Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

34928122*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Artemis

Author: Andy Weir

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Publication Date: November 14, 2017

ISBN: 9780553448122

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

I’ve never read Weir’s The Martian–although I’m very excited to and will be borrowing a friend’s copy to read soon!–so I didn’t have any expectations going in to read Artemis. I always appreciate a really good sci-fi book. I’m not a hardcore sci-fi devotee, but I do enjoy a great story about space travel or technology in the future. Artemis takes us to a settlement on the mood. In this society, there are no real rules or laws. Bad behaviour is punished often with a fine, and if it’s bad enough, with deportation to Earth where one will face gravity sickness. Terrible crimes are left to the punishment of the country to which the criminal is sent. Petty crimes are hard to track and have few consequences.

Jazz Bashara is a smuggler and a porter in the city of Artemis. She doesn’t make a lot of money but has great aspirations to earn substantial wealth and finally, FINALLY, have access to a private apartment with her own private bathroom with a shower. It’s hard to achieve such wealth on Artemis. Everything is expensive–most goods having to be imported from Earth. Jazz avoids work in her skill as a welder, not wanting to fall under her talented father’s shadow. She wants to do it on her own. She’s a rough-and-tumble kind of character–a bit crass, often mingling with those from the wrong side of the tracks. When the opportunity presents itself for Jazz to finally reach her financial goals, she jumps at the chance, a decision that changes absolutely everything. She risks her own life and the fate of Artemis in order for the chance to turn her luck around.

This story is exciting and the plot is fast-paced and innovative. Weir has built a stellar lunar world full of complicated technology, intricate politics, and heart-stopping danger. I always appreciate excellent world building and Weir does a great job of immersing the reader in this advanced society on the moon. It’s imaginative and vivid. However, in contrast, I didn’t love the dialogue throughout and I found the characterization to be lacking. I would be surrounded, lost in the world and enjoying the details of the setting and the thrill of the plot, but the dialogue would bring be back to reality. Jazz’s lines are often a bit silly which detract from her character quite a bit, making her seem less believable. Additionally, Jazz–as the protagonist–doesn’t really progress through the course of the book. She becomes less selfish and learns tough lessons, but there’s no really improvement or change in who she is, even after life-altering and death-defying events. I left the novel feeling unsatisfied which how things turned out.

That being said, I think this would make an excellent movie and was a quick and overall enjoyable read. The world is completely fascinating and Weir leads his characters to explore every facet of it. Each component of the setting is essential to the story are we learn about each in great detail. To see this brought to life on the big screen would be breath-taking. It’s worth the read! I think many of you will really enjoy this book.


Review: That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

25528808*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: That Inevitable Victorian Thing

Author: E.K. Johnston

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

ISBN: 9781101994979

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved, not by the cost of blood and theft but by effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a novel of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world. Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendant of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

While the main premise of this book is admirable–a world of true equality in which there is no racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, etc.–this is a story that falls very flat. I think it’s because it’s attempting to do far too much in too little time, that this story lacks so much and is, in the end, a disappointment. There is little in the way of character development or plot flow. This story is choppy and shallow, not diving into the depths of what it really could be. Each chapter is broken by the insert of a quote, or letter, or expert which, in all reality, just serve to confuse the story more.

The world itself falls flat and it hard to follow–it’s a futuristic society that follows Victorian ideals and values yet strives to set people free of the restrictions that such a society traditionally upheld in the real world. The author really needed to spend more time developing this world and painting that picture for us, to really immerse us in this culture that’s been created. Instead, things are glazed over and presented quickly without any real time for us to digest how things are constructed. We aren’t really given a chance to understand the rules of this new world before the story is completely upended and the setting shifts–then we have to come to learn an entirely new world and way of life.

I was excited to see something rarely discussed in main-stream lit: the introduction of a female/female romance, as well as an intersex character. However, neither of these topics are discussed at any length. The author throws them at us like, “Here, look! See? My book is different. Let me show you,” without really exploring these topics at any length and with no foundation. The relationship between Margaret and Helena comes out of nowhere and the characters themselves have little to no introspection to explain their inner thoughts and feelings. This is especially confusing in Helena’s case because we meet her when she is deeply entrenched in a heterosexual relationship. In regards to the discover of the intersex characters (no spoilies), it’s something uncovered later on in the book, but is really glossed over. It’s mentioned, but not explained or explored. These were both prime windows of opportunity to discuss the LGBTQI community at length and really create a dialogue with readers, however both instances felt extremely forced and not genuine in the slights. This is quite a disappointment as there is much lost potential here.

I felt like this story was a whole lot of TELL and minimal to no SHOW. Everything is really shoved down the readers’ throats without coaxing us to believe in this world. There’s nothing tangible and nothing relatable about it. This is probably the biggest let down of a book that I’ve read in a while.

So, the best thing about this book? The cover! Just enjoy how pretty it looks. Don’t bother reading. Two stars to this one for the cover and the potential of an interesting premise.



