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!

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 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

Five Star Predictions pt. 2 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exciting New Book Releases Autumn 2020 (part two)

I made a weird summer/autumn mix of new releases last time, so I’ll call it a part one.

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour

Release date: September 15th 2020

Why I want to read it: Ghosts, a beautiful remote farm, trauma & loneliness. Same author as a lot of other amazing books; like “We Are Okay” and “Everything Leads To You“.

Burning Roses by S. L. Huang

Release date: September 29th 2020

Why I want to read it: A queer girls retelling of Red Riding Hood and the Chinese mythological archer Hou Yi (which I’ve not read about before), along with a few others mixed into this mashup. Same author as the badass Cas Russell series!

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Release date: October 6th 2020

Why I want to read it: The title was what drew me in tbh. Then I realized it was the same author as another book I want to read; “The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle”. Not to forget the synopsis’ promise of: “A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.”

What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump

Release date: October 15th 2020

Why I want to read it: I first found it because Ocean Vuong is one of many writers in this anthology. I think a lot of poems of empathy & outrage from diverse voices is very much what I need right now.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Release date: October 20th 2020

Why I want to read it: same author as “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”. It promises horror, boarding all-girls school and most importantly sapphic (or lesbian) dark academia

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Release date: October 27th 2020

Why I want to read it: sicilian twin witches, set in 1800s. Murder, vengeance, a sarcastic bad-boy demon princes and dark magic. And I’ve seen people enjoy it so far.

A Court of Silver Flames (ACOTAR #4) by Sarah J. Maas

Release date: October 27th 2020

Why I want to read it: I’ve gotten so far into the series that I want to get through with it, tbh. I’ve mainly given up on still liking this author, it’s like her writing & choices plot and character-wise have declined the last books, probably because of popularity and publishing quicker.

Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett

Release date: November 10th 2020

Why I want to read it: dark academia set in college, lonelines, cults, manipulation and at least one death.

Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive #4) by Brandon Sanderon

Release date: November 17th 2020

Why I want to read it: IT’S THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE, IF IT’S ANY BOOK I EVER HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR IT IS THIS ONE! so excited.

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black

Release date: November 24th 2020

Why I want to read it: It’s a somewhat short story from the Folk of the Air series, so it’s more to complete it than anything else. I’ve always liked Jude better than Cardan since The Cruel Prince.

Ruinsong

Release date: November 24th 2020

Why I want to read it: I’m kind of on the fence for this one, because, while I truly wanted to, I never got into The Seafarer’s Kiss by the same author because personally the writing didn’t fit me. But this one has enemies to lover vibes and promises sapphic (lesbian) characters, not to mention underground rebellion, so I’m willing to give it another try.

 

Witchy Reads for this Autumn (part one)

Witchy books I recommend and a couple I want to get to, along with a few popular ones I disliked. I’ve tried to keep the most fantasy-heavy books out of this list on purpose, and keep it more in the magical realism realm. Also, if you’ve got any recommendations – especially with queer witches – send them my way!

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw (full review) for a magical realism story about a small-town by the sea cursed by witches, the protagonist moving to the lighthouse on the island and uncovering the mysteries behind the magic.

Circe by Madeline Miller (full review) for the greek mythology fantasy set around a girl alienated because of her witchcraft and the great journey of self-discovery unlike much I’ve seen in other books. She’s truly going through the process of owning her powers and deciding what she wants in life while she’s in exile. Also greek gods & protecting yourself from pirates, of course.

The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (full review) for the peculiar magical realism travelling into the fairytale world while following stories of magic and destinies through generations of witches starting with a girl born with wings.

Witch Child & Sorceress by Celia Rees for the child-friendly witchy book with a historical setting. Actually it was some of the first witchy books I really liked. It’s been a long time since I read them, so I’m not going to vouch for still considering them original enough now, but goodread friends seem to all agree with the child version of me that they’re good. I do think the first book is the best one, told through ‘lost’ journals.

