Mini Reviews & Reading Roundup [23/05]

Today I finally finished Gold Rush Manliness. It was really good, I just kept getting sidetracked. It was a great examination of how race and gender impacted the gold rushes in California and British Columbia. This line really stuck with me: In short, the notions of white manhood established in the nineteenth century persist today, and their legacies can be seen everywhere, from the least-threatening practical joking to the most menacing expressions of white male superiority. There were loads of things in this examination that really wow’d me. Definitely recommend!

I also read Warm Up, which is a prequel story to V. E. Schwab’s Villains and Vengeful. I really liked it! If you’re curious, the book is available on Tor, here. It was dark and eerie and very well done. I loved this quote: It didn’t catch fire. Nothing ever actually caught fire. No, it all simply burned.

Beyond the Dragon’s Gate by Yoon Ha Lee is a new Tor original. Read it online, here. I quite liked it! The new issue of Uncanny Magazine is also out and I’ve started with poetry this time!

Girl, you best stop setting yourself on fire,
you may be the phoenix,
but these bones aren’t kindling
to keep others warm—

Ali Trotta, ‘Athena Holds Up a Mirror to Strength’, here.

Currently reading;

Still working through Everything You Love Will Burn, Agnes Grey and A Small Revolution in Germany, all of which I’m liking, although Everything You Love Will Burn is something I have to listen to in small doses. I also started Cage of Souls. It’s my first Adrian Tchaikovsky. He’s such a big name in the science fiction genre, so I’m glad to have finally picked up one of his. I’m also about halfway through Louise O’Neill’s Almost Love. The prose is really good and the storyline sucks you in, but I’m having trouble liking the main character.

What’s everyone else reading? Have you read any of the above? What’d you think?

Mini Review Roundup

book review

My love of sci-fi/fantasy shorts continues and I’ve read a few more this week: Noah’s Raven by Kij Johnson in Lightspeed Magazine, and Blue Morphos in the Garden by Lis Mitchell and Sinew and Steel and What They Told by Carrie Vaughn on Tor.

Noah’s Raven by Kij Johnson

Extinction can be as global as all, or as personal as me.

I listened to the audiobook version of Noah’s Raven by Kij Johnson, which was definitely unexpected. It’s a take on Noah’s Ark that, for me, brought to mind Snowpiercer (for reasons I won’t spoil, though I’m still like WHAT ). Johnson’s writing is undeniably captivating and there were several lines in the story that really stood out for me.

Will be coming back to this issue to check out the rest of the stories, for sure.

Blue Morphos in the Garden by Lis Mitchell

“I know,” I say to him, taking his hand. “Butterflies aren’t the same.”

The premise of this story is so interesting and tackles the question of choice and death in a really unique way. I read it on a whim and ended up quite liking it! Available here.

Sinew and Steel and What They Told by Carrie Vaughn

We go out into the galaxy and collect stories, and then we bring them home.

I really liked this one. Graff is injured on the job and when he’s brought in and doesn’t die from what would otherwise be life-threatening injuries, everyone on his ship has a lot of questions, including his boyfriend, Doctor Ell. Definitely recommend! Available here.

Mini Review Roundup

book review

I’ve been reading/listening to a good number of shorts this week and have found some lovely ones! All of them are available online, so click the links if you’re curious!

1. Such Thoughts Are Unproductive by Rebecca Campbell, Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 159:

It only takes a few words when it’s people like us, the imperfect citizens of this perfectly known world. She told me things I do not wish to know, because they hurt to know, then we both looked instinctively for cameras and drones and microphones.

I got such 1984 vibes from this. Really impressed, definitely recommend. Available here

2. An Arc of Lightning Across the Eye of God by P H Lee, Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 157

I am my father’s name, written by my mother’s vision across time and space.

This was a very interesting short that’s really hard to describe, but definitely worth a read. Available here.

3. Lightspeed Magazine, June 2015: Queers Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue (edited by Seanan McGuire)

I’ve just stumbled upon this collection of LGBT+ stories and I can’t wait to dive into them all. It’s 500+ pages too, like YAAAAS. But also, I do *not* have time for these wonderful distractions. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS I WANT TO READ AND THE LIST IS ONLY GROWING GOOD GRIEF. (This is like the best problem to have, really, but still, the ever-growing TBR is ridic)

So far I’ve only read Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind by Erica L. Satifka, which was brief but hard hitting all the same. It’s a found letter and the content is only 700 words, so I won’t summarise it. Just give it a go! F/F. Available here.

4. Making My Entrance Again With My Usual Flair by Ken Scholes

No one ever asks a clown at the end of his life what he really wanted to be when he grew up. It’s fairly obvious.

