I read a lot of LGBT+ short fiction, and a lot of these are hit or miss (many, many misses). But Coffee Boy was absolutely a hit for me. I haven’t read a lot of fiction that features a transgender protagonist, so I don’t know if I’m the proper authority as to whether this character was written well. However, I enjoyed this character – Kieran – very much. I also enjoyed his dynamic with the main love interest, Seth. You’ve got two, stubborn, queer men fighting all the sexual tension.
This is definitely a coming-of-age story as well, and it was interesting to read it through a transgender/queer perspective (that is a weird way to put it, but I’m not sure how else to at the moment). I really like how this story also shows that you can come of age at any time in your life.
I don’t have much more to say, except that this was a really sweet story, very well-written, and full of dynamic main characters.
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When I first heard of Piranesi, I only heard that it was a philosophical twist on the paintings of the real Piranesi. Ergo, I was sure the book would be fantastic, but I had no idea what I was getting into. Turns out, this was a wonderfully mind-boggling book that took the paintings of Piranesi and transformed them into a world within worlds. I won’t go into too much description, not only to save you from spoilers, but because the plot is very difficult to describe.
What I will talk about is Susanna Clarke’s imagery, which is always on point. If you’ve read her other works (such as Strange and Norrell), then you will know that Clarke is a master of imagery and description. In Piranesi, she describes long, vaulted halls filled with statuary – not only how it looks, but how it feels and sounds to the protagonist (also named Piranesi). Clarke also describes the halls in such a way that you could see yourself becoming mad, forgetting anything but these long and labyrinthine halls – a key point in the plot of this book. We don’t know whether these worlds of Piranesi are real. They could be in the mind of the protagonist, or in the mind of his enemy. What matters is that they feel real.
This is one of those books that I consider to be peak academia. The protagonist views the halls as a means of scientific discovery, recording his findings and hypotheses in journals, which is the format of the novel itself. There is, again, the madness that comes with such discoveries, and which we often find in rather exaggerated academic settings. However, Clarke writes this madness so well, so that we do not think that the protagonist is mad at all. In fact, we end up sympathizing with the protagonist, knowing that he is in the right (even if he has taken leave of many of his senses).
I absolutely loved this novel. It’s probably one of my favorite academia novels, and one of my favorite sci-fi. I love sci-fi novels that are subtle, that try to immerse you slowly, and Piranesi does such a good job of that. If you’re looking for something great in the academia genre, but also has elements of sci-fi and fantasy, this is the book for you.
Also apologies that this review is so late – I was in the middle of grading exams and that takes up a lot of brain space.
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It’s been quite a while since I’ve written an update or done a book review – not that long (I think my last update was early March?), but I would like to be updating more frequently.
I’m still reading, of course, and thinking up ideas for stories, but it’s been a bit slower lately because: I got a job that I really wanted! I’m a sessional (adjunct) professor at a university, teaching mythology, and I could not be happier. It has been taking up most of my time, however, which means less time for reading and writing when I want to. I will have more time in May and in the summer when the course I’m teaching ends, which I am looking forward to.
Even though I haven’t had time to write or read as much, I still have had ideas and I am reading very slowly, so I can update you all on those!
Currently, I’m reading Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, which I am loving so much. It’s the perfect combination of academia, sci-fi, and philosophy that I enjoy. I’m not finished yet – I think I’m about halfway through – but I am enjoying the savoring of the story. Also, it is written as diary entries, so it’s very easy to put down and pick up again.
As for writing, I am thinking of going back to an idea that very literally came to me in a dream once, about a tree that grew through the middle of my house. I’ve written short poems about this idea before, but I am entertaining thoughts of writing a short story or longer work about it. But that won’t happen beyond an idea until May at the least.
So that’s where I am currently. I hope you are all doing very well, and enjoying the coming of Spring!
Slade House is a chilling, paranormal story – actually series of short, related stories – about a house and a set of twins who defy the laws of time and decay.
