Book Review – Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Did you ever imagine the ways in which time could be different? Did you ever imagine stepping through time to the past, future, or other version of time out of your wildest dreams? This book brings to life so many concepts of time, as I read them I felt like I was truly inside of Einstein’s dreams.
While this book is a work entirely of fiction, one could imagine that these are what Einstein would have dreamt about as he came up with his theory of time. He imagines time standing still, time moving too quickly, time in the form of pictures, time slowing down the higher or the faster you go, time circular and time linear, the consequences of immortality on time, and several others that stir the imagination.

That is what I loved about this book: it stirs the imagination and makes the reader think of all the possibilities the universe could have. Now I must admit that this is the type of book that would mess me up: any philosophy on the nature of time, space, and/or existence makes me think of possibilities, and sometimes what is possible can, shall I say, break my mind.

One other thing I loved about this book is the imagery. Lightman describes Berne and the surrounding areas so well you can imagine being there and seeing the city as Einstein did. You can hear the sounds of the bustling city, see the glow of the sun on the peaks of the Alps, feel it a living, breathing place in time.

The only real criticism I have of this book is that I wish there were more chapters that talked about Einstein himself and his life. There were chapters like this which served as interludes between the dream chapters, but I would have liked to have had more, and perhaps with more speculative analysis of the dreams from Einstein’s character.

I would recommend this book to those who love philosophical science fiction, to lovers of Jules Verne novels, and those who want to experience a different time. I would definitely reread this book again.



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Mooncakes – Extended Review

“Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.” – Taken from the summary on Goodreads.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu has been recommended so much by the internet book communities, and I was not at all disappointed. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the story is as heartwarming as any story could ever get. The diversity included in this novel is amazing as well, including diverse characters both real and mythological.

Overall, there really wasn’t anything I didn’t like in this novel. However, there were elements which I thought could be expanded upon. I feel like some aspects were limited, such as the mythology included in certain parts of the story. We see mythical creatures that live in the nearby forest, though with no explanation as to what they are or where they come from – all we know is that they are friends of the heroes. In addition to this mythology, I would’ve liked to have seen more lore about werewolves, which admittedly the protagonists are not so learned in. This they did a good job with, creating a limited perspective in the narration so that readers are able to learn and go on this adventure along with the protagonists. In any case, I hope perhaps Walker and Xu will go on to expand this universe a bit more, as not only do I want to know more about the mythology of Mooncakes, but I just want to read more of Walker and Xu’s work!

While there is so much explained about Tam’s (the werewolf) fight for self-realization, but not so much for Nova’s (the young witch). We see Nova at some odds with her parents about her not having left home to find herself. In the end she does decide to leave to find herself, but we don’t get much insight into the decision making that went on in her mind. While this isn’t necessarily essential to Nova’s character, I’d still like to have seen some more about her character and personality.

The following are the elements of this book I absolutely loved. One thing this book did phenomenally is portray diverse characters in abundance and depth. Nova Huang comes from a half-Chinese half-Jewish family – portrayed wonderfully by the joint celebration of Chinese New Year and Sukkot. She is raised by two grandmothers. She is also in a queer relationship with Tam Lang who is also, I assume, POC, and is non-binary. Unfortunately we don’t get to meet too many other characters besides Nova’s family and the antagonists, but I have no doubt Walker and Xu would portray them with the same care and depth.

What can I say about Wendy Xu’s art in this book other than that it is amazing. The colors remind me of Autumn (no surprise as it is very themed for Halloween), and while they are simple drawings, they are colored and expressed so vividly. I especially liked the trees and the art of the mythical forest creatures – I just want a whole book of Xu’s mythical creatures!

It is clear from the beginning that Nova and Tam have a history as childhood friends (and perhaps more), and so it was no surprise that they fell together so quickly in the beginning of the book. In addition, the two from the start are willing to work on their relationship, it’s not star-crossed or fated, it’s simply made and worked on by two people who have a lot of love to give. Of course there is a grand kiss at the end, but instead of it being a kiss after a long slow burn, it is a kiss of relief that things can finally settle.

I recommend Mooncakes to anyone who needs a bit of love and magic in their life.

I know this is my first book of 2020, but I can already see it being one of my favorites.

Buy me a coffee.

