Canada Reads 2017

Canada Reads is an annual book competition organized by CBC Books. It’s part debate and part entertainment. It’s also a great source for reading ideas – every book is sure to be well written, thought provoking or powerful. Many of them also take place in Canada, which is a nice treat.

Every year, I tell myself that I ought to read at least one of the short list contenders. And, every year, I have a hard time getting around to it.

That’s because it’s a relatively big deal in Canada. That’s not just evident when looking at the celebrities CBC seems to be able to round up each year (all cool to Canadians, at least); it’s also evident on library wait-lists. For example, 3 of this year’s contenders have over 5 people waiting per copy at my local library. That could mean having to wait up 3-4 months before you get the book. By mid-year, I’ve usually lost interest and moved onto other things. So, this year I planned to buy the contender that sounded the most interesting and read it before mid-March.

Well, Lady Luck was on my side – I’d already read two of the contenders before March (Fifteen Dogs and The Break). The others included two that looked really interesting (Nostalgia and Company Town) and one that I already planned on reading (The Right to be Cold). I decided to try to read all three, but I didn’t manage to read The Right to be Cold before other things got in the way.

This year’s question is “What is the one book Canadians need now?” It’s a bit ambiguous and, as evident by the diverse selection on both the longlist and the shortlist, “need” can be interpreted in many different ways. Each book can be seen as important reads for different reasons:

  • Fifteen Dogs – This book looks at the results of 15 dogs being given human reasoning and language by Hermes and Apollo. It’s a very interesting and, at times, difficult exploration of community, power, and relationships. Through their lives and through the contrast between human values and typical canine social order, the author takes us on an exploration of what it means to be human.
  • The Break – I’ve already talked about this book (twice!). It’s a look into the lives of Natives and some of the issues they face. It touches on the racism Natives face and the effects of colonialism on Native communities (something that’s important to consider given that this year is Canada’s 150th anniversary). It also reminds the reader of the power of trauma (ex: how it can affect more than just the victim) and of the importance of hope and love.
  • Nostalgia – This book explores many different things, including the cultural and psychological effects of a society that has found a way to bypass the physical hurdles of immortality. It also explores the idea of whether or not we can really leave the past behind. While it leaves a lot of unanswered questions (ex: the morality of altering past memories of state enemies just to keep them around) and has a few holes (ex: some of the people felt drawn to places or other people for dubious reasons), it’s still an incredibly interesting and thought provoking story. It also touches on the issues of the conflicts between countries and the issues of closed borders, which is quite timely.
  • Company Town – This book is an exploration of what it means to be human. It looks at the personal and social effects of being free of any modifications and the consequences of being modified (think: privacy and security issues). It also includes some good, subtle comments on the value of unions for sex workers and has a female lead who could kick anyone’s butt, which is kinda nice.
  • The Right to be Cold – This one is important not just because it highlights the issue of climate change, but also because it touches on how the Arctic and, subsequently, the Inuit culture is at risk. I can’t speak to the content, yet, as I didn’t get a chance to read it.

It’s hard to predict which might win, but I’m rooting for either The Right to be Cold or The Break. Of course, I never watch the actual show as I’m not particularly interested in the game show aspect – I just like using it as a tool to find new books and authors.

Do you have a favourite contender?

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Book review – We were liars

I did not think that I would enjoy We Were Liars book much when I read the summary – it’s YA, it revolves around a beautiful and privileged family, and it had romance. However, someone I trust recommended it and I thought that if she liked it, it must, at least, be well written.

By page 5, I was hooked! Before the actual story had even started, the author had already introduced us to how she would be using lush imagery to convey what Cady, the main character, was feeling. When her father left, she didn’t just feel sad, she felt wounded:

Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed. Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound,

then from my eyes,

my ears,

my mouth.

It tasted like salt and failure. The bright red shame of being unloved soaked the grass in front of our house, the bricks of the path, the steps of the porch. My heart spasmed among the peonies like a trout.

When her headaches came, they didn’t just arrive suddenly, it felt like she was being attacked:

A witch has been standing there behind me for some time, waiting for a moment of weakness. She holds an ivory statue of a goose. It is intricately carved. I turn and admire it only for a moment before she swings if with shocking force. It connects, crushing a hole in my forehead. I can feel my bone come loose. The witch swings the statue again and hits above my right ear, smashing my skull. Blow after blow she lands, until tiny flakes of bone litter the bed and mingle with chipped bits of her once-beautiful goose.

