Seeing how I am spending most of my reading time with books aimed at younger children, and that I didn’t want to add them to my reading challenge, I decided to lower my reading challenge for this year. I also had in mind the reopening happening where I live, and my need, even as an introvert, to see some people at least more than I have in the last two years.
Who would have thought that an introvert would be excited to socialise… The things that have happened over the last two years because of the pandemic!
Review of ‘Will’, by Will Smith
I’ve been a big fan of every Will Smith movie I’ve seen, many of his songs, and, of course, of the TV show that made him a household name. So when this book came out, I hurried to get my hands on a copy. The voice is pretty much the same as that of Will Smith in any interview I’ve heard; the stories are varied and many. I wasn’t aware of the life of the actor when I was watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and it was interesting to read about what was happening in Will Smith’s life and comparing it to the place the show has in my life. And the behind-the-scenes glimpses were a fan’s dream, of course! It was also fascinating to read where he came from; and I have to admit that I felt keenly the desire, within the pages of this book, to be liked. At times, I felt like I was listening to an internal monologue of a perfectionist trying to convince himself that he is good enough, let alone an actor with the impact he has had. And it makes me sad to think that he isn’t aware of it, and that the child in him is still seeking that approval. But just like he wrote in the book, “Thank God we’re judged by our actions, not by our trauma-driven, inner outbursts.”
Review of ‘Within These Wicked Walls’, by Lauren Blackwood
Within These Wicked Walls is inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, in that the main character, Andromeda, is hired to clean the mansion of Magnus Rochester of all hauntings. From the perspective of a supernatural story, I really enjoyed Andromeda’s fight against the various ghosts and presences in the Rochester mansion. I also found the relationship between Andromeda and her informal, adoptive father very touching, and the exploration a touching and insightful one. The romance at the heart of the story was a little weak in my opinion; there was no reason, really, why the two characters fell in love, other than they had to. Then again, it would have distracted from the exploration of father-daughter relationships as well as from the haunting themselves, so I’m not sure a deeper exploration is actually needed. This is yet another book that I would not have picked myself, but I ended up loving. It seems that the team at Raincoast Books is starting to know my reading habits better than I am!
Review of ‘A Snake Falls to Earth’, by Darcie Little Badger—Must Read
So we all know that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But when I took this one out of the envelope it came in, I totally fell in love with both the cover and the dust jacket. Then I started reading it, and I fell in love with the story as well. Another great book sent to me by the Raincoast team that I wouldn’t have picked myself. And another one I will be adding to my permanent personal collection. It introduced me to Indigenous futurism, and I am so here for me. Author Darcie Little Badger “draws on traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure” to create two parallel worlds. In our world lives Nina, a clear-eyed optimistic teenager. And in the land of spirits and monsters lives Oli, a cottonmouth who can transmute into a human form. When Oli’s best friend gets sick, he has to cross into our world to save him. In some ways, the story, at its heart, is about the balance between the human world and the environment it lives in. But it comes packaged in an engrossing tale where the beauty of nature springs to life on every page with characters that will linger in your mind for a very long time.
Review of ‘Anna K: A Love Story’, by Jenny Lee
I had heard a lot about this book, so when I got my hands on a copy, I was quite eager to read it. The first thing I realised is that it is very explicit, which is something I don’t really enjoy in a book—so if you are like me, be ready to do some page skipping. I quickly understood it to be the kind of book that can give the wrong impression to readers unless it is consumed with care. Because while we are led to believe that it is a love story, it is more of a cautionary tale warning us of the limits, if not the dangers, of excess wealth and a life centered on catering to the demands of our lower nature. Written in a fluid and captivating manner, the character development is both subtle and brilliant; each layer unwrapped lays before the reader some surprising aspects that keep the story fresh. But under this beautiful writing about the seemingly perfect lives of the uber rich is a foray into the darker side of wealth. The relationships between the teenage characters and their parents made me quite sad, while their endless materialism and search for thrills made me angry at the thought of the millions of people struggling to make ends meet right here in North America, let alone around the world. One would think I would be envious, but except for the fact that I do wish I could be treated to a shopping spree to overhaul my closet postpartum (this mama’s body has changed drastically, y’all), I don’t envy their lives one little bit, which came as a surprise. Or perhaps it was the intention of the author all along? This sort of ambiguity makes Anna K a great contender for a book club.