eARC Review: The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero

The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero, translated by Annie McDermott

Categories: Literary Fiction, Translated

First Publication Date: 2005


‘Perhaps the luminous novel is this thing that I started writing today; just now. Maybe these sheets of paper are a warm-up exercise. […] But it’s quite possible that if I go on writing – as I usually do – with no plan; although this time I know very well what I want to say; things will start to take shape; to come together. I can feel the familiar taste of a literary adventure in my throat.

I’ll take that as confirmation; then; and start describing what I think was the beginning of my spiritual awakening – though nobody should expect religious sermons at this point; they’ll come later. It all began with some ruminations prompted by a dog.’

A writer attempts to complete the novel for which he has been awarded a big fat Guggenheim grant; though for a long time he succeeds mainly in procrastinating – getting an electrician to rewire his living room so he can reposition his computer; buying an armchair; or rather; two: ‘In one; you can’t possibly read: it’s uncomfortable and your back ends up crooked and sore. In the other; you can’t possibly relax: the hard backrest means you have to sit up straight and pay attention; which makes it ideal if you want to read.’

Insomniacs; romantics and anyone who’s ever written (or failed to write) will fall in love with this compelling masterpiece told by a true original; with all his infuriating faults; charming wit and intriguing musings.

I cannot believe I haven’t posted this before – it’s been sitting on my drafts for literally a year and half.

I haven’t written many reviews lately but I had SO many thoughts on this book that I couldn’t not write a review for it. In short, The Luminous Novel is a piece of autofiction about Levrero’s attempt to write the eponymous luminous novel after receiving a grant, and instead procrastinating, keeping the weirdest sleeping schedules, trying (not too hard) to fight his computer games addiction and reading detective novels. His first attempt to write the Luminous Novel started in 1984 and sixteen years later, he isn’t entirely sure he still has it in him to write it. I had not read anything by Levrero before, but now I’m also interested in reading Empty Words, his first work translated into English.

I took some issue with the way Levrero’s life is basically a bunch of women who keep feeding him, making him company, helping him find apartments, giving out prescriptions and doing a whole lot of work for him, which gave me a bit of a weird feeling that he just doesn’t know how to stay alive without women pampering him and doing all the work of keeping him going out of the house, fed and cleaning the place, plus all the emotional work. That, and all the talk about pornography, give me the feeling that in real life I would not have liked him very much.

This is such an incredibly difficult novel to rate; one the one hand I feel like my overall experience and enjoyment were about four stars, and I do love the way this novel added such playfulness and ingenuity into what is in actuality a plotless book. It takes a lot of talent to write 600 pages of rambling and procrastinating and still make it an interesting book. On the other hand, this was not a perfect read for me, and of course I was a bit bored at some points, plus the issues I mentioned in the paragraph above caused me to consider bringing it down to 3 stars. Regardless of the rating, though, if you’re looking for something different (maybe a bit weird, too), if you enjoy autofiction and reading a book just for its writing and narrator and not particularly looking for a plot, for any action or for a Great Uruguayan Novel, then you’ll enjoy this!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review: Tryst Six Venom by Penelope Douglas

Tryst Six Venom by Penelope Douglas

Categories: Romance, LGBT+

First Publication Date: June 3rd 2021


𝑨𝒘𝒂𝒚 𝒈𝒂𝒎𝒆𝒔, 𝒃𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝒔𝒆𝒂𝒕𝒔, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒍𝒐𝒄𝒌𝒆𝒓 𝒓𝒐𝒐𝒎 𝒂𝒇𝒕𝒆𝒓 𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒔… 𝑮𝒆𝒕 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒅𝒚!


Marymount girls are good girls. We’re chaste, we’re untouched, and even if we weren’t, no one would know, because we keep our mouths shut.

Not that I have anything to share anyway. I never let guys go too far. I’m behaved.

Beautiful, smart, talented, popular, my skirt’s always pressed, and I never have a hair out of place. I own the hallways, walking tall on Monday and dropping to my knees like the good Catholic girl I am on Sunday.

That’s me. Always in control.

Or so they think. The truth is that it’s easy for me to resist them, because what I truly want, they can never be. Something soft and smooth. Someone dangerous and wild.

Unfortunately, what I want I have to hide. In the locker room after hours. In the bathroom stall between classes. In the showers after practice. 𝑀𝑦 ℎ𝑒𝑎𝑑 𝑠𝑤𝑖𝑚𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑔. 𝑀𝑦 ℎ𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑢𝑝 ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑠𝑘𝑖𝑟𝑡.

For me, life is a web of secrets. No one can find out mine.


I cross the tracks every day for one reason—to graduate from this school and get into the Ivy League. I’m not ashamed of where I come from, my family, or how everyone at Marymount thinks my skirts are too short and my lipstick is too red.

Clay Collins and her friends have always turned up their noses at me. The witch with her beautiful skin, clean shoes, and rich parents who torments me daily and thinks I won’t fight back.

At least not until I get her alone and find out she’s hiding so much more than just what’s underneath those pretty clothes.

The princess thinks I’ll scratch her itch. She thinks she’s still pure as long as it’s not a guy touching her.

I told her to stay on her side of town. I told her not to cross the tracks.

But one night, she did. And when I’m done with her, she’ll never be pure again.

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Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Categories: Fantasy, Mystery, Literary Fiction

First Publication Date: September 15th 2020 

Synopsis: Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

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Review: Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

Categories: Literary Fiction

First Publication Date: January 28th 2021

Synopsis: What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant? What would you do to get it back?

Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Their rented cottage is simultaneously their armour against the world and their sanctuary. Inside its walls they make music, in its garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. At risk of losing everything, Jeanie and her brother must fight to survive in an increasingly dangerous world as their mother’s secrets unfold, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

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Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

First Publication Date: June 2nd 2020

Synopsis: The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

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eARC Review: Permafrost by Eva Baltasar, trans. by Julia Sanches

Permafrost by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julia Sanches

Categories: Literary Fiction, Translated from Catalan

First Publication Date: 6. April 2021

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

Synopsis: Permafrost’s no-bullshit lesbian narrator is an uninhibited lover, a no-hope employee, and a some-time suicidal student of her own dislocated self. As she tries to break out of the roles set for her by a controlling, overprotective mother, a relentlessly positive sister, and a society which imposes a gut-wrenching pressure to conform, she contemplates the so-called will to live when that life is given, rather than chosen. Attempting to bridge the gap between the perennially frozen reaches of her outer shell and the tender core of her being, watching her relationships with family fracture and her many lovers come and go, the protagonist’s reservations about staying alive become ever more pressing.

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Review: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Categories: Literary Fiction

First Publication Date: February 11th 2020

Synopsis: Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good–her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion’s share of each week’s benefits–all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is “no right,” a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her–even her beloved Shuggie.

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Review: The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

Categories: Literary Thriller, Mystery

First Publication Date: July 2nd 2018

Synopsis: In this riveting tale about the secrets and betrayals that can accompany exorbitant wealth, two sisters from a Chinese-Indonesian family grapple with the past after one of them poisons their entire family.

Gwendolyn and Estella have always been as close as sisters can be. Growing up in a wealthy, eminent, and sometimes deceitful family, they’ve relied on each other for support and confidence. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor of Estella’s poisoning of their whole clan.

As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this shocking and brutal act. Was it their aunt’s mysterious death at sea? Estella’s unhappy marriage to a dangerously brutish man? Or were the shifting loyalties and unspoken resentments at the heart of their opulent world too much to bear? Can Gwendolyn, at last, confront the carefully buried mysteries in their family’s past and the truth about who she and her sister really are?

Traveling from the luxurious world of the rich and powerful in Indonesia to the most spectacular shows at Paris Fashion Week, from the sunny coasts of California to the melting pot of Melbourne’s university scene, 
The Majesties is a haunting and deeply evocative novel about the dark secrets that can build a family empire—and also bring it crashing down. 

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Mini-Resenha: Canções de atormentar por Angélica Freitas

Canções de atormentar por Angélica Freitas

Categorias: Poesia

Data de Publicação:  5 de Agosto de 2020

Este livro me pegou totalmente de surpresa. Canções de atormentar é meu primeiro contato com o trabalho de Angélica Freitas, e eu imediatamente quero ler Um Útero é do Tamanho de um Punho e Rilke shake! Esta coleção tem um humor seco, um estilo vibrante e forte e cheio de ritmo, abordando uma grande diversidade de temas, sejam assuntos sérios, ou contando como foi crescer no Rio Grande do Sul, ou escrevendo um ode emocionante a Ana C., e até mesmo sobre sereias. Como em todas as coleções de poemas que li até agora, com alguns poemas eu simplesmente não consegui me conectar; alguns são muito curtos, outros eu muitas vezes não entendi. Mas ainda assim, vários se sobressaltaram o suficiente para que a minha impressão geral dessa coleção fosse muito positiva. Cada poema é tão único e diferente que eu imagino que cada leitor consegue encontrar um com que se identifique. Deve ser um livro incrível de escutar – eles têm uma certa cadência hipnotizante e, pelo que li, a autora já apresentou vários desses poemas juntos com a artista Juliana Perdigão. Uma obra incrível.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review: The Unseen World by Liz Moore

The Unseen World by Liz Moore

Categories: Literary Fiction, Mystery

First Publication Date: July 26th 2016

Synopsis: Ada Sibelius is raised by David, her brilliant, eccentric, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. Home-schooled, Ada accompanies David to work every day; by twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy. The lab begins to gain acclaim at the same time that David’s mysterious history comes into question. When his mind begins to falter, leaving Ada virtually an orphan, she is taken in by one of David’s colleagues. Soon she embarks on a mission to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood. What Ada discovers on her journey into a virtual universe will keep the reader riveted until The Unseen World’s heart-stopping, fascinating conclusion.

After my lukewarm reaction to Long Bright River, I did not expect to like this nearly as much as I ended up liking it. This has such great things going for it: it’s a slow-paced mystery which is far more character-driven than plot-driven, and manages to grip the reader’s attention by how interesting a character Ada is (and David, too). The mystery itself, while being the book’s main driving force, plays a secondary role for a big chunk of the story: you really get to see Ada, watch her grow, choose her own path in life and try to be her own self, apart from David, his lies and her unusual upbringing. I adore stories where tech/science play a big role, so it was to be expected that I’d love the computer science aspect of this novel: this feels like a love letter to coding and it made me think of the brief period in my life when I considered computer science as a career path. I also loved the puzzles (there is a coded message the reader can solve, somewhere in the first half of the novel). I loved this book, and this kind of story is what makes me love reading so much. I had so many feelings reading it and got very invested in the story, each character shining in their flawed ways. I ended up taking a star because around the middle of the novel the pacing felt a bit off and I was not too convinced by the plot twist, which we get lots of hints for since the first chapters. Still, these are rather minor complaints, I truly, truly enjoyed this novel. The Unseen World such a moving story and I was so immersed reading this that I forgot to take mental notes on what to write for a review; which is why this is mainly a collection of impressions hastily put together. If you love books about family secrets and slower, atmospheric stories, you might really like this.

Rating: 4 out of 5.