The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9f.JPGPublisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication Date: February 28th, 2017

Page Count: 464 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

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 Hate U Give is a story pulled straight from our headlines. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, but about so much more than a movement. This is a story about black lives. Angie Thomas is mind-blowingly talented. She writes characters full of life, so real I felt I was right there with them, living in the story. I laughed with them, cried with them, felt rage and fear and confusion with them. I love Starr and her brothers and her mom and dad. I love her uncle and her nana and her friends and boyfriend. I finished this book several days ago but have yet to stop thinking about it.

In the opening chapters, Starr is with her best friend from childhood driving home after a party when they are pulled over for a broken tail light. From a young age, Starr has been taught what to do if she’s ever pulled over. Her father tells her, “Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves. Only speak when they speak to you.” She knows these things and says them to herself like a mantra. Her friend Khalil doesn’t follow this advice and things get heated. After he’s pulled violently from the car, he is eventually shot and killed right in front of Starr. He is unarmed.

I knew what this book was about going into it, but the tragedy and the horror of this scene left me raw. All of this happens by the end of the second chapter and we spend the rest of the book following Starr’s journey as the sole witness of her friend’s murder. We follow her, and through her grief, we watch her find herself and her voice. Through no fault of her own, she becomes the voice of an entire movement as she desperately tries to find justice for her friend.

One of the things I loved the most about this book, was the juxtaposition between the media coverage and reality. For every sensationalized headline and interview describing Khalil as a thug and a drug dealer, and the cop as a victim afraid for his life, we hear the truths about Khalil told by those who know him best. We get a window into the other side, and it makes you see how easily distorted the facts become.

In the midst of all of this tragedy, Thomas writes about a community coming together to support each other. Starr’s family and friends rally around her and around each other. I love how close she is with her parents. The relationship they have is truly beautiful and inspiring. She goes to them for support and they provide it along with unconditional love and beautiful bits of advice about life. The relationship her parents have with each other is so sweet I found myself grinning like an idiot whenever I read their exchanges. And despite the sadness, there were so many times when I laughed out loud. I cannot gush enough about Thomas’ writing. It is so accessible and has the power to touch so many lives.

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 9.21.12 PM.png

Final Thoughts: This book should be required reading for everyone. It is an important story no doubt, but it’s also a beautiful story about life, love, family, sacrifice, honor, and grief. This is a story that deserves to be told. I so hope that you read it.

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Favorite Characters: Starr, Mr. Carter, Mrs. Carter, Chris

Memorable Quotes:

At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.

That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?

I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve Tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.
Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.

Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.

My Life With Bob – Pamela Paul

51AH2wluMeL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.

Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017

Page Count: 256 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

Imagine keeping a record of every book you’ve ever read. What would this reading trajectory say about you? With passion, humor, and insight, the editor of The New York Times Book Reviewshares the stories that have shaped her life.

Pamela Paul has kept a single book by her side for twenty-eight years – carried throughout high school and college, hauled from Paris to London to Thailand, from job to job, safely packed away and then carefully removed from apartment to house to its current perch on a shelf over her desk – reliable if frayed, anonymous-looking yet deeply personal. This book has a name: Bob.

Bob is Paul’s Book of Books, a journal that records every book she’s ever read, from Sweet Valley Highto Anna Karenina, from Catch-22 to Swimming to Cambodia, a journey in reading that reflects her inner life – her fantasies and hopes, her mistakes and missteps, her dreams and her ideas, both half-baked and wholehearted. Her life, in turn, influences the books she chooses, whether for solace or escape, information or sheer entertainment.

But My Life with Bob isn’t really about those books. It’s about the deep and powerful relationship between book and reader. It’s about the way books provide each of us the perspective, courage, companionship, and imperfect self-knowledge to forge our own path. It’s about why we read what we read and how those choices make us who we are. It’s about how we make our own stories.

So many times while reading My Life With Bob I thought to myself, oh my god, she’s me! We are the same! Pamela Paul gets it. She really and truly understands what it means to have a passion so deep for the written word, that it shapes and defines your life.

I have loved reading for so long that I cannot remember a time before. It is just fundamentally who I am: a bookworm. I have always struggled to find other people who live and breath reading the way I do. Most of my friends growing up thought books were a boring waste of time. Every year without fail, I was the only person in my class who considered the annual Read-In (a day where we brought our sleeping bags, snacks, and books, and read ALL DAY) a day as exciting (if not more so) than Christmas. I mean really, what is more exciting than that? Not until I was almost 30 did I realize there is an entire online community of people I could share this love with. I was also incredibly lucky to find a fellow book lover to marry.

In My Life With Bob, Paul weaves the story of her life, incorporating all of the books that defined each period. The books that got her through adolescence, young adulthood, college, first love, first heartbreak, career choices, death and grief. She even touches on the struggle to find time for reading without guilt now that she is a mother. That’s something I struggle a lot with, and it was such a relief to know I’m not alone. She’s kept track of all of this in her Book of Books, or Bob, for short. This is such a fantastic idea that I wish I could go back in time and start one when I initially learned how to write. However, I’m a firm believer in, better late than never, so I started one after reading just a few pages of her book.

My very own Bob!

While reading, I found myself wanting to underline entire passages, and would have if not for the fact that the copy I was reading belonged to the library. I have since added it to my Amazon wish list so I can fulfill this desire in the future.

