ARC Review | The Age of Light

Title: The Age of Light

Author: Whitney Scharer

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Expected Publication Date: February 05, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 5 Stars

I was recently sent an ARC of The Age of Light by the publicists at Little, Brown and Company in exchange for an honest review. This work of historical fiction by Whitney Scharer is expected to be published on February 05, 2019.

The Age of Light is a captivating and exhilarating narrative that keeps readers emotionally invested up to the very last page. Masquerading as historical fiction, the novel recounts the life of Vogue model turned photographer, Lee Miller and her relationship with Man Ray, one of the most influential figures of the Dada and Surrealists movements ensuing Paris in the 1930s.  Continue reading “ARC Review | The Age of Light”

Novelist Chloe Aridjis on Losing Adolescence and Retaining Imagination

A subtly crafted novel about disenchantment and the innocent sense of wanderlust that incite our rashest decisions, Chloe Aridjis has poetically recreated the world of the estranged and the isolated in her new novel, Sea Monsters, set to be released on February 05, 2019 by Catapult. Author of Asunder and Book of Clouds, Aridjis carries readers into magical landscapes of suppressed fears. Sea Monsters is a hypnotic exploration of an overcast youth entrapped in the dusty and nostalgic traces of the past. Mexican history and childish imagination come together to following a young girl’s quest for the unknown, and for herself.

Arranged by the publicity team at Catapult, I spoke to Chloe about the effects of history on identity in the novel, the decadence of youth, and the intoxicating curiosity that surrounds art. Characterized as a narrative “out of a central episode of my adolescence,” ahead, Aridijis brings readers into the poetically mysterious, romantically transcendent world of Sea MonstersContinue reading “Novelist Chloe Aridjis on Losing Adolescence and Retaining Imagination”

Review: The Vegetarian

Title: The Vegetarian

Author: Han Kang

Publisher: Hogarth Press

Publication Date: February 02, 2016

Genre: Literary Fiction

Rating: 4.5 Stars

The Vegetarian by Han Kang is a “kafkaesque”story of one woman’s ordinary life and how the onset of her mental illness leads to her becoming a societal outcast. It is a cerebral work of literary fiction that explores one woman’s suffering from the perspective of those that watch her suffer, sympathize with her, but who fail to understand her.

Yeong-hye and her husband were a very basic, middle class couple who expected nothing of the world but the bare necessities. Neither had hopes, nor dreams of achieving the unreachable. This was all before the nightmare: the bizarre, twisted dream that would change Yeong-hye’s life. The nightmare is dark, but splitting; mysterious, yet intriguing. We, nor the characters ever find out what the dream actually is. All we know is that it  leads to Yeong-hye cutting animal products from her diet. What follows is a horrific chain of events that manifests itself into a plague driven by eroticism, emotional and physical abuse, and self-starvation.

Yeong-hyes new way of life shocks her husband, her family, and all those who come across her decaying body. Desperate for her to snap out of this bizarre new fetish, Yeong-hye’s husband attempts multiple methods to get his wife to eat meat and even goes as far as literally raping her. Her father’s disaproval comes in the form of force feeding meat down her throat, to which Yeong-hye resists by getting a hold a knife and slitting her own wrist. This is the turning point of the novel away from Yeon-hye’s lifestyle being simply a concept of food. It has now grown into an obsessive disorder that damages and kills her inside out as the nightmare continues to invade and feed upon every aspect of her life.

The story is told from the perspective of Yeong-Hye’s husband, up to the point that he divorces her, to which the perspective changes to her sister, In-Hye’s husband. He is a deeply disturbed artist whose strange obsession with Yeong-Hye and her “Mongolian mark” leads to his own form of self-destruction. His artistic vision for Yeong-Hye recreates Yeong-Hye’s body into a work of art, and temporarily becomes a reprieve for Yeong-Hye from her nightmares. With a series of flowers painted over her naked body, she feels protected and stronger. The artwork’s pornographic turn is drastic and compelling. In-Hye’s husband’s part of the novel left me feeling deeply unsettled and conscious, more than ever of my own body, its limits, and the control that I have over it.

I found the last third of the novel to be the most bitter and hearbreaking. It is told in In-Hye’s voice, who, despite the utmost care she has for her sister, still fails to understand and soothe her. In-Hye desperately tries to hold onto Yeong-Hye’s life. She begins having her own form of nightmares, and often finds herself carried years back to her childhood with her sister. She is reminded of all of Yeong-Hye’s quirks and strange tendencies, only then coming to the realization that all of these little things Yeong-Hye had did or said, if they could have been addressed, or prevented, Yeong-Hye may have been saved.

The readers nor the three major characters are ever able to get inside of Yeong-Hye’s mind. All that is certain is that there was a dream and this dream grew into a monster having a life of it’s own, infecting each and every aspect of the lives of Yeong-Hye and those around her. The Vegetarian is doubtlessly an alienating novel that managed to leave a lasting impression on me.

