Not Everyone Is Special by Josh Denslow

Josh Denslow's short story collection Not Everyone Is Special didn't start off on the best foot with me. There were a number of moments that were ableist, fat shaming, and casually racist in that covert "joking" kind of way. BUT it seemed like, more often than not, the characters had moments of clarity about their flaws and learned from them. I enjoyed all of the stories, but they got better and better as the collection went on. I'm very glad I kept reading. Some are speculative fiction, others are slice of life. "Extra Ticket" was my favorite by far (have tissues handy). Denslow has a knack for diving deep into people's emotions and thought processes. The characters aren't always relatable,…

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So You Want to be a Robot by A. Merc Rustad

A. Merc Rustad's So You Want to be a Robot is full of heart with its devastatingly beautiful speculative sci-fi/fantasy stories. I wanted to simultaneously laugh with delight and also...just have a good cry. These stories are all unique, so there was no slump due to homogeneity as you sometimes find in short story collections. Starting each story was like opening a gift, because I never knew what I was going to find. But I always had a feeling it was going to be amazing and unlike anything I'd previously read. The #ownvoices rep here (queer, ace/aro, ASD) really shines. It's full of the kind of love, care, and joy (even when the stories are dark) that simply cannot be…

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Invasions by Calvin Gimpelevich

Thanks to Calvin Gimpelevich, I can now say goodbye to a two-month reading slump where I couldn't focus on reading one darn thing. Short stories?! Speculative fiction?! Trans #ownvoices?! Yes, please! The most impressive thing to me about Invasions was how different each story was, in mood, style, premise, everything. So this book never dragged, not even once. It was like opening a bunch of small, delightful presents. What every story did share, though, was a whole lot of heart. These characters are going to stay with me for a while. Fantastic collection. .. Source: Thanks to Instar Books for reaching out to me and offering up a review copy, and to Casey Plett for letting them know this would…

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Mini Reviews: Recent Favorites by Trans & Nonbinary Authors

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders This was an incredible reading experience! I loved the writing, I was fully invested in the characters, and I felt like I was part of its world. The blend of the scientific and the magical, sci-fi and fantasy, was super cool. The plot was exciting, but Anders also took the time to flesh out deeper themes such as loneliness. I know others have complained about the ending, but I felt like everything came full circle in a lovely, very satisfying way. . The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Daniel Mallory Ortberg I read this in one day, pretty much straight through! I couldn't get enough and wish the…

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By the Wayside by Anne Leigh Parrish

  I'm a sucker for short story collections, and By the Wayside hit the spot. Many of these stories are powerful slices of life. Some have a fable-like atmosphere; others, a dash of magical realism. This collection was a delight. Social commentary is cleverly woven in (especially in "Bree's Miracle" and "Patience," which allude to reproductive rights and Black Lives Matter, respectively). They pack a real punch, but it's subtle, never heavy-handed. And "How She Was Found" — this is a feminist love song, y'all. I loved the quiet little jabs. And oh my gosh, the ending had me scream-cheering! As in: By the Wayside grabbed me in a lot of the same ways Parrish's Our Love Could Light the World did: interesting characters, complex…

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The Thing About Great White Sharks by Rebecca Adams Wright

The fifteen speculative short stories in The Thing About Great White Sharks blew me away! This collection is creative, offbeat and really delightful. As each story unfolded, I had a steady stream of happy/excited/giddy feelings because I never knew what was coming up next. Rebecca Adams Wright's versatility shines throughout this book. In Sheila, a man makes a difficult (and shocking) decision concerning his robotic dog when "mechanimals" are banned after a single but horrific incident. Storybag makes you think: Are we living our lives as part of someone else's story, or writing our own? Keeper of the Glass is a war story with a twist of fantasy, based on a true historical thread: Keeping panels of the cathedral's stained glass windows hidden…

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Hall of Small Mammals: Stories by Thomas Pierce

It's no secret that I love offbeat short story collections. Add Thomas Pierce's Hall of Small Mammals to the list. Many of these stories have fascinating, wildly imaginative premises: a woman hides a cloned miniature woolly mammoth in her home; a man deals with his feelings about his wife's "other" husband, who lives in her dream world; a possum skull haunts a couple. Others are more subtle: a father yearns to connect with his son through an unusual scout camping trip; a seemingly apathetic passenger takes a solo hot air balloon ride. My favorite by far was "Videos of People Falling Down," interconnected shorts within an already short format. That title sums it up pretty well, but what I found…

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Man V. Nature by Diane Cook

I've been sitting on this review until the very last moment because I haven't known where to begin. My head is spinning. Every time I think I know what I want to say about this collection of short stories, I come up with a ton of other ideas, too much to include in one review. Each story in Man vs. Nature centers around a personification of "nature," which manifests itself as an aspect of the natural world, an aspect of human nature, or often, a blend of the two. Our hopes and fears, our virtues and failings, our natural lives and deaths, the balance we strive for, the societies we've created: All of these things are confronted, pled with, fought, accepted. It…

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A Brief Moment of Weightlessness by Victoria Fish

Imagine you've just started reading a book by a new-to-you author, and you find you are absolutely captivated, even before you finish the first page. It's a remarkable feeling. That was my experience while reading A Brief Moment of Weightlessness, yet I couldn't help but think, "The rest of the book can't possibly live up to this amazing start." I thought for sure there'd be at least one story that wasn't as brilliant as the others. Somehow, Fish managed to create a collection that dazzles from start to finish. I loved every single story. There's a level of depth present that is difficult to achieve in such a short format, but Fish shows finesse, mastery, and sensitivity. "Where Do You Find…

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Flings by Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor's Flings, a collection of short stories, started out on a high note for me. Each story is a brief glimpse into one moment in a relationship. Taylor brings you into his characters' thoughts and feelings, making it easy to connect with them. To be honest... That's how I felt during the first few stories. Then I started to feel more and more like I was reading variations on a theme, where the variations all sound just a little too similar. Eventually I found myself fighting to hold interest, working too hard to read instead of skim. Just when I was planning to set the book aside, "Carol, Alone," about an elderly woman adjusting to life after her husband's death,…

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