Midweek Mini Reviews #6

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Initially I was interested in Cecilia Vinesse’s Seven Days of You because of its Tokyo setting. However, I was a bit wary as YA novels that feature travel and foreign locales are usually a hit or miss with me (and the mixed reviews of this book didn’t help with that). Fortunately, Seven Days of You was a relatively easy read to get into which made it a perfect read for me to take along on my Japan trip. I loved that the romance aspect was kept mostly in the background, and that the main focus was on Allison getting ready to leave Japan and how it would affect her relationships with her friends. Additionally it’s also a coming of age story as Allison starts to come to terms with her complicated family dynamics. That being said, I did find the moments where Jamie and Allison bonded over their families and past to be adorable and it did endear me to their relationship more. Overall, a fairly enjoyable read that is perfect to bring along with you on vacation, especially if you’re planning to go to a place like Japan.

The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake

The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake was a book that I had sitting on my shelf for some time. However, after meeting and chatting with the author at IFOA (the International Festival of Authors) last year I decided that I would take this book along with me to read while travelling in Japan.

What I liked about The Translation of Love is that fact that we get multiple perspectives in the story, all of which are important to the plot. I really appreciated the opportunity to get to know all the major players in the story as well as their motivations for their actions and choices.

A thought-provoking, and heartfelt novel that is perfect for all ages. The Translation of Love is a well-researched novel that does a good job at depicting what life is like in a post-war country for those who have to remain behind in addition to showing the devastating traumas of all who were involved.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Last Days at Café Leila by Donia Bijan


cafeAuthour:

Donia Bijan
Format:
ARC, 289 pages
Publication date:
April 18th 2017
Publisher:
Algonquin Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’m a huge foodie, which was why Donia Bijan’s The Last Days of Café Leila  appealed to me. That, plus the cover is gorgeous!

Set in a post-revolutionary Iran in the city of Tehran, The Last Days of Café is a story that is told across time and through three generations of a family through the use of flashbacks and character recollections with the titular cafe being the one stable presence throughout. We follow Noor as she returns to Iran to her ailing father and his failing cafe after being gone for so long after being sent to the USA by her father for her “protection”. As a result of her return, the reader starts to learn more about her family’s tragic past, and the difficult decisions that her father Zod, was required to make.

The prose throughout this book was incredibly beautiful, as evident from the descriptions of Iran and all the food that was being prepared. The authour’s background in the culinary arts have truly shone in this book, as all the food description made my mouth water. On top of that, the book made me wish that there was an actual Café Lelia that I could visit as I would love to visit Iran if such a place as Café Lelia existed there.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was just how powerful it was. I love the fact that it was a story of a family falling apart and eventually coming together in addition to being a story of great loss (and perhaps greater love, and not just the romantic type). My heart truly broke as I read about what actually happened to Noor’s mother, and how Zod had kept the truth to himself for all these years in order to protect his children.

A poignant and emotionally powerful tale, The Last Days of Café Leila is a book that compelled me to stop and appreciate the family I have. It also taught me so much about the immigrant and the student experience in the USA, as well as the history of Iran and how its history shaped it into the country it is today. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy rich family sagas and books that feature food.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

refugeesAuthour:
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Format:
ARC, 440 pages
Publication date:
February 7th 2017
Publisher:
Grove Press
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
You may have heard of the writer, Viet Thanh Nguyen from his Pulitzer (and other prizes/awards) winning debut novel The Sympathizer. And while the synopsis of The Sympathizer didn’t truly appeal to me, I was looking forward to The Refugees as my introduction to his writing.

The Refugees is a collection of eight short stories that have previously been published before in some form. While all the stories are stand-alones they share the common themes of family, identity, love and often how the characters’ lives were either directly or indirectly affected by the Vietnam War (known as the “American” War by numerous Vietnamese people).

Though I am of Vietnamese descent, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been born into a somewhat privilege background, however reading stories concerning those who fled South Vietnam made me re-examine my parents struggles.  While I could not relate to some of their experiences there were several other elements of the stories that I could relate to. For instance, my family knew people who owned convenience stores and tailor shops and the story, The Transplant gave me chills as my father was a recipient of an anonymous organ donation. Lastly the sisters’ relationship in Fatherland is vaguely reminiscent of the relationship that I have with my sister albeit we were both born in Canada.