Book Review – Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Mooncakes

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Mooncakes has been recommended so much by the internet book communities, and I was not at all disappointed. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the story is as heartwarming as any story could ever get. The diversity included in this novel is amazing as well: you have a non-binary character and their deaf girlfriend who is part of (what I believe is) a part Chinese part Jewish (etc.) family. Not to mention the diverse mythical beings, which I would love to see more of in Walker and Xu’s other works!

Most of all this is a story about love, family, and growing into one’s self.
I recommend Mooncakes to anyone who needs a bit of love and magic in their life.

I know this is my first book of 2020, but I can already seeing it being one of my favorites.



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My Top 10 Books of 2019

10. Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson

9. The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

8. The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

7. The Rental Heart by Kirsty Logan

6. Pages & Co. by Anna James

5. Jake, Lucid Dreamer by David Naiman

4. The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg

3. Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

2. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

  1. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

You can find each book review on this blog!

Book Review – The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Shore

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


While this book is called The Bookshop on the Shore, it is barely about said bookshop. What it is about is love and family. Set on the shores of Loch Ness, Jenny Colgan has written a beautiful book, where one can see the Loch and the bright autumn colors of the highland landscape.
The book has a premise of Jane Eyre, with a young woman going to a strange house to nanny the children of a mysterious (and handsome man). It is this premise that pulled me into this book.
The only parts of this book I really would complain about are that there are certain passages that Colgan has written very confusingly. They are hard to understand, and could just be written better.

Overall Colgan has written a charming and vivid story, which I recommend to anyone wanting a trip to Scotland and a fresh start.



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Book Review – The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I love ghost stories, especially those that border on the gothic. What I consider to be a good ghost story is when the writer takes the mundane and colors it with tiny traces of the supernatural, just enough to make the reader feel uneasy. Edith Wharton is among such writers, writing with such frankness as to lull the reader into a false sense of security. She even seems to add a sort of game for her readers. Going into each of her stories I knew there would be a ghost somewhere, but the fun and mystery is to speculate who the ghost is going to be and where. It could be the old gardener, a woman who died in the house long ago, it could even be the master of the house! After that it’s just a matter of how we the readers and the protagonists of each story choose to deal with the ghost presented to them.

I recommend this book to all who are ready for the spookiest season of the year, and who want some fun and games with the supernatural.




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Thoughts on The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson (and thoughts on Shirley Jackson in general)

Today I have just added The Missing Girl to my ever-growing collection of Shirley Jackson stories. If you do not know yet, Shirley Jackson is my favorite author. Now that is not to say that she has written my favorite book (that is Tolkien). Rather, I have loved all her work consistently, and the genre she writes in is my favorite: horror/thriller/downright odd. The three stories in The Missing Girl are no exception to my love of Shirley Jackson’s work.

Most of you have probably watched the recent show “The Haunting of Hill House”, based on Jackson’s book of the same name. The book is wonderfully spooky and psychologically compelling, dealing with the main character Eleanor’s neuroses about herself and how she fits into the world, and ultimately how she fits into the scheme of Hill House itself.
Shirley Jackson takes a mundane world and turns it upside down. Often her stories center on a female main character living a normal life – whether as a wife, a secretary, an old woman living alone in her house, friendly to all her neighbors (remember that these books were written from around the 40s to te 60s). These characters step out of their normal routine by doing something that wouldn’t seem abnormal – going on an errand, sending a letter, visiting a friend, getting away for the weekend – and she meets the abnormal on the way, getting lost in some way on the journey. Similar plots happen in the three stories of The Missing Girl.

(Spoilers ahead)

In the first story, “The Missing Girl”, a 13 year old girl goes missing from a summer camp. Her roommate didn’t think anything of it at the time because the girl said she would go out. When the camp realizes she is missing they do what people normally do when someone goes missing: they search. However, as the search goes on longer, the camp and the girl’s family start to realize that the girl may not have ever actually attended the camp as she was supposed to. At the end, the question becomes, did the girl ever exist in the first place?

In the second story, “Journey with a Lady”, a young boy travels on a train alone, when a lady sits down on the train next to him. It turns out she is running from the law. The boy at first does not want anything to do with the lady, but when he finds out she is a fugitive and why, he spends time with her, giving her a sense of normalcy and life before she has to turn herself in.