The richness of her descriptions of Cady’s pain coupled with fairy tale interludes changed this from a regular YA mystery to an incredibly striking and creative page-turner.

I can’t tell you much about this story without risking spoilers. It centers on Cady who had an accident that she doesn’t remember. Her family is privileged and has a private island that they escape to each summer, which is where the bulk of the story takes place.

At first, their privilege feels unnecessary and gratuitous. The wealth seems to be there just to allow the family to afford things. But, like the fairy tales scattered throughout, we start to learn that wealth isn’t a shield. In fact, it’s as much a burden, as anything. It’s caused infighting and created some very spoiled mothers who then try to use the kids to manipulate the patriarch of the family.

The wealth and privilege also helps to defined Gat, the outsider – he doesn’t have wealth, he’s not welcome by the family’s patriarch, and he tries to help the others (especially Cady) understand how privileged they are.

What if we could stop being different colors, different backgrounds, and just be in love?

Yes, the family seems nearly perfect at the start, but flaws start to show and we start to see how these people, despite their wealth, are just people who’ve all struggled with life over the past few years.

This is one of the most beautifully crafted books I’ve read. The twist is something we’ve all seen a thousand times before, but it still surprised me. I’m usually pretty good at predicting the ending, but this book kept me guessing. The author’s care in her choice of wording and how she unfolded the events meant that I missed many clues that, in retrospect, where pretty obvious.

I adored this book. I almost wish that I could forget it, just so that I could read it again.

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Book review – The Bear and the Nightingale

If you liked The Witches of New York, then you will love The Bear and the Nightingale. The two books have some similarities: women’s role in society, Christianity’s repression of “old ways,” spirits, and fear of the unknown.

Similarities aside, this is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. Save for a few chapters in the beginning, I had a really hard time stepping away from this book.

The Bear and the Nightingale takes place in medieval Russia. It tells the story of a girl who inherited her mother’s gifts, her family who don’t know about or understand these gifts, and the opposing forces that could destroy everything.

At first, it feels like it’ll just be a historic family drama with the occasional bit of local lore thrown in. The focus is set wide, encompassing the whole family and even centring on the father for a time. But, the focus slowly narrows in to Vasilisa. As we get closer to her, we start seeing more spirits and learning more about them and their connection with the village. We also start to see the effects of the villagers move to be more Christian and turn away from old traditions that fed the spirits.

The main character, Vasilisa, is a fantastic heroine: strong, bright, wild, and courageous. This, ultimately, causes conflict with her family and her village, but she holds her head high and fights for what she knows is right. And, her family, with the exception of her step mother, look beyond their fear to respect and love her to the very end.

I decided to listen to the audiobook because I knew I would stumble over the Russian names. I’m so glad I made this decision. The version I found was performed by Kathleen Gati and she did a brilliant job. While the narration was done in a familiar North American accent, she did all the dialogue with a Russia accent. It added depth and authenticity to the story.

If you know of books similar to The Bear and the Nightingale, please let me know in the comments.

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Poetry

In high school, I hated poetry. In university, I put up with it and tried to appreciate it to support a friend, who’s a poet. Now, I’m eager for the annual publication of the Floodgate Poetry series.

Let me rephrase that: In high school, I was told what I was supposed to like and how I was supposed to interpret it. In university, I was introduced to poetry that was different from the “greats” and allowed to think independently, so long as I acknowledged the academically accepted interpretations. Now, I know that there’s poetry that I can relate to and I know that I’m allowed to enjoy it on my own terms.

***

I have vivid memories of being really frustrated with a poem in high school. It was set in “blue” and misty weather, which delighted me. In my head, it sounded relaxing and peaceful. But, I was told that I was wrong. Not that I misunderstood, but that I was *wrong*. It was meant to be sad and morose – a woeful day, not a peaceful day.

