Six degrees of separation, lottery across the ages

Welcome to #6degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I mostly use this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here.

How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here. October begins with Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery. If you haven‘t read this, please do—it‘s very short and only takes about 20 minutes.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Probably a shocking read in 1948, when it came out. In the days of The Hunger Games barely worth a twitch, I guess. Which itself is probably considered a modern classic by now, starting a whole subgenre of likeminded YA books. I wonder, if Ursula LeGuin was inspired by Lottery, when she wrote The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas a few years later? That one had much more of an impact on me.

Anyway, we get a short story that seems to describe a regular, ordinary sounding event in a small town. People are nonchalant about it and want to get on with it, to get that interruption of their normal day out of the way. Suspicion sneaks up on you slowly, that not all is as it seems to be, all the way to the horrific ending.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) by Suzanne Collins, read in 2016

Well written, good world building, the prose flows along nicely. Well-paced suspense. Love the idea of the mockinjays. All the charactes come to life swiftly and are believable. I saw it all vividly in my mind’s eye. Katniss has the odd moment of stupid. But the action is great, excellent plot and suspense. Katniss Everdeen, where have you been all my life? I read half of the book in one sitting. Bonus points for a YA book, that doesn’t read as if the author thinks that teens are stupid. Obviously, if you read this, you need to read the rest of the trilogy.

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin, read in 2020

I picked this up, because I wanted to get to know Le Guin a little better. It looked like a good starting point, having won so many awards. I don‘t want to get into the plot, this needs to be read spoiler-free. If you liked The Lottery and are interested in speculative fiction, read this!

What are you willing to give up to do the right thing? Would you walk away? And would that be good enough? Obviously not, but it‘s not as easy as that. You‘ve dealt with your guilt by walking away, but that doesn‘t really help, does it? How do we deal with our privilege, what would be an acceptable response?

Omelas leads me to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, read in 2019.

“A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.“

https://gizmodo.com/read-ken-lius-amazing-story-that-swept-the-hugo-nebula-5958919

Lovely, truly lovely. And terribly bittersweet and sad. Only 11 pages long, another quick read that packs a punch. It leads me to:

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, read in 2019.

Story of Your Life is the basis for the movie Arrival.

“Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.“

I have seen the movie several times and like it a lot. The most interesting for me were the differences from the story to the film. Would I have liked the story more or less, if I hadn‘t seen the movie? Did I like it more, because I like the movie? Despite the differences? Probably. Would I have understood the story as well without knowing the movie? Maybe. 
Did the story add layers to the movie? Possibly. Either way, it was painful and a great piece of story telling.

Another book looking at family, children and a setting that fits the theme of all these stories, is:

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

The world is a dystopian one, where people can be genetically enhanced and those that choose not to enhance their offspring have started to be relegated to the fringes of society and the children are disadvantaged.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley comes to mind after reading Ishiguro.

I read this about 30 years ago, give or take. I struggled with understanding it and remember that I found it hard to get into it. But I liked the concept of the story and ultimately liked the book quite a bit. I think it should be recommended reading for anybody interested in SF that predicts how our society could develop in the not too far away future. Especially nowadays, with the advances being made in cloning, I think this book gains even more importance.

A horrific lottery in the past leads to impossible choices in the future.

Nice enough as a whole

The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Stories
by Kel McDonald (Goodreads Author) (Editor),  Sloane Leong (Goodreads Author) (Editor),  Kate Ashwin (Editor),  Jonah Cabudol-Chalker (Contributor),  Rob Cham (Contributor),  Yiling Changues (Contributor),  Paolo Chikiamco (Goodreads Author) (Contributor),  Diigii Daguna (Contributor),  Brady Evans (Contributor),  Mark Gould (Contributor),  Gen H. (Contributor)

Middle Grade is not something I read a lot, I am pretty set on adult fiction. But this anthology looked interesting. There are some nice stories here and some that I liked less. The artwork spans various types, some of it is very simple, some very nice. The usual mixed bag. The individual stories are generally fairly short, they often also feel unfinished. 

