Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Monday, April 20, 2015

Discussion Post: Americanah by Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Released: 2014
Pages: 608
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: N/A


This is not an official review but a discussion post because I couldn’t finish this book. I read about 60%. It started off strong and I was loving it, then it started to go downhill and I couldn’t believe how irritated I became. Ifemelu is a Nigerian immigrant who moves to the US to finish her schooling. Political problems and student protests keep her from going to school in Nigeria and her boyfriend Obinze who is obsessed with America is forced to stay behind. This book is suppose to be about star-crossed lovers, except I didn’t think it really was. It’s in the book, but didn’t seem like a focal point to me. I felt like this book really was about race, nationality and stereotypes.

I really didn’t like any of the characters. They made their own decisions, and faced with the consequences, they never owned up to their mistakes. I didn’t feel sympathetic to them, I felt annoyed and irritated. Ifemelu was so focused on race, and racial inequalities, that she was never able to acknowledge any positive things in her life. It’s like she kept looking for unjustices. The hair salon storyline had me rolling my eyes with all the stereotypical characters that came in. It felt really forced to me. It became too much.

I read an interview with Adichie, and she mentioned that this book is supposed to be funny…I did not find it funny. I think I really missed something. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, maybe I should give it another chance when I’m ready. I don’t know. I feel like the only person who didn’t like this book.

When Ifemelu comes to American and her Aunty Uju hands her another black girls ID because American people apparently can’t tell black people apart, I kept reading but when Obinze does the same thing in the UK, I was frustrated. When Aunty Uju kept speaking about “These People” with a negative sentence attached, I kept getting annoyed. It seemed to like this kept happening over and over again. I couldn't move on from it. Obinze has a fake marriage, because he wants to cheat the system to immigrate. Why does everyone have to try cheat the system? It just seemed like the book was about race, nationality, and people who are ignorant, biased and unfortunate.

I will say I read and loved Purple Hibiscus by Adichie, and I will definitely try Half a Yellow Sun. She is a talented writer, but this book just bothered me so much.  I live in a multicultural city, a I found this book to be too generalized. 

Please let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: One Native Life by Richard Wagamese

Publisher:  Douglas and McIntyre
Pages: 272
Released: 2009
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

One Native Life sat on my shelf for years, and as soon as I started reading it, I was so happy I decided to pick it up. It’s really hard to even review this one, because it was such a personal read for me. I saw so much of my own identity struggles in this book. Richard Wagamese is an Ojibway man, and a master storyteller.  I previously read Indian Horse, and loved it as well but this book REALLY SPOKE to me. It made me reflect on my life in so many ways and made me understand that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with what it meant to be Native.

One Native Life is Wagamese’s story about his own life. He was taken away from his biological family at a young age, and went through the foster system and eventually was adopted.  As a young Ojibway child, he never felt like he fit in. He learned to expect that nothing is permanent. Just as he learned to be comfortable with one family, he was moved to another.  One story that broke my heart was when he mentions that a foster family went on vacation, and they didn’t take him. He felt like he was different, and not loved. None of these families were Native and that had a significant impact on him. He had no one to answer his questions, and guide him in the ways of his people.

As Wagamese grew older, he became enamored with books.  He lost himself in the knowledge, and the different worlds. He started collective Native artifacts and wearing them, thinking they made him “more Native.” When asked about his Native culture, he would lie because he had no idea what those answers were.  At the age of 16, he turned to alcohol and living on the streets. He wanted acceptance, and he wanted to feel like he belonged.

I don’t want to give too much of the memoir away, each section should be savored. At the root of the story is a lonely boy, but also understanding, and optimism.  As Wagamese walks his readers though his story, he offers hope and healing. Knowledge is important. Every Native person is entitled to their own culture, their own understanding and their own opinion. You don’t have to agree with every Native political issue just because your Native. This really stuck with me!

I can go on and on about this book. I think this would be an enjoyable read, regardless of your background. Wagamese is a strong writer, and an inspiration to me. I’ll continue to read all of his books. Lucky for me, he has written a number of books! Humans are fragile, our life experiences shape who we are as people.  I know this book will be one I read and reread again.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Released: 2015
Pages: 320
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

The Girl on the Train was all over my twitter and it seemed like everyone was talking about it being the next “Gone Girl.” I’m really not a fan of comparing books to other books, and initially I didn’t really want to read this one. Finally, I decided to give it a try. It was a good read, but I didn’t absolutely love it. The characters are not likable; the plot becomes a little predictable as you near the end but I did enjoy it and I’m happy I read it.

