Book Review

Book Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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★★★★★

I often struggle to figure out my role as an ally, to figure out if I’m supposed to be doing something or if I’m not doing something I should. I’ll be the first to admit that I am ignorant about a lot of things… unfortunately social justice isn’t something that’s taught in school. It’s left up to your parents or peers to instruct you in the way of being a decent human being, something that not all parents are inclined to be or teach.

Strange enough, I identified with Turk in this book. Now before you get your panties in a bunch, please let me explain. My family is perhaps not as vocal as these white supremacists in America, but I immediately found their behaviour familiar. My dad is the perfect Aryan, and I grew up listening to how black people were hardly better than baboons. It would have been so easy for me to buy into what I was taught from as young as I could remember… and indeed my sisters are happily racist today. But unfortunately for my family, I was a rebellious teenager (shocker). When I was forbidden to have black friends, I specifically sought out the only black girl in my class and befriended her. That may still sound horribly racist to many people, but it was a first step to my own awakening.

I am a product of my upbringing, and I still have a lot to learn, but I have spent most of my life questioning what my parents and others would have taught me, and I have worked hard to break away from their mentality of hate. This book called me out on a lot of my own bullshit, though. Like the fact that I don’t “see color” or am in the slightest bit racist. Sure, that’s what I tell myself and that I’d like to believe, but just like Kennedy, am I maybe trying too hard? Isn’t that it’s own brand of racism? And I guess, just like Kennedy, I’m making this review about me… Like I said, I still have a lot to learn.

In the author’s note at the back of this book, Jodi Picoult explained why she wrote the book and said that she expects push-back from it. I know this book wasn’t perfect, but I hope she didn’t get too much smack, because I needed this book and I really think she did a good job of providing a platform, and giving a voice to what black people still experience today. She definitely did a pretty good job of identifying white privilege and implicit racism.

“When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer. Instead, the role of the ally is to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they’ve enjoyed in life are direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits.” – Jodi Picoult

Some of the things that happened to Ruth and the other black people in this book really breaks my heart, because even though I live in South Africa and it’s predominantly black, I know for a fact that SA is not that different from America. I have friends who are followed at the store to make sure that they don’t steal, whereas I am not. I have friends who are criticized for wearing their hair naturally curly. I have friends who are stared at in the street when their loved one’s skin tone doesn’t match their own. I have a father who scorned my sister-in-law’s new born baby because he was half black, and that “poor child”…

This was a difficult book to read, and I’m guessing a lot of people won’t like it. Most will be legitimate reasons like not liking the writing style or various other reasons people don’t like other books. But I think there will also be people who will not be able to accept this message as true, people who will resent the agenda. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so for those people, I hope a seed will have been planted. A seed is all that’s necessary to start a garden…

The end of this story was perhaps a little whimsical and too idealistic, but it resonated with me because at the end of the day, there is always hope. Hope that people can be better, that humanity can be better… It’s unlikely, but if you don’t have hope, then what is the point of even trying?

“People must learn to hate, and if the can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” – Nelson Mandela

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Book Review

Book Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

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★★★★

I’m usually the girl who doesn’t like the classics, but in this case, I really liked this book. Weeeell… I say I liked it, but what I really mean is that it was easy reading with a compelling story. It’s just so depressing actually. Yes, it’s a satire on communism in Russia, but it’s so bloody spot on that it’s relevant in many more places these days.

I’ve always thought the basic principles of communism sounds great. I mean, what is bad about equality? But it’s when it goes wrong, which inevitably it does, that it turns into a shitstorm. It seems like humanity is doomed… by human nature 😦

Book Review

Book Review: Behold the Dreamers

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★★★

To be honest, this wasn’t the best or most exciting read ever, and I found myself finding other things to do instead of reading this, but on the other hand it was strangely compelling… possibly due to it’s current relevance?

The writing is very immersing, so when I did actually make time to read it was easy to fall into the story. The character building was consistent and believable, and I could completely understand Jende’s change of nature due to his troubles, could completely see how Cindy seemed to turn into a completely different person. The author definitely knows how to turn a phrase, and I’d love to see her write more and go farther.

