February Summary

You wouldn’t think that 3 days would make that much of a difference, but only having 28 days in February always makes the month go by so quickly!

I’m really happy about the 3 books I challenged myself to read in February as part of my goal to read to 3 books about Canada. I think it would have taken me a while to get to any of these books if I hadn’t publicly challenged myself to do so. To be honest, I even debating dropping the last one from the list and just reading 2, but I’m glad I pushed myself to read all 3 because I really liked them all! It’s only been 2 months, but actually taking the time to do some research and thoughtfully pick my challenges has been paying off with some quality literature.

Anyways, let’s jump right in with my February Summary:

Books read: 9
Pages read: 3,276
Main genres: Fiction, Fantasy
Favourite book: Saga, Volume 8

February started off with a stream of half-star reads. I don’t like giving half star ratings, but it’s a fine line between 3 stars and 4 stars and sometimes you just need to compromise. So I gave my first 3 reads of the month all 3.5 stars.

I started off with Tiger Lily, which is a re-telling of Peter Pan from Tinkerbell’s perspective, featuring Tiger Lily as the main protagonist. I thought this book was actually fantastically written, Jodi-Lynn Anderson’s writing is very beautiful and lyrical, but I struggled to get into the story, hence the 3.5 star rating. I already bought a copy of Anderson’s latest novel, Midnight at the Electric, and I’m excited to check out some more of her writing.

Next I read an advanced reader copy of Lisa Jewell’s latest book, Then She Was Gone, that I got from Netgalley. I’ve been dying to read some of Jewell’s stuff, so I was happy to give this one a try. I liked it in that it was formatted quick differently from any other mystery/thriller that I’ve read, but it was a little bit predictable in parts and I also found it extremely disturbing. However, like Tiger Lily, I’m intrigued to try some more of Jewell’s work next time I’m in the mood for another mystery!

The last of the 3.5 star reads was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I have to admit, I really didn’t want to read this one. It sounded a lot like The Rosie Project to me, which I didn’t like, but my book club picked it for our February read and I’ve been seeing a lot of good press about it, so what could I do? This was probably my least favourite of the 3. I found it kind of boring, but I do think it was a well written book (definitely better than The Rosie Project) and I appreciate what the author was trying to do with this novel.

As you can see, I was kind of putting off tackling any of my Canadian reads for my Monthly Challenge, so after I finished Eleanor I decided to tackle The Boat People and The Break. Both of these books were fantastic! I feel like it took me forever to get through The Boat People, but it was a fascinating read about immigration and morality and it really made me think. In contrast, The Break is a family drama about a Métis family and all the hurts and grievances they’ve weathered together over the years. It was a inter-generational read that was just so well written and had so much depth, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Actually, in between those 2 books I snuck in a quick reading of the latest Saga volume, which came out at the end of December. I slowly worked my way through the first 7 volumes of Saga last year, and while I really liked them all, this one affected me more than the rest. I think Brian K. Vaughan actually went a little more heavy-handed than usual on the social commentary in this one. At first I thought it was a bit much, but I guess I was wrong because this volume just stands out more than any of the others for me and it was pure enjoyment from start to finish. Vaughan tackles abortion, miscarriage, and grief in this volume and it really packed a punch, especially at the very end when parts of the cast are finally re-united.

I was avoiding starting the final book in my February Challenge all month, mostly due to length, so I fit in a quick read of The Lightning Thief. This is the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and I’ve been wanting to read this for ages because everyone seems obsessed with everything Rick Riordan writes! This was another book that was just a lot of fun. The writing was hilarious and there was so much action packed into this middle grade book! Percy was witty and I loved his sidekicks, Annabeth and Grover. I would like to read more of these, but I suspect it may take my a while to get to them, but they’re definitely good if you’re looking for a laugh.

The final book in my Monthly Challenge was The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston. I admit, I did not want to read this one, but like I said, I’m glad I pushed myself to finish it. I had a lot to say about this one that I don’t want to get into again, so I’ll just say that it’s historical fiction about Newfoundland’s first premier, Joey Smallwood, who helped usher Newfoundland into confederation with Canada. Check out my full length review for more details. This book was meaningful to me as a Newfoundlander and I’m really proud that I finally read it. I gave it 4 stars.

And the last read I squeezed into February was The Power. I’ve been wanting to read this one since it came out at the end of last year since it’s been called the new ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ (along with Red Clocks). It’s dystopian science fiction where women develop the ability to produce electricity and use it through their hands. The book has such a great premise, but I was really disappointed with the author’s follow-through on the premise; I thought the book lacked focus and was poorly executed. It still make me think a lot though, so I gave it another 3.5 stars.

The Break

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐
Author: Katherena Vermette
Genres: Fiction
Read: Feb. 2018

I flew through The Break, which was the second book in my February Reading Challenge.