I am disappointed in the choice of settings. Mostly the stories originate from the Philippines, there are a few from Hawaii and one story from Fiji — I had hoped for more variety. Do the Philippines even count a belonging to Oceania? And why is New Zealand mentioned in the blurb? There is no story from New Zealand.

I liked The Legend of Apolaki and Mayari by Kim Miranda. What a pretty story with nice sketches! Brother and sister end up fighting each other, a Filipino folkloric story.

Also pretty good was Nanuae the Sharkboy by Gen H. Set in Hawaii. There is shapeshifting (yay!), sharks (yay!) and the story is told a lot through images instead of text, which was done well. The ending was a bit abrupt.

The Legend of the Coconut Tree by Yiling Changues was that singular story from Fiji. Beautiful artwork. I would call it illustrated poetry? Very pretty, although I am not sure if I understood the ending correctly.

Nice enough as a whole. I would probably recommend this to friends.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

More cautionary tales…

The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Stories
by Kel McDonald

More cautionary tales…

The Night Marchers by Jonah Cabudol-Chalker (illustrator, Hawaii) & Kate Ashwin (writer, UK) ★★★☆☆

A positive ghost story. Nice page layouts. Very short.

The Legend of Apolaki and Mayari by Kim Miranda ★★★★☆

What a pretty story with nice sketches! Brother and sister end up fighting each other… Philippines again. Very simple, but I really liked the artwork.

Nanuae the Sharkboy by Gen H. ★★★★☆

And Hawaii… good story! There is shapeshifting (yay!), sharks (yay!) and the story is told a lot through images instead of text, which was done well. The ending was a bit abrupt.

Thousand Eyes by Paolo Chikiamco & Tintin Pantoja ★★★★☆

And the Philippines again… about a girl that seems to be lazy and gives her mother some trouble. Of the stories included here, this looks the most like a comic. Another good one, with a sci-fi twist this time.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

Award Winning Authors for the Reading Writers of Color Challenge

I don‘t usually freak out about the end of the month coming, but July got away from me. I read good stuff, it was much better than June, but I did not manage to catch up… For my #ReadBIPOC2021 challenge I barely glanced at my pick for July, which was all about a collection or anthology. The main prompt leaned towards poetry, but I went for a short story collection from my TBR pile. My plan was to read:

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora (ebook).

I will get to it eventually and probably post updates after each story.

The challenge for August is this:

Celebrating Award Winning Authors for the Reading Writers of Color Challenge.

And for my books on my TBR shelf (owned books) that gives me these choices:

In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world.

Literary Awards: Sunburst Award for Young Adult (2018)American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Young Adult Book (Honor Book) (2018)Governor General’s Literary Awards / Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général for Traduction (de l’anglais vers le français) by Madeleine Stratford (2019) and for Young People’s Literature — Text (2017)CBC Canada Reads Nominee (2018)Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature (2017)

Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.

Literary Award: Alex Award (2021) — there was a ton of nominations for other awards, which this did not win…

In this epic saga of magic and kungfu, four siblings battle rival clans for honor and power in an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

Literary Awards: World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2018)Prix Aurora Award for Best Novel (English) (2018)

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumoured healing powers.

Literary Awards: Arthur C. Clarke Award (2019)Nommo Award for Best Novel (The Ilube Award) (2017)

Six degrees of Separation with Australian wildlife

Welcome to #6degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.

This month we yet again begin with a book I haven‘t read and have never heard, of The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. This won the 2021 Stella Prize, something I have never heard of either. Very educational for me today!

The Bass Rock is about family and love, and the ways that both can undo a person – as both storm and haven. It’s about the legacy of male violence and the ways in which these traumas ripple and reverberate across time and place.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/the-bass-rock/

Doesn‘t sound bad, but isn‘t really my cup of tea.

About the prize:

Stella began in 2012 with the Stella Prize, a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing. The aim was to counter the gender bias rife in the Australian literary landscape at the time and promote cultural change through the recognition of women’s perspectives.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/about/

On the longlist of that prize are some books that sound more interesting. Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson sounds a bit more down my alley, as it seems to have some magical realism in it.