Yours Truly,

(Book image credits go to Goodreads)

 

 

Review: Gazelle in the Shadows

Title: Gazelle in the Shadows

Author: Michelle Peach

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: April 26, 2018

Genre: Adult Fiction

Rating: 4 Stars

 

 

I was recently sent a copy of Gazelle in Shadows for an honest reviews. It is a debut novel from former diplomat with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Michelle Peach. This is a self-published title which was released April 26 2018.

This is a thoroughly reflective illustration of life in Syria under the governmental unrest of the early 1990s – a brutal regime producing fear, anxiety and rage amongst those caught beneath it. It is a thriller and suspense; definitely not a book that I would ever have picked up browsing in a bookstore, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it.

Set in the mid nineties, Gazelle in the Shadows follows the life of a young, and perhaps a bit naiive British college student, Elizabeth Booth who is an Arabic student at Durham University. Like any college language student, she decides to go abroad immerse herself in Arabic language and culture. She finds herself in Damascus. A new world presents itself to her in this ancient city. It is place of humility and generosity, bazaars and street markets, warm air and natural beauty. She easily assimilates, quickly making friends, excelling more than ever in her studies and soon attracts the attention of a young native.
Elizabeth’s naïveté however leads her into danger before she even lands in Damascus. During her flight over Elizabeth makes the acquaintance of a flight attendant, Asim and his friend Hassein. A friendship hastily evolves and results in the two men committing themselves to serving as a sort of body guard for Elizabeth. From here a spiral of events occurs. What starts off as an easy friendship and love affair turns progressively questionable. Incident begin to occur around her as she gets progressively caught up within a mesh of lies, deceit, empty promises, and dangerous political activity in the form of terrorism.

Quite frankly, Elizabeth is a bloody idiot. She commits herself to a study abroad program in a politically unstable country and doesn’t even have the logical sense to find a place to live. Instead, she basically throws herself into the arms of two strangers who could be anyone, like seriously, ANYONE, and entrusts herself in their freaking care. Like, for real?!?!?! That in and of itself is a serious red flag, like, girl, have you know brain? I mean, I’m all for believing the best in people but try to have some sort of boundaries! She makes friends and love interests spark without her ever fully even knowing the crowds in which she is involving herself. This leads to endless trouble for her as her trust and curiosity begin to take a backslide.

The narrative time of the novel is rather short, but in that short period Elizabeth gets mixed up in a lot of evil going ons. The author’s political background definitely manifests itself in the ways in which she so accurately illustrates Syrian politics, history and culture. She paints a beautiful portrait of the troubled Middle Eastern city, offering readers a narrative that parallels so much of the disastrous happenings goin on in Syria even today. By following the life of rather dumb college student, Peach retells Syrian history and in this way, blurs the lines between fiction and reality. I really enjoyed learning so much of Syrian culture through this book and even found the brief diary entries between the chapters riveting, rendering the book “un-put-downable”.

Although the ending was pretty predictable (even from the first page I knew, it wouldn’t end well for Elizabeth), I found it to be an extremely enticing read. So many questions were swimming in my mind as I read: Will Elizabeth make it home from school? Will she even make it to school? Does Hassein even really love her? Who are all these woman Hassein is introducing her to ? Gazelle in the Shadows is a thought provoking tales that keeps readers at the edge of their seats in a new world where nothing is as it seems.

Yours Truly,

(Book image credits go to Goodreads)

2019 Releases That I’m Looking Forward To…

Ever since I started interning for ELLE Magazine, in the Book Features department I have been adding countless titles to my To-Read Goodreads shelf. Although I do try to aim my reviews specifically towards YA and mental health specifically, not all from this shelf fall under either category so I’m sure there is even something for the posh literary enthusiast roaming around out there between Balzac and Hemingway. I have been coming across some amazing adult fiction, literary fiction, and even a couple plays here and there. It’s awe-inspiring all of the books that are being published in the coming year. What with 2019 just around the corner, I thought what better way to look towards a fantastic new year of of drop diets, women empowerment and new hairdos than with a new Goodreads reading list for readers ?


Continue reading “2019 Releases That I’m Looking Forward To…”

ARC Review: The Hawkman

Title: The Hawkman

Author: Jane RosenBerg LaForge

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Rating: 3 Stars

I received and ARC copy of The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War by Jane Rosenberg LaForge in exchange for an honest review. Thanks goes to NetGalley and Amberjack Publishing for this advanced reader copy which was released on June 5, 2018.

Dear fellow Babblers,

This book, just shy of 300 pages was gruesomely painful for me to get through, and I’m using the kindest words possible to explain how treacherous a trek this read was for me. It took me a whole four months, probably the longest I’ve ever spent reading a single novel. If it takes you this long to read a rather short book there is either a serious problem with your comprehension or you simply prefer to be happy than to put yourself through the pain of 280 pages filled with a story you simply, no matter how hard you try, cannot get absorbed into.

