idk life is weird ft. crime & fantasy books | Bi-Weekly Update

New book posts:

Other books I’ve been reading:

  • Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver (poetry)
  • We’re in the middle of exam season so I’m trying to not read much else, because I lose too much time at once, hahha. I have the bookshelf of high fantasy books I want to read when sometime maybe finally vacation comes around.

Added to TBR:

  • Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton. Memoir.
  • The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. Thriller, crime.
  • I Don’t Want To Kill You (John Cleaver #3) by Dan Wells. Exactly the type of horror/thriller book it sounds like
  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller. Nonfiction, memoir, true crime. Recommendation by Naty’s Bookshelf made me want to read it!
  • Comradely Greetings by Slavoj Žižek and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Nonfiction, philosophy, politics. Based on letters between philosopher Žižek and pussy riot member Tolokonnikova as she was in jail in Russia.
  • Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space by Kevin Peter Hand. Nonfiction, science, astrobiology.
  • Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #2) by Tamsyn Muir. Queer fantasy/sci-fi.
  • A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson. Fantasy, horror, vampires. lgbt; bi/pan characters.

Posts I’ve loved by other bloggers:

Three things on my mind:

  • Let’s start with a light-hearted, fun thing. I’m looking into which science communicators and scientists (within math and physics mainly) to bring into our university’s science festival. And we already have a list to take from, but I can message whoever I want for the most part and that’s one of the reasons I suddenly found more science books to read again.

  • I’m kind of tired of myself lately. But life doesn’t stop being weird, and I’ve had some of the most surreal days. So many hospital visits, so little studying in comparison even though exams are just around the corner. Doctors who can’t keep things straight, like the one medicine I was put on and there to talk about? My mom, on the other side of the country, had an allergic reaction and no one would treat her for too long?? Had she not have extensive medical experience with two sick kids and the help of a very frightened young doctor, her anaphylactic shock could have gone very badly. It’s all been very strange and nervewracking. On the bright side, I will get to see a very nice nurse every month moving forward. Also, as I’m writing this I might have circled into my strangest sleep schedule yet with falling asleep at 7pm and waking up numerous times before giving up around 3 am, for the last three days in a row. It’s better than waking up at 4 pm in some aspects, until you realize that the grocery store doesn’t open until 10 am and you’ve ran out of food. I’m so hungry right now, hahha.
  • *Trigger warning for anything bad mental health and suicidal ideation* Have any other college students taken surveys about mental health during the pandemic? Because our massive one just dropped and 1/2 of students reported major psychological symptoms and around 1/4 of students had seriously considered taking their own lives. What maybe surprised me most was that while other symptoms had a massive jump, suicidal thoughts were already close to that level in 2018. Seems like there’s both an accute problem and an underlying one that never was discussed enough. There seems to be some money being thrown at the problem, but from what I’ve heard lately any mental health programs dealing with those more serious symptoms have issues getting to everyone within a decent time. It isn’t like this wasn’t a predictable result of a year of pandemic? It’s so concerning, because for students we’ve had these low-entry “are you experiencing exam stress?” type of help, but very little else. I was in the system pre-covid and has had therapy throughout it, only online, but everyone should’ve had that chance at any point.
  • The Shadow and Bones tv series is – well, a thing. I have seen it, after much back and forth about whether I wanted to. I’m not sure what I think other than that I didn’t originally connect with the Grisha books so it could only make that part better for me and they didn’t have enough of the Six of Crows gang to ruin anything bad for me. So would watch again, I guess? It is pretty great to see certain parts in such a visual way, but I feel I have to rewatch it a second time to not just sit there nervous that the show runners will ruin something. Also I’m still worried about the potential second season? But also want to see what they would do? Would love your thoughts if you got any on whether you like the series or not! One thing I’m certain of; I’m loving all the new content about the crows because of the series.

The Recommendations | Book Tag

I’ve been tagged by both Ally Writes Things, who made the tag, and Naty’s Bookshelf. Thank you!!

Rules

  • Tag Ally @ Ally Writes Things 
  • Give at least one recommendation for each of the prompts below
  • If you don’t have a recommendation, talk about a book you want to read
  • Tag your friends

A book about friendship

I always look for books about friendship, but somehow all the recommendations I have is heist related? That’s without including all the YA books with too-young characters having to bond because there’s no adults around, of course. Honestly I prefer found-family or platonic relationships to romantic ones in general in books.

But I think of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt as a story about friendship, as much as it has lonely elements as well. I guess also “The Secret History”. I need more not-gloomy-murder recommendations, is what I’m figuring out.

A translated book

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. For once I’m standing by my first language and choosing a norwegian book. I know this book that’s a mix of children’s and philosophy is really well-known, but it’s kind of strange trying to get if people know of it elsewhere in the world. I grew up with the author’s book, but I really want to reread this and see how (or if) different I would understand it now. It’s philosophy made so accessible, even for someone who is forced to take a university philosophy course right now and hating it.