Of all the stories, Someone Else Besides You and Fatherland both of which are stories where the fathers play a major role are the ones that stood out to me as the most memorable ones. Though, regardless of my personal preference each of the eight stories in The Refugees are thought provoking and emotionally powerful contributions to this collection of stories that excels in its observation of human experiences.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Faithful by Alice Hoffman

faithAuthour:
Alice Hoffman
Format:
Egalley
Publication date:
November 1st 2016
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Before Faithful, I’ve only read one book by Alice Hoffman which was Aquamarine, a book I read back when I was in elementary school. Thus, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Faithful besides gorgeous prose.

Told from a third person, omniscient perspective, Faithful is the story of a woman named Shelby, who struggles with immense guilt when a car accident leaves her best friend brain-dead while she is virtually unscathed. As a result, Shelby spirals downwards and engages in countless self-destructive behaviours before she is slowly able to come to terms with the fact that she “survived”. What I liked about Shelby’s story was that Shelby undergoes lots of terrible things yet in the end she is able to come out of it as a stronger character. It just goes to show that no matter how broken somebody may be, they can eventually come back from it.

Another story element I enjoyed within Faithful were the female relationships. In particular, the friendship between Maravelle and Shelby was incredible and I adored the way that Maravelle’s family gradually became a substitute family to Shelby. It was touching to witness her begin to care for others all while assisting her in her journey of learning to love herself again. The other central relationship throughout the book was Shelby’s relationship with her mother. It was lovely watching their relationship evolve over time and their bond becomes stronger as both grew older and begin to understand each other better.

In spite of the fact that I enjoyed Faithful for the reasons mentioned above, there were two things that I wasn’t fond of. One was the romance in the book, the relationship in the conclusion felt underdeveloped and if I were to be honest, this book would have been more than fine without any romance plot. The other thing that made me slightly uncomfortable was what happens to Shelby’s friend, Helene. Despite being brain-dead she is kept “alive” on life support so that people can come to and worship her for miracles. While it is understandable that her parents are unable to let go of their daughter, it’s also depressing to read how she is kept alive like this after having read about what she was like.

Faithful, is a powerful novel that demonstrates how amidst all the tragedy, loss, guilt, and shame there can be love, hope and perhaps even a “rebirth” of sorts. And that “magic” does exist and in manifests itself in unexpected ways in real life. All in all it was a fairly quick and engrossing read that I would recommend to readers who love stories of redemption and stories with dogs!

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

wangsAuthour:
Jade Chang
Format:
ARC; 354 pages
Publication date:
October 4th 2016
Publisher:
HarperAvenue
Publisher Social Media:
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
The Wangs vs. World was a title that I was especially looking forward to this fall as it centres on an Asian American family embarking on a road trip after the patriarch, Charles Wang loses his fortune.

Unfortunately my unfair expectations of this book coupled with all the buzz surrounding it lead The Wangs vs. World to be a bit of a disappointment for me. For instance, this book was marketed as being hilarious and yet I seldom found myself laughing. Additionally the majority of the book seemed to drag on forever and it wasn’t until near the conclusion that the pacing sped up immensely. Speaking of the ending, without spoiling too much I will say that it came about in a rather unexpected way and it definitely made me wonder if things were left a bit too up in the air.

That being said, there were a few parts of the book that did work for me. One was the relationship between the three siblings. Of the three, I liked Saina the best and it was nice watching her character grow as the novel progressed. I think my favourite scenes in The Wangs vs. World were the ones where we see the siblings all with unique personalities interacting with one another. The interactions were hilarious and it was heartwarming to see how loyal they were to each other. For that reason, I liked the section where the family was in China and it was unfortunate that the section needed to be cut short as I liked watching them all together in one place and bonding as a family.

Jade Chang’s writing at times was reminiscent of Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asian series, which fortunately assisted in moving the story along during certain sections. However, unlike Crazy Rich Asian there was no translation provided for all the Chinese dialogue (at least not in my advance reader’s copy). This only served to alienate me more from the characters as it’s difficult to connect with both the stories and characters when so much of their dialogue is another language that you are not familiar with. Though some of their conversations may be understood vaguely through the context, it still takes away from the main story.

Overall, while it did not work for me mostly since it was not the humourous novel, it was marketed as, The Wangs vs. World still was an interesting look a one family’s Asian immigrant experience and was a decent effort for a début novel.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Don’t I Know You? by Marni Jackson

don't knowAuthour:
Marni Jackson
Format:
E-galley
Publication date:
September 27th 2016
Publisher:
Flatiron Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Written by Canadian journalist, Marni Jackson’s Don’t I Know You? has an intriguing premise to it. Rose McEwan is an ordinary woman who lives a fairly regular life except for her various random encounters with random celebrities among them, Joni Mitchell, Meryl Streep, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Taylor Swift.

