Book Review – The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

I really wanted to like this book. Historical fiction set in WWII, LGBT representation, a mystery binding it all together – it sounds perfect.

Unfortunately, the execution was more than a bit off. The pacing was incredibly slow; nothing really happened for 3/4 of the story. I found myself putting the book down out of boredom a few times because of it.

The villain was positively cartoonish, while the two narrators lacked any sort of character or depth. As you can imagine, this made it near impossible to care about their fates.

I’m struggling to point out any gems in the story. The cover is gorgeous and Healey’s knowledge of taxidermy is impressive? That’s all I’ve got.

2/5

Book Review – The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review.

The Glass Hotel

I’m struggling to describe exactly what this book is about; it’s just so layered and complex. I suppose at its simplest, the story follows the lives of several people through the lead up, exposure and aftermath of a Ponzi scheme. But it’s also so much more.

The story shows what happens to the group who set up the scheme but also their victims. There is a pretty big focus on morality, guilt and… ghosts.

I read most of it in a single sitting, which is saying a lot (financial intrigue is not something I gravitate towards). Mandel just really knows how to draw a reader in.

The writing is really clever – if you’ve read Mandel’s previous book Station Eleven, you’ll recognize some familiar names and events. It’s very subtle; these stories don’t actually exist in the same universe. It gave me a couple of really neat ‘ah ha’ moments.

I found that the ending drifted a bit and I did wish it had a stronger resolution. But overall I really enjoyed it.

The Glass Hotel comes out later this month, so take some time to read Station Eleven before then!

4/5

Book Review – The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

This book. OMG this book. I want to give it all the stars – I already know this will be one of my favourites of 2020.

The story centres around a girl named January, who is essentially raised by her father’s boss. Her father spends the majority of his time travelling the world, ‘acquiring’ rare items for his employer. Her childhood is rather grey and confining, but once she discovers the power of her writing and the magic of certain doors, the story just explodes with colour.

It reminded me a lot of The Starless Sea, and not just because of the ‘doors to incredible places’ thing. It feels the same, if that makes any sense: a beautifully written epic with fantastic world-building and characters that stick with you long after you finish reading. If you enjoyed The Starless Sea then I highly recommend checking this one out.

Harrow has a new book coming out in the fall; the cover was just revealed and it’s gorgeous. The blurb sounds so good, I already know I’m going to buy it!

5/5

Book Review – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

First – I can’t believe it took me so long to finally read this book. And second – my timing really couldn’t have been worse!

Picture of the book

The story starts with a global pandemic, which is kind of scary to read considering what is happening in the world right now. The plot itself is actually centred around a famous actor, who has a heart attack on stage and dies the night the pandemic kicks off. I found myself picturing the story like the spokes of a wheel, with the actor in the middle and all of the other characters stories branching out from his. The wide and varied cast of characters end up connected in some pretty unexpected ways because of this.

Station Eleven is definitely not an upbeat tale; Mandel digs deep into how people could survive the end of modern civilization. It’s not pretty. But there are small bits of hope sprinkled throughout that kept me reading.

Really, the only thing I struggled with was the ‘villain’ of the story. His part was actually quite small, and his arc ended in a way that felt like a really inconsequential part of the story. He felt unnecessary. Honestly, if he hadn’t been included at all this would definitely have been 5/5.

4/5

It’s Alive! at the ROM

Over the holidays I visited the Royal Ontario Museum to see the It’s Alive! exhibit. I loved it.

Kirk Hammett (the lead guitarist of Metallica) has collected a tonne of horror and sci-fi movie posters and paraphernalia; this exhibit displays some of his collection. It reminded me a lot of the Guillermo del Toro exhibit I went to a couple of years ago.

Anyways, I took a bunch of pictures and I’m itching to share. Enjoy!

Book Review – Motorcycles & Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor

This book has been on my shelf for years, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it. I loved it.

Motorcycles & Sweetgrass is a Canadian First Nations tale that takes a modern look at Trickster folklore. While humorous and lighthearted, it also respectfully addresses the lasting damage of residential schools and the sensitive topic of land ownership. Taylor has managed to make it feel quite balanced – I’m impressed.

The story features a fantastic cast of characters that are quirky but also feel quite natural and real. So much so, that hilarious scenes like the Trickster’s feud with an army of raccoons, and his lighthearted conversation with Jesus don’t feel quite as ridiculous as they could have been. Again, it’s a fine balance and it has been pulled off beautifully.

Taylor apparently has quite the catalogue of books under his belt – the latest only released this past September. I’m definitely going to go back and read his other titles!

4/5

2019 Year in Review

Happy New Year!

I’m starting the year on a positive note: here are my favourite books I read in 2019.

Stack of books beside a Christmas tree

I wrote reviews for some of them too. Click the titles to learn why I loved these books so much!

I apparently didn’t write a review for Binti?! – not sure what happened there. Anyhoo, happy 2020 and happy reading!