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: History is All You Left Me

Title: History Is All You Left Me

Author: Adam Silvera

Publisher: SOHO Tean

Publication Date: January 17, 2017

Genre: YA, LGBTQ, Mental Illness

Rating: 5 Stars

Dear fellow Babblers,

“You’re still in alternate universes,Theo, but I live in the real world, where this morning you’re having an open-casket funeral”.

Continue reading “Review: History is All You Left Me”

Review: Murder in Little Shendon | Spitefully Slow, in Stuffy Ole’ Shendon

Title: Murder in Little Shendon

Author: A.H. Richardson

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

Publication Date: August 28, 2015

Genre: Murder Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 4 Stars

I was recently sent Murder in Little Shendon by publicists in exchange for an honest review.

Dear fellow Babblers,

A.H. Richardson’s Murder in Little Shendon is an Agatha Christie murder mystery written in the hand of our beloved 40-page-sentence author, Marcel Proust. This means to say that this book is a murder mystery in the way that it is not so much the murder that is at heart of the entire story, but rather the way in which it is described – how the murder, it’s suspects, and everything and everyone in between are presented to the reader. Alternating points of view and perspectives lure the reader into the story where everything is no longer cookie-cutter perfect and all is amiss, inviting the reader to solve the inexplicable question: who killed ole’ Barholomew Fynche and does anyone really even care ?

Goodreads Review:

Picture, if you will, a picturesque village called Little Shendon, suddenly caught up in dealing with a murder of one of its citizens – not a particularly well-liked one at that. Which makes it all the more intriguing because the list of suspects becomes very long. This tantalizing tale unfolds with delightful twists and turns to find out whodunit to Mr. Bartholomew Fynche, the murdered shopkeeper. Fear grips the community as the investigation slowly progresses. Everyone is interviewed; everyone is suspect! From the murdered man’s housekeeper to Lady Armstrong, her staff and her nephew. Or could it be the shy librarian new in town? Or the defiant retired army major and his ladyfriend, the post mistress? Or perhaps the weird sisters who live on the edge of town? Then there is the couple who own the local inn and pub, along with the two Americans who are staying there? Even the vicar and his wife fall under the gloom of suspicion. Uncertainty, wariness, and terror reign as neighbors watch neighbors to discover the evil that permeates their upturned lives. No one feels safe in this charming little village. A.H. Richardson, noted author, places in your trembling hands a mystery murder that will keep you reading until you learn the details, uncovered by Police Inspector Stanley Burgess and his two amateur detectives, his friend Sir Victor Hazlitt and the famed Shakespearean actor Beresford Brandon. Scratch your head with them over the strange clues that turn up. Follow them as they tread carefully among the landmines that appear innocent as they lie hidden beneath the surface of mystery. Something evil skulks in this tiny country village. Who is the murderer? And why was this strange uncivil man dispatched in such a seemingly civil community? You are challenged to discover the culprit before the last few pages. And no fair looking ahead – it’s the journey that proves the most enticing.

Babble:

Set in a tiny, seemingly banal village called Shendon where all is expected to be right, a terrifying murder unfolds that brings a town together not for the mourning of a beloved inhabitant but rather as suspects of the murder of a brusque old man. In this post World War II British town Mr. Fynche is a sour antiques dealer but the reader never gets a chance to really get to know the guy as the story begins in the middle of things at the onset of his murder. Together with his trusted ally Sir Hazlitt and quirky actor buddy Beresford Brandon, local inspector Burgess traverse through the village, one by one questioning its inhabitants in order to discover the truth behind Mr. Fynche’s death. The three buddies split up, waking up a once gray and dreary town, spreading fire, spotlighting all everyone and anyone that they come across, determined not to miss a single detail of this sudden kill.

The novel quickly and suddenly alternates points of view between as multiple characters are introduced and made suspect, possibly villain in the story. Each character comes with a different past – their own story to tell, one way or another connecting them to the murder. Each have secrets, some more profoundly wicked than others. This is exactly what I found most appealing about the novel. The cook at Sir Victors aunt’s home is constantly fighting to keep still in the face of questions while a young newcomer evidently hides something that no one can guess but all can detect from her inscrutable manner. There are clues that the trio follows which bring them through twists, turns, and often back to where they started as they are lead to doubt what is being said and whom they should trust and believe is telling the truth and why others feel the need to lie. It was not so much the murder that drew me in, it was the flawlessness that the author displayed in using the murder as a way to study each and every person in the town. Richardson creates an accurate portrait as she takes the reader into the mind of the characters, revealing the secrets they keep, conflicts they are fighting, and the troubles that they have no choice but to confront with the unfolding of Mr. Fynche’s death. Each character has a story to tell and takes the reader along, back in time to the point where their secrets become their worst enemies.

The language is really old school, keeping up with the murder unraveling during the 1940’s. I particularly enjoyed this in the book, feeling as though I was reading into another time where everything was classic, different and the world was still suffering the consequences of the second world war.

If I have to give this book any negative feedback it would be the abrupt changes between first and third person, not to mention the random switches in perspective from one suspect to another. This made it at times hard to follow and keep up with what one suspect was saying, and differentiate it from what was actually going on in the book. As a result, I never really managed to feel as though I was in the story. I felt on the outside and never got the feeling that I could forget that I was simply reading a book. I also feel as though this book would have worked better were it formatted as a script rather than a novel with each scene taking the reader into the life of one of the characters. This would have solved the issues of distraction from the alternating time and character perspective. It also would have made the story far easier to connect with as each scene could have connected the suspect with their role in the murder, all-the-while canceling out issues of reliability and whether or not the suspect can even be trusted in solving the murder.