This book is like Coraline for adults, but without any inkling of warmth. Not to say that that’s a bad thing – this book is meant to feel cold, to feel fake and empty, to feel like a void, and it does it well.
I think, however, it was a little too empty and cold for me personally. But it was still a compelling read.
Here’s what I liked:
I liked that each character who gets lured to Slade House is already facing the brink of their own void. They come into this haunting already fragile, and that is why they are lost. I do wish that some of the characters had better qualities about them (I think Sally was the only one I actually empathized with), but that would mean they might not have been ripe for the picking.
I liked the atmosphere. This book is so wonderfully atmospheric, and David Mitchell makes each guest’s experience of Slade House different enough that you feel like you are yourself in a dream with them. The atmosphere of Slade House and its many forms is oppressive, in a way that sucks you in and refuses to let you go.
The biggest complaint that I have is that the book doesn’t go into the hauntings enough. Not of the house or the twins, but of the guests lost to Slade House. In the beginning, we get images of ghosts and their “residue,” but by the last couple of guests, the story has very little mention of these hauntings. I do wish we had seen more involvement from the ghostly inhabitants, maybe find out what happens to them in the end.
Overall, Slade House is a compelling book with a chilling and heavy atmosphere that will leave you wondering if it had all been a dream. I recommend it to those who liked books like Coraline, and other chilling haunts.
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The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston is about Tolly, a boy who goes to stay with his great-grandmother in the castle-like home Green Knowe, or Green Noah. There, Tolly not only finds a kindred spirit in his great-grandmother, but also in the animals, and actual spirits that reside at Green Noah.
This was such a lovely read, one I know my childhood self would have loved too. I discovered this book when I was reading Wintering by Katherine May. May said that this was a favorite ghost story that she liked to read during the winter months, and so of course I had to read it too. I wouldn’t necessarily call this book a ghost story – the spirits in this book didn’t feel negative or haunting in any way. Rather, I would call this a child’s adventure with a gothic feel. Actually, it sort of reads like The Turn of the Screw but with a lot more adventure and positivity. I very much enjoyed The Turn of the Screw, and I think that, plus the sense of adventure, was why I very much enjoyed Green Knowe.
Tolly is my ideal type of kid: imaginative, playing pretend, with a sense of adventure, and a love of ghosts-that-might-be-friends. He is akin to many of my other favorite literary characters: Aveline Jones, Tilly from Pages & Co., the narrator from The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Hilda, and many others.
His great-grandmother has this sort of spirit and personality as well, and I so want to be like her as I grow through my life.
This book is simply written, but the imagination within is so alive with adventure and stories. I did also like the parts where Tolly’s great-grandmother told him stories by the fire – it made the whole thing so very cozy, especially now in the last of the winter months.
I recommend this book to those who want a quiet and cozy adventure in a gothic setting to bring them back to their childhood.
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Crazy in Poughkeepsie by Daniel Pinkwater is a charming and silly slice-of-life adventure story, in which our narrator, Mick, a guru from New Jersey, his brother, and two friends embark on an adventure around the city of Poughkeepsie.
I received an advanced e-copy of this book from Tachyon Publications, and it could not have come at a better time! I have been loving middle grade adventure stories lately, and this book gave me exactly what I wanted. I only wish it was longer, but that just means I now need to read Pinkwater’s other books!
There are many things I liked about this book, but for now I want to talk about the top three things I really liked about it.
First, are the characters. All of them are slightly crazy, but all of them are also super likeable. At first you think the guru from New Jersey is going to be a fraud and a layabout. But, it turns out the guru is a very wise and silly layabout, that does and teaches Mick, his new pupil, very good things. And Mick himself is skeptical about all this at first, but goes along with it and finds that he enjoys the guru’s various adventures.
Then we have Vern and Molly. I especially want to know more about Molly and the Dwergs (I think that is what they are called) – I really liked how Pinkwater compared them to the fae, although they are much less vengeful.
