Graphic Novels: dark fairytale, dystopian & fluffy gay romance | Short Reviews

I’m having a bit of a hard time reading as I’m busy with studying (2nd year physics student) as well as ill at the moment (no worries, thankfully not corona, I’ve been tested twice). So it’s the perfect time to again read as many graphic novels that I could get my hands on! Here’s some of my other graphic novels reviews.

Through the Woods by Emily Carrol

As I begun reading I was sceptical because the illustrations were breath-taking from the start, giving all the dark fairytale vibes, but I didn’t know how much of a substance the plots would have. A few pages in it truly got much better, as the fairytale twists got mysterious, exciting and dark. It’s made up from several different “short stories”, some more red riding hood inspired and some that reminded me some of Coraline and some of the podcast The Magnus Archive. Reading this felt like playing a game where you know every decision is a bad one. I also immediately ordered the author’s other graphic novel «When I arrived at the castle»! 5/5 stars.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vol. 1

Plus points for being dark, but that’s the only positive in my eyes. I was excited for this as I truly liked the new TV series made from Sabrina the teenage witch. But this graphic novel drains any personality Sabrina is known for out of the character. I get that setting up somewhat the same plot as the TV series does in multiple episodes is difficult in one volume, but it just isn’t done with any charm at all. I won’t be reading the rest of the series as I felt it has little potential. 2/5 stars.

Paper Girls vol. 1 & 2

First impression of volume 1 was that I liked the retro apocalyptic stranger things vibe featuring a teen girl squad. It didn’t really get further into the plot or explanation than unexplained aliens, but it was also a lot to set up. It’s about a group of girls out delivering newspapers when they get caught up in this mystery of disappearing people and frightening strangers hunting after them. 3/5 stars.

Volume 2 had a higher chance of keeping the suspense up without as much of the confusion, which made the time-travel, sci-fi aspects much more enjoyable as well as delving into an interesting cast. Not to forget how monster tardigrades was a thing I didn’t know I needed in my life before now. I yelped out loud from surprise and happiness – I can’t explain it either. It’s just a good mix of chaos & the unexpected. Like the looming, flying ships that came into the picture suddenly. The color scheme is also truly lovely.

If I would criticize something it’s the ‘feminism’ branding push that seems a bit ‘off’, not that I’ve looked further into reasons behind it. It’s a similar feeling that lingers as from the casual homophobia that makes an appearance in volume 1, as if that was something that just belongs with the retro vibes. It was called out by other characters, so I just mentally noted it down as strange for now and makes me second-guess the future dynamic of the friendgroup somewhat. 4/5 stars.

Heartstopper vol. 2 & 3 by Alice Oseman

Review of vol. 1! To sum up I really like the author’s writing in general and that it was a truly cute, important gay coming of age story. And I love the illustration style. And this is true for the second and third volume as well. My only critique is a somewhat big one; a lot doesn’t happen in each volume. It feels like the story told could’ve been cut down in some ways, but at the same time I realize it’s aimed at a younger audience for the most part and I’m so happy it just exists. 3/5 stars for both.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power | Review

I’ve gotten so into horror after reading this book, which I did for hours during the night as I couldn’t sleep. I was visiting my boyfriend and he absolutely thought I was a bit more strange trying to explain this book and how well it balanced between fantasy and horror in a unique way. Most of this unique feeling I think came from the perspective, it all being about and told by teen girls. Anyway, I’ll get back to that.

Pages: 357

Genre: young adult (don’t agree), horror: disease & body horror, lgbt (queer girls, slight f/f relationship, but a lot of yearning), some mystery vibes, set in a boarding school on an island. quarantined (which will be a genre i guess).

Warning: it has a lot of trigger warnings, pls search them up before reading

Synopsis

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: five stars

here’s me arguing it’s not YA

This book has amazing cover art, but I think it did the book a diservice, along the fact that it’s branded as young adult. I feel like this is a larger conversation that I keep having, but not everything with teenage characters (especially female) is YA! It doesn’t have a great rating at goodreads (3.58) and I think it’s because people isn’t expecting what they get unless they’re like me that added this to their TBR as it was released a year ago and then now saw one book blogger (don’t remember who oops) saying it was more horror like, which got my interest again.

the friend-group & characters

SO! An all-girl high school on an island where most of the teachers die off on the beginning of the the two year quarantine, where everything starts up pretty simple and then reveals so much more complex moral, practical, society & science-related questions. It’s reveal after reveal and a constant search for who is the good & bad guys, which gives the mystery vibes. There’s a strong queer friend-group & chosen family trope, but not with likable characters. Think about it – unlikable female characters, violent at that. Most reviews I’ve read lists that as a main issue they had, but I feel like a lot of this book is the experimentation of fierce, reckless, dangerous girl characters, who also have other sides to them. Some of it can be excused to this disease they’ve all got and are dying from, the Tox, mutating their bodies in graphic, unique and eerie ways. But they’re also shaped by living in a two-year life & death situation, along with maybe not being the perfect complacent & normal main characters in the first place.