That was when I decided that I hated poetry. I understood that the poet was trying to use words and scenery to try and convey a particular feeling. I understood that the imagery was typically used to suggest sadness. But, I also understood that my opinion didn’t matter – and that made me angry.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the greats or the work required to string together a limited number of words in a confined compartment of beats, patterns, and, if desired, rhymes. I just don’t feel the need to read things just because they’re classics. Poetry or novel, I’d rather not force myself to read something just because I “should.”

I don’t have enough interest in the majesty of a Shakespearean sonnet to get past the frou-frou language and lovey-dovey themes. I want to read something that speaks to my soul, and words alone can’t reach me that deeply. I want imagery that I can visualize, allowing my mind to explore the nuances of what I’m reading. I also need the freedom to explore the idea that the poem might mean something different to me and to you and to the poet. Sometimes we learn the most when seeing where the differences lie.

If you love the greats, the classics, and the frou-frou, then dive in and devour them. If you want to explore the poets’ world and their intended meaning, then do so with relish. But, let me look at things with my own eyes; let me find the themes that entice me; and, let me love poetry in my own eclectic, un-scholarly way.

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Book review – The Break by Katherena Vermette

I already spoke about this book in my February reading update, but I wanted to share a few more thoughts as this is one of the books in the Novel Editions February box and we’ll be discussing it during the monthly book discussion, which is happening on Wednesday.

The Break was gripping from the very start. It’s not an easy read – in fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s gut-wrenching at times.

On the surface, this is a story about a violent sexual assault, but it’s so much deeper than that. Vermette dives into the lives of each of the central characters (the victim, her family, the perpetrator, and one of the cops investigating the incident). We learn, quickly, that this is also about family, society, hope, and being Native. Each and every one of the characters has been shaped by the pain of assault, broken relationships, the death of loved ones, racism, and family connections (or, the lack thereof). It’s tragic and beautiful narrative.

There are no happy endings in this book – everyone is still left to deal with the long term effects of the books event. But, we’re left with hope – hope that the victim will rise above her assault, hope that the family will heal its wounds, hope that Pauline will allow herself to trust Peter, and hope that the family, as a whole, will keep standing tall against all the forces trying to beat them down.

Something that I haven’t seen mentioned in other reviews is how Vermette tackled the perpetrator. She didn’t present this person as evil, but as person with their own demons. Yes, they were a bully and had chosen a life of violence. And, yes, their actions were terrible, but they were shaped by a troubled mother and a difficult life. They’re tough and mean, but they’re also broken. What set them apart from the victim and her family was that they didn’t have the support they needed, so they closed themselves off, choosing gang life and loyalties as a substitute for family and love. They choose anger, and let that anger guide them to do a terrible thing to a young girl.

If nothing else this story shows us how the cycle of abuse and trauma can affect a whole family and how a single trauma can affect generations. Even the sister who married and closed herself off from the hardships of her old life and old community still couldn’t escape completely.

Whatever else you think or know, that is the most important thing about me. That I loved and was loved.

Ultimately, I think that this book is an important book for people to read. It touches on so many important issues facing Canada today, especially Native Canadian communities, and it could help people to be more empathetic and understanding.

If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Book review – The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

Heather O’Neil’s The Lonely Hearts Hotel is intriguing, sad, beautiful, and, ultimately, tragic. But, the writing – oh, the writing! I’m absolutely besotted with O’Neill’s writing style. Her style is almost poetic, and her imagination shines through her imagery.

This is a roller coaster of emotion, flinging the reader from despair to hope to fear over and over again. The story centers around Rose, Pierrot, and their doomed but everlasting love. Much of it centers on their lives in the orphanage (where they are both victims of abuse) and their years as young adults. They have the misfortune of being working class during the Depression, which means that they must do everything they can to survive or forget (theft, drugs, prostitution, etc.).

This seems to be putting off a lot of readers, but I like honesty in love stories. Perfect lives are boring and unrealistic. Seeing Rose and Pierrot struggling and succumbing to reality made their love feel more authentic.

O’Neill’s writing is worth the tragedies. I loved every minute I was reading her words. Her writing has a special kind of imagination, where she keeps things within the realm of reality, but seems to find magical ways to describe them. She also has a way of setting a mood that feels both lighthearted and somber, which seems like an impossible combination of contradictions.

