Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I’ve recently finished reading ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas, amid all of the hype over this book. And let me just say this: that hype is well deserved. I’m just going to make it clear right now that I adored this novel and am rating it 5/5 stars. It’s funny, heart-breaking, relatable and so, so relevant right now with everything that’s going on in the world. It’s a story that needs to be told and a truly fantastic debut in the YA genre for 2017.

The story follows Starr, a seventeen year old girl ‘from the hood’ A.K.A Garden Heights. Her life is divided into two parts: the Starr she acts like at her preppy, white private school, and her true self. However her two lives are blown apart when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil by a white 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. With pressures facing her on all sides, Starr must decide between what is right and what is easy. She must use her voice to fight for justice, for Khalil and herself.

I found Starr to be a relatable, down-to-earth protagonist who I could easily feel for and imagine myself in the shoes of. The confusing storm of emotions she feels in the wake of her friend’s murder is very believable and deeply painful to read, especially knowing that although this book is fiction, it’s based on true events. Her close relationship with her family members is also at times hilarious and heart-warming to read. I loved her interactions with her dad in particular, who clearly cares a lot for his family and neighbourhood, despite being an ex-con and an ex-gangster.

Thomas has done an excellent job of developing a large and diverse cast of characters, delving into their backstories and humanising them in ways that allow you to understand their choices, even if they’re bad ones. A lot of the book is centred on examining the stereotypes and assumptions people make about ‘thug life’ and the black community – an idea which is very neatly explained by Tupac’s lyrics ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody’. Too often the media’s portrayal of these communities is one-dimensional, focusing only on the bad without understanding the complex web of reasons behind it. Thomas’ book rightly examines how many of these people, like Khalil, are in fact victims of a system that is already stacked against them and how perpetuating these stereotypes will only continue to worsen the situation.

I also really enjoyed the subtle critique of ‘casual racism’ in this book – how racist terminology has become so ingrained in our culture that we might not even be aware of it. Chris, Starr’s white boyfriend, provides a model example of how not to take white priviledge for granted. His tolerance and sensitivity are a great contrast to Hailey – Starr’s white best friend who keeps making racist jokes and then tries to deny that they’re racist. I thought this was really important, as it shows that racism isn’t just about big flashy news headlines, it’s about the little things too. And as someone who’s been on the receiving end of those kinds of jokes, I felt a sense of validation to know that I did have the right to get upset over it.

Overall, I thought this book was incredibly well-written and authentic. A lot of it is clearly based on personal experience and the author did a fantastic job of bringing Garden Heights and its inhabitants to life. It’s not often I find a YA book that deals with serious issues such as this so well, and I think it really has the potential to make a difference.

Have you read ‘The Hate U Give’? What did you think of it? Leave your comments below!

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In conversation with Didi Oviatt, indie suspense author

Didi Oviatt is an indie author I met through the blogging world. She’s got a wicked writing style and recently released a crime/thriller book called ‘Aggravated Momentum’ which I wrote a review for. As part of my efforts to #SupportIndie I wanted to find out more about her writing process and her experience with self-publishing on Amazon kindle.

Hi Didi, thanks for joining me today. What are 5 things you would like our readers to know about you?

I’m so excited to be here! If I have to settle for five, then I’ll stick with the big five S’s… simple, silly, sure, satisfying, and strange.

  • Something simple: Every year I drink a bottle of cheap wine, and I bury myself in a romance novel on Valentines Day.
  • Something silly: I can touch my tongue to my nose.
  • Something sure:  I’m one hundred percent sure that every book I ever write will be suspenseful.
  • Something satisfying: Goals, Lol…  It may sound funny, but there is nothing more satisfying to me then nailing my weekly goals.
  • Something strange: I completely believe in ghosts. Good ones, bad ones, creepy ones, and even protective ones. I think we’re all just a little bit haunted.

What are you reading at the moment?

I usually read more than one book at a time. I strive to support Indi authors like myself, so I keep one of them cooking at all times. I also believe it’s important to keep your head in a wholesome influential place as a writer by reading Best Sellers in the genre of your current project.  This week I’m rotating two books. Living in the shallows, by an Indi-Author Tani Hanes and also Mercy, by Best-Selling Author Jodi Picoult.

How do you choose what book you’re going to read next? Is it the cover, the blurb, recommendations etc..?

