Review: The Vegetarian – Han Kang

Written by Han Kang, The Vegetarian has been translated into English by Deborah Smith.

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Before my wife became a vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.

This is how Han Kang’s second work available in English begins. The Vegetarian, a tale in three parts, follows Yeong Hye’s decision to become a vegetarian following a recurring dream. Each part is narrated from a different first person perspective. What starts off as a seemingly innocuous transition in dietary habits slowly evolves into a frightening tale of deprivation.

The first part, ‘The Vegetarian’ is narrated from the perspective of Mr. Cheong, Yeong Hye’s husband, a laid back person with a predilection for an unremarkable lifestyle. This part of the story traces his struggle to reconcile his dormant wife’s rapid transition from a docile housewife to a strong, aloof vegetarian who refuses to consume meat. He makes multiple attempts to try to restore normalcy, first through subtle coercion and then by involving her family.

I think that this part stands out because of Kang’s ability to subtly bring out the characteristics of a patriarchal society and its inability to deal with concepts such as mental health. This is epitomized in Cheong’s reaction to his wife’s deteriorating physical state as her paranoia becomes worse. He comments, in two separate instances,

“In any other case, it was nothing but sheer obstinacy for a wife to go against her husband’s wishes as mine had done”

“I resisted the temptation to indulge in introspection. This strange situation had nothing to do with me”

The ability of these simple sentences to paint a clear picture of a typical self-centred patriarch should not be underestimated. To deal with an issue which is often the subject of verbose description with pleasing brevity that doesn’t eschew clarity is something anyone reading this book should look out for. Towards the end of this part, Yeong-Hye attempts to commit suicide following her father’s attempt to feed her meat forcefully.

 The second part, ‘Mongolian Mark’ is written from the perspective of Yeong-Hye’s sister’s husband. He is an artist, largely dependent on his successful wife’s business. This section of the book is arguably the best portion of Kang’s work. The narrative starts off after Yeong-Hye’s suicide attempt and her subsequent divorce from her husband. ‘Mongolian Mark’ sees Yeong-Hye eschew other facets of ‘normal life’ as she continues to be haunted by dreams which she attributes to her life as a non-vegetarian.

In-Hye’s husband develops a strong attraction to the idea of using Yeong-Hye as a subject in his artistic work. The narrative entices the reader with several sexual overtones, coupled with an insight into an artist’s obsessive, consuming drive to consummate the ideas which float in their head. Readers should look out for this conflict between propriety, sexual desire, and artistic drive. A portion which stands out for me is the short incident of marital rape which occurs, when In-Hye’s husband, driven by visions of his desire for Yeong-Hye forces his wife to have sex with him, even as she cries.

“She might have lain there sobbing for hours in the darkness. He didn’t know”

“But the next morning, she hadn’t acted any different from usual”

The questions this part raises, about the validity of consent from individuals who are struggling with disabilities and marital rape are not only relevant questions but are dealt with in a manner which seems driven towards introspection, as opposed to impact. In my opinion, this is what truly makes ‘The Vegetarian’ a riveting read.

If this is not enough of an endorsement of Han Kang’s work, the promise of an equally excellent third part ‘Flaming Trees’, told from the perspective of In-Hye should appeal to you. In-Hye, the woman who seems to epitomize the catch phrase that ‘women can have it all’ goes through a gamut of emotions as she deals with her divorce and Yeong-Hye’s deterioration in an institution.

What stands out about ‘The Vegetarian’, is the ability to use a relatively terse storyline to effectively tell a compelling story and illustrate pertinent social issues, thus making it a book that should grace your bookshelf.

Release Blitz: Mr. Lucky by Nora Flite and Jackson Kane

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mrluckyMr. Lucky by Nora Flite and Jackson Kane

Genre: Billionaire Contemporary Romance
Series: A Billionaire Romance Novella
Publication Date: February 20, 2017

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+ BONUS copy of Bigger and Badder
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Could you share a bed with a smoking-hot stranger?
I’m stuck in my hometown with a depressing job and no future. So when my best friend asks me to drive all the way to NYC so I can be her maid of honor, I jump on the chance to escape. Or I would have, if my car hadn’t broken down. I’ve never been lucky. Then HE shows up—a guy straight out of a fitness magazine, wearing a sharp suit—and he actually fixes my engine. I’d love it if he’d fix a few other things of mine, but I’m in a rush. I don’t think I’ll see him again. Except here he is, staying at the same hotel as me. Turns out they lost my reservation. My mystery man offers to save the day again; I can sleep in my car and probably get arrested for it, or I can share his bed. He says nothing will happen between us… unless I want it to. I should know better than to hook up with someone I met 24 hours ago. I might regret this in the morning, but for once in my life? I just want to get lucky. Too bad I don’t know who this man really is. And when I find out… My whole world is going to change.