I absolutely adored the title and it’s honestly what drew me in. This is a rather funny short story about an ex-clown tasked with driving a monkey to Roswell, New Mexico. Really enjoyed it! Available here.

5. Her Appetite, His Heart by Dominica Phetteplace Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 114

Grief was the price of survival.

Part of the Robot Country series. I definitely should have read the first one first, haha, but I still enjoyed it. Available here.

 

Mini Review Roundup

Mini Review Roundup:

Skinner Box by Carole Johnstone | available for free here. | science fiction, short story, romance, horror

Can a cognitive neuroscientist be fooled? Can an expert in the field of deep learning and AI evolution be unknowingly coerced? Can a genius be corrupted? Can a manipulator be manipulated?

Wow. This started out one kind of intense and then turned into a whole other kind of intense and I’m fairly darn impressed. Be sure to mind the warnings at the top, but I definitely recommend this! A very dark, riveting sci-fi short.

All Around the Watchtower by Ben Haskett | science fiction, short story

As soon as we awoke to those alarms, I just wanted to go back into the pod.

What a great sci-fi short!

And All the Trees of the Forest Shall Clap Their Hands in Uncanny Magazine by Sharon Hsu | available for free here. | fantasy, short story

War, it turns out, is the easiest thing of all to make anywhere.

This was utterly gutting, but so beautifully written.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman | available for free here. | lgbt, graphic novel, romance

This is super cute and the art is wonderful. ^____^

 

Mini Review Round Up: Tor Shorts

Cold Wind by Nicola Griffith: It was one of the most pernicious fallacies, common the world over: old ways are best. But old ways can outlast their usefulness. Old ways can live on pointlessly in worlds that have no room for them.

A good dark fantasy tale about predator and prey.

These Deathless Bones by Cassandra Khaw: Bones do not lie.

Well, that disturbed me on EVERY. POSSIBLE. LEVEL.

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong: If I could knit you a crown of potential futures like the daisies you braided together for me when we were young, I would.

This had a really interesting premise and the prose was lovely, though I do wish there was a bit more detail.

Worth Her Weight in Gold by Sarah Gailey: Winslow Remington Houndstooth, creator of the best and rarest breed of hippo in the United States of America, notorious outlaw, handsomest heartbreaker in the American South.

I liked the hippo, but I wish there was a bit more to the story.

Into the Gray by Margaret Killjoy: I only led the foul men with filth on their tongues, the rich men who contrived to rule other men. I only led the men with hatred in their hearts and iron in their hands.

A quick, engrossing story about a thief, the mermaid she’s in love with, and the men they lure to the water’s edge.

A Forest, or a Tree by Tegan Moore: There was something awful, May thought, awful in the original sense of the word, about looking up.

The cover totally caught my eye, but I felt like the story itself needed more.

The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging by Harry Turtledove: “We had to wear yellow stars on our clothes, with Jood on them. That’s Jew in Dutch,” Anne said. “We couldn’t use trams. We had to give up our bicycles. We weren’t allowed to ride in cars. We had to shop late in the afternoon, when there was next to nothing left to buy. We couldn’t even visit Christians in their houses or apartments. We couldn’t go out at all from eight at night to six in the morning. We had to go to only Jewish schools and Jewish barbers and Jewish beauty parlors. We couldn’t use public swimming pools or tennis courts or sports fields or—well, anything.”

This story is an alternate WWII history tale that hit me like a punch. It’s such an important read. Let us never forget the past. Let us never forget what was done to innocent people who deserved life. But this story does something beautiful – rather than painting a grim future, this gives us such a lovely change to the past. In the best, most heartbreaking way. It follows an elderly woman recounting to school kids about how she and her family survived. And the twist will make you cry. I know I did.

This is one of those stories you really wish was real (and perhaps a heartbreaking side-effect of alternative history – all the things that should have been). You know that feeling of joy you get when you reach the end of Inglourious Basterds and just start cheering? It’s that sort of closure.

Selfies by Lavie Tidhar: In some cultures they believe that every photo takes away a little bit of your soul.

I wish there’d been a bit more in terms of detail and explanation, but overall I liked it.

A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone: He wants to be her monster.

I really liked the way this story played out.

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Gods by Maria Dahvana Headley: You stand at the mouth of your own cave, looking out over your own kingdom. You step off the cliff when you feel like it, and you spread your wings and soar.

This was just awesome.

Lullaby for a Lost World by Aliette de Bodard: You do not rest. You cannot forgive. You are not safe—you never were.

This really reminded me of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. The overall tone is quite depressing, though the writing was good. It’s really, really bleak though. 😦

The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin: What good does it do to be valuable, if nobody values you?

