Sour Heart

Sour HeartSour Heart by Jenny Zhang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading this book feels like swirling my fingers through Jenny Zhang’s blood. It is warm and salty and utterly personal and essential to life.
There are seven short stories about Chinese immigrant families, mostly centered around the daughters in those families, told in the first-person full-speed-ahead voice of the young. I envy Ms. Zhang her ballsy sentence structure and the way she unfurls a scene slowly, as we begin to understand each narrator’s unique perspective.
The first story is clearly the strongest, and the first sentence announces itself like the horn of a train. We are in a nasty Brooklyn apartment alongside drug dealers and cockroaches from the first sentence, my friends, even as we strive for impossible grace. It’s not a bad summary of the rest of the book, to be honest.
Even the parts I didn’t “like” or enjoy reading felt important. Each of the seven families feels a bit similar, in some ways, which annoyed me but felt purposeful. Yes, your family is unique, but guess what? It’s also just like every other family! The scatological language annoyed me (seriously, there is a shitload of shit and piss and vomit and saliva in this book) and was certainly also purposeful. All that shit is an earthy connection to our animal natures and another reminder that we are all not quite so different as we like to pretend.
Overall, I hope and believe reading this book made me a more empathetic human.

The Library of Fates

The Library of FatesThe Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Girl, who you are isn’t about who gave birth to you or who raised you. One finds out who he or she is over the course of a life.”
“How do I do that?”
“Through your actions, through your choices.”

This story has the dreamy, hazy quality of a fairy tale. Our heroine is courageous and more powerful than she knows, and all the young men are handsome and selfless. Even the bad guy gets a sympathetic backstory. I appreciated the interweaving of myth and gods, but overall it’s not my preferred sort of story. I like my YA fantasies a little darker and grittier. (My YA book boyfriends are scheming, limping Kaz Brekker and scarred sociopath Jorg Ancrath) But I love the cover, and the ending was unique and surprising.

Modern Gods

Modern GodsModern Gods by Nick Laird

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The light of Ulster traveled not by particle or wave but by indirection, hint, and rumor. A kind of light of no-light, emanating from a sun so swathed in clouds it was impossible to tell where it lurked in the sky.”

A beautifully written story of the damage wreaked by competing religions in both Northern Ireland and Papua New Guinea. The quote above and a few others had me entranced. A remote police station is labeled “in yellow tile across its forehead” and a skink becomes a “tiny dinosaur…to look at them, in their impertinence.”

The tiny, complex familial details of the adult Donnelly children returning home to their aging parents is near and dear to me and expertly drawn. If I have any gripe, it’s a pet peeve of mine to wildly swing among third-person omniscient points of view. This happens throughout, often for only a paragraph or two before shifting again.

The writing is luminous and confident and the Donnellys were frustrating and wonderful. Overall lovely and highly recommended.

The Devil’s Feast

The Devil's Feast (Avery & Blake, #3)The Devil’s Feast by M.J. Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the third in a detective series, and it takes considerable narrative cojones to throw your most compelling character in prison and keep him away from the action for the first third of the novel. I’m not sure it quite paid off in this case. But the descriptions of elaborate Victorian dinners are rivaled only by GRRM’s medieval feasts for detail and jaw-dropping excess! And…I totally ship Avery+Blake ooh la la…

The Essex Serpent

The Essex SerpentThe Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The language in this book is lovely and evocative. Ms. Perry’s familiarity with the mud and fogs of the Blackwater estuary is put to excellent use. The way the dialogue reads on the page calls forth real speech–some fits and starts, plenty of em dashes and commas, important things left unsaid, all mixed in with a few moments of beautiful insight.

Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome are a pairing unlike any other I’ve read in memory, and the alternating tension and understanding between them was my favorite part of the story.

The serpent is the ancient symbol of knowledge, and I think that’s true in this book as well. But for me it also symbolized desire–Cora goes chasing it, Will tries to pretend it doesn’t exist, pre-teen Joanna is terrified of it, and her friend Naomi runs away.

The subplots about socialism and housing reform sadly failed to capture my interest, and Martha deserved a bit better. Luke Garrett’s subplot was tightly written and engrossing, though. I found Stella Ransome to be fascinating and heartbreaking and even mostly believable, which I know many others did not.

I cannot wait to read what Sarah Perry comes up with next.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and VirtueThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it — Monty is brave and heartbreaking, and you feel each one of his (many) mistakes like a punch in the gut. Sometimes I wanted to shake him, and sometimes I wanted to wrap him up and keep him safe. His journey from vice toward virtue is slow and realistic, with fits and starts along the way. Ms. Lee’s writing is lively and brisk. The villain in the plot is somewhat underdeveloped, with few characteristics other than chasing our hero, but I didn’t mind because we got to spend more time with Monty and Percy. Highly recommended.

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Congrats giveaway winner!

GIVEAWAY CLOSED🗣 . CONGRATULATIONS TO @svnfl0wrs ♥️ Check your DM! To everyone who joined thanks so much! . Want to get a free book? I'm giving away an ebook copy of Gray Places by Julia Byrd. This book was just released and sounded like a great mystery read! Also think of Brontë and Austen! Check the synopsis below: . . 1790s Yorkshire, England – Katherine Gilbert sets out for Wainforth Manor in North Yorkshire to fulfill her father’s last request. The master of Wainforth, Thomas Norcliffe, does not welcome her unannounced arrival, so Katherine must tread carefully around his dark moods while attempting to unlock the history buried in his ancestral home.

After she receives more than one whispered warning from the townspeople in Wainforth Village, Katherine’s initial audacity begins to waver. Deadly secrets from the Norcliffe family’s past are resurfacing, and Katherine begins to realize that the biggest danger lies within herself—the wisest course is to leave, but she wants to stay at Wainforth Manor and uncover the truth about Thomas Norcliffe. Rules: 👉🏻Like this photo 👉🏻Follow me and @julia_byrd . 👉🏻Tag three friends in the comment. You can do this up to three times Winner will be announced on June 17. ♥️ #GrayPlaces #JuliaByrd #Giveaway #JaninaxCanon

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New short story

I’m excited to have a short story published in this month’s issue of Uncaged Book Reviews! Find me on p. 71 with The Archfield Ceremony, a story about an aging knight who is pressed back into service to help his queen make a desperate escape. ❤️
Then come back and let me know me if you liked it and who you think inspired Tel!

Levels of misspelling

There are three main types of misspellings:

  • Group 1, the I Hate Myself category. Ex: “fourty” for the number 40. This happens to me every time I write that word.
  • Group 2, the I Should Know This category. Ex: “guarantee”. Mnemonic: guaranteed guava. Downside: You have to say “gwaranteed gwava” in your head, which is embarrassing.
  • Group 3, the No Shame category. Ex: surreptitious (yes, I just looked that up). No judgies, these words suck and it’s not your fault.

Typos are different critters and exist in two ecosystems: the smartphone keyboard and the real physical keyboard. Misspelling are born in the brain, whereas typos usually just spring unfertilized straight from your fingers.