The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney also for the kids, but more scary. It’s about this boy becoming an apprentice, which entails hunting after all kinds of supernatural creatures, including dark witches.As the series continues, we go from a boy getting into a cool, but dangerous job to starting to think about moral questions like ‘are all witches evil?’ as new characters are introduced. Still, this series really manages to incorporate just how terrifying some of the creatures are, becoming lost in the magic. Definitely anti-church in some ways that gives it more negative reviews than it should have. And while it has a lot of supernatural evil, it measures it up against the ‘human’ evil the apprentice & the mentor meet as well in their job. It gives you chills, but also makes you think – at least it did for me as a child.

Other witchy books on my TBR:

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey for its bisexual love interest, magical witchy school and and promise of lots of blood, violence and other questionable things. The protagonist has zero magical skills, but tries to outweigh it by having good detective skills, a drinking problem and when all else fails – a witch sister to help (probably). It’s an urban fantasy/murder mystery standalone, and also contains several f/f relationships.

Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter for the protagonist being a secret witch tired of her patriarchal town’s bullshit, and helping a lesbian shapeshifter during a witchhunt. It’s a novella. I found it trough a list of anti-heroine book recommendations, so excited about finding out the reason for that.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor for the fantasy set in Nigeria where the albino protagonist who recently moved from New York gets bullied, but through finding her magical gifts finds a friend-group and her people. Forming a coven, they start tracking child kidnappers.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning for the small fishing town, mermaids, princes & a witch mourning a dead friend. It might be somewhat of a Ursula origin story.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn for the King Arthur legends retold with a black girl as the main character. The death of her mother leads her to an early college program where she meets a witch. Well, it’s more of a fantasy so technically there’s this whole race of people called Legendborns that use magic, but they’re descendants of King Arthur & his knights – so in my head they’ll be witches. Also contains lots of queer kids, secret society politics and demons.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson for its rebellious feminist biracial main character who is marked as cursed from birth in a dystopian, puritanical society with major abuse of power. It’s a horror story of a fantasy, with promises of being gothic, dark and bloody, set in a secluded village with witches in the forbidden forest & lots of village politics. It’s also a debut novel from an author that seems truly cool.

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw (same author as The Wicked Deep) for the haunted fairytale-like woods, a boy once lost in a snowstorm with no memories of how and a witch falling in love with him as she tries to uncover his secrets.

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco for its sicilian twin witches – streghe – living among humans in the 1800s trying to avoid persecution, until one of them is murdered. A new release with a story of vengeance, sarcastic bad boy demon princes and dark magic.

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft for a short story collection about witches that I’ve only seen praise about, with a diverse cast of characters. I want to read about all the queer witches.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu for the graphic novel about a Chinese-American teen witch who works at her queer grandmother’s bookshop selling spellbooks and investigating supernatural occurrences. Has a non-binary werewolf main character as well. I can’t wait to get my hands on this, I’m expecting a Kiki’s delivery service type of wholesome vibe, only more demons involved.

Books I disliked, but you might like

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins for the teen drama at a witch & supernatural creatures reform school, complete with ancient secret societies and classmates being attacked. You get what you think you get, if in a very predictable package plot-wise and stereotypical characters (not in a bad way, but in a predictable one). It’s fun, the protagonist self-aware & fast-paced. Good for young teenagers looking for a light read.

Half bad by Sally Green is included on this list only as an excuse to link to my old (like five year old) review ranting about how creepy the writing is. It’s a good example of a book being read and liked by people who doesn’t usually read about witches, just because it’s got enough cliches to be avoided by everyone else. There’s little magic, little back-story or any context clues, a lot of running around, a lot of whining about being half-black half-white* kind of witch making life difficult and a lot of angst and torture for some reason. It has an exciting ending. *Not to be confused with skin-color, the protagonist is white, and also describes the love interest what I considered creepily (and in rhymes), including noting her ‘honey’ skin. 16 year old me thought the racial undertones throughout the whole book was problematic, but I can’t remember enough to conclude anything and don’t want to put myself through reading it again.

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton (full review), same author as Ava Lavender, for its witches living on an island where their magical abilities seem to fade with each generation. My problems came with not being able to know enough to buy into the setting of the island or connect with the cast of characters, I felt they lacked depth.

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.

Alt som ikke har blitt tjoret fast, Eirin Gundersen | Review

Sider: 80

Sjanger: Diktsamling

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For et nydelig cover. Føler det passer innholdet og følelsen det gir veldig godt. 

