Vladimir Sorokin is one of Russia’s most popular novelists, and one of its most provocative as well. In Sorokin’s scabrous dystopian satire, Day of the Oprichnik, American readers were introduced to his distinctive style, which combines an edgy avant-garde sensibility with a fondness for the absurd and even grotesque—all in the service of bringing out stinging truths about life in modern-day Russia.
In The Blizzard, we are immediately immersed in the atmosphere of a 19th century Russia familiar to us from the works of Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky. District doctor Garin is desperately trying to reach the village of Dolgoye, where a mysterious epidemic called the “Chernukha” is raging and threatens to spread throughout the country, turning people into zombies. The doctor carries with him a vaccine that will prevent the spread of this terrible disease, but is stymied in his travels by an all-consuming snow storm, an impenetrable blizzard that turns a drive that should last only a few hours into a voyage of days, and finally, a journey into eternity.
The Blizzard dramatizes a timeless metaphysical predicament. The characters in this nearly post-apocalyptic world are constantly in motion, and yet somehow trapped and frozen—spending day and night fighting their way through the storm on an expedition filled with extraordinary encounters, dangerous escapades, torturous imaginings, and amorous adventures. In the fantastical realm Sorokin has invented, the reader also loses her bearings, subject to the vicissitudes of time and change, to both the movement of life and its stagnancy. Hypnotic, fascinating, and richly descriptive, The Blizzard is a seminal work from one of the most inventive writers working today.
About Vladimir Sorokin
Vladimir Sorokin was born in a small town outside of Moscow in 1955. He trained as an engineer at the Moscow Institute of Oil and Gas, but turned to art and writing, becoming a major presence in the Moscow underground of the 1980s. His work was banned in the Soviet Union, and his first novel, The Queue, was published by the famed émigré dissident Andrei Sinyavsky in France in 1983. In 1992, Sorokin’s Collected Stories was nominated for the Russian Booker Prize; in 1999, the publication of the controversial novel Blue Lard, which included a sex scene between clones of Stalin and Khrushchev, led to public demonstrations against the book and to demands that Sorokin be prosecuted as a pornographer; in 2001, he received the Andrei Biely Award for outstanding contributions to Russian literature. Sorokin is also the author of the screenplays for the movies Moscow, The Kopeck, and 4, and of the libretto for Leonid Desyatnikov’s Rosenthal’s Children, the first new opera to be commissioned by the Bolshoi Theater since the 1970s. He has written numerous plays and short stories, and his work has been translated throughout the world. Among his most recent books are Sugar Kremlin and Day of the Oprichnik. He lives in Moscow.
Lolita by Nabokov (brilliant) and The Nose by Gogol (strange) are the only Russian lit books I’ve ever read so clearly that needs some fixing. In an attempt to branch out, I discovered Day of the Oprichnik by this author which is described as a dystopian satire. I have yet to read it but The Blizzard mentions a post-apocalyptic world and zombies so of course this one is also going on my TBR shelf.
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Stripped down and stylized—the sharpest, boldest, brashest debut of the year
Meet Nikki, the most determined young woman in the North Carolina hills. Determined not to let deadbeats and dropouts set her future. Determined to use whatever tools she can get her hands on to shape the world to her will. Determined to preserve her family’s domination of the local drug trade. Nikki is thirteen years old.
Opening with a deadly plunge from a high cliff into a tiny swimming hole, Young God refuses to slow down for a moment as it charts Nikki’s battles against isolation and victimhood. Nikki may be young, but she's a fast learner, and soon—perhaps too soon, if in fact it's not too late—she knows exactly how to wield her powers over the people around her. The only thing slowing her down is the inheritance she's been promised but can't seem to find, buried somewhere deep in those hills and always just out of reach.
With prose stripped down to its bare essence, brash and electrifying, brutal yet starkly beautiful, Katherine Faw Morris's Young God is a debut that demands your attention and won't be forgotten—just like Nikki, who will cut you if you let that attention waver.