The Break is written by Métis author Katherena Vermette and tells the story of a Métis family and the struggles and challenges they’ve experienced, both together and apart. The novel opens with young mother Stella witnessing a crime on the break of land outside her house. She is paralyzed with fear and calls the police, but both the victim and the perpetrators have disappeared and law enforcement is not convinced of her story.

I don’t want to run the book by getting to into the plot, but it’s told from a lot of different viewpoints. There are 4 living generations in Stella’s family and they all have a voice in this story. As the police investigate the incident and the family is shook by violence, Vermette examines all the relationships and history that exist in this family. There are some narrators outside of the immediate family, such as the young Métis officer who investigates the incident, but this is really a story about family, the bonds that tie us together and the conflict that can threaten to tear us apart.

First off, the writing in The Break is fantastic. As soon as I started reading it I knew I was going to like it because it is just so beautifully written and the characters emotions are so tangibly felt. This was an insightful look inside the lives of a Métis family and it was very obvious the love this family had for one another, even through all the challenges they’ve had to overcome, the mistakes they’ve made, and the violence they’ve witnessed.

The tone of this story is very sad. Vermette made it easy to empathize with her characters and their pain felt very real. The story is heartbreaking and it was upsetting for me how frequently the women either experienced or witnessed sexual and domestic violence. But the women are what made this story so beautiful. It’s a very fractured family unit in that very few of the men in the family have stuck around or remained present in their families lives, but in the absence of reliable men, the women (sisters, cousins, aunts, grandmothers) have constructed their own family unit that is incredibly close.

The synopsis reads like this is a mystery novel, which it is in some ways, but it’s mostly a slow-burn family drama, which is one of my favourite types of stories. So I really liked this one and I am in love with Katherena Vermette’s writing. A fantastic read!

February Reading Challenge

January’s reading challenge was a roaring success, so I’m excited to set a new challenge for February. I loved all 3 of the books I read in January and hopefully I can replicate it again this month. You can see my January Summary here.

I was really torn between two challenge ideas for February. I have a pile of fantasy novels piling up on my shelf, so I was tempted to read 3 of them for February, but I decided to actually challenge myself and get a little bit more specific with some books I’ll be less likely to read anyways. That said, I may set a genre challenge every third month or so to help work my way through my TBR and try and keep my challenges from being too heavy or onerous.

So without further ado, my reading challenge for February is:

Read 3 books about Canada

It’s pretty embarrassing how few Canadian novels I’ve actually read and with CBC posting the 2018 shortlist for Canada Reads, I was inspired to try and knock back a few of my Canadian authors! My 3 picks for February are:

  1. The Boat People by Sharon Bala
  2. The Break by Katherena Vermette
  3. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston

I’ve been anxiously waiting for CBC to drop the 2018 shortlist for Canada Reads and I decided to pick one of the 5 contenders for my reading challenge. The Boat People is based on the true story of a cargo ship of refugees from Sri Lanka that landed on Canada’s shores in 2010. However, instead of finding sanctuary all 500 of the refugees were thrown into a detention centre. The story is told through several different perspectives of both the refugees and people involved in the case. That’s all I really know about it and I’ve decided to read the book before I do any further research. So I guess I’m not done with immigration stories yet, but I didn’t read any books about refugees last month, so it’ll be interesting to get this perspective.

I’m trying to get a diverse selection of books, so I like that The Boat People is written by a woman of colour and that it features Vancouver a little bit (my current home). However, I literally just looked up the author to learn a little bit more about her and I was actually ecstatic to discover that while she was born in Dubai and grew up in Ontario, she currently calls St. John’s home (my hometown!!).

My second pick, The Break, was recommended to me by a co-worker and then I started seeing it everywhere and have only heard good things about it. It’s about a Métis woman in Manitoba who potentially witnesses a crime on the break outside her house. I don’t know a whole lot about the plot, but the book synopsis informs me that it’s a inter-generational saga that features the narratives of all the people who get tied up in the case. I’ve been loving family dramas lately, so I’m excited to dive into this one. The Break is also written by a woman of Métis decent, so I was inspired to give this in a read in order to support more first nations writers. Side note: The Marrow Thieves has also made the 2018 shortlist and sounds fascinating, so I’m hoping to find time to read this one in the near future as well.

Finally, I wanted to read something about Newfoundland since it is my homeland and I have a deep love for the island, even though I’ve been loving living in Vancouver for the last 4 years. There is a surprisingly amount of literature about Newfoundland, but it was hard to find one that was super appealing. I decided on A Colony of Unrequited Dreams, which is historical fiction about Joey Smallwood, Newfoundland’s first premier when we joined confederation in 1949.

I read Greg Malone’s Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders a few years ago, which is an exposé about how Newfoundland came to join Canada. I found it fascinating and wrote a whole blog post on it here, so I’ve decided to expand my knowledge and give this book a try. I’m a little nervous about it though because my copy is 600 pages of tiny font. Usually book length doesn’t bother me, but I’m worried this one won’t be an easy read, so we’ll see how I do.

Anyways, wish me luck and I’ll check back in in a month!