This is the end of my first month of book blogging already! So much happened already in so little time! When I launched Maple Books, I had three features in mind: the reviews, the picture of the month and the SFF World Tour. I managed to have them all ready (yeah!) and I also couldn’t resist joining the weekly Thursday Thoughts, a feature by Ok, let’s Read.
Books reviewed this month
Science-Fiction&Fantasy World Tour: I stopped over in France with Porteurs d’âmes (français).
Other novels I read this month
These are the books I read this month but about which I didn’t write a full review on the blog because they’re not Canadian or they don’t fit into the Science-Fiction or Fantasy genres. I still wanted to share about those, so here you go:
The Summer I Wasn’t Me, by Jessica Verdi
The Summer I Wasn’t Me was a really nice read: the characters are really likeable, the story triggers a lot of compassion and will probably manage to raise a lot of awareness too. It was an easy and fast read. The only reason it didn’t make it beyond 3 stars for me is that I started to get a bit bored after two-thirds of the book. Not that nothing happens, but it is just too predictable. I also found that it looked too much like a faery tale: there are clearly bad guys, clearly good guys, and eventually everything wraps up in a happy way. Considering the issue is complex – basically homophobia in society and how it affects homosexual people living in it – I thought it deserves a bit more nuances than this, so it would induce more reflection from the reader.
Mort-Terrain de BIZ
Mort-Terrain suit le parcours d’un jeune médecin s’exilant en pleine campagne pour fuir le souvenir d’un amour brisé. A Mort-Terrain, un village minuscule miné par la pauvreté, il rencontre une société recroquevillée sur elle-même, très solidaire. A sa lisière, une réserve indienne. Très vite, Julien se rend compte que la cohabitation est pour le moins précaire: les Morterrons sont pétris de racisme alors que les Algonquins ne veulent rien entendre des “Blancs”. Mort-Terrain est un roman engagé qui expose les problèmes environnementaux et sociaux du Québec rural. Alors que Julien, le protagoniste, essaie de rester neutre, il comprend vite que toutes les opinions sont exacerbées à Mort-Terrain. Il faut choisir son camp: “Blancs” ou “Indiens”. Lorsqu’un projet de mine est annoncé, le fond du problème apparaît: pour les Blancs, comment refuser du travail alors que les emplois manquent cruellement et que les villageois élèvent leurs enfants dans la misère? Pour les Algonquins, comment accepter un projet monstrueux qui finira de détruire le lac, fera fuir le gibier et menace la réserve d’expulsion pour la seconde fois en un siècle? Biz donne voix aux deux parties tout en nous racontant une histoire engageante et émouvante. Une très belle lecture, fascinante et enrichissante.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
To be honest, I only grabbed Divergent from the library because I saw the book everywhere, got curious and saw that it was well rated on Goodreads. I’m glad I did it, because I really enjoyed this novel. Sure, it certainly feels “young”, an odd cross between Harry Potter (especially for the initiation and faction part) and the Hunger Games (for the dystopian world and the “fight for your life”-part). I wouldn’t say it’s very original and it does use every well-known tropes of action/adventure stories but… it is extremely entertaining. I couldn’t put the book down and I finished it the next day I started it. The main character is really likeable and I rapidly empathized with her. There is of course something very universal with the fear of being different and/or rejected from a group. I found Divergent was a good occasion to reflect about stereotypes in our society, how – seeing these stereotypes – some people might try to stick to it, only to find that they can’t manage to fit the cliché. The ending is a cliffhanger though… don’t expect a really good conclusion to everything at the end of Divergent. Nonetheless it’s a really good start to the series.
Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight
I really got caught into Reconstructing Amelia, so much that I would pick up the book each time I had a few seconds to read as many pages as I could. There is a lot going on in this novel and it is hard to say if the book is more about Amelia, this teenager who fell to her death from her school’s roof, or about Kate, her mother, who struggles as a single parent since she decided to have Amelia. I was moved, especially by Amelia. The loneliness, the bullying, the being-different, the feeling-trapped. She was a teenager who really tried hard to be a good person and whose environment kept making her feel extremely bad. I would think most people, having gone through adolescence, would sympathize with her. I liked the way Reconstructing Amelia unfolded, switching point of view between mother and daughter. I preferred the mother’s side of the story because Amelia’s language could be sometimes slightly annoying (I didn’t know it was possible to cram so many “totally” into just one page!) and because I found the investigation was more exciting than the details of high school drama (and evil youngsters). I didn’t give it 5 stars because at some point it did feel over the top and screamed “This is a work of fiction!” in your face. I found it interesting that several unrelated issues came together to create a big tragedy but some elements were too farfetched. Too much bad luck, to many coincidences, too many strange behaviours, and too many bad choices… Away from this, I really enjoyed Reconstructing Amelia, it’s a great read.
Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
I had a really hard time finishing this book. Up to two thirds of the book, I couldn’t make myself interested in the world and the main character. The first thing that put me off is the very, very cold tone of the narration. It is written as a scientific report and really well succeeds in making you feel cut off from whatever is happening; I couldn’t connect with the main character or engage in any way in the story. Second, I found everyone dislikable, and I didn’t really understand this. From the very start, all the members of the expedition are very defiant towards each other. They dont’ trust each other, they often snap at each other. Well, why not, people don’t have to always be buddies, but it really lacked a reason WHY. Maybe people are scared? Maybe things happened before the beginning of the expedition? You don’t know. So I just kind of found myself in the middle of a bunch of very unpleasant people, for no reason. Third, to my eyes, most of the book was uneventful. I did feel a situation slowly building up, but it didn’t really make sense. Right at the beginning, the expedition finds a building that is not on their map. Some want to call it a “Tower”, some a “Tunnel”. The disagreement, apparently, is important, but I couldn’t understand why. It just felt everyone was on edge for no reason, I simply didn’t feel any danger. Just people acting overly scared. On the other hand, the last quarter of the book was much, much better. For example, when the main character talks about how the expedition fits in her life, how she relates to “Area X” as a biologist and an ecosystem specialist, when the danger becomes more apparent, and when “Area X” becomes freaky for good. Then an eerie atmosphere raises, Area X becomes a fascinating place and you want to stay longer with its “magic”. But this came really too late for me, and most of the reading was unpleasant for me, so I only gave it 2 stars.