“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
This is the premise of The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s newest novel. I’ve never read anything by Haig before this book, but I can guarantee that this oversight will be addressed. Because The Midnight Library was wonderful. There’s incredible philosophical depth packed into relatively few pages. And for a book that begins with a suicide attempt, it ended up being surprisingly positive and uplifting. Not only is it a thoughtful novel, it inspired deep contemplation within the reader, but in a way that is comfortingly gentle for the times in which we’re living.
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Cover illustration by: Quentin Trollip
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Thriller, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction
Pages: 464 pages (US Hardback)
Published: 10th March 2016 by Head of Zeus (UK) & 8th March 2016 by Gallery / Saga Press (US)
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is an intimately powerful and beautiful collection of stories that encompassed some of the most relatable themes to our society, and some stories contained in this collection felt personal and evocative to me.
“Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.”
I can’t remember the last time I was so utterly charmed and delighted by a story. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance reads like a middle grade novel for adults, and I need more books like this one in my life. There is a wholesome, wonderful innocence to the story that won me over immediately. I’ve never been a fan of the word “precious,” but that term perfectly describes Lang’s debut novel. …
Nothing to See Here is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. The tone is just hilarious. Lillian, the perspective character, is absolutely bonkers and I adore her. She’s tough and kooky and always afraid that she’s going to mess things up, and I just want to be her friend more than anything. This book is short and breezy without being shallow, and it completely transported me into this beyond weird circumstance in the midst of normalcy.
“I wasn’t destined for greatness; I knew this. But I was figuring out how to steal it from someone stupid enough to relax their grip on it.”
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.
“What I’m going to do up here, kid, is tell you a story. Like all stories, it’s an attempt to make sense of something larger than itself. And, like most stories, it fails, to a certain degree. It’s a gloss, a rendition, so it’s not exact. But it’ll do.”
I’m going to see Paranormal Cirque this weekend and am insanely excited. In anticipation, I picked up The Troupe. While not about a circus, it is about a vaudevillian troupe, which is similar in feel. And though not exactly in the horror genre, I know from experience with his Divine Cities trilogy that Robert Jackson Bennett often weaves horror elements into his novels, and he does so deftly. I’m so incredibly glad I picked up this book. Because as excited as I am about seeing Paranormal Cirque, I already know that The Troupe will stay with me longer than any performance could. It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful story, and I read the last sixty or so pages through a haze of tears. …
Literary fiction is very hit or miss for me. I’ve read quite a few that I desperately wanted to like, but I just couldn’t. There’s this level of pretension found in the writing of many such titles that I find difficult to stomach. However, I have been fortunate to find some absolutely gorgeous books in the genre, a handful of which are now among my very favorite books on the planet.
“Sometimes the world don’t give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes it withholds.”
So where did Sing, Unburied, Sing fall in this mixed bag of a genre? While it doesn’t rank among my favorite books ever, I did very much enjoy it. There’s something about reading a novel that shares your life in some way, whether that entails a shared heritage or setting or lifestyle, that just speaks so deeply to readers. For me, that comes in the form of novels set in the American South. Ward writes stories firmly rooted in the South, and though this was the first of her novels I’ve read, it won’t be the last, because she does a phenomenal job of capturing both the beauty and the repugnance of the rural South. …
“Gravity is the anchor that pulls us down into our graves.”
Elevation is not your typical Stephen King book. First of all, it’s a tiny thing clocking in at fewer than 150 pages. Compared to most of King’s published works, that’s insanely short. He does have some wonderful novellas and short stories, but when a man known for publishing doorstoppers like IT, 11/22/63, Under the Dome, and The Stand publishes something that can be read in a day, it seems like a pretty radical difference. Second, this is not a horror story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely strange, but it didn’t strike me as horror. Instead, it was bittersweetly moving, focusing on friendship and its ability to get us through even the toughest of times. …