I WAS SHOCKED at having seen one girl of the friendgroup having been described by the main character Hetty in one adoring (almost worshipping) way the whole time. And then we got the other girl’s narrative and she was so different, with clear sociopathic/violent tendencies. But still it was revealed during a situation where you as a reader wanted to feel bad for her, which is when I truly cheered for this duality this book accomplished.

the island setting & writing

Every description was done so well and fit the mystery and horror aspect as the island they’re on takes as much part as any character. It makes so much sense with the quarantine aspect, the fact that one of the characters has a dad she hasn’t seen in a year living in those woods. The woods are alive and overgrown, as is the mutated animals, which is a threat. I’m just surprised by how much the author got into one book tbh. It’s also a lot of fun to read, surprisingly!

conclusion

This book has the mystery, murder, dark humor and boarding-school vibes of Maureen Johnson’s ‘Truly Devious’ mixed in with any dystopian bad-government, mutated animals, body horror you can think of, all with a good dash of forest aesthetic and eerie, descriptive writing. It’s one of my new favourite books and I would totally recommend it. Just don’t expect it to be YA or to like most of the characters.

Quote with slight spoilers:

Death, princesses, assassins | Short Reviews

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I really don’t see the so many impressed (4.36 average on goodsreads) reviewers side on this, because there’s an interesting premise behind this dystopian world, where Scythe’s have to choose who dies because everyone’s immortal. But it’s nothing … new? at the same time?
The ending was great and clever, I guess.
Everything up ’til that point were pretty expected, it all written with a certain coldness that fit the systematic view of death of the story, but also made it somewhat boring to read. And if you want to go philosophical – why not go deeply philosophical instead of just sometimes dropping questions on how this view of death changes this society? and then not going into any real debate?
Overall I’m not that impressed and found it quite boring, while certainly it being a well-composed book. Is this a side-effect of growing up reading Jostein Gaarder’s books? I’m truly curious about the fascination with this book.

The Selection (#1-3) by Kiera Cass

This YA royal series always sounded like something I didn’t want to read, from what I heard of a whiny main character in the competition to become the new princess. But then I was in the mood for something light-hearted and gave it a try. It’s so much more cut-throat than I expected. So fast-paced, but also well written and more and more feminist as it progresses, with the girls finally bonding together. I truly enjoyed seeing this actual reality TV series, much the Hunger Games vibes here, with its cute dresses turn into assassins attacking regularly and then our dear red-haired main character America getting her claws into power and turning the whole thing upside down. It’s any other revolution YA series packaged nicely so that younger girls would pick it up. It’s not perfect, this somewhat luke-warm romance is a huge part of it, but I enjoyed it.

Deadly Class Comics by Rick Remender vol. 1-9

I talked briefly about the TV series adaptation of Deadly Class in this post, and how it looks like dark academia teenage series with its boarding school, found-family trope and ‘assassins training’, then turns into an epic blood bath. Well, let me tell you – this comic series is so filled with blood and horror as it gets so much worse after where the one-season TV series cuts off. Definitely search up trigger warnings before getting into it. But it’s also so awesome. My thought-process reading this was something like;

Oh shit it’s so good!!! How the fuck do you kill people in that many different ways? Is it okay to like this? AHh I quickly sped through that part, I really don’t like seeing eye-balls outside of the body. I have to stop posting on tumblr about this now, people will think I’m crazy. Ok, I like it again now. You can’t really kill of all the characters and then expect us to care about the new ones you introduce with a brief backstory now, can you? Even if they’re interesting enough, fool me once, twice – you know how it goes.

Truly it became really boring around issue six, picked up again for a while and was truly boring when I came to the latest issue nine. But all credit to the creators, it was truly amazing work. Would suggest people to read the first few issues and then try the TV series, but you’re warned.

