Mini Review Roundup [30/03]

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The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo

“Be back before dark,” they whisper. “The trees are hungry tonight.”

This started out reminding me of Hansel & Gretel, then made me really hungry (seriously, the descriptions of food are lush), then it completely took me by surprise, and then wrapped up like a classic folk tale. Definitely worth a read!

 

Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams by Sunny Moraine

We never would have believed, before the dead girls started climbing out of their refrigerators, that people could be literally resurrected by sheer indignation.

I actually loved this. I don’t even know how to describe it, because the plot itself is vague. Dead girls begin reappearing and nobody knows why. It left me with so many questions (why only girls? why are they coming back? what’s going on?) but somehow I’m not frustrated not knowing the answers because the writing was just awesome and strange in a great way. Abstract horror would be how I’d describe this. Definitely recommend!

 

The White-Throated Transmigrant by E. Lily Yu

We’re monsters, all of us. You’re monstrous, I’m monstrous.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this story. Intriguing, to be sure.

 

Our Faces, Radiant Sisters, Our Faces Full of Light! by Kameron Hurley

The monsters rose from their beds, already armored and bristling for another attack on the city below. They came to extinguish light, and hope. She was here to remind them they wouldn’t do it unchallenged.

Another great short, very evocative prose.

 

The Last of the Minotaur Wives by Brooke Bolander

Once you’ve been in the light for awhile, Blue finds, it’s hard as hell to willingly walk back into darkness.

This is short and to the point, and very well done.

Mini Review Roundup [19/03]

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Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor

When you mix juju with technology, you give up control. You are at the will of something far beyond yourself.

This was a really intriguing tale about witchcraft and technology, and the consequences that come from blending the two. I only wish there’d been a little bit more to the story, but overall I really liked it. Available here.

 

Trial Run (Wild Heritance #0.5) by S. Lynn Helton

She wasn’t trying to prove anything, was she?

Ooooh, this was cool. I haven’t read the Wild Heritance books, but this novella has left me bursting with questions. Such great world building and adventure! I can’t wait to see where the story takes Namid.

 

Migration by Kat Howard

In every life I can remember, which is not all of them, not any more, I have longed to fly.

This was an absolutely beautiful tale of birds and eternity. Read here.

Mini Review Roundup [15/03]

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Fence #1 by C.S. Pacat

I knew Pacat from the Captive Prince series and was curious about her new comics. I really liked this first one! Super cute illustrations and a great start to the storyline.

Dune Song by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Each time, the sand advances on Isiuwa, moving with a morose, flutelike song, the only sound to plant tears in their chest that does not come from a living being. A shrill, underlined by wind rushing through a tube. The Chief calls it the whistle of the gods and says it is the sound of an errant person being taken.

I’ve never read Apex magazine before and alas I’ve only found them with the publication of their final issue. But I loved Dune Song and I’m really curious about the rest.

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow

What would I be, cut off from the orderly world of words and their readers, from the peaceful Ouroboran cycle of story-telling and story-eating?

This was AMAZING. AMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZING. As a lover of libraries, I felt this story in my bones. Go read now.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell

I don’t want October to be over.

This is such a perfect autumn read and the artwork in this is absolutely adorable!

Book Reviews: The Sigil (2020) & The Sycamore and the Sybil (2020)

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The Sigil by Shakeil Kanish & Larissa Mandeville: LGBT, fantasy

Everything that happened led you to this place […] and a boy who lost his voice and didn’t care if he’d ever get it back now wishes every day that he could just open his mouth and tell you all of this.

I really enjoyed this début novel from Shakeil Kanish and Larissa Mandeville! The main characters of Lake and Nova are great, and the bro angst really brought the FEELS. Brotherly love is something I adore in books, so of course this one tugged at my heart. ;_;

I want him to choose what he wants to be, not be stuck in a magical destiny like I seem to be. He deserves the world. I MEAN.

The twists at the end were great, and I loved the artwork inside the book, too! Can’t wait to see where it goes next!

 

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Sycamore and the Sybil by Alix E. Harrow in Uncanny Magazine Issue 33: March/April 2020: Fantasy, feminism

It’s like each woman doing what she can until one day, somehow, it is enough.

WELL, GOSH. I’m shook, to be quite honest. I have found a new author to adore. Alix E. Harrow’s The Sycamore and the Sybil is utterly captivating. You can feel the sisterhood and solidarity running through every word and the prose is simply lush.

Totally, totally recommend.

 

March 2020 TBRs

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I have no ability to read one book at a time, and I’ve found myself reading several at the moment. Clearly I have the attention span of a napkin 😉 I’m hoping to get all of these read and reviewed this month, in addition to more short stories!