All the suspects’ stories lead up to the riveting, bone chilling and somehow unexpected reveal in the end: the merciless killer. The investigators finally get their answer, but this answer creates all the more questions which often go unanswered, creating ten more mysteries for ever one that is solved.

Murder in Little Shendon brings together the disturbed mind of Christie and the evocative descriptions of Proust to create an entirely new style of mystery, at the same time quick to form, slow to progress and difficult to resolve. This is a highly recommended story that rethinks what makes a murder mystery a murder mystery, no longer putting gruesome action first but instead reevaluating how it is described, rendering language and style more competent than story itself.

Yours Truly,

(Book image credits go to Goodreads)

Review: Everything I Never Told You | Nothing Lydia Ever Forgot to Forget

Title: Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng

Publisher: Penguin Press

Publication Date: June 26, 2014

Genre: Adult Contemporary, Diversity

Rating: 5 Stars

Dear fellow Babblers,

Everything I Never Told You is the debut novel of Celeste Ng. It is gripping and broke my heart from the first page. The more I read the harder I found it to continue. The pain and wrenching knots that gathered in my heart are the reason I am giving this book five stars.

Reading is about feeling and becoming part of the world of the characters and finding oneself part of the events of the story as they are unfolding. I felt as though I existed and that my tears actually mattered in this book. Heartbreak, trauma and broken love, home and trust bring this murder mystery together, to which I found myself a bound soul and outcast all at the same time.

I was drifting between each of the characters minds and went back and forth between narrative time, myself coming closer and closer to solving the mystery that turns over and results in a collapsing, yet already fractured mixed-raced family: who, if anyone, is responsible for Lydia’s death… ?  Continue reading “Review: Everything I Never Told You | Nothing Lydia Ever Forgot to Forget”

Review: The Princess Mutiny | Swish Swash Goes the He-She Pirate

Title: The Princess Mutiny

Author: L.J. Surrage

Publisher: Self-Publication

Publication Date: March 13, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary,
Action/Adventure

Rating: 3.5 Stars

I was recently sent The Princess Mutiny from the author, L.J. Surrage in exchange for an honest review.

Dear fellow Babblers,

Hummm Diddddd Eeeee Dummmm. Yes, I did just start a book review with nonsensical jibber jabberish… Not so sure how I feel about this one or even where to begin. And I do not mean this in a negative way there is just so much that happens in this book and nothing is as I had anticipated. Good ? Bad ? Actually a mix of both. For readers looking for a mystical action-packed tale of with a twist of romance and happily ever after endings please turn away and go find Peter Pan because The Princess Mutiny just ain’t it. Now, with logistics out of the way lets get into it, as there’s so much to talk about.  Continue reading “Review: The Princess Mutiny | Swish Swash Goes the He-She Pirate”

Review: Rarity from the Hollow | Uhhh…Come Again?!?!

Title: Rarity from the Hollow

Author: Robert Eggleton

Publisher: Dog Horn

Publication Date: November 3, 2016

Genre: Adult Fiction, Child Abuse, Mental Illness

Rating: 2.5 Stars

I was recently sent Rarity from the Hollow from the author, Robert Eggleton in exchange for an honest review.

Dear fellow Babblers,

I’m disturbed. I’m perplexed. I’m just confused. Like seriously. What in the great land of big foot’s name did I just read ? This story goes back and forth, up and down, sideways, vertical – in every possible direction you can imagine with little time to catch up or even get a grasp on what’s going on. A book which could have potentially been such a masterpiece, giving a realistic account of child abuse and the obstacles of childhood has let me down. From the very beginning this is a bizarre work of fiction that I cannot say I would recommend to anyone to read.  Continue reading “Review: Rarity from the Hollow | Uhhh…Come Again?!?!”

Review: Girl in Pieces | Portrait of a Sad Girl

Title: Girl in Pieces

Author: Kathleen Glasgow

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Mental Illness

Rating: 4 Stars

Dear fellow Babblers,

This is a morbid story from the first page. Everything that happens is bad and rawly portrayed. There is no romanticization or good here. I was initially intrigued by the synopsis but was by no means prepared for what I read. This book was just so much to digest and take in, I had to put it down multiple times just to process the overwhelming darkness blanketing each page. Mental illness, suicide, self-harm, rape, love, abuse are all ever so evocatively described. Literally everything that happens in this book is a trigger for an even greater disaster than the one that preceded it. This book shows what happens when too much happens too quickly. Life becomes difficult to bear and an entrapping nightmare that blurs one’s perceptions of reality and the reality of their minds.  Continue reading “Review: Girl in Pieces | Portrait of a Sad Girl”

Review: A Blindfellows Chronicle | There Goes Another Amazing Read

Title: A Blindfellows Chronicle

Author: Auriel Roe

Publisher: Unbound

Publication Date: July 20, 2017

Genre: General Adult Fiction

Rating: 4 Stars

I was recently sent A Blindfellows Chronicle by the author, Auriel Roe in exchange for an honest review.

Dear fellow Babblers,

This is a novel, collection of short stories, sensual expression of intimate thoughts. I was left feeling satisfied and ready for more from the author. It’s not a book I would ever generally pick up, but upon meeting the author and chatting with her I became intrigued. What could such a quirky and kind person write? Despite the somewhat dense and scattered events and writing style of A Blindfellows Chronicle this book is the kind that takes you into the author’s imagination and confuses your perception between fiction and reality. In a narrative period of thirty years Roe visits many characters, personalities, and worlds, all which seem incongruent but naturally seem to fuse together with a twist of heartfelt emotion by the last page. Continue reading “Review: A Blindfellows Chronicle | There Goes Another Amazing Read”