Introverts Graphic Novels | Short Reviews

Are you in a reading rut? Bored in quarantine? Need memes to send to your friends about being bored in quarantine? Maybe even something to send to friends as a nudge towards staring into the darkness of depression, but not in a way that’s too concerning, but maybe they’ll check up on you more? Okay, that last one was too specific, and most likely the best thing is to just be honest with friends and all that, but it might have been what this post was born from. Anyway! Here’s some good graphic novels aimed at introverted people and perfect now that we all were forced to be more introverted during quarantine.

Emotions Explained with Buff Dudes by Andrew Tsyaston

I know this comic writer as Shen Comix on instagram, where you get a sneak-peak of what types of comics this whole collection is about. But it was my favourite of these ones for many reasons, it was both very cute illustration style, most relatable to me and it had worked well as a collection, without having the different comics be to similiar!

I’ll give it 5/5 stars. Definitely something I will pick up again and again when I need a pick-me-up. Funny comics explaining the weird happenings in life. “Life be like dat” in graphic novel form, if that makes sense.

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

I like and relate to this girl’s introverted ft. bookworms story, with an interesting illustration style. I’m not that big of a fan of something leaning so heavily into being ‘introverted’ to the point where it seems less of a personality and more of an anxiety thing, but I’m not going to get into a discussion on that. It doesn’t really stand out among these others, except by trying a bit too hard to be relatable in every aspect. 3/5 stars.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

This is also a comic series that has lived on the internet as long as I can recall, without me realizing that it’s one person behind this style. Here’s the blog it was born from! It’s just so smartly written, and matched my humor great. It doesn’t shy away from the memoir/darker aspects dealing with depression especially, without overpowering the humor or taking away from anything, a balance which I really respect. The drawing style makes it feel like anyone could do this, but it takes real talent and craft to be this good. 5/5 stars.

There Is No Right Way to Meditate by Yumi Sakugawa

It’s not life-changing or very profound or even very helpful. But it is interesting to look at, a reminder and cute. Maybe being a reminder of what meditation can do for you is enough for me to deem this graphic novel practical in these times with its short colorful guides of genuine tips to practice peace among other such lists. Favourite parts were illustrations of anxiety as a rock, just laying on you. 4/5 stars.

Honorable mentions

Other graphic novels that I’ve read that is similiar to these ones are “I think I am in friend love with you” also by Yumi Sakugawa, and Sarah’s Scribbles vol. 1, 2 & 3. All of my reviews on them are linked. I almost forgot the amazing “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” by Jonny Sun!

——————————————————————————————————————–

my tumblr & twitter

Also I’m doing mentally good for the first week in about two months. It’s a relief. Hope you are all safe!

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston | Book Review

It’s the cutest enemies to lovers story ever!! With royals! Or gay royal and bisexual son of president! American & british culture intertwined at its very best.

Genre: contemporary, lgbt: m/m romance

Pages: 420 pages

Synopsis

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of the family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to ben? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? , how will history remember you?

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: five stars!

I’m just going to gush about how much I liked this book, tbh. I read it so fast and felt like I overdosed on cuteness.

The characters really bring this story, with its political intrigue, making out in the white house and private security trying to catch up with these stupid college-age and not very discreet adults. The sneaking around, the enemies to lovers trope forced on by pretending to be friends after making quite the scandal by their feud, it’s just all great. There’s romantic correspondence in the form of emails, talking about everything from popculture (so well-done as well) to the prince talking about his probably gay princes and king relatives of the past and how they didn’t have cameras following them around.

I didn’t think the main character being bisexual instead of gay would mean this much to me, but it really showed me how it isn’t a thing in most queer books I read, or at least not done in such a good way. There is something different to the questioning of someone who is bisexual, and how Alex briefly has to consider whether he could fall in love with a girl and not have this thing hanging over his very promising political career that he’s worked so hard for. It showcases how his and Henry’s experiences is similar, but also so very different. And then we also get such good and too relatable quotes like (I’ve definitely come to this conclusion more than once myself): “Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves that they’re straight”.

My only problem with this book was how I really wanted them to go deeper on the politics game, but I realize that’s not what this book was and would’ve made it less mainstream. So *shrug*.

Feelings while reading this book: i might’ve cried a bit, but i felt all the feelings, and love it so so much. the writing was so satisfying. such a feel-good queer novel while also having so much conflict.

I need more cute enemies to lovers books right now, with all the political intrigue I can get, preferably queer ones. Please send all your recommendations.

