Review: The Fire Starters by Jan Carson

The Fire Starters by Jan Carson

Categories: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism

First Publication Date: 4. April 2019


Synopsis: Dr Jonathan Murray fears his new-born daughter is not as harmless as she seems.

Sammy Agnew is wrestling with his dark past, and fears the violence in his blood lurks in his son, too.

The city is in flames and the authorities are losing control. As matters fall into frenzy, and as the lines between fantasy and truth, right and wrong, begin to blur, who will these two fathers choose to protect?

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eARC Review: The Harpy by Megan Hunter

Categories: Contemporary Fiction


Lucy and Jake live in a house by a field where the sun burns like a ball of fire. Lucy has set her career aside in order to devote her life to the children, to their finely tuned routine, and to the house itself, which comforts her like an old, sly friend. But then a man calls one afternoon with a shattering message: his wife has been having an affair with Lucy’s husband, Jake.

The revelation marks a turning point: Lucy and Jake decide to stay together, but make a special arrangement designed to even the score and save their marriage—she will hurt him three times.

As the couple submit to a delicate game of crime and punishment, Lucy herself begins to change, surrendering to a transformation of both mind and body from which there is no return.


As I started the book, it seemed to me it would be too much of an indulgent revenge fantasy story, and it is definitely that, but it’s also an addictive read and with surprising depth. There is definitely no shortage of books about infidelity in marriage, but this one definitely stands out with its daring plot.

The author tries to give us glimpses of the life of Lucy and how she came to have this violence inside her, how the patterns of the life of her parents repeated themselves and so on, which I found a bit overdone. The interesting thing about the story, for me, was that she could have been any wife, any woman who’s been cheated on and fantasized about taking revenge. By giving Lucy so much backstory, it felt to me that she was over-explained.

If you enjoy stories about messy women making bad choices on purpose (this reminded me a bit of Supper Club in that regard: a story about women’s hunger for darker things than society expects them to), then I think this will be an enjoyable read! If you hope for a literary work with a deep exploration of relationship dynamics, violence and guilt (as I did), then you will be disappointed – this is more a revenge story that also showcases the daily pressures, trauma and violence women go through. I also expected a more lyrical prose (the blurb talks of poetic prose), but found it quite regular. As a last and petty complaint, I love magical realism in a story, and I really liked the harpy allegory, but I did not think the magical part of the story was well-executed, it felt clunky and forced.

In the end, I enjoyed the read and devoured this book, but I doubt it will be very memorable for me down the line. This is Megan Hunter’s sophomore book, and I think it was a very intriguing one even though I did not love it, and I will keep an eye out for her next books.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Categories: Literary Fiction, Mystery


Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star lodging on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. When the financial empire collapses, it obliterates countless fortunes and devastates lives. Vincent, who had been posing as Jonathan’s wife, walks away into the night. Years later, a victim of the fraud is hired to investigate a strange occurrence: a woman has seemingly vanished from the deck of a container ship between ports of call.

In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.


The Glass Hotel is a literary mystery that explores the consequences of Jonathan Alkaitis’ Ponzi scheme on the lives of several people. Vincent, who pretends to be his second wife, is arguably one of the main characters, but we get insights into the lives of others, old friends, an estranged brother, some victims, whose stories are connected by the crime and form one narrative of broken relationships, unsolved issues, chance, corruption.

I first approached this book expecting a regular mystery, in the line of The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James minus the ghosts or The Hunting Party by Lucy Foyle but more literary, but it reminds me far more of Disappearing Earth by Julia Philips. Like the latter, the beauty of this book is on the portrayal of the lives of the people in the story, some of them only marginally connected to the crime. It’s a lovely book to sit down with for several hours and get lost in.

Because I expected something a bit different from the book, my experience was not optimal, and it took me several chapters to really get into the story; the change in points of view made me get distracted a lot. By the time I was halfway through I had gotten used to the book’s rythm, and then it was a really wonderful read. I would be curious to re-read this knowing now what to expect from the story format.

The beautiful writing really brings this to another level and makes the book a poignant read that I highly recommend.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Resenha: A Falência por Júlia Lopes de Almeida

a falencia julia lopes de almeida

Nota: ★★★★★

Categorias: Ficção Clássica

Bem recebido pela crítica em seu lançamento (em 1901), A Falência destaca-se da produção de obras dessa época. Em um cenário de romances amorosos, Júlia Lopes de Almeida narra com crueza o enredo de uma mulher adúltera em busca de realização, entremeado à derrocada de um exportador de café. Camila, de origem pobre e casada com Francisco Theodoro em virtude da comodidade que a riqueza do marido lhe traz, descobre a paixão tardiamente nos braços do doutor Gervásio. Francisco de nada desconfia, mas terá seu ideal de família perfeita abalado após um mau negócio que o leva à falência. A Falência, segundo biografia ainda não publicada pela filha da autora, levou mais de quinze anos para ser produzido, tornando-se a obra-prima de Júlia Lopes de Almeida, uma das maiores escritoras da literatura brasileira.

