Book Review: The Right To Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

brrReviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Biography
Format: Softcover
Page count:  368 Pages
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
In stock: Yes

Now I’m just going to start off with a little disclaimer about my review. I kind of feel awkward reviewing biographies because who am I to say that someone’s life isn’t ‘good enough’ for my taste so this review isn’t too in depth. Now that that’s out of the way I’ll hook you up with the Goodread’s synopsis,

“The Arctic ice is receding each year, but just as irreplaceable is the culture, the wisdom that has allowed the Inuit to thrive in the Far North for so long. And it’s not just the Arctic. The whole world is changing in dangerous, unpredictable ways. Sheila Watt-Cloutier has devoted her life to protecting what is threatened and nurturing what has been wounded. In this culmination of Watt-Cloutier’s regional, national, and international work over the last twenty-five years, The Right to Be Cold explores the parallels between safeguarding the Arctic and the survival of Inuit culture, of which her own background is such an extraordinary example. This is a human story of resilience, commitment, and survival told from the unique vantage point of an Inuk woman who, in spite of many obstacles, rose from humble beginnings in the Arctic to become one of the most influential and decorated environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world.”

This is the fourth book I have read and reviewed for the 2017 Canada Reads shortlist. I have to admit that I did have a slight struggle trying to read and complete this book as most of it read like a textbook with so many facts and references. Which isn’t a bad thing at all; I just found it hard to get through as I’m not as pulled into non-fiction as I find I am by fiction. I also know that I didn’t absorb about half of the facts that I should have from reading it. But I’ll probably receive points for at least attempting, maybe, so thank you Canada Reads.

I did however, find that despite it being a biography it really wasn’t as personal as I’d have liked. Anytime a personal story came up it was either dry or just very vague and impersonal. Especially for a book all about putting human faces on the climate change issue; it just didn’t give enough of a personal story to it, in my opinion. It is still however a really important book to read as it is about climate change which is very real and scary issue, so I feel bad giving it such a low rating.

Overall, I found the book to be decent and had a very important message but there were too many facts and not enough ‘story’. The main message was really important and good to hear but it did slightly get lost in all of the facts and the textbook feel to the book. I will admit that it is definitely not in my top picks so far for Canada Reads this year. All the power to you though if you do decide to try to conquer this book.

 

 

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Book Review: Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

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Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Fiction
Format: Softcover
Page count: 160 Pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
In stock: Yes

I really enjoyed this book and it was a very quick read which I definitely always appreciate. This book is, as the title implies about fifteen dogs. But if you were hoping for a more in depth synopsis I will include, like always, the Goodreads one:

” I wonder”, said Hermes, “what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.”
” I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.”

And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.

André Alexis’s contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.”

First off, I shall review the physical book, because that seems to be my thing now? The book is not bound very tightly so it doesn’t feel like the spine needs to be cracked when reading it. Although the pages don’t really just fall open. The actual pages though, are what I would like to discuss. They have such a new texture that I’ve never encountered before. It was very intriguing as it’s bumpy but smooth.

If you like dogs you will probably really enjoy this book, as it’s about dogs and gives an interesting insight into dog’s minds, even with human intelligence. If that isn’t enough of a selling point then I don’t really know what else to say…

This book does get kind of sad as all of the dogs do die (spoiler but not because it’s the premise of the book) and you may or may not be feeling the Marley and Me feels. So just be warned that you may or may not end up feeling feels, I don’t know how emotional you are.

In a sense this book is pretty metaphorical, as the author makes a lot of points about humans and ‘the human condition’ but obviously adapted into dog ways. For example, there are a whole group of dogs who don’t like the adjustment and just continue to try to live as ‘normal dogs’ and have strong opinions as to how all the dogs should live. Just as there are groups of people out there who say all humans should live a certain way. But overall, this book was really good and I won’t be mad if it wins Canada Reads 2017. It was a delightful read and had some good messages in it.

