Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim – A powerful and unforgettable story about daring to dream, bravery, and freedom

Summary:

Ming survived the famine that killed his parents during China’s ‘Great Leap Forward’, and lives a hard but adequate life, working in the fields… When a group of city boys comes to the village as part of a Communist Party re-education program, Ming and his friends aren’t sure what to make of the new arrivals. They’re not used to hard labour and village life. But despite his reservations, Ming befriends a charming city boy called Li. The two couldn’t be more different, but slowly they form a bond over evening swims and shared dreams…But as the bitterness of life under the Party begins to take its toll on both boys, they begin to imagine the impossible: freedom.

My review:

Note: review will discuss themes that may be distressing; tw’s for death and poverty

Before I delve into my high praises for this book, I want you to go into this book review knowing one thing: Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim was based on the author’s father’s life. I didn’t know this when I read Freedom Swimmer; I only knew when I read the very end. So, knowing this, let me tell you how much I love Freedom Swimmer, and why you and everyone should read one of my top reads of 2017.

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Golden Son by Pierce Brown – Middle-book syndrome what? This book takes the series to new heights

Summary:

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

My review:

If you know my reviews and frequent ravings, you will probably know that I loved Red Rising. I loved it for its eloqent political and revolutionary narratives, I loved it for its epic and heartrending story, and I loved it for its grittiness and melodrama. And here, after finishing Golden Son, I’m pleased to say that I love this series still.

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The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork – Heartbreaking, hopeful, honest; a rare story about depression and grief

Summary:

Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive.

That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know.

Note: suicide will be discussed extensively in my review.

My review:

Often when we read books about mental illness, we follow the trajectory and development of an individual’s experience with mental illness. The Memory of Light offers something a little different; rather than looking at the events preceding a traumatic event or exploring the age-old question of ‘what drives a person to take their own life?’, The Memory of Light explores its aftermath.

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The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho – An exquisite homage to love and life

terracottabride

In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.

It’s a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn’t choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she’s reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua’s creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death.

After reading Cho’s spectacular Sorcerer to the Crown, I was an instant fan. I was thus inevitably drawn to The Terracotta Bride – a fantasy short story that plunges us headfirst into the throes of the Chinese afterlife.

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Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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My sincerest thanks to Hachette New Zealand, for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting, but in so doing send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.

Hex creeped me the heck out.

I don’t like anything horror, especially horror movies. I am the sort of person who, while walking in the dead of night to the kitchen, will think of something scary and then scare myself. I am a big, big wuss. Despite – and surprisingly – I enjoyed Hex very much. I was told that Hex ‘exposes how psychological fear can make a modern society spiral into dark, medieval practices’. And after much reflection, this is a perfect description of the novel in a sentence.

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