It’s a little late, but here is my March wrap-up! Hopefully, I’ll post my April wrap-up less than a month after April ends but it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down for me in April at all so maybe not. Without further ado:
1. Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
Trigger Warnings: child abuse, homophobia, alcoholism, death, racism, body shaming, miscarriage
Source: Purchased, Shelf Life Books
Jonny Appleseed, championed by Devery Jacobs, won Canada Reads 2021. As per Arsenal Pulp press: “A tour-de-force novel about a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer young man and proud NDN glitter princess who must reckon with his past when he returns home to his reserve.”
This is a primarily character-driven novel that flips back and forth between present and past in the lead-up to Jonny’s return home to Peguis First Nation. It is simultaneously, sad and uplifting. It reads like many stories woven together through different spaces and times to tell the story of who Jonny is and how he came to be. This was a wonderful book and every person should read it.
2. Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
Trigger Warnings: Violence, body horror, gore, death, medical trauma, kidnapping and confinement, torture, murder.
Source: Purchased, Shelf Life Books
Challenges: Calgary Expo Reading Challenge, Leading Lady Badge
Another Canada Reads contender, Hench is much more lighthearted than the other contenders. It was championed by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, most recently known as an actor from the comedy Kim’s Convenience.
Summary from Goodreads: “Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy? As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured. And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.”
I felt Hench really stood out from the rest of the Canada Reads Books (although, full disclosure, I still have not read Two Trees Make a Forest). Hench is full of dark humour and sarcasm, and a page-turning adventure from start to finish. My husband, who basically never reads, asked to borrow the book when I was done because he overhead it being discussed on Canada Reads. I think this book will attract a wider audience than some of the other contenders, yet it still had a meaningful plot, or maybe I’m the only one reading a workers’ rights and health rights narrative into the storyline? It is also full of diverse characters, in a way that fully takes advantage of the alternate superhero/villain universe.
Quotes: “I wouldn’t have time to shower. I decided showing up in dry shampoo and desperation was better than missing a chance to pick up a contract. It had been a few weeks since I last worked; the villain I was semi-regularly hunching for had their largest aquatic base raided, and almost all of the hunches working off-site had our contracts cancelled to cover the rebuild.”
3. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Trigger Warnings: Violence, death, blood, torture, misogyny, physical abuse, sexual abuse, racism.
Challenges: Calgary Expo Reading Challenge, Magic Badge
I picked this up based solely on cover and have no regrets. From Storygraph:
“In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice. Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
But on the day of her ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity – and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki-near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.”
I could not put this book down! Although the storyline was very different, this reminded me of The Midnight Bargain, which I read last month. The broad similarity is that these are both fantasy books with magical elements that centre around misogynistic societies. I would read this again and would definitely read a sequel.
4. Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Trigger Warnings: Self-harm, mental illness, anxiety, medical content
Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge, a past prompt: two-word title
What is not to love about a story full of love, growth and self-reflection?
Honey Girl begins with the main character Grace Porter drunkenly getting married in Vegas, which is very out of character for Grace, who recently completed her Ph.D. in astronomy with a military-like zeal passed down from her Father the “colonel”. Thus begins a journey of self-reflection and discovery for Grace who is struggling with the weight of burnout, and job and life expectations.
The best part of this book is the relationship between Grace and her friends, both new and old. The romantic storyline between Grace and Yuki, her new wife, is also fantastic, particularly because while it starts with a wild beginning, it quickly feels realistic and romantic.
5. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, infidelity, miscarriage, suicidal thoughts, pedophilia
Challenges: Calgary Expo Reading Challenge, Time Travel Badge; Popsugar Reading Challenge, a book your best friend would love
I picked this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge, a book your best friend will love, because the modern character Caroline Parcewell becomes an amateur historian when she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames. I know my best friend would love the adventure that Caroline then goes on to learn more about the story behind the vial.
From Storygraph: “In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, a female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.”
This story made me want to go “mudlarking” on the banks of the Thames. Apparently, this is a real-life thing where you scavenge in river mud for items, in the case of this book items of historical significance or value. Although, I didn’t really care for the storyline involving Caroline and her husband’s infidelity (not a spoiler, known from the outset), I loved the historical narrative and the parts about Caroline searching for information about the apothecary.
6. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
Trigger Warnings: Illness, death, trauma, miscarriage
Source: Purchased, E-book
Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge, a book about forgetting
I’m really drawn to books with this cover style! I think I purchased this as an e-book when it went on sale based solely on the cover.
From Goodreads: “when a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…”
This book was cute and I learned some interesting facts about the history of Haiti. I also really enjoyed that it was written in the epistolary style, with emails, articles, diary entries and letters scattered throughout.
The biggest struggle I had with Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is that the voice of the main character Alaine is very juvenile. I don’t think I talked like this even when I was a teenager myself. I can hear the uptilt at the end of every sentence and feel the “I’m cooler than everyone else” attitude seeping through the pages bringing me PTSD from everything I tried to avoid in high school. I often enjoy YA books, and while I enjoyed the story itself, the first-person, bubbly teen voice was not for me.
Did Not Finish
I had lots of books at the end of March that weren’t finished but I planned to still continue. The only DNF that I put down was Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler.