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.
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?
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.
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.
Maggie Holt has lived all her life in the shadows of her father’s book, an account of the twenty days they spent in the Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall, before fleeing in the dead of night and swearing never to come back. House of Horrors, that’s the title of the book, is an allegedly true account of the haunted house and the spirits that tried to kill five-year-old Maggie during their stay. She has no recollection of the events, but the success of the book has shaped all of her relationships: from the kids asking her about ghosts, to the teenagers inviting her to seances, to the hundreds of people who, at the mention of her name, ask her: What was it like? Living in that house.
She couldn’t remember the first book she had eaten.
Jane North-Robinson is moving across country with her mother Ruth, after her father died and left them with no money. With no other option on the horizon, her mother decided to sell their house and go back to her childhood home, a place she hates and had promised never to go back to. North Manor is big, dark, full of broken windows and strange noises, and in the backyard there are huge rosebushes blooming out of season.
Jane is grieving for her father, but she does her best to adjust to her new life. She makes new friends at school, while at the same time becoming the target for the town bully and struggling to cope with her rising anger. Only her father and her books can calm her down, and now he’s gone. Whenever she’s upset, she picks up one of her childhood books and starts eating a page, slowly, feeling her anger fading as the paper settles in her stomach.
But anger is not her only issue. The house is getting to her: the strange noises, like steps on the upper floor; the lights flickering on and off in one of the empty rooms; the roses growing back wild and black after her mother cut down the bushes. She starts blacking out from time to time, and comes back to consciousness to find messages she doesn’t remember ever sending. Her mother feels far away, buried in her new job and evading Jane’s questions about the house and her past. It all seems to point to the “storage room” her mother keeps locked, and when Jane finally finds the courage to open the door, she doesn’t find piles of boxes inside, but instead a little girl’s room left untouched for years.
In this last period I’m finding it hard to focus on reading and writing, and so I’ve been picking up more short fiction than usual. I usually end up really liking it – do we want to talk about the satisfaction of finishing something in one sitting? – but sadly I found both of these reads very underwhelming. I mean, the ideas were there, the settings were interestings, but the stories themselves just fell flat. So this is a double-review post, in which I’ll try to explain the reason why I felt this way.
How to keep a fire burning. How to stitch a fight up until it’s only a scar. That’s the kind of thing you learn with a mother like mine. Mostly, though, you learn how to be loved without proof.
Margot Nielsen doesn’t know anything about her family. She lives with a mother that feels absent, and their relationship is strained at best. There are moments of tenderness, but they are rare and fleeting, and Margot has learned that the wrong word can destroy them in the blink of an eye.
But she wants something more. She wants a past and family to belong to, and when she finds an old picture that points her to a city called Phalene, she knows what to do.
In Phalene, it takes the locals only a look to guess her last name, and that wins her wary looks all around. Her grandmother is well known and not exactly loved, and the corn fields belonging to her look sickly. Despite everything, when she steps in the old family house, Margot feels like she can finally fill the void left by her mother’s secrets. She has no idea of just how many more are waiting for her within those walls.
Fair warning: this book will feel extremely slow for those who are used to action packed, fast reads. That said, if you are like me and it doesn’t bother you at all, then read this book. It’s brilliant.
A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a historical fantasy book that recounts the events of the French Revolution, but with magic in the mix. Before we get into too many details, let me paint a picture of the world we are in.
Witchers are magically enhanced humans who fight monsters for money. They are faster and stronger than humans, live longer, possess extraordinary skills and make use of elixirs that could kill a normal person to enhance their abilities; they also feel no emotion, thanks to their special training, and they are feared and hated by most people.
Geralt of Rivia is one of them, maybe the most famous. With his milky white hair, his two swords, and his wolf medallion, he travels looking for jobs to make a living. He will encounter monsters, but also elves and druids, wizards and sorcerers, queens and bards and druids.