Book Review: The Stars Will Guide Us Back (2021)

girl holding book, text says 'book review'

The Stars Will Guide Us Back by Rue Sparks

This is a collection of thirteen short, fantastical stories. I opted for the audiobook and I must say, I thoroughly recommend it! I’m supremely picky with audiobooks, and I’m delighted to say that Rue Sparks’ The Stars Will Guide Us Back was just wonderful! Lovely narrations by the two readers and exquisite prose by Sparks. I’m definitely going to be checking out Sparks’ next books.

Buddy read this book with The Book Trove. We’re hoping to shine some attention on independent books and authors. These books are picked totally at random and selected by vote amongst the group.

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Short Story Reviews: Battered Heart (2021) & On the Edge of Salt (2020)

Battered Heart by Maxime Jaz

Home. Tasting that foreign feeling word. Trying to forget that large house filled with sunshine and their love.

Oh, this short story was absolutely heartbreaking! It follows the last moments of an ending relationship and it’s just so shattering. Jaz writes wonderfully evocative characters that you just want to hug and protect. Definitely worth checking out!

On the Edge of Salt (Blood Brute #0.2) by Dixon Reuel

People might climb Holly Hill, might even pass through the ring of holly trees surrounding Owl Court. But nobody crossed that sacred boundary of their red brick wall. To Rise, it was an edge between worlds, marked by the coven with white, ancient salt rubbed deep into the brick foundations. Every dawn, the coven invoked a prayer in the Old Language to reinforce their sacred protection.

I haven’t read this series yet, but I saw the short story on my feed and it looked quite interesting, so I dove in face first like always with absolutely no context, haha. I really liked it!! Reuel’s writing is crisp and polished, and the characters are engaging. Very intrigued about the rest of the series! Definitely worth checking out!

Short Story Review: customer service (2019)

customer service by C. Vandyke

And, mathematically speaking, nothing less than one-hundred percent was perfect. With its Decision Trees, Fuzzy Logic, and CRMs, the neural network could crunch-data and analyze trends to perfection, but there was still one variable that even its AI could not completely solve for: taste.

What a great line.

I read C. Vandyke’s customer service, which is made up of two short stories! There was ‘Customer satisfaction’ and ‘The Ones Who Walk Away From Amazon Prime’, a twist on The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Both were commentaries on modern technology and society and were very well written! I’ll definitely be reading more by this author! 

Indie Bites Vol. 2: Mermaids & Mythology OUT NOW!

The stories are free online to download in epub, mobi or pdf format; you can purchase the paperback here and the stories are also being released in podcast!

Short Story Review: Keys (2020)

Keys by Tim Parks

The past is a dream, Daniel thought. There is no way to make sense of it.

This was quite an interesting short story! The idea of introspection and dreams surrounding old relationships and symbolic keys was a solid premise and the prose was lovely, but I did find myself wishing it was just a little bit longer. Really enjoyed it, though!

Read it for yourself here.

Short Story Review: The Lady or the Tiger? (1882)

The Lady or the Tiger? by Frank R. Stockton

This was the king’s semi-barbaric method of administering justice. Its perfect fairness is obvious. The criminal could not know out of which door would come the lady; he opened either he pleased, without having the slightest idea whether, in the next instant, he was to be devoured or married. On some occasions the tiger came out of one door, and on some out of the other.

Oh, wow, okay. I absolutely loved the prose. I’ve never even heard of this before it popped up on my feed today, but apparently it’s a classic short story from the 1880s. How groovy! I definitely recommend giving this a read.

The Lady or the Tiger? follows the tale of a barbaric king after he learns his daughter has a secret lover and so subjects him to a trial by chance. If he picks one door, he gets eaten by a tiger; if he picks the other door, he has to marry a woman who is not his daughter. The story is framed in a talking-to-the-reader kind of way, with a philosophical twist (kind of reminds me of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, actually). The prose is just so lush that it draws you right in.

Read it online here.