Exploring the experiences of a First Nations community living on the outskirts of a rural town, Song of the Crocodile focuses on four generations of one family as a vessel to explore the insidious and generational impacts of racism, colonialism and violence. 

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/song-of-the-crocodile/

Revenge, Murder in Three Parts by S.L. Lim sounds like an unusual story of revenge:

A family favour their son over their daughter. Shan attends university before making his fortune in Australia while Yannie must find menial employment and care for her ageing parents. After her mother’s death, Yannie travels to Sydney to become enmeshed in her psychopathic brother’s new life, which she seeks to undermine from within.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/revenge/

Fairly odd sounding and intriguing is The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay:

As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean’s infected son, Lee. When he takes off with Kimberly, heading south, Jean feels the pull to follow her kin.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/the-animals-in-that-country/

The other three books that stood out for me where Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore

…a warm, funny and highly original portrait of a young girl’s search for identity and her struggle to deal with grief. Through families lost and found, this own-voices story celebrates the resilience of the human heart and our need to know who we truly are.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/metal-fish-falling-snow/

Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe

Evoking the rich, unfolding tapestry of Australian life in the late nineteenth century, Stone Sky Gold Mountain is a heartbreaking and universal story about the exiled and displaced, about those who encounter discrimination yet yearn for acceptance.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/stone-sky-gold-mountain/

…and finally Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan

…a story collection that is astonishingly clever and witty, while also full of piercing insights into contemporary society. As she plays with structure and voice, Tan also explores popular culture and modern technology to great effect, and her futuristic scenarios are well thought out and all too plausible. Food scarcity, environmental destruction, capitalist bureaucracy and misogyny are just some of the ideas explored in the collection – in tales that feature mermaids, devious cats, and mangled ‘90s ballads.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/smart-ovens-for-lonely-people/

Strangely enough, these books are not only connected through nominations for the Stella Prize, they also all have either animals in their titles or on their covers. There you go. Tempted to read any of them?

Top Ten Tuesday in full sentences

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

Last week‘s topic: book titles that are complete sentences…


Kitty Goes to Washington (Kitty Norville, #2) by Carrie Vaughn. Kitty pretty outed werewolves to the world in her midnight radio show. Not on purpose, mind you. Now she has to show up in Washington for a senate hearing. 

Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, #3) by Carrie Vaughn, things start to become darker and scarier. than in the first two books.

Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, #6) by Carrie Vaughn, the action is good and the plotlines entertaining….

Kitty Goes to War (Kitty Norville, #8) by Carrie Vaughn, Entertaining, funny, lots of werewolves…

The Rest Falls Away (The Gardella Vampire Hunters, #1) by Colleen Gleason. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, meets Jane Austen. A lot of frocks, debutantes and dance cards mingle with the undead.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. It is a very poetic book, the characters feel real and I got very involved in the storyline. It was just too much. Dolores was such a terrible person in the first half of the book. Not an easy read.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green,  Joanne Greenberg. I found the characters too removed to develop enough interest.

Teach Yourself Islam by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood. The book gives a good first look into Islam. It covers all the basics and is easy too read, albeit with a strong emphasis on Asian Muslims living in Britain,

Tell No One by Harlan Coben, boilerplate mystery / thriller.

From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East by William Dalrymple. Brilliant book. Traveling from the mountain cloisters of Greece across the Levantine to Mount St Catherine in the Sinai, you learn in a colourful way, why and how Christianity and Islam developed from Judaism. 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee, a brilliant play, that led to an equally brilliant movie.

What’s Bred in the Bone (Cornish Trilogy, #2) by Robertson Davies. Imaginative, unusual, weird.

Ghost magic

Elatsoe
by Darcie Little Badger,  Rovina Cai (Illustrator)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yes, it‘s Young Adult, not my favourite genre. But it looked interesting. And while I didn‘t bite my nails, the story was not bad and the writing was good. More background about the world this is set in would have been nice. Essentially it‘s UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. My favourite gadget: instant teleportation via fae ring.

