Review: Madeleine is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

madeleineissleepingI liked this book a lot. Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum has absolutely amazing prose and it’s hauntingly vivid. This book tells the story of a girl named Madeleine whom falls into a deep sleep following her mother dunking her hands into lye when she is discovered committing sexual acts with them. Unable to use her hands even in her dreams, since the lye has turned her hands into little paddles, she runs away to join a circus. At home, her mother and sisters take care of her in bed, her mother experiences success and failure which she blames on Madeleine equally. As the book progresses, Madeleine’s dream world and the real world begin to merge until it’s impossible to tell what’s real and what’s not.

I am a huge fan of books with surrealism, however I feel as though nothing was ever resolved in this book, that there was no logical ending. Nothing seems to come to a close. What happens to… any of the characters, really? Unfortunately this sense of things being completely unresolved makes the book as a whole feel pointless. Very pretty and interesting, but pointless nonetheless and that’s kind of a bummer.

★★★★☆

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10 Awesome Books Written By Women!

therobberbrideThe Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
“Set in contemporary Toronto, the novel revolves around the lives of three fascinating women. Classmates from university, Roz, Charis, and Tony all shared the seductive and destructive experience of a past friendship with the flashy, sensuous, smart, irresistible Zenia. As the novel opens, they are twenty years past their college days and have met at Zenia’s funeral. At lunch, after the funeral, they spot Zenia — not dead at all and up to no good.”

The Luminaries by Eleanor Cattontheluminaries
“It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have men in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.”

thedispossessedThe Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
“Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.”stlucyshomeforgirls

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
“In the collection’s title story, a pack of girls raised by wolves are painstakingly reeducated by nuns. In “Haunting Olivia,” two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab. In “Z.Z.’s Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers,” a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to a summer camp for troubled sleepers (Cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Sleep Apneics; Cabin 3, Somnambulists . . . ). And “Ava Wrestles the Alligator” introduces the remarkable Bigtree Wrestling Dynasty–Grandpa Sawtooth, Chief Bigtree, and twelve-year-old Ava–proprietors of Swamplandia!, the island’s #1 Gator Theme Park and Cafe.”

thenightircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called “Le Cirque des Reves,” and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway–a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love–a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.”

When She Woke by Hillary Jordanwhenshewoke
“Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan s provocative new novel, “When She Woke,” tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.”

grotesqueGrotesque by Natsuo Kirino
“In her riveting new novel “Grotesque,” Kirino once again depicts a barely known Japan. This is the story of three Japanese women and the interconnectedness of beauty and cruelty, sex and violence, ugliness and ambition in their lives. Tokyo prostitutes Yuriko and Kazue have been brutally murdered, their deaths leaving a wake of unanswered questions about who they were, who their murderer is, and how their lives came to this end. As their stories unfurl in an ingeniously layered narrative, coolly mediated by Yuriko’s older sister, we are taken back to their time in a prestigious girls’ high school–where a strict social hierarchy decided their fates–and follow them through the years as they struggle against rigid societal conventions.”

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolverthepoisonwoodbible
“The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.”

thelakeofdeadlanguagesThe Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
“Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson left the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. Now she has returned to the placid, isolated shores of the lakeside school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories that will become a living nightmare.”

The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oatestheaccursed
“Princeton, New Jersey, at the turn of the twentieth century: a tranquil place to raise a family, a genteel town for genteel souls. But something dark and dangerous lurks at the edges of the town, corrupting and infecting its residents. Vampires and ghosts haunt the dreams of the innocent. A powerful curse besets the elite families of Princeton; their daughters begin disappearing. A young bride on the verge of the altar is seduced and abducted by a dangerously compelling man-a shape-shifting, vaguely European prince who might just be the devil, and who spreads his curse upon a richly deserving community of white Anglo-Saxon privilege. And in the Pine Barrens that border the town, a lush and terrifying underworld opens up.”

Putting together this list made me think that I really need to focus on reading some modern female authors–it was really hard for me to not include writers from the 19th century! Which books written by women are are your favorite?

10 Books I am DYING to Re-Read

theluminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Winner of the 2013 Man-Booker Prize, this book is amazingly complex and I can’t help but feel that it would only be enhanced by a second read through. I think it is my favorite book that has been written recently and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a modern classic.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgensternthenightircus
I love this book because not only is it a National Novel Writing Month novel and I’m always eager to support the program that has allowed me to finish two novels of my own. Also, The Night Circus is really a book where the scenery is the impressive part, just stunning and fantastical imagery. It may be telling of a common complaint of this book, but I want to re-read it as well because I can’t for the life of me remember what the plot was supposed to be. Not to mention there is a rumor going around that there will be a movie and I definitely want to re-read it before then.

oryxandcrakeOryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood
Besides The Handmaid’s Tale I think the MaddAddam trilogy must be her most well known work. I feel as though Oryx & Crake may be improved after reading second and third book.

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moersthecityofdreamingbooks
This might be the most fun book I’ve ever read and I desperately want to dip into its pages again. This is really so fun and so bookish, I’ve never come across another book which I would even label as similar! I also want to get my hands on the two sequels, The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books and The Castle of Dreaming Books the latter of which has not yet been released.

thecoldestgirlincoldtownThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Possibly my favorite young adult to date, I look back on it and I definitely want to know if it stands up to my memory. I’ve always wanted a sequel, but Holly Black has been pretty firm on the fact that its going to remain a stand alone. Normally I prefer stand alones, but in this case I’m dying for a sequel! You aren’t quite satisfied at the end.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut thesirensoftitan
This and Galapagos are my two top Kurt Vonnegut books, but The Sirens of Titan is definitely something else. I would love to re-read it and catch the nuances.

thegargoyleThe Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
It has been many years since I read this book, but it always sticks out in my mind as a beautiful and tragic book. The imagery is still really strong in my mind and its something that I wish I could re-experience for the first time.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevskytheidiot
I read The Idiot a few years back (after The Brothers Karamazov and before Crime & Punishment) and its the book the solidified my love for Dostoevsky.

gameofthronesGame of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
This one is kind of a cheat since I recently started re-reading it, but I think the ASOIF books are far too long and far too complex to absorb everything if you only read it once. I was not prepared though, for how much knowing the future books would make Game of Thrones rather heartbreaking. I knew about Ned Stark before reading it the first time, but I didn’t know about anything like the Red Wedding, Purple Wedding, Renly, Theon/Reek etc etc. Reading the interactions between Jon Snow and Robb Stark was especially heartbreaking–by the time you get around to the Red Wedding you have forgotten really that Jon and Rob were close. And Sansa– it is so strange to see Sansa so light-hearted and worry-free and it kind of breaks your heart to think of the hell she’s going to go through in the next few books.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvistlettherightonein
To date the original Swedish film is my favorite movie, and this is definitely in my top 10 favorite books. This book is just so cold and creepy in so many facets, I think its worth the re-read to see what I might have missed the first time around and see if its still the great book I remember it as.