The Vegetarian by Han Kang

the-vegetarian

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Horror, Korean Lit,

Medium: Paperback

Synopsis: After an unsettling nightmare, Yeong-hye decides to stop eating meat.  This one act of defiance and control sets forth a chain of events.  Her family does not understand her newfound dislike of meat and try to subject her to grotesque acts of meat-eating, and attempt and succeed in getting checked into a psych ward.  Through her husband’s, brother-in-law’s, and sister’s points of view, we follow Yeong-hye’s Kafka-esque journey of accepting herself as a part of nature.

Review: Once I had finished the first section of this book, I knew that this book would land a place on my favorites bookshelf.  Just so you all know up front, there are content warnings for violence, sexual assault, and eating disorders.  Nonetheless, this book fits into the horror genre in my opinion, and I’m a lover of horror, so I was able to delve into this book without being too disturbed.  And, that being said, this book was very disturbing.

I’ll be up front and honest with y’all: I’m vegan, so the first section of the book was actually very hard for me to read.  When Yeong-hye begins to reject meat and other animal products from her diet and lifestyle, her husband’s coworkers and her family neither understand nor respect her decision.  In the end, her husband lies about her reasoning for choosing to forego meat, and she is subject to both micro- and macro-aggressions from her family and husband’s coworkers.  While I am thankful to say that I’ve never experienced such macro-aggressions, I must also say that it was easy for me to identify with Yeong-hye at the beginning of this novel.  Her husband picks fights about her decision, dismisses her feelings, and seems to make an effort to not understand her reasoning.  My stomach churned when I was reading this part, and I could feel myself getting angry when the coworkers laughed and stared at her.  Han Kang did such a phenomenal job at this.  I could feel Yeong-hye’s emotions, and the story is not even from her perspective.

But, personal reasons aside, this work is truly deserving of the Man Booker International Prize.  It’s a magnificent piece of literature that leaves you entranced with the main character, up until the very end of the novel.  It’s poetic, descriptive, and reminiscent of Kafka.  In all honesty, The Vegetarian is a work of art.

 

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Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke

slasher-girls-and-monster-boys

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Young Adult Lit, Horror, Thriller

Medium: Kindle edition

Synopsis: Filled with many different types of short stories, Slasher Girls and Monster Boys is an anthology perfect for any horror or thriller fan.  Most stories focus on high school-aged protagonists who must overcome the terrors they face from outside forces.  Some terrifying things the protagonists created themselves, and others are simply because malevolent beings quite enjoy being, well, malevolent.  Many of these are original in their own right, while others are incredible retellings of stories we love such as Alice in Wonderland and Frankenstein.  Read them in whichever order you’d like, but remember…don’t turn off the lights.

Review: This was such a fun October read!  I picked this one up after joining an online book club, and I’m so glad this was the month’s read!  These stories are recommended for fans of Stephen King and general thriller-lovers.  However, I have to say that as a huge fan of horror and thriller novels, as well as generally disturbing novels, this felt a little like Horror 101.  BUT do not be discouraged by that!  These stories focus on mostly high school-aged protagonists and likewise tropes, which makes it appropriate for those who are entering the horror literature scene or for those who really enjoy young adult lit.

Each story had its own unique feel.  It’s safe to say that my favorites are “The Birds of Azalea Street,” “Hide and Seek,” “Fat Girl with a Knife,” “Stitches,” and “On the I-5.”  However, the one that shocked me the most was “Sleepless.”  I wish I could write full reviews of each one, but I’ll have to stick with shorter ones.

I love love love talking about Death as though they’re a real entity of some sort.  That’s why I loved “Hide and Seek,” a short story about a girl who must evade Death for 24 hours in order to remain alive.

“Fat Girl with a Knife”…need I say more?  It begins as a fat frumpy awkward girl vs hot popular girl with a nose job type of story, but takes a turn when the popular girl goes into the bathroom where our protagonist is and goes rabid.  The knife isn’t for cake, but to protect herself and those who made fun of her from the oncoming zombie(?) apocalypse.

