Monday, 29 June 2015

Book Review: Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads by Katerina Sestakova Novotna

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What a deliciously odd and strange collection of stories Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads is. I looked at the book cover several times, searching for its meaning as I completed each short story in the book. Perhaps there is a meaning, perhaps not. But what is clear that this author knows how to pull you into a story. I mean - really pull you in. At times, with the author's sweeping narrative and multi-layered plot details(albeit more prevalent in some stories than others) I really felt like I was either one of the characters, or indeed that I was in some kind of dream state.

Every little detail Katerina Sestakova Novotna has added to her stories simply enhance, never take away. There is no information dump here.

But as to what the stories are about, this is less clear how to objectively review. You see, when I read a book, I am not sways by the reviews it already has. I like to make up my own mind before seeing what others have said about it. That said, I can't remember reading a book that is so hard to categorise. On one level, it is a collection of mysteries. On another, it is an incredible informative work about Hawaiiwan culture, and running parallel to this, how the author fitted into this culture herself.

This may seem a strange reference, but it works as a guide to the islands as well as the mini-cultures that are contained within.

All these elements are fun to note, but let's take it at face value. The author has created a series of creepy works that pull you in, and you actually feel like you are being one of the characters meeting a less than stellar end in the story. To say 'I never saw that coming' is an understatement, but the author is much more clever than that. It may be obvious that something is not quite right.

I found myself screaming at the book, saying 'can't you see? This is wrong? Why can't you see it the way I do?!' But that is all part of the dark and grisly fun.

Some reviews have called this work 'original', and with that I entirely concur.

It's original, clever and most pointedly, makes you pause, think and reflect on each tale. I think my favourite was 'The Girl Who was Afraid At night', but each tale is its own awesome gem.