Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Short Stories I Read In April

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

The God, Descendant by Amanda Helms (Uncanny Magazine; Issue Fifty-Seven)

The first piece I checked out in April was flash fiction by Amanda Helms called The God, Descendant. It’s a story about two gods, either rising or falling, who were locked in a seemingly never ending cycle inherent to their natures and names—only passing one another occasionally. Most of the story is contemplative, as the narrative is firmly rooted in the perspective of the Falling God. It’s a conversation between the two, as they questioned the state of, well, rising and falling, just as much as it was also about the answers (solution) they eventually arrived at. This was a relatively simple story, but I enjoyed it.

Afflictions of the New Age by Katherine Ewell (Uncanny Magazine; Issue Fifty-Seven)

The next short story I read was Afflictions of the New Age by Katherine Ewell. The story excels at atmosphere and certainly knew how to set up a scene, because it does start with a narrator who may or may not be reliable as well as a series of questions by authorities, which hinted at the overarching mystery of the situation (how the opening scene came to be). It doesn’t take long, however, for the narrative to delve into the context and implications behind the title. The prose and storytelling were simply engrossing, and I enjoyed the melancholic impression left by Afflictions of the New Age. After all, it’s a story of cures and illnesses as well as the unforeseen consequences of finding a way to live forever—but of losing one’s perception of time as well as a linear grasp on the order of memories in the process.

The Oldest Fun by Natalia Theodoridou (Clarkesworld Magazine; Issue 211; April 2024)

Next, I decided to see what Clarkesworld was publishing in April, and I ended up reading Natalia Theodoridou's The Oldest Fun. The quickest way I can sum up this story is: a deadlier form of Jumanji. The narrative implies the game is far older than what one might think, and it pulls in players in a way that can feel reminiscent to the classic movie. The Oldest Fun is, in the end, it's own tale with its own implications and context. I liked this story, particularly for the writing style and the smart twist toward the end—which made it memorable.

From around the web…

Monday, May 27, 2024

Music Monday (286): Chappell Roan


  • 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 been listening to Chappell Roan's album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwestern Princess, and I love it. One of my favorite songs is Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl.

What are you listening to this week?

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

I Listened to Found Heaven by Conan Gray

I’ve heard of Conan Gray off and on since his 2020 album Kid Krow. It wasn’t until more recently, when he started releasing singles for his new album—such as Never Ending Song—that I finally decided to pay more attention to this artist. On April fifth, Conan Gray released his third studio album, Found Heaven. It was supported with five singles: Never Ending Song, Winner, Killing Me, Lonely Dances, and Alley Rose. And with that, welcome back to the music minded corner of Our Thoughts Precisely!

Honestly, Found Heaven is a vibe. And I can best describe it as retro with a 80s aesthetic, especially in terms of the background arrangement and the visuals—for the music videos accompanying Never Ending Song and Lonely Dancers as well as the lyric visualizers (invoking the grainy images of old camcorder footage). It doesn’t stick too hard and fast to its influences that it becomes redundant. Instead, Conan Gray’s modern interpretation of these familiar aspects unabashedly invokes a feeling of nostalgia, which was complimented by his dynamic vocal performance across the album’s thirteen tracks.

Found Heaven is a cohesive album and just a lot of fun to listen to. This is easily one of my favorites of the year so far.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Music Monday (285): Conan Gray, Grace Jones


  • 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: Another one of my favorite songs from Conan Gray's Found Heaven is: Eye Of The Night.

Adri: I'm listening to I'll Find My Way To You by Grace Jones.

What are you listening to this week?

Monday, May 13, 2024

Music Monday (284): Conan Gray, Jennifer Hudson, Dolly Parton, and Blessing Offor


  • 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 been listening to some of Conan Gray's music lately, specifically his latest release Found Heaven. It's a good album (more on that on a later post). So my pick this week is The Final Fight.

Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to Where You At by Jennifer Hudson and Somebody's Child by Dolly Parton and Blessing Offor. Have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

The Brides of High Hill by Nghi Vo!

Title: The Brides of High Hill
Series: The Singing Hills Cycle #5
Author: Nghi Vo
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Novella
Publisher/Publication Date: Tordotcom; May 7, 2024

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Goodreads...
The Hugo Award-Winning Series returns with its newest standalone entry: a gothic mystery involving a crumbling estate, a mysterious bride, and an extremely murderous teapot.

The Cleric Chih accompanies a beautiful young bride to her wedding to an aging lord at a crumbling estate situated at the crossroads of dead empires. But they’re forgetting things they ought to remember, and the lord’s mad young son wanders the grounds at night like a hanged ghost.

One of my most anticipated releases of the year was Nghi Vo’s next novella in The Singing Hills’s Cycle, The Brides of High Hill, which the synopsis described as a gothic mystery. I’ve enjoyed books of that type from time to time, so, going into The Brides of High Hill, I was interested to see what Vo’s interpretation of it would look like.

The latest adventure of Cleric Chih takes a slight detour from the typical structure of the series, and puts them right in the thick of the action. There’s still a story that’s being told, but its clues can be subtle and are deeply embedded in the occurrences of the novella, rather than a story that is being imparted, in pieces, to Cleric Chih by other characters. The switch, however, works well, when the mystery and gothic aspects are taken into account. Atmosphere can be key—sometimes—and getting to see the faded or outright eerie elegance as well as the dilapidation that make up Doi Cao was a crucial part of setting the stage for the story.

And what a story it was. The twist managed to catch me by surprise, because it subverted the way I thought the story was going to go. But hindsight is 20/20. However, the ending is part of what I love most about Vo’s handling of The Brides of High Hill. It could have been straightforward, but it wasn’t. And I enjoyed that direction at lot more than my guesses.

At the end of the day, The Brides of High Hill is another great installment in the series.

About the author....
Nghi Vo is the author of the novels Siren Queen and The Chosen and the Beautiful, as well as the acclaimed novellas of the Singing Hills Cycle, which began withThe Empress of Salt and Fortune. The series entries have been finalists for the Locus Award and the Lambda Literary Award, and have won the Crawford Award, the Ignyte Award, and the Hugo Award. Born in Illinois, she now lives on the shores of Lake Michigan. She believes in the ritual of lipstick, the power of stories, and the right to change your mind.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Tordotcom) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Friday, May 3, 2024

I Listened to What Now by Brittany Howard

Do you ever, on occasion, suddenly think about a band you haven’t listened to in what feels like ages? That’s my story here.

Early in March, I was cleaning up an old playlist, when I revisited my favorite tracks from Alabama Shake’s Sound & Color (2015). There was the vague expectation of more albums, other music, but the band is on indefinite hiatus since 2018. That, however, has spawned projects from its members like the group Sun On Shade and Brittany Howard’s solo career—beginning with Jamie (2019).

What Now, released on February 9, 2024, is Brittany Howard’s sophomore solo album and is also my reintroduction to her music. It was also the release I was least expecting and the one I was most surprised by; I’ve been missing out, because it’s one of the most creative bodies of work I’ve listened to so far this year. There is an infusion of everything from rock, R&B, soul, funk, synth, house, jazz, and electronic. Howard makes it work, and makes it seem effortless while creating a sonically interesting listening experience that showcases her vocals and creativity.

Some of my favorite tracks include Another Day, the titular What Now, Red Flags, and Power To Undo—which instantly made me think of Prince’s music—among others.

What Now is memorable and an absolute delight, and it’s going to stick with me for a while.

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