Reviews of the 2017 Books

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Reviews of the 2017 Books

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Editado: Mar 7, 2017, 3:55 pm

I'm starting on the Canada Reads books, and intend to read them all before the debates begin in the last week of March. I've already read The Break by Katherena Vermette.

I recommend this book. It is a story of a family -- a "Native" family living in the North End of Winnipeg. The women in the family experience poverty, abuse, racism, abandonment, but remain a source of strength and support for each other, which is inspiring and gives the novel a sense of hope, despite the circumstances it portrays.

Stella is a young mother who witnesses an assault across from her home. She wonders about trying to help, but her baby is crying and her toddler wakes up, so she calls 911. It takes several hours for the police to arrive, and Stella senses that at least one of them doubts her story. As the narrative voice of the novel shifts among those connected, by their relationships or their actions, to crime, we learn the story of this family of women. Excellent writing and strong characters who are life-like if not always likable. I will be watching for future novels by the author.

I'm now reading Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis.

Mar 10, 2017, 1:06 pm

I will give Fifteen Dogs high marks for originality...especially notable is Prince's poetry. However, the story didn't really do much for me -- most of the dogs are around for only a brief time or in only a minor role, so I never felt I got to know how their gift of human consciousness affected them. There are issues raised in this book, such as preserving a traditional lifestyle, but they are not explored in enough depth for my taste. Guess I'm in the minority on this one! I am open to having my opinion changed by the Canada Reads debates -- I'm anxious to see what the panelists think of this one.

I'm reading Company Town now. Sci-fi and murder/adventure novels aren't my thing (ditto books with animals as the main characters), so Canada Reads is really expanding my horizons this year.

Mar 11, 2017, 10:15 am

Company Town is the story of Hwa, a professional bodyguard who is hired by the powerful Lynch family to protect the youngest son, Joel, who is receiving death threats from the future. The plot line doesn't make much sense. I couldn't really understand the motivation, even after the killer's identity was made known.

I liked Hwa -- she's a strong character and well developed. The other characters were largely undeveloped -- when they would pop up after not being mentioned for a while, I had trouble remembering who they were. The good and bad news about not remembering is that it didn't seem to matter.

So, I have to say I didn't enjoy this book very much...although Hwa and her relationship with Daniel was enough to keep me reading. That said, sci-fi is not my genre, so take my views with a grain of salt.

Mar 14, 2017, 4:35 pm

I'm not exactly overwhelmed by the books this year.

The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier is my latest read. Ms. Watt-Cloutier is an activist and while she may be best known for her work as an environmentalist, what drives her is advocating on behalf of Inuit people in Canada and around the world. What I especially admired about her, upon reading this book, is her fight to put a human face on climate change -- her drive to show that Inuit culture is linked to the Arctic and that protecting the Arctic environment is necessary to protect Arctic people and culture. The book is well written and takes the reader through Ms. Watt-Cloutier's 25 years working for this goal. The book also provides insight into Inuit culture and a behind-the-scenes look at global activism. Well worth reading, but not a "wow" factor.

Mar 15, 2017, 2:30 pm

I've finished Nostalgia:

While Speculative Fiction is not something I usually enjoy, I certainly did like this book. It tells the story of a near-future were near immortality has been achieved...and along with new bodies/organs, "rejuvies" receive new lives. Their old memories are erased and replaced with memories of an idyllic past. Sometimes, old memories intrude into new lives ( Leaked Memory Syndrome) and doctors like our protagonist , Dr. Frank Sina, can fix that. When Presley Smith arrives suffering from Leaked Memory Syndrome, Dr. Sina feels a strong connection to him, but doesn't know why. The novel explores their connection.

The author has created a believable future world. We have conflict between the rich, North Atlantic countries and southern states ruled by warlords and plagued with poor living conditions. We have conflict between young people and the "rejuvies" because the older people don't retire or leave inheritances to the young, making the future less bright for them than for previous generations. We have religious groups who oppose engineered immortality....all very plausible and similar to some of the societal conflicts we live with today. The characters are well developed and there's a good story here. I actually liked it!

Okay....I've read all the books. Let the debates begin!

Mar 24, 2017, 6:43 pm

Thanks for reviewing all these. I've only read Fifteen Dogs and I agree with you. Original idea, but the ideas were too abstract for me and the literal story too Lord of the Rings, which I hate, lol. I'll trust your judgment on the rest, as I've not been interested in any of the books.

Mar 29, 2017, 8:14 pm

I know the fate of the books so far, but I was late to get here . Here is my review from November of 2016 on The Break by Katherena Vermette. I really recommend it!

The Break by Katherena Vermette is a fabulous read about First Nations people living in the present in the North End of Winnipeg. It was short listed for both the Governor General's Prize and the Roger's Literary Prize here in Canada.

I did not expect to enjoy it so much and began reading it out of a sense of responsibility to read Can Lit and potential prize winners. Instead I was surprised by the most insightful and engaging read about First Nations people living in Winnipeg. Initially , Stella, who has married a man who is not First Nations ,witnesses some sort of disturbance in her front yard and calls the police. She and her husband live just a few blocks from the very rough area of the North End of Winnipeg. Two policeman arrive to take her statement. One of the policeman is an older fellow and very jaded about First Nations people , or as he is calls them - Natives. The younger and more junior policeman is Metis and takes the case much more to heart.

What follows is what led up to the attack and what happens afterwards. The story is told from many different points of view through shifting narrators. The story very much humanizes the troubled First Nations people in the North End of Winnipeg and I suppose First Nations people in general. This is not a story about resentment from living in a residential school, or coming from a Reserve, but rather focuses on the hardship of life for the disadvantaged First Nations people living in the city.

This book gave me great empathy and insight into what living as a First Nation person might be like . Instead of reading with a sense of duty, I found this a compelling and fascinating read. There is a bit of a mystery about what happened in Stella's front yard - the blood left behind - was it just a couple of drunks? A bit of a gang fight, or was there more to it? But what drives the book is the characters, who are not necessarily that likeable, but are sympathetic and behave in understandable ways.

I had a difficult time getting into the first couple of chapters, but I quickly could not put it down. First nation gangs, poverty, dysfunctional families and the prejudice and the weariness of the police that deal with this group of people really show through in this novel.

5 stars

Mar 29, 2017, 8:17 pm

I read Fifteen Dogs last fall too, and while it was interesting, I certainly don't think it is one of the books that "Canadians Must Read Now". I did not review it, but I did give it 4 stars. The rest I have not read.