The main character Rachel rides the train to and from London each weekday. The train stops at the same junction, and Rachel begins watching a young couple. She imagines their names, their occupations and can’t help but watch them. One day, she notices something off. Suddenly, the girl she’s been watching goes missing and Rachel has information for the police, but she isn't sure they’ll take her seriously.

We learn Rachel doesn't have a job, although she tells her roommate otherwise. She’s divorced, she drinks, and her life is really in an upheaval. Although, as a reader I couldn't feel bad for her. We also have Rachel’s ex-husband’s wife’s perspective, and I couldn't like her either. Anna was Tom’s mistress, and the more she justifies their affair, the more I couldn't like her. The girl who goes missing is Megan, and her perspective is interesting to read. She has a lot of baggage and doesn't reveal too much.
The Girl on the Train was suspenseful, until I came near the end. Then I put all the pieces together, and mostly figured it out. I read a lot of reviews with similar reactions. I was surprised that I disliked the characters so much, but I still enjoyed the read. I recommend this one, if you like thrillers. I would also like more recommendations for thrillers, since I haven’t read many.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review: Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Publisher: Penguin Canada
Pages: 408
Released: 2008
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I wanted to read one of Joseph Boyden’s novels for so long, and I’m not sure why I waited so long. Three Day Road will appeal to a wide range of readers.  Boyden’s debut novel introduces Xavier and Elijah, both First Nations. When Elijah hears about the upcoming war, he decides to get in on the action and convinced Xavier to come with him. Both volunteer their services, expecting the war to be short and their lives to return to normal, relatively soon. What really happens is that their world is turned upside down by the horrific trenches and the fight for survival. Elijah and Xavier both catch the eye of high ranking officials, and they become snipers, teamed together. Elijah decides to makes a game of it.

I’ve read many books about the First World War and this book was really different. Boyden’s writing is so beautiful and this story is so haunting. Life in the trenches was deplorable, and Boyden doesn’t hold back. He puts it all on the table. The friendship between Xavier and Elijah is so special. Xavier is more quiet and reserved but his leadership skills are so strong. Elijah spent more time in residential schools and he’s able to better communicate. He wants to be the one who’s known, he wants to be remembered. Xavier wants to be known too, but he’s more reserved. He barely speaks English and he’s more limited. It’s really interesting to see how they evolve throughout the story.

Three Day Road begins with Xavier’s aunt being reunited with him. He’s lost his leg, he’s addicted to morphine, and clearly broken. Niska has to get him through the three day journey back to his home in Northern Canada.  She doesn’t know what to do, so she begins to tell him stories. Xavier begins to reflect on his time during the war. Xavier and Elijah reacted to the war very differently, and their Native roots really showed in their thinking. Xavier’s traditional beliefs and his hunting skills really shine through. Elijah is the more dangerous and risky character. He was brought up in residential school until he escaped to live with Xavier and Niska. Xavier was always the one to show him the ways of the land. Now in war, Elijah tries to be the leader.

Three Day Road was such an engrossing and captivating read. It was hard to read about the trenches and the appalling living conditions but it was so real. I was so impressed with Boyden’s writing. His World War story was different from anything I’ve ever read. I will be reading all his other books as well. Hopefully, sooner rather than later. I just loved this one. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

March Wrap Up

I had a good reading month in March, I read books that I LOVED. One Native Life, For Joshua and Three Day Road really resonated with me, and left me thinking and questioning my own life. I can't wait to write the reviews, but also scared to not give them justice. They were so GOOD!! The Republic of Dirt by Susan Juby was also a great read! I loved Home to Woefield and was excited to go back to the farm. I recommend both books. When Everything Feels like the movies was a great discussion novel. It was on Canada Reads and I had to read it to see what the debate was all about. The Girl on the Train was a good read, but not great. Americanah was a huge disappointment for me. I do not see what everyone loves about that book. I loved her debut novel, but Americanah was so annoying. I'm actually 56% in, and not sure if I will finish. I need some time away, and try to finish.

