BONUS BOOK: Room by Emma Donoghue

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“Stories are a different kind of true.”

Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket Synopsis: “To five-year-old Jack, Room is the world. It’s where he was born. It’s where he and Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. There are endless wonders that let loose Jack’s imagination – the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells; the imaginary world projected through the TV; the coziness of Wardrobe beneath Ma’s clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night, in case Old Nick comes. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it’s the prison where she’s been held since she was nineteen – for seven long years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven foot space. But Jack’s curiosity is building alongside Ma’s own desperation, and she knows that Room cannot contain either indefinitely.”

Review: THIS BOOK. GUYS. READ IT. Stop reading this blog post and start reading Room. I honestly cannot praise this book enough. I’ve been meaning to get to it forever and am so glad that I finally made the time, because it was impossible to put down. It becomes apparent within the first few pages that Donoghue is an amazing storyteller, largely through her ability to convey the unique world of Room through Jack’s naive eyes. She does an excellent job of writing in a way that allows readers to experience the many nuanced emotions felt by both Ma, as her desperation mounts, and Jack, as he learns about and comes to terms with the realities of Room. As a side note, I also watched the movie version shortly after reading the book and was blown away by both Brie Larsen’s and Jacob Tremblay’s performances. I know I’m a bit late to the game, both in reading the book and watching the movie, but I highly encourage everyone to do both. This book does an incredible job of handling sensitive subject matter in an eloquent, poignant way. It will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Rating:

Five_Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BONUS BOOK: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

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“My patience has worn through yet again. I already had to deal with the whining of a walking lightning rod. I’m not going to tolerate the attitude of a mopey matchstick prince.”

Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy, Adventure, Fiction

Book Jacket Synopsis: “When the lightning girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion? Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country – and his prisoner. As Mare bares the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continues organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back. In this breathless third installment in Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire – leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.”

Review: I’ve been looking forward to King’s Cage ever since I enjoyed Red Queen and LOVED Glass Sword. Unfortunately, King’s Cage ended up being my least favorite book so far, largely because the first half of the book proceeds at an extremely slow pace. I don’t understand the whole Mare/Maven obsession that some Red Queen fans have (which is probably why the first half of the book dragged for me), and I also don’t think the book benefited from including Cameron’s narrative perspective, largely because I’ve never really cared about her as a character. On a more positive note, I did appreciate that all three of the main characters (and some of the supplementary characters) became even more faceted in King’s Cage. Aveyard does a really good job of crafting characters that don’t fall in predefined, unchangeable boxes, which is commendable (see Evangeline Samos for a great example).  I also thought King’s Cage was the most humorous book yet, with some really well-timed light heartedness. The dramatic ending was predictable, but I am looking forward to seeing how Aveyard wraps things up in the fourth and final installment.

Rating:

Three_Star

BONUS BOOK: Visitor – My Life in Canada by Anthony Stewart

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“In the arrogance of youth, we cannot possibly know how much it has cost our ancestors to be who they are.”

Genre: Nonfiction

Book Jacket Synopsis: “The Canada that visible minorities live in is different from the idealized Canada of Tim Hortons commercials, Hockey Night in Canada and countless other imaginings. It’s a Canada that takes credit for a level of open-mindedness that far exceeds its reality. It’s a Canada that distinguishes itself for a population of citizens who passively lay claim to welcoming difference while staying silent when those around them who are in fact different are disenfranchised, dehumanized, undervalued and left to feel that they do not belong in the country in which many of them were born. Canada’s next major challenge is not economic or political. It’s ethical. On the issue of racism, Canadians tend to compare themselves favorably to Americans and to rely on a concession that Canadian racism, if it exists at all, is more ‘subtle.’ Will newcomers and visible minorities ever be able to feel like they belong in Canada? Or will they have to accept their experience as visitors to Canada no matter how long they have lived here?”

Review: The unique cover of Visitor jumped out at me while browsing at my local public library, and I decided to give the book a try because the brief book jacket synopsis challenged some of my own, albeit limited, views of Canada. I found this book especially poignant because I am a true visitor to Canada, but will almost certainly encounter a very small fraction of the negative experiences that Anthony Stewart, a Canadian, faced during his life in Canada.

“For me, moving to the United States makes literal what I’ve always felt implicitly. I will not be an actual visitor in the nation in which I live; but for now that is preferable to being made to feel like a visitor in the nation that was supposed to be my home.”

This book was so interesting because everyone knows that Canada projects an image of “niceness,” one that has become even more pronounced since the election of Justin Trudeau and the corresponding drama of the American presidential election. What Stewart claims in Visitor, however, is that this image of “niceness” has forced a stalemate when it comes to issues of race in Canada. After all, if the whole world accepts that your country is welcoming and nice, what incentive is there for you to think otherwise?

“Instead of brutalizing and actively subjugating its people of color, as has been much of America’s history, Canada simply ignores and excludes its people of color, while simultaneously telling those same people – and the world at large – how tolerant and inclusive it is.”

Visitor felt very repetitive at times, which wasn’t too much of an issue since the book was short, but it did prevent me from giving the book four-star rating. Regardless, I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to better understand racism in the world today, and especially to Canadians, who may be able to benefit from reading Stewart’s perspective.

“The good news here is the Canadians are no worse than Americans. The bad news for many Canadians is to find out they are no better either and may in fact have more work to do, because of the story of a country without the problems of race so common everywhere else in the world.”

