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Book Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate (2019)

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

I have no interest in changing other worlds to suit me. I choose the lighter touch: changing myself to suit them.

I got real Lost in Space meets Prometheus vibes from this novella, and I mean that in the best way possible. And oooooh, this story beautifully well written.

I haven’t read Becky Chambers before, although I’ve heard nothing but good things about A Closed and Common Orbit and the others in that series, but I haven’t had a chance to pick them up yet. I was delighted when I got To Be Taught, If Fortunate in a random selection of science fiction books from a local book shop. [Aside: It was super cute, they have an option of a surprise book set and ask you what genre you like and then they send three random ones. I also got The Chocolate War and Scythe, which I still need to read. Both also look great!

Firstly, the writing is fantastic and the philosophical questions posed are very thought provoking. I didn’t always agree with the characters’ choices and conclusions, but I loved how they were presented and argued. This is a book that really makes you think, consider, have patience. And I love books like that. There’s a huge focus on kindness, leaving no trace and seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake, which I adored. I don’t know how I feel about the ending – but it did make me feel EMOTIONS. It’s the kind of ending that really sticks with you, which, again, I love.

It must also be said that the attention given to the planets and the focus on the different creatures was SO FREAKING GROOVY. Like, lads, the ‘rats’ are going to stay with me. Oh my gosh, the rats. The descriptions of their noises gave me chills. The sea world was intense, goodness. I also have a lot of thoughts on the stationary world. The way Chambers presented everything was brilliant, honestly.

If you’re a space fiction nerd like me, you will love this!

Book Review: Lie With Me by Philippe Besson, Translated by Molly Ringwald (2019)

Lie With Me by Philippe Besson

No matter how much you want to respect someone’s freedom (even when you consider it selfish), you still have your own pain, anger, and melancholy to contend with.

I was not prepared for this story AT ALL.

I first picked up Lie With Me because I love Molly Ringwald – and Molly Ringwald surely has great taste in LGBT French novellas?! And, she totally does. Lie With Me is a beautiful, tragic, raw novella that’s left me quite unsure what to do with myself. I just want to reach into the book and wrap my arms around Thomas, Philippe and Lucas.

He says I’m a boy of books, from somewhere else.

The story follows Philippe and Thomas in a small French village in the 1980s. They start a quiet, hidden away relationship. The story’s quite short (only about 160 pages), so to avoid spoiling anything I’m just going to say that this is a stunning piece of literature. Truly. But be prepared to cry your eyes out.

It’s a curious notion, love: difficult to identify and define. There are so many degrees and variations.

100% recommend. 

Currently Reading [20/09]

I’m going to have so little time to read very soon, so of course I decided to start three awesome books in tandem.

I’m absolutely loving A Discovery of Witches. It follows a historian witch who discovers a magical book in Oxford and is suddenly a target for magical creatures. Matthew, the vampire she ends up dating, is fascinating. The backstories are really interesting and I’m excited to see where it goes. There’s a television show based on the trilogy, but I haven’t seen it yet and I kind of want to read all three books before I watch it.

Lie With Me is one that came to my notice because it’s a French book by Philippe Besson that Molly Ringwald translated into English. I really like Molly Ringwald and was interested to check it out. It’s a short novella set in France and tells the love story of Philippe and Thomas in the 1980s. I’m really liking it so far and the writing is absolutely lovely.

I also just got Wicked Fox, which is a Korean fantasy novel that I’ve been excited to read for months now. It’s about a gumiho, which is a nine-tailed fox in Korean mythology. I’m listening to this one on audible and the narrator’s really good!

Anyone read any of these? ♡

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.

Audio Book Review: Basic Training

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Basic Training by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., narrated by Colin Hanks

He searched his conscience in vain for a grain of remorse to justify the desolating punishment the general had promised. When you punish somebody, you take away from them what they want, he reasoned. All I had in the whole wide world was my music, so that’s what I lost: everything.

A new old Vonnegut. I’m not sure you can go wrong with a novella by Kurt Vonnegut that’s narrated by Colin Hanks! This is one of Vonnegut’s unpublished stories, likely written in the 1940s, it seems. I haven’t come across it before today and was in the mood for a Vonnegut story. It’s a good novella, and follows a teenager named Haley Brandon when he comes to stay with a man who insists upon calling himself the General. I saw a few Salinger comparisons and I can see it. If you’ve read Salinger’s shorts, I totally get the same vibe.

I recommend the audiobook for sure! Colin Hanks is a great narrator and really brings Vonnegut’s words to life ♥

 

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.

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 | 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.