A diverse romance

I’m so bad at reading pure romance books without stopping half-way through. I just finished Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas and while it felt very middle-school and not young adult, it’s the queer romance between a Latino trans boy and a gay boy that I would’ve loved growing up.

A fast-paced book

I rarely remember the pace of a book unless it was horrible one way or another?? I think the sequel A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green had a fast pace in that the set-up of the first book (with strange giant robots that might be alien) needed a lot to tie up and it all managed to happen in this book, through multiple points of view and a group of friends collaborating by working on each of their part of the bigger problem.

A nonfiction (not memoir)

Naty’s Bookshelf mentioned The End of Everything by Katie Mack which I just read and very much agree with her take! It was such an experience reading, written with so much passion about astrophysics and the existential questions. In that way it does have a lot of perspective and personality from Mack and even though I am in university for physics, you don’t need any background to enjoy reading it. She goes briefly through the smaller things you need to follow the theories of how the world will end and what that means.

An underrated memoir

A truly underrated one is “A Woman in the Polar Night” by Christiane Ritter about a german upper-class (or at least comfortable) woman who in 1934 travels to the Arctic to spend a year there. It goes very quickly from “ah, a relaxing, but challenging trip” to “boredom and life & death”. Her writing is stunning as well and really delves into aspects of life that I’ve never had described to me this way, but rings as clear as the snow surrounding her for miles and miles.

A book with fewer than 10.000 ratings on Goodreads

Somehow the first I thought of was (Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn, which was one of those books that was on my TBR for FIVE LONG YEARS with no idea of what it was about. It had such a powerful story of facing reality and dealing with it or continuing making the easy decision of running from it. As a story it’s also on the line between fantasy, magical realism and dystopia in a way I haven’t seen before, set in a “paradise” where no one ever get sick or seem to die. It’s currently at 2171 ratings.

A book with a LGTBQ+ protagonist

I just bought City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault in physical form as I loved it so much and wanted to reread it before reading the rest of this high fantasy series. It has several asexual characters, including the main character (who is also aromantic) and is written by an asexual and aromantic author. All the characters are queer; bisexual, demi, pan, poly, gender fluid, agender, as well as asexual and aromantic is all represented in an overall badass magical city. Really, this book should be underneath the ‘friends’ recommendation as well as I might have a big weakness for main characters who observes everything all the time as a thief or assassin, but also cares deeply for their friends. And the plot builds so naturally on the personalities and choices made by these characters, and the way their lives intertwines by living in the same city. This book just gave me a lovely, fun and exciting experience reading it with characters I squeal over, but also feel comforted by. Without sacrificing any of the heavyness or high fantasy elements usual to the genre.

A book by a trans or non-binary author

I’ve got so many books I want to read that fits here, so these are on my TBR (and hopefully I can get to them after exams):

Freshwater, Pet or basically any other book by Akwaeke Emezi. I’m really interested in how Freshwater protrays mental illness , identity and the protagonist develops separate selves within her as she moves from Nigeria to America for college. But it all in this magical realism/fantasy type of story. Pet is also magical realism/fantasy for somewhat of a younger audience centered around a black, transgender girl who meets a monster and all the adults around her are in denial of their existence.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo also has a transgender girl main character who deals with being new in high school and everything that comes with. Relationships, mental illness, conflicts around gender – it seems like a really honest book.

A book with more than 500 pages

The longest book I’ve read and enjoyed is apparently now the popular fanfic All The Young Dudes by MsKingBean89 with its 527k words. And while I do recommend it for all its glorious scenarios as the whole fanfic follows the Harry Potter Marauders through Hogwarts and until the end, giving you everything queer J. K. FUcking Rowling would never – don’t start reading it without having the next few days completely free. The platonic relationships and the different twist on Remus’ character and life all wrecked me.

Besides that, it’s The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson which is one of my favourite fantasy books of all time and also 1283 pages long. It’s a struggle of wanting to write reviews for all my fav books, but then also having too much to say about them and never getting to it. It’s just the best, although I always recommend Mistborn by Sanderson if you’re looking for an easier way into his work and not to dive into this epic fantasy chaos of greatness as it has as much of same brilliant elements in an easier to digest format and size.

A short story collection

Both The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories and The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu are supreme. Just the paper menagerie collection has stories about “The bookmaking habit of select species”, an AI utopia that you might actually want to live in, hujing; beings who are both fox and human, chinese calligraphy and deadly fear of communism / plain racism, being chinese in america, simulacrums; illusions of people stuck in time, aliens, Guan Yu the chinese god of war visiting America (American Gods vibes from that one, it was awesome). Also immense sacrifices and a few stories that willl make you sob inclung about unit 731 and the biological warfare and experimentation in China during WW2.

