[identity profile] ms-mmelissa.livejournal.com
I've been meaning to read this book since I first heard of it back in 2006, when it won the Giller beating out odds-on favourite De Niro's Game (which would go on to win the Booker). The reason it took so long for me to eventually get around to reading it was because it had two things against it: Bloodletting is a collection of short stories and everyone knows short story collections are a chore to plow through* and the stories were written by a doctor, who had set his stories in the medical community. The book sounded dreary and so I kept passing up chances to read it until finally, prompted by a desire to finish this challenge, and a second personal challenge to try and read all the Giller winners, I picked up the book.

Bloodletting is a bit unusual in that it is a short story cycle: the short stories are all loosely linked by four doctors, introduced in the first two stories: Fitz, Ming, Sri and Cheng. 

There is something here for everyone though the opening story How to Get into Medical School Part I was easily my favourite. How to opens with two University of Ottawa students struggling through finals. Ming and Fitz have been study partners, but they both feel their relationship deepening into something more. Ming is quick to put a stop to this, sighting a dedication to getting into medical school as a cause, though she is also put off by the fact that Fitz is white, something her Chinese family would never approve of.  Lam does a brilliant job of unfolding the delicate dance between Ming, who is all sensibility, and Fitz who is all sense as they try to deny their attraction at the same time as they give in to it. The story works completely on its own, but there is a great follow up How to Get into Medical School Part II, which is equally worth reading. 

However Lam has greater ambitions than to simply follow the personal dramas of his collection of doctors. As the book branches out the doctors become secondary characters and the patients begin to take over although this is brilliantly reversed as the book draws to a close as in later stories the doctors contract diseases themselves, slipping into the position of patient as they weaken and eventually die.

A gritty, interesting work, and a peak at the vulnerability of doctors who snap at patients, who go through the motions, who sometimes barely understand it is that they are doing.

*Sarcasm for all the times I have been told this. Once I started actually reading short story collections I realized I loved them, and the people who denounce them are usually people who have never read one in their life.
[identity profile] ms-mmelissa.livejournal.com
Through Black Spruce was the 2008 winner of the Giller award (Canada's top literary prize for those not in the know). I've only read a handful of the winners and nominees over the years, but Through Black Spruce easily tops my list as my favourite of those I've read.

In Moosonee, Ontario a middle aged man lies in a coma. His name is Will Bird and over the course of the novel he narrates the events of the past year of his life, slowly building up to the event that led to his coma. While he is in a coma his niece Annie Bird talks to him, telling him about the past year of her life, when she left the town she had lived in all her life in order to travel to Toronto, Montreal and New York in an attempt to track down her missing model sister Suzanne who ran off two years ago with her drug-dealing boyfriend Gus.

The novel alternates between Will and Annie's voices and it's a testament to Boyden's strength as a writer that each story is equally compelling. There was no sense of disappointment when a new chapter began and Will's story ended and Annie's story continued or vice versa. The missing Suzanne is also a compelling character, her abscence spurring on Annie's quest and having devastating consequences for Will. Suzanne is what weaves these two stories together despite the fact that we never "see" her within the novel.

There is also a lot of detail about Cree life and what it means to keep the traditions alive in an increasingly modern world. Will and especially Annie represent a bridge between traditional Cree culture and Western culture. Boyden is able to eloquently capture the negotiation between modern and traditional and the compromises that his characters must make in order to feel comfortable within themselves are woven elegantly into the story. 

