Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

 

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Lies We Tell Ourselves book cover

 

Genres: Historical fiction, young adult, LGBT
Publication year: 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 368
Goodreads rating: 4.09
Format: Kindle(£2.99)
Rating: 5/5

PLOT SUMMARY
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another

REVIEW

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Author Robin Talley

I saw this on a table with LGBT+ books in Waterstones the other day. The story of two girls with completely opposite stances coming together seemed to me an interesting read and I had heard good things about Robin Talley already.

Wow! This book is incredibly compelling, I read it in less than 24 hours because I couldn’t put it down. I had to know how it was going to end. It’s a tough read in the sense that it deals with integration in an honest and painfully realistic way. It takes place in 1959, Sarah and her friends are the first black kids to start at an all-white school. We hear everywhere about the discrimination of black people. This book kind of hit me in the face with reality because I never truly considered that people were treated this way and still are some places. The way the students spoke made it sound like they truly thought black people were inferior creatures, and they did. And it’s just awful that this was a normal way to think, that people were raised to hate with this passion. It’s so hard for me to believe it because the behaviour of those children was just evil, and yet I know it’s the truth. This book is so powerful, and so much more than ‘just a YA book.’ The issues dealt with are painfully real and it is such a vital read.

Sarah’s bravery and ability to stay strong when times were tough, her kindness and fierceness, absolutely incredible. Linda is a closed-minded girl who progresses so much throughout the book. She gradually comes to term with the fact that black people are in fact people, but she still has such a long way to go. She says Sarah is “not like them, she’s different” and still sees black people in general as different and not a normal person, even though she sees Sarah that way. It’s interesting reading this from her perspective (as the book switches mainly between the two) because we get to see both sides so clearly.

In summation, this book is incredibly powerful and compelling, it is a story of bravery and a fight for what is right. Please read it, I think you’ll find you won’t regret it.

 

Have you read this book? What did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

 

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Pretty Poetry #6

Time for some nice words again. I have found myself feeling this way quite often and it was worth a share.

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

– Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Do you ever get this feeling?

The Waterstones World Cup of Books Review

As some of you may know, Waterstones did a World Cup of Books poll this week where they let people on Twitter vote on their favourite books. The winner, with 51% of the votes in the grand final, is (drumroll please):

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1. To Kill a Mockingbird

This is undeniably deserved. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best books I have ever read and it is definitely one of those “everyone should read this” books. The issues discussed are highly relevant to this day and the lessons learned can be applied in infinite situations. Harper Lee’s writing is beautiful and the perspective from which it is written captivated me like no other. The story is told through the eyes of Scout, the daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch, as he defends a black man in court. Scout’s pure but mature view on the world was spectacularly described. If you haven’t read this book yet, get on it! I promise you won’t regret it.

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 2. The Lord of the Rings

I love Harry Potter beyond words and fantasy was always my go-to genre when I was younger, which is why it may come as a surprise that I’ve never read Lord of the Rings. I only watched the film for the first time a couple of weeks ago. The films were, of course, spectacular and because of this poll, I may just have been convinced to add the book to my TBR pile.

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3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Did I hope this HP would win? Of course I did. The sheer impact this book has had on myself and the entire world is unfathomable. I am who I am today because of this book. Harry Potter brought generations back to reading, it began a revolution of children’s fiction and the sheer power of this fandom continues to inspire. The Potterhead in me really wanted it to win, though I would be foolish to ignore the masterpiece of TKMB and the beast that is Lord of the Rings. An understandable outcome, but HP is still the best, in my opinion.

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4. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This is an awesome book.The characters, the storyline, all the various details of space. Awesome! I read this as an audiobook I was walking around the forest back fighting the urge to chuckle to myself because it was so clever. It’s  a brilliantly enjoyable book and it might be exactly why it is so high up on this list. It is a great book.

 

Did you vote? What do you think of the results? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

The Girls by Emma Cline

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The Girls book cover

Genres: Fiction
Publication year: 2016
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 355
Goodreads rating: 3.48
Format: Paperback
My rating: 4/5

PLOT SUMMARY
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

REVIEW
Reading the cover I didn’t gather that this was essentially about a cult. I saw a beautiful cover and a story about a girl who was mesmerised by a group of girls and she would get pulled into something bad. That was all I knew starting out.