‘She dreams of nothing, which is her favorite dream and inside of her is a low buzz.’
Set in the Appalachian foothills in North Carolina, Nikki has just witnessed her mother plunge to her death off a cliff at the local swimming hole. Wasting no time so as to keep Child Protective Services from taking her she seeks out the help of her estranged father, Coy Hawkins, who, she says with pride, used to be the biggest coke dealer in the county. Coy has since moved on to other lucrative work in the form of child prostitution but Nikki is determined to not only get him back into the “family business” but to work right alongside him.
‘Since she is going to die she would like to be remembered, spoken of in the backs of cars in words that shudder.’
I read Child of God a few years ago and never thought I would ever read a book more unsavory than that. Young God definitely tops that. Despite the fact that Nikki is thirteen, her age was something you could easily forget given the complete and utter depravity of the story, although once you do recall her age it just makes it all the more shocking. Nikki is impassive and tragically naive, yet never a victim, she transforms into a compelling heroine determined to survive. But again, she’s thirteen, however, the things that took place within these pages would be appalling no matter the age.
Young God hastily captures all the harsh realities of living with poverty and addiction in the backwoods of the South. The violence and complete corruption at times felt in excess but still succeeds in capturing just how easily it is to fall once you’re on the downward slope. More a novella at approximately 22,000 words, we’re granted somewhat of a reprieve from the violence in the sparse and apathetic way the narrative is written. Searingly crude, and unrefined this will shock even the hardiest of readers and the non-ending to Nikki’s story will only leave you contemplating the horrors of what’s to come for this young girl.
Stripped down and stylized—Winter’s Bone plus Less Than Zero—the sharpest, boldest, brashest debut of the year
Meet Nikki, the most determined young woman in the Carolina hills. She’s determined not to let the expectations of society set her future; determined to use all the limited tools at her disposal to shape the world to her will; determined to preserve her family’s domination of the local drug trade despite the fact that her parents are gone. Nikki is thirteen years old.
Opening with a death-defying plunge off a high cliff into a tiny swimming hole, Young God refuses to slow down for a moment as it charts Nikki’s battles against the powers that be. Katherine Faw Morris has stripped her prose down to its bare essence—certain chapters are just a few words long—resulting in an electric, electrifying reading experience that won’t soon be forgotten. She quickly gets to the core of Nikki, her young heroine, who’s only just beginning to learn about her power over the people around her—learning too early, perhaps, but also just soon enough, if not too late.
Evoking the staccato, telegraphic storytelling style of James Ellroy but with the literary affect of a young Denis Johnson and a fierce sense of place worthy of Flannery O’Connor or Donna Tartt, Morris is a debut novelist who demands your attention—and Nikki is a character who will cut you if you let your attention waver.
With comparisons to Donna Tartt and Winter’s Bone, this went immediately onto my TBR list.
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Divided by day and night and on the run from authorities, star-crossed young lovers unearth a sinister conspiracy in this compelling romantic thriller.
Seventeen-year-old Soleil Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller prohibited by law from going out during the day. When she fakes an injury in order to get access to and kidnap her newborn niece—a day dweller, or Ray—she sets in motion a fast-paced adventure that will bring her into conflict with the powerful lawmakers who order her world, and draw her together with the boy she was destined to fall in love with, but who is also a Ray.
Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights, and a fast-paced romantic adventure story.
In an alternate reality following the 1918 flu pandemic, Soleil Le Coeur concocts a desperate plan to kidnap her newborn niece so that her grandfather is able to hold her one last time before he dies. Her plan goes foul when she finds herself embroiled in a political feud between opposing Night and Day groups.
When the 1918 flu epidemic began wreaking havoc on the population, the President divided the medical teams into day and night to keep up with the work required. The results were so positive that this divide between day and night was applied to the rest of society. Because the amount of people awake during the day were cut in half, public transportation was less crowded and ended up decelerating the spread of the disease. The divide continued even after the flu epidemic had been dealt with. I really loved the setting of this world because while it was simple it was explained well and felt incredibly realistic.
