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Book Review: Noughts & Crosses (Noughts and Crosses #1)

Noughts and Crosses Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Sephy and Callum have been friends since early childhood. And that’s as far as it can go. Because theirs is a world full of prejudice, racism, distrust and mounting terrorist violence.

Despite all this, a romance builds between the two friends.

But this is a love that could lead them both into terrible danger…

The summary on the back of Noughts & Crosses doesn’t do it any justice. From the beginning, this book had me hooked, wanting to know how this story would go. It was an emotional rollercoaster that while in the moment didn’t produce any tears from me, it made me have an array of emotions when I was finished.

It tells the tragic story of Sephy and Callum, best friends since childhood who over the years of their lives fall in love with each other. But they can’t be together because of racism and terrorist violence which threatens to tear their lives apart.

I received this book through Blind Date With a Book Club, a website where for the next six months, you get a mystery book based on the genres you’ve chosen. This is the first book of the six I received, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it.

What I love about this book is that it emotionally hooked me into the story. As a reader, this story really pulled me in, made me root for Sephy and Callum to be together despite the many obstacles that stood in their way. I wanted so badly for their love story to work out even though I knew the chances were slim because of how dark this story became.

I also appreciate the honesty in which this story portrays heavy topics such as racism. This book gets seriously dark in the way it shows you as the reader how much racism can affect the world around you. How hatred for someone because of the color of their skin can really cause harm to the people that hatred is turned towards. This book does a spectacular job of showing you as the reader how this hatred can really hurt people, especially those you love. I’m not scared to admit that this dystopia world sometimes frightened me because it felt so real and it wasn’t that long ago that the world we live in acted the way the Crosses do towards the Noughts.

But experiencing that fear helped me because as someone with privilege, I know I’ll never understand what the Noughts went through. Though in this dystopia world, the author turns racism on its head, since Noughts in the story are white people experiencing racism from black people. I thought that was an interesting dynamic because it made me think and I feel like it helped me understand racism better. Especially since Malorie Blackman used a lot of experiences to show how terrible racism can truly be. Before reading this book, I felt like I understood racism, but I truly believe this book really showed me how dark it can get, and that people tend to take it way too far.

I felt like this book really spoke to me too. My partner and I aren’t the typical relationship you expect to see so I feel like I can relate to this story because of it. It made me think about our relationship and made me realize how much I truly appreciate my partner. Our relationship isn’t always easy, but I truly feel like we’re meant to be together despite the obstacles we’ve faced. So, in many ways, I feel like I can relate to Sephy and Callum’s relationship because they both went through some hurdles to be together.

My biggest criticism with Noughts & Crosses is that while I was rooting for Sephy and Callum to be together, there were moments where I didn’t understand why they still cared for each other. Throughout the book, their relationship is put through the ringer. Yet, both Sephy and Callum still end up caring about each other despite the many situations their put in during their romance. Situations that would typically result in one or both people involved wanting to separate from each other. The best example that comes to mind happens close to the end of the story and is the result of the way their romance ends. I won’t go too much into it because I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone, but I really don’t understand why these two characters chose that moment to do that. It was the worst timing on their part and I knew as soon as it happened it would cause the end of their relationship. It also just didn’t make sense to me because the situation they both were in wasn’t an ideal moment for them to give into impulses.

Like I said, I can relate to their relationship, so I do overall understand why they wanted to be together. But there were moments in the story where for their own safety, they shouldn’t have been. Or where they both made rash decisions that they shouldn’t have, which impacted not only them but those closest to them.

Another criticism I had while reading was that while I loved that this story was told from two points of view (Sephy and Callum), there were times I didn’t overall like the writing from their perspectives. I know both these characters are young, so I get that what they said or did sounded childish, but there were times for me when it was a bit too much. I especially noticed this a lot when the story was being told from Sephy’s perspective. Maybe part of that in the story is that Blackman wanted to showcase with Sephy her privilege through the way she acted during certain moments in the story. Either way, it was something I wasn’t too fond of despite liking that this story is told from two different perspectives.

But overall, Noughts & Crosses was a really gripping, emotional read for me to complete and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m also happy that this was the first book I was given with Blind Date With a Book Club and can’t wait to see what book I’ll receive from them next.

 

Book Review: A Ship Made of Paper

A Ship Made of Paper Book Cover

Rating: 2 stars

No novelist alive knows the human heart better than Scott Spencer does. No one tells stories about human passion with greater urgency, insight, or sympathy. In A Ship Made of Paper, this artist of desire paints his most profound and compelling canvas yet.

Daniel Emerson lives with Kate Ellis and is like a father to her daughter, Ruby. But he cannot control his desire for Iris Davenport, the African-American woman whose son is Ruby’s best friend. During a freak October blizzard, Daniel is stranded at Iris’s house and they begin a sexual liaison that eventually imperils all their relationships, Daniel’s profession, their children’s well-being, their own race- blindness, and their view of themselves as essentially good people.

