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.