Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

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Reviewed by: Jen
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Page count: 400 Pages

Rating: 5 /5 stars
In stock: Yes – currently on our 25% off bestsellers wall

I’m 99% certain that this is my first ever Science Fiction read. At the risk of sounding like a celebrity worshiping sheep (WAIT….OMG, AM I A CELEBRITY WORSHIPING SHEEP?!), I’ll admit that what compelled me to pick it up was a post by Olivia Wilde on Instagram, with caption ‘Believe the hype’. I hadn’t heard any of said hype, nor did I spend much time sorting out what the book was about before picking it up. That said, Olivia Wilde fights a good social justice fight on social media, for whatever that’s worth, so her post coupled with seeing the cover adorned by Margaret Atwood’s testimonial: ‘Electrifying! Shocking! Will knock your socks off! Then you’ll think twice, about everything!’ was enough for me to venture beyond my comfort zone and become a proud first-time SciFi reader.

This review is not going to make the ranks of the highly thoughtful, intellectual ones I read about The Power online. I’m still not even entirely sure I understood most of the book, but that’s not really anything new for me. All I know is this: I could not put this book down once I started it. And this: it made me feel all kinds of ways – puffed up with ‘YAS! YOU GO, GIRL!’ + blind, fearful rage about how this SCIENCE FICTION BOOK TOUCHED WAAAAAAY TOO CLOSE TO HOME + pure and utter discomfort about all members of the human race…a pretty straightforward case of misanthropy, really.

Here’s a quick synopsis from the book’s publisher: In The Power, the world is a recognizable place: there’s a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power–they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.

And ohhhhh, snap – does it reset! The narratives of all of these characters leap and bound and twist and turn and sneak up on you. I particularly love this take by NPR, “Novels based on premises like the one at the core of The Power can quickly become little more than thought experiments, but Alderman dodges this trap deftly — her writing is beautiful, and her intelligence seems almost limitless. She also has a pitch-dark sense of humor that she wields perfectly.”  As important as this book’s ability to elicit all the feels is the fact that it grips readers of all genres, and that is why it has been on Bookland’s 25% off bestseller wall for a good 6 months (and counting), and why its list of 2017 awards is a long one. The potential for this book to turn non-readers into readers is huge, and that pleases me greatly. For that reason, I was ok with the fact that I constantly envisioned the chapter scenes in movie form, and pondered who would play Roxy Monke, one of the many female protagonists in The Power’s pages – something I rarely do while reading.

It also pleased me to read that this was one of President Obama’s favorite reads of 2017. Don’t we just miss him so much, though? Even more so after reading The Power, that’s for damn sure.

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Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

blood and bone

Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Format: Hardcover
Page count: 544 Pages
Rating: 5 /5 stars
In stock: Yes

 

I’ll start off, as usual, with they synopsis from Goodreads

“Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.”

This book isn’t something that I would usually pick for myself as I’m not usually super into fantasy but this book was still amazing. I really only checked out this book because its gotten so much media buzz and it already had a movie deal before the book was even released. I can totally imagine how cool of a movie this book could make as the visuals were so vivid. This was one of those books where you can totally imagine this made up world, the characters, and the journey being made.

This book is told from four different characters perspectives and I know I cover this every time I write a review for books like this but that is totally my jam.

I’m also all for a story with two strong female protagonists and this book sure did deliver! You will instantly be hooked. I hadn’t even finished the first chapter and knew that I had to buy this book. Zélie is an amazing, well rounded, and strong character.

The book itself is also beautiful. The cover/dust jacket design is so pretty and then you take the dust jacket off and there is a great embossed design on it. The map that is on the inside is also wonderfully illustrated. Basically, its all great and you should check it out! I am also extremely glad for the Author’s Note at the end of the book as I had seen the parallels in this book and what is happening in the news. Even if you aren’t someone who usually reads the Author’s Note I would highly recommend you read it this time.

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Book Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

gone in the dark

Reviewed by: Bethany and Savannah
Genre: True Crime
Format: Softcover
Page count: 352 Pages
Rating: 5/5 stars
In stock: Yes

Bethany’s review:

Reading this book has been so bittersweet. Obviously, it’s hard to read this knowing that Michelle McNamara wasn’t able to finish I’ll Be Gone in the Dark the way she intended. That being said, this book is a masterpiece. Michelle put so much care into the writing of this book, giving equal time to the victims and the perpetrator. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT.

I lent my copy to a friend and she learned the hard way that you shouldn’t read this book in the dark. She woke her husband up screaming after having a nightmare and then made him check all the locks in their home.

Our conversation:

“After he checked the locks, I made him leave all the lights on. I was so scared.”

“Yeah, but you’re loving it, right?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

I know if I were writing a book like this, I would be so tempted to information dump, but this book is so well-paced. There is also great trouble taken to explain everything to the layman who hasn’t been researching this guy for years. Everything about it is so perfect.

We also have to give credit to the amazing editors who poured over Michelle’s notes and pieced together this wonderful book. It doesn’t feel rushed and it doesn’t feel tacky – it feels like Michelle.

