Women Talking by Miriam Toews

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I am thinking a 3.5/5 on this book.
I finished it a few days ago and have been thinking about it, and now I am ready to say some words.

This book takes places over two days and discusses the choices the women of a strict Mennonite community have regarding their mass rape and abuse; stay and fight, leave or do nothing.

I like Miriam Toews, I have read everything she has ever written and I am a big fan. I do not think this is her finest work.
First of all I am sensitive, that doesn’t stop me from reading all kinds of books, but this subject matter was really tough for me to read. I often couldn’t sleep if I read it before bed, so I stopped using it as my nighttime read. I would just imagine being a woman who had horse tranquilizer spread into her bedroom and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. The parts about the young children as well really bothered me, of course.

I also found the story often hard to follow and couldn’t keep up exactly with who was talking and when. I have a very vivid imagination while reading and love to picture characters and with this I was having a hard time picturing anyone at all. I found the narrative mostly rambling thoughts and little character or story development. I wanted more emotion and more feeling.

I do think this is an important book and I think the subject matter is something that needs to be discussed (based on true events) but I had a hard time convincing myself to pick it up.

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September Round Up!

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End of the month book round up.

Read in September: Two graphic novels, two non/ fiction and four novels.

5/5 stars for Jonny Appleseed, 3.5/5 for The Kiss Quotient, 4/5 for An Ocean of Minutes, 4/5 for The Book of M, 3.5/5 for the Graphic Novel Series Letter 44 Books 2 and 3, 2.5 for Drink and 3.5 for The Swedish Art of Death Cleaning

 

 

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehouse

Jonny Appleseed is written by Joshua Whitehouse and is on the long list for the Giller Prize at this time. The short list will be announced tomorrow, September 30th, 2018. I have only read three of the long listed books, but I am rooting for Whitehouse. This book is important.

I just finished reading it and almost started reading it again right away.

I really like books that are written in this sort of free-verse writtentimeline. I love feeling the emotion of characters and it seeming like I was getting inside the inner chambers of Jonny, our “Two-spirit/Indigiqueer and ND glitter princess” narrator’s head.

Jonny’s stepfather has died and he must get back to the rez to be with is mother and is trying to earn enough money in the next seven days to get there. What follows are seven days of heartbreaking reflection, yearning, giving and working to earn the money. We are visited by the haunting memories of his kokum (grandmother), his lover and best friend Tias, and his mother.

Excellent and beautiful prose, a viewpoint that needs to be seen and a bold and courageous homecoming.

 

YA Party

I am going to be 35 in two weeks.

I used to be slightly ashamed at it, but the older I get the less f*cks I give, and actually it is becoming very popular to admit and love it so I will yell it from the Internet rooftops: I love YA (Young Adult) fiction. Especially in the summer. There is just something about  really getting in YA on the beach. There are so many types of YA, fantasy, romance, coming of ages stories, magical, etc. I love them all!

Here are some brief recaps of some swell YA I have read this summer:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danfort

PostIn this wonderful story Cameron Post has to lose and find herself and who she really is. It deals with coming from a very conservative religious household and what that means when you are gay. I like the way this book doesn’t give us just one easy answer and we see in plain language the real struggle that comes from really not seeing things in just one complete way or another. I thought the characters were super raw and real and I loved the multiple aspects and story lines to this page turner.

 

 

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

leahThis is a sort of tie in or follow up the very popular Love, Simon.  I really enjoy Becky’s Albertalli’s writing as it is super positive, relatable and fun. Her writing is light but always has an undertone lesson, be yourself, be confident and go into the world as who you are. Leah struggles to be who she is and kick ass while doing it. A wonderful coming of age novel.

Zero Repeat Forever by G. S. Prendergast
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This one is dystopian, futuristic stuff which sometimes I really enjoy as a great break from what I usually read. Sixteen year old Raven is at summer camp with her boyfriend and some friends when the terrifying armored Nahx invade. Who are the next and where did they come from? Are they alien life forms and is this the end of Earth? Raven and her friends are in the woods, trying to figure out the best way to go about the rest of their terrifying lives when she encounters a Nahx up close. What are they and are they really all evil? Raven gets deeper than any other human when she befriend a Nahx, in a way.

 

Summer Reading

I haven’t posted in a while. It’s been the summer, and I have been busy camping or heading to a friend’s cottage every weekend. It’s been wonderful and crazy and hot but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I am always reading, and there is some great reading to be done while mini vacationing. I have always been someone who needs a little alone time and you can find me begging off the group hike to be left alone for an hour to read. What a sweet, sweet hour that is.

