My schedule is busy, but I always schedule some time for reading. I try to ensure that I read books with intelligent writing, strong character development and a well-structured plot. These new books for spring 2018 meet all of those criteria. I enjoyed all of the books in this blog post so I am sharing my reviews with you in case you are looking for your next book to read this spring. (We’re giving away one copy each of The Dictionary of Animal Languages, The Boat People and The House of Unexpected Sisters courtesy of Penguin Random House…see giveaway details below.)
The Boat People by Sharon Bala, ISBN-13: 9780771024290
One of the finalists in CBC’s Canada Reads 2018, The Boat People is based on the 2010 appearance of a cargo ship of Sri Lankan refugees on the shores of Vancouver. Taken into custody pending immigration hearings, the refugees must wait for the Refugee Board’s decision on whether they can stay in Canada. Bala’s novel presents the varying and biased perspectives of the refugees, Refugee Board adjudicators and lawyers in this troubling story. Extremely well written and edited resulting in a page-turning novel, The Boat People is a must-read for Canadians who wish to understand the experience of refugees coming to Canada and all of the resulting struggles they face as they navigate the rules and language barriers of a vastly different society. Bala successfully presents the complex legal and ethical questions that the legal system must consider. You can purchase The Boat People by Sharon Bala on Amazon Canada here.
Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga, ISBN-13: 9781487002268
In this non-fiction book, Toronto Star reporter Tanya Talaga recounts the suspicious drowning deaths of seven Indigenous youth attending school in Thunder Bay far from their homes. Reflecting deeply entrenched systemic racism, the Thunder Bay Police release premature statements to the press indicating that “no foul play is suspected” before autopsies on the youths have even been conducted. Talaga’s investigative reporting is superb as she reveals the circumstances and backgrounds of these unfortunate Indigenous youth, who, due to the Government of Canada’s continual underfunding of schools and resources on reserves, must be housed several hundred kilometres away from their families. Further, many of the youth have inherited a bleak societal outlook from family members who survived Canada’s ghastly residential school system. Seven Fallen Feathers will help all non-Indigenous Canadians understand the rampant racism against Indigenous people in Canada and the lingering devastating sociological and economic effects of Canada’s failed residential school system. If you are looking for new books for spring 2018, I highly recommend that you add Seven Fallen Feathers to your list. You can purchase Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga on Amazon Canada here.
I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters, ISBN-13: 9781926743783
If you’re looking for a novel with a little lighter subject, you might want to open Michelle Winters’s charming I Am a Truck, which was shortlisted for the Giller Prize 2017. I’m not surprised that the author is a short story writer; this novel felt more like a long short story than a short novel. In fact, the writing style brings to mind Flannery O’Connor; however, the subject matter is not half as dark as O’Connor’s. Agathe and Rejean, living in English-speaking New Brunswick, are so in love that they shut out the rest of the world. Content for many years to seek support and companionship only from each other, the couple faces new challenges as a result of a traffic accident. Winters’s character development is strong, particularly noticeable in the confident male-magnet Debbie, who knows more about stereos than her male colleagues (think Marisa Tomei’s character in My Cousin Vinny). I would love to see I Am A Truck Part II solely focused on Debbie. She’s such a refreshing character! You can purchase I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters on Amazon Canada here.
Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life by Michelle D. Seaton and Suhas G. Kshirsagar, ISBN-13: 9780062684851
Throw out your diet books because Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life goes much deeper into the reasons why we gain weight or experience unwellness. Grounded in ancient Ayurvedic principles with an abundance of supporting scientific data, Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life illustrates how getting in sync with our natural circadian rhythms will result in better health and anti-aging. There are various tests in the book that the reader must take to determine whether they fit the Kapha, Vita or Pitta profile. Each profile outlines certain foods, sleep times, exercise and meditation routines and mental habits to adopt, as well as modifications to be made at the change of seasons. This book is a doctrine for life and well worth your time. You can purchase Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life by Michelle D. Seaton and Suhas G. Kshirsgar on Amazon Canada here.
The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka, ISBN-13: 9780143196426
Compared by reviewers to All the Light We Cannot See, Heidi Sopinka’s first novel tells the story of Ivory Frame, an artist now in her 90s who has never married or had a family. As Ivory finds out that she has a granddaughter, the reader is taken back to her youth in 1930s Paris. Having been disowned by her family, she establishes bonds in an artist circle and becomes enamoured with the Russian, Lev, who has fled the Revolution. When the war breaks out, Ivory is left with nothing and experiences crushing loss and sadness. Always having an affinity for animals, she develops her life-long work, a dictionary of animal languages. Ivory believes that animal languages bridge the past to the future since their languages reveal so much about the environment. Sopinka’s writing is gorgeous and meticulous in this slowly-unraveling story. Being a fan of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, I enjoyed Ivory’s stream of consciousness perceptions on her fellow humans and life. Sopinka takes her time to connect the story from the past to the present day – in fact the granddaughter is not mentioned again until the end of the book – and admittedly, some readers may find the pace of the plot to be slow. But it’s about the journey, not the destination and this journey is filled with razor-sharp insight and incredibly exquisite passages to be appreciated with all the senses. You can purchase The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka on Amazon Canada here.
The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith, ISBN-13: 9780345811943
This is the 18th book in The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. Mma Precious Ramotswe is back with her friend and agency “codirector” Mma Makutsi to investigate the case of the alleged improper firing of Charity Mompoloki. In the course of the investigation, Mma Ramotswe discovers an unknown relative with the Ramotswe surname, which results in temporary upheaval for the protagonist. This is the first book that I have read in the series and I was instantly charmed by Mma Ramotswe and company. The book is a lovely indulgence, flowing with intelligent writing, full of understated humour. Don’t open this book thinking that it’s a detective story as this is more of a labour law investigation; the focus in The House of Unexpected Sisters is clearly on human relations. The author, who was born in Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) and taught law at the University of Botswana, paints a sweeping portrait of the flat landscape including the deltas, deserts and Moremi Game Reserve. The humble and socially perceptive Mma Ramotswe reveals much about traditional Botswana society in her daily musings and commentary. I can’t wait to read another book in this series! You can purchase The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith on Amazon Canada here.
Our Giveaway of 1 Copy of The Dictionary of Animal Languages, The Boat People and The House of Unexpected Sisters courtesy of Penguin Random House has closed. Congratulations to C. MacDonald!
What new books for spring 2018 are you reading?
This contest appears on Contest Canada