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Author Emma Cline

I was definitely pleasantly surprised. The plot was compelling and I was dragged into it. There is a dual storyline. There is the present where she is staying at her friend’s beach house and the past where she experienced it. While it split the story, I found that the present day storyline was unnecessary to me. There was no apparent development in her persona it just made her seem sad, as if she never got over that one summer. I would have preferred there to be an extended epilogue and ending as the conclusion was too abrupt and felt anticlimactic. Perhaps that was the author’s way of saying sometimes that is all that happens. If so, nice one Emma Cline.

That being said, what was excellent about the way this story was told, and maybe this is the true reason she went with two storylines at once, she told the story as she experienced it in 1969 and at the same time the way she saw it looking back in the present. She, for example, described she saw the farm as beautiful and perfect in every way, little did she notice the horrible smells nor how skinny the girls were. Or maybe she did notice, she just didn’t care. We get everything at once. I’m not used to reading stories that way and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I’ve seen other reviewers criticising this. It was wholesome.

Overall the story is interesting captivating and keeps you on the edge of your seat. It prompts a lot of thought. I, and I assume many others, have felt the was Evie did as a young teen and I wonder if, had I been in her shoes, would I have been just as captivated, would I have wanted to go to that farm? I like to hope not. In all honesty, I would probably have been so intimidated by The Girls I would never have talked to any of them in the first place. And in this case, I think that’s a good thing.

If you like fiction books, attempting to understand Charles Manson and would like to challenge how you think about people, give this book a try!

 

 

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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Genre: Science-Fiction
Publication year: 2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 519
Goodreads rating: 4.18
Format: Kindle
Rating: 4/5 stars

 

PLOT SUMMARY
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

REVIEW
Tell me that isn’t the most beautiful book cover! Love at first sight, to be honest.

When I hear the word science fiction I immediately think of futuristic space travel, aliens, and incredible technology advancements. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet covers all the bases. Chambers has created a whole universe with a wide array of species, each with their own customs, cultures, and mannerisms. The diverse and lively Wayfarer crew are enough on they’re own, but the people they encounter on their journey also bring the story to life over and over again, in ways I wasn’t expecting.

STORYLINE
One of the awesome aspects of this book is the storyline. The storyline is, in this case, a line. In this book, the goal is to get to the Toremi and build a tunnel so others can travel to and from their space quickly. Reading this book you always know where they are going to end up. You know there will be bumps and distractions along the way, but the mission is always clear, which I quite enjoy. It may sound like I’m saying I like it predictable, but that’s not what this is, I have no way of knowing what’s going to happen in-between. I like that there’s a mission, there’s never any question or confusion. I’m not reading just to read, it’s with a purpose, to fulfill the mission.

CHARACTERS
Another awesome aspect is the characters. The people in this book are so cool! Character development and the build of solid relationships based on trust and understanding is the center of this story. This book isn’t the most action packed, but it is incredibly enjoyable to read because you’re getting to know all these interesting individuals and who they are. This is what we should hope the universe’s future to be. People working together with an open-minded curiosity to learn about others. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.

If you like reading about alien cultures, interspecies relations, space travel and open-minded people, please read this book!

 

 

Pretty Poetry #5

You know which films had great soundtracks? The Twilight Saga. Outstanding song choices every time. Say what you want about the story, but this is an area where they did a really great job. For Pretty Poetry #5, I have chosen song lyrics that were featured on the Breaking Dawn Part 1 soundtrack. I saw a SKAM post on Tumblr with these lyrics, I had no idea they were featured on Breaking Dawn’s soundtrack, but I’m somehow not surprised. The artist is Sleeping at Last and the song is called Turning Page. Give it a listen and pay attention to the lyrics, they’re pretty great.

I’ve waited a hundred years
But I’d wait a million more for you
Nothing prepared me for
What the privilege of being yours would do

If I had only felt the warmth within your touch
If I had only seen how you smile when you blush
Or how you curl your lip when you concentrate enough
Well I would have known
What I was living for all along
What I’ve been living for

Your love is my turning page
Where only the sweetest words remain
Every kiss is a cursive line
Every touch is a redefining phrase

I surrender who I’ve been for who you are
For nothing makes me stronger than your fragile heart
If I had only felt how it feels to be yours
Well I would have known
What I’ve been living for all along
What I’ve been living for

Though we’re tethered to the story we must tell
When I saw you, well I knew we’d tell it well
With a whisper, we will tame the vicious seas
Like a feather bringing kingdoms to their knees

What do you think?

