Poetry: mary oliver, addonizio, lambert| Short reviews

Shame is an ocean I swim across by Mary Lambert: contains very powerful stories by someone who is a musician as well, the writing flows very well. Talks about sexual assault, mental health and fame. Very good phrasing and descriptions of situations I can relate to as well, not that that’s a requirement. The excellence of titles like “It is time to eat something other than pizza and tequila” mixes well with the somber topics. Four out of five stars. Definitely check the trigger warnings.

Tell me by Kim Addonizio: it took me some time to both understand the poet and the work, but it grew on me the second and third time I read it. Each poem is very hit or miss for me in how interesting I find it but overall obvious that Addonizio is a good writer. It’s feministic in how it shows someone moving unrelentless through the world, while not shying away from gritty parts. Just that level of honesty Addonizio brings creates such a depth that I can’t blame her too hard when she finds it lacking in her poetry students. Very little pretentiousness to find here, very much confessional and communicating directly to the reader. Four out of five stars, I think I’ll take a dive into her other work soon.

Why I wake early by Mary Oliver: I continue to find a lot of comfort and beautiful parts in Mary Oliver’s writing, even if this one wasn’t a personal favourite. In general, her poems are all about understanding humans through nature (as in the actual spending time in nature), in various ways. Usually with a bit more variety than here. Fav. poems is “The Arrowhead”; “The Snow Cricket” and “Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does It End?”. Three our of five stars.

Winterkeep (Graceling #4) by Kristin Cashore | Book Review

Genre: (adult) fantasy

Pages: 528

I would look up trigger warnings before reading it! While I loved the book, I nearly had to stop because I expected a lighter type of fantasy, but even if it’s always taken up serious subjects, it suddenly got a lot darker and more in-depth. Among other things very explicit child abuse and gaslighting, also against one of the protagonists. As well as suicidality, animal abuse, etc. LIke there’s been sadists since the first graceling book, but it feels much more explicit here, probably because it’s more applicable to real-life.

Synopsis

Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.

But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.

Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Ever wondered what happens after the good protagonist becomes king/queen of the kingdom and wants to turn it into a democracy? Here, a familiar history of corruption, burning of scientific knowledge and other countries’ secret exploitation of their resources creates difficulties.

You could absolutely read this book as a stand-alone, even though it’s a very late (like nine years late) fourth book in a series I loved as a kid. While the rest of the series is young adult, it seems to have grown with its audience very deliberately and the themes and actions of characters in this book is very much adult.

Some day I need to write a review of the original trilogy, but just know that I loved it with all my heart. The first book features a kick-ass character named Katsa that’s trying to get out a life being used as an assassin just because she’s skilled/graced with it. And this book is a continuation of that in two ways.

It’s the same kind of simple, yet well-done world as before. The parts of the world have expanded, and I love the intelligent foxes and telepathic sea creatures here. Mainly the fantasy aspect is certain characters being gifted with one skill (called grace), visible by different colours on each eye. The second thing that’s stayed the same is the fierceness in the protagnosists, even though Cashore has developed in what ways a character can be strong and weak. It’s no longer just survival; it’s politics, finding strength in overcoming trauma, being intelligent and compassionate. There’s power in continuing to care for people, even after other’s have failed you. This book’s plot reads very much like a mystery, with the different POVs helping to create puzzle pieces that fit so perfectly together, yet still surprises you.

I loved the kraken-like (The Keeper) creature’s POV so much and would’ve liked its part to be bigger, though I get how that would work against the essence of its character. I felt like this book had a lof of different elements to love and that’s stuck in my mind since I read it. For instance, Lovisa has to take cover far into the country-side, where she really comes to terms with what her goals are after being through so much crisis and trauma. Along with the usual action, which there is a lot of, the book highlights the more tedious, but real-life consequences of continuing living a life. Even reading Lovisa’s inner voice is painful as she’s constantly discrediting herself, but so very real.

My absolutely favourite character was the fox Adventure – I don’t get how people dislike him. I mean his constant thoughts alone brings great relatable humor;

The fox had never before experienced the level of anxiety he’d been experiencing lately. It was too much. He could not keep everyone safe all by himself! And his siblings, all of whom were present at this party, were as useless as ever.

Somehow I think this became the book where I realized there’s worth for me in following trigger warnings, because it has a very explicit scene of Lovisa as an older daughter being threatened with her younger brothers’ suffering by the hands of her parents. Somehow, that was what got me and I just sobbed the rest of the book to be honest. But I reread those parts the next day and it’s really well done, in many ways. It’s in accord with the abusive behaviour of her parents until that point, the illusion in Lovisa’s mind of them having been good to her at times is completely destroyed, making their downfall a lot more satisfying.

What I felt reading this book: Excited about the mystery-feeling of the plot, well-written characters and the added dimension of the politics. Sobbed a lot. Appreciated the relief the non-human characters brought.

They Never Learn by Layne Fargo | Book Review

Look up trigger warnings! There’s a lot around sexual assault and abuse of power.

Genre: thriller, serial killer, dark academia, lgbt; f/f relationships, queer women, two bisexual female protagonists

Pages: 378

Synopsis

Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.

Every year, she searches for the worst man at Gorman University and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself—but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Scarlett insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge, Dr. Mina Pierce. Everything’s going according to her master plan… until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.

Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident—everything Carly wishes she could be—and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay… and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality. 

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Sometimes I feel the books with a really interesting plot/synopsis that feels targeted at me, is the ones that let me down the most. It’s got a very good goodreads rating too. I just couldn’t get over how much I didn’t like the writing, as in the language used being cringy and constantly taking me out of the story. There’s two f/f queer friendship (both POVs are bisexual women) that turn sexual at certain points, both ending up very different. It’s all very intense and dramatic, yet it fits into the story. And there’s enough twists to the characters and the plotlines that I did enjoy reading it, even if it was built on somewhat one-dimensional characters.

I first blamed it on the fact that writing a serial killer is difficult, and it still could be, but it’s the same problem with the student Carly. Because in many ways she’s supposed to showcase the start of a girl turning cold and ruthless by the experiences and total lack of support in the systems, like being ridiculed by school administration when trying to help her friend after a sexual assault. It was a nice comparison, even if it was laid on a bit thick with even the professor Scarlett pointing out how she saw a young version of herself.

I have to state that there’s nothing wrong with these “unlikable” female main characters that made me dislike the book, as I often prefer them. In general, the author seems to be known for writing those well. I also want to say I whole-heartedly disagree with some other bad reviews claim that all the rapists weren’t equally bad and so on, it’s showcased all the way why the serial killer chooses her victims and the actions they’ve committed. I had to stop reading those reviews quick to not get sick, as they excuse sexual abuse so blatantly. It’s not meant to be feministic in how you should cheer on a serial killer, that’s up to the reader, but in showing how a culture of abuse and sexual assaults can be protected against those who want to report it. And that’s not far-fetched at all in today’s society, even if it shouldn’t have to defend itself as fiction.

Is it dark academia? Absolutely, it’s a look into a professor/murderer’s mind set on an university campus, trying to avoid persecution. The student’s POV even shows how her experiences and obsessiveness with helping her friend and keeping up with writing leads her into a darker path than she could imagine. It definitely showcases the potentially worst sides of an (academic) institution with abuse of power from everyone in charge.

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.