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Friday, November 4, 2022

Namwayut

I've been trying to read a book for Canada's National Day of Reconciliation in an effort to educate myself on topics pertinent to the day. This year I found the perfect book at work: Namwayut: A Pathway to Reconciliation by Chief Robert Joseph. It took me a bit of a long time to read it (I started it on October 5th, a few days after the National Day of Truth of Reconciliation, and finished it today, November 4th). While Chief Joseph's writing is very engaging and overall enjoyable, he does share some of his history with the residential schools and the racism he encountered, making this a more difficult read that takes some time. I loved how his overall tone is very hopeful for the future - he shows how far Canada has already come on our path towards reconciliation. I do hope to one day reread Namwayut - it is the kind of book that I feel I will get more out of with subsequent reads. It's also the kind of book that is worth rereading, much like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for the hope and incredible spirit of the author.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Magical Boy: Volume 2


 After a several month wait, Magical Boy: Volume 2 was finally released!  I was very excited to see it - I couldn't wait to see how the story ended!

Magical Boy: Volume 2 starts off where Volume 1 ended: the third gate is open!  But all is not lost - Walnut tells Max and company that they have a chance to close the gates still.  Unfortunately, Max's mom starts really freaking out on him for going against the family's traditional magical girl heritage, blaming that for the opening of the third gate.  

Max isn't the only one dealing with disapproving parents.  Pyper's family hauls her into church where she is publicly disowned for admitting her truth.  And Sean has to deal with his own father thinking he isn't good enough.  But with the demons feeding off negative emotions to bring their leader through the gate, all this hate and sadness is definitely working against our heroes!

Once again, I enjoyed Magical Boy.  The story was brought to a satisfying conclusion and I enjoyed learning more about our heroes!  I look forward to reading future releases from The Kao. :)

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Poppy War


 My mom and I went shopping earlier this month, and I bought a few books that sounded really good.  The first one was The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang.

The Poppy War tells the story of Rin, a war-orphan who has set her sights on attending Sinegard, her country's best military academy.  After acing the entrance test, she quickly discovers that getting in was the easy part - remaining at Sinegard will be more of a challenge, especially when the other students and some of the teachers do not believe she belongs.

I was fully on board with The Poppy War through this beginning part.  I thought it was really interesting being along with Rin's struggles and fight to remain there, how she accidentally opened herself up to a God, and ended up pledging Lore after her first year, rather than Strategy like she planned.  I loved her quirky teacher, Jiang, and really enjoyed their interactions as he imparted his wisdom to her in his unique way.

But then parts 2 and 3 of the book happened.  Rin's country, Nikara, has long been threatened by the Federation of Mugen, a neighbouring island nation that was hellbent on conquering Nikara.  When war breaks out, Rin and her classmates quickly find themselves drafted into the army.  Rin is given to the Cike, a small division made up entirely of shamans (people connected to the gods).  

These sections of the book get progressively more and more difficult to read.  Rin's commander seems to slip more and more into madness from his god, while also under tremendous pressure to succeed.  He is angered that Rin isn't calling the Phoenix (both their God), despite her having done so before. He ends up hitting her in a very uncomfortable scene, which makes her call forth the fire; he then remarks "So that's what it takes."  This is made all the more uncomfortable because Rin seemed to have feelings for him.

But that didn't prepare me for the massacre of Golyn Niis (Chapter 21).  I had no idea it was coming.  I've since read that it is based off of a historical event where the Japanese massacred a Chinese city in much the same way.  

After getting through that chapter, I honestly thought I was going to stop reading.  But the book has good reviews, so I hoped it would get better.  Besides, I had already made it through about 400 out of 500 pages.  So I decided to persevere.

Unfortunately, while not as rough as that one chapter, I had a very hard time with the remainder of the book.  Along with the very uncomfortable situations that Rin found herself in, I also could not longer connect with her as a character.  She made some very terrible choices at the end of the book that I did not like reading about.  

In the end, I found that The Poppy War was not the book for me.  I will not be reading the rest of the trilogy.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Warriors: Fire and Ice


 I finished Warriors Books 2: Fire and Ice the other day.  Overall I found the book okay - I didn't like it as much as the first one though.

Fire and Ice picks up right after Into the Wild. Fireheart and Graystripe are warriors now, and just finished their vigils.  They are then sent on their first warrior mission: to bring WindClan back after they were driven off by ShadowClan.  

This....happened a lot easier and quicker than I thought it would.  They picked up the trail fairly quickly, and basically brought everyone back without incident.  But on their way back to ThunderClan, they returned through RiverClan territory because it was a shorter route, and managed to get into a fight.  A ThunderClan patrol headed by Tigerclaw came to their rescue, but in the scuffle, a RiverClan warrior fell into the river and drowned.  Everyone said there would be consequences from that, but the consequences never really materialized during the book, so I'm not really sure what will happen with that.

In the wake of those events, Bluestar declares they need to train more warriors, so both Fireheart and Graystripe are given new apprentices.  While training their new apprentices, Graystripe encounters a she-cat from RiverClan whom he falls in love with.  And with Graystripe being distracted and unavailable for Fireheart (and even for Graystripe's own apprentice), Fireheart finds himself spending more and more time back at the Two-Leg place with his sister (who brings her firstborn son to Fireheart to train as a Warrior, too).  

Fire and Ice deals primarily with issues of fitting in, and loyalty.  As a former kittypet, Fireheart feels he doesn't fit in with the others (some of which still bring up his kittypet roots), and doesn't have a shared history and culture with them.  This is made even worse when he and Graystripe start scrapping because Fireheart is worried about (and uncomfortable covering for) him during his affair with the RiverClan cat.

