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.

The Break by Marian Keyes

34511798*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Break

Author: Marian Keyes

Publisher: Penguin, Michael Joseph

Publication Date: September 7, 2017

ISBN: 9780718179724

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Amy’s husband Hugh isn’t really leaving her. At least, that’s what he promises. He is just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. For six-months Hugh will lose himself in south-east Asia, and there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . . It’s been a long time since Amy held a briefcase in one hand and a baby in the other. She never believed she’d have to go it alone again. She just has to hold the family together until Hugh comes back. But a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman? Because falling in love is easy. The hard part – the painful, joyous, maddening, beautiful part – is staying in love.

Marian Keyes was a huge part of my life as I moved out of the world of YA as a teenager and into the world of literary and historical fiction. I’m rarely ever a fan of chick lit writers. I couldn’t get on board with Sophie Kinsella, Emily Griffith, or Cecelia Ahern. But Marian Keyes always stood out to me. Perhaps it’s because her stories rarely take themselves seriously and are light-hearted and fun. Or perhaps it’s the reality of life mixed in British humour and sometimes ridiculous plot lines. Either way, Keyes is an excellent and witty writer who writes compelling characters.

In The Break, Amy’s marriage is at a crossroads. Her husband, her kind wonderful husband, experiences a mid-life crisis and takes off leaving Amy and her children behind. A break means putting the marriage on hold in every way. While apart they have no responsibilities to one another and are free to go and do as they like. At the end they are to come back and return to life as before…but Amy knows that things can never go back to how they were before.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the imperfection of each character. They are all real and they all make mistakes. Sometimes, even to them, life around them is unbelievable, but the story is grounded in characters who hurt and heal, who love and hate, who are lost and who find their way again. I really connected with a few characters in the book. Although there are a few heavy topics discussed such as love, infidelity, parenthood, family, abortion, reproductive rights, women’s rights, and so on, things are more digestible with Keyes intermittent humour and light hearted approach. The Break is funny as well as deep.

My only criticism was the size of my copy. It’s a 568 paperback which was difficult to tote around. Perhaps I’d prefer a hardback, but cracking the spin to read the middle pages broke my heart a little bit. There isn’t much to be done about it because the story is perfect as it is so the book length couldn’t be shortened, but if I’d had a choice, I think I’d prefer to read the paperback. Not much to complain about! 🙂

I hope you’ll all read this lovely story. It’s an excellent and quick read to pick up around the holidays.