Well, that was just badass.

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**I really recommend Tor’s original fiction section. There are some truly good ones there!**

Mini Review Round-Up | LGBT Romance

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When Red Cried Wolf (Happily Ever Asher #1) by Nash Summers | lgbt, short story

His roommate, Morgan, had been like an elusive baby deer, skittering off into the woods at the first sign of human life. Asher usually made sure not to make direct eye contact or any sudden movements around him for fear of scaring him off.

I thought this was a cute start to the trilogy and it definitely left me wanting more, but Asher was a bit too much at times. Dude needed to chill about how much he loves love, haha. Morgan was my favourite and I’m excited to see how their relationship develops in the next two.

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His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal | lgbt, short story

And then there was an arm around my waist, holding me upright again, there was a hand wiping dust, blood, and tears from my eyes. It was Shehzad Marid—ever loving, ever loyal, always on my side in my hour of need.

This was a really good short story about a trapeze master and his jinni. Available online here.

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Lovers (Voyeur #2) by Fiona Cole | lgbt, romance

“I miss you. You won’t touch me, or kiss me, or sit with me, or hold me. Nothing. And I fucking miss you.”

I haven’t read the first one in the series and I’m not sure I’m bothered to read the rest of it, but I did enjoy this one. It follows Jake, Jackson and Carina in a love ménage à trois that becomes increasingly complicated due to Jake and Jackson’s past and their intense friendship.

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Variations on an Apple by Yoon Ha Lee | lgbt, short story

It smelled of diesel hearts and drudgery and overcrowded colonies; of battery acid gone bad and bromides and foundered courtships. Intoxicating, yes, but in the way of verses etched unwanted upon the spirit’s cracked windows. 

The imagery and descriptions in this are gorgeous. Available online here.

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The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu | lgbt, short story

This is the man who seconds ago risked going insane in order to feel soul-rending pain for fun. How can he suddenly look so vulnerable?

This was so random and quite good, if a bit too abrupt. I feel like I needed more information and development on the rain and on the sister. I’ve rarely hated a character so much who appears so briefly, but I wanted that addressed more in depth because she was horrible. Available online here.

A Trio of Book Reviews

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Horatio by T.J. Klune: lgbt, 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.” He waved his hand dismissively, almost hitting me in the face. “It doesn’t matter. Here you are. Here I am. And there’s no other place I’d rather be. You intrigue me.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I will.”’

I picked this one up at random tonight and put off cooking dinner until I’d read the entire thing. It was so quietly beautiful and haunting. It tells the story of two men facing the possible end of the world. The writing style is so lush and draws you in effortlessly. It’s definitely a story that will stick in your head for long after you read it.

I thoroughly recommend it to everyone! Lovely story.

 

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts: fiction

‘I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it.’

This is a belated review of a favourite book, actually. I mentioned it to someone the other day and it stuck in my head that I ought to actually review it. I’m actually a little shocked I never did, because it’s hands down one of my favourite books of all time, but I read it long before I joined Goodreads and started a blog, and sometimes finding ways to review your favourite book is impossible. How do you describe something that irrevocably moved you? A book that crawled into your mind and heart and soul. Even now, years later, when people ask me my favourite book, I can spew a monologue about this one. Funnily enough, it took me four tries to actually get past chapter one, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. The same thing happened with one of my favourite shows, Black Sails. A bit of a rough opener and then perfection.

After reading this book, I tracked down the newspaper article that documents his prison escape, just to see that it was actually real. It was. True, a good bit of the book is embellished, but the essence is real. And you know what? Even if it wasn’t based on a true story, this book would still blow me out of the water. It’s the kind of book that blends philosophy, adventure, action, crime and love into one intricate web of beauty.

Recommended for everyone.

 

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: philosophy

‘The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.’

This is another one I haven’t reread recently, but felt like just writing a review for. I read this book on a lunchbreak when I was 13/14. I remember being in a truly horrible headspace at the time. Being a teenager is just so fun, right? /s

But then I found this book on a shelf at home and figured, hey, Winnie the Pooh, sounds groovy. And I can safely say that reading this book changed my entire perspective. I remember walking out of the library and feeling better, feeling less like a blackhole of doom and far more capable. I dunno. Maybe it wouldn’t have the same effect on me now, but back then, this book seriously helped me. I honestly think it philosophically kicked me in the butt and made me re-evaluate my perspective, which is fairly impressive for a book to do.

‘Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They’re not only the ending, but the beginning as well.’

I never fell in love with the sequel (I actually had to set it aside to keep from throwing it at the wall), but this one? This one was beautiful and something I very much needed at the time.

I recommend it for anyone who’s struggling through life and needs a new perspective.