Retellings aren’t always my thing, but “Stitches” was so unique that I couldn’t tear myself away.  This retelling of Frankenstein was incredible.  The question first posed is this: is it possible to make a bad person good by replacing their parts with a good person’s ones?  And the more our dear protagonist sees The Collector, as he’s called himself, the more we realize what type of deal her father has made to get out of prison.

I don’t want to give away too much of this one, so I’ll say this: “Sleepless” is about two teenagers who’ve only ever talked online and decide to meet up one night.  I had to reread certain parts because I couldn’t tell what I was reading.

And now, I must end with “The Birds of Azalea Street” and “On the I-5.”  I loved these two individually as well as how they work well together as an opener and a closer for this anthology.  “The Birds” focuses on how a group of teenage girls know more than they let on, because who ever believes teenage girls, really?  Together, they make a frightening discovery about their neighbor.  “I-5,” alternatively, focuses on a young girl who is travelling alone at night, and is picked up by an older man that vaguely reminds her of her beast.  These two worked together magnificently, and this is why: the first shows a group of girls being smarter than they let on, and the latter depicts one girl who thinks she’s smarter and more grown up than she actually is.  In the first, the girls are victorious.  In the second, our protagonist is victorious only in her revenge.

Many of these stories focus on women as the protagonists–sometimes they’re benevolent, and sometimes not.  The stories whose protagonists are boys, however, focus on how the malevolent being in their lives are a direct cause of their actions.  After reading this whole anthology, a message was made clear to me: the girls in these stories were often the victims of external forces (sometimes, if not usually men); whereas the boys in these stories are tormented by those they have wronged.  All in all, what comes around, goes around.

Le Portrait de Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

le-portrait-de-dorian-gray

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Victorian Lit, Fantastic Lit

Medium: (French) Paperback

Synopsis: This piece of Victorian Literature follows Dorian Gray throughout his lifetime.  After being painted by Basil Hallward, Dorian meets Lord Henry, a person who is utterly intrigued by him.  Through Lord Henry’s friendship with Dorian, we discover that Dorian holds Victorian values to the highest esteem: youth and beauty are some of the most important things in life, if not the most important things in life.  Thanks to these values, Dorian decides to make a deal that will change his life, and his portrait.

Review: I know that not all classic pieces of literature are the most entertaining, but this one was spectacular.  Right from the beginning, Oscar Wilde lays out his themes for us: faith, Victorian values, sins, and what may or may not be ethically correct.  What really hooked me at the beginning was this line (which is in French): “Il n’existe pas de livres moraux ou immoraux.  Les livers sont bien écrits ou mals écrits.  C’est tout,” which translates to “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.  Books are well written, or badly written.  That is all.”  In all honesty, the preface is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a long long while.  Even if this novel doesn’t interest you, I’d highly suggest just reading the first part.

I will openly admit that I know that there are some parts that I didn’t fully quite understand, but I’m going to blame that on the fact that I read this novel in French, which is not my first language.  But what I did understand from the novel was so good that I finished this French book in record time.  If it was in English, I think I would have finished it at least twice as fast.  This was a fascinating read, and it’s inspiring me to read more Victorian literature.

 

The Grass Harp and A Tree of Night by Truman Capote

The Grass Harp and A Tree of Night: and Other Stories

Rating: ★★★1/2

Genre: Fiction

Medium: Paperback

Synopsis: This handy little paperback is comprised of one novella and many short stories.  The Grass Harp depicts a small group of friends ranging from 16 to 60 years old who run away from home in order to rebel a business decision.  The latter short stories include some noir-esque and almost-spooky themes which are sure to make you sit down, have a cup of coffee, and think.

Review: It’s been a very long time since I’ve read Capote, but this is probably the first time I’ve really delved into many of his works at once.  The Grass Harp was a fun novella, with loveable characters who fall in love and must resist the likes of angry townsfolk who think that their rebellion is just plain silly.  The plot is likeable, and I’d actually be very interested to see if there’s a movie of it out there!  The stories within A Tree of Night, were just as good!  My favorites would have to be “Master Misery” and “Miriam,” which are both equal parts incredible and spooky.  If you’re looking for an old time-y read with lots of character, I’d have to recommend this to you.  However, I will warn you that because these were written 1949-1951, there’s racism and anti-semitism.