FYI: Boyden wrote this as a loose sequel to his first novel Three Day Road (Will is the son of the main character of Three Day Road) and has announced that he intends to write a third book to form a trilogy.
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (Default)
[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
1. Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai
2. Mr. Muo's Traveling Couch by Dai Sijie (translated by Ina Rilke; white)
3. Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup
4. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley
5. The Circle of Reason by Amitav Ghosh

Read more... )

tags: a: selvadurai shyam, a: dai sijie, w-t: rilke ina, a: swarup vikas, a: o'malley bryan lee, a: ghosh amitav, chinese, french, indian, canadian, sri lankan, novel, fiction, graphic novel, young adult, china, india, toronto, sri lanka, glbt, mysteryr
[identity profile] stakebait.livejournal.com

19. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami

cut for spoilers )
 

20. Red Spider, White Web by Misha

Read more... )

21.    The Kappa Child by Hiromi Goto

Read more... )
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
 #28.  Skim, Mariko Tamaki (writing) and Jillian Tamaki (art)
2008, Groundwood Books

Another book that I found through reviews on this comm.   (Thanks again to all of you: you keep leading me to wonderful books.)

I enjoyed the book for many of the same reasons others did, especially those mentioned by [livejournal.com profile] kyuuketsukirui[livejournal.com profile] sanguinity and [Bad username or unknown identity: puritybrown .]   As regards the art style, I also loved, as someone else mentioned, that it clearly evokes Japanese aesthetics and the Japanese artistic tradition... but the influences it draws on are not manga.  There's something about that, especially given the often troubling aspects of gender representation in mainstream manga (I'm thinking of exaggerated gender dimorphism, neoteny, and hypersexualization), that I found profoundly refreshing and even kind of inspiring.

Very highly recommended.  I'm putting Mariko Tamaki's other graphic work, Emiko Superstar, on my to-read list, and I'd love to see other work from Jillian Tamaki.  (Actually... let's see.  Her website is here, there's an interesting illustrated interview with her here, and I see mention of a 2006 book called Gilded Lilies.  Has anyone read it?)

[Tags I would add if I could: spirituality (or: religion/spirituality), high school]

Hey, by the way: [Bad username or unknown identity: puritybrown ,]did you ever send the Tamakis that fan letter?

chomiji: An artists' palette with paints of many human skin colors. Caption: Create a world without racism (IBARW - palette)
[personal profile] chomiji

Hamza Senesert was once a contender, a creative grad student with a talent for writing. Now he washes dishes in a trendy "fun" restaurant. His best friend Yehat Gerbles is in a similar state of career petrification: he works as a clerk in a video store, even though he's a (mostly) self-taught engineering wizard. Together, they share a house in a vibrant multi-ethinic neighborhood of Edmonton (Canada) called Kush, where they are the Coyote Kings, well-liked operators of a camp/afterschool activity center for the neighborhood kids and connoisseurs of science fiction, comics, and role-playing games.

Their weirdly pleasant world (weirdly, considering their job situations and Hamza's writer's block and broken heart) becomes a lot more weird and much, much less pleasant when Hamza meets and falls for a truly impressive woman of mystery named Sherem. All at once, these endearingly geeky lifelong buddies are mixed up with comic book-type villains who are all too real and deadly, strangely seductive drugs, and bizarrely horrific cults.

I really enjoyed this book, which plays right into my love of buddy stories and generalized geekdom. I will note that Faust is in love with language, and writes like it: this is in no way a straightforward narrative (indeed, it begins with an epilogue). It also includes several very gruesome, violent scenes, and Sherem is the only female character with more than a walk-on part.

Other Reviews of This in 50books_poc:
by littlebutfierce
by oddmonster
by seekingferret
by wordsofastory





[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
23. Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, Skim

This is a graphic novel about Skim, a Japanese-Canadian teenage girl dealing with her parents' divorce, her rough relationship with her best friend, the suicide of another student, learning about Wicca, and oh, yeah, falling in love with her female teacher.

A lot of other people have reviewed this book, and I don't really have much to add. The art was gorgeous, plain black and white lines that went from sparse to lush. The story-telling is excellent, particularly in its use of silence, or understatement, to capture emotion. And personally, I really identified with Skim's interest in Wicca; I was totally that teenage girl.

Overall, a really lovely, quiet book, though one that didn't involve me too emotionally.




24. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

I read this back in January and forgot to review it, so I will try to remember what I can. This is a nonfiction pop book about first impressions- why we get them, how they form, how they affect our thinking, if they're right, etc. It's an interesting topic. Gladwell's careful to look at both sides of the argument: when subconscious reactions are good, because there's not enough time to think a question through; and when they can be very, very bad- he examines the case of Amadou Diallo, a black unarmed man who was fatally shot by police officers.

Overall, this was a fun, informative book. I gulped it down in one sitting over an afternoon, so it's not a deep thought book, but one I enjoyed reading.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
18. Minister Faust, The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad

This was a wickedly fun book. Hamza and Yehat are best friends living in Edmonton, Canada, who get involved in a insanely complicated plot involving drug dealers, mystical relics, magical powers, cannibalism, Ancient Egypt, and the forces of good and evil themselves. Of course. Every character in this book is a geek of one sort or another, and the writing is full of references to Star Wars, Star Trek, Stephen King, Watchmen, D + D, and so on. The characters also often mention music, and the descriptions were so good as to make me want to go and and find the stuff mentioned. One of the things I really liked about this book was that most of the characters were politically aware, without the plot necessarily focusing on that aspect. The way it made it seem totally normal for people to discuss feminism, capitalism, racism, the War in Iraq, organic food, and so on without it being a Big Deal or a sign that This Character Is Special was really appreciated.

But the absolute best thing about this book is writing. The style at times approaches lyrics, with the rhythm and beat of the words almost demanding you read some passages out loud. At other times, it's all about the puns and clever wordplay. There's just an amazing use of language in this book. One of the ways it most reveals itself is in the narration: there are about eleven different narrators in this book, and although the chapters aren't labeled with who is speaking or any other obvious clue, it's always easy to tell who the current narrator is. Minister Faust manages to have eleven distinct voices, and that's really impressive.

Anyway. An incredibly fun book. Also, the author has a a blog, which is pretty interesting reading as well.
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (books)
[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
Description
The plot of the novel is a little tricky to describe because it involves different groups of people whose lives and stories intersect. There's a group of four Indians who stay at an American asylum most of the time but escape periodically throughout the last hundred years or so to fix the world, to wreak havoc in the form of natural disasters and to tell various stories (or the same story) of how the world began along with Coyote and an unnamed first-person character and occasional narrator. Interspersed are the stories of members of a Native American family from Alberta and the ways they are "searching for the middle ground between Native American tradition and the modern world" (back cover).

My Impressions
What struck me first was the initial first person narrative style and how it evokes oral storytelling and then the juxtaposition of the more familiar (to me) third person omniscient narration. From this, I felt I was missing subtext in getting used to the different rhythm. There were also references to characters and swaths of history and culture, eg how Indians/Native Americans are perceived in western Canada, that I was only getting the gist of. I think the way I read it also affected how I perceived the novel because in reading it while I was sitting in waiting rooms, on the subway train, etc. and over the course of a couple of weeks, I was losing track of some of the happenings. I definitely have to reread to fully absorb. This was a book full of ideas and I need to get my head around them. This book was often confusing because I wasn't sure if we were meant to treat it as a "realistic" scenario or as a surreal experience especially when it felt like the "real world" and the myth/legend were combining. The characters were interesting to read about but certain ones felt like ciphers and I wanted to know more about their motivations. I think the four old Indians and Coyote were supposed to be inscrutable but I wanted to know about that narrator. I really liked the female characters in this story. They were strong and seemed more level-headed than their male counterparts. I'd recommend the book but it's hard to decide if I liked it.


[identity profile] seekingferret.livejournal.com
13) Warchild is the second Karin Lowachee novel I've read, after Burndive, which I have already reviewed here. Warchild is earlier both publication date-wise and chronologically, but having read both, I think the order I accidentally ended up with is the superior order. Burndive is more interesting if you don't know where Jos Musey's loyalties lie. I suggest you read Burndive first.

