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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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.

Review: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

disappearing earth julia phillips

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Mystery

Disappearing Earth was another book chosen for the Squad Longlist, and I was very excited to read this slow-burn mystery set in Siberia. Although the blurb might imply this is a series of events started by the kidnapping of two sisters, this is less a plot-driven book and more about each of the characters. We get several different point of views and explore the motivations, fears, nostalgia, disillusion and loss of these people, who are connected to the kidnapping in one way or another, sometimes only very loosely.

Each chapter focuses on a different character, and this makes Disappearing Earth very much a slow burn, as we see month by month a snapshot of their lives. The author did such a great job in turning a narrator in one story seamlessly into a secondary character in another’s a few chapters later. Each character has a rich inner life, and is haunted by loss, uncertainty, societal pressure, judgment, by lack of options in such a remote place. Their dreams and aspirations often turn to nothing, and my heart broke so many times, even for characters I didn’t particularly like. This book was a beautiful exercise in humanity. Continue reading

Review: Supper Club by Lara Williams

supper club lara williams

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Goodreads / Skoob / The StoryGraph

Roberta spends her life trying not to take up space. At almost thirty, she is adrift and alienated from life. Stuck in a mindless job and reluctant to pursue her passion for food, she suppresses her appetite and recedes to the corners of rooms. But when she meets Stevie, a spirited and effervescent artist, their intense friendship sparks a change in Roberta, a shift in her desire for more. Together, they invent the Supper Club, a transgressive and joyous collective of women who gather to celebrate, rather than admonish, their hungers. They gather after dark and feast until they are sick; they break into private buildings and leave carnage in their wake; they embrace their changing bodies; they stop apologizing. For these women, each extraordinary yet unfulfilled, the club is a way to explore, discover, and push the boundaries of the space they take up in the world. Yet as the club expands, growing both in size and rebellion, Roberta is forced to reconcile herself to the desire and vulnerabilities of the body–and the past she has worked so hard to repress. Devastatingly perceptive and savagely funny, Supper Club is an essential coming-of-age story for our times. Continue reading

Review: Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector, English Translation

near to the wild heart clarice lispectorRating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Classic Fiction, Translated into English

Goodreads

I decided to pick up Near to the Wild Heart in English because I was curious as to how Clarice Lispector’s work would be translated, her writing being so unique and at times impenetrable, plus the fact that I’d heard not very positive things about the translations.

This book tells the story of Joana, from childhood until adulthood, this girl who is different from everyone else, who is wild and full of desire and rage, instead of being quietly demure as would be proper.

Clarice Lispector’s writing, and Joana’s thoughts, are vague, poetic, beautiful and don’t always make much sense. I found it most times exasperating to read, and at other times meditative and interesting. It got particularly better (or easier to follow) in the second half of the book, where some semblance of plot occurs and characters interact more with each other instead of us just living inside Joana’s mind. I especially liked the interaction between Lídia and Joana, two character very unlike each other. Continue reading

Review: Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

frankissstein jeanette winterson

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction

Goodreads

In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI.

Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.

Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryonics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life.

But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. ‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.’ Continue reading

Review: The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld

the bass rock evie wyld

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Goodreads

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: My Name is Monster by Katie Hale

my name is monster katie hale

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Dystopia, Retelling

Goodreads

In My Name is Monster, the world as we know it is over: War and Sickness took over the countries and killed almost all humans – almost. Monster is still alive, and she emerges from the Seed Vault in the Arctic to find food and shelter, surviving.

This beautiful novel is incredibly bold and nuanced – it’s a post-apocalyptic story about society, motherhood, survival, civilization. Its loose inspiration in Frankenstein makes it all the more interesting, too. It took me a few pages to start really getting into the story, but after that it sucked me in. Monster is such an interesting character, so intelligent and cold, sometimes cruel, I could not get enough of her. Continue reading

Review: The Body Lies by Jo Baker

the body lies jo baker

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Thriller

Goodreads

In The Body Lies, our unnamed narrator takes up a job at a University to teach Creative Writing, she is excited about moving to the countryside and being far away from London, where she suffered a violent assault years earlier and could not feel safe again. But when one of her students disappears from class and starts sending her his work, she realizes he’s writing about her, that he’s been watching her in her own home, all alone with her three-year-old.

The Body Lies is a perfect mixture of Literary Fiction and Thriller, the pacing too slow and too character-focused to be called purely a thriller, and still, it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Sharp, intense and an eerie commentary on the violence against women in real life and as depicted in books, it’s completely incomprehensible to me how this has a 3.5 star rating in Goodreads as of now – this is brilliant! Continue reading

Review: The Memory Police, by Yōko Ogawa

the memory police yoko ogawaRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Dystopia

Goodreads

The Memory Police tells the story of our unnamed narrator, a novelist living in an unnamed island where things disappear. One day many years before, it had been hats, and then ribbons, and those things were not missed. The islanders forgot about them and moved on. The disappeared things become slowly more important, and the islanders forget and move on after each one – but not everyone forgets what has been lost, and the Memory Police make sure those people are taken away. When our narrator finds out her editor and friend is one of those people who are unable to forget, she knows she must hide him, lest he end up like her mother – dead. Continue reading