All posts filed under: Review

Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

“Life in the bush is hard work, but you can’t beat the taste of salmon you caught in the morning, drizzled with butter you churned from your own fresh cream. Up here, there’s no one to tell you what to do or how to do it. We each survive our own way. If you’re tough enough, it’s heaven on earth.” This little slice of magic really did tick my boxes. Survivalism against a glorious Alaskan backdrop with intense family drama and characters that made the heart melt? I am all over that. Kristin Hannah is best known for her award-winning WWII family drama The Nightingale, a book that still lingers on my to-read pile but not for much longer. Perhaps those who enjoyed The Nightingale for its family dynamics in a high-stakes setting will also find appeal in The Great Alone. It’s hard-core, it’s emotional and it’s exciting. But most of all its core character drama packs an immense punch and I do not say that lightly. I can count on one hand the number …

Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

I like a grim(m) fairy-tale retelling as much as the next person, and a dark, modern re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland sounds fab, does it not? And yes, for the first third of The Hazel Wood, I was excited. Engrossed, even. The premise is mysterious and enticing: Alice, our teenage protagonist, has been moving from place to place her entire life, her mum her only constant. She’s never really known why her mum keeps packing them off different places, but best she can tell it’s to escape the vicious “bad luck” they can’t help but encounter. “But I still saw the shadow of the bad luck: a woman who trailed me through a used bookstore, whispered something obscene in my ear as she picked my phone from my pocket. Streetlights winking out over my head, one by one, as I walked down the street after midnight. The same busker showing up with his guitar on every train I rode for a week, singing “Go Ask Alice” in his spooky tenor.” There’s something creepy about the …

Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

“Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.” Celeste Ng’s second novel is the kind of contemporary fiction you can enjoy even if you’re not a regular reader of the genre, it seems. A close-knit family tale with secrets and the theme of love at the center, Little Fires Everywhere is an enticing read with fiercely real characters and a poignant plot. Shaker Heights is a nice, law-abiding American suburb. At the heart of it is Elena Richardson, journalist and mother of four, whose placid and rule-following nature mirrors the novel’s setting. She’s the type of person who does everything she is supposed to, and her distaste for those who don’t is palpable. She’s an interesting person to follow, especially when Mia Warren and her illegitimate daughter Pearl rock up into the neighborhood and rent a small apartment from the Richardsons. The lives of the two families cannot help but intertwine, pleasantly at first, but it …

Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

I love a good family saga, a sprawling generational tale of several hundred pages that’ll keep me engrossed for days. I’m always on the lookout for ones that are set in different countries, so I was especially excited to pick up Pachinko, a supposed sweeping story about Korean immigrants living in Japan at the turn of the 20th century. The reason I read family sagas is because I love the drama, the scandal, falling for flawed or evil characters and watching their choice of actions play out. But with Pachinko I was disappointed: I couldn’t fully love these characters because they were basically all too good, I couldn’t indulge in the drama because there barely was any. I could enjoy the cultural differences and the central themes surrounding the plot since the story takes place over the course of several wars with years of famine, distress and crime, but I found it such a shame that there was barely any action. This is a story that takes place over the course of WWI, WWII, several atomic …

Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

“The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around”– and this much is true for Lazlo Strange, a junior librarian obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, a fallen world whose very name disappeared from the world, the city along with it. Filled with dreams and monsters, gods and magic, Laini Taylor’s new fantasy is just as fairy-tale-esque as it sounds. I was hooked from the start. Lazlo Strange is a sweet and likable protagonist who I enjoyed following. He suffers a bit from Laini Taylor’s typical protagonist blandness (they’re all just so nice!), but really it was the plot I was there for. Intriguing from page one, Laini Taylor presents us with so many fantastic ideas and interesting questions to be answered, all written with a prose so purple I should have hated it, but when it’s Laini Taylor I just lap it up. “There were two mysteries, actually: one old, one new. The old one opened his mind, but it was the new one that climbed inside, turned several circles, and …