The last story, “Nightmare”, lives up to its title. A secretary, Miss Morgan is tasked by her boss to deliver a package to someone across town. Along the way she sees advertisements for people to find a “Miss X”, who coincidentally (or perhaps not so much) looks exactly like Miss Morgan. After hours of trying to escape the advertisements and people following her, knowing she looks like their “Miss X”, she succumbs to this new role into which the world has put her. And ultimately, she is very happy with the change.

One of the key points in Jackson’s writings is the stepping over the threshold into a different reality. Sometimes the reality is better than the old one, as with Miss Morgan. Other times it leads to loss and confusion, dealings with supernatural beings, or otherwise, death as in Eleanor’s case. The liminality of these stories makes the reader (i.e. myself) feel so wonderfully uneasy, and has them wondering what threshold they have yet to cross, or what supernatural and odd aspects of life are waiting for them in a version of their own realities.

Book Review-The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have not been into a book as much as I have been into The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon for a long time. In this novel, 9-year-old Trisha strays from the path and gets lost in the woods, encountering challenges the woods brings her, whether real or not.

As a lover of survival video games, this novel was utterly compelling. The way King writes Trisha’s character has the reader relating to her so much that it’s almost as if the reader and Trisha are one in the decisions that she makes, the fears that she feels, and wondering constantly if this whole thing isn’t just in her head. In the end, both the reader and Trisha find out that the difference between reality and dreams does not matter when you are lost.
The visual descriptions that King provides are so vivid I could imagine myself right in the forest with Trisha.

A big theme in this book is decisions. Not only the decisions Trisha must make during her long trek in the woods, but also the decisions of those who have lost and are looking for her: her mother’s and brother’s decisions of being so stubborn that they push Trisha away; her father’s decision to manipulate in his own way; and so on. It is a wonderful take on humanity – decisions are what define us, make us selfish like Trisha’s parents, or even point us further away from our goals, like Trisha strayed from the path in the woods. In the end, we must make the decisions that will make us stronger, and Trisha does just this.

Overall, I have struggled to put down The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon throughout my read of it. I recommend this novel to anyone who feels lost, and who wants a good thriller.



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Book Review-Garden of Ravens by Krystal Jane Ruin

Garden of Ravens

Garden of Ravens by Krystal Jane Ruin

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I reviewed this collection for NetGalley.

I went into Garden of Ravens thinking I was going to get a clever collection of poems that uses themes of folklore and fairytale. After all, as the description says, it is a” collection of dark poetry that journeys through folklore, twisted tales, mental breakdowns, and depression”.

What there actually was of folklore was very little, and I would not call the use of these references clever. There were references to Little Red Riding Hood, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Macbeth, Greek Myths, and a few others; I can see how they were trying to be used, in a way of feminism and representation of abuse. However, all these references did was add a small amount of intellect to an otherwise depressing collection. All in all the folklore themes really were not very important to this collection, which is disappointing.

Most of the collection is about heartbreak and it is very clear that the author needs therapy. It is in the same style and theme as the poems of Rupi Kaur. I understand why it sells, it directly evokes a lot of emotions that people feel when they are unlucky in love. However, the constancy of that theme makes the collection (and others like it) very oppressive and, again, not clever. There was no cleverness in the meter or words used; there were sometimes rhyme schemes but that felt like using rhyme scheme for the sake of rhyme scheme and not for any particular poetic purpose.

Some of the poems, also, were quite creepy. Not horror/folktale creepy, but as if the author is a stalker creepy. I honestly wonder why the publisher thought this collection was a good idea. The themes are good, but the execution is just plain awful and shows no careful or artistic thought. I would not recommend this to anyone.





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Book Review-The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I did not know what to expect when I first picked up The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. I sort of assumed that it would be different entries on all sorts of flora and fauna found in prehistoric Earth. But, as Isabel Greenberg says on the back cover, “this book is not a real encyclopedia”. Instead it is a story about the adventures of a storyteller and the stories that he tells and learns as he meets all sorts of people.
The stories, interwoven, going deeper and deeper (you could call it story-ception) are definitely based on known myths and folktales, and tales from the Torah, though Greenberg has, through her ingenius world-building of her Early Earth, given these stories a unique flavor.

The art is charming, very simple, and mostly monochrome, illustrating well the stories that take place in cold lands, and also making it so that it is the stories the reader focuses on, with the illustrations as the supplementary medium.

As a lover of folklore, this has been the perfect book for me. I recommend this to those who love stories, whether you listen to or tell them.



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