Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I will not be pursuing the trilogy further. I will, however, watch the next season of the TV show when it’s released as I feel like the show took the original ideas of this story, tidied it up, and in general did more justice to the interesting concept and world that this author created.

1/5 stars.
Hardcover, 584 pages.
Attempted from January 16, 2019 to February 12, 2019.

I just can’t… this book is poorly written and highly disorganized and I found it strain from the first page to get involved in this book. The first book in this trilogy has a more engaging story and clearly had a heavier hand in editing whereas the author ended up ruining the story for me by being allowed to write so haphazardly. You have a large number of characters thrown at you from the first page which make them hard to invest in as well as making the story hard to follow. The main plot of finding a witch to help Diana and the Ashmole 782 gets lost in the mound of unnecessary characters, Matthew’s ridiculously excessive past and accolades, as well as cringe-worthy romance and sex scenes. All of the aspects I was interested in from the previous books were not apparent in this novel as it turned into a poorly written romance. I managed to make it nearly halfway through the book and all of its details without drowning in it.

I will not be pursuing the trilogy further. I will, however, watch the next season of the TV show when it’s released as I feel like the show took the original ideas of this story, tidied it up, and in general did more justice to the interesting concept and world that this author created. If I were in a less hassled state of mind I might have had the resilience to finish this book and find more redeeming qualities but for now, it’s being added to the very, very small pile of books that I could not finish.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

“You must live life with the full knowledge that your actions will remain. We are creatures of consequence.”

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 448 pages.
Read from October 12, 2018 to November 6, 2018.

There aren’t many books that manage to be this cohesive and consistently relevant. White Teeth debuted back in the 2000s and not many authors are able to make the literary impact that Zadie Smith did with this novel. For a first time novel, not only is  White Teeth brilliantly written but it also portrays a modern England with multi-ethnicities that span over two generations.

White Teeth begins by following two WWII veterans and friends, Alfred Archibald Jones and Samad Miah Iqbal. These two men, likely never would have been friends had they not met in the war as they come from vastly different backgrounds and ethnicities, boundaries that are not often crossed during post-war England. Both men marry women a generation younger than them. Archibald marries Clara, a beautiful, young, intelligent black woman who just happened to come into his life at a vulnerable time in hers. They have one daughter together, Irie. Samad is married to Alsana, an Indian woman with a sharp tongue who hides under a perceived notion of tradition but is generally “all talk”,  they have two boys together, identical twins, Millat and Magid.

Samad is a traditional man who brought his family over to England from India. He hides the fact that he is a server at his family’s restaurant because he feels the position is below him and often goes out of his way to stoke his ego any chance he can, to hide his own insecurities and personal failures, even at the expense of others. Archibald is an indecisive man that floats through life and is just happy to meet with Samad once a week at their neighbourhood pub. The men’s children are growing up in an England that they don’t recognize, can’t relate to, and are unwilling to move forward with. Millat and Migid relate more to being English than they do to their Indian roots, much to Samad’s fury, while Irie feels lost behind her fro and big hips, despite her intelligence and being the only character with a solid head on her shoulders. This dysfunctional lot each makes their own mistakes as they each traverse through their own identities and generational differences. No one really knows who they should be but they’re all being bombarded with ideals that are ultimately irrelevant.

“…They cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow.”

This book has a bit of slow start as it transitions from generation to generation. Once the children are born into each family the plot takes on a more interesting dynamic. Samad becomes a tragic yet despicable character, in my opinion. He is disrespectful of his wife and will do whatever it takes to prove himself right. He doesn’t care about his son’s wishes or wellbeing, just about what he believes their life should be like and for this, they both suffer.

“They have both lost their way. Strayed so far from what I had intended for them. No doubt they will both marry white women called Sheila and put me in an early grave–acutely displays “the immigrant fears–dissolution, disappearance.”

It’s hard to feel bad for Samad but Archibald too makes his own mistakes with Irie by not being a firm presence in her life. It doesn’t matter to Archibald what becomes of Irie, not because he doesn’t care, but more because he doesn’t put effort into any aspects of his life. As a reader, Irie is the only one you don’t want to pull your hair out over as she seems to be the only one that can see everyone’s issues, including her own. She is the only voice of sanity when everyone is at their breaking points.

I enjoyed most of the book, though I found some bits slow and obviously some of the characters highly unlikeable, however, the writing is moving and a brilliant commentary on race and gender in England. For a debut novel, White Teeth is very good so I can only imagine what else Zadie Smith has brought to the table since then.

My Favourite Reads of 2018

The best books I read this year. You won’t want to miss this.

2018 has come to a close and I had another great year of reading (I hope you did too)! I’m pretty happy that I managed to reach my reading goal again this year and I am hoping to amp up my goal in 2019. As I like to do at the end of every year, is look back at the books I read and pick my top five fiction reads and my top five non-fiction reads. So, here we go! 

Fiction:


The Travelling Cat Chronicles
I am not a crier. I don’t think I have ever cried reading a book but damn, this one brought me really close. I enjoyed this light-hearted novel so much that I read it twice in 2018. If you want an easy read that’s narrated by a cat, check this book out.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane 
It isn’t very often that I read a description that legitimately makes me want to read a book and sticks with me. I enjoyed this book so much that I gifted three copies of it this year because of its great plot and characters.

Killing Commendatore 
I waited years for the next Murakami novel and it finally arrived late in 2018. I was not disappointed and in my opinion, other Murakami fans won’t be either.

A Spark of Light
This was my first Jodi Picoult novel and I am sure now it won’t be my last. This timely and relevant novel impressed me with it’s depth and readability as well as its perfect commentary on current political events in the US involving women’s reproductive rights.

The Space Between Us
This was my first book by this author. I was really impressed with the character depth in this novel and felt very involved in this dramatic novel involving families. Thankfully the author released a sequel to this book in the late spring of 2018 that I still need to add to my reading list.

Non-Fiction:

Into Thin Air
Okay, so I was a bit behind on this bandwagon but that doesn’t make this novel any less riveting. If you want to know what climbing Mt. Everest is like without having to step foot on it I don’t think there are too many other books that could give you that experience. This book is a nail-biting and heart-breaking read.

Precious Cargo
One of my favourite reads from the Canada Reads 2018 debate for its funny and heartwarming tale of some pretty awesome kids and one lost adult who learned a lot from them.

Forgiveness
This book actually won Canada Reads 2018 and while I enjoyed this novel, I appreciated Precious Cargo a bit more. This novel has some phenomenal historical content that I feel Canadians should read.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
This book was all the rage this last year due the author’s untimely death which also helped with the arrest of this elusive killer. The author’s voice is unique and engaging and it is a shame that we have lost such a great true-crime writer with such passion and talent.

Tea and Tea Set
I have read a few books on tea and so far this one has been my favourite. It’s nearly an unknown book but it’s content is quite good. I picked it up at a teahouse in Hong Kong and if you want to learn more about Chinese tea and can get your hands on this book I would highly recommend it.