The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

The Unspoken Name was fundamentally an incredibly comforting book. Although it was consistently difficult to sit down and focus due to the current situation, when I was able to do so, I really, really enjoyed it. Larkwood hearkens back to the early eras of epic fantasy, bringing the best of what I loved as a child forward into a modern, fresh new book. 

To Balance the Weight of Khalem by R.B. Lemberg

Every culture has their folklore and in it their culture is reflected. It makes me so unhappy that so many people never get to see themselves in the fiction we read back when we were all in school – especially when I read a story that would have been just perfect. I think of those years of uncertainty and unhappiness. It could have been avoided. In isolation these past four weeks, these feelings are amplified. The missed opportunities for human connection and understanding feel all the more bittersweet. Why couldn’t we have had this story earlier? Why couldn’t we share it amongst ourselves and understand ourselves early? It seems a tragedy.

Little Free Library by Naomi Kritzer

In The Little Free Library, Kritzer creates an imaginative fantasy around the idea of Little Free Libraries. If you’re unfamiliar with Little Free Libraries, they are, in essence, a “take one leave one” book box. The goal is to create a sense of community and giving focused on books. I’ve always been enamored of the idea, and it’s especially comforting in dark times like these. When we have to be physically separated, these little points of connection can keep us together.

The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith

It’s fairly rare that I read any middle grade books, but I saw Niki’s art for The Deep & Dark Blue and immediately fell in love. I knew at once that I had to check this book out. The bold colours and character designs work for me. When I heard it described as “Tamora Pierce, except if Alanna/Alan got to actually be trans,” that was all I needed to know. I headed off and snagged it from Bookshop. And honestly? It completely lived up to all my hopes and dreams.

Review of Daughter from the Dark by Marina and Sergey Dyanchenko, translated by Julia Hersey, and contemplations on connections to Vita Nostra

Similar to Vita Nostra, Daughter from the Dark defies simple attempts at explanation. While it is straightforward on the surface, it’s clear to a reader that there are many depths and dangers lying beneath that topmost narrative layer. It’s almost absurdist, in some respects. Humorous at times. It’s a power struggle between two opposite characters – one who is driven and focused in the extreme, and one who is cowardly, fearful, and selfish. Both are dysfunctional in their own unique ways, struggling to navigate a world filled with death, pain, and hunger. They hurt one another, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, joined by translator Julia Hersey, take us on a dark dive into the human psyche once again, forcing the brightness of the unknown to cast stark shadows that define the edges of our own reality.

The Four Profound Weaves by R. B. Lemberg

R. B. Lemberg’s first foray into long-form fiction has left me breathless. The Four Profound Weaves is a love ballad sung straight into the hearts of those who most need to hear it. I was instantly captivated by the poetic, lyrical prose and drawn in with dreams of sandbirds. It’s the queer, Middle-Eastern fairy tale we’ve been waiting for.

Starving to Death in Brunswick West by Marlee Jane Ward

Marlee tells us a story in which no one is safe – and it’s not just the virus that endangers them. It’s the way communities fracture, the food scarcity, and the lack of infrastructure in place to handle a disaster. This is a rupture in the fabric of society. 

The vision of plague Marlee creates is told in just a few small vignettes. Specifically, ones focused on meal time. First, there are rustlings in the new while she makes baked risotto. Later, they’re lucky to have beans. Soon, they’re grateful for a meager mix of flour and water. It’s desperate, and real. 

Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole

In light of new information regarding Myke Cole, I can no longer endorse any of his work, including Sixteenth Watch. While at the time I enjoyed this book thoroughly, in retrospect, it has proven to be a shitty piece of false, performative “feminism.” Many women and nonbinary individuals within the writing community have come forward sharing their stories as to how Myke abused them. Some of their stories are below. I recommend clicking through for the full context.