I’m not sure when this was written (it’s set in 2008/9), but it’s extremely relevant to the current times. With the issues America is currently facing with the great white Cheeto filling everyone’s head that all immigrants are terrorists and want to either blow you up or steal your job, this novel kind of makes it’s own quiet statement. There’s even a scene where they joke that as a celebration they’ll go to Trump tower for supper and make Donald Trump cook their food… I don’t know if that’s funny or sad actually.

It was interesting learning more of other African countries’ culture, but the feminist in me cringed a lot. Women get a raw deal in general, but African women seem to get no deal at all… you just take what you can get and be happy for it. They seem to be okay with that though, and I guess if they’re happy then who am I to say they’re wrong… but I can’t help but wonder if they’re genuinely happy or if it’s just because they don’t know anything else?

Although he doesn’t get a lot of “screen” time, my favorite character was probably Vince. He’s painted as kind of a hippy-dippy disappointment to his family, but I like that he was true to himself and followed his own path rather than the path that was set out for him. He sees through the sham of the “American Dream” and calls it out on it’s bull… but the thing is, people still believe in it, even though it’s pretty much unattainable… and if people still believe in it, doesn’t that make it real?

It was a pretty good read, and it leaves me with a lot to think about… but honestly, I’ll probably forget about it sooner rather than later because it was just kind of… timid? soft? I don’t know exactly, but it doesn’t make that big of a splash. It has something to say, but it’s like the quiet kid in class is saying it while the rest of the students talk over them… I hope these analogies make sense, if not, I apologize and I’ll leave it at “it was okay”.

Book Review

Book Review: Writers of the Future: Volume 33

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★★★★

I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I think most of these stories were hampered by the fact that they were just that — short stories. I’m confident that at least 90% of them would have been so much better had they had more length. So while I feel more or less bleh about this collection, I’d definitely look out for more works by the various authors.

Because it’s fantasy and sci-fi, world-building is usually necessary, and often this resulted in a lot of info-dumping that had my eyes going skew and tech talk that went right over my head. I’m not saying it wasn’t necessary or done bad, but it did feel clumsy and rushed and detracted from the story itself. I don’t know if there was a word limit to these stories, but I would have appreciated more time with each.

Moonlight One by Stephen LawsonWhen Gwen’s husband is found murdered, she’s the only suspect. After all, they were the only two people on the moon: Decent sci-fi murder mystery begging for it’s own full length novel. Writer has an engaging writing style that let me gloss over any holes in the story. ★★★★

The Armor Embrace by Doug C. SouzaFlora’s father is a mech-soldier of the Slayer Class, but how much of him is really left inside the machine?: It had a very interesting concept, and probably would have worked better as a longer length novel. Leaves you with a lot of questions. ★★

Envoy in the Ice by Dustin SteinackerWhen an alien with godly intelligence is discovered watching the earth, one man must try to learn if its motives are pure: The blurb is kind of misleading, but not completely off. A lot of unanswered questions that could be explored in a longer novel. ★★★

The Devil’s Rescue by L. Ron HubbardIf you were stranded in an open boat and the only hope for rescue came from a ghost ship, would you dare to ride?: Bleh… the language was a bit pretentious, and the story was kinda boring. ★★

Tears for Shulna by Andrew L. RobertsSome gifts come with heavy price tags, and the giver must rise to the occasion.: I need more of this! More Selkies! This story was too short though. ★★★★

The Drake Equation by C.L. KagmiWhat if an alien asks for your help with a question, and the answer affects the future of the whole human race?: Hmmm… I literally can’t remember this story… Ok I went back and checked and yeah, this one was pretty good! ★★★★

Acquisition by Jake MarleyBarlow has a talent for finding the dead. Or do they find him?: Pretty good, would also make a good series. ★★★★

Obsidian Spire by Molly Elizabeth AtkinsWhen Varga sets out to explore the ancient stronghold of a long dead wizard, she discovers that the ruins aren’t as deserted as she thought.: Loved this one! Would love more by this author and even this story… maybe a prequel! ★★★★★

Gator by Robert J. SawyerIf only that reptile in the sewer were something as predictable as an alligator.: Uhm… no… maybe it was because of the length limit, but this just fell completely flat and was insensible. ★

A Glowing Heart by Anton RoseOn a distant world among the cloud peaks, the light-hawks promise a rich reward for those daring enough to harvest one.: Not much to say about this one, but it was very good. ★★★★