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Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

hamnet maggie ofarrell

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Historical Fiction

A young Latin tutor—penniless and bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman. Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.

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eARC Review: Hysteria by Jessica Gross

hysteria jessica gross

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction

I received an advance copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

In HYSTERIA, we meet a young woman an hour into yet another alcohol-fueled, masochistic, sexual bender at her local bar. There is a new bartender working this time, one she hasn’t seen before, and who can properly make a drink. He looks familiar, and as she is consumed by shame from her behavior the previous week— hooking up with her parents’ colleague and her roommate’s brother— she also becomes convinced that her Brooklyn bartender is actually Sigmund Freud. They embark on a relationship, and she is forced to confront her past through the prism of their complex, revealing, and sometimes shocking meetings. With the help of Freud—or whoever he is—she begins to untangle her Oedipal leanings, her upbringing, and her desires.

This became immediately one of my most anticipated reads for this year the moment I saw this cover and the synopsis. I adore the “messy woman” trope, dark-toned stories about 20-something women who misbehave wildly, get into a lot of trouble and often don’t get the therapy they so sorely need. It’s just really an enjoyable kind of read for me. Continue reading

Review: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

drive your plow over the bones of the dead Olga Tokarczuk

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Translated Fiction, Mystery

In a remote Polish village, Janina Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. She is reclusive, preferring the company of animals to people; she’s unconventional, believing in the stars; and she is fond of the poetry of William Blake, from whose work the title of the book is taken. When members of a local hunting club are found murdered, Duszejko becomes involved in the investigation.

This rather unassuming synopsis does not tell the most interesting part of this story: Mrs. Duszejko is convinced that Animals are taking revenge on people who hunt them, killing them one by one. She finds evidences of the presence of animals on the area of the murders, and draws their horoscopes to try to prove to the police that her theory is right. I was left  half convinced that she is not entirely sane during the entire book, torn between believing her or not. The victims are also involved in some mysterious crime, a far more plausible explanation for their murders, but Mrs. Duszejko is convinced otherwise. Continue reading

Review: Things we Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez

Things we lost in the fire mariana enriquezRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Mystery, Horror, Short Stories

Things We Lost in the Fire is a collection of eerie stories centered on women and girls in Argentina, with a touch of urban myth. This exceptional short stories book is the second work by Mariana Enriquez I read and it’s become one of my favorite short stories books. The perfect mixture of mundane worries with surpernatural horror and with the endings open enough that you imagine what happens after the stories, and they live in your imagination longer than in the pages. Continue reading

Bilingual Review [EN/PT]: The House in Smyrna / A Chave de Casa by Tatiana Salem Levy

a chave de casa tatiana salem levy

(Keep scrolling down for the English review.)

[Português]

Nota: ★★★★☆

Categorias: Ficção Contemporânea

Passando por temas como a morte da mãe, a relação com um homem violento, viagem, raízes, herança e etc, A chave de casa é um livro pulsante, cheio de vida e emoção. A autora tece um romance de vozes diversas – como são as vozes da memória -, histórias que se complementam num tom de densa estranheza. Romance de estréia da jovem escritora Tatiana Salem Levy. 

Fiquei surpresa ao ver que este é o romance de estréia da autora – sua maestria na escrita de um romance com diversas narrativas fragmentadas me encantou completamente. Seu estilo me lembrou um pouco de Virginia Woolf e Clarice Lispector, com uma linha da história alternando entre pontos de vista, ano e país, fragmentadas, e obrigando o leitor a se esforçar para entender a narrativa não-linear. Eu pessoalmente gosto muito desse tipo de história (embora não tenha me dado bem com os romances de Clarice ainda), em que o leitor tem que se concentrar e se entregar à história, tentando desvendar vários pontos da narração ao mesmo tempo em que desconfia dela. No final o sentimento  que tive ao terminar o livro é de gratificação por ter uma imagem da personagem e como ela chegou a ser quem é, as coisas que ela passou, como ela pensa e se sente. Não é um livro fácil, mas é curto e, levando em conta que ele venceu o Prêmio São Paulo de Literatura, sinto-me confiante ao recomendá-lo. Continue reading

Review: The House Of The Spirits by Isabel Allende

The House of Spirits Isabel Allende

Rating: ★★★★★

Categories: Magic Realism, Translated Fiction

As a girl, Clara del Valle can read fortunes, make objects move as if they had lives of their own, and predict the future. Following the mysterious death of her sister, Rosa the Beautiful, Clara is mute for nine years. When she breaks her silence, it is to announce that she will be married soon to the stern and volatile landowner Esteban Trueba.

Set in an unnamed Latin American country over three generations, The House of the Spirits is a magnificent epic of a proud and passionate family, secret loves and violent revolution.

This beautifully written epic tells the story of generations of the families Trueba and del Valle, whose fates are forever connected when Esteban Trueba falls in love with Rosa. The magical realism is so well-done, the magic interwoven seamlessly into the story and adding a layer of beauty to it – I have a soft spot for magical realism and this was just perfectly executed. Continue reading