Saturday Smalls | 3rd August 2019 | Appropriative Magic, Fascinating Algorithms, & a Kick-Ass Latina

I’ve been eyeing up Destiny’s brilliant Saturday Smalls feature for a while now but didn’t get round to introducing it on my blog until now given all of my unintended hiatus’ these past few months. Now seems the perfect time to pick it up though as I have so many books I’ve read that I never got round to reviewing so I’m hoping that Saturday Small can help me to catch up.

Each feature will include a handful of mini-reviews for books that I’ve read but didn’t get a chance to review at the time and once I catch up, I will then use it to review books I don’t feel I can commit to doing a full review for. A huge thank you to the lovely Destiny for letting me adopt Saturday Smalls.

This week’s mini-review round-up includes:

  1. YA historical fiction/magical realism/horror novel
  2. Adult non-fiction book
  3. YA contemporary novel

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Title: Music and Malice in Hurricane Town
Author: Alex Bell
Genre: Historical fiction/magical realism/horro
Age Range: YA

Synopsis: Jude Lomax scrapes a living playing the trumpet on the neon streets of Baton Noir. Then she is invited to play at the funeral of the infamous cajou queen, Ivory Monette. Passing through the cemetery gates, Jude finds herself possessed by the murdered queen’s spirit. And Ivory won’t rest until she’s found the person responsible for her death.

If Jude wants to be rid of the vengeful spirit, she must take a journey deep into the dangerous underbelly of the city, from the swampy depths of the Black Bayou to the velvet opulence of the vampires’ secret jazz clubs. But as Jude untangles Ivory’s web of secrets, she is confronted with a few dark truths from her own past… 

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Oh boy, I’m not even sure where to start with Music and Malice. I knew as soon as I started reading it that it would be tricky to review and I have not been looking forward to it as the end of the book drew near. I think that Music and Malice has a lot of potential but I really don’t know what the author was thinking when she wrote this. The story is set in the enchanting setting of Baton Noir, an alternate mirror to Baton Rouge in Louisiana. It’s full of bayou swamps, honkytonk clubs, voodoo magic, terrifying gods and spirits, supernatural creatures and a heck tonne of white people (??).

There are two very marginal black characters; the protagonists best friend ‘Sharky’ who plays with her in their jazz band and is described as being “black as coal”, and her witch doctor friend Sophia who has “chocolate-colored skin”. With the exception of these two (and presumably Sharky’s grandmother) all the other characters are white including the protagonist, the cajou queen Ivory Monette, the romance interest and basically all other supporting characters which seems like an odd choice to me. It’s so frustrating because I actually really enjoyed the story itself as well as the creepy, atmospheric setting and there are so many aspects of Music and Malice that I would love to talk about which I did enjoy. However, I can’t stand by the complete whitewashing of a predominantly black area, black culture, black history and black stories in this book as well as the problematic descriptions of black skin.

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hello world

Title: Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine
Author: Hannah Fry
Genre: Non-fiction
Age Range: Adult

Synopsis: Would you let an algorithm determine your fate? Hannah Fry lifts the lid on the world of algorithms, examining how they impact our future and whether they really are an improvement on the humans they replace.

You are accused of a crime? Who would you rather decides your future – an algorithm or a human?

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I had been meaning to read Hello World since it first came out but never got round to it. Thankfully, one of my lovely friends bought me a copy for my birthday and I immediately dived into it as soon as I had the chance. Rather than writing a full review for this, here’s a little break down of why I loved Hello World:

  • Hannah Fry writes in an accessible manner to transform what can be a difficult subject to understand into something easy and enjoyable for all readers
  • She introduces us to what algorithms, how they work and where can find them throughout society including crime, healthcare, transport and money
  • Hannah gives us lots of examples of where algorithms can be used to benefit humanity, such as in countering dangerous instances of human error which leads to instances of death, as well as examples where we need to approach algorithms with caution and ensure that it is properly regulated, in cases where algorithms secretly collect our private data

Hello World is a book I highly, highly recommend not only to people who are interested in algorithms and machine learning but I would also recommend anyone to read this as it exposes how prevalent algorithms are in our everyday lives and helps readers to better understand how to protect our data in the age of the machine.

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yaqui delgado

Title: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
Author: Meg Medina
Genre: Contemporary
Age Range: YA

Synopsis: One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. 

At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.

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adored Yaqui Delgado and I am kicking myself over how long it took me to get round to reading it. It had been on my TBR since 2012/2013 but I didn’t read it until March 2019 despite owning a copy of the book. It was well worth the wait though. I think that Yaqui Delgado is a seriously underrated book so I cannot recommend it enough to all of you YA readers especially if you like YA novels such as Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, The Poet X and You Asked for Perfect. The book deals with a lot of difficult topics like bullying, poverty, abuse, being raised by a single parent, and physical assault in a way which is sensitive, realistic, well-written and empowering for readers.

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That’s all for today, I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Saturday Smalls. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these and what you thought, and keep an eye out for the next installment next Saturday!


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