Spike Lee @ York University Recap

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a York Federation of Students event at York University: A talk by Spike Lee. It was open to the public ($5 a ticket) as well as students ($2) and had limited spacing since it was held in a lecture hall. It was a great turn out and people were buzzing to hear from the legendary American director. The talk started late a few minutes late but as he barely entered the room, Mr. Lee was greeted with an ecstatic applause.

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The night began as Safiyah Husein, the Vice-President Equity
, discussed the YFS’s Expression Against Oppression series. She mentions the various forms of oppression that take place and urged students and community members to help in creating change. She then introduced Spike Lee who’s main topic was about race and media. The talk was insightful, humorous and thought provoking. Lee discussed how he got into film (or more like fell into it), his family’s support of his dream (primarily his mother and grandmother), the state of African Americans and their community in terms of incarceration, education, familial relations and their mindset on all of these values. He mentioned the notion of the “reality TV show” (not “real” at all), the bombardment of information and distractions afforded to us by social media, television and etc and the controversy of Lil Wayne’s remix of Future’s Karate Chop (Lil Wayne disrespects Emmett Till who was a 14 year old boy murdered for allegedly looking/flirting with a white woman). He also left us with a warning that if we chose our majors in post secondary for the sole reason of making money then we’ll fall into the trap of a 9-5 job no one wants to be in. He encouraged us to follow our dreams and to do what we enjoy and not do things because of the dollar signs.

He said it was now our generation’s job to instill change.

After concluding, there was a question and answer period. There were great questions along with über fans who couldn’t speak or spoke so much that Lee was barely able to respond to the question. Overall, it was a great two hours that I would normally dread if it was a normal lecture. It went by too fast and hope to hear from Lee again.

In the meantime, I’ll be marathoning his movies.

What a great way to end the last day of Black History Month.

A. A. Omer 

You Read What? Book Review: Unravel Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Publisher: HarperCollins

  • Imprint: HarperTeen

Date Published: February 5th 2013

Format: Hardcover

Source: Pre-ordered it online

Synopsis:

tick

tick

tick

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it’s almost

time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 2

Cover:

Unravel Me

I LOVE THIS COVER. This series went through a cover overhaul after only having one book out and I’M TOTALLY OKAY WITH THAT.  Shatter Me was featured in my 2012 best book covers. Unravel Me is just as gorgeous. Gah. I love.

The Writing Score:  4.5 out of 5

Recommendation: A MUST READ

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  4 out of 5

Review:

To say that this book didn’t create buzz in the book world would be an understatement and a flat out lie.

I would have finished it in a day if it wasn’t for the midterms I had to study for (thanks to the snow day, I finished it earlier than I thought at first so yay to snow storms!). I’m really glad I did. So what’s with the 4 star rating and not the typical 5 that most people seem to be giving it?

Well let’s start with the good. Mafi’s writing was so…GORGEOUS. The prose was something that I could throw onto a blank canvas and  out pops a badass Mona Lisa (with a bag of Cheetos and an actual smile that reaches her ears). I loved that we got to see more of Kenji who’s been a favourite of mine and more insight into Omega Point along with it’s leader. It was what you expected the second book to be and it’s ending was a great lead up to the third (and final) book. It’s harder to pin down in more detail what I thought was good since most of it was that. Good. However, I still had a few…issues? They’re not too big but they stood out to me.

Warner has these monologue type instances that I felt were too much and went on for too long. If they had ended earlier, their meaning would still be as powerful and, given what we know, it would fall in line with who he is which is someone who’s efficient in every aspect of life including his speech/language. This doesn’t happen often (I think only twice) but it’s effected how far my affections for him would go which is not that far. With that said, Unravel Me changed my view of Warner way more than Destroy Me (went from you’re-a-creep to I-think-we-can-be-friends). Another issue I had was that Unravel Me was marketed as a book where Juliette was going to be a kicker of ass and would take names and basically not being who she was in Shatter Me. To me, this didn’t happen. Juliette was still scared and dependent. She’s not exactly like the girl we saw in Shatter Me because that girl was essentially catatonic emotionally (don’t blame her) but in this one she was crying…a lot. This isn’t bad because she’s grown throughout Unravel Me as we watch her make missteps at Omega Point but the change I was promised didn’t happen. I do think that promise will be fulfilled in the third book. Again, I only had issue with the marketing and not the realities of the book.

Overall, this book was great. I enjoyed it very much. The good outweighs the bad (more like the little-details-that-irked-slightly than bad) by a lot but I was able to pin point the bad easier than the good. So you should read this book and determine if my “issues” are legit or just a nit picking thing. 🙂

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

You Read What? Book Review: Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Publisher: Egmont Press

Date Published: February 6th 2012

Format: Hardcover

Source: Toronto Public Library

Synopsis:

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 6

Cover:

Code Name Verity

 

When people saw this cover, the first thing that came to their mind was “Is this a lesbian, fifty shades of grey type of book?”. That’s not the first thing that came to my mind and it surprised me that it did for them even though, after a second look, I kind of understand why they would. I liked this version of the cover. It reflects the book’s themes well.

The Writing Score:  4.5 out of 5

Recommendation: A Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  4 out of 5

Review:

This book was such a refreshing read and I’m so happy to have read it.

I talk about this a lot but I get annoyed when young adult novels mostly seem to be about romance. There are varying degrees of emphasis on the subject of romance in the young adult genre but, let’s be honest, it’s the driving force of the story whether it’s contemporary, horror, dystopian etc. In Code Name Verity, romance is not the driving force (and I’d go as far as saying non-existant but that can be left up to debate). The emphasis is on the relationship between two female friends during WW2 and the strength of the friendship being tested.