While the first chapter where Rose encounters John Uplike was weird and to be honest, slightly creepy the following chapter with Joni Mitchell made up for it although I hated how passive Rose was. This was generally the tone of the book, a few of the encounters were strange while others were charming and cute. My favorite story in the collection is, probably, Mister Softee where Rose first encounters Leonard Cohen for the first time. I loved that it concerns family and dealing with death, and while it was a simple story it was incredibly poignant. The Reading featuring Meryl Streep and Exfoliation with Gwyneth Kate Paltrow giving Rose a facial in addition to Free Love with Joni Mitchell were all memorable and were close runner-ups. And obviously the final chapter with a featuring a canoe trip that Rose takes with Leonard Cohen, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and Taylor Swift stood out as the most unrealistic yet charming of all the stories in this whimsical collection.

Being a Canadian myself, I love that the author takes the time to highlight the various sights and sceneries that can be found in Canada. Thus whether intentional or not, it felt as if this collection of stories served as a homage or even a “love letter” to the country itself even if the book wasn’t completely set in Canada. Don’t I Know You? is a book that I’d recommend for those who appreciate short story collections that are slightly unusual yet charming throughout.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

Authour:reader
Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
Format:
Hardcover, 194 pages
Publication date:
April 7th 2016
Publisher:
Publishers Group Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“He was the reader, the bearer of the good word.” – p. 132

French writer, Jean-Paul Didierlaurent’s The Reader on the 6.27 is a quiet, short novel about loneliness and how the love of books and reading can bring people together. The protagonist is a man named, Guylain Vignolles who delights in reading aloud random passages on his commute to and from work. Guylain is a man who hates his job at a book pulping factory, and his only solace lies in saving pages from the paper-recycling machine that he tends to and reading them aloud on his work commute.

While not long in length, The Reader on the 6.27 took a while for the central plot to get moving. The first few pages were unappealing to me as they were filled with a countless confusing imagery and descriptions of Guylain’s workplace. Initially it wasn’t actually clear to me as to what Guylain did for a living and I ended up having to google the book in order to figure it out, and understand why it was that Guylain despised his job.

Gradually though, the reader becomes acquainted with Guylain and we meet his friend, Yvon who only speaks in Alexandrine and Giuseppe, a former co-worker who had lost the use of his legs due to a workplace accident. It was incredibly heartwarming, the lengths that Guylain went for Giuseppe in order to maintain his friend’s hope and optimism. Interestingly enough, the plot of the USB with a young woman’s diary on it doesn’t come into play into a few chapters into the book.

Regardless, The Reader on the 6.27 is a novel concerning how books and stories bring people together and how stories allow us to escape our world and make people who felt less live become more alive. And while it’s supposed to be taking place in modern society, the setting of the story often feels like its set a century or two ago during a much simpler time. Overall, The Reader on the 6.27 is a quiet, slow and beautiful novel that may be ideal for lovers of the written word.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Nayomi Munaweera was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At the age of three she immigrated with her family to Nigeria. Her family later settled in Southern California in 1984. Island of A Thousand Mirrors, is her first novel and it was actually first published in South Asia in 2012 before it was released in America by St. Martin’s Press in 2014.

Where Does it Take Place?
Both own Sri Lanka where all the characters are from and later some parts take place in America as one of the families in the book escapes the conflict by moving to the USA.

thousandmirror

 

What’s it About:
Book has two “sections”. First half we get to know all the major players in the story personally at different ages and stages of their life. Set at the beginning in Sri Lanka, the story gradually shifts settings as some of the characters choose to escape from the island and immigrate to the USA. We then get to see, who is Yasodhara who is Sinhala try to adjust to life in America with her family.

The second part of the book has a bit of a time skip to tell the story of Saraswathi, a young Tamil girl in Sri Lanka who wants to become a teacher. It then moves back and forth between Yasodhara and Saraswathi as the two become connected through a major tragic event. Throughout the entire two girls with their different backgrounds provide readers with the perspectives of the two warring cultural groups. As a result we get two sides to the conflict.

