Book Review: His Hideous Heart

his hideous heartHis Hideous Heart
Edited by Dahlia Adler
Young Adult / Retellings / Short Stories / Horror
468 pages
Published September 2019

The first of my spooky reads this month, His Hideous Heart is a collection of thirteen redone tales from Edgar Allan Poe. The timing for this review is perfect, because today is also the International Poe Festival here in Baltimore! I am heading down to the festival today, and should have photos to post tomorrow!

This book was incredibly well done – one of my favorite parts about it is the inclusion of the original versions of the eleven stories and two poems, in the second part of the book. A few of the tales chosen were ones I had never heard of – I’m much more familiar with Poe’s poetry than his prose. So having the originals to read made the experience much richer.

I think my favorite was the retelling of Annabel Lee, one of my favorite poems. Tessa Gratton turned it into a story of two young lesbians and called it Night-Tide, and it beautifully captures the yearning and loss from the poem. A Drop of Stolen Ink, inspired by The Purloined Letter, was another fantastic, futuristic piece. They are all fantastic pieces, though, who am I kidding? I think my least favorite was actually the one built from The Raven – it’s the original poem, but with most of it blacked out so the un-redacted words form a new poem. It’s novel, but just not as good as the rest, in my opinion.

Like much of young adult lit recently, the diversity was on point; The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay includes a trans character, and several of the tales star queer people. The viewpoint character in Happy Days, Sweetheart (The Tell-Tale Heart) is black and Mexican.

Overall, this is a beautifully done modern take on some of Poe’s best tales, and I definitely want to buy a copy for my own shelves. I actually need to re-buy a book of Poe’s tales – somehow, though my husband and I each had a copy when we married, somewhere through our moves we’ve lost both copies! I’ll have to keep an eye out today at the festival, though I think what I really want is one of Barnes & Noble’s pretty collector’s editions.

From the cover of His Hideous Heart:

Edgar Allan Poe may be 170 years beyond this world, but the themes of his terrifying works live on in modern fiction for young adults. And with this collection, a host of some of today’s most beloved authors come together to reimagine Poe’s most terrifying, thrilling tales in new and unexpected ways.

Whether Poe’s stories are already familiar or discovered here for the first time, readers will revel in the terrors and thrills of his classic tales and how they’ve been brought to life in thirteen utterly unforgettable ways.

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Book Review: New Suns

new sunsNew Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
Edited by Nisi Shawl
Short stories / Sci-Fi / Fantasy
279 pages
Published March 2019

This was quite the collection! I disagree with the cover description’s use of “unexpected brilliance” – I think that’s actually slightly insulting, and possibly racist. (Who wrote that line?!) I fully expected the brilliance I got, and was very pleased with it!

From the forward by Levar Burton, through stories by Hispanic, Black, Asian, and Indigenous authors, all the way to the Afterword from Nisi Shawl, this was an amazing, fascinating, mind-blowing book. Rebecca Roanhorse is probably the most well-known of the authors, thanks to Trail of Lightning, but Indrapramit Das wrote The Devourers, which I’ve heard about and have on my Kindle but have not yet read, and Steven Barnes is married to another author I’ve read, Tananarive Due. Silvia Moreno-Garcia wrote the recently released Gods of Jade and Shadow, which I picked up through Book of the Month in July but have again, not yet read. Library books keep taking priority over things I own!

Going through the biographies in the back of the book makes me want to add EVERYTHING to my TBR – with titles like The Sea is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia, Will Do Magic For Small Change, and The Beast With Nine Billion Feet, how could I not?!

Back to the book itself, though! There are 17 stories in this book, ranging from 5 pages to 20-30 pages. I think my favorite was “The Freedom of the Shifting Sea” by Jaymee Goh, about an Asian mermaid, but the one just before it, “Burn the Ships,” about indigenous South Americans fighting back with blood magic against Spaniards, was also amazing. (Written by Alberto Yáñez.) Really all of the stories are spell-binding, though. And the variety is VAST. From a story retelling The Emperor’s New Clothes, in three variations, to Earth becoming a tourist destination for galactics (aliens), to a story imagining what we would be like with computers in our heads to keep us from having destructive emotions, these are wildly imaginative and thought-provoking.

I love reading short story anthologies because they always introduce me to new authors I want to read more of, which this book unequivocally did. I also have more reason to read Gods of Jade and Shadow now!

This should be on the reading list of every spec fic fan. I’m going to leave you with the quote that begins the book and inspired the title, from one of the mothers of modern science fiction, Octavia Butler:

“There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.”

From the cover of New Suns:

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange. Between this book’s covers burn tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their indefinable overlappings. These are authors aware of our many possible pasts and futures, authors freed of stereotypes and cliches, ready to dazzle you with their daring genius.

Unexpected brilliance shines forth from every page.

Book Review: Black Enough

Black EnoughBlack Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America
Edited by Ibi Zoboi
Young Adult/Anthology/Contemporary Fiction
400 pages
Published January 2019

I’m not sure how to write this review or even if I SHOULD be writing this review. Black Enough is an anthology of stories about being young and black in America. (As the subtitle says.) I’m white. I don’t identify with these stories, but I wanted to read it to be exposed to other experiences. That’s WHY I try to read a lot of minority voices.

The problem is – I didn’t care for a decent portion of the book. But should that matter in writing a review of an #ownvoices book when I’m not part of the demographic? There are two authors I have previous problems with – Justina Ireland (author of Dread Nation, read my review for my issues with her) and Nic Stone, who wrote Odd One Out which I HAAAATED. Their short stories here had none of the issues their respective books did, but I tend not to separate art from artist, so I’m still side-eyeing their inclusion in this anthology. I also strongly disliked the editor’s own story, the last one in the book. But should that matter? There were stories I loved – Jay Coles’ Wild Horses, Wild Hearts, Lamar Giles’ Black. Nerd. Problems. and Leah Henderson’s Warning: Color May Fade were all amazing. But again, how much does that matter? I can’t speak for how real these stories are, or how well the authors capture these feelings because I don’t know. (Which is part of WHY I read these. To learn.)

I toyed with the idea of just not writing a review. But books like these are important, and need to be talked about and lifted up so more people can find them. Being one more white person refusing to talk about the subject ALSO isn’t the right call.

What I finally decided I can do is link to some #ownvoices reviews of the book. Don’t take my opinion on this book. Take theirs! (And, spoiler, they all loved it!)

Rich In Color’s review

Black Nerd Problems’ review (and I’m totally following this site now)

Crafty Scribbles’ review (okay, so I’m following all three of these sites now, and you should too!)

 

From the cover of Black Enough:

BLACK IS . . . sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renee Watson.

BLACK IS . . . three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds.

BLACK IS . . . Nic Stone’s bougie debutante dating a boy her momma would never approve of.

BLACK IS . . . two girls kissing, in Justina Ireland’s story set in Maryland.

BLACK IS . . . urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more – because there are countless ways to be Black enough.