Rating:

Four_Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

BONUS BOOK: We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Katelyn Greenidge

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“Courtland County bowed to Marie’s demands, because the people there, like well-meaning decent and caring people anywhere, were loath to think of themselves as racists but also loathe to think of race at all.”

Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket Synopsis: “The Freeman family – Charles, Laurel, and their daughters, teenage Charlotte and nine-year-old Callie – have been invited to the Toneybee Institute in rural Massachusetts to participate in a research experiment. They will live in an apartment on campus with Charlie, a young chimp abandoned by his mother. The Freemans were selected for the experiment because they know sign language; they are supposed to teach it to Charlie and welcome him as a member of their family. Isolated in their new, nearly all-white community not just by their race, but by their strange living situation, the Freemans come undone. And when Charlotte discovers the truth about the Institute’s history of questionable studies, the secrets of the past begin to invade the present. The power of this novel resides in Kaitlyn Greenidge’s undeniable storytelling talents. What appears to be a story of mothers and daughters, of sisterhood put to the test, of adolescent love and grown-up misconduct, and of history’s long reach, becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America’s failure to find a language to talk about race.”

Review: What a book! We Love You, Charlie Freeman was a remarkable debut novel from Kaitlyn Greenidge. From the first chapter onward, I felt a sense of foreboding, knowing that the Freeman family/Charlie experiment was going to implode but not knowing how or why until the very end. Readers may be disappointed by the fact that the novel never truly delivers on its “chimp learning sign language and living with a family” premise; I was somewhat disappointed, hence the four star rating. But Greenidge’s spectacular writing and character development kept me engaged, despite the rather minor (albeit symbolic) role Charlie plays. I didn’t enjoy the chapters narrated by Ellen Jericho/Nymphadora (detailing the Toneybee Institute’s questionable past) as much as those narrated by Charlotte, but both narrators had enthralling voices.

“And who would ever want to think of themselves as not really water but actually a trick of the desert?”

The complicated relationship between Charlotte and Callie could have been explored more, but I really liked the windows into Callie’s mind that Greenidge occasionally provided, as Callie tried to find acceptance and love in an increasingly bizarre situation.

“Too generous, too sweet, so openhearted and earnest it stung.”

In the end, We Love You, Charlie Freeman wasn’t perfect, but it was extremely unique and filled with interesting characters. Kaitlyn Greenidge is definitely an author to watch out for.

Rating:

Four_Star

BONUS BOOK: Frostbite by Richelle Mead

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“Do you know your birthday?” “Of course I do. Why are you asking me such stupid things? Did you lost my records?” Dr. Olendzki gave an exasperated sigh and walked off, taking the annoying light with her. “I think she’s fine.”

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Romance, Fiction

Book Jacket Synopsis: “Rose has serious guy trouble. Her gorgeous tutor, Dimitri, has his eye set on someone else, her friend Mason has a huge crush on her, and she keeps getting stuck in her best friend Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian. Then a nearby Strigoi attack puts St. Vladimir’s on high alert, and the Academy whisks its students away on a mandatory holiday ski trip. But the glittering winter landscape and posh Idaho resort only provide the illusion of safety. When three students run away to strike back against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. Only this time, Rose – and her heart – are in more danger than she ever could have imagined…”

Review: Frostbite was, like Vampire Academy, a fun and easy read, but I found that it wasn’t as good as the first book in the series, largely because the friendship between Rose and Lissa took a backseat to other less interesting relationships. This second installment was much more focused on the relationships that both girls had with the many men in their lives, and I felt it was a detriment overall. The one new character that I thought positively contributed to the novel was Rose’s mother; her complicated relationship with Rose created some interesting conflicts. Rose remains an interesting (but slightly self-obsessed) and humorous narrator, but I found myself getting frustrated with how long it took her to catch on to what was happening around her. All in all, I think that Mead set the scene well for future conflicts with the Strigoi through Frostbite. Her world-building is fairly successful, but I hope she improves and substantiates the relationships between her characters  in future Vampire Academy books. 

Rating:

Two_Star

 

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story by George Orwell

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“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing.”

Genre: Fiction, Allegory

Book Jacket Synopsis: “Mr. Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farm, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges…”

Review: Whew! Sorry for the delay in reviews. I can assure you that I’ve been reading, but I’ve also been swamped with school-related commitments these past few weeks. My work load is unlikely to let up in the near future, but I’ve carved out some Banned Book Brigade time tonight! I’ve been meaning to get to Animal Farm for awhile, and I’m glad I finally found some time. This book was a quick, easy, and interesting read. Orwell told the story in a very poignant way, and I can understand why this book is required reading for many American high schoolers. Overall, it’s not my favorite classic (I found it somewhat difficult to stay engaged despite the short length), but it was well-written and well-nuanced. Given the current political climate in the United States, I’m glad that I read Animal Farm now. A certain American president reminds me of Squealer… Not Napoleon. Said President would probably like to think of himself as Napoleon, but I think he’s more of a Squealer.

Reason for Ban/Challenge: As it turns out, Animal Farm has been banned in many countries, but it’s rarely banned in the United States. I was confused at first, since I primarily utilized the American Library Association’s banned book list to create my own list, but then I remembered that I updated my list of Banned Books by adding the books on a banned book mug I received for Christmas last year. The mug includes banned books from all around the world, not just from the United States. Animal Farm has been banned in other countries largely due to its negative portrayal of Communism.

Rating:

Three_Star