Girl in White Cotton (Burnt Sugar) by Avni Doshi

Title: Girl in White Cotton (Burnt Sugar)

Author: Avni Doshi

Genre: Fiction

Year: 2019

I would be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure.

Girl in White Cotton (or Burnt Sugar, if you prefer) is the story of Antara and her mother who has Alzheimer. They’ve always had a strained relationship, but now that her mother’s grasp on reality is slipping, Antara starts reliving her past, searching for that thread that would allow her to take care of her mother without reservations.

We follow her during her childhood in Pune, first in a guru’s community, then in a catholic boarding school, and after that during her years in Bombay, and a picture starts emerging from the memories: her mother who is both absent and judging, too proud but also mean and spiteful. And as we watch Antara in her daily life in the present, we start to wonder together with her – if she’s really so much different from her mother, after all.

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Circe by Madeline Miller

Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Fantasy, Retelling

Year: 2018

Circe is the daughter of Helios, Titan and god of the sun, but she doesn’t look nor sound like a divinity herself. Not like her brother and sister, with their beautiful golden eyes and their pettiness; and certainly not like her younger brother, whom she loves dearly, and is the brightest of them all.

Scorned by her kin, she seeks solace in the company of mortals, fascinated by their ability to find happiness despite all the hardship of their lives. When she casts a spell out of love, she incurs in the wrath of Zeus and is finally exiled. Alone on the island of Aiaia, with a palace that doesn’t need any tending and her pantry always brimming with food, Circe spends her time studying and improving the ability that caused her exile: witchcraft. While her craft and strength grow, many pass through her island and bring her news of the outside world: the god Hermes, but also sailors, heroes, soldiers and craftsman, and then, one day, Odysseus himself, whose brilliant plan caused the fall of the great city of Troy and the end of a long war.

But her actions draw the wrath of men and gods alike, and Circe will have to be more clever, and braver, and stronger than any of them in order to survive and protect what’s most important to her.

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Stories of your life and others by Ted Chiang

Title: Stories of Your Life and Others

Author: Ted Chiang

Genre: Science Fiction, Anthology

Year: 2002

Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of eight short stories by author Ted Chiang. The stories are mostly science fiction, with one or two instances that verge more on the fantasy side. I’ll try to talk about each of the stories without getting into too many details, even though I’d love to discuss them further.

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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This review needs a short introduction.

A couple of weeks ago, I gathered my courage, turned on all the lights in my house, and watched The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. And I loved it.
It’s a very, very loose adaptation of the novel by the same title by Shirley Jackson, but Mark Flanagan manages to translate the Gothic novel into modern times while doing an amazing job at characters and story.

So obviously when I heard that The Haunting of Bly Manor was coming out really soon, I got very exited and decided to read the book it was based on before watching the series. For those few souls who don’t know, The Haunting of Bly Manor is an adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, a 1898 novella by author Henry James. The fact that the book was already on my very long reading list only made the choice easier.

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The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Title: The Library at Mount Char

Author: Scott Hawkins

Genre: Fantasy

Year: 2015

Carolyn, blood-drenched and barefoot, walked alone down the two-lane stretch of blacktop that the Americans called Highway 78.

Carolyn has grown up in the library at Garrison Oaks for most of her life, since the day her parents died and she was taken in – together with eleven other children – by a man they all call Father. Each one of them was tasked with learning a very specific fraction of his god-like knowledge, constantly tested and strictly punished by Father when they fail to show enough progress.
Until one day Father disappears, the library is suddenly inaccessible to all of them, and they need to figure out what’s happened and what to do now. Did any of his thousand-year-old enemies finally catch up with him? And what will happen if they can’t get in the library anymore, and all the knowledge inside it is lost to them?

It’s only a matter of time before they start turning on each other for possession of the library, but Carolyn has already accounted for this. And she has a plan.

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Reading the Booker Prize winners (1): Something to Answer for by P.H. Newby

Since apparently my to-be-read pile is not high enough, I’ve decided to take on a new personal challenge: reading all of the winners of the Booker Prize, from 1969 to present. I want to venture out of my favourite genres and read some things that are considered “good literature”, just to see what the fuss is about; I also want to read some backlist titles that I might never know about otherwise, and since these books won a pretty famous award, it looks like a good place to start.
Maybe I’ll find new favourites, or maybe I’ll hate all of them. Who knows?

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Bestiary by K-Ming Chang

Title: Bestiary

Author: K-Ming Chang

Genre: Magical Realism

Year: 2020

Bestiary is the story of three generations of Taiwanese American women, narrated in alternating chapters by Daughter, Mother and Grandmother, and woven with myths and stories from Taiwanese folklore.
One day, Mother tells Daughter the story of Hu Gu Po, a tiger spirit who longed to have a woman’s body and eat children. Soon after, Daughter wakes up with a tiger tail; holes dug in their backyard start to spit out letters from her grandmother; and she slowly falls for another girl, Ben, as they translate the letters together and find out about Daughter’s ancestors and their stories.

I wish I could give a better summary of this story, but it’s honestly so weird that I just don’t know how to do it.

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Watch over me by Nina LaCour

Title: Watch Over Me

Author: Nina LaCour

Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, YA

Year: 2020

Had we been telling the truth, he would have said, The place where I’m sending you – it looks beautiful, but it’s haunted.
Okay, I would have said.

Mila has been in foster care for the last few years, since the day her stepfather died in a fire and her mother abandoned her. Eighteen years old and alone, she accepts a job as tutor in an isolated farm in North Carolina, hoping to finally find a real home. The owners have a history of adopting their foster children, after all, so there’s a chance they might make space for her as well.

What Mila doesn’t know is that at night the farm is alive with ghosts, and as painful memories start to resurface, she starts to question whether there’s a reason for the ethereal figures playing and dancing in the fields, and whether this might really be the place for her.

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September 2020 wrap-up

Another month is over, and I have mixed feelings about the books I read this time. I finished 12 things and abandoned another one, but even though I read some good stuff, I don’t think I found any new favourites this month. Sadly. I also mostly stuck to short fiction because I’m just finding it easier to focus if the stories are not stretched over 500+ pages, but with mixed results.

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