A book you want everyone to read

In general, the books that had the most impact on me heavily depends on the situation and context in which I read it. Not to mention my on-going struggle of finding a general recommendations list for people in my real life who ask. Because it’s always so much better to tailor them to their interest and like level of understanding of any given genre. For example the already mentioned A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter I find myself automatically recommending, but I get that it will be a slow-paced and quite boring book if it doesn’t match with the person.

So I think the best answer is the poetry collection BRANCHES and the new release Grocery List Poems (when it comes out in june, I’ve yet to read it) by Rhiannon McGavin! The writing is easy to follow for those who “aren’t (yet) into poetry”, but I also think McGavin always brings really interesting takes and beautiful writing. She started out as a spoken word poet so a lot of her work is on youtube. I’ve followed her for years, but in general I find that among the younger poets those who already stands out in how clearly they follow their own, more unique path is the ones that grows the most. Of course, easiest way to get into poetry is to start out with someone that speaks about things you are interested in, which sounds obvious, but sometimes needs a reminder.

Yesika Salgado (with the collections Corazón, Tesoro and Hermosa) is another great recommendation for a poet to ‘start with’, but also in general really fantastic. I’ve been rereading the poetry collections and wanted to do a short post on them, but it’s taken a while because each is so powerful and filled with messages connected to its theme that I need to like take a breath in between them. I think my favourite is Tesoro as it’s about family, the women in Salgado’s life and survival.

I’m tagging: Shalini / Leslie / Haf / Kay / Emily / Acqua / Christina if you want to do the tag as well!

sapphic books, easter & friendship | Bi-Weekly Update

New book posts:

Other books I’ve been reading:

  • Some of Us Did Not Die by June Jordan (essays; feminism, race, queer)
  • The Essential Rumi
  • The End of Everything by Katie Mack
  • Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Added to TBR:

Many of the sapphic books are from Naty’s Bookshelf’s post of recommendations! Also Spines that Shine wrote a fantastic review of Fable by Adrienne Young, which made me want to read it.

  • Permafrost by Eva Baltasar (lesbian protagonist, set in Barcelona)
  • They Never Learn by Layne Fargo (thriller/mystery, murder, bi women protagonists, femme fatale, dark academia)
  • Lumberjanes vol. 1 by Stevenson, Ellis, Watters, Allen (graphic novel, queer women)
  • How to Find a Higgs Boson and Other Big Mysteries in the World of the Very Small by Ivo van Vulpen (science, physics)
  • Fable by Adrienne Young (YA fantasy, pirates); I’m nervous about this one as I didn’t match well with another novel by the author, but it’s interesting concept of pirate-vibes (well sea merchants) and danger has lured me in once again.
  • City of Betrayal (City of Spires #2) by Claudie Arseneault (high fantasy, lgbt; big queer cast and aro-ace mc, politics)
  • Baker Thief also by Claudie Arseneault (urban fantasy, lgbt; among others are aromantic, biromantic, demisexual & nonbinary characters, witches, thieves, enemies-to-lovers)
  • A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark & the other prequels (steampunk fantasy/sci-fi, set in Cairo, thieves, lgbt; f/f relationship)

Three things on my mind:

  • I’m just finished with what I named the Easter studying-drinking bootcamp. Weird name since I have had to be sober for most of it (my new meds wasn’t to happy about me drinking probably nor my very much currently active chronic illness). I’ve tried to explain it and this is what I’ve come up with;
  • We’re three roommates (out of the usual fifteen) and one additional friend having chosen to stay in our university city over easter vacation. Because of covid, but also we all have a lot of school work to catch up on. First one because he’s an engineer too busy making super-awesome-dangerous drones, second one because he takes too many high-level math courses and me because my chronic ill ass (crohn’s mainly) decided to throw a tantrum and become really sick this semester (not yet on the other side of this, which complicates things). Drinking is optional. Making a bunny sculpture as a friend to our ethically-sourced-from-dumpster taxidermy fox is not, as this is the project we chose to make the week a bit more interesting. That is as much as we’ve got planned, we’re just as confused as the people we’ve tried to explain it to.