I hope you had a good reading month, and I will post some reviews soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher Part 1

Publisher: Hoover Ink
Released: 2015
Source: Personal Copy
Pages: 159
Rating: 3/5

Never Never was published in two installments, the first installment was released in January and the second will be released in May. I kept reading rave reviews, and decided I wanted a quick read and would give this a try. I started off really enjoying it. Two character’s, Charlie and Silas cannot remember anything, and both realize that their memories begin at the same time, when a girl drops her books on the classroom floor. They decide to confide in each other and not tell anyone about their lost memories. They quickly learn that they were in a relationship and try to put together the pieces of their past.

This book is told in two perspectives both Charlie’s and Silas’. Charlie goes home to a sister who has issues with her, and an alcoholic mother. Something happened between her and Silas’ family but both of them are not sure what it is. They know it was serious, because Charlie’s father is in prison due to a business situation between the families. Silas wants to protect Charlie and he wants to love her, but he doesn't know how to connect with her. Silas lives a privileged life, and tries really hard not to allow those around him to understand what is happening with him.

Towards the end of the first installment, I started not enjoying it because I felt like I didn't really get anywhere in the book. Nothing was solved or somewhat solved. I was thrown for a loop and the story line made even less sense. I really want to read the next installment because I liked both characters and want to see how this turns out. I certainly didn't love this installment as much as others, but I am intrigued.

I loved that this was published in installments. I remember a professor telling the class that Dickens novels at the time were published serially and people would have to wait and wait for the next part. Fans would write to Dickens and tell him what to do with his characters. I think reading in installments is a great experience. I’m glad we don’t have to wait too long. I really hope the ending of this part starts to make more sense and I can connect with the characters again.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Discussion Post for When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid


School is just like a film set: there's The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn't fit in. He's not part of The Crew because he isn't about to do anything unless it's court-appointed; he's not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he's not a Movie Star because even though everyone know his name like an A-lister, he isn't invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.
Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It's a total train wreck!
But train wrecks always make the front page.

When Everything Feels Like The Movies was debated against RU on the last day of Canada Reads. Lainey was so passionate about this book, she really captured my attention. I didn't intend on reading this book because I didn't think it would be for me, but she was so passionate and emotional, I really wanted to give it a chance. I liked the book, because I recognize what Reid was trying to accomplish with the book, but I didn't think it should win Canada Reads. I think bullying, homophobia, LGBT issues are real, important and need to be addressed but I didn't think this would be the book to break those barriers.

My main issue with the book was Jude. I would start to understand him, and then he would do something that would push me away. It's definitely a defensive mechanism. The language was very off-putting, it would distract me. Lainey argued that youth do speak like this, and I agree but not to the extent of the book. I think the language puts a huge limitation on the book because I think people will have a hard time getting past it. I also want to give our youth credit and say they don't use that language all the time. They're not all out doing drugs, having sex, having repeated abortions, like its nothing. I know this story is real, but for how much of our youth. I think it will have trouble to break barriers, because it's hard to relate to. It's hard to get past these issues.

The other issues I had with this book was the fact that Jude's world was so dramatic. Probably, not the right word but his mother was a stripper, he lived in an unfinished, moldy basement, his cat was named Stoned Hairspray, Angela's abortions, everything felt so extreme to me and unrelatable for a wider audience. Also, Jude is apparently from a small town and I really didn't get that impression from the book. I kept feeling that Reid was going one step to far, it would push me away as a reader.

Lainey made it seem that if you didn't like this book you were attacking the book and I really took offence to that. I read the book because I wanted to see her points, and I do. I also think you can not like this book, but still be compassionate and support the LGBT community and the issues.

What I did like about this book is the issues that it tries to address. It's based on a true story. The relationship between Jude and his brother was so innocent and real. His mother had her faults, but you can see that she did care, but she had her own demons. You can feel Jude's pain. I think the bullying in the book was on point, and really REAL.  I also liked that this book has so much to discuss.

If you're not sure if you want to read this book. I think you should give it a try. It really is a great book to discuss and a quick read.