**Wolves of Winter REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY**

Wolves-of-Winter-blog-tour*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

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Title: Wolves of Winter

Author: Tyrell Johnson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: January 1, 2018

ISBN: 9781501155673

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive. Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As memories of her old life haunt her, she has been forced to forge ahead in the snow-covered Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap to survive. But her fragile existence is about to be shattered. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who sets in motion a chain of events that will force Lynn to fulfill a destiny she never imagined.

Ahhhh I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down. This book has fuelled the fire that is my love of post-apocalypse fiction. Lynn, the protagonist, is a badass survivor. She and her family escaped the war and the flu that killed of most of human kind. The flu did not leave them totally unscathed. They lost Lynn’s father, her pillar, and were forced to flee and make a life for themselves in the harsh cold climates of northern North America. They subsist on carrots and potatoes, along with whatever meat they can hunt or trap. Years have passed without them crossing paths with any other humans,  however that all changes when Lynn happens upon the stranger, Jax. Through Jax, Lynn discovers the world outside of their limited existence. She learns more about her world and even herself than she could have ever imagined. This stranger’s presence in her life shifts her perspective and sets her on a course that could change the world.

This story is absolutely riveting. I can easily say it’s in the top 5 best books I’ve read in 2017. Johnson kicks off the new year with a bang with his heart-pounding, suspenseful thriller. We’re thrust into the action years after humanity has faced its downfall. We learn about the fall through Lynn’s memories and the memories of her family, learning about it in bits and pieces. This world that Johnson has built is both beautiful and terrifying. With so few people left and so much unknown, these characters face a daily struggle just to stay alive. In a cold world covered in snow it is both peaceful and dangerous. Outsiders are not trustworthy and everyone is suspicious. It makes for a very intense reading experience!

Lynn herself is a red-haired, firecracker of a woman. She’s tenacious, hardy, self-sufficient, independent, and determined–a great heroine for a great story. She’s learned to fight and to do what it takes to survive. She doesn’t stray towards violence, but she learns defend what is her’s and to protect those she loves by doing what needs to be done. She’s a woman grown, yes, but this is still a coming of age story where she makes the decision to leaver her family and its safety behind to make a way for herself. It’s a story of self-discovery as Lynn uncovers unfathomable secrets about her own past.

Such an excellent and worthwhile read! I’m so glad to have read such a fast-paced and thrilling story.

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Review: The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

33858905*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The End We Start From

Author: Megan Hunter

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

ISBN: 9780735235021

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family is forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z’s small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds. This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees. 

A sparse yet beautifully told story of a time when humanity is affected by a rapidly changing environment. Flood waters rise forcing people from their homes, separating families, and pitting human against human. Amidst the chaos, a baby is born–a promise of new life and a symbol of hope. While the world collapses around them, the narrator is propelled by instinct to protect and raise her child, Z. This story is frustrating at times because there isn’t a lot of contact. The book is actually much, much shorter than I expected it to be, but it really tells just the gist of the story. The need-to-know facts. The characters are all referred to as a letter, presumably an initial. This really gives the sense that the characters could be anyone at any time and any place. This tactic keeps the character purposefully vague. They are all the everyman. This is a telling of one story, but it is not a unique story–what I mean is although we get this short snapshot into the speaker’s life, her story could be that of any character in the book, thus they are all named with simply a letter.

This story is timely in it’s presentation of environmental disaster, sadly not a thing foreign to us in the real world. What it’s truly about though, is the resiliency of humanity. Our primary instinct is to fight for survival and to keep life going. Hunter’s tale shows how connections are lost and made, how we humans need one another, but sometimes love isn’t enough to keep us bound to each other. In her minimal writing, Hunter is honest in exposing human experiences in a time of catastrophic crisis.

I did only give this book three stars because although I understand why one might chose to write with such a sparse technic, I do find that this detracts from the power that a story can wield. This book could have been so much more. The potential is there and I was unsatisfied at the end, wanting more of a connection with both the characters and the story. Still, it is a beautiful piece and I’m glad to have read it.

Review: Jade City by Fonda Lee

34606064*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Jade City

Author: Fonda Lee

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

ISBN: 9780316440868

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion. Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation. When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