I was intrigued by The Hawkman by the cover art to be quite honest, with mystical creatures and alluring fonts. Even the synopsis, promising a tale of the world during the Great War, infused with a fairy tale imagination seemed promising of an instant classic. However, despite some interesting parts hear and there, The Hawkman proved to be a disappointing and tedious read for me.  Continue reading “ARC Review: The Hawkman”

Review: The Goldfinch | How to review a quasi Proustian novel

Title: The Goldfinch

Author: Donna Tartt

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Publication Date: September 23, 2013

Rating: 5 Stars

Dear fellow Babblers,

If you were able to sit through till the end of my last post recounting my breakdown and solution to my meaningless life as an upcoming literature graduate you would have discerned my promise to provide a review for one of Donna Tartt’s works. At the time I was confident in such an aspiration. Like most, I started my Tartt fever with The Secret History. Ok, so when I read an exceptionally like seriously GENIUS novel, I set up this sort of expectations and that leads into a disturbed territory of snobbish reluctance to read anything else from the same author out of fear that their other works will not compare. Yet, here I am precisely 771 pages from the beginning of The Goldfinch… Come on, we all know that sense of achievement and deceitful pleasure attached to completing a HUGE like seriously HUGE book… And there I was promising you guys a review of the work a few days ago…

How do you review a story about a 13 year New Yorker named Tho Decker who loses his mom, a beautiful woman in white trench coat who detests heals and made extra money as a part-time model in a museum explosion during an unplanned trip to admire some ancient Dutch masterpieces? How do you make sense of this boy’s infatuation with a small, yet intricately designed painting by a painter comparable to the beloved Rembrandt dating all the way back to 1654? How do you recreate Tartt’s long, Proustian discourses on the eighteenth century classical art world? How can you, in a few sentences (well, doesn’t a « review » imply the notion of the ability to retell a story briefly?), master the same claustrophobic, stuffy and foreign air of Theo’s stay with his corrupt father and drugged out girlfriend Xandra? How to characterize Theo’s friendship with Boris in a way as not to give away the virtue and intelligence masked behind the drugs, alcohol, and lawbreaking habits Boris imposes into Theo’s life? How can a review of The Goldfinch bring Theo to the home of the kindhearted friend of Welty, Hobie? How to give commentary of a novel which spans more or less 10 years of a young boy’s life and the infatuation of a young boy which exposes him to a world of drugs, theft and even murder (even if it was self-defense, it was STILL murder guys. For those of you who haven’t yet read The Goldfinch and have no idea what I’m talking about…Sorry but the murderer and the « murderee » remains a mystery until you reach page 678) ?

Before typing up this post I clicked through multiple reviews for Donna Tartt’s masterpiece and found close to nothing hopeful. Sure, there are you reviews and « who else has read The Goldfinch »-type of posts (REVIEW: The Goldfinch, The Goldfinch), the usual « best quotes » posts (3 Quotes: Donna Tartt). But I seriously like SERIOUSLY could not find any real perceptive or critical reviews that added a new dimension to the 800 pages I just read. I don’t mean to ask for a high school analysis of themes and motifs here guys so please don’t refer me to The Goldfinch: By Donna Tartt — Review. I call for you, you AND even YOU summer readers to pick up from you growing pile of library books “To go return” and rethink how the story made you feel. A review is supposed to tell how we feel when reading a particular work. Books weren’t meant to be read, finished, and left behind for the next…. I mean, isn’t that why we love reading book reviews so much? To hear a new voice and reinterpret stories from another’s imagination? Aren’t reviews like supposed to offer something new not just « OMG I love this book », « Why couldn’t Theo marry Pippa in the end > », « What’s up with Lucius Reeve anyway? ». Lets just go ahead and skip to the last few pages of the book which, in my opinion can be pulled from the story altogether and exist all on its own as a metaphysical commentary on beauty (something we already catch a glimpse of during the narrator, Richard’s heart-pounding lecture during Greek class in The Secret History).

If Tartt can stir our perceptions about this catastrophic life we are leading, which ultimately amounts to nothing, why cannot the book reviewer do the same to his or her readers? I don’t see authors writing books just to say I like this and that, I think so and so is the best out there. If that were the case, why read? We mind as well just tune into CNN and listen to the politicians battling over right and wrong in social welfare. What I’m trying to get at guys is the notion that as book reviewers we review books because we love books… thats a given… but how about for once we add something new… how did The Goldfinch affect you (if you are one of my fellow readers) as a reader/reviewer/whoever you may be?

Donna Tartt has told us « […] life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence – of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do- is catastrophe » (767). Apart from the long nights, early and dark mornings I spent lost in this underground universe Tartt creates, this passage at the very end is what really sent my mind twirling and sent shivers up my spine. These words that are so nihilistic, yet so utterly true. If we are readers. If we are writers. If we are book reviewers… Should we not all be engaged in perceptive imaginative discourse on what we read, perceive, observe? Tartt shows us the tangled nature involved in the art of writing, reading and perception. I think this idea works also for us who review books. Rather than stating that we love/hate/wish this character died/wish he fell in love with her types of reviews lets express what we feel, why we feel, what we take away from what we read. Maybe, just maybe the uncertainty, questions, feelings that we extract from Tartt’s work have a greater meaning and fulfill some greater purpose in our lives, as does the infatuation of the Goldfinch for Theo…

Yours Truly,

Delphine-2

Questions? Comments? Recommendations? Lets get in touch! Comment below!

(Photo credits go to Google).