Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale hits many pitfalls of Chosen One stories, but I didn’t notice until the cheesy climax because it’s such an entertaining read. It’s snowy, moody, and packed with magic—the superstitious, fairy-tale kind. The opening scenes depict a family sitting around and telling old stories of Morozko (Frost). It sets the tone well and is an entertaining way of providing key background information for the main story, which takes place in a small Russian town next to the woods. In this town, Vasya is born with sight that allows her to communicate with the household spirits. They need her help because a priest is dissuading townsfolk from the old ways. Hungry for lack of offerings, the spirits warn they may no longer be able to protect the townspeople from the dark powers that are stirring in the woods. This is where Vasya comes in. read more

Review: Cherry by Nico Walker

I read Nico Walker’s Cherry in my quest to read a greater range of voices. I heard about it via Ron Charles’ review in the Washington Post (found here)Though Cherry‘s title page classifies the book as fiction, the life of its unnamed narrator closely follows the trajectory of the author’s life: Ohio → the Army → Iraq → PTSD → heroin → bank robbery. Though Walker is currently serving an eleven-year sentence, Cherry ends before any arrest or prosecution. With those kinds of similarities, it’s likely that much of Cherry is autobiographical with a few flourishes and name changes. Walker’s real-life story (here), shares a few vivid moments with the book. read more

Review: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

I don’t review non-fiction because I often can’t speak to its veracity. Depending on the topic, it can be difficult to see the author’s bias or where they’ve bent facts to fit a narrative. From my layman’s perspective, though, Mary Roach’s Stiff offers unique and comforting insight into death’s aftereffects. She examines cadavers and related areas of research via interviews, bizarre trivia, and humor. read more