Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

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Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of tales by Ted Chiang, famous recently for the movie Arrival, that is based on the story that titles the book.

Story of Your Life is wonderful and compelling, and the mix between reading the story and seeing the movie helps in understanding better the thematic (time perception, cause – effect system, interacting with an alien culture); it’s one of the rare situation when text and video helps themselves.

The tales have a philosophical / theological implication: the ambition to reach the divine in Tower of Babylon, the angelic influx to human in Hell is the absence of God, the contact between science and religion in Division by Zero.

Other tales explore ethics and moral: Seventy-Two Letters is set in a hypothetical reality where man is able to give life to golem (that can be compared to artificial intelligences), Liking What You See: A Documentary analyze the theme of perceiving beauty also with respect to the actual standards provided by the media, and Understand shows two opposite ways of dealing with supreme knowledge.

The collection is of great quality, the main thread is the speculation of science fiction; the stories are useful to reflect, but they are not suited for the sf action-lovers.


Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english

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[ARC] Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson

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The book collects some tales by Shirley Jackson, author I already know for the novel We have always lived in the castle and for a couple of stories.

The tales belong the genres of horror and weird: the typical structure begins with a normal setting where dark elements appears and disturb the normal atmosphere. The endings close perfectly the tales and leave a sense of unease to the reader.

It’s a very good collection that I will absolutely suggest to the ones who want to discover the imaginary of this author.

Here follows the table of content of the book.

  1. The Possibility of Evil
  2. Louisa, Please Come Home
  3. Paranoia
  4. The Honeymoon of Mrs Smith
  5. The Story We Used to Tell
  6. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  7. Jack the Ripper
  8. The Beautiful Stranger
  9. All She Said Was Yes
  10. What a Thought
  11. The Bus
  12. Family Treasures
  13. A Visit
  14. The Good Wife
  15. The Man in the Woods
  16. Home
  17. The summer people

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith

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Public libraries and other stories is a collection of stories by Ali Smith; after each tale there is a recollection or an episode about public libraries and the cultural and educational role they have in modern society.

I honestly prefer other books by Ali Smith (like the beautiful How to be both and the nice Autumn), and I like more her narrative style in the novel form, however I still remember some images from this collection of stories:

  • the books that contain short text in the boundary and the poet Olive Fraser who frees them at the end of the tale that tells a fictional episode of her life;
  • the old lady forgotten on the train and the group of teenagers who help her;
  • the child who wants to pay an object with flowers;
  • the mix of bureaucracy and technology that make ourself lose control of our life (the cloned credit card, the man declared dead multiple times without reason).

To the readers wanting to read for the first time something by this author I think it’s better to go for a novel.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip

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Harrowing the Dragon è una raccolta di racconti principalmente sul genere fantasy, ma con presenze di retelling e racconti di altri generi.

Della stessa autrice avevo già letto The forgotten beasts of Eld in cui avevo apprezzato sia ambientazione che stile narrativo. Anche questi racconti sono un buon esempio dell’abilità dell’autrice nel descrivere sia ambientazioni (come l’inverno nel primo racconto, The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath) che concetti astratti (la musica di A Matter of Music), e nel creare in generale storie evocative (la malinconica ambientazione di Lady of the Skulls).

Tra i racconti più godibili i tre già citati, i divertenti A Troll and Two Roses e Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son, eleganti e ironiche fiabe moderne e The Fellowship of the Dragon, più classico ma sempre con un tocco particolare.

In tema di retelling risultano molto ben riusciti The Snow Queen (dall’omonimo racconto) e The Lion and the Lark, bellissimo racconto che riprende la fiaba classica La bella e la bestia. Toad riprende la storia del principe ranocchio (versione dei Grimm) dal punto di vista del principe: bello ma sicuramente meno riuscito dei due precedenti.

Star-Crossed prende il via direttamente da Shakespeare, e segue le indagini per comprendere la morte di Romeo e Giulietta, un compito effettivamente complesso se non si è il lettore onnisciente.

Non tutti i racconti sono allo stesso livello a mio parere, ma è una pecca condivisa da ogni raccolta: Ash, Wood, Fire; The Stranger; Transmutations; The Witches of Junket; Voyage into the Heart non mi hanno lasciato un particolare ricordo.

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Harrowing the Dragon is a collection of tales that belong mainly to the fantasy genre, with hint of retellings and a few other themes.

By the same author I read also The forgotten beasts of Eld of which I liked both the setting and the narrative style.  This collection is also an example of Patricia A. McKillip’s skill in describing settings (like the winter in the first tale, The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath) and abstract ideas (the music in A Matter of Music), and in general in creating evocative stories (the melancholic setting of Lady of the Skulls).

Among the best tales there are the three already referenced, then the funny A Troll and Two Roses and Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son, refined and ironical modern fairy tales, and The Fellowship of the Dragon, that follows some rules of the classic fairy tale but with a hint of modern.

Concerning retellings I liked The Snow Queen and The Lion and the Lark, beautiful tale from the classic tale The beauty and the beast. Toad takes form from The frog prince (Grimm version), and shows the story from the prince point of view, it is overall nice, but the former are better.