One of my favourite things about this story was the occasional, seemingly irrelevant description of something around the scene. For example, after relaying one character’s inner thoughts, in which they express their fears about the progression of work partnerships, O’Neill adds:

On the window ledge was a robin that looked like a fat man who had been shot in the chest by his business partner.

It seems random. Yes, they were walking down the street, but they weren’t discussing birds. However, the character has, in a figurative sense, potentially just found themselves shot by their business partner, and may be on the verge of being cast aside.

And, has anyone else noticed that O’Neill’s work can feel a bit like poetry? For example, in the latter half of the book, when Rose and Pierrot finally reconnected, O’Neill used repetition between paragraphs. I suspect that she was using it to show how perfect the two lovers were for each other, but it almost felt like a poem. For several paragraphs, she flipped back and forth between Rose and Pierrot, and the last sentence of each paragraph was mirrored in the first sentence of the next paragraph.

… He like how all the children in the neighborhood seemed to know her name.

She liked how all the children in the neighborhood seemed to know his name. She liked how he could fry up an egg while smoking a cigarette clenched between his lips. She liked the way he called up to her from the sidewalk. She liked the way he put his arm around her. She liked the way he talked about paintings when they went to the museum. She liked the things he noticed about the world.

He liked the things she noticed about the world …

I adore her writing style and imagery. It makes me want to reread the book just to relish all the descriptions one more time. My favourite line in the whole book is tucked in the middle of a paragraph about a mobster near the end of the book:

He doused his words with alcohol and set them on fire.

I loved this book, but I know that a lot of people didn’t like all the bad things (abuse, drugs, etc.). It seems to be a book that people either love or hate. Still, I recommend giving it a try. It’ll be worthwhile if you can make it through to the end.

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Favorite Science Fiction & Fantasy Books

This week’s T5W (Top 5 Wednesday) is favourite sci-fi and fantasy of all time.

I used to read exclusively sci-fi and fantasy. A lot of it was Ray Bradbury, but I also read various books by Ursula K Leguin, Anne McCaffrey, and variety of others. I didn’t start testing out authors like Asimov until much later in life. And, while I’ve also enjoyed a couple of books by current authors, like John Scalzi, I’ve been largely forgetting scifi and fantasy in recent years. It’s something that I’d like to remedy, so I might make it part of my 2018 reading plans (I already have too many reading related things on the go for 2017).

Despite not reading much lately, I do have some favourites, including some more recent stuff:

  1. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I often cite Ray Bradbury and Margaret Atwood as being the catalyst for my love of reading. The Martian Chronicles probably wasn’t the first of his books that I read (dad had a large collection, including several short story collections, which is probably what I would have started with). But, it was a book that absolutely gripped me. Despite the fact that I haven’t read it in over 20 years, I can still remember being in awe of this book.

I think I might read it again this year.

  1. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Leguin

I remember avoiding Ursula K. Leguin for a long time, but I can’t remember why. I know I read at least one of her books as a teen (dad had a number of them), so maybe I just didn’t like the first one I read?

Eventually, I started reading the Earthsea series. The first one was good enough to move on to The Tombs of Atuan and I fell in love. Perhaps it was the rare female characters, perhaps it was the religion she was part or, or perhaps it was the labyrinth – something sucked me into the book (and, the series as a whole, as I became fond of the world).

It’s been a few years since I read the series. I’d like to read it again and find some new similar series to try (let me know if you have any suggestions).

  1. The Oracle Betrayed by Catherine Fisher

I’d nearly forgotten about these, but as I wrote about The Tombs of Atuan it occurred to me that I seem to enjoy fantasy novels about girls sucked into mysteries or adventures because of a religious sect. This is another intriguing story centered on a girl. I vaguely remember being slightly confused at the end of the last book in the series, but the first book was absorbing and hard to put down.

  1. Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

This is where I have to admit that I can’t, for the life of me, remember which specific book I loved. I’m pretty sure it was Dragonsong (the synopsis sounds about right), but I read it so, so long ago and I know that I read at least a couple of the books in the series (my dad, again, had a lot of Anne McCaffrey).

I was intrigued by the world, the culture, and the fire lizards.

  1. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Anyone who reads my blog with any degree of regularity is probably sick of me mentioning this series, but it’s really good. I’ve picked the first in the series as my favourite because I was so delighted to find it. It was so unexpected – the imagination that went into this story is incredible. It charmed me as quickly and easily as any book by Diana Wynne Jones or movie from the Ghibli studio.

