The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North AmericaThe Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book should never have been written. There should never have been this story of griefs to record. There should never have been these atrocities against peoples whose only “crime” was being different from the Europeans who moved into their homes. Having happened, it should never have been swept under the proverbial rug by historians, politicians, journalists, activists, and law makers so we as Canadians could sing the praises of our tolerance internationally. It should never have been left out of our social studies classes, glossed over and summarized by one or two broken treaties as though the kindnesses of the white rulers far surpassed any minor betrayals. But here we are. King has written the most emotionally challenging, grief inducing book I have read this year. Also the most important. Ten chapters of complete ignorance of our own past, of horrific racism and destructive social policies and every promise broken almost immediately. Somehow King manages to stave off bitterness and rage over the endless injustices. I’m going to avoid closing my review with nebulous hopes for a better future. After this book, that seems naive and disingenuous. It’s not enough just to hope the future will be better. We (whites) have a lot of work ahead of us to make this right. Let’s hope we are finally ready to learn from our mistakes.

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Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris

Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk RoadLands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was phenomenal. Filled with imagery that transports you across continents and historical knowledge that flings you through time, Harris’ delightful – if saddle sore – journey through Asia’s ancient Silk Road will make you swear to take your own trip. And swear off it on the next page. Freezing weather, rain, snow, terrifying traffic, washboard roads (when there were roads at all), an eternity of living on instant noodles, instant coffee, and instant oatmeal. Harris manages to communicate her deep joy and gratitude for this experience, for every bleak vista she cycles by, while not holding back her about exhaustion, aching muscles, illnesses, and fear of detention travelling through countries with restrictive and byzantine tourism policies. In every line her brilliant writing and lyrical imagery shines through, carrying you along with her on the back of her bicycle. I feel truly privileged to have gotten a chance to read this book pre-release, having won it in a draw, and I highly recommend it to any fans of travel writing looking for new lands to explore. Coming to a bookstore near you in January 2018.

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Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Briar RoseBriar Rose by Jane Yolen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A creative re-telling of the classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty that weaves the Holocaust around the evil fairy and the enchanted castle full of sleeping people. Rebecca has always been close to her grandmother Gemma. One of the things she loved most was when Gemma would tell her the story of Briar Rose, her own take on Sleeping Beauty. Becca and her sisters believe it is just a story until Gemma is on her death bed and begins insisting that she is Briar Rose, the princess in the story; that the prince kissed her alone awake among all those sleeping people and that the castle belongs to Becca now and she must go find it. While the rest of the family is sure these assurances are only the product of long-told tales and a slowly failing body, Becca feels compelled to keep her promise. Her quest to find Gemma’s origins will take her through history to 1940s Europe and into the black heart of the Holocaust. It’s at once wrenching, painful, and redemptive.

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Night Broken: Mercy Thompson #8 by Patricia Briggs

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Night Broken starts with Adam Hauptman answering an unexpected phone call from his ex-wife, Christy, tearfully telling him she’s in danger and can she please come stay with him – with them, because Adam and Mercy are married and living together now – for a few days until Adam and the pack scare off her stalker. What she doesn’t tell them is that Juan Flores isn’t human. She knows he isn’t vampire or fae, so she figures he’s a werewolf and will be no match for the pack. She’s wrong. Juan is much more dangerous than a werewolf and his obsession with Christy – mistaking her for his long-lost beloved – might just be the thing that gets Mercy, Adam, and all their friends killed.

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Dingo by Charles de Lint

Dingo (Newford)Dingo by Charles de Lint
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This quick little fantasy story about shapeshifters, dingoes, and spirits is another delightful foray into the world of Charles de Lint. There’s magic, teen romance, bones and baobabs. Small-town high schooler Miguel meets Newford’s newest arrival, Lainey, when her family moves into town that summer from Australia and he immediately falls head over heels in love with her. Lainey isn’t exactly what she seems however. Her ancestors made a bargain that could cost her her life and her family has been on the run ever since. Lainey wants to stop running. Miguel will do anything to help her, but neither of them know exactly what will be necessary to secure her freedom, they’re going up against powerful spirits from the beginning of time, and their only other ally is the school bully. Is he turning over a new leaf by helping them? Or is he hoping to get the power of the dingo spirit for himself?