My Thoughts:
The writing in Island of a Thousand Mirrors is simple yet very tender and the prose just flows effortlessly from page to page. I loved learning more about the civil war and conflict in Sri Lanka as it was something that I was not aware of before reading this book. Munaweera does a good job of examining the immigrant experience from the perspective of children who are coming into a new, foreign country where they are made to realize that they are different from their peers in more ways than one. In addition she does an equally good job at portraying the life of families who are stuck living in a war-torn country and how they struggle in their day-to-day lives to survive. I really enjoyed Yasodhara story more as it was interesting to see the person she grew up to become, and the relationships she would develop as well as the hardships she had to endure herself. I always love hearing the stories of women who become involved or are affected by major conflicts and overall, Island of a Thousand Mirrors is a heartbreaking but truly beautiful book.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Stories about strong women who will do anything for their family and to survive.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Haruki Murakami is probably the best known Japanese authour in the Western world. He has written many contemporary works of literature which include both novels and short stories, as well as works of nonfiction. He has also translated many well known books into Japanese. Currently he resides in Japan with his wife, Yoko. His latest book to be translated into English is the novella, The Strange Library which is available now in stores.

colorless

Where Does it Take Place?
Mostly in Japan, as Tazaki travels back to his home town, Nagoya from Tokyo where he currently lives in order to confront his former friends.

What’s it About:
When he was in high school, Tsukuru Tazaki was friends with four other students, Akamatsu, Oumi, Kurono and Shirane. The five of them were inseparable, however, Tazaki eventually left to go to university in Tokyo the others stayed in Nagoya. Then one day all four of his friends cut him off without any explanation, and while hurt he never explored the issue further. Years later, in his mid-thirties Tazaki is encouraged by his girlfriend Sara to find his former friends and get an answer so that he can finally move on with his life.

My Thoughts:
While I have read a few of Murakami’s short stories, I never got around to reading any of his actual novels. However, when I heard about the premise of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage I was immediately intrigued. I think my reason for this curiosity was because I wanted to see how Murakami would tackle the issues of friendships as they evolve, change and as people grow apart. As expected, he does a fantastic job and as always his writing is flows so well that it feels like a well constructed symphony. And while I haven’t read the original version of the novel, I believe that Philip Gabriel did a good job with the translation of this book.  Also one of my biggest worries with this book was that things would be left unresolved by the novel’s conclusion, thus I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up being fine with how the novel ended. It was neither neatly tied up nor was there a lot of loose ends by the novel’s conclusion. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was my first Murakami novel, and it definitely won’t be my last. In fact, I hope to pick up Norwegian Wood sometime this year.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Books that are more quiet and somber, and that focus more on a character’s journey of self discovery rather than solving the major mysteries. Also, if you are a fan of Murakami’s other works and are used to/don’t mind endings that are slightly open-ended.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Khaled Hosseini is the authour of the best-selling books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. And the Mountains Echoed is his third novel to date. Currently a Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and he also founded the Khaled Hosseini Foundation which helps by giving humanitarian assistance to people in Afghanistan.

Where Does it Take Place?
The story starts in Afghanistan but moves around to various places from Paris, France to Pakistan to the USA.

16115612

What’s it About:
It’s the year 1952, and the reader is introduced to a pair of very young siblings Abdullah and his younger sister, Pari. Something tragic then happens that changes the course of both of their lives forever. The rest of the novel then follows the stories of not only Abdullah and Pari but many other characters that are or have become connected to them. No one is completely good or evil, but everyone has their flaws and regrets.

My Thoughts:
As this was my first book by Khaled Hosseini (my sister has been trying to push The Kiterunner on me for years though), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately I adored this book, the writing and characters truly held me captive. And I liked how this book was both heartbreaking but also uplifting at times, which made it all the more beautiful. Also the conclusion of And the Mountains Echoed was just so poignant and on point.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Books  set in war-torn countries that are about family, sacrifice, love and loss.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. She currently lives in the States with her husband and their three children as well as their African Grey parrot. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was her debut novel, and her second novel, When the Moon Is Low is out late this year.

Pearl-That-Broke-Its-Shell

Where Does it Take Place?
Set in Kabul, readers get to travel back to some of the smaller rural villages as both women move around for different reasons. This also gives readers great insight into how life is vastly different for the women living in the big cities in Afghanistan compared with the women who live in rural villages, where it’s harder to monitor and regulate how things work and how women are treated.

What’s it About:
The Pearl That Broke It’s Shell is a story about two women from different generations who lives in Afghanistan. Shekiba who disguises herself as a boy once her parents and brothers pass away in order to protect herself from her father’s very traditional, and disapproving family. She is also Rahima’s great, great grandmother. In present day, we meet Rahima who is one of many girls in her family. As her family has no sons, and dad is sick and can’t be man of the house, her aunt comes up with the idea to disguise herself as a boy by telling Rahima the story of her great aunt, Shekiba.