All of the above plus some. When it comes to highly recommended books or Best Sellers I compare each of the mentioned tactics along with either a genre rotation (I’m kind of a seasonal bird) or by books that may counter point whatever project I’m working on myself.  When it comes to Indi books, I take a lot of author requests and debuts, but after I’ve read a blurb of course.

 What’s your experience been of self-publishing so far? Are you enjoying it?

I absolutely adore self-publishing! I love being in control and calling all the shots!  So far I’ve tried something different with each of my books. I’m a “dive in head first and learn from my own mistakes” kind of gal. I am human, and have made a few mistakes along the way, but self-publishing is definitely NOT one of them. I wouldn’t take back my decision to self-publish for the world and doubt I’ll ever even try Traditional.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new writer thinking of self-publishing?

Don’t fall for the “self-publishers” that offer you the world and ask a ridiculous amount of money to “help” you publish! You’d be amazed at how many shysters there actually are in the book publishing world. There are a lot of places that are affordable, and they actually let you choose your own pricing, cover image, and you still maintain all of the rights… KDP and Bookbaby in my experience have been great, but do your own research because there are most definitely more. Don’t limit yourself in options, and don’t let your excitement blind you.  A rule of thumb I like to live by, is that if there is an enormous contract involved then it isn’t actually self-publishing.

I’ve just finished reading your fantastic new book, ‘Aggravated Momentum’. Wow. What a rollercoaster. What was the inspiration behind it?

With Aggravated Momentum I wanted to challenge myself. Suspense is where I shine, so I chose to make it psychological in order to test my abilities. Part of me wanted to master writing a variety of first person characters, and part of me wanted to ensure that I didn’t allow myself to get stuck in a repetitive rut. In my opinion, there are too many Authors who seem to repeat themselves. Their books are one dimensional — like if you’ve read one then you’ve read them all… I didn’t want that to be a problem for me, so my main focus with Aggravated Momentum was to make it diverse and unique.

Was there a lot of research involved?

Hardly any… To be completely honest, I hate research and I suck at it.  What little bit was required, I kind of left hanging for my editor to “come across” and have to fix lol… Don’t worry though, she’s a friend so it’s fine 😉

 Okay, last question: Are you working on anything new?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes!!!  I’m so dang excited about my latest and greatest! Search For Maylee is a mystery novel that I intend to release in the fall of this year, so hold your breath!!! Here is a short description:

Since Maylee was abducted from her high school the very month of graduation, her Aunt Autumn has never lost hope in finding her.  It’s been three years. Autumn has finally reached inside herself and found the courage to track down an old lead. She moves across the country to find him. Will Autumn be able to pry Maylee’s case back open? More importantly, what will Autumn uncover in the process of searching for Maylee?  It’s a cold dark world we live in, and she is about to find out just how cruel it can be. Strength and determination are on Autumn’s side and she will do whatever it takes to either bring Maylee home, or to deliver the justice she deserves.

 

What have your experiences been with self-publishing? Do you have a favourite indie author? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned for more updates, interviews and book reviews! If you’re an author and interested in being interviewed on my blog, please get in contact. 

FREE BOOK: This Really Happened

This week, my New Adult romance novel ‘This Really Happened’ is FREE on amazon until Wednesday 12th April. Please share it, download it, read it, enjoy it, and (you’ll get cookies and my eternal gratitude for this one) review it!

You can see public reviews for it on goodreads and download the book now on Amazon

Summary: 

Erin has spent her life drifting, ruled by her controlling parents and social anxiety. That is, until she meets her new University flatmate Allen. Reckless, eccentric and creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure he feels the attraction too, until he starts dating their mutual friend Charlotte instead.

Then one night changes everything.

When a drunken mistake leaves Charlotte fighting for her life, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…

 

Reviews: 

‘Annmarie McQueen has created a range of likeable characters in a recognisable setting, while introducing ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’-esque elements to set her story apart from other coming-of-age tales.’

‘A real breath of fresh air for the YA genre’

‘Jam packed with layer after layer of authentically written emotion’

Review: This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen, 5 of 5 stars

Thanks Didi for such a lovely review!