I would love Warchild alone for having an alien race with multiple nations and multiple cultures, and yet having that not be the focus of the story. If the novel also has a fascinating set of characters, exciting space adventures, and a complicated and morally murky neo-space opera plot, those are just bonuses.

Jos Musey is your prototypical 'survivor'. Abducted off the merchant ship he lived on with his parents by a cruel and rapacious pirate captain, he manages to escape... into the hands of the feared striviirc-na. And he passes from their alien stronghold to serve as a soljet aboard merciless Hub captain Cairo Azarcon's flagship, Macedon. Throughout, his loyalties blur as he quests for someone or something that deserves those loyalties. Nobody is consistently good. Eventually, Jos must learn that the point of putting your trust in someone is to let them know that even if they let you down, you'll still trust them. It is a difficult lesson. Trust is hard.

Lowachee has a lot of well-executed language play. The book opens in 2nd person narration, a gimmick that works surprisingly well at inserting the reader into the shoes of the young Jos, and a gimmick that Lowachee knows to turn off before it becomes annoying.

Linguistics nerds will love the section where Jos is taught a language of the striviirc-na (one of several! glee!). Lowachee takes care to create an interesting and self-consistent language and uses it effectively throughout the whole novel.

And word play, too, helps create the sense of immersion in the universe, as when we find that Macedon's crest features Alexander the Great. Those sorts of little consistencies make Warchild a great place to get lost in another world.
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (books)
[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
Product Description (from publisher)
Acclaimed author Thomas King is in fabulous, fantastical form in this bestselling short story collection. From the surreal migrations of the title story to the misadventures of Coyote in the modern world and the chaos of a baby’s unexpected arrival by airmail, King’s tales are deft, hilarious and provocative. A National Post and Quill & Quire bestseller, and an Amazon.ca Top Pick for 2005, A Short History of Indians in Canada is a comic tour de force.

Cut for potential spoilers )
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson
1998

Well, I see that Nalo Hopkinson is very popular here.  I have had several of her books on my to-read list for years, so I began with this one.

My feelings about the book are mixed -- it definitely shows many of the signs of a first novel, including some very clumsily worded passages, and a lot of filtering-type language ("Ti-Jeanne thought... Ti-Jeanne felt... Ti-Jeanne heard XX say..."), as well as some info-dumping ("Ti-Jeanne knew...")  But the setting, and the cultural and political backdrop, are so new and so vibrant -- fully felt, deeply realized and believed in -- that the book has some very strong bones, despite the occasional infelicities.  

more... )

Anyway.  An interesting book, and I will look forward to seeing how Hopkinson's style develops as she progresses in her career.  Two and a half or three stars out of five, I think: two or two and a half for execution and technique, and three and a half for power and potential.

(ETA: Oh!  And I am also going to read Derek Walcott's "Ti-Jean and His Brothers," which ought to shed further light.)
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (Scott Pilgrim #5), Bryan Lee O'Malley
2009, Oni Press

Oh, man, you've got to love Scott Pilgrim!  This is totally another of those books I was going to have read anyway, but what the hey, they count too.  (They do, right?  They've got to.)

Since this is the fifth installment of a planned-6-volume series, it's hard to know how to give it a review in a way that will make sense to people who don't follow it.  Allow me to point out, though, that everyone probably should try reading it, and if you don't like it that's fine.  I mean, I don't usually like hip stuff either.  I'm too old and cranky for that.  But the series is so funny and odd, and the graphisme (sorry) simultaneously so minimalist and so creative, that it's really hard not to enjoy it.  Even though I know I probably wouldn't like any of these people in real life.  (Except Wallace Wells, maybe, and that's a weird thought all by itself.)