So let me give you some mini-recaps about things I have been reading lately that are worth checking out.

1. Ayesha at Last by Uzm Jalaluddin- I really enjoyed this sweet modern Muslim take on Pride and Prejudice set in Ontario, Canada. I think it is always important to read other viewpoints different from your own and open your mind to new lenses. Seeing the world from this Muslim viewpoint and different ways to go about love was a wonderful read and a way to think differently. Plus, it was fun and sweet and a real page turner.

2. The Recovering- Intoxication and its Aftermath- Leslie Jamison- This book took me a long time to read. It is thick and deep with a lot of well thought out research. It is a mix of memoir, history and research on addiction and I learned a lot about addiction and it’s sordid history in North America, especially the United States.

3. Leah on the Offbeat- by Becky Albertalli- This is the second in the series also starring Love Simon. It is cute and sweet YA with a twist into being queer and being yourself. I like that a lot of YA is focusing on being you and who you really are and hope this encourages generations coming that they truly can be who they want to be and love who they want to love.

4. The Wealthy Renter: How to Choose Housing That Will Make You Rich by Alex Avery- I rent and I don’t own a home. At my age it is something that I have starting thinking about, but people shove it down your throats as the only option. As we know, do what the masses do or face persecution. I thought it was refreshing to read another opinion with solid, backed up facts regarding the benefitssummer-reading-1.jpg of being a life long renter. The book is also based on Canadian markets, which was great for me.

 

That’s it for now! Keep reading folks!

 

“The Astonishing Color of After” by Emily X. R. Pan

color of afterI really loved this book by Taiwanese American author Emily X.R. Pan. It is a YA novel, however I would say it is for older YA audiences as (trigger warning) one of the main themes is suicide. The book has it all! It has romance, depth of family relationships, growing as a person in your art, travel, mysticism and a touch of fantasy.

I also lived in Taiwan for almost three years and still have my twelve year old Taiwanese street dog kicking by my side, so I loved the nostalgic aspects of the book as well. The novel has intense and vivid descriptions of Taiwan and it left me craving some dan-bing like nobodies business.

The story centers around Leigh Chen Sanders, a high school student who is half Taiwanese and half white, who lives in America with her parents. She has never been to Taiwan or met her grandparents, but no one in her family is wiling to talk about why. Her family feels shrouds in secrets and Leigh mostly lets it be and keeps to herself, doing art and trying to figure things out.

At the beginning of the book, Leigh’s mother commits suicide. Leigh has known that something was always off with her mother, but perhaps she did not know just how deeply. But there is one thing that Leigh is sure of, it is that her mother has been changed into a bird. She receives a mysterious package from Taiwan, and her father agrees to take her to Taiwan to began her journey of discovery and for Leigh, well she wants to find the bird that is her mother. Through this journey Leigh has to come to terms with her mental illness, her relationship with her father, her love for her best friend Axel and her own self.

It is a beautiful and full journey, one that deals with grief much deeper than the usual YA. It is vivid and magical and I think any audience could enjoy it.

As a note- The NLAAS found that Asian-Americans are less likely to seek mental health help. This book is important work in breaking down stigmas.

 

The Female Persuasion Meg Wolitzer

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The Female Persuasion  by Meg Wolitzer was a very enjoyable read. I have liked her as an author and especially liked one of her other novels, The Interestings and upon hearing that this one was about feminism I thought I better read it quickly! I am always the person in gym class being like “ugh, your husband/boss/whoever can’t say that to you and you have the same rights as he does” as the rest of them roll their eyes behind my jumping jack back, so I was excited to dive in.

What does feminism even mean? I know that it is a question that is often difficult to answer in any form and I am not going to say that this book answered the question for me, nor did I think it was particularly deep or groundbreaking, but I did enjoy reading it. I thought it went by really quickly and I pretty much absorbed it in a weekend.

It is a quick and interesting read focusing on smart girl Greer, always unsatisfied by her life in her small town with her small parents. She dates her high school boyfriend and dreams of doing big things. Greer ends up meeting Faith Frank, a dazzling figure head of the “women’s movement”. Greer feels that her life is forever changed after meeting Faith, and that Frank helps her find her “outside voice.” She ends up going to work for Faith and always idolizes her.

This book explores the ideas of female friendship, privilege, relationships and what power means. Like I said I don’t think it was overwhelming in any new messages, but I certainly saw a lot of myself in Greer, floating around in her twenties trying to do good and discover who she is. I mean, pretty much something we can all relate too. It deals with why women are so often mean to each other, what does it mean to “help” people and do you have to be a rich white woman to help? Anyways a good, quick read, and I believe worth your time.