Author and female main character are Lipan Apache. Ellie is 17 years old and has the power to call animal ghosts into being. This power is her family‘s gift and we keep getting short insights into one of Ellie‘s female ancestors. Besides powers and gifts of indigenous people, other magic has made its way from the old world, aka the mentioned vampires and fae.

In her dreams Ellie is contacted by a dyeing relative, asking her to find out why he was murdered and to protect his family. The mystery is nicely done. 

The illustrations above each chapter are pretty. I tried in vain to find a read thread in them or a connection to what happens in the respective chapters. I‘m assuming that the girl is Elatsoe and the dog is Kirby.

PS: I thought about tagging this as LGBT, but it‘s so fleeting, it‘s barely there.

First Line Friday — Elatsoe

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I am currently reading an ebook; I am about halfway with it. I also started an audiobook and a comic. Here are first lines of all three of them:

Elatsoe (ebook)
by Darcie Little Badger

ELLIE BOUGHT THE LIFE-SIZED plastic skull at a garage sale (the goth neighbors were moving to Salem, and they could not fit an entire Halloween warehouse into their black van).

First line, chapter one

Yes, it‘s Young Adult, not my favourite genre. But it looked interesting. And while I‘m not biting my nails, the story is not bad and the writing is good. More background on the world this is set in would be nice. Essentially it‘s UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. My favourite gadget: instant teleportation via fae ring.

I would like to finish this weekend, but I have plans in real life, so it‘s doubtful. I also started the next audiobook in my re-read of The Expanse:

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author),  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

The twin shipyards of Callisto stood side by side on the hemisphere of the moon that faced permanently away from Jupiter.

First sentence of the prologue

This is my review from 2018:

Fabulous. I think I have a new favourite in the Expanse series! 5 stars with a cherry on top. Some slight spoilers ahead…

All about Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos, instead of the usual introduction of a new host of characters never to be seen again. 

And Bobby is back! And Avasarala, potty-mouth and all.

This is like pure gold for the fans of the series. No distractions of getting to know other characters or slowly diving into a complicated storyline. Just our favourite crew, with their odd-ball humour, trying to survive against mounting odds in a pretty straight forward action adventure story. Don’t get me wrong, the other books with their conspiracies, aliens, universe-spanning plots and amazing world building were fun, too. But this was a great joy ride in its straight forwardness and relative simplicity. And the action, twists and turns kept coming right from the start. I wanted to take breaks between chapters, but I just couldn’t, I was having too much fun…

My favourite stories were those of Amos and Naomi. Holden’s was fun, too, but more of a filler. Alex’s story interested me the least. Each of those plots easily could have been the basis for full novels of their own. 

Waiting till next month for my fellow buddy readers to pick up the next book of the series is going to be hard…

P.S.: Reading the short story The Churn beforehand is recommended, it gives background on Amos Burton’s youth and characters that are relevant to this story arc.

And the comic I just loaded via Kindle Unlimited:

The Swords of Glass, Vol. 3: Tigran (Kindle Edition)
by Sylviane Corgiat

Very nice artwork in the first two volumes! It‘s been a while since I read them, so my memory of the plot is a little vague, but we‘ll see…

A little knowledge about Sharks

The Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks
by Bernard Seret,  Julien Solé (Illustrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Very informative graphic novel about sharks. Not sure what age range this is aimed at, my guess is middle-grade, although some of the vocabulary might be a little challenging for kids. The art is good and all salient points are covered.

According to the Internet Bernard Séret is a retired French marine biologist, more specifically an ichthyologist specializing in sharks and rays, of which he has discovered several species. I am pretty sure that he is the grey haired narrator of this.

It‘s getting weird in the woods

The Woods Vol. 5
by James Tynion IV,  Michael Dialynas

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Over a year has passed since Bay Point Preparatory High School found themselves countless light years away in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Now the crew finds themselves divided, choosing sides in a war that has been raging for hundreds of years.

More backstories. The plot becomes more complex and weirder. Several revelations, some expected and others not so much. Monsters, drugs, bodily harm and death. After reading five volumes more or less back to back, I ran out of steam a little though. I need a break. I might continue at a later point.

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