Review Roundup

Masquerade Season by ‘Pemi Aguda [short story]

This one really made me think and it hit me harder than I anticipated. Actually, Masquerade Season reminded me of The Giving Tree, honestly. One of those stories where the message makes you ache and it leaves you deeply melancholy.

The Sea Is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt [fiction]

I got a chapter sampler version, so I’m only reviewing the couple of chapters I read, but I really, really like the prose in this one. There’s a very distinct voice, which is so nice to find. The set up is very intriguing, and I’m really curious to see how it’s going to wrap up.

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC-excerpt. Excited to read the full book!

Dust Bowl Venus by Stella Beratlis [poetry collection]

Woe be unto us: We thought dancing did not matter.

I really do have, like, a thing for poetry. I truly do. Poems are so fly, and these ones are awesome.

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use by Sara Levine [children’s books]

This is such an informative and awesome kid’s book! It’s interactive, which is great for teaching kids and getting them engaged with the material, and there are so many different birds that are described herein. It also delves briefly into how evolution and Darwinism work. A lovely, colourful book for young readers!

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

Winter Soldier Vol. 1: The Longest Winter by Ed Brubaker [graphic novel/comic books]

I’m gonna admit, I picked this up because of the show. It’s awesome to finally have the focus on Bucky’s character, who I’ve always found interesting. This comic was quite compelling and I really liked the artwork. I was a bit confused? I feel like there was backstory I didn’t have, but maybe it’s just because I’m so used to the show/films universe. Like, I wasn’t expecting Bucky and Natasha to be so close! I liked them together, I was just a bit thrown. That said, I liked it overall. Definitely going to read a few more Winter Soldier tales. 

Mika and the Dragonfly by Ellen Delange [children’s books]

Do you need a spoiler warning for a kid’s book? It’s only 17 pages, so I have no idea! But, uh, spoilers? Haha. The artwork in this is absolutely lovely, and there’s a good message about being kind to insects and making friends. I’m a little unsure about the method of resolution, though: the dragonfly’s wing fell off and the kid ends up gluing it back on.

Adults don’t take kid’s books literally, of course, but I’d just be sure to tell the kid you’re reading this to not to attempt gluing a dragonfly’s wing back on. I really worry about the dragonflies, okay?! That’s my only nitpick, though. Overall it’s a very sweet little book and definitely worth picking up.

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

New Indie Magazine: Indie Bites

A new indie magazine has launched and the stories are free to read online! The stories are vampire/voyage themed and all under 5000 words, so please consider giving them a chance.

(I submitted a short story to the collection, yay! I’m so happy to share this story with everyone. ^_^)

Add on Goodreads

Short Story Review: Termites by Neha De Alwis

I love discovering new literary magazines and new authors in one fell swoop! Totally delightful! I stumbled across Kill Your Darlings (no, not the Daniel Radcliffe movie) this morning after seeing the name in a Goodreads sidebar. (Hey, recs work!) It’s an Australian based literary magazine that offers short stories and essays and more. I clicked on a story at random and was blown away.

Termites (2020) by Neha De Alwis won the 2020 KYD School Writing Prize and I must say, the story is well worth reading!

You are a thief of many things, and about half of those things you keep in your pocket. The rest, the things you can’t hold, you keep in a constantly growing mental inventory.

The story focuses on OCD and was very well written! I’m looking forward to more by this author.

3 Mini Audiobook Reviews: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), Nick and Charlie (2015), Serpentine (2020)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by every one who resides there for a time. However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions.

Oooooh, at last! What a perfect October read. I’ve seen the film, of course, but I haven’t ever got around to the book. So glad I finally did. I also recommend the audiobook. The narrator’s absolutely class and it’s a great hour-long Gothic horror bit of escapism. 

Nick and Charlie by Alice Oseman

This was my first Alice Oseman read and now I’m going to have to start all of her others asap! ♡

Serpentine by Philip Pullman

I read the original His Dark Materials so long ago that I don’t remember as much as I’d like, so getting back into the world of Lyra with this short story was really nice. I definitely want to reread the whole series again, as well as finally getting to La Belle Sauvage. The note at the end by Philip Pullman is really nice, too. ♡