  • I’m in so much pain sometimes and I both adore the people around me right now and the awkward support they give as best they can. But also I’ve been conditioned since I was a kid to never trust anyone to not let me down when it comes to chronic illness and it’s so difficult to let people close to me right now, as I do have a lot of solo coping mechanisms that require a lot of effort, energy and focus directed at myself. For the first time in forever I do have some energy though, and can only hope for the best and try to prepare for anything else.
  • I wish I could discuss with other chronically ill people how bad it feels in the scenario where people want to help, but truly deep down don’t get it. Because it’s the gray area of them trying and you wanting to encourage that, but it ending up with the equivalent of holding someone’s hand and guiding them through a tunnel, pointing out all the things they need to know to even begin that process. And they’re not bound to remember, and nowhere near change, after one walk through it. It just makes sense that they’ve not put in the work that you’ve been forced to. Personally, I’ve both been the sick one and the relative/friend to the sick one, it’s two very different experiences, but still I’ve had to do the work twice at the minimum. Even the smaller things are so interconnected to basically relearning how to view illness both in the view of a person and the ableism in society, it seems impossible to just get people to stop doing them as they don’t understand why and don’t just accept/remember the request.
  • For example, if you hear even the smaller things like «I hope you get better soon» constantly from people close to you – it’s really draining. Because you sigh inwards and make the choice to explain how it’s not bound to happen magically like that – maybe even the doctor has given you numbers to attach to a time-frame – making sure to assure the loved one you understand they mean well. But still it’s just as if you’re arguing against their well wishes and then the comments of being too pessimistic hit you like pellets, you counter with how you´re objectively realisticthere’s even numbers this time backing you up, not the usual «it´s my body and I’ve been in this situation before». And then you know there’s need for another talk about forced (!toxic tbh!) optimism and how it might help for right now, but it will crush anyone’s soul in the long run, but you’ve had that talk before with this person. Maybe even the day before. You’ve already spent too much energy on this. You leave it be, even if these parts of the conversation constantly drains you just a bit more as you bite the social bullet again and again. There’s certain people I want to talk less to these days, even if I care for them very much.

  • After those two very different thoughts & vibes, I hope you had a great easter. And if you wasn’t able to relax, or you dealt with too much family or felt lonely and missed seeing them bc of covid – that’s all very understandable as well and I hope it better weeks are ahead.

Exciting New Book Releases Spring 2021

(Idk why some of these books was on my winter list.) I’m still as excited about them! Time is weird, and so is seasons, and that is the best reason I got. But I am really excited for spring to come this year, having had to choose between being completely in quarantine and taking walks in storms or snow-storms lately. Hopefully I can read some of these books in a park or even sitting on a bench somewhere outside. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of spring.

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine

Release date: March 2nd 2021

Why I want to read it: I’ve yet to read the first book in this series, but the beginning of this queer sci-fi series has gotten so good reviews. I mean – Aztec empire in space??

Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

Release date: March 9th 2021

Why I want to read it: honestly I’m unsure about this book, even with the stunning cover. But sapphic witches, a magical plague, dark powers and love bargains might be too good to pass on, especially as the reviews I’ve noticed have been positive.

She’s Too Pretty to Burn

Release date: March 30th 2021

Why I want to read it: queer girls, a rebel art scene and claiming to be a “sexy, psychological thriller”.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Release date: March 23rd 2021

Why I want to read it: The protagonist is looking for her missing brothers in a town (and woods) that seem haunted ft. mental health and grief, trauma, anxiety and insomnia. A kind of dark & eerie Peter Pan retelling. From the same author as “Cemetery Boys” which I just read & appreciated.

First Person Singulair: Stories by Haruki Murakami

Release date: April 6th 2021

Why I want to read it: Haruki Murakami’s stories are just great, but I need to take a break in between each of them to digest, which is where hopefully short stories would be a great treat. I would rather go into this knowing less than more, I feel.

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

Release date: April 20th 2021

Why I want to read it: two enemy witches that create alliance to fight a mutual threat, but power and revenge interferes. Jamaican-inspired fantasy which I’ve seen only good reviews for so far.

Goodbye, Again by Jonny Sun

Release date: April 20th 2021

Why I want to read it: I like Jonny Sun and his “Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too“. This collection of essays, stories and poems promises humor and heartfelt writing covering heavy topics like mental health, happiness, wanting to belong.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuinston

Release date: May 6th 2021

Why I want to read it: I’ve looked forward to this book ever since reading “Red, White & Royal Blue” as the author writes so poignantly with humor and intellect to what could be very cheesy stories. Here a 23-year-old woman is moving to New York, then meets a girl on a train who dazzles her ft. time-travel (idk either hahha). A sapphic romcom type of romance I’m here for.

Heartstopper Vol. 4 by Alice Oseman

Release date: May 13th 2021

Why I want to read it: Heartstopper is like the gay m/m soft teenage romance that makes you sigh of relief in between more dramatic books. I thought vol. 3 went a bit too slow, but overall leaves me with a very nice feeling of hope.

Mister Impossible (Dreamer #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

Release date: May 18th 2021

Why I want to read it: I don’t know what’s going on with this cover, but I love it. Last book followed Ronan (and Adam) from the series “The Raven Boys” and this continues where it left off, I guess. I saw someone ask for Ronan to “live out his gay cottagecore dreams”, but ofc that’s not going to happen. Gay yes; suffering also yes. I just love the magic infused in Stiefvater’s writing with these characters and world.

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

Release date: May 18th 2021

Why I want to read it: I’ve already pre-ordered it! Not that John Green needs it, but I really wanted one of the many many signed ones. The cover is lovely, the podcast episodes (same name) behind it are truly stunning pieces of work. I expect more of detailed deep-dives in complex, somewhat strange stories and topics that John Green all somehow manage to tie together to explain some of human nature and society.

