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: My Name is Monster by Katie Hale

my name is monster katie hale

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Dystopia, Retelling

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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

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

Mini-Review: Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson

red at the bone Jacqueline WoodsonRating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction

Goodreads

Red at the Bone tells the story of Melody and her family, going through different point of views as they revisit their relationships with each other as the years go by.

It’s hard to describe this book, mostly because there isn’t too much of a plot, except that Melody and her family tell their stories, their dreams and their frustrated ambitions. It’s a book about family versus dreams, about family heritage versus new beginnings. It’s a beautifully written story, which had its moments of brilliancy, but that left me wanting so much more out of it. There was hardly any emotional connection with the characters, the ending felt weird and forced, and there was little development for most of the characters. I loved the story of Melody’s mother, a difficult woman who did not want to be a mother and chose her career instead, but who would like to reconnect with her daughter one day. Who falls in love with a woman but can’t help but lie to her. In the end, I would have loved this book a lot more if it had been through her perspective, a hard-hitting book full of emotion and pain, but as it was, Red at the Bone didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Still, it was a nice afternoon read!

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

eARC Review: Death in Her Hands, by Ottessa Moshfegh

Death in Her Hands Ottessa MoshfeghRating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Literary fiction, mystery

Goodreads

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

Death in Her Hands starts with a mysterious note Vesta finds one morning during her daily walk with her dog. The note says Magda is dead, and no one will ever know who did it. There is no body, no signature, no clues. As Vesta gets more involved, her quiet routine becomes more turbulent, and it will make her face the truths about her marriage, the death of her husband and what it meant for her freedom.

As much as I tried to make the synopsis not sound like this is a murder mystery, it still kind of does – don’t be fooled, it is not. I started this book somehow convinced it would be basically a literary whodunit, and after half of it had gone by, I started to accept that I was wrong. It was a frustrating couple hundred pages, so I warn now early in the review: this book is about Vesta, her past, her thoughts, perhaps her descent into confusion and grief; it’s not exactly a murder mystery. I don’t know if this spoils the book somehow, but I think not, as I could only enjoy this book once I understood this. Continue reading

Review: Severance, by Ling Ma

Severance Ling MaRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Dystopia

Goodreads

In Severance, the world has collapsed into apocalypse after fungal spores infected and slowly killed everyone. Inexplicably, Candace survived, and so did a few other people, who she joined in an attempt to survive.

Disclaimer: Due to current events, if you find the content of the book to be potentially triggering for you, definitely give it a pass. I did not find it was a problem for me, and found comfort in a story that had parallels, but was very different, to our situation and had no stakes on my real life. This is however a very personal experience and I don’t recommend everyone read it at this time.

This is a surprisingly beautiful and character-driven book, unlike any other apocalypse story I’ve ever read. Candace joins a group of other survivors, who have not showed symptoms of the strange disease that slowly kills its victims, taking away their consciousness until they perform nothing but their muscle memory routines, stuck serving dinner, or getting ready to go to work, for weeks and weeks until they starve to death. What starts as a survival measure, slowly turns into a cult and Candace is in more danger than she knows. Continue reading

Review: Actress, by Anne Enright

actress anne enrightRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Goodreads

Actress is the story of Katherine O’Dell, a glamorous Irish actress who famously shot a man in the foot and was institutionalized for being mad, as told by her daughter Norah.

This was one of the books I was most excited for in the Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist of this year! It has everything I love in fiction: glamour, secrets, gorgeous writing and an alluring, difficult main character. I loved Katherine O’Dell as a character so much, and spent the entire novel wishing the story was told from her perspective instead of Norah’s. I did not care much for Norah, nor understand why she addresses the book to her husband in “you” format. Having the point of view this way certainly added a certain mystery and glamour to Katherine, but would have enjoyed the book a lot more if it had been told in third person. Continue reading