Didi Oviatt

MY REVIEW:

This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen is jam packed with layer after layer of authentically written emotion. The characters are developed, relatable and loveable. I fell completely head over heals with Annmarie’s writing style and flow. The plot points are original, gripping, and heartfelt. The entire story just feels so real, I couldn’t help but to wonder if the Author had in fact experienced similar circumstances. I had a hard time believing this was actually a fictional piece. It’s a beautifully torn YA story, and in my opinion a must read.

Erin, the main character, is very intelligent, complex, and a bit of an introvert. She doesn’t necessarily lack confidence, but has always played it safe preferring solitude and staying out of trouble. Her sister Naomi is the free spirit of the family, leaving Erin to carry the burden of responsibility. Erin enters a University and is thrown…

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Book Review: ‘Aggravated Momentum’ by Didi Oviatt

I received a free review copy of ‘Aggravated Momentum’ by Didi Oviatt in return for an honest review. Okay, first things first, I loved this book. It took me on a real rollercoaster of emotions and the two twists caught me by complete surprise. The pacing of the story and the way certain key plot points are revealed to you make for an exhilarating and fast read.

‘Aggravated Momentum’ is an adult thriller, a ‘murder mystery’ type story that reminded me of ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn. It’s written from the POVs of multiple characters, including the killer. Markie, the protagonist, is still grieving the death of her best friend Beth, who was murdered a year ago. However when the killer strikes again, it becomes clear that they won’t stop until they’ve destroyed everyone close to Markie. To protect her family and those she loves, Markie must work together with the police to draw the killer out and figure out what they want before it’s too late. But why is she being targeted? And what other dark secrets does the killer have that will change Markie’s life forever?

Adult thriller isn’t my usual genre. I went into this book not knowing what to expect, and was very pleasantly surprised. Markie, the MC, is sharp, witty and independent. Though still obviously a bit traumatised by what happened to her friend Beth, she’s clearly a very capable and intelligent woman who knows how to stay calm during stressful situations. Though sometimes I found her a little cold and unfairly judgemental of the people around her, I liked that she wasn’t a perfect lovable MC. I think the point of this book is that none of the characters are good people, yet they’re intriguing enough that you want to learn more about them.

Markie’s younger sister Kam also plays a significant part in the story. Unlike Markie, she’s a bit more frivolous and doesn’t think before she speaks, which makes her seem insensitive a lot of the time. The dynamic between the two sisters is very realistic – though they both clearly have some big flaws, they still care about each other deeply, one of their redeeming qualities.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think in many ways this book breaks down some of the tropes associated with the thriller/crime genre. I really liked the fact that the killer was revealed so soon and we got to read parts of the story from their POV – even though the big reveal happened early on there were still other surprises in store and I liked the dramatic irony. I found it unsettling to hear the killer’s thought processes; it gave me shivers and reminded me a lot of Clockwork Orange. Though I usually find books with multiple POVs confusing and overly complex, the pacing and the narrative structure here worked well since it all fit into one clear plot arc with a satisfyingly shocking conclusion.

If crime and thriller is your thing, I would highly recommend ‘Aggravated Momentum’ as an exciting, sexy and refreshingly original alternative to the usual staples of the genre. #SupportIndie and pick up a copy here

View from the bridge

Black holes, fast cars
I walk off the edge of the platform
Chasing neon lights, the London
Eye swirling as it plays witness,
All-knowing, ever-present
There are potholes in my mind
I am filling them with gravel from
Streets I’ve forgotten the names of
Subway station debris, this
lit-up nighttime metropolis
Bursting at its seams.

Book review: ‘Panther’ by David Owen (guest post)

Review written by Hannah Froggatt

‘Panther’ by David Owen is a coming of age YA novel focusing on the relationship between the teenage protagonist, Derrick, and his older sister Charlotte. Ever since Charlotte was diagnosed with major depression, her illness has been tearing the family apart. The stress has led Derrick to develop a compulsive eating disorder. However when he hears that a Panther has recently escaped from a local zoo, Derrick thinks that maybe capturing it can be his salvation, that maybe stopping the beast in it’s physical form will be enough to save his sister too.

When you first pick up Panther, you’re struck by its veracity. The characterisation is masterful. Derrick, our protagonist, is a perfect blend of naïvety and worldliness: perceptive enough to see his family is falling apart but ill-equipped to help them. Charlotte’s barbed interactions with Derrick are the best parts of the book, managing to be both sardonic and tender whilst digging right to the heart of Panther’s central theme of understanding — and accepting what we can’t understand. Despite some slightly self-conscious discussion of social media, Owen’s grasp of teenage world-views is sterling.

