Book Review: The Night Country by Melissa Albert

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I had been anticipating the release of The Night Country for months before I had it in hand. Essentially within the first moments, I had closed the cover of of the Hazel Wood. I remember immediately looking for the next one. I realize I had happened on the book too early and could not find another from the same author. The Hazel Wood had left me completely inspired. Loved the characters, the concept, the way it was written.

Acquiring The Night Country was a bit of a series of unfortunate events, I ordered a physical copy from Amazon and it just did not arrive. There were mail delays. It was lockdown. One night, I was just completely tired of waiting and hit purchase on my Kobo and bought a second Ebook copy. Back to the Hinterland I went, I thought in anticipation.

I started reading it and had such a tough time getting into it. The protagonist Alice was as feisty and engaging as I had left her. Plenty of intrigue, mysterious murders, descriptions of a world reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, unique characters…

I think my difficulty lies in the romance with Finch who has disappeared into the Hinterland while Alice remains in New York. The two divergent storylines didn’t connect with me. I loved Alice’s storyline in New York but forced myself through the passages with Finch. I was a little bit disappointed as it didn’t enrapture me as much as my initial impression. Some sections felt as if the plot line was stretched out and as if the novel itself was written in a rush.

Regardless I absolutely loved the first novel. Enough for it to be certain that I will buy the next despite having struggled a little to finish sections of this one. I am a diehard fan of Melissa Albert and her writing style.

Melissa Albert subsequently published Tales from the Hinterland. A collection of the fairy tales written by Althea Proserpine. I couldn’t help buying it in hardcover. It is an absolutely gorgeous book. It still have high hopes for the next book in this series.

If you have read this book, I hope you enjoyed it more than I did and if you haven’t read any books by this author, you must absolutely buy The Hazel Wood. You won’t ever want to leave it.

Book review: Hope and Other Luxuries by Clare B. Dunkle and Elena Vanishing by Elena & Clare B. Dunkle

Hope and Other Luxuries by Clare B. Dunkle & Elena Vanishing by Elena and Clare B. Dunkle

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I discovered this pair of books at a time in my life when I needed them. Sometimes, I think Hope and Other Luxuries was able to provide a “friend” who could relate to me in a moment where there wasn’t anyone who could really relate. Someone very important to me was confronting the difficulties of selective restrictive eating disorder management. I was slowly watching them become a shadow of themselves and it was breaking my heart.

A mother and her daughter write individual memoirs narrating their experiences in managing the daughter Elena’s anorexia.

The beauty in this pair of books lies not so much in what is written in the individual books – what renders the accounts truly unique lies in the differences between their recollections.

Hope and Other Luxuries depicts the difficult role of a mother striving to understand what it truly means to be anorexic while tirelessly trying to help manage her daughter’s illness. She witnesses her daughter becoming a shadow of her former self and the reader quickly realizes the cost of hope to a mother who keeps on hoping that being out of the woods is just around the corner.

In Elena Vanishing, Elena recounts the events which occurred throughout her illness and portrays the tortuous self-talk of someone battling anorexia incredibly vividly.

The questions which arise and the differences between the two memoirs taking place within the same time period serves a reminder that we must withhold judgement as we attempt to decipher the “truth” of a situation.

I highly recommend this pair of memoirs, if you, a friend or a loved one is engaged in a struggle to manage an eating disorder and/or any addictive behaviour to be honest.

Book Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

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Margaret Atwood The Testaments

I finally binge-watched The Handmaid’s Tale late this spring. My friends couldn’t believe I hadn’t started it yet but I was hesitant as the COVID lockdown was giving me the moody blues.

The first time I picked up The Handmaid’s Tale was in my grandmother’s bookcase when I was twelve. At twelve, I read the novel with morbid fascination I read the novel but didn’t truly understand the significance of what I was reading. I have read it a few times at different stages of my life since then and every single time, Gilead and its society has simultaneously fascinated and terrified me more than the last. I attempted to watch the 1990s film and it did not speak to me at all. I was left feeling that I might just have a very creepy imagination. The current series’ atmosphere is as dark and horrific as the novel made me feel as I read it. The actors are absolutely phenomenal as is the setting and the costumes.

I purchased The Testaments as soon as the novel was published but as I said during lockdown, I was moody. Only when we were finally released from lockdown did I begin to binge watch the show and as soon as I finished the last episode, I really wasn’t ready to let Gilead go. To further complicate the situation, I had read an article online which announced that The Testaments would become a televised series as well. This caused the quintessential question of all readers to come into play: should I watch the show or read the book first?

I am too impatient it seems as it didn’t matter which I should do first. I just had to start reading the novel.

The Testaments’ narrative is told from three distinctly different point of views. One of which is Aunt Lydia (how we always love a complex villain), Agnes, a young girl growing up in Gilead and getting ready to marry a Commander and Daisy, a young girl growing up in Canada (the land of the free).

The three points of view offer a unique perspective into three different views of Gilead and the corruption inherent in any totalitarian patriarchal regime. The Testaments’ atmosphere is less of dark than the original Tale however, similiar themes dominate the novel: power, gender, guilt and the chronicling of history are some examples.

I highly recommend reading The Testaments. It kept me captivated until I turned the very last page. I am positive that I will read it again in a few months time in order to capture what I most likely missed on the first read. Atwood’s novels tend to cause one to reflect upon our own perception of events and The Testaments does highlight this in a way via stating: “Once a story you’ve regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories”. I am anticipating the series as it’s always interesting to see if what you have imagined when reading will have a similar portrayal captured on film.