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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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!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Upside Of Unrequited” By Becky Albertalli

Following Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and a recommendation from a friend, I decided to give this one a go as well.

PLOT

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

WE HAVE ALL FELT LIKE MOLLY

Bilderesultat for the upside of unrequited fanartThe relatability level of this story baffles me. Albertalli has captured what it feels like when people around you are moving on and changing while you are not, which I’m sure many can relate to. The main character’s journey and her thoughts on relationships, friendships and other people in general were straight-up a relief to read. I loved it. It was so relatable. The characters were all well developed with their own strong personalities and stories. Specifically, the grandmother with all her bluntness and untimely homophobic, racist comments just added to the realistic feel of the book (and please do not let that discourage you, the old woman tries very hard).

In this day and age, I am always seeking diversity in the books I read, and Albertalli does not disappoint. She covers different sexualities, has multiple POC’s and deals with body image issues wonderfully. Also, the twin girls and their little brother were all conceived using a sperm donor, which is something I’ve never read about and it was fascinating to get a feel for the dynamic of the family.

Again, similarly to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, this book is great. It’s classic YA, full of well-written characters, it’s hard to put down and the diversity of the book makes it all the more enjoyable. I recommend!

“I don’t entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. You have to have a crush on the exact right person at the exact right moment. And they have to like you back. A perfect alignment of feelings and circumstances. It’s almost unfathomable that it happens as often as it does.” – Molly

“Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” By Becky Albertalli

Hi all!

It’s been a while, I’ve been busy with exams and then a big move, followed by the start of a new job. Now that I’m a bit more settled in, with more time to read, I will also be posting more. Hopefully. Because June was Pride Month, I have been looking for an LGBT+ friendly book with gay main characters and I landed on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. It had quite a few good reviews on Goodreads and everyone seems to be reading Albertalli’s other book, The Upside of Unrequited these days(which I have now also started). There is a possibility this will just turn into a rant about the difficulty I have in finding good, well-written and relevant LGBT fiction, but I will try to keep this post about the book itself (I might go off a tangent in a separate post at a later point though).

PLOT

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Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

‘CLASS’ YA

This book is good. I really liked it.

First of all, the Simon character is a good guy. Fundamentally, he is likable, he has good friends and he’s coming to grips with his sexual identity without losing himself in the process. His friendships with Abby, Leah, and Nick were immensely fascinating to read. I sympathised with Leah as she was sort of pushed aside, and at the same time completely understood that Simon simply found another person he could connect with, which there’s nothing wrong with. (I’m happy to say that Leah will be the main character of Albertalli’s next book. Whoop whoop! Can’t wait to read more about her. You’ll feel the same way once you’ve read this one I promise.)

tumblr_nxfg1sijc21u8fbs9o1_500The primary love interest is Blue and his identity remains a mystery until the end. The buildup to his reveal had me on the edge of my seat and I struggled to put the book down. I simply had to get to the end! And it was worth it. YA books are great because they are easy to read and they hold an emotional significance and relatability that is easily felt. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of those books and will be left standing as one of my favourite YA books. Simon and Blue’s relationship is built gradually, intently and anonymously. The purity of their relationship and depths of their conversations were aspects I greatly enjoyed. I also recognised myself in Simon in that manner as I have built trust in the same way in the past.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of the better LGBT+ books I have read, it’s realistic, relatable and well-written. Overall, it’s extremely enjoyable, it is YA-y, fluffy, diverse and full of friendship. If you like books like I’ll Give you the Sun and Lola and the Boy Next Door, this is the book for you! 

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“The Engelsfors Series” By Strandberg and Elfgren

The Engelsfors series has captivated me in a way no fantasy book has done in a long time. Every once in a while I read a book that is so vivid it feels as though I am not reading, but experiencing it myself. Strandberg and Elfgren have brilliantly constructed this universe and I am so thrilled to have had the pleasure of reading this series.

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PLOT

One night, when a strange red moon fills the sky, six school girls find themselves in an abandoned theme park, drawn there by a mysterious force. A student has just been found dead. Everyone suspects suicide. Everyone – except them.

In that derelict fairground an ancient prophecy is revealed. They are The Chosen Ones, a group of witches, bound together by a power, one which could destroy them all. But they soon learn that despite their differences they need each other in order to master the forces that have been awakened within them.