Pls share any new releases you’re looking forward to!

The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care: from A to Z by Anna Borges

Pages: 240

Genre: nonfiction; self-help, mental health

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

This book is written as a A to Z list of going through definitions connected to self-care and what they mean to the author.

This format has both good and bad sides; it makes the reading experience a good mix of lighter and more serious subjects, as well as more practical tips and more abstract thoughts concerning the definition and how we think of it. Because I already know and love Anna Borges writing and she does not shy away from talking honestly about mental health and suicidal thoughts. She also writes for online sites, prev. buzzfeed, and the book seems very influenced by that in how it is very much for right-now (with concrete tips like using meditation apps) and I don’t think the book will age that well necessarily. But it does help giving the tips something concrete actions behind them. It’s very much a product of the age of social media in general, but so is the word self-care, if not the concept behind it as is discussed. I think I both wanted and expected a bit more in-depth, but because of the good writing and more extensive thoughts behind each concept, it works even if it’s simple.

I would recommend this both as a starter book to the concept of self-care or one to pick up when you’re feeling low and need a reminder or inspiration, like I did. Overall it’s obvious the intention of the book is not to sell you something, but to ask you to take care of yourself and giving you some reminders around what could work for you.

Reminders I will take from it; Make a damn dentist appointment not because I yet have to, but because you should take care of your health out of self-respect. Take care of & grow my curiosity. Let yourself just be and think less of making a narrative or explanation out of the chaos that can be daily-life. Don’t let anyone fuck with you is self-care. Boundaries are important; time, values, mood, emotional well-being, comfort and safety all. Get a snake plant for better air quality. Create times for just being quiet, even if I’m not going to immediately want to meditate each day.

Self-care is the simple act of listening to my body and responding appropriately, even if it’s not the norm. It’s reminding myself that days off and times of rest are not a luxury, they are an absolute necessity.

The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care: from A to Z by Anna Borges

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu | Book Review

Pages: 411

Genre: short stories, fantasy, sci-fi

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Four out of five stars overall.

I loved The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu which was the first I’d read of the author, which is kind of unusual as he’s most known for his long fantasy and sci-fi works like “The Dandelion Dynasty”.

The real pearl of this collection for me was “Byzantine Empathy”, which I will find myself rereading and thinking about for a while. It follows two different people, one working for humanitarian organization and one creating a VR experience where you can upload for example a scene of being in the middle of the most violent war. It’s idealism set up against pragmatism, led by really interesting morally gray characters. The choice of making the opposing sides understand each other, as previous college friends, yet not steering away from creating villains – it was just great. They do set up very interesting arguments, which is why I attached a page from the book below. The story showcases a power struggle both in politics and social media; it’s PR and image, people experiencing mass graves on their own body and looking into how human empathy could work both for and against a group of people trying to create change.

from the short story “Byzantine Empathy”

I found that in this collection, the short stories were very hit or miss for me; some I found immense insight and new thoughts and perspectives in, while others went straight past my head and left me wondering if I’d missed the point or if they were just unoriginal. And I guess that makes sense considering how this collection is more focused on the combination of the new digital age ahead of us as well as the asian (mainly chinese-inspired) cultural elements and perspective. You will have concepts that’s over-done. I’ve seen reviews bash the “easier” stories like the one of online bullying, but I disagree there because I think Liu more often than not writes the easier concepts really well, and in that way has something to add. “Thoughts and Prayers” is one of those, with the idea of uploading every single photo and clip of a loved one to the Internet, to create a virtual version of them (in this case to use as an example of the horrifying reality of mass shootings). It is a terrible idea in reality because of how human beings have shown to behave, no debate there. Drawing much inspiration from the real world, where american survivors of school shootings has spoken for gun control and been the subjects of massive harassment and conspiracy theories, it looks into how you can completely screw with the memories a human has of a dead loved one. Humans has real weaknesses in how much we can handle. And the story is not so far-fetched as deep-fakes are becoming a very real thing. Revenge fake porn sounds fucking awful.

The pessimism hit me like a wave half-way into the book. Like I truly didn’t see it coming as you think one short story stops with the questions unanswered, only for it to be a red thread taken up later in another one. And it didn’t always end that well, did it. For the collection overall, I loved this kind of composition. It’s enough of the same universe or storyline to be able to delve into deeper topics of artificial intellingence and VR and how humans can use technology in ways ranging from imperfect to directly devastating. I described it to a friend as “1001 clever shortcuts to dystopia ft. nostalgia”, which was what it was for a while. But it also gives space for the more out there one-off fantasy stories.

