Saga, Volume 8

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐
Author: Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
Genres: Comics, Graphic Novel, Sci-fi
Read: Feb. 2018

I love Saga so much. It doesn’t take very long to read one of these volumes, but they are so reliably fun and enjoyable.

Since I’m 8 volumes in and I haven’t written a review for Saga, I’ll give a brief summary. Saga is a graphic novel set in space that starts off with a bit of a Romeo and Juliet premise. Alana and Marko are from two feuding planets (well one’s a moon), Landfall and Wreath. Alana is from Landfall and has wings, while Marko is from Wreath and has horns. The two fall in love, become pregnant, and are basically chased across the galaxy by other planets and people that don’t want any evidence of their traitorous relationship.

I am just in love with Alana, Marko, and their daughter Hazel. I wasn’t totally into the idea of reading about two soldiers and their tag-a-long baby, but this is a truly fantastic series about love and family and throughout the series Vaughan tackles a lot of different socials issues. It is bit of a bizarre series and definitely NSFW (there’s a fair bit of sex and nudity throughout the series), but Fiona Staples artwork is gorgeous and I love how creative Vaughan is with his characters and storyline. His characters do some pretty bad things and make bad decisions, but he’s still able to make you love them. Each character has their own morality line about what is and isn’t acceptable and it’s interesting to watch them try and stay on the safe side of their line while still trying to protect the people that they care about.

Each volume consists of 6 issues and they’ve recently released 2 books containing 3 volumes a piece. But I’d recommend hitting up your local library for this series. 8 volumes can seem pretty daunting, but they are quick reads and I would highly recommend!

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The Boat People

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: 
Author: Sharon Bala
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Read: Feb. 2018

Oh my goodness, I feel like this book took forever to finish! Between going on a ski trip last weekend and the Olympics stealing all of my attention, it took me a bit longer than anticipated to get through The Boat People. But I finally finished!

This was the first book of my February Reading Challenge and I am a little concerned I might not fit them all in this month because I am just completely obsessed with the Olympics! This month I challenged myself to read 3 books about Canada and this was my pick from the Canada Reads 2018 shortlist.

The Boat People is written by Sharon Bala, who fascinatingly was born in Dubai, raised in Ontario, and currently lives in Newfoundland, and it’s about a ship full of refugees from Sri Lanka who landed on Vancouver’s shores in 2010. It was a bit of a thrill to read a book about the place where I currently live, as I don’t read that much Canadian literature, and this was a fascinating bit of history about an event I knew shockingly nothing about.

Sri Lanka has been torn apart by war for decades, driving many people to desperation to escape the violence in any way they can. These 492 Sri Lankan’s board a cargo ship bound for Canada in an effort to seek out a better life. Fortunately everyone survives the journey and they are thrilled when they first see the coast of Vancouver Island, but the welcome party is cut short when they are promptly separated and detained in two prisons while the government fumbles to try and decide what to do about them.

I knew very little about the process for migrants who show up un-announced at the border and this was very eye-opening. Refugees must first seek permission to request asylum and then go through admissibility hearings for their request to be granted. In this case, the government was worried about terrorists being on board and wanted to delay the process as much as possible to assuage the public’s fears. The adjudicators had very little information to go on outside of the refugee’s testimony and because the government wanted to delay the process to dissuade copycat voyages, the refugees were forced to remain in these detainment prisons for months while their hearings were repeatedly denied and postponed.

I did struggle a bit with this book as there’s a lot of legalese in it, a lot of (slightly confusing) Sri Lankan history, and a lot of character names and stories that I struggled to keep straight, but I really liked how Bala wrote this book and she was not shy in tackling a lot of different issues.

The story is told from 3 perspectives: Mahindan, a single father who made the journey from Sri Lanka with his 6-year old son Sellian; Priya, an articling student (of Sri Lankan heritage) who’s firm takes on 5 refugee cases pro bono and has her help out on the cases; and Grace, an adjudicator (of japanese heritage) who is assigned by the xenophobic Minister of Immigration to adjudicate the detainment hearings.

This is a morally-gray book and I appreciated Bala for not making this a straight-forward morality tale. She tackles so many issues in this book; the xenophobia of the Canadian public, the refugee diaspora, the immigration process, Canada’s past failings, the importance of history and remembrance, reconciliation, culture shock, and the list goes on.

The novel first presents us with the refugees, ecstatic to arrive on Canada’s shores, and the brutality of their arrival and immediate imprisonment. In my opinion, you can’t help but empathize with them and think the government harsh. But then Bala gets into the morally gray areas of war and how good and innocent people can be forced and coerced into participating in what western countries view as terrorist organizations.

Are we right to studiously evaluate every refugee who comes into Canada for terrorist affiliation? I think yes, but do we need to steal their humanity from them in the process? No. Do we have the right to deport people when deportation will mean certain torture and death? People may be split on that opinion, but it’s a question that requires empathy and understanding that we will never have by “othering” people and fearing them.

