I chose to read The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories solely for the title story, which is one of Petrik’s most beloved short stories he’s ever read. Thankfully, Ken Liu proved to be an astonishingly gifted writer. I’ve heard his work referred to as graceful, and I can’t think of a more apt description. The man has a marvelous way with words. You can tell that every single sentence was crafted with care. This collection of stories is unlike anything else I’ve ever read in my life. While I didn’t love every single story, those I did love had a profound effect on me, and I honestly believe that I will still be thinking about them for months, if not years, to come. Below are my (very random) thoughts on each story. I’ve left said thoughts in their raw state. While I wanted to share quotes from the stories themselves, I highlighted far too many to sift through. I highly recommend this collection if you want something that will make you think deeply and treat others with greater kindness. More of Liu’s work is definitely in my future.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Expanse (Book #1 of 9)
Genre: Science fiction, Space opera, mystery
Pages: 592 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 15th June 2011 by Orbit (UK) & 2nd June 2011 by Orbit (US)
Leviathan Wakes was so good; a character-driven space-opera that combines sci-fi, noir, mystery, and a slice of horror into one. …
I am not, nor have I ever been, a foodie. I wish I was. I wish I had a more adventurous palette that loved encountering new things. But alas, such is not my lot in life. However, I’ve always loved cooking shows and food-based travelogues for reasons that honestly elude me. I still remember watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel when I was in high school and losing myself in daydreams of exotic locales and finding my way off of their beaten paths and into locals-only areas. I thought Bourdain had one of the most fascinating jobs on the planet. Because of this, I was intrigued by his early life and decided to read my first ever foodie memoir about how he got started in the business.
ARC received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Brightest Shadow by Sarah Lin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Brightest Shadow (Book 1)
Genre: Fantasy, Progression fantasy, Wuxia
Published: 6th March 2020 (self-published)
Eastern-inspired with great classic wuxia elements, The Brightest Shadow is a commendable fantasy entry with impressively thoughtful worldbuilding, and an interesting diverse cast of characters.
I grew up watching a lot of wuxia classics, the most famous being The Legend of the Condor Heroes. Sarah Lin paid homage to these great classics by incorporating cultural and martial arts elements which would feel very familiar to wuxia fans into her new fantasy series, The Brightest Shadow. The worldbuilding in this novel is really impressive and well thought out with multicultural people that although share some common traits are quite distinct from one another. Aside from physical looks, the differences could be demonstrated from the food they eat to the way martial arts are practised. Even the concept of sien (somewhat akin to qi in our world sense) differ from one people to another.
“A person who wants for nothing, who is at peace with themselves, cannot be seduced by simple stories.”
ARC provided by the publisher—Saga Press—in exchange for an honest review.
The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Legacy of the Mercenary King (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mystery
Pages: 608 pages (US hardcover edition)
Published: 7th May 2020 by Gollancz (UK) & 5th May 2020 by Saga Press (US)
The Kingdom of Liars is a solid debut that’s quite challenging to get through at first, but the second half offers rewarding experience to those who read the novel to its completion.
Similar to many cases with debuts by an unknown author in the past, my interest to read The Kingdom of Liars, the first book in The Legacy of The Mercenary Kings series by Nick Martell, was sparked due to the gorgeous cover art by Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme (US edition) and Richard Anderson (UK edition). Additionally, both Brandon Sanderson and James Islington—two authors whose works I immensely loved—gave high praise to this debut. How could I even resist reading this book!?
“It’s the long con that wins in the end, Michael. The people who do things worth remembering are the ones willing to wait decades to achieve it.”
The Shadow of What Was Lost is one of those books that has been sitting on my shelf for years. Islington is an author highly recommended not only to Sanderson fans but by Sanderson himself, so I picked it up on Kindle when it was still self-published and ended up purchasing physical copies of the entire Licanius trilogy before ever reading the first page. Not the smartest way to buy your books, I grant you, but it worked out this time! The Shadow of What Was Lost is a throwback to classic fantasy in the very best way. There’s a brightness and coziness to it even when the plot goes in dark directions. The characters and tropes are comfortably familiar without ever feeling derivative or tired. Best of all, Islington manages to take these tropes and characters and do some shockingly original things with them. I’ve heard this trilogy called ambitious and risky and, by the end of this first book, I could definitely see some of that ambition.
The Silver Sorceress by Alec Hutson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Raveling (Book #2 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 499 pages
Published: 2nd October 2018 by Alec Hutson (Indie)
A remarkable sequel, I really can’t get enough of reading Hutson’s writing.
“No matter where you go in the world, those with a little authority—but no real power—are all the same.”
This was my first Ruth Ware novel, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Turn of the Key is a fascinating combination of a gothic ghost story and a chilling portrayal of how intrusive technology can be. All the way through the narrative, I was never sure on which side of that dichotomy the climax would fall. While I did figure out a couple of the twists before they reached their apexes, there was plenty to keep me guessing. …
Patricia McKillip is one of those authors that I’ve always intended to read. I bought a used omnibus of her Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy during my first year of college, which was more than a decade ago. Yet for some reason, I’ve never quite gotten around to reading it, anything else by her. After having now read The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, my interest in her work has been rekindled. This little standalone was a lovely reading experience. And as it referenced her Riddle-Master series multiple times, that series has climbed closer to the top of my TBR list.
“How much that name means to you—memory, knowledge, experience. There is not one possession more truly, irrevocably yours.”
Alias Grace isn’t what I expected. I suppose I thought this would be similar to Atwood’s most famous novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. And it was in some ways, especially in the tone of the main character. Though I can’t quite call Grace a protagonist, as Offred is in the aforementioned classic of dystopian literature. What I wasn’t expecting was very well researched historical fiction.
“Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word – musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor.”