So is the depiction of mental health disorders. Few writers manage to depict such illnesses this dispassionately, but more impressive is Owen’s understanding of the three-dimensional presence of issues like depression. Derrick’s bewilderment at Charlotte’s behaviour — and his own — is completely genuine, and an excellent standpoint from which to explore how it affects those nearest sufferer and how it disrupts the narratives of our lives.

The only thing that doesn’t work is, unfortunately, the central metaphor. Derrick’s obsession with the escaped panther supposedly roaming his neighbourhood feels jarring and childish for the character’s years. The panther is meant to represent the depression that preys on Derrick’s family, but this clumsy attempt at magical realism clashes horribly with the blunt naturalism that makes the rest of the story so powerful.

Panther aside, it’s still worth a read. The beautiful character-craft and unblinking exploration of mental health make it thoroughly worth your time.

The Harry Potter tag

tag from: sarahschaedler

1) Favourite book?

Order of the Phoenix – it was the one book that I thought really showed both Harry’s flaw as a character and his maturation into the hero he has to become to defeat Voldemort. Also, I loved meeting the order and seeing the family dynamic they shared with Harry.

2) Least Favourite book?

Half Blood Prince – not sure why exactly, I just didn’t love it quite as much as the others.

3) Least Favourite movie?

Deathly Hallows part 1 – I thought it moved a bit slowly compared to the others. It was also very dark and I missed some of the more light-hearted humour we found in Half Blood Prince.

4) Favourite movie?

Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s also one of my fave books – basically because I loved learning more about the marauders and it sparked my obsession with Sirius Black. Also, the cinematograph in this film is just beautiful. The soundtrack, the nostalgic shots of the landscape…it’s a work of art.

5) Favourite quote?

“We all have both light and dark inside us, Harry. It’s the part we choose to act on that makes us who we are.” – Sirius Black. As someone who is very aware of her own flaws, I just fell in love with this quote. It acknowledges the good and bad of human nature, but also reminds us that who we become is not determined by fate or environment. It’s a sentiment echoed by the Sorting Hat at the beginning of the novels and a running theme throughout it – Harry isn’t born a hero, he chooses to take on the responsibility and he becomes one during the series. Sirius was born into a dark family, but he chose to defy them and fight for the light.

6) Favourite Weasley?

Fred and George. I know that’s two but..you can’t really separate them, can you? That’d be cruel (looking at you here, J.K)

7) Favourite female character?

Hm…it’s a toss up between Hermione and Prof McGonagall.

8) Favourite villain?

Bellatrix – because I love her fashion sense and how crazily deranged she is :p

9) Favourite male character?

Sirius Black, by a huge margin. He’s my favourite character of the entire series, and I could write an essay about my love for him, but I won’t bore you. It essentially boils down to my obsession with the marauders and my admiration for Sirius rebelling against his dark family.

10) Favourite professor?

Remus Lupin, when he was teaching. Again, I’m marauders-obsessed.

11) Would you rather A) wash Snape’s hair or B) spend a day listening to Lockhart rant about himself?

Definitely B, that sounds pretty funny.

12) Would you rather duel A) an elated Bellatrix or B) an angry Molly?

Bellatrix

13) Would you rather travel to Hogwarts via A) Hogwarts Express or B) Flying Car?

Hogwarts Express. I find driving a normal car stressful enough as it is. Also, the train has the food cart!

14) Would you rather A) kiss Voldemort or B) give Umbridge a bubble bath?

kiss Voldy.

15) Would you rather A) ride a Hippogriff or B) ride a Firebolt?

Hippogriff.

16) Is there a character you felt differently about in the movies?

Dumbledore – definitely more likeable in the books.

17) Is there a movie you preferred to the book?

No

18) Richard Harris or Michael Gambon as Dumbledore?

Richard Harris

19) Your top thing (person or event) that wasn’t in the movie that you wanted there the most?

Sirius sneaking into Hogsmeade as Padfoot and Harry going up to visit him in the cave. Basically just more Sirius screen time.

20) If you could remake any of the Harry Potter movies which would it be?

Fourth.

21) Which house was your first gut feeling you’d be a part of?

