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 Eugenia Triantafyllou (Uncanny Magazine; Issue Forty-Six)

The next story I read was a piece of flash fiction, This Village by Eugenia 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

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

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

Rules:

  • 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: Tor.com Publishing; May 7, 2019

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

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 Tor.com 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.

Rules:

  • 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?

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Friday 56 (218) & Book Beginnings: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

     

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE


Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.

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.


Beginning: "There is so much blood."

56: "Doger drops to the floor, hugs her knees to her chest, and tucks her head against them, creating a small, private space with the frame of her body."


Comments: It's been a while since I last read anything by Seanan McGuire. Earlier this year, Middlegame was a Tor eBook Club title, and I finally got around to reading it. I really loved the story. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

I Listened to Hypnos by Ravyn Lenae

Crush EP is one of my all-time favorites. I enjoyed it for how well it took classic R&B with a splash of disco and synth sounds, and gave them a fresh spin. I’ve been waiting for more music by this artist too, and yet I somehow missed the announcement for Ravyn Lenae’s debut album, Hypnos.

Crush left a big impression. As I said above, it’s one of my favorite Eps, and what it lacked in length it more than made up for in quality. With a tracklist sitting at sixteen songs, Hypnos is a much bigger offering of Lenae’s artistry. It’s thoroughly entrenched in R&B with the same soft and soulful edge that I was first introduced to in Crush. As far as debut albums go, Hypnos is one of the best.

Hypnos is an album that’s arranged well, and I’d suggest listening to it in the order of its tracklist. The intro, Cameo, is short and to the point. M.I.A. feels a little like it was influenced by dancehall music. And while some of the middle section dips into a slightly mellower tone, it picks up again as the album moves toward the closing, Wish.

All-in-all, Hypnos was a solid album.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Music Monday (203): Ravyn Lenae, Les Friction

Rules:

  • 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: Last month, Ravyn Lenae released her debut album, Hypnos. Its one of my favorite releases of the year. My pick for Music Monday is Cameo. It's one of the shortest tracks on the album, but it's a fantastic song. I wish it was longer.

 

Adri: I was, and still am, super excited about Les Friction's new album The End of the Beginning. I've had it on repeat since release and had a hard time picking a song. But, for today, my picks are Unhuman and World with No Sun.

 



What are you listening to this week?


Friday, June 10, 2022

I Listened to Harry's House by Harry Styles

Its only recently that I started listening to Harry Styles’ solo music (thanks Coachella livestream), but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve put on my playlist so far. So I was pretty excited when I learned that Harry Styles was releasing a new album not too long after that.

I waited up for Harry’s House, and I listened to it in one sitting. Some parts can feel mellow, but I actually like Styles’ slower songs. For the most part, there’s something that feels effortlessly bright, summery, and catchy about this album; which I appreciated so much. Even what I thought would be the simplest songs, instead offered a lot of good beats and lyrics to explore.

Music For a Sushi Restaurant is light and fun, as well as the perfect hook that offered an entry to the tone of the rest of the songs. The album’s single, As It Was, is already familiar (and its still one of my personal favorites). But there’s plenty more to latch onto. Some of my other favorite tracks included Cinema, Keep Driving, and Satellite. While Love of My Life offered a truly memorable and excellent closing note.

Harry’s House is definitely one of my top favorite albums of 2022 so far.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

Title: A Psalm for the Wild-Built
Series: Monk & Robot #1
Author: Becky Chambers
Source/Format: Tor ebook club; ebook
More Details: Speculative fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: TorDotCom; July 13, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Centuries before, robots of Panga gained self-awareness, laid down their tools, wandered, en masse into the wilderness, never to be seen again. They faded into myth and urban legend. Now the life of the tea monk who tells this story is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of "what do people need?" is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They will need to ask it a lot. Chambers' series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

It’s been years since I’ve read one of Becky Chambers’ stories. A while ago, Tor.com ebook club had a free copy of A Psalm for the Wild-Built included in a bundle, and I thought I would give it a try.

This one was just fine for me. It’s a really slow and contemplative tale about a tea monk, Sibling Dex, who eventually crosses paths with a robot. The synopsis is true to form, and much of what happens is about questions and answers. It’s basically like one long conversation once the two characters get through their introduction to each other.

Even though A Psalm for the Wild-Built had all the hallmarks of the kinds of books I’ve been into lately, I never clicked with the story as much as I thought I would (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is one of my favorite books). I did like the commentary about environmental issues, as well as the robot and the part of the plot specific to the history of Panga.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Music Monday (202): The Weeknd, Jody Watley

Rules:

  • 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: Lately, I've been listening to a lot of The Weeknd's recent music. Dawn FM is pure excellence, and it was hard to choose just one song for Music Monday. But, for the sake of keeping this post at a reasonable length, my pick is Is There Someone Else?


Adri: This week I am listening to Photographs and Clouds by Jody Watley. I had to bring her up again because found out she released a house album rightfully titled Midnight Lounge. I love it. 




What are you listening to this week?

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Friday 56 (217) & Book Beginnings: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE


Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


Synopsis from Goodreads...                                                                                                                                           
Centuries before, robots of Panga gained self-awareness, laid down their tools, wandered, en masse into the wilderness, never to be seen again. They faded into myth and urban legend. Now the life of the tea monk who tells this story is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of "what do people need?" is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They will need to ask it a lot. Chambers' series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?


Beginning: "If you ask six different monks the question of which godly domain robot consciousness belongs to, you'll get seven different answers."

56: "Every two hundred days. That's it."


Comments: I finally read A Psalm for the Wild-Built. The story was fine. What are you reading this week?
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