Plus One is told from the point of view of Soleil, a fantastic character that I loved from the very first page. She’s impulsive and snarky and will do anything for her Poppu, the only family she has left. It’s commendable, even with the ridiculous scheme she comes up with. We’re given flashback scenes throughout the novel that tells the tale of her past and how she’s come to be alone with her grandfather and that makes her actions all the more poignant.
“I didn’t mind going straight to nothing a few days earlier, so that Poppu could hold his great-granddaughter before he died.”
I understood her intentions, but I felt the kidnapping of the baby was completely nonsensical. It was also too flimsy of a storyline to be the entirety of the plot. Her ability to steal the baby initially and her continued evasion of the government was pretty implausible as well. This ended up being much more of a political drama/soap-opera than I anticipated and was very disappointed by this.
It’s kind of funny but I find myself typically complaining about the romances in stories and how they seem to overtake the plot. With Plus One it happens to be the complete opposite where I’m complaining about the lack of romance/swoons but I think this is because I went into this story expecting a ‘star-crossed‘ love, plus just look at the cover I mean come on. Soleil and D’Arcy dislike each other at first and use nicknames to identify one another (She is Plus One and he is Day Boy) which quickly became tiresome. It’s a case of opposites attract but the actual romance doesn’t happen until very late in the book. The two possess a connection (that isn’t realized until later) which prevents their romance from veering too far into insta-love territory but that connection still failed to generate the swoons I was looking for. Their relationship does get serious fairly quickly though and there were a few lines that caused much consternation.
‘D’Arcy was like a planet to my meteor. The gravitational pull was similar to a hurtling sensation. My body needed to collide with his. And, the universe be praised, this planet welcomed the impact.’
‘He drank from it and handed it back. I rested my lips on the rim of the bottle before I drank, trying to differentiate between the warm wetness of the water and the warm wetness of his mouth, disappointed that I couldn’t.’
There was one particularly violent scene that had me completely flummoxed as to it’s reason for being a part of the story. I suppose violence doesn’t always have to possess a meaning but it felt out of place and gratuitous in regards to the rest of the story. Overall this was a very mature YA read and I was shocked yet impressed to see sex portrayed so openly.
Admittedly, the cover is the sole reason I read this. That gorgeous cover promised swoons and all the feels yet the book itself never lived up to it. The ending is left open-ended but possesses an impressive and unexpected resolution that was my favorite aspect of the novel. Plus One was an enjoyable read for the most part but I was definitely expecting more.
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
Valorian culture dictates that Lady Kestrel must decide whether her life will be dedicated to a military career or if she will opt for marriage instead. She wishes for neither, preferring to spend time at her piano making music yet her passion is scorned in society. On a seemingly ordinary day, she stumbles upon an auction of Herrani slaves and impulsively purchases one named Arin who is renowned for his skills as a blacksmith but moreso because of the fact that he can sing. This one decision completely changes everything.
This book was thoroughly enjoyable and the writing was exceptional. For the majority of the book the pacing is fairly slow and while I would typically find fault in this, the writing still managed to completely hold my interest. The story was slow to build but the prospect of things to come left you in a constant state of a subdued enthusiasm. It was riveting. I found the worldbuilding to be simple yet compelling and while I think more information could have been disclosed, it was sufficient enough for the time being. I anticipate that this aspect will be expounded on in future installments.
All of the characters were richly drawn. Kestrel is struggling to determine a way to get around her societies expectations of her because she wants to neither join the military nor marry. She’s a strong and confident young woman who is able to defend herself if need be, but is more of a mental strategist and is constantly contemplating. Arin is an easy one to understand once you find out his background. His behavior is one derived from simple survival, he only seeks to obtain the freedom he possessed so many years ago. The enthralling complexity of these two characters is the relationship they develop with one another. Their romance is slow to build much like the plot and doesn’t completely derail the story either. They are determined to restrain themselves from developing a relationship that is highly frowned upon as they are both bound by their loyalties to their people.
