Review: The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld

the bass rock evie wyld

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

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The Bass Rock tells the story of three women, all living at some point in a house in Scotland, near the Bass Rock: Sarah, in the 1700, accused of witchcraft and fleeing for her life; Ruth, in the years after the war, trying to adapt to a new village and her new husband; and Viviane, sixty years later who’s dealing with the death of her father and emptying the house Ruth used to live in.

The Bass Rock is an exploration of toxic masculinity and its effect on women; it took me a few pages to really get into the story, but after that it was a deeply interesting story and I could not put it down. The lives of these three women are connected by the place near the Bass Rock in Scotland, and by the similarities in what they experience with the violence of men, who seek to control their lives, in some way or another. It was very interesting especially to see the connections between Ruth and Viviane, both having been institutionalized and living with the ghost of, presumably, Sarah. Continue reading

Review: A Thousand Ships, by Natalie Haynes

a thousand ships natalie haynesRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Greek Myth Retelling

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A Thousand Ships is a retelling of the Odyssey through the eyes of the women. The narrators are, ostensibly, Muses to whom a poet prays for inspiration. But each character gets their own chance to narrate, and stories that should not have been forgotten, are finally told.

This was so enchanting, beautiful and I devoured it in two sittings. A Thousand Ships is exactly what I hoped The Silence of the Girls would have been, and I am pleased that, despite my initial hesitation towards this book, it surprised me with how good it is! Continue reading

Review: The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel

the mirror and the light hilary mantelRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

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The Mirror and the Light is the third and final installment of the Cromwell series, which has had my whole heart since I started it a few years ago. It tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, his ascension into power and trust of King Henry VIII. In this last installment, we have seen Anne Boleyn fall from the king’s graces and lose her head – and although Cromwell has more power and wealth than ever, his enemies are gathering to plot his fall.

This trilogy takes a long time to read, not only because it’s nearly 900 pages, but also because of the sheer amount of characters, plots, subplots and the amount of attention the reader has to pay to details (absolutely worth it). It’s a series to get immersed into, and I loved spending around two weeks reading this – it’s one of my favorite series of all times, of all genres I read. Mantel turns Cromwell into a character so full of life, complexity, sharp wit, intelligence and ambition it’s truly refreshing to cheer for someone who is clearly not the classical hero in historical fiction stories. I’ve read a few Tudor books, and none have the brilliance of this series. Continue reading

Review: Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams

queenie candice carty williamsRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction

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When Tom says he needs a break and Queenie needs to move out, she tries to tell herself it’s not as bad as all that, she’ll live for a few months in a shared apartment and then go back to he relationship, even better than before. But as her break becomes messier and messier, Queenie’s mental health deteriorates and she makes increasingly worse choices.

Whew, this book knocked me out of the park and left me a mess. It starts off rather runny, I was snorting on my lunch break, but as Queenie starts to make terrible choices and act detached from her own life, my heart started to break. I think this book hit me hard because I went through a breakdown too, some years ago, and jeopardized a lot of things in the process, including not doing my job and ignoring my friends and family, detaching myself from my life – so as Queenie becomes more unlikable and makes worse choices that a person doing okay never could understand, I couldn’t help but sympathize. We did not go through the same things at all (I’m not a black woman, for starters, and had the support of my family and boyfriend), and my heart aches so much for all the horrors she had to go through. Continue reading

Review: How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee

How we disappeared by Jing-Jing LeeRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

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How We Disappeared tells the story of Wang Di, an old woman from Singapore who’s just lost her husband before she told him her story of the war and listened to his own. Trying to find out the truth is much harder now that the war is long over and so many people are dead or missing. Her own story hurts too much and she tries to not think about it if she can – she’s never told her husband she was a “comfort woman”. On the other side of the town, Kevin finds out his grandmother found his father when he was a baby and never gave him back to the biological father she later found out still lived. Continue reading