A Ship Made of Paper captures all the drama, nuance, and helpless intensity of sexual and romantic yearning, and it bears witness to the age-old conflict between the order of the human community and the disorder of desire.

Overall, A Ship Made of Paper was an okay read for me. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t necessarily enthralled by the story and characters either.

The main plot centers on Daniel Emerson, a lawyer who moves back to the small town he grew up in with his girlfriend Kate Ellis and her daughter Ruby. While back at home, he meets Iris Davenport, an African-American woman whose son is best friends with Ruby. He becomes deeply attracted to Iris Davenport and begins to explore a deeper relationship with her one snowy night in October when a blizzard traps them inside her home. But this secret relationship ends up affecting every aspect of their lives.

What I enjoyed about the story was the writing. It was very descriptive to the point where I felt like I was right in the story as these events transpired. I especially enjoyed seeing the dialogue in the story because it brought the characters to life even better for me.

What I also enjoyed when reading A Ship Made of Paper is the variety of topics that can be discussed when it comes to this book. These topics include racism, sexual desire, infidelity, interracial relationships, justice (these events take place around the time of the OJ Simpson trial), alcohol addiction, and pedophilia (one of the married characters in the story is in love with a blind girl who he’s fancied since she was a child).

I feel like each of these aspects was wonderfully woven into this story through some of the characters who in some ways represent one of these topics. For example, Daniel’s girlfriend Kate Ellis is a writer who to me seems like a good example of what racism and alcohol addiction look like. She denies being racist (of course), but is convinced that OJ Simpson is guilty and writes about the trial throughout the story. She also calls the police when two boys brake into her home during the storm and is convinced that the boys who broke into her home are the recent prisoners who escaped from jail in the story, despite not at all getting a glimpse of their appearance. She also drinks heavily throughout the book, doesn’t matter what’s going on in her life. She always finds a reason to drink even when her relationship with Daniel is starting to fail. She’s a wonderful example of what racism and alcohol addiction look like and I feel like I can see other topics of discussion through all the other characters too.

While I enjoyed reading A Ship Made of Paper because of the writing and the different topics that can be discussed, there are a whole lot of things I overall don’t like about this story that make it difficult to give it a higher rating. While I enjoy the way the story is written, I found the pace and plot of the book to move very slow. It made reading this book all the more difficult for me because I kept waiting for the plot in the story to move along, to reach a climax that made me reading this book worthwhile. But the story kept disappointing me again and again. There were only two moments in the story that really made me want to continue reading to see what happened next: the night of the blizzard and the night when Marie Thorne goes missing. But even that was short lived for me, especially the night when Marie Thorne goes missing, because excerpts of what happens during the search for her are at the beginning of each chapter. So even the most exciting parts of the book become mundane for me because I already catch a glimpse of what’s going to happen even if I don’t get to see all of it.

I also don’t like that none of these characters are at all relatable to me. I especially don’t understand Daniel and his stalker-like behavior towards Iris Davenport, the woman he desperately wants to be with despite already being in a committed relationship with Kate Ellis. His behavior throughout the book screams creepy to me when it comes to Iris, and I found the way he felt about her was more sexual desire than actual true love. The only time I ever believe their relationship to be real at all is whenever they both have serious discussions about what they’re doing. Otherwise, I’m not really convinced that their loving relationship will last. It just seems like a fantasy relationship to me throughout with nothing substantial holding them together. I know a lot of it has to do with them both being unfaithful to their partners. I guess I just don’t understand why someone who’s already in a relationship would stay with their partner if they knew they were developing feelings for another person.

The biggest criticism I have for A Ship Made of Paper is the last half of the book after Marie Thorne goes missing. It felt as if the plot after this point in the story took a complete nosedive, leaving the reader feeling confused about what’s going on. While I understood what happened that changed everything, I feel almost as if this part of the story was a whole lot worse than the first half of the book, which wasn’t that much better either. While I liked that the end of this book was ambiguous, the rest of the story just lacked any sort of plot. We know Daniel feels guilty about Hampton’s condition, but the way Scott Spencer decides to take the story with him wasn’t at all an improvement. And then I felt like the robbery at the bar didn’t really add anything to the story because everyone then screamed they were robbed by black people. So all it did was show the prejudice of these characters, that they haven’t at all changed since the beginning of the book started.

So overall, A Ship Made of Paper was an okay read for me. I liked that there are a variety of topics that can be discussed when it comes to reading this book, but the plot of the story isn’t something to boast about. The book was fascinating enough to read, but not a story that I’ll reread anytime soon.

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