This is a book that is difficult to associate with any specific genre. It’s fantasy, it’s historical fiction, it’s romance. There are political machinations, battles and conflict between two dynamic societies. Winner’s Curse is a fantastic page-turner that will keep you mesmerized until the very end. The cliffhanger conclusion is sure to leave you astonished.
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Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.
Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
‘…I also felt like an eggshell that had gotten a tiny crack. You can’t repair something like that. All you can do is hope that it sticks together, hope that the crack doesn’t grow until all your insides come spilling right out.’
Elise Dembowski is the unpopular girl in school. She’s that girl that eats her lunch in the bathroom. She’s the one that never gets asked to the school dances. She’s the one that shuffles along silently down the halls, never saying a word, never making eye contact with anyone. The invisible one.
Elise decides she’s going to spend the entire summer leading up to the new school year learning how to be just like all the popular kids so that this year can be different. But it’s not. It ends up being just as disastrous as all others, but everything changes the day she goes home and decides to commit suicide.
“I had once thought that I wanted to get revenge by dying. But getting revenge by living, and living well, was much, much sweeter.”
I love how this book has been the conduit for so many shared personal stories. It resonated deep with me too, so I can’t but share my own tale.
The first half of this book I couldn’t seem to connect with Elise’s story and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I thought about it, discussed it with others and it finally hit me that the reason was due to how much I could relate and that I was unconsciously trying to emotionally disconnect. While I know I wasn’t the most tortured kid in school, my early school days are not filled with memories that I look back on fondly. I dealt with bullies at the bus stop and being teased for my choice in fashion for years. But what resonated the most with me was that intense desire that Elise had to just be noticed by the popular group of kids. I remember the day the popular group of kids at school finally talked to me, asking me for a quick favor, just to keep something in my backpack for them… saying no never crossed my mind. I remember being called to the principal’s office, having him search my bag and finding pot… apparently my “new friends” had been caught and had quickly decided to pawn it off on someone and I ended up being the perfect one to take the fall.
It took me a long time to understand the full extent of what those girls did to me that day. That incident made me realize that there are some people in this world that may put on a happy face and pretend to be your friend but they don’t have your best interests at heart. They don’t care what happens to you. And they are most certainly not people you want/need to have in your life.
Even if you can’t relate to Elise’s story, I’m sure you’ve known an ‘Elise’ type at some point in your life. But this can truly be a life lesson for everyone, whether you relate or not, because everyone is misjudged at some point in their life. This Song Will Save Your Life is a novel of self-discovery. It’s about finding good people to have in your life that will treat you with kindness and respect. It’s about finding what makes you happy in life. It’s about being shamelessly you… and realizing there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that.
That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail.
Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.
Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.
Because tonight, they’ll come for her.
‘No one knows why some girls have the gift. There are theories, of course. That it’s passed down genetically. Or that girls with an open mind can see the weave of life around them at all times. Even that it’s a gift only given to the pure-hearted. But I know better. It’s a curse.’
In this world, everything is comprised of threads which can be altered, manipulated, or completely removed. Behavior modification can be done for unruly children or if they’re deemed a lost cause can be removed completely. If that is done then everything is reworked in order to change the complete structure of everyone’s thoughts and memories so that the child that was removed is not even remembered, even by his own parents. Even the most base things that would normally be natural: food cultivation, upcoming thunderstorms, these are all managed by the Spinsters. Only managed though.
‘Crewel work is an act of pure creation. Crewelers do more than weave the fabric of Arras. They can capture the materials to create the weave. Only they can see the weave of the raw materials. (…) The Spinsters wouldn’t have any matter to weave if it weren’t for her special gift.’
Because this world wouldn’t exist without the Creweler.
‘Day by day, I am remade, into someone else. I’m sixteen now, and I will be almost flawless forever. That thought helps me fall asleep at night, secure in my place here, but it also wakes me up trembling with nightmares.’