Demon’s Blood by Shari Sakurai:

Immortal blood is precious and Kokawa Taku’s makes him especially unique.

After vampire hunters force them to flee Tokyo, Taku and his lover, Thane, try to make a new life for themselves in England. But three months later Thane is still tormented by nightmares of the fire that almost cost them their lives. This leads to carelessness and the discovery of one of his victims.

When faced with threats from all sides Taku tries his best to protect them although his actions are met with disapproval and anger from Thane. Unknown to his lover, Taku is also struggling to keep hidden the truth of what really happened three months ago.

However, it is only a matter of time before Taku’s past and bloodline catches up with him.

Enchantée by Gita Trelease:

Love. Magic. Revolution. Enchantée is Gita Trelease’s lush and imaginative debut fantasy about an impoverished girl who must use magic to impersonate an aristocrat in Versailles to provide for her sister as her own political awakening forces her to choose sides in the French Revolution.

Paris is a labryinth of twisted streets filled with beggars and thieves, revolutionaries and magicians. Camille Durbonne is one of them. She wishes she weren’t…

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome young inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible.

But magic has its costs, and soon Camille loses control of her secrets. And when revolution erupts, Camille must choose — love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality of magic — before Paris burns.

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past — both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.

Enigma Variations by André Aciman

From a youthful infatuation with a cabinet maker in a small Italian fishing village, to a passionate yet sporadic affair with a woman in New York, to an obsession with a man he meets at a tennis court, Enigma Variations charts one man’s path through the great loves of his life. Paul’s intense desires, losses and longings draw him closer, not to a defined orientation, but to an understanding that ‘heartache, like love, like low-grade fevers, like the longing to reach out and touch a hand across the table, is easy enough to live down’.

André Aciman casts a shimmering light over each facet of desire, to probe how we ache, want and waver, and ultimately how we sometimes falter and let go of the very ones we want the most. We may not know what we want. We may remain enigmas to ourselves and to others. But sooner or later we discover who we’ve always known we were.

Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove

The Battle of Serenity Valley was the turning point that led the Independents to their defeat at the hands of the Alliance. Yet the Browncoats had held the valley for weeks against all odds, before being ordered to lay down their arms. Command stated they refused to send in airpower because the ground war was “too hot.” But the soldiers who were there insist that was not true…

While picking up a new cargo on Persephone, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is kidnapped by a bunch of embittered veteran Browncoats who suspect him of sabotaging the Independents during the war. As the rest of the crew struggle to locate him, Mal is placed on trial for his life, fighting compelling evidence that someone did indeed betray them to the Alliance all those years ago. As old comrades and old rivals crawl out of the woodwork, Mal must prove his innocence, but his captors are desperate and destitute, and will settle for nothing less than the culprit’s blood.

The Sigil by Shakeil Kanish & Larissa Mandeville

A tragic death.
A dangerous obsession.
A desperate mission.

After losing the person most important to him, Lake Smithson stumbles across a letter he cannot explain. A single brush of his finger and he is thrust into the heart of a mystery only to slowly realize that his obsession to be more, will unleash an evil that threatens all he has left.

Faceless creatures, terrifying magic, unlikely friendships, and broken promises lead Lake and his friends to walk a tight line between the mage realm, on the brink of extinction, and the human realm, on the precipice of revelation. Will Lake become the first human to wield magic or will he be the last?

 

What’s everyone else reading this month? 

The Wonderful World of Sci-Fi Shorts

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I have fallen in love with sci-fi short stories. There’s something quite fun about a short, to the point story with a punchy setting. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to sit down with a big ol’ book of sci-fi even when you’re in the mood, so the short ones are really good for giving you something fun to read that you can finish in under an hour. I started the year with The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin and The Butcher of Anderson Station by James S.A. Corey, and then I was directed to Tor by a friend of mine a month or so ago, and have since I’ve found so many wonderful short stories. I also don’t know why it’s taken me so long to discover the awesomeness that are online science fiction magazines! I feel so behind, honestly. 

Some of my favourites from Tor have been A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone, Skinner Box by Carole Johnstone, The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging by Harry Turtledove, Into the Gray by Margaret Killjoy, These Deathless Bones by Cassandra Khaw, The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin, and His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal. They’re all available online and I definitely recommend checking them out. 

After Tor, I found Uncanny Magazine. They often offer audible versions of the stories, too! I haven’t had the chance to read loads, but I really, really liked And All the Trees of the Forest Shall Clap Their Hands by Sharon Hsu and The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander. I’m going to dive more into the stories soon. I can’t wait!