***

Given that I’ve been largely ignoring scifi and fantasy lately, I will be watching and reading a lot of this week’s T5W posts for ideas. And, if you have any recommendations, please let me know.

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Book review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

This review is a long time coming, as I finished the book a month ago.

This book is from the January Novel Editions book box.

To be honest, I was a little worried when I read the synopsis for The Witches of New York. It didn’t sound like the sort of thing that I would usually read: society ladies, enchanting new girl, drama between friends, and a mysterious disappearance, all set in the late 1800’s. But, I was committed to giving this a full-fledged try, so I started reading. And, at least it involved a tea shop!

It started quietly and slowly, focusing on introducing us to the main characters (Eleanor, Adelaide, and Beatrice) and an event that would slowly unfold in the background (the arrival of an Egyptian obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle). Once Beatrice made her way to the tea shop, I started to get really intrigued. From there, the story seemed to get more and more interesting. Spirits made appearances, evil lurked in the background, and the women’s characters (and friendship) started to blossom. Throughout all of this, the author shared little tidbits from books and newspapers to set the mood, share witch lore, and share the progression of the obelisk into town.

There were a couple of things that I particularly loved about the book. The first was that each woman stood on their own: Beatrice was the pretty princess in distress who still managed to think for herself; Adelaide was the scared flirt who could charm and connect with people from all social niches; and, Eleanor was the (mostly) confident wise-woman-in-training. Other characters (mostly women, hooray!) helped to support and develop the main characters. My favourite of these was Madame St Clair, Eleanor’s mother. I would love it if the author wrote a book just about her.

Another thing that I loved was all of the witch’s lore that the author shared throughout the story. Much of this was simply integrated in the story’s events, but she also included pages from Eleanor’s grimoire (her book of spells and knowledge) and little clippings from books and teachings (always interesting and informative). Even the main antagonist’s readings, preaching, and conversations were indicative of witchcraft history and the prejudices they faced.

While the author certainly tried to ensure that a few good men existed in the story, she also didn’t shy away from the reality of life for women in the late 1800’s. Throughout the story, she painted a bleak picture in terms of the rights and the realities woman faced. She included everything from social graces to how easy it was to have a woman committed. And, yet, the three witches held their heads high and quietly, sometimes secretly, continued to exude confidence in their own life choices.

Of course there were lots of other little things to love: the atmosphere that the author created, Perdu (a raven), the mystery behind the obelisk, and so on.

My one big complaint about it was that it was clearly set up for a sequel. The primary plot element was resolved, but there were so many loose ends: What happened to the boy that helped Beatrice get to New York? Who is the man with the obelisk? What really happened to Beatrice’s parents? Will Adelaide’s mother be able to reconnect with Adelaide? Will Perdu’s identity be discovered by Eleanor? What is the creepy, evil man up to? So many questions!

If this doesn’t end up being at least a three part series, then the next book is going to be crammed full of events and answers.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book (much more than expected). While it may not be the next runaway hit or literary treasure, it was a lot of fun. I’ve already picked up one of the author’s other book, The Virgin Cure, which is a precursor (though, perhaps not an official prequel) to this book.

Have you read this book? I’d love to know what you thought about it and who your favourite character was.

***

Side note:

Witchcraft had also been a source of power for woman. Not “I own you” power, but “I stand on my own” power. This is echoed in The Witches of New York and in another one of my recent reads, The Bear and the Nightingale. In many ways, repressing the practice of witchcraft, regardless of its usefulness (consider midwifery), has always been a way of beating woman down and increasing the power of the patriarchy or Christianity (so … patriarchy!).

If you want to know more about the history of witchcraft and it’s resurgence, I highly recommend reading The Real Reason Women Love Witches. It’s a fascinating article. The author does an excellent job of explaining the witchy things and showing why it continues to be popular. It’s not all about the connection with nature, the plant knowledge, or the desperate hope for a love potion – about reclaiming power and status.

