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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: The Republic of Dirt by Susan Juby

Publisher: HarperAvenue
Pages: 416
Source: Personal Copy
Released 2015
Rating: 5/5

The Republic of Dirt is the sequel or Home to Woefield. I really loved Home to Woefield and I couldn’t wait to  read about Prudence, Sarah, Seth , Earl and the other characters. Susan Juby’s Woefield books are funny, her characters are unique and enjoyable. The Republic of Dirt is humorous but also tugs at your heart. The characters  on Woefield farm have formed their own family unit. In the first book we learn Prudence inherits the farm, and it’s so run down and nonfunctional. In the sequel, 

Prudence is diagnosed with a thyroid condition, and she’s not much help around the farm. Seth is a recovering alcoholic, Earl is getting older, and little Sarah has to deal with her parents’ divorce.
Sarah’s storyline kept me glued to the pages. She’s so smart, so innocent and she becomes a pawn in her parents game of divorce. I had so many issues with her mother and father. They were so selfish and so frustrating. The story is told through the various characters’ narration, and each voice is unique and adds to the story. I loved Seth, and looked forward to his parts in the book the most.  He will make you laugh out loud.

I highly recommend both books. I enjoyed both and I hope Susan Juby will continue with these books. It's hard to review this one because I don't want to give away too much of the storyline. You can check out my review of Home to Woefield here. In Canada is was actually titled "The Woefield Poultry Collective."

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.

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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.