 

Savannah’s review:

I’m a big fan of true crime in that I know basically nothing about like almost every single serial killer out there but always find it so fascinating so yay me for finally learning some facts! When Bethany finished this book she didn’t even give me the option of reading it she literally just handed it to me and said, “you’re reading this next”. And I’m glad she did seeing as I read this book in a day which was probably a bad idea given how paranoid I can get when I wake up in the middle of the night but oh well, I survived.

Michelle McNamara has such a great way with words that I found myself not wanting to put this book down. If I had picked this book up not knowing it was true I totally could have seen myself reading it as something fictional, the victims had such beautiful chapters written for them. This book wasn’t one of those boring nonfiction reads where everything is just fact and a lot to get through it was a quick and easy read.

Pace-wise this book was also great, other than the third section but that couldn’t really be helped as it wasn’t written by Michelle. This book I,s in my opinion, the right way of writing true crime by focusing on the victims and their families as well as the investigators. I don’t want something that glorifies the crimes of someone because they don’t deserve that. I will patiently wait for the day where the person who did this is caught and we get to find out who it is that did this and justice is served.

Basically, stay sexy don’t get murdered and read this book.

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Book Review: American War by Omar El Akkad

american war

 

Reviewed by: Bethany
Genre: Fiction
Format: Softcover 

Page count: 432 pages
Rating: 5/5 stars
In stock: YAS

Canada Reads 2k18: Take 2

Okay, after having now read two of the Canada Reads shortlist finalists, I’m pretty sure that the theme should have been “stuff that could definitely happen” or “one book to open your eyes before this stuff happens please oh my god”. I was talking to a customer about it and she said she felt that this storyline isn’t all that far fetched. Scary stuff, you guys.

Here’s the blurb from the back of Omar El Akkad’s debut, American War:

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the war breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, her home state is half underwater, and the unmanned drones that fill the sky are not there to protect her. A stubborn, undaunted, and thick-skinned tomboy, she is soon pulled into the heart of the secessionist country when the war reaches Louisiana and her family is forced into Camp Patience, a sprawling tent city for refugees. There she is befriended by a mysterious man who opens her eyes to the injustice around her and under whose tutelage she is transformed into a deadly instrument of revenge.

Just saying, but the back of the book literally says “open her eyes”, so…

This book is heartbreaking. It’s got civil war, refugees, global warming, and some old dude taking advantage of a child’s grief. At least it’s not a cliché (except maybe that last thing). Basically, I felt a lot of feelings.

Over the course of the book Sarat goes through some very dynamic changes and it’s especially frustrating when you consider the kind of life she could have had if she’d never met Albert Gaines. HE MAKES ME SO MAD. She’s such a victim of circumstance and this civil war really shapes who she becomes.

Here’s what Tahmoh Penikett had to say about the book he’ll be defending:

“An exceptional work of speculative fiction, Omar El Akkad’s book American War imagines the United States during a second Civil War. A war revolving around religious bigotry, regional hatred, racism, sexism and fake news. Triggered by the climate crisis and opposition of ‘off-oil’ northern states versus southern ‘drill baby drill’ states. This arresting and unsettling book teems with brilliant description, colourful characters and echoes of America today. This is the one book to open your eyes.”

I think this book is very relevant to the times we’re living in. Much like life, this book is extremely frustrating, but definitely worth experiencing. #simile

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Book Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

red clocks

Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Fiction
Format: Hardcover 

Page count: 368 pages
Rating: 5/5 stars
In stock: Yes

This book was amazing! I bought it as soon as we managed to get it in stock and then proceeded to read it over the weekend and couldn’t put it down. All of the hype that I had heard was well deserved. The book drew me in almost instantly and I just wanted to know what would happen. There wasn’t a dull moment. The title was also so clever that once I figured out what it meant and how it related I just couldn’t get over how clever it is. Enjoy the synopsis from Goodreads

“Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.”

The first question of this synopsis really, for me, sums up the entire book. It takes all of these different women and shows how they all struggle with their own womanhood in a very relatable way. The setting of this book to a time where women have no real say of what happens to their ‘reproductive bodies ‘and where the ‘perfect’ family is two parents just makes this question all that much more essential and highlighted. Is it your ability to be a mother that makes you a woman? Is it your want for personal freedom that makes you a woman? Or is it something else entirely? This book does a great job at asking these questions in such a simple yet effective way.

This book is one that feels slightly like a dystopian future book but also could totally be set in a very current timeline. I think Leni Zuma did such a good job on taking some very real and serious ideas that current politicians have suggested and making it a reality. It’s that perfect amount of scare that Margaret Atwood had with The Handmaid’s Tale in that nothing was too far off of a possibility.

I could also go on and on about how much I enjoy books that feature different character perspectives as this one did such a great job of it. Each character had a signature voice and personality. The writing styles changed just enough to showcase these differences. They were all so perfectly real to me.