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Book Review: The Last Soul: A Reaper Novella (Reapers Book 1) by Lena Hillbrand

About the Book:

The Last Soul: A Reaper Novella (Reapers Book 1)

A nameless reaper finds the last living human and harvests his soul for her master, expecting the reward he promised–freedom. But Lucifer is a clever master, one who isn’t ready to let a subject regain free will easily. The reaper’s only hope is to find the angel who witnessed the harvesting and convince him to testify on her behalf. Without proof, she is at the mercy of Lucifer, and at risk of spending eternity in the depths of her own personal hell.

My Thoughts:

This is a short Novella which portrays heaven and hell in a different way. It is well written but took me a while to completely understand the context and characters. There are abrupt jumps or shifts in situations and character discussions. This makes it difficult to understand and may serve as a deterrent to reading this. The story talks of angels and reapers, and how Lucifer controls the reapers, focusing on finding and harvesting the last living soul on Earth. However, looking past the small flaws, this story is written in a fresh new perspective which makes it worth a try, especially since it is a very short story.

Book Review: Rule Number One by Rory Goodwin

About the Book:

Rule Number One (An Oswald Metzger Novella Series Book 1)

Set in Brisbane Australia, a disgraced Australian Football League Star is found dead on the day of his sentencing at the Brisbane District Courts in an apparent suicide.
Detective Baxter knows things aren’t always as they seem and decides to follow a hunch one last time before he retires. But before he can do that he also has one more score to settle.
Family man, Oswald ‘Ozzy’ Metzger is a regular bloke, loving father and committed husband driven by duty, love and honour. Following his heart and driven by what he believes in, being vegan, he doesn’t believe in violence but does believe in justice for the innocent.
Monica runs a crisis centre for women and children, when Detective Baxter comes asking questions she is faced with the confronting reality that all may not be as it seems.

My Thoughts:

This story is a novella, short and fast paced. When a Football player is found dead in the bathrooms of the courthouse, the day of his sentencing, an investigation is opened into the same. Speculation on whether it is a suicide or a murder are rife and in the midst of it all is Detective Baxter, whose aim is to wrap up this one last case before he retires.

In the course of the same, we meet Monica, who runs a crisis centre to help women and who knew the football player’s ex-girlfriend. What happens when you set out to investigate one thing, but while asking questions, you discover something more? The same happens as Detective Baxter follows up on a hunch. In parallel, we are introduced to Oswald, Monica’s husband. As a series of events unfold, the reader is taken on a journey with our very own serial killer with a conscience.

The story ends in quite a different way and this is one of the things that I enjoyed immensely about the book. The author went ahead with an unusual end. Of course some parts of the climax are cliche and expected, but for the most of it, the end was a good turn of events, making it worth the read.

As all the ends come together, the author gives us enough bait to keep us hooked on and waiting in the hopes that there may be another novella or novel to tell us what happens to Ozzy and Monica. The novella is good for a quick read and for those who enjoy the genre!

Review: Plum Pudding Bride by Anne Garboczi Evans

About the Book:

Plum Pudding Bride

Patience Callahan is twenty-five and fast becoming an old maid. But she s spent most of her life dreaming over romantic European literature and wants a dashing d Artagnan, not a bookish Bob Cratchit. Alas, the Colorado town of Gilman is chock-full of Cratchit s without a d Artagnan in sight. Peter Foote, the general store owner, has been in love with Patience for seven years. But every time he s on the verge of proposing, she cuts him off; he can only imagine on purpose. This time though, dadburn it, he s going to go through with it. Ring in hand, he s moments from touching knee to floor, when Patience pulls out a list of mail-order bride advertisements and declares her intention to marry a backwoods stranger, on Christmas Day. Peter has two weeks to change her mind.

My Thoughts:

This is a short romantic story written from the point of view of the hero. Peter is a wonderful character, strong, dependable, and quiet. Patience, on the other hand is confused and rather stand-offish. It took me some time to warm to her. The setting of the story is lovely, at a time when there was a proper way to be courted and to behave. Kitty is a wonderful addition to the story, and is quite likeable.

The story however seems to be quite mainstream. The usual guy loves girl, but girl doesn’t think that he is good enough, influenced by the kind of books she reads and by her fancy idea of how a perfect guy should be. In steps a thief, whose sole aim is to steal the silver that has been mined in the town. Throw in some fights and a series of events that open up the heroine’s eyes to the true nature of the hero, making her fall in love or even realize the love she may have always had for him and we have our story.

Contrary to the cliched plot, the story is written in a simple straightforward manner focused in a single point of view. The story is set around the time of Christmas and is rather fast paced with the plot moving along swiftly. The author doesn’t stop to expand on any of the unnecessary details making this good for a novella. It is a decent one time pick-me up for those who want a quick read while on the move.

