The Hunger

Though I love reading history, I’ve only occasionally dipped my toe in the realm of historical fiction. I’ve got nothing against the genre. I’m just quicker to pick up a nonfiction book delving into the topic than a fictionalized one.

But The Hunger by Alma Katsu, proved to be quite the treat.

I find the story of the Donner Party fascinating. The Donner Party is the true frontier horror story of a family caravan, hope set on starting anew in California, finding themselves trapped in the wilderness and the terrible winter of 1846-1847. As their supplies dwindle, people start dying of hunger and quickly turn against each other for survival. In the end, they’re forced to cannibalize members of their own party.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. The human eating is a bit overblown in the collective imagination of this history compared to the true horror of being in a situation that you can’t escape. The animal in us lashes out when found in that corner. If you want to learn more, one book I highly recommend is The Best Land Under Heaven by Michael Wallis. It’s a near 500 book tome but the history is woven into a rich narrative that’s worth all the paper.

 It’s interesting exploring how Manifest Destiny gets corrupted by greed and how the hope turns in on itself. 

The Hunger by Alma Katsu explores these things and more. She takes a few liberties with the historical account but her choices breathes life into these characters.  Each character is escaping from something. Whether that be a certain situation or a dark secret. They pin their hopes on California to do away with their sins but they quickly realize there’s no escaping them.

There’s also a thrilling supernatural bent to the narrative. I won’t spoil too much but let’s just say there be monsters. I think the most compelling thing I found was how people are so quick to turn on each other and how strife ends being the main reason why most of the cast dies off. 

This was a brilliant horror story, dripping in dread. 

My Rating:

4 stars

[Goodreads Summary]

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased…and very hungry?” 

To All The Books I’ve Read Before (January Roundup)

Hello Friends,

I made a commitment this year to pick up more varied books this year and actually discuss them in some compacity. With that said, welcome to the first Monthly Round-Up for MissAddled Miss!

I actually read a lot more book than I thought I would. I’ve been a bit on a YA binge and, as always, there are a few nonfiction and a graphic novel. Huzzah! So without further ado.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Tahereh Mafi

mafi This book was exceptional. Set in post 9/11, the main character, Shirin, is a 16-year-old hijabi just trying to make it through high school. She hides behind a mask of cool indifference to shield herself from the bullying and racism she deals on a daily basis from both the kids and adults she encounters in her life. Then she meets Ocean who ends up breaking down some of those walls. Of course, there’s more to the story than that.

The book, on its surface, is a romance novel but it tackles Islamaphobia, how certain relationships (interracial/interreligious) get twisted into political statements, the courage for some to live as their authentic selves, and the dangers of stereotyping even as a means of protection.

 

The nuances of this book and how it tackles all these as two kids just try to be together is one of the many reasons I fell hard for this book. More so than I think I did at first. If all romances were written like this, I think I could get behind the genre more. Or maybe I should just pick up more romance books.

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Romance
Themes: Islamaphobia, Racism, Discrimination

The Best Land Under Heaven


Michael Wallis

wallis_bestlandFirst nonfiction book of the year! This book recounted the expedition of the ill-fated Donner Party of 1846 and the dark side of Manifest Destiny. Well, Manifest Destiny is inherently dark but that’s neither here nor there and something I’m not really willing to go into now.

The Donner Party was a family caravan (consisting of multiple families which include the Reeds, Donners, Graves, among others) that decided to make their way to California through the less tried Hastings cutoff that diverted from the Oregon Trail through the Sierra Nevada.  Lansford Hastings, for which the trail was named, advocated it as a faster way to get to California shaving off several weeks as compared to the main route. Much delay and poor decisions along the way lead to the whole of the caravan being trapped in the Sierra Nevada for four months with little food. A good chunk died from the starving and the cold. Some survived through cannibalism which is what is known most about the Donner party in today’s pop culture.

 

The book served as a good overview of the Oregon Trail and traveling conditions during the 1840s. It was a very readable account of this historical moment offering a narrative look of everything that was happening during that time period. I highly recommend it to anyone who would love to learn more about this time period and the Donner Party in general.

Genres: Nonfiction, American History
Themes: Manifest Destiny, Nineteenth-Century America, Mexican-American War

Furyborn

Claire Legrand

legrand_furybornThis book was an exquisite dark fantasy with evil queens, an all-encompassing empire and a magic system that I find fascinating. The book follows to heroines. There is Rielle from the kingdom of Celdaria who undergoes trials to determine whether if she is the prophesized queen of light or queen of blood. One thousand years in the future, Eliana is working as a bounty hunter for the Undying Empire. The legend of Rielle is no more than a myth for her as she struggles to survive. Not just for her but for the family she supports. The story is told by their dual perspectives. 

This is an amazing start to Empirium trilogy! I have so many thoughts about this book which I’m saving for a more detailed review. Suffice it to say, that when I read this book I struggled to put it down. I really can’t wait to see how the story progresses in the upcoming Kingsbane!

Genres: YA Fiction, YA Adventure/Fantasy
Themes: Prophecies, Rebellion, War, Love

 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Jenny Han

han_toalltheboysLara Jean keeps her feelings of love sealed in the love letters she keeps in a secret hat box. She’s never openly admitted to any of her crushes and she chooses to keep it that way until all her letters of affections are sent out and her life is flipped upside down.

I decided to pick up this book partly because of the buzz surrounding the Netflix movie which I have not seen as of writing this. I’ve admitted before in my Yesterday review that romances(at least strictly romances) are not my cup of tea. But I may have to change that because I fell head over heels for this book. Seriously! The romance was quirky and cute but also really down to earth in a way I found refreshing. The more relatable parts for me was Lara Jean’s relationship with her sister and her tendency to live in her own little fantasy bubble (been there, Lara Jean, been there). I’ll talk more about this book (more specifically, it’s ending) in a future review. 

Genre: YA Romance
Themes: Love, fantasy, high school politics, family bonds

Bingo Love

Tee Franklin

franklin_bingo loveA chance meeting between Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray at a bingo hall in 1963 sparks a 60-year romance where both experience the ups and downs of life and love. 

The first graphic novel of the year! This book was so cute! There seems to be a bit of a love theme here despite my protests to never enjoying romance but with this book, I couldn’t help it. There was just something so charming about this little story and the enduring power of love. My only real complaint about this book was that I wished there was more of it.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Romance, LGBTQA+
Themes: Love, discrimination, family, religion

 

What did you all read in the first month of this year? What are your thoughts on the books on this list for those who may have picked them up before?