I probably sound like a broken record saying that every book I have read this year is a new favourite and I will continue to think about and go back to these books, but if ladies stopped writing beautiful books then maybe I would stop. (PLEASE DON’T STOP! I NEED MORE BOOKS WRITTEN BY TALENTED LADIES IN MY LIFE!). This book was so well written and I may just recommend it to every single woman in my life because it was so great and also so perfect given the current political climate. This book was so amazing and I am worried this review doesn’t do it much justice.

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Book Review: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

 

marrowthieves

Reviewed by: Bethany
Genre: Fiction
Format: Softcover 

Page count: 180 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
In stock: You know it.

This year’s theme: One Book to Open Your Eyes.

This is the first completed book in my journey (along with several coworkers) to read the Canada Reads shortlist. One down and four more to go before March 26th.

One of my reading goals from last year was to read more broadly – I tried to choose books written by women or people of colour…or women of colour! A lot of the Canada Reads titles take a step in that direction, which is exciting and important. Perspective is a cool thing.

The Marrow Thieves is being defended by Jully Black, who we all know and love from such jams as Sweat of Your Brow and Seven Day Fool. Jully Black already has me pumped for the debates next month, but I’m looking forward to hearing each panelist’s thoughts on this year’s topic – personally and in relation to the books.

The Marrow Thieves is set in a futuristic world where global warming has drastically changed the world’s landscape and, excluding North America’s Indigenous people, the general population is no longer able to dream. So, we meet Frenchie, a young Indigenous boy who is on the run from Recruiters who want to examine his bone marrow! Weird!

This book tackles two hot button issues: climate change and the disenfranchisement of Canada’s Indigenous people. Similar to when I read The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m bothered by how plausible this story is (aside from the marrow studying, of course). The global warming and the accompanying desperation is an uncomfortable foreshadowing.

Cherie Dimaline has written some fantastic characters! If you’re not emotionally attached to this group of people by the end of the book, then I worry about you. Speaking of the ending, it has the best/sweetest/cutest ending of all. The subject matter is a bummer, but I’m here for the end. I almost cried, which is saying something.

Let me tell you, you’d be a Seven Day Fool not to read this book. 😉

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Book Review: Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

forgiveness

Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Biography
Page count: 256 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
In stock: Yes

I am back and ready for another year of Canada Reads reviews, hope you all are too! The theme for this years Canada Reads is “One Book to Open Your Eyes”. This book isn’t one that I would usually pick for myself. I’ve only recently started to get into biographies and so when I read them its usually only for people I know of. That being said, this book was still super good. I enjoyed it quite a bit and it definitely opened my eyes. This book also happened to tie in nicely to my goal of reading more Canadian Non-fiction so double bonus! I’ll give you the Goodreads synopsis now so you can read what it’s about

The heart-rending true story of two families on either side of the Second World War-and a moving tribute to the nature of forgiveness

When the Second World War broke out, Ralph MacLean traded his quiet yet troubled life on the Magdalene Islands in eastern Canada for the ravages of war overseas. On the other side of the country, Mitsue Sakamoto and her family felt their pleasant life in Vancouver starting to fade away after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ralph found himself one of the many Canadians captured by the Japanese in December 1941. He would live out his war in a prison camp, enduring beatings, starvation, electric feet and a journey on a hell ship to Japan, watching his friends and countrymen die all around him. Mitsue and her family were ordered out of their home and were packed off to a work farm in rural Alberta, leaving many of their possessions behind. By the end of the war, Ralph was broken but had survived. The Sakamotos lost everything when the community centre housing their possessions was burned to the ground, and the $25 compensation from the government meant they had no choice but to start again.

Forgiveness intertwines the compelling stories of Ralph MacLean and the Sakamotos as the war rips their lives and their humanity out of their grasp. But somehow, despite facing such enormous transgressions against them, the two families learned to forgive. Without the depth of their forgiveness, this book’s author, Mark Sakamoto, would never have existed.”

I think if anything, this book opened my eyes as to how ignorant of Canada’s terrible past I have been. In this case my ignorance was towards to internment of the Japanese population. I always knew that it had happened but it never really registered what exactly had happened, and just how recently it had happened. The hardships that the Sakamoto’s had to face broke my heart over and over again. The overt racism was already bad enough but the thought of having to leave my home to either a country or province I have never been to leaving my entire life behind just because the government said to do so is absolutely heartbreaking and unthinkable.

Reading about Ralph MacLean’s past was also just as hard to read. It is basically impossible for me to imagine being in a war. Reading it was also strange in that there’s no way one human has survived that much trauma and makes it out of the war alive, and yet that’s exactly what happened. And you know that the whole way through as if he didn’t this book wouldn’t exist. Yet there was still that small part of me that was preparing for death.

This book was also beautifully written and just a general good read. My absolute favourite quote from it is one that may stay with me for a very long time. “Breaking down is the easy part. Anyone, at any time, can break down. The act of coming together again is what makes a hero. Moving on, with an open heart, seems, at times, impossible. But it’s not.” That was one of those quotes where you read it and then just have to sit there with yourself and let it ruminate.

This was a really good read and I will definitely be rooting for it during the Canada Reads debates.

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