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Book Review: Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

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Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Page count: 272 Pages
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
In stock: Yes

Well, looks like I’ve decided to attempt to read the whole Canada Reads 2017 Shortlist. Wish me luck. I’ll start off by giving you the Goodreads synopsis as per usual.

From one of Canada’s most celebrated writers, two-time Giller Prize winner Moyez Vassanji, comes a taut, ingenuous and dynamic novel about a future where eternal life is possible, and identities can be chosen. In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.
Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction–a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley’s past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank’s suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him?
As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient.”

Since I’ve been on a roll in my last few reviews of talking about the physical book I shall continue the trend. The actual book is just pretty average, typical hardcover and typical pages, nothing too noteworthy. The cover however, is amazing. It’s just so simplistic and wonderful and that lion head is so beautiful, I could be biased though because I love lions. Lastly, the metallic shine that the letters have is very aesthetically pleasing.

Okay, now on to the actual book review. This book took me a while to actually get into, I just wasn’t that attached to the plot or characters. I’m also not that big of a sci-fi fan and I found some of the ideas were there but I would have preferred some of them to be explained further. The concept of the book was very interesting and a pretty good idea. Making you question if you can ever really escape a past life or if it will all just come back to you in the end.

The one part of the book that was barely touched on but mentioned enough, that I find goes well with the news is the refugee situation. The world in the book is essentially divided in two with “The Long Border”, which I’m sure we have all heard references to happening currently. And refugees coming from the other side of the border in this book swim through oceans and put themselves in danger (very familiar). Yet, the refugee situation wasn’t really dealt with enough just briefly mentioned. So I can’t really say too much, but for a dystopian novel not too many elements were far out of range, which is kinda terrifying let’s be real.

The author also has really interesting thoughts on immortality, as it isn’t about your physical body living forever, which I think is the norm. But for your, as he call it, soul to live forever. Which is so different from the usual immortality ideas that I have heard before, I would definitely say it’s an intriguing concept.

All in all however, I found the book to feel very rushed and not very well developed for my tastes. There were just so many interesting ideas and concept introduced but none of them were really fully explained or planned out. Also, some of the ideas would be introduced and you would think they were important and then never get mentioned again or even be relevant to the story at all. It seemed like the author wanted to do a million things but never really focused on the on central idea enough. While I’m sure it is relevant and an important read, in reference to the Canada Reads theme of 2017 I do not think this book is the one that every Canadian should read. Feel free to fight me on this I just think there are more important themes…

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Book Review: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

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Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Page count: 288 Pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
In stock: Yes

            I had wanted to read this book since before it was released. I really don’t know why I had waited so long to finally read it either. The cover art is just so amazing I knew I had to read it. I am one of those terrible people who will judge a book by its cover. And the actual book was a beautiful blue which I was obsessed with as soon as I took the dust jacket off. Like OMG people if you have the chance please just appreciate how pretty this book is visually, Im not even talking about the insides! Okay now that ive talked about the visuyals of this book I’ll give you the Goodreads synopsis.

A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community—and the things that ultimately haunt us most. Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.”

I really enjoyed this book and it was another really quick read, I started it Monday and finished it Thursday. This book was told from a different point of view than I’m to which was refreshing to change it up, but also took me about the whole first chapter to get used to. Once I had adjust however I really enjoyed the break from the typical making it a much more exciting book to read. This book was also, in my opinion, one of those books where nothing really seems to happen and yet so much happens. I found it to be more character driven than plot driven, so if you’re interested in that definitely check this book out.

 

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Book Review: The Break by Katherena Vermette

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Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Page count: 288 Pages
Rating: 5/5 stars
In stock: Yes (25% off!)

This book is not a light read at all. There is actually a disclaimer or trigger warning on one of the first pages as it deals with, and talks about violence quiet a bit. So be warned and cautious if you plan on reading the book. If you’re still interested and want to know more, have a little Goodreads synopsis

When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.

In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.