Their beauty routines and the description of how these women look reminded me of geisha’s. The only difference with the women in Arras is the access to renewal patches which allow them to heal wounds rapidly but also help to preserve their youth. These patches worked so well that you’re virtually unable to tell people’s true age anymore. A very sci-fi and freaky touch.
Sure, there is a slight love-triangle in the book but I’m starting to realize that my main issue with them is that there is always the guy the protagonist should obviously be going for and one that she very clearly should not be (and he’s usually a total prick). That wasn’t the case with Crewel and it was a very plausible situation in which the love triangle derived from. I actually liked both guys, one more so than the other (Jost), but they were both still well likable and weren’t total pricks. That calls for celebration I think.
I loved the twist that was thrown in at the end. Everything slowly begins to unravel (haha… pun intended) and Adelice finally realizes the enormity of the situation that she’s been forced into. The twist succeeded in not only making the entire situation crazy and eye-popping but really added a layer of realism to this ‘perfect world’.
While I had trouble grasping the concept (at first) I was still incredibly fascinated by the idea and everything ended up being explained sufficiently in my opinion. The attention to detail into every facet of this world was incredibly intricate and entirely original. I loved it. Crewel is a sci-fi world where everything can be altered with a 1984 type society where people are controlled to the nth degree. Highly recommended for dystopian fans.
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This beautiful and sad first novel, recently adapted for a major motion picture, tells of a band of teenage sleuths who piece together the story of a twenty-year old family tragedy begun by the youngest daughter’s spectacular demise by self-defenestration, which inaugurates “the year of the suicides.”
“With most people,” he said, “suicide is like Russian roulette. Only one chamber has a bullet. With the Lisbon girls, the gun was loaded. A bullet for family abuse. A bullet for genetic predisposition. A bullet for historical malaise. A bullet for inevitable momentum. The other two bullets are impossible to name, but that doesn’t mean the chambers were empty.”
This was a strange read for me, yet still managed to be… I wouldn’t say enjoyable. Maybe intriguing is more like it. This book filled me with major confusion as I had constant questions arise since you don’t get the full picture as this story is told from a third-party, an outside party, rather than being told from the POV of one of the sisters. On top of that, it’s actually told as almost a recollection of people who were affected by these girls and their actions.
I had of course heard of this story over the years but had never managed to pick it up. Never actually watched the film either so I wasn’t completely aware of what to expect. Even know, writing this review several weeks after finishing the book, I’m not sure how to describe how I felt about it. What I remember most is the author’s vivid writing; I will definitely be interested in reading more from him. This was an interesting and thought provoking book but at the same time is a horrible and shocking book that I’m not sure whether or not to recommend. Very sad, very heartbreaking, and one that I certainly won’t be forgetting.
"Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.
Another on my list of Banned/Challenged books. And another book that I apparently failed to be given as a reading requirement when I was younger. And yes, I’m starting to feel like a broken record at this point. But at least I’m getting around to reading them! Better late than never.
Speak is a moving and heartbreaking tale about a young girl who is keeping a dark secret from everyone including her family. This kept secret cost her all of her friends who all hate her for what she did, yet she still lacks the will to speak the truth.
’I am BunnyRabbit again, hiding in the open. I sit like I have an egg in my mouth. One move, one word, and the egg will shatter and blow up the world.’
Speak is the story of her healing, coping, and coming to terms with it all. It was a truly enthralling tale that kept the pages turning despite the sadness each page is steeped in. To me, this was such a vivid and accurate depiction of a teen girl suffering through high school and the blowback from her kept secret. I may not have been able to personally relate to what happened to her, but I think everyone could relate in some way to how she was treated in high school by her classmates and how she felt. I don’t look back on high school (or school in general) with fond memories, I wasn’t popular by any means, and I often found myself dreading going to school. Reading about how she felt, how she was treated, definitely struck a chord with me.
It was such a touching novel and I was so pleased that she finally found her resolution in the end and that she finally found the ability to speak.