High school is now a matter of life and death. Because the killing has only just begun.

 

CHARACTERS 
noje_27-01-15_haxorna-i-engelsforsThe main reason you should read this series is the characters. Each character is different and has their own well-crafted storylines that make them come to life in the most realistic fashion. The mundane issues they have as teenagers contrast their heavy world-threatening supernatural struggles. Anyone will be able to relate to someone in some way, which makes it feel as though the reader could be the one with the magical powers, and I absolutely love that.

LGBT STORYLINE
The depiction of Vanessa and Linnea’s relationship is one of my favourite plot points. The way they progressed and gradually became more and more infatuated with each other is realistically written and plays a central role in the development of both characters. I find that LGBT+ storylines in books and TV-shows normally revolve around one person’s coming-out process, usually filled with a lot of angst and sadness. This storyline focused almost exclusively on their relationship and their feelings for each other, the way heterosexual couples normally are depicted.

YA?
What I enjoyed about this book (or maybe I shouldn’t have enjoyed it) were the graphic descriptions. Descriptions of sex, drug use, and violence are part of what makes the book feel more appropriate for older age groups. Sometimes I don’t enjoy reading books about people younger than me. If I’m feeling nostalgic it can be pretty pretty great, but most ofmap_engelsfors__c_karl_johnsson the time it makes me feel slightly sad that something extraordinary never happened to me. It’s kind of like the feeling you get when you find out a popular actress or footballer is actually younger than you and they are having all this success while you’re sat eating Doritos in bed. Anyway, the sex, drugs and violence descriptions make it feel like the series is for a more mature audience as well, which I quite enjoyed.

The book is fantastically written and a delightful page-turner. If you like fantasy then this book is definitely for you. 

HAVE YOU  READ THIS BOOK SERIES?
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“Two Sisters” By Åsne Seierstad

Hi there!

Åsne Seierstad is a Norwegian author and seierstad20c385sne20c20sturlason1journalist. She is especially known for her work on life in war-territories. She has written a few other books, one becoming a bestseller, depicting life during the war in Kabul. Her most recent book “To Søstre,” meaning ‘Two Sisters’ was published in October 2016 and has already won the Brage-award.

to-sc3b8stre-hoyThe book revolves around two sisters who decided to join ISIS in Syria. The topic is very relevant considering the events of today and gives insight into the world of Norwegian-Somalians. Seierstad has interviewed, researched and pried to get the information needed to produce this book. The parents of the two girls who travelled have bravely told their stories in the hopes that other parents and friends will be able to see the signs of radicalisation, which they did not see until it was too late. The book revolves mostly around the father of the girls, who goes to Syria to find them, but the oldest brother Ismal also plays a central role in telling the story. The girls themselves did not respond to the requests Seierstad sent, but stories from friends, family and teachers gave Seierstad a valid foundation to make assumptions about their lives.

Youth travelling to Syria to join ISIS has stagnated luckily, but a lot of youths have become88766074_88766073radicalised still, which to many is a hard thing to imagine. Seierstad has done her best to tell us how it happened and how different views on religion developed and unfolded in one family. The girls grew up in Norway, one of the most Western countries in the world. The state is widely secularised and inclusion of all religions is what we aim for. I am a white, middle-class full-Norwegian female who grew up in the most Norwegian street you can find. I rarely see this side of my own country, which has taught me a lot about Norway as well as what is happening in Syria.

The story is true, which makes it so much more emotional and incredible. Everyone should read this book. It is terribly important today. Seierstad tells the truth in a captivating yet simple way that fills knowledge gaps I know I have been needing to fill. Seeing what is happening in Aleppo right now it is clear things need to change. Everyone needs to understand what is happening. This book will help you.

Insight into Publishing – A Hachette Event

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On the 16th of November, I went to London to attend Hachette’s Inside Story event. For those of you who don’t know, Hachette is a major publishing company, one of the famous Big Five, and they own imprints such as Little Brown and Orion.

Hachette is a company where I would love to work. I have a sheet of paper above my bed saying “HACHETTE” to remind myself that is where I would like to be one day. The books they  publish are of outstanding quality and as soon as I saw they were hosting this event I knew I had to apply.