The series' protagonist is the eponymous Scott Pilgrim, who is 23 at the story's outset -- he turns 24 in the latest volume (NO PEOPLE THAT IS NOT A SPOILER) -- and is friendly, cute, charming, charismatic, super white, and also immature and really pretty dumb.  But he has supportive parents and some interesting friends, and in the first book he falls for a much more mature and interesting (and American!) girl named Ramona Flowers, who is a subspace delivery person for Amazon.ca, and also Scott plays in a band, but Ramona has seven evil exes who Scott will have to battle if he wants to be able to date her, but fortunately that shouldn't be too much of a problem because... well, I guess you have to read Book 1 to the end to find out why.  Also, Scott is dating a high schooler named Knives Chau, and lives with his gay best friend and sugar daddy Wallace Wells (but they don't sleep together (even though they sleep together)).  But all things change.

Oh!  And it's all in Toronto!

Book Five has lots more of our favorite characters, an ever-more-developed and assured graphisme, more Asian people, and robots.  And I won't give anything beyond that away.  Four out of five stars.  I continue to groove on this series.

(One more question for the fans out there: Was I wrong in believing Wallace Wells is Asian?  Or half-Asian, anyway?  Because I read they've cast Kieran Culkin as him in the movie, and now I'm just baffled.)
[identity profile] floriatosca.livejournal.com
1. The Arab Table by May S. Bsisu
I'm a big fan of cookbooks, because the chattier ones tend to give a lot of cultural context along with the recipes. This book definitely counts as one of the chattier ones. There's an introductory anecdote to go with each recipe, as well as sections on subjects like the culinary traditions of different parts of the Arab world and holiday customs (including a guide to Ramadan etiquette for non-Muslims). The recipes seemed pretty accessible to me, although not all of the ingredients are stuff you can find at your nearest supermarket or even your nearest internationally-leaning health food store (Bsisu does give mail-order sources in the back of the book), and the book includes some vegetarian recipes, which I appreciated.

2. Brown Girl In the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
This was an interesting read, and very different from my previous experiences with urban fantasy (which leaned much more towards elves than orishas.) I really liked the world building in this. Post-apocalyptic Toronto felt like a real, plausible community and not just a place for the plot to happen. The story's supernatural aspects are grounded in Caribbean spirituality, which was an interesting change from the more European or Christian influenced cosmologies of a lot of the fantasy novels I've read. This book also got me interested in "Ti-Jean and His Brothers," which Hopkinson references in her author's notes.
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (books)
[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
I read The Withdrawal Method a while back but forgot to post about it. I remembered when I finished When She Was Queen because they're both collections of short stories and also happen to have Indian-Canadian authors although the content and style of both are very different.

Cut for length and possible spoilers )


[identity profile] seekingferret.livejournal.com
Several other people have read Minister Faust's The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad for this community, so I need to figure out how to say something different from them.

Last month, I finished reading David Copperfield. That's the sort of gigantic book that dominates the way you look at reading for a long time afterward. My writing has taken on Dickensian undertones. And in trying to make sense of The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad, I found myself returning again and again to David's fundamental question: Whether I am the hero of my own story.

That problem is Hamza Senesert's in a nutshell. Along with his fellow Coyote King Yehat, Hamza works a low-paying menial job and quests after fulfillment and entertainment. Faust makes it clear that the pair are far too good for the position they're in, but what the Coyote Kings lack is not success, but agency. Their movement through life is not in their own control, and they cannot figure out how to seize control. It's the problem of David earlier in David Copperfield, too.

The process of discovery involves strange pan-global magical traditions, which isn't exactly my cup of tea, but Faust makes the journey lots of fun. He gives you a variety of unique viewpoint characters and gives them each a powerful voice.

Hamza and Yehat are big SF nerds, with Hamza more a media guy, loving Star Trek and Babylon 5, while Yehat glories in the classic hard SF writers. But they're not just lone nerds. Other characters might have a quiet passion for 50s disaster movies, or even just a barely hidden disdain for the Star Wars movies they watched as children. But as things go crazy, everyone reaches into that store of knowledge for how to cope. It's an incredibly simple way to make an SF novel feel way more realistic. I've long wondered why more writers don't use it

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