Book Review: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This volume of short stories has been on my to-read list for over a year–I added it when a close friend of mine told me, in no uncertain terms, to read it. Since then, it’s been recommended several more times. Now that I’ve read it, I understand why. Gutsy and gutting, structurally fascinating, and observant about all the unspoken things just beyond the edge of comfortable, Carmen Maria Machado’s prose is here whether you like it or not. This is quite a book. It’s a master class in style and somehow remains literary and poignant while spinning off of 90’s kid horror Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and including a sex scene on every other page. How does Machado do it? I have no idea, but I deeply enjoyed it.

Favorite Stories in this Collection:
-The Husband Stitch
-Real Women Have Bodies*
-Eight Bites
-Difficult at Parties



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Book Review: Good Talk by Mira Jacob

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Good Talk is a graphic memoir that delivers in new ways, centering around hard and crucial conversations about race and identity. The intimacy of the book makes the national (and even international) topics of discussion very immediate and alive–Mira Jacob has given us the gift of her own experience through remembered conversations that span generations of hurt and hope. An essential read for the current cultural moment and far beyond.



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Book Review: Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Such good writing, in such a dumb story. Like many others, I bought this book out of love and the trust that the same storyteller who wrote The Last Unicorn could do no wrong. My trust was well-placed in some aspects–great characterization of the main figures in the book, sumptuous descriptions that struck all the right tones for the enchanting Seattle area, and an interesting sense of trying to figure out what joy means for a person aging past their middle years. Unfortunately, the magical bits are lackluster, predictable, and at times just kind of nutty, and not in a good way. Greek mythology retold–it’s been done better.



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Book Review: Longer by Michael Blumlein

Longer by Michael Blumlein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Longer is a strange and fascinating little book with a shadow of a plot underneath many bright starbursts of philosophy. The science fiction setting serves as the backdrop for what is really a four-person drama about the ethics of mortality and what we determine the word “living” to mean. Thought-provoking and uneasy, as much of the best sci-fi happens to be.



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Book Review: The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Water Cure is a parable that defies pinning down in terms of its historical and geographical setting, certainly intentionally so. It is a violent tale with sparse and evocative prose, and it bristles with rage at the harm that women have absorbed throughout Western history. Taking that gigantic, cascading multi-generational hurt and distilling it into two precise individual voices is Mackintosh’s immense achievement in this frightening and propulsive read.



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Book Review: Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book by Courtney Maum

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Courtney Maum’s guide is information-packed and delightfully balanced, with heaping helpings of snark and empathy both. What outsiders imagine about the life of a published author is completely different from the insider’s reality, and this book helps translate expectations for the well-meaning and wide-eyed debut novelist.



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Book Review: Dark Age by Pierce Brown

Dark Age (Red Rising Saga, #5)

Dark Age by Pierce Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


As the title suggests, Dark Age plunges us into the darkest waters yet seen in the Red Rising saga. Humor and hope are both at their leanest portions, and in their place brutality and desperation are served. The worlds tear themselves apart in this one. Pierce Brown delivers his normal labyrinthine entanglement of alliances, betrayals, secret, and sieges, this time through an ambitious five perspectives. (Virginia’s perspective was the most rewarding, in my opinion.) Whereas the first trilogy of the saga is about the journey of one man, more than ever the series tips toward the journey of an entire political movement, one that spans nine planets and seems to doom everyone in one way or another. After five books with Darrow, loyal readers can’t help but invest emotionally in these unforgettable characters and feel their losses along with them–some of them, this time, were particularly hard. But I admire how Brown was brave enough to go all the way into the dark with this installment, and to create an absolute powder keg setup that book six will no doubt set off within its first few pages. Looking forward to the next ride.



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Book Review: Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Oceanic

Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s collection Oceanic is specifically personal and intentionally global at the same time, and in that contrast it builds a welcoming entry point for many different readers. The marine motifs disappear and return throughout, but Nezhukumatathil’s clear voice is the sea in which these poems scuttle and breathe. Many surprises to find.

My favorite poems in this volume:
*Self-Portrait as Scallop
*End-of-Summer Haibun
*The Two Times I Loved You Most on a Farm
*Letter to the Northern Lights
*The Psyche poems
*First Time on the Funicular



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Book Review: Descender, Vol. 1 & 2 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


[This review is for Volumes One and Two.]

Come for the art, stay for the story. The imagery and color that Dustin Nguyen uses to create this science fiction world are absolutely stunning. These volumes manage to be disturbing in a beautiful way, with the cute and the grotesque coexisting in harmony. The story by Lemire is slower to start, but really gears up in Volume Two with plenty of surprises and enjoyable suspense. Well-trodden AI vs. human and “lost child” tropes are employed, but it’s a comic, so am I really upset about that? I came for a sense of escape and visual delight, and on that front Descender certainly delivers.



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Book Review: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology, #1)

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This novella is filled with old magic and new. Sometimes it is so enjoyable to reach for a story that is quietly lush, immersive, and simple, and that is what Emily Tesh delivers here. A beautiful fantasy tale (with queer characters!) that feels as weathered and inviting as an old leather-bound tome.



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