I’ve included many memorable passages from the book in the quotes section at the bottom of this post, but I also wanted to call out some of my favorites here. These sentiments spoke directly to my soul, and reflect what I’ve always felt to be true. None more so than this:

People like me open books and inhale the binding, favoring the scents of certain glues over others, breathing them in like incense even as the chemicals poison our brains. We consume them.

We in this latter group like to own books, we’re the worst – preferring some editions over others, having firm points of view on printings and cover designs. We’re particular, and we’re greedy. We want an unreasonable number of books and we don’t like to throw them away. Some of us develop an almost hoardish fear around letting go of a book, even after it’s been read and reread. Throwing away or lending a book to an unreliable reader inevitably leads to regret. It is lovely to share books, but they need to come home. I have known many people to maintain years-long grudges over unreturned books. Who can blame them? (You with my Daniel Kahneman. You know who you are.)

But also:

It’s not exactly about escape. It’s about experiencing something I would otherwise never have the chance to experience. […] Books answer that persistent question, “What is that really like?” By putting you in the place of a character unlike yourself in a situation unlike your own, a good book forges a connection with the other. You get to know, in some way, someone you never would have otherwise known, to live some other life you yourself will never live.

You would think that as we age, tales of other people’s suffering wouldn’t tug at us so insistently. In fact, the opposite can be true. The triggers are more numerous and more readily accessed, the losses felt more acutely. When you read about an injured child or an ignored brother or an estranged parent, you can more easily intuit their pain. Nostalgia goes from being a light feeling of deja vu to something more primal and raw. The span of history constricts as decades-old horrors no longer seem quite so distant.

The book is full to bursting with beautiful passages like these.

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 12.00.01 PM.png

Final Thoughts: My Life With Bob is a love letter to books and the act of reading. It is a beautifully rendered memoir full of wisdom about how we change as we grow up, have experiences and learn about the world around us. Paul was so smart to think to keep a record of her reading, and she truly has a treasure. I really cannot recommend this one to my fellow book lovers enough. My only complaint was that it did not include more pictures of her Bob, but I totally understand her reasoning for that. Do any of you keep track of books this way?

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Memorable Quotes:

This is every reader’s catch-22: the more you read, the more you realize you haven’t read; the more you yearn to read more, the more you understand that you have, in fact, read nothing.

Well into adulthood, I would chastise myself over not settling on a hobby—knitting or yoga or swing dancing or crosswords—and just reading instead. The default position. Everyone else had a passion; where was mine? How much happier I would have been to know that reading was itself a passion. Nobody treated it that way, and it didn’t occur to me to think otherwise.

Books gnaw at me from around the edges of my life, demanding more time and attention. I am always left hungry.

Whenever one of us introduced an old favorite, we savored the other’s first delight like a shared meal eaten with a newly acquired gusto, as if we’d never truly tasted it before.

Geekerella – Ashley Poston

81uGB-QT1hL

Publisher: Quirk Books

Publication Date: April 4th, 2017

Page Count: 320 Pages (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.

Oh, this book was SO MUCH FUN! It was sweet and dorky and romantic and wonderful. Full of loyal friendships and witty banter and fandoms. I have read my fair share of fairytale re-tellings, and this was by far the most relevant and inclusive. A truly awful step family, an adorable animal companion, and lots of unexpected helpers coming together to make a dream come true. With a super dreamy megastar (and secret geek) for Prince Charming, a bright orange, vegan food truck for a magical carriage and a feisty, green-haired lesbian with a heart of a gold for a fairy godmother.

I was so here for all of this.

Poston weaves a smart, funny, charming story that is a love letter to all fandoms everywhere. I felt like I knew these characters from page one. Written with authentically voiced characters, I felt their frustrations and insecurities and heart breaks and hopes. I swooned over the budding romance and relished in all of the nerdy details from the Starfield fandom. Unlike in Fangirl, where I was bored by all of the parts that incorporated the fanfic, I looked forward to the tidbits from the show episodes and movie reboot. I read this one in two sittings, and if not for lots of parenting and adulting, it would have been one.

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 10.12.21 PM.png

Final Thoughts: Everyone who has ever been a part of a fandom should read this book. And if you haven’t ever been a part of a fandom, reading this book will make you want to go out and join a whole bunch of them. Go pick up a copy and prepare to be charmed and smile until your face hurts. I love this and I cannot wait to read more of Poston’s stuff.

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Favorite Characters: Sage, Elle, Darien, Lonny

Memorable Quotes:

It’s also awkward to be so short you can see all the way up into someone’s cerebral cortex, but welcome to my life.

I’m half of my father. Half of my hero. And I am half of my mother. Half soft sighs and half sharp edges. And if they can be Carmindor and Amara–then somewhere in my blood and bones I can be too. I’m the lost princess. I’m the villain of my story, and the hero. Part of my mom and part of my dad. I am a fact of the universe. The Possible and the Impossible. I am not no one. I am my parents’ daughter, and then I realize–I realize that in this universe they’re alive too. They’re alive through me. Fashioning my hands into a pistol, I point it at the ceiling, lifting my chin, raising my eyes against the blinding stage lights, and I ignite the stars.

Did my coworker just exact vegan food-poisoning revenge on my behalf? I don’t know whether to be grateful or terrified.