Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Tag: diversity

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

You may know Zen Cho from her books Sorcerer to the Crown, but with The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, she proves that her writing also shines in a shorter novella form. And you can’t help but get interested with a beautiful title and cover like that.

The book follows Guet Imm, a votary of the titular order. She joins a group of bandits after being fired from her job in a coffee house because of a commotion one of the bandits started. While Guet Imm befriends the right-hand man of the group’s leader, trouble is on the horizon because of the items they are planning to sell. From the outset, you would expect something really action-packed. It starts with a martial arts fight scene, after all. But what you get is a warmhearted novella about a found family with strong themes of acceptance. Devotees of the order also have some tricks up their sleeves, and there may or may not be magic involved.

The audiobook was done really well, and it was easy to keep track of the characters. I think listening to it really added to my enjoyment of the story, as it provided an easier access to the Asian names for me.

Nuns in Space

I know it sounds weird, but Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather is indeed about nuns in space. It portrays the lives of the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita as they navigate among the stars on their mission of mercy.

So far I have enjoyed every single Tor novella I picked up, and this one is no exception. While the nuns’ initial mission was to spread the Catholic faith, their main focus has become answering calls for help, healing and blessing people. Although it is about a convent, there is not too much of a religious backdrop. At first it is a little difficult to differentiate between the sisters, but after a short while they evolve into a very diverse and interesting cast of characters. Even their Reverend Mother has something up her sleeve.

The plot itself revolves around what happens when the sisters answer a distress call from a recently visited colony. The sisters prove to be tough, intelligent and capable of making hard decisions to help others.

A really interesting aspect of the story is the convent’s ship, Our Lady of Impossible Constellations. In this version of the future, ships are living, breathing organisms bred for the different requirements of space travel and trade. I wondered how it wold be to live inside one of those ships, always hearing a faint heartbeat wherever you go.

It is always impressive when an author manages to build such an interesting world in the form of a novella. I would love to read more set in the same universe.

Proud to be a Bad Feminist

Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist is one of those books that pops up on every ‘feminist books you need to read’ list. I’ve read and loved Hunger and An Untamed State, so I was familiar with some of her background story and her gut-punching writing style.

While circling through different topics, this essay collection opens and closes with pieces on what it means to be a ‘Bad Feminist’ and I whole-heartedly agree with them. Gay’s bottom line in her last essay is this: ‘I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all’, summarizing my thoughts on the matter exactly. There are so many inaccurate myths about feminism that do not offer enough room for all the contradictions day-to-day life presents. Just because I identify as a feminist does not mean I can’t listen to bad rap lyrics or that I have to stop shaving immediately.

This essay collection covers more topics than I would have expected and I especially appreciated the section about race & entertainment. I remember enjoying Kathryn Stockett’s The Help a lot, but Gay’s essay about it really made me wonder if my brain was even turned on back when I read the book. Everyone of us needs more eye-opening moments like that.

Also, if you ever wanted to know something about the hidden depths of competitive scrabble, this collection has something for you.

This was only a 4/5 star read because I missed out on some of the political or pop culture references, but that might be different for readers from the US.

The Savage Beauty of American Hippo

I heard about Sarah Gailey’s novella River of Teeth on a podcast and its premise was so weird that I could not help but get this hippo western collection. Yes, you read that correctly. Hippo western. That should be enough to get everyone’s attention.

American Hippo collects two connected novellas – River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow – and adds two new stories. Usually I’m not a big fan of supplementary stories and tend to skip them, but I read everything back to back.

Gailey based the stories on a mind-boggling fact. In the early twentieth century, the US congress considered hippo ranching as a way to counter a meat shortage and at the same time get rid of water hyacinth that was clogging the waterways. Two birds, one stone. They didn’t follow through, but Sarah Gailey shows what could have happened if they did. Most of the consequences boil down to feral scary hippos biting people in half.

The overall story-line is about betrayal, revenge, cons, gunslingers and explosions – the kind of fun and fast paced romp you might expect from a western adventure. Well, if you replace horses with hippos.

But what really had an impact on me was the highly diverse and morally grey crew of characters. Every one of them feels fully fleshed out without the need to punch you in the face with all the labels. The focus is almost entirely on the skills of each individual character, the fact that they are for example genderqueer or obese is handled in a very accepting and insightful way. To top it off, even the hippo companions get their own character traits and you get a good sense of the relationships between the animals and their riders. Considering the fact that everything in this 5-star-read (at least for me) is packed into less than 300 pages, Sarah Gailey immediately became one of the authors I keep on my release radar.

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