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In The Woods by Tana French

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)In the Woods by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am really in two minds about this book. On the one hand it’s brilliantly executed, with meticulously crafted and delicately nuanced characters. A throttling plot. Six hundred pages you won’t even notice you are flipping. On the other hand In the Woods is a distressing mystery with multiple child murders, sexual assault, and abuse. The narrator, Detective Ryan, ill-advisedly decides to investigate the murder of a young girl in the small town he grew up in despite it bringing back memories of the unsolved disappearance of his two childhood best friends and his own kidnapping. As the novel progresses he implodes further and further, threatening not just the murder case he and his partner are trying to solve, but both of their careers. It’s equal parts fascinating and crushing. French raises your hopes to the highest height before letting them plummet onto the rocks below. This is one of the few books I’ve ever read that I am going to give 4/5 stars and simultaneously shelve on my “I have regrets” bookshelf.

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The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint

The Blue Girl (Newford, #15) The Blue Girl (Newford, #15) by Charles de Lint
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve actually been avoiding Charles de Lint books for several years now; since skimming The Onion Girl in a Chapters one day to see what the author was like and almost immediately coming across a sexual assault I found very distressing. However a dear friend pressed The Blue Girl into my hands and assured me it was one of her all time favourite books and now that I’ve finished it I regret the years spent not reading de Lint’s works. Which are many. So let me introduce you to my first de Lint experience, The Blue Girl.

While you wouldn’t think a tattooed teen punk with gang ties would have much in common with a geeky, shy girl whose mother doesn’t even let her wear pants, the friendship Imogene and Maxine forge is grounded in things much stronger than fashion. The two ostracized girls are each others’ havens from the bullies that have plagued their high school years. Things are going reasonably smoothly until Imogene notices Adrian. Monster crush, you ask? No. Adrian is a ghost. He’s been haunting the school since his death, hanging out with a pack of fairies, and Imogene intrigues him; when they get to talking one day he tells her his story and tries to introduce her to the fairies. But she can’t perceive them. That bothers Adrian, but it’s when the fairies offer to “help” Imogene see them that things really go wrong. Their machinations bring Imogene to the attention of the some truly malicious creatures, and neither Imogene, nor Maxine, nor Adrian have any idea how to keep Imogene safe. It’s not just her life in danger. It’s her soul.

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Frost Burned: Mercy Thompson #7 by Patricia Briggs

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson, #7)Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alright I’m starting this review off with a tiny rant. Let’s talk cover art. Mercy is half native. She describes herself as looking tan “even in November.” Yet every one of the covers has her so white she’s practically translucent. She’s got dark, straight hair, feather earrings, and looks like she’d burn with 5 minutes of sun exposure on a cloudy day. Visible minorities, people. They’re a real thing.

You’d think a pack of werewolves would best most anything they came up against, and until Frost Burned you would be correct. I imagine they were as surprised as Mercy when a team swarmed Adam’s house (Mercy’s house too, since they got married in River Marked) and took down almost every single werewolf – and their families – in the pack in one fell swoop during Thanksgiving weekend. Mercy and Jesse escaped only because they were out braving the Black Friday crowds and caught wind of the scheme through the pack bonds. With only a wounded Ben to help, can Mercy stop the kidnappers and rescue the werewolves?

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Stardust by Neil Gaiman

StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman is a famous writer. This book is super famous. It got made into a movie. The movie is also famous. And full of famous people. I don’t remember how the movie went. So I can’t tell you which was better. They were both good. You could go watch the movie. And read the book. They both have very satisfying endings.

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Bellwether by Connie Willis

BellwetherBellwether by Connie Willis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do fads start? Does monkey group behaviour shed any light on chaos theory? Can you teach sheep to operate a simple feeder machine? If you can’t purposefully teach sheep to operate a simple feeder machine, how long until you accidentally teach them to open a gate and they rampage through your office building? Does management honestly know what facilitating empowerment, augmenting core structures, and implementing visioning even mean, or are they just making up phrases so it will sound like they know what they are doing? When the incompetence of the interdepartmental assistant injects chaos into the system at HiTek Corporation, it brings Sandra Foster and Bennett O’Reilly – researching how fads form and using monkey group behaviour to study chaos theory, respectively – together and implements a series of serendipitous chain reactions which eventually crystallizes chaos into criticality and brings our scientists the answers for which they have been searching. I promise there is little to no management jargon in this book, lots of science, and much to delight.

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