While these are interesting topics (and important for kids to think about - these are children's books, afterall), I felt that the execution wasn't very good.  The book felt like it was written mainly in a telling fashion, and so I had a really hard time picturing anything.  It also kind of moved abruptly - something would happen, and suddenly it was months later.  

So this definitely wasn't my favourite book.  But I am hopeful that the next book, Forest of Secrets, will be better!

Monday, August 22, 2022

Warriors: Into the Wild


A while ago, a friend of mine got me the first five Warriors books by Erin Hunter. After finishing The Unfamiliar Garden, I wanted to read something totally different from what I've been reading lately, and thought this would be a good time to give them a try!

Into the Wild is about Rusty, a pet cat who dreams of a wild life. A chance encounter with some of the wild cats of ThunderClan from the nearby woods gives him the choice of joining them, or remaining a house cat with an easy life (though, the wild cats assure him that life too has some sacrifices in that he will not remain an intact Tom cat). Opting to fulfill his dreams, he joins ThunderClan, embracing their training to become one of their Warriors.

One of my biggest complaints about the story, particularly in the beginning, was that it was hard to keep all the characters straight (I realized near the end of the book that there was actually a character list in the beginning pages, but I missed it when I first started reading - that would have been very helpful to realize it was there sooner!!!) Once I got to know the characters, that got a bit easier, and I found myself enjoying the story a bit more. But I still found myself tripped up from time to time, particularly when cats from other clans were involved. 

I also had no idea how dark this book would be. It's a story for I think tweens (it felt a little on the easy side for a young adult book), and it has a lot of characters die in it, mostly from battles between the clans. 

While most of the characters were a bit two-dimensional, I still liked them a lot, especially the friendship between the three apprentices Firepaw (Rusty renamed once he joined ThunderClan), Graypaw, and Ravenpaw. I also really liked Yellowfang - she was a lot more nuanced than most of the other older cats. But I will admit that at times it was hard to remember that they were all cats - some of the words and actions that Hunter used kept making me picture them all as humans. 

Overall though, Into the Wild was a solid introduction to the world of Warriors. I'm looking forward to reading book 2.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Unfamiliar Garden


 Continuing with Benjamin Percy's Comet Cycle at the recommendation of a friend, I read book 2, The Unfamiliar Garden.  This is the book that my friend said was even better than the first one, and I wholeheartedly agree!

The Unfamiliar Garden takes place in Seattle/Washington State.  The night of the meteor shower five years ago, Jack Abernathy, a professor who specializes in fungus, went out into the woods to do some research.  He brought his eight-year-old daughter, Mia, with him so he could keep an eye on her (and so his police detective wife, Nora, can get some sleep).  But while his back was turned, Mia disappeared.

Five years later, Jack is a mess.  He no longer cares about his job or his work, and Nora divorced him.  For her part, Nora has thrown herself into her work as a homicide detective, bringing down murderers thanks to her ability to see the bigger picture.  But the rains have returned to Seattle, leading to a flowering of fungi.  And after one of his grad students gets sick after bringing in samples, Jack discovers a new parasitic fungus that seems to be infecting all animal life, including humans.  And Nora starts seeing a rash of copycat ritualistic murders with no rhyme or reason, which ends up leading her to team up with her ex-husband to stop them.

I really liked The Unfamiliar Garden.  The narrative was a lot tighter than The Ninth Metal because it was only following a few characters, most of who were more interconnected right from the beginning than the ones in The Ninth Metal.  

I also really liked the plot and pacing of The Unfamiliar Garden.  While I kind of knew from the beginning what was going on, it didn't matter.  I'm also not a huge horror fan, but the horror elements in the book really worked.  The plot also moves along at a really nice clip, which made me not want to put the book down (once I was near the end, I stayed up to finish it rather than wait for the next day!) 

Very much recommended.  I hope the third book in The Comet Cycle is as good as The Unfamiliar Garden!

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Ninth Metal


 A friend at work recommended The Ninth Metal to me.  Along with saying it was a fast and entertaining read, he told me that the second book was even better.  So I grabbed it from the library and gave it a read over the long weekend.  

The Ninth Metal is the story of how the world changed after flying through the debris field of a comet.  The comet debris rained down on the Earth, changing people, places, and technology for ever.  One place that was changed was Northfall, Minnesota.  The debris field that rained down on the area is mine-able, causing a sudden boom to the dying town.  Everyone is flocking to Northfall much like they did during the gold rush in an attempt to make their fortune, mining the new omnimetal, which has revolutionized the world as a self-propelling power source.

But the omnimetal isn't just a power source.  "Metal heads" are grinding it down to dust and smoking it, gaining strange visions during their highs.  And some people, like ten-year old Hawkin, are blessed (or cursed) with strange new powers from the omnimetal.

The Ninth Metal mainly follows several characters from Northfall: John Frontier: youngest son of the Frontier family, who run a mining company that is profiting from omnimetal while trying to keep other corporations out; Victoria, a PhD physicist recruited by the government for some top-secret work in Northfall; and Stacie, a rookie cop who wants to help others.  While their stories and lives seem quite discreet, slowly they are drawn together by the events that unfold in Nightfall.

While I wasn't sure where the story was going in the beginning, I quite liked The Ninth Metal.  I'm looking forward to reading the second book in Benjamin Percy's Comet Cycle, The Unfamiliar Garden, soon!