 

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Reading update

One of my reading goals for this year is to read more diversely and, lately, I’ve been focusing a lot on Native Canadian stories. This is mostly because I’m Canadian and should probably try and understand a little more about the people whose land I’m living on (and, I don’t just mean that in the figurative sense – Edmonton sits within Treaty No. 6  territory, so I live on Native land). But, it’s also a good year to focus on Native stories because it’s Canada’s 150th birthday. Or, if you are Native, it marks 150 years of colonialism. Needless to say, it’s a bit controversial in Native communities (some are celebrating as a means of reaching out to the rest of Canada and some are protesting as a means of highlighting the suffering at the hands of Europeans … and ongoing systemic racism).

Regardless of the importance of reading Native stories, I’ve read some good stuff this month that happens to be written by Native Canadians. First, I read The Break, which damn near broke me before page 100. It was a tragic but beautiful story that I wish more people would read. More importantly, I wish more people could see that this book isn’t overly dramatic and looking to shock for attention. I was really upset, when reading through others people’s reviews, to see that people were calling it “over the top” and suggesting that some of the characters were stereotypically or unrealistically racist. Despite all the anti-immigrant garbage in the news, despite the horrifying stories coming out through projects like the Truth and Reconciliation Report, and despite the cold hard facts that show that Natives often get the shit end of the stick (lack of clean water, higher rates of violence against women, etc.), people still think that The Break is a little over the top? It pains me! I really want to shake those people and ask why we shouldn’t believe Vermette’s experiences and knowledge. Or, anyone’s experiences, for that matter.

The good thing is that this book is a Canada Reads contender, on best seller lists, and being read by lots of people.

Along with The Break, I also read Vermette’s poetry book, North End Love Songs. The first poem made me feel like I’d stepped back into The Break. Many of the poems touch on the same subjects and take place in the same locations. But, the section that struck me the most was about a missing brother. She wrote a number of poems that strung together the relationship she had with him, who he was, his disappearance, and the eventual conclusion. It was a sad and beautiful tribute.

I also read Gregory Scofield’s Witness, I Am. I have to admit that I struggled a bit with the first section, but I found the collection, as a whole, to be interesting and incredibly thought provoking. I also loved that he included a lot of Cree words (with the translation on the side of the page, for easy reference).  Canada, as a whole, seems to hide Native languages behind the excuse that there are so many of them. Though, some places are finally starting to make efforts to highlight and use Native names (I’m happy to say that Edmonton is doing this, though there are still some issues). But, we’re still exposed to so little in terms of Native languages. It’s a little sad that the only time I see it in books is when the author is Native.

Some of the topics Scofield addressed (the fact that he’s Metis, missing and murdered indigenous women, etc.) worked well with Vermette’s novel and poetry collection. I’m really glad I read them all close together, as they complemented each other.

My #getaholdofyourshelf February challenge was to read the prettiest book from my to-be-read (tbr) pile. I picked two: a very big non-fiction book (Defiant Spirits) and a wee poetry book (Witness, I Am). In retrospect, I should have known that I wouldn’t be able to finish a big book – I already had a couple of novels on the go, I started late in the month, and, for once, I think I want to read all of the Canada Reads contenders, so I needed to clear my in-progress pile before March. Technically, I did start Defiant Spirits, but I only read a tiny bit, so I put it back on my tbr shelf.

And, of course, I picked the worst possible challenge for my March’s #getaholdofyourshelf books: longest! Arg! This meant pulling Defiant Spirits back off the shelf – it and Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales are my two longest (I think the latter is the longest, so I’ll start with it). The Canada Reads contenders take precedence, so I will be lucky if I get through even one of these books. Maybe I should just leave Defiant Spirits on the shelf!

April may be dedicated to catching up on reading books for this challenge!

***

This is the full list of what I read in February. I wrote short reviews for most of them on Goodreads. The best book I read (listened to) was The Bear and the Nightingale., thought The Break was a close second. It was incredible. I may do a proper review of them in the coming weeks.