The Long Dizzy Down by Ziporah HildebrandtIn a world where memories can be stripped, Bill discovers that he has a family he has never known.: Didn’t even read this one. Couldn’t stomach the writing ★

The Woodcutters’ Deity by Walter DinjosNot all spirits have the best of intentions, and they must be dealt with.: This was also very good. Definitely would want more about the mythology here. ★★★★★

The Dragon Killer’s Daughter by Todd McCaffreyYou can put an end to something wondrous, but only at a cost.: Meh… didn’t really make any sense ★★

Useless Magic by Andrew PeeryIn a life-or-death situation, sometimes you wish that you had a really powerful spell. But that begs the question – What is power?: A decent enough short story ★★★

Adramelech by Sean HazlettSome devils are as old as a dream, and more evil than men can imagine.: Didn’t really feel this one either. Maybe if the author had more time it could have been better ★★★

The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove by Ville MerilainenWhen the world needs saving, three children are called to the task.: Probably my favorite of them all… coincidentally also the longest! ★★★★★

The Magnificent Bhajan by David Von AllmenCan an aging sorcerer find a way to track down his old nemesis with the small bit of magic he has left, or is he just fooling himself?: Another bleh ★★★

Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review: The Fireman


★★★★★

Let me just state, first and foremost, I really loved this book. I haven’t read that much of Joe Hill’s stuff, but I obviously know who he’s related to, and I’m a super-fan of King. Which is also why it was pretty difficult to ignore the similarities between this dystopian novel, and The Stand. They’re completely different, yet a lot alike.

The similarities though… Not only do we have a deaf boy called Nick, but we also have a guy called Harold who hated everyone in the community and kept a diary filled with his hateful thoughts. A little meta, but Hill didn’t just draw from his father’s work. Mary Poppins had a significant role, and even J.K. Rowling was dragged in. It was a little disconcerting, but to be fair, these people are pretty big in real life, and it wouldn’t be weird for me to come across conversations about them or their works. I guess that’s what made it disconcerting… it made it feel like this book is set in our world… not a fictional one.

In the Fireman, we see a dystopia where people get infected with Dragonskin (I actually prefer it’s medical name; Draco Incendia Trychophyton, which has a beautiful, almost poetic ring to it), which seems to cause whoever is infected to spontaneously combust. Understandably, there’s a panic, and all kinds of shit goes down. What’s left is split between the healthy and the infected, with the healthy paranoid about staying that way.
This, of course, brings out the worst of humanity, and you have people who embrace their own sociopathic tendencies and use the legitimate fear of others to fan the flames of hysteria. Of course, after that it’s easy to justify genocide… you know, it’s for the good of everyone else.

We follow Harper, our Mary-Sue main character who is obsessed with Mary Poppins and tries to emulate her in everything she does, who gets infected with Dragonscale pretty early on. She is also pregnant, and determined to be delivered of her baby because she’s sure he’ll be healthy. Her husband doesn’t agree, and in trying to escape him and the people who kill the infected “for the greater good”, she is found by The Fireman and taken to a community of infected people. Here, she finds out that being infected doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to combust, as long as you give the spore what it craves… Oxytocin. I immediately wondered why this is not bigger news, but of course, scared people don’t necessarily listen to reason. Especially if they have a figurehead telling them what to think and how to feel and what to do.

The funny thing is… even in this community of infected, that same mentality prevails. To be perfectly blunt, it’s more like a cult, but at first, everyone was really good and accepting. Of course, this doesn’t last, and because Harper doesn’t want to blindly go along with everyone and join the crazy, she gets ostracized. The worst, or maybe the best, thing this novel does, is make it easy to understand how it can happen. When you’re scared, you look for someone to look up to, someone who will protect you. You’ll go looking for acceptance and security, holding on to even the slightest hint of it with a fanatic zeal. If someone or something threatens that thin membrane of security, you’ll do anything to stop it from breaking through. Anything.