After a bit of a slow start, I found myself really enjoying Lee’s The Jade City. I’ll admit, I nearly put it aside once or twice, but I’m so, so glad that I persevered. It took me a while to adjust to the world and to the intricate politics that govern this book, but once I immersed myself, I found that I was swept up in this story. As this tale grew on me, I couldn’t help but get excited for how this world is going to develop in further books. Lee hints at the magic in this story, slowly allowing it to grow and expand as we learn more and more about the characters and their lives. Lee ruminates on the true power of jade throughout the course of this book, taking her time to really explore it’s extent. The reader discovers the true extent of jade’s power as the novel progresses–but I feel like there is so much more to learn in further books.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that Lee is not afraid of conflict and tough times. Her story is about war between two clans, but there is sometimes friction within the clans themselves. The twists throughout this book continuously caught me off guard. I was delighted to find that I couldn’t predict where the story was going to go. This doesn’t happen often and it made this book very enjoyable. We do get to know the No Peak clan very well. We see members struggle internally with one another, but also in some cases with themselves as they try to discover who they are and what they are meant to do with their lives. I can’t say that I connected with any one character in particular, however the world itself is quite complicated and intriguing. The clans have intricate political systems and we really get an intimate look at how the clan system and government interact. Lee goes into great detail in describing the structure and how the officials of each party negotiate and interact with one another. Generally I don’t enjoy books that get too much into the politics, but this story relies on the politics to create suspense and intensity and it does so in an incredibly interesting way.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Jade City. I would have liked to get to know the characters a bit more. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I have a thing for character development. I don’t often connect with a book if I don’t connect with a particular character, but in this case, Lee built an incredibly fascinating world with many twists and turns and I’m very excited to see how things come along in book 2.

Review: My Conversations with Canadians

34714191.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: My Conversations with Canadians

Author: Lee Maracle

Publisher: BookThug

Publication Date: September 12, 2017

ISBN: 9781771663588

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Harkening back to her first book tour at the age of 26 (for the autobiographical novel Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel), and touching down upon a multitude of experiences she’s had as a Canadian, a First Nations leader, a woman and mother and grandmother over the course of her life, Lee Maracle’s Conversations with Canadians presents a tour de force exploration into the writer’s own history and a re-imagining of the future of our nation. 
In this latest addition to BookThug’s Essais Series (edited by poet Julie Joosten), Maracle’s writing works to engage readers in thinking about the threads that keep Canadians tied together as a nation–and also, at times, threaten to pull us apart–so that the sense of sovereignty and nationhood that she feels may be understood and even embraced by Canadians.

Maracle’s My Conversations with Canadians is a thoughtful collection of essays on Maracle’s experience as a Sto:lo, a woman, a leader, a mother and grandmother throughout her life. Her writing seeks to provoke reflection, introspection, change, and dialogue. This brief yet powerful set of thirteen conversations demonstrates why Maracle is such a strong voice and a force for change in this country. She tackles issues of feminism, colonialism, the patriarchy, motherhood, birthright, and tradition.

I should preface this by saying that this is the first time I’ve read Maracle’s writing in depth. I have read singular essays of hers in university, and I’ve seen her speak a few times. But having not much knowledge of her past writings, in My Conversations, I think sometimes Maracle moves too quickly through her arguments. Throughout this collection she’ll present a thought or argument without going into too much detail. Certain selections like “Conversation 9: Divisions, constraints, and bindings” or “Conversation 11: How does colonialism work?” are so short, that I didn’t feel like I got the full effect of Maracle’s writing. She just gets going and the essay is over with. I would have liked to see further writing here to develop these selections further instead of quickly glossing over these topics. In contrast, other conversations dive right in and share Maracle’s personal anecdotes alongside in depth study and discussion. In many of her conversations she fully develops her arguments and dives into the details to get her message across.

Maracle balances humour with seriousness, effectively driving her points home and impressing upon the reader the gravity of her words. She gravely addresses issues, including her discussion of the residential school system and the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. Throughout this collection though, Maracle offers glimpses of her humour and lightheartedness, showing her personality alongside her message. Overall, she speaks her truth and her message to convey her experiences and stories in order to grab Canada’s attention.

Review: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

34389773*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Uncommon Type

Author: Tom Hanks

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

ISBN: 978110194615

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game–and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life.

As someone who doesn’t often read short story collections, I was pleasantly surprised by Hanks’ Uncommon Type. I don’t often go for fiction written by celebrities. They are usually highly publicized and are not always known for their strong prose. Hanks’ writing is strong and imaginative, which stands counter to everything I expected. I will admit, I was drawn in by the cover, but I was apprehensive at first about how this book would pan out. Without a doubt, I thoroughly enjoyed every single one of his stories. His writing is nostalgic and often reminisces back to a time passed. It’s a tribute to the analogue, especially the typewriter, which tugs at my heartstrings being a lover of typewriters, record players, the printed word, and so on. His stories have a touch of whimsy and are sometimes fantastical, but they and their characters also often portray reality and are relatable. Hanks’ writing is inviting and warm.

The stories aren’t too in depth, and could sometimes have been developed further. For this reason. I gave it 4 stars on good reads. But I think that the essentials are all there. The characters are endearing, the plots are charming and sometimes sad as well. Tom writes about the human experience. He confronts the past and the present, demonstrating the difference across time, but also the sameness of the human experience.

Overall, this book is well written and worth the read. For one who doesn’t love short story collections, I really enjoyed this book. I would definitely read more fiction from Hanks if he ever chooses to write more.