Platonic Love & “I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You” by Yumi Sakugawa

Before reading this book I have a confession to make.

I’ve been really missing two friends that I’m having to stop myself talking about way too much in front of my family now. I’m more attached to them than they’re to me, not that I would ever admit it to them. Only that I did to one of them, the last day before I left the city because of corona, saying that sometimes I made dinner just because he was cooking. (okay we might also be flatmates, let’s be sure no one from real life ever finds this blog, shall we?) Only one of us had been drinking and it was not me, so I wonder where that courage came from. I’ve been actually searching for what my fucking problem is. Dodie Clark (a singer/youtuber) recently made a post with a caption about how she’d been obsessed with Shannon Barry as this better version of her, before they met and actually became friends. Like a friend-crush, but also jealous of. It reminded me of my situation, but both the friends are guys, so it’s not like I’m jealous and comparing myself. Well, only a little. They’re so damn smart. Anyway, enough of my troubles and let’s read this book and hopefully get some clarity or relatability.

After reading this book.

It’s like an adult kids book! This book is filled with interesting and cute, simplistic illustrations, the writing is so precise and everything just describes and/or states for future generations how friendships and friend-crushes are these days, where half or more of the relationship happens online. It also describes my situation nearly perfectly. How many times has I been so excited that the other person also struggles to fall asleep and is willing to discuss cults or strange books we read way too young.

It’s just the perfect little graphic novel. I’m shrugging in real life right now, because I don’t know what more to say. Here’s an example;

I really liked the open end, and hope from the bottom of my heart that these cuties will be best friends forever. I might also have had a online movie night with the two friends, and one of them (the one that seems most detached and independent normally) drunkenly said that this was the best moment of his week. So I’m taking that as a sign that even if we are bad at communicating all three of us, like the nerds we are, I’m not solely imagining this friendship to be bigger and stronger than it is. I might not go in for hugs anytime soon though, because last time I tried two of us was leaving for France and the last friend looked like I’d hit him, he was so confused. Totally worth being the dumb, attached one sometimes for seeing a glimse of the genuine shock on his face.

In summary, read this book if you can get your hands on it, absolutely worth it. It’s short and something I would totally buy in actual book form just to have around as a thing that warms my heart.

Also, a thing that I’ve been doing way more recently is texting friends (or telling them face to face when that was a thing) if I’m thinking about them or think they’re particularly cute that day. Like actually showing affection. I’m reserving that for everyone but these two friends though. They get scared easily, and there’s always a risk they’ll tear up if you bake cake for their birthdays. Fuck, I miss them.

Bipolar books; When We Collided, An Unquiet Mind | Book Review

This is basically me doing two reviews in one, with an intro.

Do you every just realize that you don’t know enough about a group of people’s situation? That’s me after bipolar disorder is a thing that has popped up with a question mark among multiple friends more recently. It makes sense; there’s a lot that will show first signs of bipolar in their early twenties, I’ve started at university where people are under a lot of stress, people are separated from their families and more open because they need support. There’s a whole list of causes.

Read a webmd page on what bipolar is on your own, I’m not going to oversimplify it and then obviously get it wrong. I think An Unquiet Mind’s description of it and constantly using manic-depressive instead makes more sense for people unfamiliar, if not for the actual researchers.

I think I knew more about bipolar than most going into this tiny project, but that’s just because the bar is low. I love this podcast especially by sickboy, called My little blue devil and I where a girl Siobhan talks very openly and with humor about her experiences living with bipolar type 2.

As someone who has other illnesses; what I think is most important to keep in mind is that if you’re reading an account of one person’s experience, that’s that one single person. It might give you better insight into what they’re dealing with, but you can’t apply that to everyone else in that category, which makes sense logically, but people seem to completely forget it when it comes to physical and mental illnesses.

When We Collided by Emery Lord

This is a contemporary young adult with a bit of romance. It has such great characters who form a big chosen family type of bond (though many are siblings so … actual family) with their different problems. The main character Vivi is new in town & has bipolar disorder and is definitely the best written of them. It brings all the summer feelings of a romance, along with all the messiness of someone not stable, but naturally so extroverted and fierce that at the beginning it’s hard to tell for those she interacts with. I’m so mad about reviews that call her a manic pixie dream girl because 1) didn’t someone write a long article about never using that description again and we all agreed and 2) she’s literally manic and you can obviously see the switch. Is there anything I’ve learned in the past couple months it’s that a symptom of manic state is that people don’t have the same risk calculation ability.