January Releases eARC Reviews: Miss Austen & How Quickly She Disappears

miss austen gill hornbyMiss Austen by Gill Hornby

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Historical Fiction

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

Miss Austen is the story of Cassandra Austen, who famously destroyed most of the letters exchanged with her sister Jane. I enjoyed the witty dialogues, so very like the way the books are written, and I think it’s where it shines. I was however bored with it rather soon, despite its attempts at making a (fictional) dramatic account of Cassandra’s love life, Jane’s depression and jealousy of other women. All the characters seem to be taken right out of Jane Austen’s novels (on purpose, I assume), all wit and clear heroines vs antagonists, which did not work well for this novel, in my opinion. I hoped for more well-rounded characters. I was engrossed by the story at times, but much too often I was simply bored. The predictability of the plot (which, considering it’s based on real events, can’t be avoided) was not helped by the writing, or the characters. If you’re craving some Austen in your life, I think you’ll enjoy this, especially how much you see of Cassandra in this. I itched to know more about their real lives. The novel, although witty and loosely based to real events from the Austen family’s lives, did not feel quite strong enough. Continue reading

Review: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, by Elif Shafak

10 minutes and 38 seconds in this strange world elif shafak

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Historical Fiction

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Leila is dead – but her brain still shows activity for another 10 minutes and 38 seconds; and in those moments after death, she remembers the tastes and smells that bring her back memories from her childhood and then eventually becoming a prostitute in Istanbul.

This is a book that had everything to become an instant favorite for me. It tells the story of Leila, who worked as a prostitute in Istanbul, but also of her five closest friends, all of which are part of minorities living in the margins of Istanbul, and each one will probably end up in the Cemetery of Companionless, a real cemetery in the outskirts of the city for those who are unclaimed or unwanted. I liked how much diversity in the characters and their personalities there was – I also liked how Leila was strong and kind, despite all the things she goes through. Continue reading

Mini-Review: The Man Who Saw Everything, by Deborah Levy

the man who saw everything deborah levy

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Historical Fiction, M/M

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In The Man Who Saw Everything, Saul Adler goes to East Germany in 1988 to do research and in exchange write a favorable report about the GDR. That is the very short description I can give about the plot of this book, but it is so much more than that.

Saul is a historian, a narcissistic, gorgeous-looking man whose narrative is deeply unreliable and it was both strange and fascinating to read. He’s clearly obsessed with himself and his own beauty, but also constantly defies gender in a nonchalant manner. He was one of the most interesting narrators I’ve seen in a long time. Little by little, we piece together what happened in East Berlin, the fate of the people in his life, but we’re never really sure if we’re reading the absolute truth. I found myself laughing sometimes, and at other times my heart broke to tiny, tiny pieces, which is a feat for a 200-page book! This engrossing, brilliant read was such a highlight for literary fiction this year for me, and I highly recommend it.

Review: The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht

the tigers wife tea obreht

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism

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Natalia’s grandfather has died suddenly in a faraway city, away from his family and keeping secret from his wife the true extent of his illness. Natalia hears the news and knows where he was going: to meet the deathless man. The war is over, the country has been divided and she must find his things so that the family can mourn him appropriately – and in this journey, she remembers the story of how her grandfather met the deathless man, and the tiger’s wife.

The review below has spoilers – if you want to go into the book knowing not too much about it, please consider skipping this review. Continue reading

Mini-Review: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Genres: Historical fiction

I’ve read Chimamanda’s books by the inverse order of publication: so this one was my most recent read by her, and one can definitely tell how much richer her writing has become with each book. This was such an engaging read, so heart-breaking and beautiful.

Purple Hibiscus follows the story of Kambili, a fifteen-year-old girl who lives under the strict rules of her father, a wealthy and deeply religious man. Due to a coup that puts Kambili’s family in danger, she and her brother Jaja stay with their aunt and her children, whose lives are filled with laughter, struck by poverty and so entirely foreign to both of them.

Through Kambili’s perspective you get little by little glimpses of the abuse she and her family suffer, and what it can do to a person. Her narration is filled with both awe and fear for her father, and it’s very moving. I expected this book to be more depressing, but it really isn’t; there is hope and growth and love. I was wondering if the length of the book wouldn’t leave too many things out of it and feel too rushed, but it didn’t feel like that at all. It definitely stays in your mind for a really long time after you finish it. This was powerful and heartbreaking, although I loved her other books a lot more than this one, I highly recommend it!