The day is designed to give a broad introduction to the various processes and departments within publishing. Throughout the course of the day we were split into groups and created a book ourselves, which we pitched to a mock author and agent. Lunch was provided and they offered to take a look at our CV as well. It was also possible to grab a drink on the roof with various staff during the evening. The experience was very rewarding and has given me a lot to think about when it comes to pursuing a marketing career.

We were visited by people who held various roles in publishing both within and outside the company. Literary Agents, contract directors, editors, design, production, rights and licensing, sales, marketing and publicity were among the different categories. I will be discussing two of the areas below as those were among the most interesting to me.

LITERARY AGENT:
The literary agent was Sheila Crowley who works for Curtis Brown and is the agent of famous authors such as Jojo Moyes. She is one of those people who you know is undeniably good at what they do and you could listen to for hours. Crowley stated that she viewed her role as a constant in an author’s life, to support and help them no matter what the problem might be, authors are after all what makes the business.

Most of the authors and books she takes on are through recommendations, but there are portals where authors can send in their scripts too.

She was also carefull to say that there is no one right answer to a success, books surprise and those who are most successful in the end might not be the one with the most promising premise.

 

MARKETING:
As someone who studies marketing and is aiming for a job within that field I was the most excited about this bit. I always say I want to work on promoting things I am passionate about, and what am I more passionate about than books? Not much.

Bethan Ferguson who is the Marketing Director at Quercus came to talk to us about marketing. She stated that a marketer in the publishing is involved in every aspect of the process and it is necessary to be in contact and have conversation with everyone.

What is key when publishing a book is knowing EXACTLY where it belongs in the market. There can be no doubt as any marketing activity stems from this.

The marketing activities and promotion strategies are changing from traditional billboards to a more online presence. In other words, social media and digital marketing is where it’s at. Digital and social media advertising is an advantage because it is happening in real time and therefore it is possible to do tweaks to see exactly what works and not.

 

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If you’re interested in seeing if publishing is for you, I recommend you apply to the next event hosted by Hachette, because they are very good at organising it and they showed they really care about the future of publishing. The industry is wildly competitive and this day really put things in perspective for me, personally.

It does not matter what you study, all you need is a fresh mind and a passion for books.

 

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DAY DO NOT HESITATE TO DROP A COMMENT

“Happiness is Easy” By Edney Silvestre

WHY DID I WANT TO READ THIS BOOK?

I randomly found this book at a £1 sale in Waterstones. Simply put, I chose it because it was thin, about an advertising director, and Brazilian(Fact of the day:Mariana, the other half of this blog, is half Brazilian). I was drawn to the story and I found myself wanting to read more about the Brazilian society.

PLOT(from the book cover)

Olavo Bettencourt is an important man, a man of spin. With Brazil adjusting to the new idea of democracy, his PR firm holds the balance of power in its hands. Which has also made Olavo very rich, if not very popular.

Loathed by his trophy wife and admired in a web of political corruption that spreads from Sao Paolo to Switzerland, Israel and New York, Olavo is an obvious target for extortion. And what better leverage can there be but the kidnapping of his only son.

Except that child, on his way home from school in Olavo’s armour-plated car, deep into his colouring book as the gang closes in…

He’s not Olavo’s son.

IS HAPPINESS EASY?

I have mixed emotions about this book. I experienced it as pretty average to be honest with you. The story is interesting and keeps you on your feet, but I can tell it’s a book I’ll quickly forget once I’m done with it.

Ohappiness-is-easy-cover-e1404243528290ne storyline felt unnecessary as it didn’t truly cross paths with what was clearly considered the ‘main story.’ The way I see it, this specific storyline served as a backstory to further demonstrate one important point: Brazil is an difficult country for a poor person to live in and corruption is everywhere. Which, indeed, is quite an interesting storyline, but takes valuable pages away from the what I considered the ‘main’ plot.

The book criticises corruption and the Brazilian system and does so in an good way, but as a non-Brazilian I felt lost at times, especially when it was dealing with elections. However, I feel I have gained an insight into what Brazil is like, from an insider’s perspective, which makes it worth the read.
Mara was the character I was most intrigued by. She lived an unfulfilling life, while still having access to the things that supposedly make you happy. She goes through a change in this book that I quite enjoyed reading.

 

HAVE YOU READ ANY INTERESTING BOOKS FROM BRAZIL?