That is the second thing I want to talk about: the folklore. I really loved how Pinkwater took Poughkeepsie – a city not known for being very exciting – and laid out a whole network of folklore. Besides the Dwergs and the guru, there are ghosts and their specific rules, and people who just seem to know about the mysteries of the world, from circus performers to traveling hobos. The folklore is fascinating, and I like that it was found right under our narrator’s nose!
And the third thing, which is not as prominent as the first two: the absolutely Jewish feel to the story. Now, this may be just because I am Jewish myself, but I saw the Jewish cultural references everywhere, from the language they used (quite a bit of Yiddish), to the names of the characters (you just KNOW a guru with a name like Smythe-Finkel from New Jersey is going to be Jewish). Also pretty sure Mick’s family is Jewish too, with their Kosher Kibble company. I just love it – the nods at Jewish culture were very subtle, but I rather enjoyed it when I noticed it.
Overall, Crazy in Poughkeepsie is a delightful book. It is a simple story with tiny bits of adventure all around, but I think that’s what many of us, me included, need often right now. I recommend this book to those who want a quiet adventure and a bit of funkiness in their lives.
Thanks again to Tachyon Publishing for sending me Crazy in Poughkeepsie!
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I picked up Wintering at the very right time in my life. Not only is it majorly winter here in Winnipeg (-20 degrees and snow), but I am also dealing with my own, personal winter. Katherine May tells anecdotes from her own winters, and how they did ever resonate with me. Just reading stories about someone who also struggles with winters, metaphorical and real, and is learning to embrace it, really validated what I am going through also. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a little help through their winters.
A few things I really liked about this book:
I loved how it was presented as short little stories, either of parts of May’s life, or of stories and information that May has interpreted and incorporated into her life. As the reader, I could find something in each story, or there would be one particular story that touched me and that I can go back to in times of need.
I loved May’s descriptions of physical winter, in her home in England, in Iceland, in the Arctic. In addition, I loved how she felt so awed and energized by the cold and the winter sights. It reminds me that I need to embrace these aspects of winter now that I myself am living in a very cold place.
I really don’t have anything negative to say about this book. It was a wonderful memoir. It felt like a warm hug and a hot cup of tea. It is a true comfort.
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I am so, so happy that the first book I finished for 2022 was The Bewitching of Aveline Jones! I have been waiting to read this book after I read The Haunting of Aveline Jones last year, and just like that first book, this wonderful sequel did not disappoint.
In this book, Hickes brings back Aveline and her friend Harold into another dark and haunting mystery. However, instead of just an angry ghost to contend with, they have to deal with witches too. Now that was a great combination of paranormal plots!
As usual, I loved the haunting and paranormal elements that Hickes wrote. I also loved the folklore elements that he brought into this sequel – about the witches of England and the ways people used to ward against them (some of which I had only heard about recently from the Lore Podcast!). There are other elements of folklore that are included that I cannot mention (spoilers), but every single bit of folklore adds wonderful things to the story.
As always, I loved Aveline as a character. She reminds me so much of myself when I was around her age – always eager for the supernatural and the macabre. But The Bewitching of Aveline Jones also shows her ability to be the best of friends, and to be compassionate to those who are in need. She is a wonderful character, and I wish I had known about her when I was her age.
I do wish we had seen a bit more of Mr. Lieberman and Aveline’s aunt, I really enjoyed them in the first book. But this book featured Harold a lot, and I quite enjoyed his part in the story. What a knowledgeable lad!
I can predict that this is already going to be my top book for 2022, it was so good. This book and the first are easily two of my favorite books of all time. What a way to start the year!
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The Blue Fox is a melting pot of a story, taking the lives of different characters and intertwining them together to create a very strange fairy tale.
This really was a strange tale. So strange that honestly I did not understand a lot of what was going on. That is really why I only gave this book 3 stars. I saw the importance of the blue fox in the story, but the other characters’ stories didn’t make a whole lot of sense most of the way through. In fact, it didn’t come together until the very last chapter. I think I would have liked it better if I understood earlier on why each of the stories were important to each other.