The mix of types of stories, mainly the fantasy among the sci-fi, can also be interpreted as making the collection not quite as put together as well. Messy, if you’d like. It could be that it should have stayed to the sci-fi side and discarded some fantasy stories. Best example of this is how I found the short story of “Hidden Girl” interesting, but flat and not very special. I don’t get why the book is called that. I liked the chinese mythology behind it, but it was one of the rarer cases where I would’ve liked a longer story to be able to fulfill the potential of the setup of the cast of characters. It surely feels like the beginning of an abandoned long-form project and not a short story like the others.

Favourite short stories; “The Gods Will Not be Chained”, but also the rest of that story with “The Gods Will Not Be Slain” and “The Gods Have Not Died In Vain”. It starts with a girl trying to find out the circumstances of her dad’s death and ends in AI war, where the artificial intelligence was created by people finding out the method of uploading their knowledge and consciousness and becoming like gods and a new type of human that is born and lives solely in the digital space. “Staying Behind” is similiar in that it goes into this digital space, this Singularity in which most people has chosen over the currently-real world, with enough originality to really draw me in. Then comes “Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer” going even deeper and further into the future, with a mother seeing her daughter a couple days over the course of her life as she travels in space and time. It’s obvious that there’s certain venues Liu has put a lot of time into researching and reflecting over, and those are the ones I think that really stand out and is worth reading this for.

Another excellent one was “Staying Behind”, which really made me think about religion for some reason and the idea that someone you love can lose credibility the moment they get indoctrinated into an ideology, where you never know if they’ve really found the one perfect and real thing or if they’ve lost themselves enough to be too far gone. It’s the idea behind people we love becoming monsters or zombies as well I guess, only with the additional uncertainty that they might be the ones in the right and not you.

“This wasn’t my mother speaking. The real Mom knew that what really mattered in life was the authenticity of this messy existence, the constant yearning for closeness to another despite imperfect understanding, the pain and suffering of our flesh. […] It is this world, the world we were meant to live in, that anchors us and demands our presence, not the imagined landscape of a computed illusion. This was a simulacrum of her, a recording of propaganda, a temptation into nihilism.”

from “Staying Behind” by Ken Liu

a long-delayed gender crisis

tldr; gender is strange and complex, and so is mine ..?

SO. I’m bisexual, which was something I did not realize before a lot later than most, and when I definitely did I went like – “we’ll put that off for later”. Now, during the whole of COVID-19 being a major thing in my life, for twelve long months, I’ve been putting off somewhat of a gender crisis.

I’ve definitely used the time to make up some thoughts around it, but it took me a year and a half being around mostly guys to realize it might be not just my sexual orientation that makes me feel set apart from other women. For most of my daily life these days, gender is just not something I think about when it comes to myself. My pronouns (she/her) are fine, for now. But if someone does point me out as a girl or woman, it much more often than not makes me have a real internal freak-out. A good example is someone pointing out I’m the only woman in the room (as I study physics, it happens more often), usually another girl, and I’m physically uncomfortable no matter how well or casual they mean it. I think it took me a while to separate the issue of speaking about women in STEM, of which I have thoughts because I grew up as one, and me being identified as a girl. Like I can speak to having certain experiences as being perceived as a woman, but that does not mean I go around thinking about how I am one, if that makes sense. I recently heard a trans woman say “I was fine with being a boy, but not a man”, and that makes very much sense. And come to think of it, the reason I am to a degree comfortable right now without major changes is because – without having explicitly dicussed it – the friends around me (mostly guys) goes out of their way to brand me in a neutral way. A classic example is friends of friends coming over and using me as an example as a girl in their conversation. Immediately my guy friends, from the most masculine one to the gay one, tells them I’m both a bad example of a girl/woman and a shitty example of a human being in general. (A bit of hazing comes with the territory. They mean well.) That’s a bit on the light side, but in general they have enough time to come up with arguments towards me being split into the neutral/guy-ish category, no matter if I’m sitting there with a bunch of other girls in the room, wearing something very feminine like a dress or my boyfriends is there. And they don’t know the extent, but it means a lot.

It’s fun watching nonbinary & genderqueer people explaining their experiences online and then switch to me sitting alone in a corner of my room going like “same, same”. True facepalm moments, trust me. Going forward, I think my gender questions will be on standby while I feel it out. Maybe I’ll experiment with some clothes, as I sometimes like being very feminine and sometimes want to be very much more masculine presenting. For the most part, and this has been pointed out to me multiple times – my clothing and appearance just does not in any way express my personality anyway. It’s probably bad in meeting new people, but hilarious and also helps in this gender question in a strange way. I do really switch between liking my boobs and hating them intensely, but I cannot fucking wear a binder because I already have serious lung problems. That would probably be the first step I would’ve taken, otherwise.