Innocent people are forced to do bad things in wartime, but how to we evaluate those acts and decide if the intent was forced or malicious? What’s direct involvement in acts of “terrorism” and what’s proximate? These are impossible questions to answer and as much as I often disliked Grace’s line of thinking, I could appreciate the pressure that was put on her in these quasi-legal proceedings. All she has to go on is the migrant’s story and how is she to know what is truth? That said, she was an adjudicator appointed by the government in power, which begs the question if she should have the power to make those decisions at all.

However, I liked the contrast of Grace’s story and how Bala demonstrates how cyclical history can be. Grace is the grand-daughter of Japanese immigrants and takes a hard line on border safety and who should be permitted to enter Canada. She is determined to safeguard her daughters freedom to move around without fear, while at the same time struggling with her mother’s declining health. Her mother, Kumi, has Alzheimer’s and is slowly regressing into the past. Her parents had been interned during WWII and lost everything. They never spoke up about the injustice and kept their heads down to give their children a chance to become “true” Canadians. However, now she worries that the apathy of her parents has been passed down to her daughter and grandchildren and that Grace has forgotten the injustices of the past, perpetuating the cycle of oppression.

I thought it was an interesting theme on how people who were once oppressed and othered can learn to be oppressors themselves. And on how important reconciliation is, not just for righting our wrongs, but for protecting against repeating them, to keep fresh an empathy for others.

So while I did feel like it took me forever to get through this book, it was worth it. The Boat People made me think a lot and while it definitely was more ‘liberal-leaning’, it wasn’t a straight forward good vs evil narrative. It’s complex, gritty, and heartbreaking. A fabulous and meaningful debut for a Canadian author.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Gail Honeyman
Genres: Fiction
Read: Feb. 2018

I think I have a bit of an unpopular opinion on this one. I appreciate what Gail Honeyman did with this book and I actually do think it’s a really good story, but I was just so bored for a lot of this book.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine reminded me in parts of The Rosie Project (but better) and A Man Called Ove (but not quite as good). Eleanor is seemingly fine; she gets up every day and goes to work, she talks to her mum every Wednesday, and every Friday she purchases a bottle of vodka and spends the weekend alone in her flat. She likes routine, she dislikes emotion, and she believes she is completely fine.

Her routine is disrupted when she meets Raymond, the IT guy from her office, and together they witness an old man, Sammy, have a heart attack in the middle of the street. They take care of him until EMS arrives and check in on him as he recovers in hospital. For the first time in her life, Eleanor finds herself enjoying time with other people – building relationships and miking plans outside of her normal routine.

This is definitely a good book. I don’t want to say any spoilers, so I’ll try and talk in general terms, but I really like Eleanor’s evolution throughout this novel. The changes in her do feel very natural and believable and I didn’t think any of the interactions were forced. The novel climaxes at a very odd spot, about the 70% mark, but I did like watching Eleanor grow and heal throughout the last 30%. I liked that it wasn’t rushed or that she’s not just suddenly better, because that is not believable.

I absolutely loved Raymond. He was so down to earth and accepting. The thing I didn’t like about The Rosie Project was that I didn’t ever really buy into Rose and Don’s relationship, but I had no problem believing Eleanor and Raymond’s. Eleanor is a bit of a social outcast, but she’s also pretty likable and funny and I liked that Raymond was able to laugh with her and accept her little quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Taking the time to write this review and reflect on the book is actually improving my opinion of it (and I still have a book club meeting coming up, which might lower or increase my rating). I do think this is a good story, hence why I’m still giving it 3.5 stars, and it did make me think a lot afterwards. But I just can’t ignore that I was bored for a lot of the reading of the novel.

I know this book is narrated the way Eleanor thinks, which is mostly without emotion, but I am a very emotional person, so I found it really hard to engage in the story and I never felt anything tugging at me to pick this book up again once I put it down. And that’s totally fine. These are still important stories that should be told, it’s just not necessarily for me. It still helped me appreciate the way that some other people experience and move about in the world and I don’t regret reading it. Just not going to be a favourite.

Then She Was Gone

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: .5
Author: Lisa Jewell
Genres: Mystery
Read: Feb. 2018 (Pub date: Apr. 24, 2018 in North America)

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Lisa Jewell has been on my list of authors to try for a while now, so I was really excited to get an ARC of her new book, coming out this April. Then She Was Gone had me spellbound for pretty much an entire day. I think I read like 60% of this book in one sitting.

I actually quite like mystery/thrillers. I don’t read them all that much, but I do get really into them when I finally pick one up. The only thing is that I can get pretty disturbed by mystery novels and I definitely got disturbed by this one.

