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…”

Review: All the Lives We Never Lived

Title: All the Lives We Never Lived

Author: Anuradha Roy

Publisher: MacLehose Press

Publication Date: June 14, 2018

Genre: Adult Fiction

Rating: 4.5 Stars

All the Lives We Never Lived is a stunning achievement of Anuradha Roy, being his fourth novel. It is a beautiful overlapping history that explores love, secrecy and the definition of family. This book, about halfway through began to remind me of Donna Tartt’s, The Goldfinch in the way that the story of a mother who is really only briefly actually present in either of the books is told by their sons, sick with longing ofr their presence and their maternal love.  Continue reading “Review: All the Lives We Never Lived”