There’s also this one issue I need to sort through soon, which is that I look most feminine when I’m truly going through a difficult period of time. It’s a bit darker and more complex one. A good dash of it is something about how we view gender, like I have chronic illnesses where I lose weight when they flare up and that makes me look a certain way. (Btw, the critique of The Queen’s Gambit main character’s breakdown as being too glamorous made me laugh bc I’ve looked my worst and best at truly awful periods of time. It all depends.) Maybe I do more skin-care then, because I find it soothing. There’s also more fun reasons, like loving anything that sparkles more or jewellery or colorful dresses/skirts because they give me a needed moment of joy. But then there’s also being more alone and dealing less with new people who will perceive me as a girl based on a dress, which do bother me, I just don’t know to which extent yet. If we were to delete the whole gender thing fully and think of it as at the very least more in less/more masculine/feminine with no harsh boundraries, I would feel a lot better. Like all the nonbinary-questioning tiktoks say; mostly I want to look feminine, but like guys can. Or pirates. Ah, to be a 17th century type of pirate, only now. Maybe that’s the aesthetic goal I should go for.

So in conclusion, I’m doing the same thing with my gender as I did with my sexuality; realize when I was young it was something different and then repress it without truly knowing. My mom grew up a tomboy and gave me all the freedom she could for me to do what I wanted; which was to have friends that was girls, but then get bored and run away to play football. I hated my body changing when it did, then just arrived accepting that this body is what I had to deal with and now is somewhat uncomfortable yet again. Still, I do think accepting there’s something genderqueer here is the right step. But also that how I present now is somewhat comfortable enough.

Persephone-Hades & Lesbian Horror Story | Short Reviews

Here’s other graphic novel reviews.

Lore Olympus s1 by Rachel Smythe

Link to the webtoon/web-comic. Funny enough the illustrations I included isn’t very representative of the style, more so the comedic elements. S1 consists of 115 episodes; absolutely worth your time if you want characters with a lot of personality, a good romance and greek gods dealing with the everyday shit in life. I was truly excited going in, less so when I realized the main focus was on Hades & Persephone as it’s a romance done so many times. It felt a bit slow and boring in the beginning. But overall the writer really managed to showcase aspects I hadn’t seen before, as well as giving Persephone a really different personality without making it too “quirky”. She’s clumsy, but smart and means well trying to prove herself and the writer did not shy away from the aspect of her being a “young” goddess, but playing into it by making it almost a college/first-job story where you need to fight for independence and then re-realize that it’s okay to need and ask for help. The office aspect of every coworker hating on her special treatment – it’s all great. It did also use the greek gods aspect to deal with heavier issues like sexual assault, with specific trigger warnings in front of every chapter that focuses on that. All in all just a great romance/rom-com/every-day type of stories, but had surprising depth as well. And the web comic format really plays into showcasing both the main and minor character’s differences and backstories. Loved it, very binge-able. Five out of five stars.

When I Arrived at the Castle by emily carroll

I really admire the illustrations of emily carroll, I mean look at it-

I’ve already read & loved Through the Woods and she also has one called Beneath the Dead Oak Tree. This graphic novel tells the somewhat lesbian of a story of a castle, a cat-girl, some fairytale sprinkled in and a very attractive femme fatale vampire countess. And not to forget the blood colouring the pages. It’s not very straight-forward, but I liked it. For some reason I expected more though? It has little of a plot and lot of vibes, which is not the right way to phrase that, but I’m sticking with it. It’s very much like a fever-dream. Three out of five stars.

Five Star Predictions pt. 2 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I really love these posts personally because it makes me so excited for other’s & my TBR. But – latst time I did this it took closer to ten months for me to get around to reading all the books. It will hopefully be a lot sooner this time, as I made the list shorter. I already have a lot of these books on my shelf as well, so they’ll stare at me as a constant reminder.

The Hidden Girl & Other Stories by Ken Liu: I loved “The Paper Menagerie & other stories” by the same author, but it’s been years since I read the collection of short stories for the first time. It’s just stories that live in my head now. Just the day I remembered so I found this new release and then happened to walk right past it by accident in the (norwegian) library – my luck! I snatched it so fast. This collection is of sixteen fantasy & sci-fi short stories and a novelette.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas: The cover is awesome, but so is the description of “a trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave”. Trying to find a murderer, queer & trans people, cool ghosts! Brujos! I’ve seen both very positive and slighly let-down reviews, so I’m still a bit nervous because I’m so ready to love it.

Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality by Edward Frenkel: I’ve somewhat started reading this already, on a very scenic train-ride, before forgetting it in my pile of physics textbooks. So I already know that it’s such a good writing and narrative about how we think about math, and felt very approchable to both the math student (young and older) and the ones that are just interested. I rally loved the points on reconfiguring how kids learn about math, like introducing category theory eariler, because it’s just boxes we put math things in, but gives the first step to the why’s that seem to rarely get answered in learning kids math.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: Ocean Vuong’s writing is already stunning and gets deep under your skin, that I know. I can’t imagine this debut novel – about being an immigrant, trauma, queer, family dynamics and love – being any less than his poetry.

Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe (web comic link): I’ve always loved mythology and gods being modernized or otherwise rewritten, and I just got back into web comics so this very much loved web comic on greek gods seem like the perfect next one for me.

all the book hauls | Bi-Weekly Update

So, I’ve started buying more physical books (in comparison to none) and then I never do book hauls, so here they all are gathered up. Honestly, a few of these books are from a year ago, but too nice-looking to not include.

  • Astrobiology: a very short introduction by David C. Catling
  • Kant: a very short introduction by Roger Scruton
  • The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
  • Robin Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (penguin english library edition)
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (penguin english library edition)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (penguin english library edition)
  • To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (penguin vintage classics)
  • By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart (bught used, panther granada publishing edition from 1978)
  • how to: absurd scientific advice for common real-world problems by randall munroe
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles (simon and schuester edition)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher`s Stone (scottish edition)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (slytherin edition)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (penguin edition)
  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat
  • Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore
  • Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
  • War on Peace by Ronan Farrow
  • The Iliad by Homer (penguin classics edition)
  • Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman (david fickling edition)
  • Maya by Josten Gaarder (found for free)

The Library Book Haul (aka books I promised to return a month ago, but have not read yet)

  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • The Story of More by Hope Jahren
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
  • The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu
  • The City We Became by N. K. Jemish

The Notebook Haul (mostly gifts)

  • Floral (green) notebook from Paperblank (called poetry in bloom)
  • Flowers (dark) notebook from Paperchase
  • Edinburgh illustration notebook by Libby Walker

New book posts:

  • none.

Other books I’ve been reading:

  • Currently reading Winter Hours by Mary Oliver (poetry/prose/essays)
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (fantasy, lgbt; lesbian mc)
  • World Without Fish by (graphic novel, nonfiction, enviromental science) by Mark Kurlansky

Added to TBR:

  • A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design by Frank Wilczek (science)
  • Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality by Frank Wilczek (science)
  • The Queen`s Gambit by Walter Tevis (chess, fiction)
  • Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots (fantasy, superheros, lgbt; bi mc, nonbinary)
  • The Monster Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade #2) by Seth Dickinson (fantasy, lgbt; lesbian mc)
  • The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters (contemporary YA, lgbt; m/m)
  • Tell Me by Kim Addonizio (poetry)
  • Bound by Claire Schwartz (poetry)
  • Hours Inside Out by Isabella Presiz (poetry)

Three things on my mind:

  • About physical books; it’s funny how much taking photos of books is would boost my book posts more than anything. My short review of graffiti by Savannah Brown is a perfect example, it gets too many views each day solely from google image searches. I’m using the library more this year and in general have bought more physical books, so I hope to also take more photos, because I do love that aspect as well. I definitely did a lot when living at home, to the point where we would rarely get good natural light in winter and it annoyed me because book photos were worse, hahha. Physical books are just more expensive and less convenient. You’re talking about the girl who at the age of 10 years old chose to learn books in english instead of the translated norwegian copies because they cost so much. But I do prefer having physical copies of science and poetry books a lot over digital ones, because it’s so much easier to refer to and really sit down and take time with reading the book. I would love to have a copy of all my favourite books on hand in case friends are looking for recommendations, but I just don’t have the money for all the fantasy series that would include, as the student I am.

  • I started writing a short thing about how I’ve been thinking about gender for a while, as I did put off an imminent gender crisis during the first season of covid-19 lockdown. But then it turned into its own whole thing, and I think it will just be a post on its own because it fits nowhere else. Not that it has any conclusion, it’s more of an on-going discussion with myself.

  • I’ve listened to & loved the podcast Reply All from Gimlet Media for years. To the point that when company after company was revealed to have racist practices and similiar recently, I actually thought about if these (until now seemingly empathic) white guys behind Gimlet Media would disappoint me to. But instead they’ve hired and otherwise given platform to producers of color with a purpose to cover a more diverse range of topics. And it’s really brought things to my feed that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, I think. A very recent addition to this is a series on the Bon Apetit test kitchen which had a “online reckoning” last summer with being exposed for being racist. Told by reporter Sruthi Pinnamaneni, she goes hard in the first episode by calling a huge number of past and current employees over a period of twenty years and highlights the many people of color that has quit already way back because they were devalued in different ways because of the color of their skin and them not coming from the same background or looking the same as every other white person in the kitchen. She does an expert job by pointing out other possible causes for situation as well, many of these people struggled at the time to understand it themselves, but overall it shows a pattern. Especially in comparison to the newest known scandals that made so many very-much-loved-by-the-audience cast members quit. Absolutely worth listening to, I’m sure the next episodes are going to be great as well.
  • Resistance is another new podcast by Gimlet Media hosted by Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. all about the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement. The third episode “Shake the Room” was the first I listened to, and the story of how american police targeted protesters months later, and this example of how they showed up at the house of the Warriors in the Garden protestor Derrick Ingram in particular, really shook me to my core in its injustice and the potential and threat of violence.