Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Short Stories I Read In May

It’s the twenty-ninth of June. So it’s time to talk about the short stories, miscelanious posts, and podcast episodes I read or listened to in May.

Heavy Possessions by Seoung Kim (Strange Horizons; Issue: 2 May 2022)

Short Stories was on break last month, and to get back into the swing of things I read Seoung Kim’s Heavy Possessions. I liked the style the story was written in. The narrative felt a little detached—or at a distance. But it worked well with the contents of the story. It was about a ghost, a digital medium, and reflection. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Magical Girl Burnout Bingo by Lauren Ring (Lightspeed Magazine; Issue 144: May 2022)

The second story I read was Magical Girl Burnout Bingo. When I first saw the title, I knew this one was going to be something I would make a point of reading in May. I liked this story a lot. It’s kind of like a chosen one (magical girl) story with a twist—plus a side of burnout. It poses the question of what if that whole scenario goes wrong, and what happens to that person afterwards. This one was great!

This Village by Eugina Triantafyllou (Uncanny Magazine; Issue Forty-Six)

The next story I read was a piece of flash fiction, This Village by Eugina Triantafyllou. I’m a sucker for fiction that reads like a fairy tale, and that’s exactly what This Village is. Candy and pastry coated descriptions make up the invitation, which also hints at an underlying darkness surrounding the titular village. It’s there for those who need it. And if you don’t, watch out. This Village was a short but thoroughly engaging story.

From around the web…

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

Title: Our Crooked Hearts
Series: n/a
Author: Melissa Albert
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Flatiorn Books; June 28, 2022

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Secrets. Lies. Super-bad choices. Witchcraft. This is Our Crooked Hearts, a darkly gripping contemporary fantasy from Melissa Albert, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood

The suburbs, right now . . .
Seventeen-year-old Ivy’s summer break kicks off with an accident, a punishment, and a mystery: a stranger whose appearance in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, heralds a string of increasingly unsettling events. As the days pass, Ivy grapples with eerie offerings, corroded memories, and a secret she’s always known—that there's more to her mother than meets the eye.

The city, back then . . .
Dana has always been perceptive. And the summer she turns sixteen, with the help of her best friend and an ambitious older girl, her gifts bloom into a heady fling with the supernatural. As the trio’s aspirations darken, they find themselves speeding toward a violent breaking point.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana's shared story will come down to a reckoning among a daughter, a mother, and the dark forces they never should’ve messed with.

I rarely ever stay up to finish a book, but it does happen. With Melissa Albert’s latest novel, Our Crooked Hearts, I was thoroughly engaged with the story. And by the time I finished the book and checked the time, it was already after two in the morning and I’d read it basically in one sitting. Our Crooked Hearts was a ride. It was a tale of magic, ambition, the relationships between mother and daughter (and friends), and all the ways that those things could go horribly wrong when the cost of magic is thrown into the fray.

Our Crooked Hearts begins with a mystery, and the dual timelines (past and present) run alongside each other until they reach the point where they inevitably connect. It had the feel of a modern fairy tale: equal parts atmospheric and magical with the dark undertones of a mysterious forest that gives the impression of something lurking. It’s pretty in line with what I’ve come to expect from Albert’s stories. After all, dark and whimsical—magic and the importance of stories—were hallmarks of The Hazelwood, The Night Country, and Tales from the Hinterland.

The present side of the story follows Ivy. After a bad decision and an accident, her plans for the summer pretty much go up in smoke. However, ruined plans don’t hold a candle to the string of events that begin with that night. At first, it could have been strange but a coincidence. But things quickly don’t add up, and the strange occurrences take on a dangerous and frightening edge. Caught up in there was the fraught relationships between Ivy and her family, particularly with her mother. Mistakes, miscommunication, and long kept secrets are the kind of messy family dramas that I like. It certainly kept me turning the pages.

Meanwhile the past follows Dana. This was the part of the book that reminded me most strongly of The Craft—it was the magic and the tenuous comradeship between Dana and her friends—while also being a completely different story altogether in the end. Some bonds were stronger than others, but even well-worn friendships could change. They either grew or shrank as intentions became clear. Dana’s part of the story was heart-wrenching—marked by difficult choices and loss—and it also really demonstrated the danger of messing with things you don’t know.

Our Crooked Hearts is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

About the author....
Melissa Albert is the New York Times and indie bestselling author of the Hazel Wood series and Our Crooked Hearts, and a former bookseller and founder of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages and included in the New York Times’ list of Notable Children’s Books. She enjoys swimming pool tourism, genre mashups, and living in Brooklyn with her hilarious husband and magnificently goofy son.
Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Flatiron Books) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Music Monday (205): The Weeknd


  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I've lost track of how many times I've had Dawn FM on in the background. It really is some of the best music I've listened to so far this year. Another one of my favorite songs is How Do I Make You Love Me?

What are you listening to this week?

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Title: Middlegame
Series: Alchemical Journeys #1
Author: Seanan Mcguire
Source/Format: Tor ebook club; eBook
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Publishing; May 7, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
New York Times bestselling and Alex, Nebula, and Hugo-Award-winning author Seanan McGuire introduces readers to a world of amoral alchemy, shadowy organizations, and impossible cities in this standalone fantasy.

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story. Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math. Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet. Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own. Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

I’ve read some (but not all) of the current Wayward Children books, but the one story by Seanan McGuire that I had my eye on lately was Middlegame. Earlier this year, it was a eBook Club title, and I finally got around to reading it.

The synopsis literally states what kind of story this is going to be—one that is magical and dangerous—particularly with the line: “Godhood is attainable.” The story is spread out across a lot of years, and there wasn’t too much of a mystery here, because the reader knows far more than the characters initially do.

Roger and Dodger are essentially thought of as pawns. The story hinged on them, on what they could do—and the theory about who they should be and how they should behave—but they were individuals with emotions, wants, and needs.

Middlegame played around with the limits of the conventions established within its world. It’s a strange but engaging kind of story that leaned hard into alchemy—as its fantastical elements—and into its sometimes nonlinear timeline, utilizing both in a way that was effective at building a sense of tension. It was something along the lines of: they found out about this, this, and this, now what are they going to do with and about it? Half the fun of Middlegame is seeing how the whole scenario is going to playout in the end. Will they succeed or won’t they? It was up in the air for much of the novel, and even when the characters got a renewed sense of determination, I wasn’t certain of what would happen.

Middlegame was a page-turner. The sequel, Seasonal Fears, recently came out, so I have more of this world to look forward to.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Music Monday (204): FKA Twigs, Nova Twins, H.E.R.


  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: FKA Twigs released a new song. I wasn't expecting more music this soon after Caprisongs, but I'm glad it's here. It's called Killer, and I like it.

Adri: Another new album! This time it's Supernova from Nova Twins. I may talk about it later, but for now I'm listening to Choose Your Fighter and Toolbox.

Andrea: Hi all! I hope everyone is doing well. This week I'm listening to Sometimes by H.E.R. I'm excited to discover what everyone is listening to. Have an awesome week!

What are you listening to this week?

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