 

 

 

The Clay Girl- Heather Tucker

Heather Tucker has created some kind of magical being in Ari Appleton in The Clay Girl. I loved this book. I loved the chaotic mess of Ari’s life, being told from this touching and alive prose, and the way the story was horrific but never overbearing due to the writing style.

The Clay Girl is focused on our narrator Ari, her father who kills himself at the beginning of the story, her worthless mother and her five sisters. We also meet a caring step-father, a dick of a step-father, wonderful teachers and friends, some unlikely kinship in step siblings and a pair of spectacular aunts. Ari has the most chaotic life, but also the biggest heart and it is always a mystery how she manages to not let the world bring her down to a mean asshole status. The book is set in the 1960’s between Toronto and Cape Breton and I feel that Tucker really gets the setting right, the book has a real good feel to it and it’s almost like you can taste the decade.

Ari’s imaginary seahorse Jasper is a wonderful addition, not a self defeating seahorse but one that is a voice of calm and reason. How Ari manages to see the best in everyone I have no idea, but in the end we see how the resilience of the human spirit is stronger than anything we could have ever imagined.

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PS- I read on Heather Tucker’s website that there is a sequel and I am just praying that a publisher picks it up soon!

 

 

Radiant Shimmering Light- Sarah Selecky

radiant lightIf you have read some of my posts before, you might know I have a bit of a problem with the whole “branding of influencers” and having a “personal brand” and people always advertising products. Sometimes I feel like Instagram is just a place where people can try to sell you things and make believe their life is perfect.  I also have a bit of an issue with people trying to sell “safe-care”. The self-care industry is worth billions of dollars in North America, with people shelling out money everyday for crystals, malas, and energy aligners. I don’t necessarily think that this is bad per say, but I do think there is something wrong with trying to get people (mostly women) to buy things they don’t need to make themselves feel better, getting into more debt and ending up feeling worse. And most of the people who sell these items are white women, but that’s a whole other story. Let’s get back to the book.

This book is about Lillian, a pet portrait artist, who is barely getting by, but feels pretty content in her life, in most ways. She has always looked up to her cousin, Florence but has been out of touch for many years, due to the fighting of their mothers. Lillian is someone who spends too much time on Instagram, comparing herself to others. It is through the world of online media that she realizes her cousin has re-branded herself as “Eleven” and is now a powerful lifestyle guru. She sees that Eleven is holding an event in Toronto and receives a surprise message inviting her to come along for free! From this meeting Lillian ends up moving to New York to work for Eleven at the “Temple” and “find herself.” Of course once Lillian gets there it is a whole new world to figure out, a world of appearances, newsletters, selling products and “being your best self”.

This satirical and humourous book made me think a lot. I couldn’t put it down, I found the story very compelling and written in a very unique voice. It felt a lot different than most of the books I read, in a good way. I like how the author put in email newsletters from a lot of the characters directly into the book, they made me laugh and were so telling of the world we live in today.

It made me feel a little bit better about the appearances people give us and the way we are all hiding behind perfection. Maybe at the very least, it’s going to make me pull back a bit from constant comparison to others and the chase of a non exsisting perfection.

Also, I liked the ending, the way we are left wondering what choices Lillian has made and not knowing for sure. I am hoping the best for her.

 

 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

simonEvery now and then I just love to read YA. I also like to keep up on YA that is hot at the moment and I kept seeing information about this book. It might have something to do with the fact that is it now a movie, Love Simon but I really wanted to be in the know. Was the hype worth it?!

Simon vs. The Sapiens Agenda is a lighthearted book with a heavier underlying theme about being gay and coming out to your family. Simon is a 17 year old high-school boy who has come to the realization that he is gay and part of this is through his emails to the anonymous Blue, someone who he knows goes to his school, but has no idea who he is. With Blue he feels like he can really be himself and reveal his true feelings and he is sure Blue feels the same way. So why is he resisting meeting in real life so much? And once someone at Simon’s school discovers the emails and is blackmailing him, will this all blow up in his face?

I am a sucker for a good romance and this book certainly has that “cute I am going to squeal” teen love feel.  But it also had underlying themes of accepting yourself for who you are and how you feel, even if it is different that everyone else. I also love the mystery aspect to it. I was honestly guessing, trying to figure out the whole time who Simon was emailing and I really wanted to know! And Becky Albertalli got me, I didn’t guess it until it was revealed to me.

A sweet, heartwarming book that I believe could be loved by all ages.