Title: The Painted Bird
Author: Jerzy Kosinski
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction
Content Warnings: Graphic violence, graphic rape, animal cruelty, abuse towards women and minors, racism, pedophilia, anti-Semiticism, depictions of war.
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers for The Painted Bird.
Synopsis: A harrowing story that follows the wanderings of a boy abandoned by his parents during World War II, The Painted Bird is a dark novel that examines the proximity of terror and savagery to innocence and love.
Words cannot accurately depict the visceral disgust that I feel towards this book.
I don’t even know why I picked up this book from my local library. I believe I was on a horror-kick or something with my reading list, and I was recommended this book online. I am so glad that I only checked out this book instead of wasting the money I would have spent to purchase it.
The problem with this book is not so much the subject that is being written about; historical fiction holds truths about events and eras within our history that are important to keep alive in our works. There is no question in my mind that World War II brought forth some of the most atrocious accounts of violence and human depravity in our world’s history.
However, where I have issue with this book is the wildly grotesque depictions of violence that the narrator, an unnamed child, experiences and witnessed throughout the course of the novel for seemingly no reason. There is also not one sympathetic character in the entirety of the book that the narrator meets. Every other page or so, this boy is being either cruelly assaulted or watching someone else be graphically beaten up and/or raped. Kosinski truly went beyond just saying that World War II brought out the perversion of humans: Kosinski actively tried to show us by attempting to bring this perversion to life through the illustration of words. He painted out some of the most horrific images in his scenes, images so vile that they made me feel physically ill at times.
Additionally, there was criticism about Kosinski passing off this book as an autobiographical story, or at the very least not denying that this was not a true story based on his own experiences. The fact that Kosinski profited off the events of the Holocaust and World War II by trying to pass this novel off, with everything contained within, as something that happened to him is repulsive.
This book was very nearly added to my DNF list, but to give Kosinski’s writing a fair chance, I read through until the end. I can now say that I would never recommend this novel to anyone, and am incredibly glad that I didn’t spend any of my own money on this book.
Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Genre(s): Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Horror, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction
Gisselle's Rating: 4/5
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers for Stalking Jack the Ripper.
Victorian London has always been one of my favorite eras to visit when reading novels, and in Stalking Jack the Ripper, the first installment in a series, Kerri Maniscalco brings us the high brow, wealthy society of the upper class in London in the midst of the Jack the Ripper murders.
Audrey Rose Wadsworth is a young English woman that comes from a prosperous family in the late 1880s. She is also apprenticing under her Uncle Jonathan in his forensic lab, dissecting cadavers and analyzing the manner of death, a entirely unsuitable for a young woman of her status. When a string of brutally murdered women are brought into her uncle's laboratory, Audrey Rose is wrenched into an investigation of what - or who - could have caused these vicious killings. Inspired by the real-life unsolved case of the Jack the Ripper killings, with some chapters prefaced by grim period photographs of the time, Maniscalco tells a fictional tale of who was the true monster that was Jack the Ripper and of a woman who tracked him down.
Title: And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Genre(s): Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Religion, Elements of LGBTQA+, Romance
Gisselle's Rating: 4.5/5
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers for And I Darken.
During my undergrad studies, one of the books I enjoyed reading the most in my curriculum was Bram Stoker's Dracula, and it was especially compelling to learn that it had been inspired by a true figure in history: Vladimir the Impaler. Yet, I did not understand the intricacies of the stories involving Vladimir, or exactly what he was famous for in history. This novel, though a fictional retelling with many creative liberties taken, depicts that era and its characters, and Kiersten White does a fantastic job at bringing these historical figures back to life in such a raw and human way.
White's And I Darken is the first installment in a series called The Conqueror's Saga, a trilogy which recounts a fictional retelling of Vladimir the Impaler, Mehmed the Conqueror, and other historical figureheads of the Ottoman Empire. While this is a retelling of historical accounts of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople, and other events, there are quite a few liberties that White takes in the telling of her story. For one, White makes the decision to change Vladimir the Impaler into Ladaslav the Impaler, a daughter (rather than son) of Wallachia. There are also adjustments made to the timeline in which certain events unfolded in history to better fit White's narrative, and as there isn't true historical documentation of exact conversations or encounters that these characters may have had with one another, White focuses on possible motivations that would have impacted their actions taken during their lives. Ultimately, it is important to remember that while this story has its roots set in true events, it is a fictional piece.
Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Romance
Gisselle's Rating: 4.5/5
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.
Once I began college, I fell off the wagon when it came to reading for pleasure. I enjoyed the analyzation process and literary criticism of my degree, but it had been a while since I read a book because I wanted to immerse myself in a different world. So when I picked up this book for the first time in February, I was expecting a battle with myself to keep disciplined and focused on the story, to try to get back to that same level of passion that I had towards reading in my youth. However, my preparations weren't really needed; V.E. Schwab's masterful storytelling and ability to grip and immerse me completely in her world drew me in without reservation. I remembered what it felt like to completely fall into a new setting and story that was not mine.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue depicts a devastating concept: a young woman makes a deal with an entity to be immortal, but at the ghastly price of being forgotten by everyone she encounters. On first assumption of the text's contents, I thought it was going to be about an immortal that would not be able to leave a mark on the world in the sense that perhaps she could not have children or could not become famous. I was not aware to the extent of the excruciating nature of Addie LaRue's reality, which was that she would not be remembered at all, leaving no memory of her presence even after she left someone's life for only a moment. However, all what Addie knows of her new life changes when she is introduced to Henry Strauss, a wandering soul that works in a local bookstore in New York City, and the first person to have remembered Addie since making her bargain.