Hunger: A Novella and Stories by Lan Samantha Chang
These are some very emotional, and raw stories. She is either an excellent writer or she has had quite a tough life, if these stories are drawn from her own lives, or her family's. These kind of immigrant stories are just what I needed to read. It's good to step back from the craziness that is 2020 and think, “things are tough, but it will pass”.
The novel is taken from the novella in this book, titled “Hunger”. It is 'only' a novella, but builds up a painful story about a family under the abusive violinist father. The character is very good at building up the characters in a very short amount of time.
I am rating this 5 stars because this was an unexpected treasure I discovered. I want to celebrate this discovery and hopefully encourage others to pick up this book. There were a few 'ok' stories, but seriously, this book is worth picking up just for the long novella “Hunger”.
Book #77 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge
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Something Will Happen, You'll See by Christos Ikonomou
Another book from Ikonomou of stories, more like vignettes, of the daily struggle to put together a scrap of dignity when you have no money, and the economy is so broken in Greece during 'austerity'.
In a thousand years if the world still exists maybe the things that are happening now will have become fairytales. And parents will tell their children stories about strange people who once lived and died for a handful of cash and the children will listen with their mouths hanging open and all these things will seem magical and unreal.
March Was Made of Yarn: Reflections on the Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Meltdown by Elmer Luke (editor), David Karashima (editor)
A painful exploration of how an earthquake, a tsunami, and then a nuclear power meltdown changed people's lives. This is a collection of short stories translated from Japanese.
Why am I drawn to these stories of pain? I guess where there is pain and suffering, there is injustice. Was it fair that a gigantic earthquake hit Japan? No. Life isn't fair, and mostly us poor humans are just muddling about trying to get through it all. How does this massive loss of life fit in with God's plan?
It always makes me sad and angry that I can't help out in these situations. I can at least help carry the burden of remembering their suffering, and hearing their stories.
Some of the stories were duds, but many were very good. The stories were mostly about the aftermath of the event. How did people cope? The feelings of guilt for surviving? Others were surreal stories. There was even a short manga in there.
A fitting book to remember a terrible event.
Book #72 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge
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Good Will Come From the Sea by Christos Ikonomou,
Want to know what 'austerity' feels like? This book tells the tales of city folk forced back to the 'home' islands to scrape by.
This turned out to be a huge disappointment. It wasn't a total loss because the last two stories were Liu in his true form, but the other 8 or 10 stories felt like filler. Was Liu short on money? Was publisher forcing him to publish something? Was he digging out old stories he had never gotten published before?
Palestine +100: Stories from a century after the Nakba by Basma Ghalayini (Editor)
They asked 12 Palestinian writers to write a story about what living in Palestine would be like in 2048. Some of the stories are incredible. Some are sad. Some are strange. Overall though, the collection isn't spectacular apart from a few stand-out stories but I'm still very interested in the Palestinian struggle so I enjoyed this book. I also support books like this as a way to give Palestinians a 'voice'.
The first few stories are the strongest, and the last story was the strangest. I barely got through the last one. 3 stars for the stories and maybe half a star for the premise. I heard they even have an Iraqi version of this collection, though it has even lower reviews than this book.
Book #38 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge
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Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski
“Doubts. Only evil, sir, never has any.
But no one can escape his destiny.”
The second anthology of Witcher stories brings the Witcher character, Geralt, into better focus. The first anthology was light-hearted, even humorous at times, but this one felt a lot more serious. In this collection of stories we learn more about Geralt's 'destiny' and two women who are tied to his life – Yennefer, and Ciri.
I briefly met these characters while watching the first two episodes of the NETFLIX adaptation of The Witcher, but only fleetingly. After finishing both Last Wish and Sword of Destiny I feel I have a better grasp on The Witcher world and am now prepared to tackle watching The Witcher Season 1.
In Sword of Destiny, Geralt kills monsters of course, but also shows us the other side of himself. He after all is still human at heart. He is dealing with his love of Yennefer, his destiny that keeps leading him to the girl Ciri.
Book #15 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge
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The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
I have heard a lot of good things about this series from my Polish friend. This book series has also been turned into a video game, and most recently a NETFLIX series.
This led me to start watching the TV series. It was interesting, but it felt hollow. It felt like it was only scratching the surface of the world Sapkowski has created. I only watched 2 episodes then stopped for fear I was missing out on a richer experience from reading the book.
So I picked up the 'first' book in the series, The Last Wish, [more on this below]. The book is far, far better than the series. You understand much more about the world, and the motivations behind the main character, Geralt, from the books. In the books he has far better, and wittier dialogue than the TV series where he mostly just grunts. Two of the episodes I watched are based on stories from this book; they were both better in the short stories. The TV series seems to skip important dialogue and interactions with other characters to focus more on Geralt and the fighting scenes.
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories – Ken Liu
Ken Liu is maybe most well-known for his stellar translations of other superstars like Ci Lixin (Three Body Problem) but he also is a great writer in his own right.
This collection of stories are varied. Some are about: historical fiction, alternative histories, evolution of humans, robot ghosts, and even musings on the book making habits of fictional alien races.
In each story Liu can blend elements from Chinese folklore, history, and culture into all his work. He puts a piece of himself into all these stories along with his fantastic imagination. I also appreciate how he often leaves a note at the end of his stories to a link to the idea that sparked the story.
Stories in this collection:
- The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species
- State Change
- The Perfect Match
- Good Hunting
- The Literomancer
- The Regular
- The Paper Menagerie
- An Advanced Readers' Picture Book of Comparative Cognition
- The Waves
- Mono No Aware
- All the Flavors
- A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel
- The Litigation Master and the Monkey King
- The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary
NOTE: The short-story “Good Hunting” has been adapted into an episode of Netflix's “Love, Death + Robots”. It's episode 8 in the series.
Book #58 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
#BookReview #KenLiu #scifi #ShortStory
Galatea by Madeline Miller
Miller has a talent for bringing to life the world of Greek mythology. As a person of Greek heritage, I'm glad that she's bringing the passion of Greek myths to people who might know the myths. I read her books Circe, and Song of Achilles and thought they were both excellent stories that remained faithful the the spirit of the myths they were based on.
Galatea is based on a myth I'm not familiar with I'm ashamed to say. This is based on the story of Pygmalion. He is a gifted sculpture who makes a very beautiful marble statue of a woman. He falls in love with the statue and the Gods turn her into a real woman for him. Then they get married and live happily ever after (I suppose?).
The story of Galatea doesn't retell that part of the myth but rather looks ahead to what would their marriage would be like if the statue was married to the man. What feelings would she have? What would she life (or die for)? This is a short story but still a nice read. I love how Miller retells these myths from the female perspective with is almost always neglected in Greek mythology.
Book #43 in My 2019 Reading Challenge
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