Then She Was Gone tells the story of Ellie Mack, who walked out the house one day when she was 15 years old and was never seen again. Her mother is obviously devastated by the loss of her daughter; her marriage falls apart, her relationship with her other 2 children suffers, and for 10 years, she struggles to find any kind of closure and is unable to move on. Until she meets Floyd Dunn and his daughter Poppy and finally begins to reawaken and believe she might be able to start to piece her life back together.

The format of this story is fascinating. It has 5 parts and a lot of different narrators. It is predominantly narrated by Laurel Mack, Ellie’s mother, but it does alternate to several other perspectives throughout the novel. Most notable for me was that it’s partially narrated by Ellie herself in the first part and we learn almost immediately who our main suspect for her disappearance is. I was so surprised that we learned this information so early in the story and I felt like the first part (~15%) was almost a book in itself.

From there, Laurel meets Floyd and is transported to an entirely new life. I found this part of the story a little boring, but Jewell still did a good job at keeping me intrigued because I still wanted to know what actually happened. This part mostly just felt a little in contrast with the first part of the novel, which has a super strong start. It only took 1 chapter for me to get totally into this story.

It is a little predictable what happens, but it’s so freaking weird that when I was guessing at what might have happened I was like, “surely not” and tried to dismiss my prediction. Parts of the novel are definitely very disturbing and Jewell does create subtle atmospheric changes to her writing as the novel progresses. I actually really liked the end of this book. While I predicted some parts, the end did surprise me and while parts of it are heartbreaking, I appreciated Jewell ending her story this way.

I liked Laurel’s transformation throughout the course of the novel. I was frustrated with her at times and I have to admit, I did find some of her actions a little unbelievable and not to be in line with her character.  Laurel lost her daughter and couldn’t move on for 10 years, so I found it really hard to suspend disbelief that she wouldn’t be incredibly suspicious of some of the weird coincidences of this book and that she didn’t always trust her instincts. Like I said though, this book had me totally spellbound and I would like to read some more of Jewell’s work!

Tiger Lily

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: .5
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Read: Feb. 2018

Apparently I’m on a bit of EpicReads kick and have just read two books in a row recommended by Margot Wood. I was a little skeptical about whether I would actually like Ruined or not, but I loved it. Tiger Lily I suspected I would really like, and I did, but maybe not quite as much as a thought I would.

You’ll have to forgive my ignorance of the Peter Pan universe, I have only ever seen the Disney film and that was ages ago, so I actually remember very little about Peter Pan, with the exception that he’s the boy that never grows up. I didn’t remember who Tiger Lily was at all, but this story basically focuses on the love story Tiger Lily has with Peter before Wendy shows up. The story is narrated by Tinkerbell, who can’t speak, but follows Tiger Lily around and is a little bit of an omniscient narrator since she can flit back and forth and spy on all the characters.

First of all, the writing is beautiful! Props to Jodi Lynn Anderson, this is the first of her books that I’ve read and I was really impressed with the writing. I never really cared for Tinkerbell in the film, but she makes a damn good narrator. In some ways this is a coming of age story. Tiger Lily has always been a bit of an outcast in her village and when she saves an Englishman who washes up on shore she becomes even more of a pariah because the villagers are scared of catching the “aging disease” from him since they never die of old age.

When she is betrothed to marry a mean villager named Giant, Tiger Lily starts spending more time away from the village and meets Peter and the lost boys and they all become very much enamoured to one another. Peter is impetuous, rash, and often unreasonable; he has a need to always be the strongest and the smartest. As the leader of the lost boys, he takes on a lot of responsibility in taking care of the boys, but he is also very lonely. He has been a boy for a very long time and you do get the sense that he is ready to grow up.

Tiger Lily is very much a young girl. She also makes rash decisions and doesn’t think too much about the consequences of her actions. She loves her village and Tik Tok, the shaman who found and raised her, but she also yearns for more. She doesn’t want to be trapped in a marriage to Giant and spend forever cooking and cleaning for him. Peter enables her escape into a new world where there are no rules. She wants to be a part of Peter’s world, but she also finds it impossible to leave her village behind.

I liked that the characters in this novel had so much depth. I didn’t really like Peter, but I liked how Anderson wrote all of these characters and captured their essence. There is definitely tragedy in this story and it is incredibly heartbreaking. The characters are all looking for and needing different things and yet nobody can be what the other person needs them to be. There are several stories going on at once and you can very much feel the era of change that is upon the island. The world is progressing, but Neverland has always been a place onto itself. The Englishman eventually integrates himself into the village and pushes christianity on the villagers, shaming the villagers for their false idols and Tik Tok for dressing in women’s clothes. It’s hard to watch the villagers forsake their traditional spirits and way of life, but it’s equally upsetting to witness the ignorance that has flourished in the village for years.

It’s a very interesting story. I think I’m probably at a 3.5 for my rating and I can’t quite pinpoint what I didn’t love about it. It’s a bit slow moving in the beginning and I never really got super into it. The writing was definitely my favourite part and how heartbreaking the story is. I really did grow to love these characters and I really felt for their hardships.