that inspired the major motion picture Belle (May 2014) starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson, Penelope Wilton, and Matthew Goode—a stunning story of the first mixed-race girl introduced to high society England and raised as a lady.

The illegitimate daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy and an enslaved African woman, Dido Belle was sent to live with her great-uncle, the Earl of Mansfield, one of the most powerful men of the time and a leading opponent of slavery. Growing up in his lavish estate, Dido was raised as a sister and companion to her white cousin, Elizabeth. When a joint portrait of the girls, commissioned by Mansfield, was unveiled, eighteenth-century England was shocked to see a black woman and white woman depicted as equals. Inspired by the painting, Belle vividly brings to life this extraordinary woman caught between two worlds, and illuminates the great civil rights question of her age: the fight to end slavery.

Belle includes 20 pages of black-and-white photos.

The Good

One of the things I loved so much is that it is so readable. I learned so much about Black London and English history. Slavery in England is not talked about that much so it was interesting and at times super traumatic to read.

This is my first non-fiction book I have finished which fueled my interest in the category.

The Meh

It is more about the people and events around Belle than about Belle.

Recommend

If you’re looking for Classic novel ~ Ourika by Claire Duras

If you want a period piece that is more about Belle~ Belle (the movie)

If you want book that deals with black people in Europe in 18th century~ Black Count by Tom Reiss (currently reading)