That said, it was very much a fairy tale, and we all know how much I love my fairy tales. The language, too, was beautiful, and it kind of makes me want to learn Icelandic just to get the beauty of the original text. I will have to look up foxes in Icelandic lore now, though I know that foxes are often trickster beings in folklore, and it is no different in this tale.
This was a beautiful read, and maybe at some point I will read it again to see if I can make more sense of the stories.
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I feel like I have not needed books so much in a long time as I have needed them this year. It’s been a tough, though happy, year – I’m in a period of transition, and lots of waiting for things to happen. But reading many of the books I did has gotten me through the time. I wanted to share with all of you the books that helped me, the ones I enjoyed so fully and made my heart feel warm.
This year I read 40 books for the GoodReads yearly reading challenge, which is a little more than my normal average of about 20-30 books. I wanted to share with you the ones I loved the most, my top 5 I think, maybe with a special mention or two. Now, the ones I loved the most do not necessarily have a 5-star rating from me – some of them have 4 or 5 stars.
The first one I want to mention is The Haunting of Aveling Jones by Phil Hickes. This was the perfect ghost story for me this year: it had an inquisitive bookworm for a main character, a haunted house, a stormy sea where ghosts and deaths repeat themselves. So spooky and fun, Hickes really found the perfect style and atmosphere for a great haunting tale.
Next is Widdershins from the Wyborne and Griffin mystery series by Jordan Hawk. First, let me just say, what an author! Hawk has written so, so many books, probably hundreds as far as I can tell! In addition, he is a trans author who writes mostly lgbt fiction, and it’s all GOOD from what I have read so far. But I digress. Widdershins, the first book in the Wyborne and Griffin series, is probably one of my favorite mlm romances ever, and definitely one of my favorite paranormal romances ever. My friend and I, who are both classicists (she is an archaeologist and I am a philologist), joke that I am like Wyborne, who is a philologist of ancient languages, and she is like Christine who is an archaeologist. It’s so up my alley, and up the alleys of any classicist and paranormal lover. It’s so well-written and fun as well. I could gush over this book forever, and I know I’m rambling, but it’s just so good!!
I read so much lgbt fiction this year, especially mlm fantasy, and Widdershins was only one of them. I think I read at least 10, but I will only mention a few.
The next one I want to mention is Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey. Not only is the lgbt representation wonderful in this book, but the world-building and characters are absolutely amazing. I also like that she makes the main character grow so much into himself – he’s very unlikeable in the beginning, but grows to be a compassionate and real person. I’m actually kind of afraid to read the rest of the books in this trilogy for fear that they don’t live up to the standard that this one set for me. I am going to read them at some point though!
The last lgbt book I want to mention that I absolutely loved was Seven Tears At High Tide by C.B. Lee. Not only does this story have folklore, the sea, and good lgbt representation (bi characters!), but it is such a wholesome and sweet story, I found myself tearing up multiple times just because the story was so lovely. I love going back and rereading sections of the book that have our two protagonists together being cute. I really want to check out C.B. Lee’s other books. I know she (pretty sure she) has written an lgbt Treasure Island retelling, which sounds really intriguing.
And last, but not least, is the most recent book I’ve read, In The Company Of Witches by Auralee Wallace. This is just the coziest book ever. It has everything I could want in a book: mystery, cute towns with b&bs, witches and magic, ghosts, and just the most loving, if not totally crazy, family. This is a book you read cozied up under a blanket with a hot drink on a cold evening. I really need more books like this.
I just want to list some honorable mentions for books I really enjoyed this year, without getting into detail about them – just know I loved them a lot, and you all should very much check them out.
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann
The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell
The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (This one actually got me through the beginning of winter in Winnipeg)
The Hobbits of Tolkien by David Day
Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
And those are all the books I loved this year! I can’t wait to find out what next year will bring, both in terms of books and in terms of where my life is headed. I’m hoping the transitional periods end soon, but until then, I have many books on my tbr to keep me occupied!
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, a happy New Year, and a good start to 2022!