There’s also Clarkesworld Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, and Asimov’s Science Fiction. I just listened to the audible version of Her Appetite, His Heart by Dominica Phetteplace. Lots of free stories, lots of audible versions. It’s just a plethora of sci-fi/fantasy goodness. Additionally, a kind-hearted soul on Goodreads created lists for Tor shorts, Lightspeed Magazine shorts, and Clarkesworld Magazine shorts that are really helpful if you want to go back to the beginning. 😉

Does anyone have any short stories magazines they love? Share them with me! I’m on a roll.

Top Books of 2019

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The Lessons by Naomi Alderman | 5/5 | LGBT, Fiction

‘A man made of smoke.’

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham | 5/5 | Nonfiction

‘If we survive until the morning, we’ll live forever.’

The Fever King (Feverwake #1) by Victoria Lee | 5/5 | LGBT, Fantasy, Dystopian

‘He didn’t plan anything. There was nothing to plan – he didn’t have contingencies, no connections in clandestine places who knew how to make a man disappear. All he had was impulse and the flash-fire certainty that yes, yes, this was the right thing to do.’

The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton | 5/5 | Nonfiction

‘We are surrounded by the conversations we didn’t have.’

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle | 5/5 | LGBT, Magical Realism

‘Maybe it’s more about firsts. Maybe every first is a loss.’

If We Could Go Back (Camassia Cove #6) by Cara Dee | 4/5 | LGBT

‘Everything was black-and-white until you grew up and saw gray everywhere. There were millions of rights and wrongs in our lives, and blame could be placed with all of us.’

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse | 5/5 | Nonfiction, US History, Politics, Religion

‘In 1954, Congress followed Eisenhower’s lead, adding the phrase “under God” to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. A similar phrase, “In God We Trust,” was added to a postage stamp for the first time in 1954 and then to paper money the next year; in 1956, it became the nation’s first official motto. During the Eisenhower era Americans were told, time and time again, that the nation not only should be a Christian nation but also that it had always been one. They soon came to believe that the United States of America was “one nation under God.” And they’ve believed it ever since.’

The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick | 5/5 | Gothic Fantasy

‘Yet every writer worth a good-god damn knows this too, for it is graven into each of us: no one cares for beauty. Not in fiction. Not on its own, not pure, untroubled beauty; not in fiction. It’s what we crave in the real world, of course; beauty, and you know I mean that in its broadest sense: the sense of kindness and wisdom and peace and joy: all the things in the world that are beautiful, and all the things we crave in real life, but which are not sufficient to count, on their own, for anything in the world of stories.’

Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell | 5/5 | Political Essays

‘The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged. And, as I have pointed out already, the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also.’

We Will Not Be Strangers: Korean War Letters between a M.A.S.H Surgeon and His Wife
by Dorothy G. Horwitz (Editor) & Mel Horwitz | 5/5 | Nonfiction, Military History, Letters, Korean War

‘Men killing, destroying, sitting in cold and mud and filth. Do they really hate each other? I doubt it.’

Rule Breaker (Mixed Messages #1) by Lily Morton | 4.5/5 | LGBT Romance

‘Tradition comes from something being so brilliant and such a good memory, that you try to recreate it every time that you can.’

Deal Maker (Mixed Messages #2) by Lily Morton | 4.5/5 | LGBT Romance, Comedy

‘Thank you for enquiring whether I do my own stunts. The simple answer is no. They tell me jumping a puddle is safe, but what would they know? I could slip and damage my face, and then where would the world be?’

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow | 5/5 | Nonfiction, Politics, Feminism

‘In the end, the courage of women can’t be stamped out.’

Horatio by T.J. Klune | 4/5 | LGBT Romance, Short Story | **freely available at the author’s site**

‘“What happened to free will?”

He snorted inelegantly. “Who knows? It’s one of the great secrets of the universe. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was destiny, or maybe it was nothing at all and we’re just two people in the middle of cosmic nonsense clinging to each other because we can.”’

The one I am currently reading looks like it will make a top list, too, so I’m adding it below. It’s giving me serious Firefly vibes so far which is always a good thing!

Adrift by Rob Boffard | Science Fiction, Outer Space

‘He really, really doesn’t want to die. Not by freezing, not by suffocating, not by anything, not ever. If he dies now, he’ll never fly a ship, never go to flight school […] He’ll never be able to help Mom and Dad stay together, and he’ll never get to tell Mal that he’s a giant dick for filming him while he was in trouble.’

There were so many good books this year! And my TBR pile remains taller than myself. 😉