  1. The Break
  2. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (picture book/graphic novel)
  3. Paper Girls, Vol. 1 (graphic novel)
  4. The Witches of New York
  5. Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family (audiobook)
  6. Milk and Honey (poetry)
  7. The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel (graphic novel)
  8. The Arrival (picture book/graphic novel)
  9. Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery (graphic novel)
  10. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned (graphic novel)
  11. How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery (audiobook)
  12. Trees, Vol. 1: In Shadow (graphic novel)
  13. North End Love Songs (poetry)
  14. The Beauty, Vol. 1 (graphic novel)
  15. Descender, Volume Two: Machine Moon (graphic novel)
  16. Witness, I Am (poetry)
  17. The Lonely Hearts Hotel
  18. The Bear and the Nightingale (audiobook)
  19. In Real Life (graphic novel)
  20. The Giver (audiobook)
  21. Gathering Blue (audiobook)
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Fictional Jobs You’d Want to Have

This week’s T5W (Top 5 Wednesday) is fictional careers, which I had a hard time with because most of the fictional careers I could think of weren’t ones that I wanted (warrior, professor at Hogwarts, etc.). There were also a lot on my list that weren’t really jobs.  A good example is the Winter King in The Bear and The Nightingale. One could argue that his career is being the king of winter, but it’s not like he applied for the job.

Too bad! I liked the sounds of that gig. He lived in the world of winter, he had some dominion over dreams (at least enough to keep out nightmares), he had a fantastic horse, and he wasn’t evil (not as diplomatic as we humans would like in a powerful god-like being, but not evil).

Anyhoo, these are the fictional careers I would (maybe) like to have (in no particular order):

  1. Wind

Honestly, I don’t really remember exactly what the winds from the Fairyland series did, but they had big cats, flew around, and sounded cool (maybe a bit haughty, but still cool). And, while you can’t apply for the job, you can earn the job (example, for one wind, you have to steal something from whoever is currently that wind).

  1. Dragon rider (Dragonsong, etc.)

This is one of those careers that sounds cool, but I’m not really sure that I want it because, damn, it’s a bit scary and dangerous.

Do you remember Dragonsong? It’s been ages since I read it. The book is set in a world where deadly “threads” fall from the sky every two hundred years. Intelligent fire breathing dragons and their riders destroy the threads. The riders have a telepathic bond with their dragons, which is kind of cool, until your dragon dies.

Despite the danger, it sounds like a pretty good career: you have a lifelong friend who happens to be a dragon, you get to fly, you’re well fed … what’s not to love?

Oh, right, the danger part.

  1. Librarian

I’m a librarian in real life. I don’t work in a library and I don’t like people enough to work in the library, but there are some fictional versions of librarian that I would adore – specifically, the ones where you spend more time with books that with people. Or, the one where you were accidentally turned into an orangutan (see: Discworld).

I do love the idea of being a librarian surrounded by magic books or books that are alive (see the delightful kids book The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore). I would, of course, have a proper digital catalogue for serious research, but still use an old school card catalogue and checkout cards. Oo, and overdue notices reminiscent of the Howler mail in Harry Potter.

Has anyone invented that sort of library yet? No? Shame.

Of course, the best option is just to be a library. Or, how about a Wyvarian, like A-to-L in the Fairyland series. Part library and part wyvern (dragon)? Yes, please.

  1. Ranger (Wildwood Chronicles)

I’m not sure this really counts as a “job,” nor as something that I really want to be (it seems a bit dangerous, and I don’t like danger). But, I love the idea of being brave and resourceful. Also, the head ranger in Wildwood had a cool jacket. And, they lived in forest, which is kind of cool.

  1. Witch

This one was a surprise to me. I was thinking about all the jobs in books I’ve recently read. Witch popped into my head because of The Witches of New York. I dismissed the idea immediately, but had to admit to myself that I loved the idea of having a grimoire (book of spells and knowledge). Then, I remembered Tiffany Aching (Discworld). I wouldn’t say no to being the next Nanny Ogg or Tiffany Aching. They were the kind of witches that I can get behind – a bit of magic, a bit of knowledge, and a healthy dose of respect, when people aren’t being stupid and scared. Also, who doesn’t want to live on a turtle that’s flying through space?!

Though, again, I’m not sure this is a job – Tiffany, Eleanor (The Witches of New York), and countless other fictitious witches are born with special abilities. So, I guess I need to settle for the modern day witch – a wise woman who happens to know a tonne of herb lore and has a cool grimoire.

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I’m interested to see what others have included in their list. Perhaps they were braver than me and decided that they wanted to be great warriors, aurors, and whathaveyou.

Do you know of any cool fictional jobs I should consider?

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