4/5 stars. I didn’t enjoy every part as I read it, but it’s stuck in my head, especially Vivi, for a month now.

An Unquiet Mind by Kay. R. Jamison

Trigger warning for suicidal and suicide attempt.

This is a memoir from someone who knows what she’s talking about, having bipolar in her family, struggling with it through her university days, eventually researching bipolar disorder and then getting the diagnosis.

I decided early in graduate school that I needed to do something about my moods. It quickly came down to a choice between seeing a psychiatrist or buying a horse. Since almost everyone I knew was seeing a psychiatrist, and since I had an absolute belief that I should be able to handle my own problems, I naturally bought a horse.

That quote sounds about right. Reminds me a lot of;

Anyway, she eventually sells the horse and gets a psychiatrist and Lithium basically saves her life, as she describes it. Along with the amazing descriptions of living with bipolar, the part where she questions her intentions and her career really got to me. She’s got to face the concept that her disorder might make her a bad psychologist, then she goes through all the reasons why that’s wrong. And the checks she has in place if she were to go suddenly into mania (though unlikely). She instead uses that drive and passion to be a better researcher on her own disorder, which was really inspiring.

But I compare myself with my former self, not with others. Not only that, I tend to compare my current self with the best I have been, which is when I have been mildly manic. When I am my present “normal” self, I am far removed from when I have been my liveliest, most productive, most intense, most outgoing and effervescent. In short, for myself, I am a hard act to follow.

They all seemed very related to one another at the time. Not only did they seem related, but they seemed together to contain some essential key to the grandiosely tizzied view of the universe that my mind was beginning to spin.

5/5 stars. It’s beautifully written, so honest and I’m honestly impressed about the courage to publish (in 1995) for someone who is very aware about the risks of having her career as a clinical psychologist questioned afterwards.

A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter | Book Review

A new book on the list of all-time favourites.

Genre: nonfiction, memoir, travel to the Arctic

Pages: 224

Synopsis

In 1934, the painter Christiane Ritter leaves her comfortable life in Austria and travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, to spend a year there with her husband. She thinks it will be a relaxing trip, a chance to “read thick books in the remote quiet and, not least, sleep to my heart’s content”, but when Christiane arrives she is shocked to realize that they are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, battling the elements every day, just to survive.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies… But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic’s harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

This rediscovered classic memoir tells the incredible tale of a woman defying society’s expectations to find freedom and peace in the adventure of a lifetime. 

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: five stars

Reading this book was an experience, one that made me actually want to take a trip further north than Norway, to experience the Arctic for myself. Which sounds both dumb and unrealistic, but truly read this book if you want to understand why.

This book is special because of many reasons. It’s a memoir from 1934 by a german woman, the painter Christiane Ritter. Her husband has already fallen in love with the Arctic, and she decided to uproot her comfortable and rich life and see what it’s all about herself. He warns her about how isolated it really is, but it’s almost as if he’s forgotten the big change from normal city life already, becoming used to having to fend for himself, to have no one to turn to when the hut gets covered in snow, and travelling great distances to search for a better stove to cook on.

It’s obvious that it’s written in another time from Christiane Ritter’s position in life, but the emotion she conveys through very sparce wording was really breathtaking. I know enough about the cold emptiness of certain landscapes that I felt I could recognize it, and the feelings the vastness brings after you get over its overwhelming fear of isolation.

Everyone should give this book a chance, it won’t be for everyone’s taste, but it earns its place among my favourite books of all time because of its uniqueness. Why did I feel like this contains lessons in writing as well. I really wanted to add some quotes, but I left the beautiful book filled with markings at home by the university, and as its closed for now, this will have to do.

My feelings reading this book: fear on Christiane’s behalf, then impressed & mindblown. I really loved the third person with them most of the time, the Norwegian, who Christiane talks about the strange customs of. He represented my norwegian heart too well.

Rereading All For The Game Series by Nora Sakavic

The Foxhole Court – The Raven King – The King’s Men

What do you do when you’ve got five exams looming over you? Reread 1225 pages, divided over three books and two days. Yeah, I’m not a person to have many regrets, but that doesn’t mean it was a good idea.

I love this book series so much! And not everyone does. It’s a book series that people seemingly more often either love or hate.