Verity and Maddie are young women to be looked up to and are a couple of badasses in their own right. I’m limited in what I can say regarding the plot but it’s the type of plot that you underestimate halfway through only to have it dawn on you how unbelievably smart Wein is in her storytelling. I promise you that a second re-read would be in order  to clear up how you could possibly miss the not-so-obvious-at-the-time signs. The characters are rich in the depth, the description is vivid and the subtle humour gave it life.

I wasn’t stirred emotionally as I thought I was going to be but, damn, did I read a great tale.

Wein did a sensational job well done.

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

You Read What? Book Review: A Shade of Vampire

Author: Bella Forrest

Publisher: Self Published

Date Published: December 14th 2012

Format: E-book

Source: From Author for Review

Synopsis:

On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake.
A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood.
She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine.
An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains.
Sofia’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is the one selected out of hundreds of girls to join the harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal Prince.
Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night.
Will she succeed? …or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks?

Number of Days It Took to Read: 2

Cover:

A Shade of Vampire

I like the bottom half but not so much the top. In fact, it would be a good cover if you get rid of the girl entirely.

The Writing Score:  3 out of 5

Recommendation: Casual Perusal

Memorable or Forgettable: Forgettable

Rating:  3 out of 5

Review:

The book world is so saturated with vampire stories that I need a shovel and some Oreos to dig myself out of it. With that said, I’ve read some refreshing takes on the overdone topic and this one was…interesting. I wouldn’t say it was the most unique story but then again given the length and other technical aspects that I had issues with, I’d say that it didn’t live up to it’s potential.

This should’ve been a full length book. The idea of an island sanctuary for vampires and the abduction of humans to become slaves has a lot of potential and couldn’t been an action packed, romantic story that would have teens (and even adult readers) interested. However, it’s not a long piece at all (might even call it a novella) and, because of that, the characters weren’t fleshed out enough (one dimensional), the plot/story was too big in scale which led to a great deal of telling versus showing and there was a lot of cliched language.

I couldn’t decide on what rating to give this because I was intrigued despite the above issues. I thought a solid 3 out of 5 would be good since most books that fall into that category are dubbed “okay”.

But you be the judge! Bella Forrest has given me a link to a free sneak preview of the first six chapters of A Shade of Vampire. So click —> here.

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

You Read What? Book Review: How to Lead A Life of Crime

Author: Kirsten Miller

Publisher: Penguin Canada

  • Imprint: Razorbill Canada

Date Published: February 21st 2013

Format: Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC)/Paperback

Source: Razorbill Canada/Penguin Canada

Synopsis:

A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.

Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear.

Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame. They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?

Number of Days It Took to Read: 4

Cover:

How to Lead a Life of Crime

Love this cover. It really jumped out among the other ARCs at the Penguin’s Blogger Night a few weeks back. The graffiti design with the pairing of the blue and yellow made it an instant favourite of mine.

The Writing Score: 4.5 out of 5

Recommendation: Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review:

So what I’ve done with this book that I haven’t done with others was to read it at the same time as my friend Tiff over at Mostly YA Lit as a type of read along. We created a Google doc where we’d update our thoughts as the book progressed and made sure to indicate where we were in the book so to avoid any spoilers for whoever is falling behind.

We both agreed that this book was amazing.

I feel like there’s more to it (much more) than what the synopsis tells you and it was such a pleasant surprise especially in it’s writing. The first couple of chapters sets us up for what we all want to read from the synopsis above but if we never move forward from this set up, I would’ve been fine. It really did feel like a contemporary book with refreshing and wonderful writing that sucked me in from the first word. It was nothing like the fast paced, thriller, dystopian-esque feel I was expecting…at least not at the beginning. All of these expected feelings were met and surpassed as the book went on. Miller introduced strong, three dimensional characters who I really loved, despised and/or pitied. The villains here were not your cookie cutter villains that would exist only in fiction (at least not most) but bad guys who we hear about in the news/real life constantly.

The students in the Mandel Academy make Shatter Me’s Warner look like upstanding citizen.

It was nice to read about boy protagonist and Miller was spot on with the POV. I loved Flick. He was the bad boy with a heart of gold but done in a way where he didn’t exactly fit the troupe. Joi (pronounced Joey) was a fantastic female character. Bonuses in this book included the various (and at times geeky) metaphors that made my heart pound in excitement. I love the constant Peter Pan comparisons/parallels that were huge in the book which also taught me a few new things about the Pan man.

I do have some criticisms which may have been fixed given that my book is an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC).

It was long. The ARC clocks at 434 pages but the finished copy is 358 pages so this may not even be relevant. Joi was introduced far too late and there were sections in the book that can be condensed (again, this may have already happened. I’d have to read the finished copy and update this review). I felt like the end plot of the story was far too complicated or that there were way too many reveals in such a small span of time. This criticisms were mentioned only because I noticed how long it was taking me to read it which isn’t a good sign (at least when it’s a conscious thought) but again, this may have already been rectified in the finished copy and it wasn’t a huge deal at the time. Also, I would have liked the swearing to be explicit versus just using F—. It would have enhanced this particular story and, as long as it was needed or fit the character, it should be fine but because it was used often, the “F—” distracted me.

Overall, it was a fantastic read and deserved a lot more publicity because of how well done it was.

P.S.

I never bring up who I think should play a character (or characters) in a book if it was going to be a movie but I couldn’t help it for this one. I think Robert Sheehan would make an awesome Flick.


(Robert Sheehan)

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.