My Thoughts:
I love reading about the experiences of women in South Asian countries, and when I heard about The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi I just knew that I had to read it. And I’m glad that I got the opportunity to read and review this important book on my blog.

While many of us may be somewhat aware of situation and often the mistreatment for many girls in Afghanistan, I wonder if many people also knew of the concept of bacha posh? I for one did not know about it. Bacha posh, is basically when young girls who haven’t reached puberty yet are allowed to dress up as boys which allows them a great deal of freedom that isn’t normally afforded to them as girls. I thought this was an interesting concept, and it was even more fascinating seeing two women taking part in bacha posh and how their experiences differed as they did it during different times and for different reasons.

Of the two women in the book, I found that Shekiba’s journey fascinated me more. I felt more invested in her character as she gets to experience many different things that were uncommon for women during her time. Though it’s unfortunate as to what happens to her, I think it illustrates the harsh reality for women during her time. So while I disagreed with her choice, and found it difficult to understand how she thought that would be the solution I kind of get her desire for more freedom. On the other hand, I was less interested in Rahima’s journey though she does go through her own set of hardships and tragedy. Nevertheless, I adored her relationship with with her Aunt Shaima. Shaima is the one who tells Rahima the story of her Great Aunt Shekiba and thus forms a connection between the two women. The Pearl that Broke Its Shell though is filled with much obstacles and hardships for both the women it’s about, is ultimately an uplifting story about earning your happy ending.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Historical and literary fiction about the experiences of women living in countries where there is great inequality and they are viewed as “less than” men. Also if you love inspiring stories about women who find strength to live their restricted lives as much on their own terms as possible in the times and country they were born into.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Words of Asia | Ticket to Childhood by Nguyễn Nhật Ánh

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Nguyễn Nhật Ánh is a well-known Vietnamese authour of stories for children, teenagers and adults. Ticket to Childhood or Cho tôi xin một vé đi tuổi thơ, as it was originally called is perhaps his best known and best selling work.

ticketchild

Where Does it Take Place?
Vietnam! Love the fact that its set in Vietnam because not that many books take place in Vietnam or about Vietnamese people that have been translated into English.

What’s it About:
Mui, a writer relates the story of his childhood and his adventures with his friends, Hai, Ti and  Tun in Vietnam. These tales are then simultaneously compared with how each of the characters turned out as adults.

My Thoughts:
Even if you weren’t born in Vietnam, which  I suspect many of you weren’t there is something that almost everyone can relate to. The carefree and innocent adventures that Mui and his friends have makes me a bit nostalgic for my childhood as well even though it wasn’t too long ago that I was a kid. So even though the book was not what I’d expected based off of what I could understand from the Vietnamese audiobook, it was still a magical read. This modern fairytale of sorts is a book that I’d recommend for those who fancy themselves as young at heart. Nguyễn Nhật Ánh is a gifted storyteller who is able to turn the most ordinary lives of children into something that is precious, extraordinary and truly magical. And even though the book is short in length, I think its perfect length for the story the authour is trying to tell.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Books that will take you back to a much simpler time and remind you of what it was like to be a kid.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

thiefAuthour:
Teju Cole
Format:
Trade Paperback, 162 pages
Publication date:
March 3rd 2015
Publisher:
Random House Trade Paperbacks
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“One goes to the market to participate in the world. As with all things that concern the world, being in market requires caution. The market–as the essence of the city–is always alive with possibility and danger.” (p. 57)

I don’t often read loads of books that are set in Africa thus it shouldn’t be a surprise when I say that Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole is the first book that I’ve read that takes place in contemporary Nigeria. In, Every Day Is for the Thief we follow an unnamed narrator as he relates to his journey to Nigeria, the country where he was born and where he grew up in. As a result of this the reader feels like they are going along on the journey with him.

Having never been to anywhere in Africa, I loved learning about what life is like Nigeria now. We also receive an interesting and unique perspective on the culture there in addition to learning about the behind the scenes aspects of things akin to the 416 scams which are commonly associated with Nigeria. In fact, in Every Day Is for the Thief the narrator goes into an Internet café and witnesses a few young Nigerian men working on writing those emails. He subsequently notes that these are mostly post-secondary students who need the money to make purchases and “show off” to their classmates at school.