The Girl you Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

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I love Jojo Moyes’ books, having read a couple of them in the past. I decided to read this because I like a good dual storyline and how the concept reminded me of what I’ve seen in Victoria Hislop’s books.

 

PLOT
France, 1916: Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.

Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.

THOUGHTS

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Firstly, one factor that made me enjoy the book quite a bit was the focus on WWI. Most modern fictional war books are WWII-centered or related. Because WWI happened so long ago I suppose it can be hard to create a plot line that can be tied properly together. This was not something Jojo Moyes let stop her. The dual storyline tells the story of two strong, righteous women who stand up for what they believe in.

The book starts out by telling the story of Sophie during WWI. I got into this story relatively quickly and became more invested the more I learned about her. The transition from Sophie’s storyline to Liv’s present day was a bit rough. It was an instant decrease in intensity which I found a bit jarring. Eventually, after all the introductions were made, the plot thickened and the story became captivating again. By the end I was so invested in both these women’s story I couldn’t put it down.

The characters are deep, well-developed and you grow to care about them all. Jojo Moyes is good at writing to induce emotions and she’s done it again in The Girl You Left Behind.

If you like Moyes’ other books, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay or The Thread by Victoria Hislop, you’ll like this one. OR (PERHAPS SPOILER) if you like satisfying endings, this is a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

How do they know?

With the rise of artificial intelligence and the complexity of machines, companies’ ability to customize ads and content to you as an individual can be a scary thing. 

Goodreads and Amazon are two of many who use algorithms and machines to map what you would like to read next. I buy my text books on Amazon and my front page is always full of business books about accounting and strategic marketing. They know which books I need before I know myself. This is our present and it will only get more tailored, more advanced in the future. The amount of information they have about our individual habits is beyond our imagination, and the more data they gather, the more accurate predictions and offers will be.

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How fascinating is that? As scary and creepy as it may seem, the capabilities of technology are unfathomably powerful and impressive. As someone who works in digital marketing, and in the IT industry at that, it is clear this is an area where the line of morality is becoming blurred and I, therefore, cannot wait to see where this will take us.

Data is the future and as an individual I can see how quickly data about me is collected, added, filtered and applied to push, or pull me, however you may see it, towards things I’m interested in. Paid media adverts push me towards a tipping point, they persuade me even if it doesn’t feel like it. I see audible ads everywhere, I see the tops I’ve been adding to my wishlist on my social media timelines, I get recommended books based on articles I’ve read at work.

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Overall, it does help me find books more easily, I am directed to services I didn’t know existed, services I didn’t know I needed and that has saved me a lot of time. I love research, I love information and having relevant, timely information sent to me is not something I’m complaining about. I’m fascinated and intimidated at the same time, as we should all be.

 

July in Books

 

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List of Books Read:

  • If I Stay
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  • Pre-Suasion
  • Cinder
  • Blink
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • Full Funnel Marketing
  • Adulthood is a Myth
  • Just one Night
  • The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying Fuck About You
  • The Upside of Unrequited
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Shoutout to Malcolm Gladwell

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Malcolm Gladwell is an author, speaker, and journalist, with several insightful books up his sleeve. He was born in Fareham, UK (not far from my uni), but grew up in Canada and went to Trinity College in Toronto.

Since 1996 he’s been a writer for The New Yorker and he’s written a total of five books, all of which ended up on the NY Times bestseller list. His books often depict unexpected implications and are all based on academic research, most often rooted in the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology and anthropology. As a marketer, his books are especially enjoyable, as it allows me to understand people in a different ways and enables me to become a better communicator and listener.

I decided to start reading his books after I fell in love with the Freakonomics series by Levitt and Dubner as I love the anecdoty-style of writing I find in these types of books. Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, has been dubbed one of the best book of the decade, with good reason. Blink, his second book discussed how rapid, instant decisions make sense and not. Both the books were international bestsellers and over 4.5 million copies have been sold combined.

If you like to feel insightful and read books that make you go “Huh, that’s interesting, I never would have thought” you should check out his books. They’re easy, quick reads, and though it’s non-fiction it never feels complex or draining. I love the smart thinking genre, it challenges the way I think and Gladwell’s books have an excellent way of making me see patterns that I would never see on my own.

BOOKS BY GLADWELL:

  • The Tipping Point (2000)
  • Blink (2005)
  • Outliers (2008)
  • What the Dog Saw: and Other Adventures (2009)
  • David and Goliath (2013) 

“It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.”

For more information, visit his website

Have you read any of his books? What did you think?