2017 has been an interesting and tough year both personally and globally. Between busy schedules and, well, life happening… I wasn’t able to get to writing a number of reviews for books I had finished despite the best of intentions. So I thought I’d take this moment at the end of the year to do a round-up of mini reviews for all those I didn’t get a chance to write about yet. (Click the titles for the Goodread synopsis of each book)
★ = one star | ☆ = half a star
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty | I finally got around to reading this this year, prior to watching the HBO show and I devoured this in a weekend! Very compelling and while there were a lot of characters (that I tried keeping a list of to keep it straight in my head), it all wove together very well. Great read! ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne | There was so much hype and love for this book, so I was excited to finally get around to reading it. Unfortunately, it didn’t fully work for me. I thought it was entertaining, but the parts that I wish were more drawn out (like the actual “hating” aspect), the characters seem to rush into it and there wasn’t as much build-up or development to have readers believe any kind of tension between them. ★ ★ ★ ☆
- Checkmate #1: This Is War by Kennedy Fox | I don’t read romance novels at all but after many friends have been raving about Kennedy Fox, my curiosity was piqued. Luckily this first book in the Checkmate series was on sale on Kindle as well and I flew through it! Loved it, and am converted to the fandom that is Kennedy Fox.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
- Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill | So… this book won the Giller Prize, and I love books set in Toronto. The premise was super mysterious and compelling, and I loved the first part until it got a bit too strange and cerebral. I appreciate where the author was going with it, and had it maintained the feel of the first part throughout the whole book, it might have kept my hooked in. Unfortunately the further into it I got, the less I was invested in what was going on. ★ ★ ★
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng | Loved this book. Loved her first book Everything I Never Told You so I was super excited for her next one. An intimate look at the mother/daughter relationship that takes all forms and showing how motherhood is not always so black and white. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas | A timely, super-important read. There’s a reason this was Indigo’s #1 Book of 2017. I loved that the author addresses racial tensions, police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement in this debut novel. Powerful. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy | While I enjoyed Julie’s previous book Dumplin’ a bit more, I still really liked this one. The characters were really compelling and I liked that the main character has a rough relationship with the mother, when it’s usually a “deadbeat father” in the picture. I liked that she tackled the confusion of being straight/gay/bi, and the uncertainty that can come with that especially at that age. ★ ★ ★ ★
- A Map For Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor | I wanted this book to be so much better than what it was. The premise was interesting but the execution fell flat for me. The characters are absolutely unlikable – Henri is just awful. It was such melodramatic sister drama with an unhealthy codependency. There was so much build-up of anger to have a confrontation only to have it be “resolved” in such an anti-climactic way. Also a big eye-rolling moment? The hammock. ★ ★ ☆
- The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed | I read this on the heels of Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, and I’m not sure if that affected my feelings towards it. I liked this book, but it felt way too similar in theme to me. A group of girls secretly banning together for a revolution to fight sexist behaviour in the high school. I found the way that this book was laid out, however, a bit more challenging to connect with because it switched between character POVs so often – and there were so many characters… ★ ★ ★ ☆
- Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills | I really enjoyed this book! It had drama both on stage and off, with some interesting character dynamics. This actually surprised me how much I ended up liking it! ★ ★ ★ ★
- Pointe by Brandy Colbert | A friend had been recommending this book to me for ages to read, and she hadn’t steered me wrong before so I finally got around to picking it up. Truth be told, I didn’t even know too much about it and assumed it was a contemporary “dance” story, but that’s actually a really small part of it. It’s actually so much more about the main character’s best friend who had gone missing suddenly reappearing after 4 years. It’s more about that case than it is about ballet. Loved this. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley | This was highly anticipated too and I know many people who loved it, but I thought it was okay. I had to suspend my disbelief a lot to think these characters who are all in the small little bookshop are communicating through leaving letters in a book rather than just looking over and talking. Cute idea, but it was hard for me to find believable or compelling. Sweet story though. ★ ★ ★ ☆
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone | In the same vein as The Hate U Give, this book takes on racism and police tensions. The main character is a smart guy who gets wrongly arrested and caught up in the cycle that follows an African-American’s encounter with a police officer. Also very timely and relevant. ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
- Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer | This feels like the sleeper hit of the year. It was briefly on my radar until friends were talking about it. I could not put it down and read it in under 24 hours. Similar to the “letter writing” aspect of Words in Deep Blue, this was what I felt like the prior book should have been. This was so emotional and engaging, I felt completely invested in the characters. Love love loved it. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- Check Please! Year One and Two by Ngozi Ukazu | I hadn’t even heard of this until attending Toronto Comic Arts Festival this year with some friends and got to hear Ngozi speak about this hockey series. I love the illustrations and the stories are just delightful! ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- Paper Girls Volume 1, 2 & 3 by Brian K. Vaughan | I had heard a lot about this series yet was not prepared for how sci-fi this ended up being… but I like it! I thought it was supposed to be kinda like a Stranger Things type story with monsters, etc. I was not anticipating the extent that it takes into the science fiction world. ★ ★ ★ ★
- The Flintstones Volume 1 by Mark Russell | A surprise hit! A friend recommended this and said she was also quite surprised at how good it was. It takes a world we’re familiar with from the old cartoons and addresses some more modern issues in an interestingly poignant way. Definitely looking forward to checking out Volume 2.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 1 by Ryan North | I had heard so many things about how awesome Squirrel Girl was, and I had seen Ryan North speak on a panel before and think him hilarious but unfortunately I couldn’t get into this graphic novel at all. I actually couldn’t even finish the whole thing. The illustration style wasn’t working for me and it just seemed too all-over-the-place for me. ★ ★
- Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung | This was such a sweet graphic novel! While I don’t consider myself an introvert at all, I still found a lot of the panels extremely relevant as a book lover. This would be a great gift for someone (or yourself!) ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- Jughead Volume 1 & 2 by Chip Zdarsky | I really enjoy the reboot of the Archie comics (and with Riverdale), so I was really excited to check out the Jughead ones. While the first volume completely lost me in its absurdity in all the dream sequences, I was glad to see the second volume go back to regular storytelling. Definitely preferred Volume 2 more. ★ ★ ★ ☆
Plays, Poetry and Essays
- The Making of St. Jerome by Marie Beath Badian | This seems to be a recurring prominent, important theme this year. This is a play regarding the shooting death of a teenager in Toronto and the media coverage that surrounds the aftermath. I would love to see this production live in person… a very moving story. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- Outside by Paul Dunn | This play about a gay teen who is forced to start over at another school after being bullied out of his previous school is another story full of important messaging. I was lucky enough to get a chance to see this production in Toronto last month and it was just as hard-hitting as it was to read. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur | I haven’t read much poetry but I had heard so much about Rupi Kaur that I was intrigued to check it out. This kind of “accessible” poetry, full of sketches as a companion to some of the poems, was beautiful. There were so many passages that really resonated. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
- Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit | The title of this had always caught my eye and when the ebook was on sale, I decided it was finally time to check it out. The book opens with a great anecdote that pertains to the title, but that was about it. I was hoping for more poignant stories and observations about the “mansplaining” moments that the author had encountered but instead it delves more into statistics and factual research instead – which is fine, but not what I was expecting or hoping for. ★ ★ ★
- Courage is Contagious edited by Nicholas Haramis | This collection of essays celebrating the former first lady Michelle Obama from a variety of people was a wonderful, uplifting book to read. From celebrities to school children, this was a great assortment of anecdotes in the ways that Michelle had touched their lives.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Have you read any of these books this past year? Which were your favourites?