I also felt that the author does a fine job at capturing the confusion and fascination one feels when they return to the country where they are from, as it is definitely a feeling that I could relate to. One example was the scene where the narrator’s relatives point that the locals would recognize him as a foreigner now, which in reality does happen soon after in the book when he’s in a market looking at some masks. This made me recall back to when I first went back to my home country, Vietnam. Back then I was instantly recognized as being a “foreigner” despite speaking the same language as the locals and resembling them in physical features. Furthermore, I loved the black and white photographs that were included throughout the book as they truly add to the story and assist with the visualization of the story.

Interestingly enough, while Every Day Is for the Thief is being marketed as fiction, it is more reminiscent of a piece of non-fiction work or a travel memoir, given the numerous similarities between the narrator and the author when it comes to things such as past and stuff. Nevertheless, Every Day Is for the Thief  is a book that is filled with, in my opinion various compelling commentary on topics such as family, education, discrimination, religion, death, change and the major chasm between the rich and the poor in Nigeria.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

punysorrowAuthour:
Miriam Toews
Format:
Trade Paperback, 321 pages
Publication date:
February 24, 2015
Publisher:
Vintage Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“It was the first time that we had sort of articulated our major problem. She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other. We held each other tenderly, awkwardly, because she was in a bed attached to things.” (p. 37-38)

Long ago CBC had a radio show called “Between the Covers”, which was basically readings from audio books. I would stay up “late” (after all it was late for me back then) just to listen to people read from books, which were almost always Canadian. I remember one night I found myself listening to a reading from a book regarding the coming of age story of a teenager living in a Mennonite community and her struggles to discover who she was. I was instantly hooked, for the reason that the protagonist was just so complex and compelling that I ended up listening to almost all the chapters (I missed a few since I often fell asleep before it was over). Anyways that was how I was introduced to the writing of Miriam Toews and how I became a fan of her storytelling.

In her latest book which is also her seventh book, All My Puny Sorrows, which can be shortened to AMPS Toews tells a story about two sisters, one who wishes to die and the other who wishes her to live. It is also a story that accurately depicts what it means and what it takes to care for a loved one, and the toil that it can take on the caregiver. Akin to the majority of her books, AMPS is inspired by actual events from Toews’ life and in this case the relationship between Elf and Yoli is based on the real life relationship between her and her sister.

Once again Toews showcases her affinity for telling heartbreaking stories on the subject of families that ultimately ends up being both relatable and uplifting. I believe that AMPS is a vital book concerning both mental illness in addition to suicide, and I believe Toews does an excellent job of also capturing the confusion and anger people feel when a person close to them tells them they no longer has the desire to live. Finally I believe the book itself has an excellent message and I hope that it leads to the discussion of topics in the vein of mental illness and suicide, especially for people and families who often attempt to brush those issues under the rug.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

ettaAuthour:
Emma Hooper
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 305 pages
Publication date:
January 13th 2015
Publisher:
Penguin Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
At the beginning pages of Emma Hooper’s debut novel, Etta and Otto and Russell and James we learned that Etta, an 82 year old woman and set off on a journey to the sea, leaving only a brief note and a bunch of recipe cards for her husband, Otto. What follows is not only a story of one woman’s pilgrimage across Canada from Saskatchewan to Halifax, but also a story of the past of Etta, Otto and their friend, Russell in addition to a story of the simple lives of people in rural Canada.

There were several things that I liked regarding this book, the first being the prose which was deceptively simple yet utterly beautiful. I love reading on the day to day lives of the people who were left behind during the war and those who assisted with the war on top of the indirect effects the war had on people and even schools back home. I also enjoyed the friendship between Otto and Russell especially when they were young and it was unfortunate that we do not witness greater amounts of interaction between the two in the present. Finally I also liked the employment of the “talking” coyote, James as it provides greater insight into Etta’s character and state of mind in addition to her well-being.

That being understood, there were numerous times throughout the book, particularly near the conclusion where I found it difficult to follow the story. To be more specific I found the timelines slightly confusing to the point that I needed to reread several sections just to figure out what had just happened. Afterwards, I was left wondering this writing style was intentionally done to illustrate the deteriorating mind. Still it you are willing to dig deep, you will find that Etta and Otto and Russell and James is a beautiful novel concerning love, loss and how the past has a way of never completely disappearing. Also for those who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I think you will definitely appreciate Etta and Otto and Russell and James especially the moment where Etta’s simple journey suddenly gains a following due to the media’s interest. Overall Etta and Otto and Russell and James is a book that is worth picking up if you do not mind a story that is slower in pacing and is driven more by the characters and their actions.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.