These books I enjoyed but never reviewed because I either thought they were excellent all around and couldn’t figure out how to do justice to them in a review, or because they were excellent in a very personal way, or because they were just pretty good and I couldn’t think of much to say about them. I don’t want to let these books fall through the cracks, though, because they’re all books I would recommend! So here are a few thoughts I’ve managed to muster up.
The Break by Katherena Vermette
When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.
In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.
- This book is #ownvoices in that Vermette is a Métis Winnipegger.
- I read this book in one sitting, which I wasn’t expecting to do. The writing is sharp and the story is one that could easily pull you in.
- Parts of this book were extremely difficult to read. As a Winnipegger settler myself, this book took me into lives of people I know exist, people who I’ve probably passed on the street, whose lived experiences seem like a world away from mine. But they’re not actually, and that’s the painful part. I’m not the best person to advocate for this book, which is more than a few steps away from middle grade fantasy – the reviews at The Globe and Mail and Quill and Quire do a better job at capturing why this is an important read.
- I was definitely miffed when The Break didn’t win Canada Reads (and a book that most Canadians were already familiar with, a book with no female characters, did win…). Here is a an excellent clip of Candy Palmater defending the book during Canada Reads.
Drift and Dagger by Kendall Kulper
Mal used to have a home, a best friend, and a secret. But he lost all three on the day Essie Roe exposed him as a blank. Blanks cannot be cursed or saved or killed by magic. And everyone is afraid of them—even Mal himself.
Now Mal travels the world in search of dangerous and illegal magical relics, never stopping in any one place too long. When his partner in crime, Boone, hears of a legendary dagger that can steal magic, Mal knows he finally may have found a way to even the score with Essie. Crossing oceans and continents, Mal and Boone travel from Boston to Paris to Constantinople in search of the dagger. Finding it would mean riches, fame, and revenge—but only if Mal can control the monster inside him.
- I was delighted to win a copy of this book annotated by hand by the author. Drift and Dagger, a companion book to Salt and Storm, takes place some years before the events of Salt and Storm. Salt and Storm held a lot of promise for me; I loved the premise but it turned out to be more of a romance. I preferred Drift and Dagger because there’s more of an emphasis on magic and travel and adventure, and no emphasis on romance. The historical setting makes it that more fun.
Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.
Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.
- I rated both of these books four stars on Goodreads, and I can think of aspects of the stories that I would have liked to see done differently, but when it comes to how these stories tugged at my heart, they’re both five star reads for me.
- Every Heart a Doorway especially will be one of my best reads of 2017 for personal reasons, while I think Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the better written of the two.
- Things I loved particularly about Down Among the Sticks and Bones: Parents, Jack and Jill figuring out their own identities, the creepiness of their bleak world.
- My main critiques are: 1) the murder mystery of Every Heart a Doorway was a bit blah and 2) I would have liked to read more from Jill’s perspective in Down Among the Sticks and Bones.
- I hope to squeeze in a reread of these books before the end of the year!
Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea
A wonderfully written fantasy set in the west of Ireland, which tells of the coming of the Great Queen who is bent on bringing destruction to the world. Only Pidge and Brigit can stop her, and their task seems impossible as they’re constantly trailed by the queen’s hounds. But they’re aided in their quest by a host of willing helpers – a glorious array of unforgettable characters.
- I read this book over the summer at the lake. I consider it a children’s classic, which had been on my TBR for a few years.
- Definitely a fantasy story, very episodic, entertaining, though it did seem to drag on at times. There are frightening parts (I particularly remember a terrifying horse, haha) and classically epic parts. And according to my notes, there is a cute baby spider part. I might have gotten more out of it if I was better familiar with Irish folklore!
What were some books you enjoyed this past year but didn’t get around to reviewing?