Star-Crossed tells the story of the investigation about Romeo and Giulietta murders, quite a puzzle except for the omniscient reader.

The other tales are in my opinion not good as these I talked about, but it’s hard to find a collection and like all the tales. Here Ash, Wood, Fire; The Stranger; Transmutations; The Witches of Junket; Voyage into the Heart did not leave me a particular emotion – memory.

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Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip ★★★★☆

[ARC] Twisted Dark #1 – 2 by Neil Gibson

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Twisted Dark è una raccolta di racconti – più o meno brevi – dalle atmosfere cupe. I racconti via via contribuiscono a costruire un universo di storie interconnesse per la presenza di elementi o personaggi.

Ogni storia è illustrata da un diverso artista, e questo comporta una disomogeneità di stile complessiva: nelle graphic novel secondo me la trama è importante quanto la resa grafica, e in alcuni casi il trovare il disegno lontano dal mio gusto ha contribuito a non farmi piacere neanche il racconto.

Le storie sono caratterizzati o da temi cupi, o da finali a sorpresa che virano sull’assenza di lieto fine, ne ho apprezzate alcune, ma per la maggior parte non ho trovato la raccolta particolarmente innovativa.

Ringrazio l’editore per avermi fornito la copia necessaria per stendere questa recensione.

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Twisted Dark is a collection of tales – from short stories to longer forms – with dark atmosphere. The tales contributes in building up a universe where stories are connected by elements or recurring characters.

Each story is illustrated by a different artist, and this makes the collection graphically non homogeneous: concerning graphic novels I think that the drawing are important as the plot, and here sometimes the imagery was quite far from my like corresponded in not liking the story.

The tales have dark and twisted themes, or surprise endings that are not happy. I liked some, but overall I think the collection is not particularly innovative.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.

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Twisted Dark volume 1 by Neil Gibson ★★☆☆☆½
Twisted Dark volume 2 by Neil Gibson ★★☆☆☆½

 

 

[ARC] Poems about Cats by Yasmine Surovec

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This nice book collects different poems by various authors that have in common the presence of cats.

Each poem is illustrated by Yasmine Surovec, author of http://www.catversushuman.com/. I The illustrations are both serious and comical, either way they suit perfectly the specific poetry. A very nice book, perfectly suited for cat lover – but not exclusively.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.

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* Poems about Cats by Yasmine Surovec ★★★★☆

*I read this book in English

Stone Mattress: nine tales by Margaret Atwood

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Stone mattress: nine tales raccoglie nove racconti della ben nota autrice Margaret Atwood (per chi non la conoscesse ancora consiglio Il racconto dell’ancella). Non è una raccolta tematica e ogni racconto è a sè stante, a parte i primi tre che compongono una sorta di trittico (con personaggi comuni ma punti di vista differenti).

Ho letto la raccolta con le mie amiche online (le stesse con cui ho affrontato The Weird: A compendium of strange and dark stories che si è meritato una recensione collettiva) e l’opinione generale è condivisa: i racconti rimangono gradevoli per la grandissima abilità nello scrivere dell’autrice – ci si accorge quando qualcosa è *bello* da leggere – però sono spesso deboli per quanto riguarda la trama.

Ci sono ovvie eccezioni, ho apprezzato molto Lusus Naturae, The Freeze-dried groom, Stone mattress e Torching the Dusties; un po’ meno il trittico iniziale (Alphinland, Revenant, The Dark Lady), The dead hand loves you e I dream of Zenia with the bright red teeth (ma questo è legato al romanzo The robber bride che non ho letto).

L’atmosfera della raccolta, per la maggior parte dei racconti, ha il sapore della malinconia; i personaggi guardano al passato, alla gioventù, a quello che erano e che avrebbero potuto essere se la vita non si fosse messa in mezzo. Come commentava durante la lettura Tintaglia, questo passato mai superato, oppressivo, che segna l’esistenza dei personaggi, è molto triste.

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Stone mattress: nine tales collects nine stories written by the well-known writer Margaret Atwood (for the ones who do not know her I suggest The handmaid’s tale). It’s not a thematic collection and each tale stand aside from the others, a part the first three that are a triptych (characters in common but different point of view).

I read the book with my online friends (the same with I faced The Weird: A compendium of strange and dark stories that deserved a collective review) and the general opinion is shared: the tales are nice for the great skill of the writer – we feel when something is *beautiful* to read – but sometimes the plot are weak.

There are exception, of course, I liked a lot Lusus Naturae, The Freeze-dried groom, Stone mattress and Torching the Dusties; less the beginning triptych (Alphinland, Revenant, The Dark Lady), The dead hand loves you and I dream of Zenia with the bright red teeth (but this tale is connected to a novel I have not read, The robber bride).

The book atmosphere, for most of the tales, is melancholic, the characters look at the past, at their youth, at what they were and what they could have become if life had not meddle with them. As my friend Tintaglia commented during the reading, this never overcome past, oppressive, that marks the whole existence of the characters, is so sad.

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Stone Mattress: nine tales by Margaret Atwood ★★★☆☆