I promised myself that I would try and read some Pride appropriate books during June and, so far, I’ve not done a great job. I’ve got my book club’s choice to go yet but I decided it was time to get some LGBTQ+ representation up in here. I had originally set aside Giovanni’s Room to read during Black History Month but that never happened. It’s probably a good thing as well because James Baldwin doesn’t address race in this book. Instead, his entire focus is sexuality. Making it the perfect book to read in the month of June.
I have a problem with Bookstagram. My problem being that I can’t stop myself from buying the books that I see people raving about. This was one of those books. Last year this book seemed to be everywhere and I hadn’t heard anyone say anything negative about it. Of course, I was slightly skeptical. I mean book that starts off by comparing itself to Get Out and Rear Window has some pretty high expectations of itself. It’s safe to say that I have been pretty dubious about contemporary thrillers. I find the majority to be superficial and not very thrilling. Of course, the added theme of racism and gentrification of this narrative had got me interested, so I decided to go against my natural instincts. Could it possibly change the genre completely? Especially when it sounded pretty similar to the plot of Vampires vs the Bronx.
During lockdown, I joined my first ever book club. It’s not that I have anything against them but I never do very well when I discuss books with other people. I was the same at university. I was always the shy one in seminars who would never speak out unless picked on. I was better in pairs or small groups but I’m still the kind of person who is much better on paper. It also doesn’t help that I’m so easily swayed by a good argument. Our latest read was Sula by Toni Morrison and I was one of the few people who had enjoyed it. However, the moment the rest of the group started criticising it, all of my beliefs went out of the window. Basically, I lack confidence and conviction. Book groups aren’t great for the combo.
When I started my holiday this week, I had all sorts of grand plans to read loads of my unread books and get ahead with the blog. We’re only halfway through but it’s becoming clear that I’m not going to achieve a great deal with this week. I spent Sunday and Monday playing with my niece, which was admittedly a fantastic use of my time. It just meant that the closest I got to reading was the first page of That’s Not My Kitten and I’m not entirely sure that would count towards my yearly reading count. It didn’t help that my desperation to finish Those People in time for my Monday review had left me not wanting to read anything else on Sunday night. So, in order to get something finished for my Wednesday review, I needed to play strategically. I wanted a small book from my TBR pile. Thankfully, this James Baldwin book has been near the top for a few weeks now and it seemed perfect. Much heavier going than my previous book but that was a welcome change.
It was announced recently that the sequel to Ready Player One will be released on November this year. I can’t say that I’m too excited by the news. I found the book really annoying and thought the film was kind of dull. I think it’s a problem with all novels that rely too heavily on their pop culture references. For one thing, I think it shows a lack of imagination and writing ability. For another, I think it’s a really lazy way of getting your readers onside. It’s using nostalgia to create engagement instead of a captivating story or developed characters. I’d go so far as to say that Ernest Cline’s YA novel made me quite angry. So angry that I’ve really stopped trusting any book that uses popular culture to draw people in. Which means that Slay wasn’t a natural choice for me to start reading. It’s a YA novel about an online video game and it’s really pushing the Black Panther connection. Writer Brittney Morris was inspired by the movie to write her first novel. Something she apparently accomplished in 11 days. But would it read like an 11-day long composition or would it actually make up for the wounds left by Cline? There was only one way to find out.
It’s only my third month of being part of a virtual book club but it’s already given me an excuse to read books that I’ve always wanted to. This month’s selection is another that I’ve been interested in but would never have read off my own back. Mostly because I always thought it would be a letdown. When this was suggested as a possible book, it was picked by someone who had seen the film. Now, I enjoyed Spike Lee’s adaptation of the book as much as the next person but I also knew that a lot of the plot had been made up. The bomb plot, for example, was not part of Ron Stallworth’s story but had been added for the film. I suspected that the person who put it forward was under the impression that the film was accurate. After all, she had described it as “shocking content (of the film was anything to go by)”. When it came to the vote, I went with another choice but was outvoted. I’m not complaining, merely stating a fact. I got my copy of the book and started to read. Boy, was it a bit of a slog.
I’ve probably said this far too many times recently but I had decided that I was never going to read this book. I’d been put off by the bright pink colour and the title. I couldn’t help but imagine romantic-comedies or YA fiction. I’m not against back protagonists but I am against anything too sentimental and lovey-dovey. I don’t really do romance. I’m too cynical for hearts and flowers. However, I’ve only heard good things about this book so I had to try it for myself. And it’s just another way to add to my anti-racist reading list. The more non-white authors and protagonists I embrace the better, right?
I know that I spend a lot of time moaning about Netflix Original films but, I have to admit, they do get it right now and then. The platform also manages to great some great filmmakers on board. Their 2019 releases on the streaming service saw Noah Baumbach and Martin Scorsese gain multiple Oscar nominations. Before he won awards and hearts, Bong Joon-Ho released the fantastic Okja. So, there have certainly been some high points and it looked as though it might have another. Spike Lee’s latest film Da 5 Bloods was released in mid-June. This was the first time we’ve seen Lee since his Oscar-nominated BlacKkKlansman and it couldn’t have come out at a better time. One of the major themes is how race fits into America. There is the same passion and anger that can be seen throughout the Black Lives Matter protests that have been happening all over the globe. What better film to watch when I’m trying to Amplify Melanated Voices?
One of the most underappreciated films at the 91st Academy Awards was Barry Jenkins’ adaption of If Beale Street Could Talk. It was nominated a measly 3 times in total. To put that in context, the boring remake of A Star is Born got 8. Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody both got 5. That’s fucking insane. Even more insane is the fact that it only won 1 of those 3. Maybe the Academy thought that they’d done Barry Jenkins enough of a favour when they gave Moonlight the award for Best Picture? Or maybe they just thought that they’d done enough to fight racism that year by giving fucking Green Book so much recognition? Whatever it was, it was a travesty. I loved the film though and, once I’d started to compile my anti-racist reading list, I knew that I had to read the original book. So, I started it this weekend and finished it just in time for this review.
I must have first read this book just after it was published but, honestly, I don’t remember much about it. I don’t think I really paid attention to it. I was a bad reader in those days. There are plenty of books series that I started but didn’t really take in. I think I was just reading for the sake of it. So, I never really had that great awakening thanks to Malorie Blackman. It’s a book that I always wanted to read again and give a better go. It also helped that the BBC adaptation was coming out and I didn’t want to watch it until I’d reread it. Of course, it got pushed back thanks to my ever-increasing TBR but the recent Black Lives Matters protests have pushed all books about race to the top. I figured this would be a relevant and quick read. As anyone who has ever read my review of The Power will know, I’m not always a fan of role reversal narratives. A lot of the time, they can be a bit cringe and heavy-handed. But this is one of those books that everyone loves. I went in expecting to enjoy it.