There’s a few things you have to suspend your belief over to enjoy these books (which are clearer to me now that I’ve read it more than three times); one of the guys, Andrew, is on medicines that doesn’t make sense. Also the sport – exy – is made up. Which is great because you don’t need to know anything about it! It’s self-published and a bit rough around the edges as a book, but also that’s part of what makes it so great.

TW for rape. I’ve seen this book compared to the Captive Prince trilogy by C. S. Pacat, but I’ve read both and think that comparison is complete bullshit. Captive Prince was violent if a whole different way and full of excuses for that violence. The only thing similiar is how actions in the first book of both series are looked at differently after finishing the third book. Which is a good reason to reread it!

The characters are what I love most about this series. It’s a group of misfits being forced to cooperate and in the process forming a family, a type of book I’m a sucker for. I like the second and third book better than the first one, just because Neil is developing into putting his trust in a few people and you also see how close they’ve become. I’m also posting my first review of the foxhole court; written in 2016, but it still portrays my feelings rereading it.

Neil Josten

I still relate too much to this main character. I mean, Andrew is interesting in a way that I’ve found all characters like him. After this book I read Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater, where Ronan Lynch is another character with tendency to be scary that I love. But Neil hits me still in a different way, where he has this urge to run away all the time and have created unhealthy coping mechanisms out of necessity. This book is just about how fucked up abuse can make you. His circumstances is soo very unlikely and special, like out of a hollywood movie, but if you take it down a few levels it’s themes that I’ve not found as central in other books I read. Especially not in this YA-ish format (it’s not young adult though).

The Cybernetic Tea Shop | Book Review

Genre: sci-fi short story, romance, asexual main character

Pages: 65

Synopsis

Clara Gutierrez is a highly-skilled technician specializing in the popular ‘Raise’ AI companions. Her childhood in a migrant worker family has left her uncomfortable with lingering in any one place, so she sticks around just long enough to replenish her funds before she moves on, her only constant companion Joanie, a fierce, energetic Raise hummingbird.

Sal is a fully autonomous robot, the creation of which was declared illegal ages earlier due to ethical concerns. She is older than the law, however, at best out of place in society and at worst hated. Her old master is long dead, but she continues to run the tea shop her master had owned, lost in memories of the past, slowly breaking down, and aiming to fulfill her master’s dream for the shop.

When Clara stops by Sal’s shop for lunch, she doesn’t expect to find a real robot there, let alone one who might need her help. But as they begin to spend time together and learn more about each other, they both start to wrestle with the concept of moving on… 

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating: five out of five stars

A short & cute sci-fi love story, set in an old tea shop, between a highly-skilled technician working on AI and a fully autonomous asexual robot! Which I really didn’t think would work, but when the sci-fi world was first explained it made complete sense. There’s what we would define as robots, which have been programmed by a human to do tasks or act a certain way, and then there’s these high-tech beings that should be considered as intelligent, aware and (probably) given the same rights as humans – to the point where they stopped creating them because they were too full of free will. And that’s the type of “robot” in this love story, called Sal.

I really liked the writing and the focus on routines and daily life of Sal the robot, as well as the technician Clara having her quirks, with wanting to travel and keep her distance from people. It was all so perfectly put together; the emotion, the plot, the romance building up and showing how these two people fit together so perfectly. It succeeded in telling the story of someone at the edge of society, being considered different and harassed for it.

What really made this story work is seeing scenes from the robot’s perspective as well. The writing and thoughts were clearly different, but at the same time human enough. It became a journey of trying to figure out what was memories and “human” emotional connection to the tea shop for Sal and what was their ancient programming tying them to the place they were tasked to upkeep.

I would whole-heartedly recommend this story, even if you’re like me and is usually so much more interested in the sci-fi aspects than the romantic story. I love tea and rituals and robots and skilled introverted technicians. I’m looking forward to reading more short stories by the author!

Fav quotes *minor spoilers*

Her wanderlust was hard to explain to anyone who didn’t feel likewise. Too many people were rooted to a concept of home, wanted to have the same place to return to every day, to walk the same paths between home and work and back, to see the same faces every day. Nobody would just nod to the idea that she could decide to leave before she’d picked somewhere to go. 

They lay together in a tangle of skirt and blankets and discarded cords and chips.

She couldn’t cry, and despite that, she heard herself make the sound, a shaky breath, a sob, and she flung her arms around Clara and just held on as she tried to find her own center, tried to find a way to understand herself that wasn’t defined in contrast to anyone else.