Ravenclaw.

22) Which house were you actually sorted into on Pottermore?

Gryffindor, then Slytherin, then Gryffindor again. So let’s stick with Gryffindor.

23) Which class would be your favourite?

Defense against the dark arts – I love the idea of dueling and I think I’d want to be an auror in the wizard world

24) Which spell do you think would be most useful to learn?

‘Finite Incantantem’.

25) Which character do you think you’d instantly become friends with?

Probably Cho Chang because we’d bond over being asian. Hermione too as I’m also quite a bookworm/nerd. I think I really wouldn’t get on with Ginny.

26) If you could own one of the three Hallows, which would it be?

Invisibility cloak.

27) Is there any aspect of the books you’d want to change?

More marauders backstory!

28) Favourite Marauder?

Sirius Black (bet you didn’t see that one coming).

29) If you could bring one character back to life, which would it be?

see above

30) Hallows or Horcruxes?

Hallows – way cooler and I already have a little necklace with the hallows symbol on it.

Okay, that’s it! I’d like to encourage every other Harry Potter fan out there to do this tag if you haven’t done so already. It’s super fun and I’d love to read your answers, so please tag me if you do. Any other marauders junkies out there? Would love to hear from you!

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

‘In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer’ – Albert Camus

In 1939, The Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Thousands of citizens considered to be ‘anti-soviet’ were murdered, sent to prison or deported into slavery in Siberia. Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel ‘Between shades of gray’ is the harrowing story of these deportees, told from the perspective of Lina, a 15 year old girl whose family are taken in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers and sent to a Siberian work camp.

I first heard about this book on goodreads. I usually don’t read historical fiction, but it had such a high rating that I had to see what the hype was about. And believe me, that rating is well deserved. Haunting in its simplicity and brutally honest, this book tells the story of one of WWII’s hidden tragedies. While the horrors the Nazis committed and the holocaust are general knowledge, the invasion of the Baltic states is virtually ignored in history lessons, which is why I think reading this book is so important. It gives a voice to a silenced generation of people, uncovers a trauma narrative that has woven its way to the very heart of the nation.

Sepetys prose is not flowery or elaborate. It’s stark, cold and sometimes detached, reflecting the bleak reality of the protagonists lives. However this doesn’t mean that it’s unemotional; on the contrary emotion seeps into every part of the narrative, from Lina’s flashbacks to the happier times in her past, to her overflowing love for her family. Despite being subjected to hostile conditions, abuse and trauma at the hands of the Russian soldiers, Lina remains strong and determined to escape, to reunite her family and return to her homeland with them.

One of the things I loved about this novel is the characterisation. Lina, her younger brother Jonas, their mother and Andrius (Lina’s love interest) are all unique, three-dimensional characters with their own passions, their own dreams, but also sharing the same dream: to return home. Lina’s observations of the other deportees in their group are morbidly humorous, quirky and insightful. It’s a beautiful depiction of how adversity can bond people together and the strength of the human survival instinct.

I can’t say it was an easy book to read. There were times when I had to take a break and pull myself out of it because it was sending me into a downward spiral of ‘how can people be so cruel? What’s wrong with humanity?’ Saying this though, it was a necessary book to read. Based on true events, this novel is an education as well as a lesson in empathy. It’s heart-breaking and harrowing, but at the same time incredibly inspiring. While it showcases the worst side of humanity, it also showcases the best: how, in Ruta Sepetys’s words, ‘love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.’

Have you read this book, or others by Ruta Sepetys? Let me know your thoughts! 

Inheritance Books: Annmarie McQueen

My guest post on fellow author Rhoda Baxter’s blog 🙂

Rhoda Baxter

This week’s Inheritance Books come from blogger and YA author Annmarie McQueen. Take a seat, Annmarie. While I put the kettle on, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself. 

H20161013_201557i, I’m Annmarie. I’m a 22 year old writer, blogger and photographer living in London. I enjoy instagramming food, taking selfies with dogs I meet and being that annoying friend who always has a camera to hand. I currently work in event marketing. I’m a graduate of Warwick University with a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in cultural policy. I also really love tea. I currently have 18 different types of tea in my room and I’m immensely proud of this fact.

Yay, tea! Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?

The book that I’ve inherited that I would like to shine a spotlight on today is ‘Northern Lights’ by…

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