A powerful intergenerational family saga, The Break showcases Vermette’s abundant writing talent and positions her as an exciting new voice in Canadian literature.”

The first thing that actually drew me to read this book was the shifting narratives because we all know how much I love those. I always enjoy being able to experience a story from all different viewpoints and know everyone’s secrets. This book does a great job of relating all the different characters struggle’s and lives to the one main situation at hand.

This book got put on the Canada Read’s Shortlist for 2017 so obviously I decided I had to read it (and maybe all the others on the list as well? I can’t decide how ambitious I’ll be this year). Especially with the theme being the one book Canadians need now? It just makes sense being Canadian and all.

The spine of the paperback version of the book is pretty stiff though, so just be warned you will have to either break it (please don’t) or awkwardly get hand cramps (like me). This book will be difficult to read physically, and emotionally.

However, I do have to say that this book was a very good read. The subject matter was very important in my opinion. The book was also very well written and a very quick read as well, which is always a bonus.

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Book Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

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Reviewed by: Aimee
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Page count: 352 Pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
In stock: Yes (25% off!)

***There will probably be spoilers in here if you haven’t read the first book, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, as this review is about its sequel. To read a review for Me Before You, follow the link below…

https://booklandvernon.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/book-review-me-before-you-by-jojo-moyes/

Now let’s talk about After You.

A majority of the reviews I’ve read about After You were written by disappointed readers who compared the book to fan fiction for ­the first novel, Me Before You. There was a lot of criticism about writing a book with Will Traynor no longer in the picture, and I agree that I initially was skeptical. But I also wanted to find out what happened to Louisa and I grew to love the new characters introduced as well as the old ones that carried on from the first book.

The book starts out with Louisa Clark, seemingly stuck in a rut after Will’s death, when an extraordinary accident brings her back to her family home where she is forced to take a second look at her life. What she sees is a girl who can’t seem to move on from the man she loved, and is stuck in a joyless and mundane job. Persuaded (and practically forced) by her family to start attending a grief therapy group, she joins a bunch of unusual but caring people who are struggling with the loss of a loved one as well. It’s there that she runs into Sam Fielding, a confident paramedic who might be the only person who is able to understand her. But all is thrown into a loop when someone from Will’s past shows up unexpectedly at Lou’s door, changing everything.

After You is a story about being able to move on from your past and breaking free from burdens that hold you down. It’s a story about second chances, new beginnings, and friendship in the most unlikely of people. While it is no longer the love story between Lou and Will that we grew to love in the first book, it is a book that stands apart and makes us fall in love again with the offbeat Louisa and the struggles she overcomes to live her life to the fullest she can.

“You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. It always does feel strange to be knocked out of your comfort zone… There is hunger in you, Clark. A fearlessness. You just buried it, like most people do. Just live well. Just live.”

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Book Review: Barkskins by Annie Proulx

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Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Fiction
Format: Softcover
Page Count: 736 pages
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
In stock: Yes and 25% off

Let’s start off with a little Goodreads review:

In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years—their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.”

I slogged through this book and I don’t regret it, but I’m not sure I would recommend this book either. I honestly found the first half of this book very long, drawn out, and kind of boring. The second half, however, seemed to actually have plot and interested me. The great thing (or not so great thing depending on how you look at it) is that this book spans several generations, which is great because different character perspectives are my favorite. I also enjoy the generations because if you didn’t like a character, you knew that their story would be ending and it didn’t last for the whole book. At times I did get confused about the relations between characters, but there was a handy family tree located at the back of the book if you were to feel inclined to look at it for reference. Another great thing about the book, as cheesy as this sounds, is the message. Normally if a book has a subtle message, I probably won’t get it because I’m really bad at reading between the lines (its all just white spaces anyways). The message in “Barskins” is super blatant though, and if you miss it I might judge you, and your other friends who read a lot will too. Basically, read this book, or don’t – I can’t really tell you which decision to make, as I can’t decide how I feel about it.

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