Review: Two Graves by Zoe Kalo

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Title: Two Graves (Retribution Series #1)

Author: Zoe Kalo

Genre: Dark Psychological Suspense

Audience: New Adult/Adult

Word count: 18,000 words – 70 pages (short novella)

Launch date: October 1st 2016

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31840144-two-graves

Purchase on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Two-Graves-Novella-Zoe-Kalo-ebook/dp/B01LDIXCR0

 About the Book:

A Dante-ish descent through a sinister world of decadent shadows and woeful souls…

Seven years ago, he shattered her life. The town eventually forgot the headlines and the nightmares. But 23-year old music student Angelica hasn’t forgotten.

For the past seven years, she’s contemplated payback with as much intensity and unwavering faith as she puts into her violin playing. Finally, all the pieces are in place. Over the course of one night, disguised for a masquerade ball, Angelica orchestrates a journey of revenge.

About the Author:

A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery…

A daughter of adventurous expats, she’s had the good fortune of living on 3 continents, learning 4 languages, and experiencing a multicultural life. Currently, she’s working on a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature, which she balances between writing, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir. She is the author of the YA fantasy series CULT OF THE CAT.

Connect with Zoe Kalo on the web:

www.ZoeKalo.com / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

My Thoughts:

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I have previously read and reviewed Zoe’s Daughter of the Sun novel and I loved it immensely. So it only seemed fitting that I read this new book!

This fast paced novella is short and to the point. The plot is shrouded in darkness and sets the pace and tone right from the start. Angelica, the protagonist, is out to exact revenge and the story is set over the course of one day. A very accomplished violinist, she has the perfect plan or so she thinks. There are many references to Dante’s Inferno and the masquerade ball seems to be following the theme.

I found the story a tad bit difficult to follow when the author touched upon the past. That part of the story is a little unclear. It’s clear that something happened to the protagonist seven years ago for which she wants retribution now. However, the rest of the story is a well-written novella filled with some psychological suspense.

I loved the way the author sets the tone of the story and maintains it wonderfully throughout the book. It is easier to lose track of a plot line or plan in a novella as compared to a complete novel, but the author manages to keep on track. With all the pros and cons brought out, I do recommend this novella for all who like a good thriller. This is indeed a short read.

Book Review: Bernie and the Lost Girl by Steve LeBel

About the Book:

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This novella tells of a time when Bernie was twelve years old, and a young goddess was lost.

The gods searched everywhere for her – except the woods.  Readers familiar with Bernie’s world know the gods are terribly afraid to venture there.

Bernie alone was willing to make that search, and, naturally, he sought the help of his two friends, Suzie and Lenny.  So, with no more pre-planning than any other 12-year-olds, they set off on the adventure of their lives.

About the Author:

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How best to describe an author who writes humorous fantasy?

Do we tell of bookshelves full of fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal books, his love of mythology, or the years he spent as dungeon master? Or is it more important to know his favorite player-character was a chaotic-good elven fighter-mage? And what about that stack of old comic books he never seems to get rid of?

There’s a serious side, too. The other half of his bookshelf bulges with titles on management, marketing, computer programming, and financial analysis. What about his years as a hospital president, the many businesses he created, or the time he spent in board rooms? What about his early years counseling drug addicts, or his years as a stock trader?

Is there a pattern to his travels around the world? Why choose places like King Arthur’s Camelot, the Temple of Delphi, Buddha’s Tree of Enlightenment, China’s Forbidden City, or the Great Pyramids of Egypt? What is he seeking?

And what does this have to do with writing good fantasy?

Perhaps it’s this dichotomy within Steve that makes The Universe Builders such a delightful story with such serious undertones.

Book Site:  www.TheUniverseBuilders.com
Email:  Steve@TheUniverseBuilders.com
Facebook Fan Page:  www.facebook.com/SteveLeBel.Author
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SteveLeBel.Author2
Amazon Follow: www.amazon.com/author/stevelebel
Twitter: @SteveLeBel

My Thoughts:

This novella is set in the time before The Universe Builders. In this story, Bernie, our famous and most loved god (those who have previously read The Universe Builders may understand my sentiments) is but a 12 year old boy, still in God school. When a young goddess goes missing, it’s left to Bernie to find and save her.

The story is short and to the point. However, it serves to give us an insight into the world and characters, making it easier to understand how Bernie, Suzie and Lenny end up as friends. A lot of the character and people dynamics is well explained. Those who have already read the main story will know that the woods are a place where no Gods dare venture. Bernie has spent many a days exploring some of it and thus knows that area better than most. When he offers to help, it is turned down and a dejected Bernie decides to take matters into his own hands. Accompanied by his soon to be best friends, he sets out on a mini adventure, all the time trying to control his mischievous cloud.

This is a wonderful short story and can be read before or after The Universe Builders. The order will not matter much, but this novella does lend some clarity to the world and people Steve has created. As usual Bernie’s adventure and the trials the face on the journey are fun to read about.