Boken handler om en kvinne som drar tilbake til øya familien og forfedrene hennes kommer fra. Hun samler sammen og gjenforteller historier om stedet, i tillegg til hennes egne opplevelser fra besøk i barndommen.

Diktsamlingen er fordelt på tre deler, fra hva jeg kan forstå er formen på grensen til hva man kan kalle en diktsamling. Tekstene er ganske lange, ikke at dette er noe negativt. Jeg likte skrivemåten, beskrivelsene var korte, men vakre og livaktige.

Boken var forskjellig fra noe jeg har lest før, men samtidig var temaet veldig gjenkjennelig og følelsen av hjem og tilhørighet er godt formidlet. I alt ble det kanskje litt for likt hverdagen min, familien min kommer også fra en gård veldig utilgjengelig uten båt. Rett uti fjorden kan jeg skimte den der jeg kjører forbi daglig. Historiene som er inkludert i boken, med båtforlis i 1883 og ulykker, er gitt en veldig dramatisk tone. Disse delene var ikke like interessante for meg som forfatterens egne tiknytning til stedet. Dette kan ha noe med at jeg selv har familiehistorier om ulykker, helt fram til noen jeg kjente omkom på fjorden rett utenfor vår gård. Forfatteren kan snakke med en viss distanse, for meg er det noe som treffer meg hver gang jeg legger i kai.

Derfor er det kanskje ikke så rart at disse to delen var spesielt uhyggelige, men definitivt treffende:

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Og en av delene jeg likte godt:

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The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 280

Genre: fantasy, fairytales

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“The beast might shout and snarl, and he might well devour her, but he’d at least been interested enough to listen to her speak.”

A new collection of short fairytale-inspired fantasy stories, some set in the grisha universe. I’ve never seen illustrations that fits the stories so well, and it’s a treat as the picture becomes more complete each time you turn the page.

I have a long and bumpy history with fairytale retellings, mostly irritated by them not modernizing or putting a twist on traditional fairytales, or doing so and forgetting to be a complete and good book as well. The stories in this book definitely mantained the magic and mysterious feeling of fairytales, while having more depth and interesting characters, not to mention the great endings. In some stories it’s clear right away where the inspiration is from, personally I seem to like the stories that were most unlike the original. While I like Bardugo’s writing, I feel it can sometimes become too focused on being clever and unexpected than actually keeping a reader attentive to the story itself. I’ve felt it in books like “crooked kingdom” before, and it seem to be more of a problem when the fairytale behind the story was obvious. It’s tricky, because the cleverness is arguably what makes her stand out as an author as well.

I have two favourite stories that I would recommend this book for alone. “When water sang fire” is the last story and I got pulled in to the relationship between Ulla and Signy and how it would play out. Also I love mermaids. “Ayama and the thorn wood a strong second “ is a close second for me, just the spirit of that girl and how she overcomes her circumstances is lovely to read.

*spoiler below*

An example of the lovely drawings, that spoils some of the plot of one story, but included as a reason you need to get this book in physical form.

Continue reading

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

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A collection of short stories by a brilliant, bestselling chinese author. It’s a great mix of fantasy, magical realism, fiction and science fiction here, along with chinese elements and culture being central in many stories.

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“Time’s arrow if the loss of fidelity in compression. A sketch, not a photograph. A memory is a re-creation, precious because it is both more and less than the original.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Each story is like its own universe and it takes some time to get into it, but it’s very worth it when you’re rereading each story three times in a row and marvel at the nuances, writing and genuine brilliance.

I wondered whether to make small reviews of each story, but I feel like it would give too much away. The best way to get into this book is by knowing it’s incredible and go pick it up right away with little extra info. Still, if you’re not convinced, here’s what you can expect from this collection; 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), immense sacrifices and a few that will make you teary eyed including about unit 731 and the biological warfare and experimentation in China during WW2.

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Some of the stories are incredibly important and heartfelt, like the one about unit 371, based on horrible historical events I’d never heard before. Others are a good mix of that social commentary and entertainment, while some are simply, but not simple, fun fantasies. Everything has layers, so much creativity and originality, I love this book and it’s one of my favourite reads, at least this year. I have to go read more Ken Liu books now.