Book Review: The Migration

The Migration by Helen Marshall

Creepy and atmospheric, evocative of Stephen King’s classic Pet Sematary , The Migration is a story of sisterhood, transformation, and the limitations of love, from a thrilling new voice in Canadian fiction.

When I was younger I didn’t know a thing about death. I thought it meant stillness, a body gone limp. A marionette with its strings cut. Death was like a long vacation–a going away.

Storms and flooding are worsening around the world, and a mysterious immune disorder has begun to afflict the young. Sophie Perella is about to begin her senior year of high school in Toronto when her little sister, Kira, is diagnosed. Their parents’ marriage falters under the strain, and Sophie’s mother takes the girls to Oxford, England, to live with their Aunt Irene. An Oxford University professor and historical epidemiologist obsessed with relics of the Black Death, Irene works with a centre that specializes in treating people with the illness. She is a friend to Sophie, and offers a window into a strange and ancient history of human plague and recovery. Sophie just wants to understand what’s happening now; but as mortality rates climb, and reports emerge of bodily tremors in the deceased, it becomes clear there is nothing normal about this condition–and that the dead aren’t staying dead. When Kira succumbs, Sophie faces an unimaginable choice: let go of the sister she knows, or take action to embrace something terrifying and new.
Tender and chilling, unsettling and hopeful, The Migration is a story of a young woman’s dawning awareness of mortality and the power of the human heart to thrive in cataclysmic circumstances.

Review:
I’ve never read a book quite like The Migration. It had me intrigued by the synopsis and then when I started reading, I was quickly engaged with the characters and the strange plight happening to the children around the world.
The writing is lovely, conveying the attachment between the sisters and the difficulty that a chronic illness can take on a family. I especially loved the research and imagination shown by the author in developing this strange illness that is plaguing only children.
There is a strange, almost sci-fi feel to this book and it won’t be for everyone but I did enjoy this flight of imagination.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
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Book Review: A Light of Her Own

A Light of Her Own

by Carrie Callaghan

In Holland 1633, a woman’s ambition has no place.

Judith is a painter, dodging the law and whispers of murder to become the first woman admitted to the prestigious Haarlem artist’s guild. Maria is a Catholic in a country where the faith is banned, hoping to absolve her sins by recovering a lost saint’s relic.

Both women’s destinies will be shaped by their ambitions, running counter to the city’s most powerful men, whose own plans spell disaster. A vivid portrait of a remarkable artist, A Light of Her Own is a richly-woven story of grit against the backdrop of Rembrandts and repressive religious rule.

Review:
A Light of Her Own is a rich and lush re-imagining of the life of Judith Leyster, a talented painter in Holland in the 1600s, as well as her friend Maria. It’s so interesting to learn about overlooked historical figures and their times.
Judith is an interesting character, full of passion and determination, a woman trying to make it in her profession in a man’s world. At times, this determination to succeed takes her too far, but we get to watch her evolve as a character.
Maria also is living in contradiction to the norms of her society — a devout Catholic in a country that has made her faith illegal.
Overall, I enjoyed this book well enough, but I did not find it compelling. I loved reading about the history of the time but did not get drawn into the story.
Thank you to NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
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Book Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Review:

I bought this for my daughter because I had heard about it. She raced through it, said it was one of her favourite books ever and handed it to me to read.
Wow.
This is such a well told book. It deals with big issues, but does it in a sensitive, intelligent, and even educational way.
Initially, the book was a little hard for me to get into, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. The characters are real, diverse, and authentic — and I love how they discussed their various points of view, giving the reader insights into some important issues.
The book revolves around Starr, a teen who has to choose how to use her voice. She has to decide whether or not to tell her story after witnessing her unarmed friend get shot by a police officer. This is a killing that has shaken her whole neighbourhood and there are pros and cons for Starr to tell her story publicly. She has to decide how to act as an African American girl at a predominantly white school. She has to decide who to be in her neighbourhood.  There are so many choices and they come down to how to use your voice and how to tell your story.
This is a powerful book and one that both teens and adults will get something out of.
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On Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3)

Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts is full of new dangers. A convicted murderer, Sirius Black, has broken out of Azkaban prison, and it seems he’s after Harry. Now Hogwarts is being patrolled by the dementors, the Azkaban guards who are hunting Sirius. But Harry can’t imagine that Sirius or, for that matter, the evil Lord Voldemort could be more frightening than the dementors themselves, who have the terrible power to fill anyone they come across with aching loneliness and despair. Meanwhile, life continues as usual at Hogwarts. A top-of-the-line broom takes Harry’s success at Quidditch, the sport of the Wizarding world, to new heights. A cute fourth-year student catches his eye. And he becomes close with the new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher, who was a childhood friend of his father. Yet despite the relative safety of life at Hogwarts and the best efforts of the dementors, the threat of Sirius Black grows ever closer. But if Harry has learned anything from his education in wizardry, it is that things are often not what they seem. Tragic revelations, heartwarming surprises, and high-stakes magical adventures await the boy wizard in this funny and poignant third installment of the beloved series.
Review:
This is one of my favourite Harry Potter books and it was so much fun to discuss it in my book club recently. Rowling is certainly bringing in more of the dark aspects of the wizarding world in this installment.
I find it fascinating how Rowling brings in so many important themes into her writing, such as discrimination and wrongful convictions without proper investigation and evidence — there is an almost World War 2 feel to some of what went on in the wizarding world under Voldemort. And then there are the dementors themselves and the fact that the wizarding world is alright partnering up with them, emphasizing again how everything is not always wonderful in the world of magic.
There are also great themes around friendship in this book. Harry and his friends argue and act moodily, just like regular teenagers. And then there is the friendship of Harry’s parents, their friends and their dynamic, and how they bullied Snape. The good and bad of being friends is explored.
Overall, I loved the pacing and the tension and the humour in The Prisoner of Azkaban. There is so much adventure and looming peril that it is hard not to get completely engrossed.

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