[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.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
[personal profile] zeborah
This is a young adult novel, fiction set in the real town of Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves. Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton. The book starts with him telling about his ordinary life of school, chores, fishing, and getting in trouble with his friends. As the story progresses it keeps its sense of humour but shows us more and longer glimpses of the scars that slavery has left and is still leaving on his family and neighbours.

I can't really talk sensibly about it more than to recommend it, along with a box of tissues if you're what his mother would call "fragile". :-)

SchoolWAX TV has a Meet the Author interview with Christopher Paul Curtis.
[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?

[identity profile] livii.livejournal.com
5) Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King: I don't think I can adequately describe in a short review how much I loved this book. Suffice to say, I loved this book to pieces and if I'm not already the last person to read it, you should all read it too. King does an amazing job of weaving the fantastical into a modern day setting, and playing with various Aboriginal themes and making everything he does feel fresh and new, despite being rooted in a lot of history. The large cast of characters all pop, and their stories are nicely revealed a little bit at at time, in a clever, comic way. It's very funny while also being thoughtful and occasionally uncomfortable, has some great reflections on Canadian identity, and the pages absolutely fly by. Highly recommended.
[identity profile] chipmunk-planet.livejournal.com
Hamza and Yehat are ultimately geeky black college-educated roommates in Edmonton, Canada, best friends since grade school, who run day camps for the kids in their neighborhood and are two all-around nice guys. But they're what you might call underachievers: Hamza's a dish-washer, Yehat works at the local movie rental store. But they're the Coyote Kings, and everyone knows it.

Things start to go awry for our two heroes when Hamza meets (and falls head over heels for) the beautiful, mysterious and world-traveled Sherem, who's involved in a situation involving bizarre drugs, weird superpowers, 7000-year old plots, and the possible End Of Life As We Know It.

This book is surreal, quirky (each POV character has their own D&D-style character sheet!) and sometimes difficult to follow, as it's not always clear in whose POV you're reading. Also, the author uses phonetic spelling for some of the characters which I also found difficult to follow. But it's fast-paced and a lot of fun, as well as laugh out loud funny in places.

I LOVED the characterization; I think that was the strongest part of the story. The author did a good job of making sure none of the characters were cut-outs. And how can you not like main characters who quote Star Wars and argue over Star Trek plots? :D

Go read it!
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[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

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[personal profile] oyceter
I grabbed these from the bibliography of Kim Anderson's A Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood (2000). Anderson is Cree/Métis. I took all the books with Native authors or co-authors, including ones with white editors that seemed to be majority-Native authors. For books with Native co-authors, I didn't exclude ones in which the Native co-authors are in the minority (ex. 2 non-Native authors, 1 Native) because I thought people could still use it to look up other books by the Native co-author. There are other women of color authors also in the bibliography, but I excluded them to keep the focus on Native authors.

Giant list of books )
[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] puritybrown.livejournal.com
11: Scott Pilgrim Vs The Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Graphic novel; number five in the Scott Pilgrim series. I wrote this up on my comics blog.

12: Village of Stone by Xiaolu Guo

An earlier work by the author of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers, which I adored. This is a very different kind of novel: short, stark and painful, though ultimately optimistic. The protagonist, Coral, remembers her early life in a remote fishing village: raised by her grandparents in the absence of her parents, she was left to her own devices a great deal, and suffered terrible sexual abuse at a young age. The harshness of life in the Village of Stone is expertly portrayed, as is the effect all of that suffering has on Coral herself. Coral is a survivor; she's strong; but she's wounded, and gives the impression of not wanting to feel too much or think too deeply, lest she jar the wounded places inside her.

The style is rather different from A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers, probably because this novel was originally written in Chinese and translated by Cindy Carter, but also, I think, because the subject matter is different and requires a sparser, more pared-back style. It's difficult to read sometimes because the events described are so unpleasant, but an excellent novel and well worth the effort.

(I've found this interview with Guo about the novel. Hey, she makes films too! That's something to look out for [livejournal.com profile] 12films_poc.)
[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
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] anitabuchan.livejournal.com
8. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

This has already been reviewed several times, so I doubt I'm going to say anything new here. Overall, I liked this book a lot, and have added other books by Hopkinson to my wishlist. It wasn't perfect. Sometimes the writing was a bit clumsy, and at times I felt it was a bit slow moving. There was a lot of detail and description, which was great because it established this fascinating and original future world, but I felt it also slowed the pace a little. I loved that this was different - not based on European mythologies, like most fantasies are. I also thought the dialogue was very well written, and the big finish was perfect.

9. Sunday You Learn How To Box by Bil Wright

This has also been reviewed here before. It's set in 1968, and centres on a 14 year old boy, Louis Bowman, who lives with his mother and stepfather in a housing project.

It is a very good novel. The writing style is great, and it tackles many issues I'm interested in - Louis is gay, suffers from depression, and really doesn't fit in. The scene in which he went to a party and stood pretending he was helping the DJ instead of socialising felt painfully real. The characters were complex and real. Louis' mother let his stepfather abuse him - encouraged it, even - but was also shown to be a woman with her own ambitions, struggling to do her best to improve her life. Ray Anthony, the local 'hoodlum' Louis gets a crush on, defies stereotypes to act as a kind of protecter to Louis, and the friendship that grows between the two is very sweet.

It did take me a while to get into this. Louis is a character I found difficult to like, although that changed as the book went on. To be honest, I didn't much like the beginning - it starts with a very dramatic event, then skips back several months, which is something I'm never a fan of. But the ending was beautiful and sweet, and left me with a happy glow.
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

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.)


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