The Fireman is different than the rest of the affected people though. While they can only keep the dragonscale from turning them into human blowtorches, he seems to be able to control it. He doesn’t want to share how he does it though… he’s a bit of an ass actually. But also likeable. I see David Tennant in his role if there’s a movie deal in the future…

While he does his fair share of saving the day, Harper isn’t your average damsel in distress. In fact, she generally goes around saving herself and everyone else, including The Fireman. Inevitably, they fall in love, and while I liked both characters separately, I wasn’t much of a fan of the way Hill wrote their relationship. It felt kind of forced and desperate, which it might well have been. Luckily that wasn’t a huge factor and I could look the other way while they bumbled through a very unconvincing romance…

There was a lot going on in this book, and I guess it wasn’t perfect. But I very much enjoyed the story. I loved that nothing was rushed, and he took his time to get the story out there. Sure, most of the time it was pretty obvious what was going on and what would happen, but it’s always been about the journey for me. A lot of times, that’s where authors go wrong. They think they have to rush. Sure, if the story ain’t any good, rush away, but with something like this, it’s like a slow burn (excuse the pun), and if you try and force the flames too quickly, you’re more likely to smother and kill it.

More than anything else, this book made me fear for humanity, because let’s face it, this kind of mentality is alive and well, even in today’s age where there isn’t an obvious threat like disease. But if someone convinces you that there is a threat, but that they can help if you give them the power… well, people can be gullible. And horrible.

Book Review

Book Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

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5 Stars

The only reason I read this book was because I am participating in a challenge to read Goodreads Choice Award winners. I decided to read the Romance category winner in February in honor of Valentines day, but I was dreading actually reading it. See, this is the second book by Colleen Hoover that I’m reading. The first one was Confess, and I really, REALLY, disliked it. See my review here for reference.

I really should know better than to form prejudices based on only one interaction.

I went into this book blind, not even bothering to read the description, already sure that whatever it was about, I was sure to dislike it anyway. Promising myself that I could abandon it if it was too bad. I read the first 10% the first sitting, and was surprised. Cautiously optimistic, were the words I used. By the time I was 20% through, I knew I would finish the book, although I didn’t want to get too optimistic and say that I would actually love it, even though it had been a while since a book had made me giddy!

At this point I still hadn’t read the description, and didn’t know what the tone of the book would be. I assumed it would be a love-triangle, and although most people don’t like love-triangles, I’m a sucker for a good one. Turns out, it wasn’t quite about a love-triangle. It was about something way more substantial.

I really liked the characters in It Ends With Us. They felt like real people. They talked and acted like real people would. Lily was a very likable and relatable MC, and Ryle was dreamy, but not in an “OMG get over it” kind of way. Their interactions were fun to read and like I said, it’s been a long time since reading a romance has made me giddy. I just really loved their relationship.

I’ve had all the same thoughts about abusive households as anyone else… the same disdain. Why don’t these woman (and men, in some cases) leave? Turns out, it’s not always that black and white.

When everything started happening, I reasoned along with Lily. Made excuses, because no, life isn’t always cut and dried, black and white. Life is actually more of a big gray space. Just because two people might do the same thing, in the exact same way, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same thing.

I’m glad that Lily made the decisions she did, and although I felt that the epilogue was rushed and maybe a bit clumsy, it wasn’t about that. Everything was about the choice that Lily made, and maybe, hopefully, her story will help some other hopeless, helpless woman who might be in the same boat. And hopefully it’ll teach the rest of us not to judge.

Lily’s story, and in a way Colleen’s, sucked me in and held me a prisoner, a willing victim with a heavy dose of Stocholm Syndrome. I laughed, I cried, and I loved it.

Book Review

Book Review: Animal Magic byRachel Patterson

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4 Stars

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Although I’ve always been interested in spiritualism and it’s various practices, this was the first time I’ve read an actual book about it. Coming from a complete newbie, but I think this was a great introduction, if not to witchcraft and Wicca, to spiritualism and working with animal familiars and spirits.

As a species, humans tend to think we’re better than animals and completely ignore what they can teach us, but I’ve never agreed with that assessment. This guide did a really great job of sharing what you can learn from animals, and what they can symbolize when appearing in your life or even your dreams. I actually had an interesting dream while reading this that tied in nicely with the author’s narrative.

While the author had a good go at making a comprehensive list of the animals, some that I were interested in were unfortunately left out. Understandable, as obviously it would have been much longer if she had listed every single animal… and then it would have been more of an index than a guide. There are also very practical and easy to follow exercises and meditations to find your own spirit guides, which I’m looking forward to try myself. This book left me with a working knowledge on how to find my animal guides and a sparking curiosity to learn more.