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Light from Uncommon Stars

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Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts. Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has alrea Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts. Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six. When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka's ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She's found her final candidate. But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn't have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan's kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul's worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline. As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.


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Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts. Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has alrea Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts. Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six. When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka's ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She's found her final candidate. But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn't have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan's kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul's worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline. As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.

30 review for Light from Uncommon Stars

  1. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    "Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki's defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts." I have been most reliably informed that this book is gay and that it slaps, and I'm excited to read it! "Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki's defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts." I have been most reliably informed that this book is gay and that it slaps, and I'm excited to read it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melissa ~ Bantering Books

    Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews. If only heart alone could make a novel great. If only positive themes of hope, transgender and queer identity, and acceptance were enough to lift a story to the skies. Because if that were the case, Ryka Aoki’s sci-fi/fantasy novel, Light From Uncommon Stars, would soar to the universe and back. And my task as a book blogger would be considerably easier since I would not be writing this lukewarm review. But other than making me hanker Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews. If only heart alone could make a novel great. If only positive themes of hope, transgender and queer identity, and acceptance were enough to lift a story to the skies. Because if that were the case, Ryka Aoki’s sci-fi/fantasy novel, Light From Uncommon Stars, would soar to the universe and back. And my task as a book blogger would be considerably easier since I would not be writing this lukewarm review. But other than making me hanker for donuts and regret giving up the violin in the fifth grade, the novel didn’t do much for me. Its heart and its hope simply weren’t enough to elevate it to excellence. Katrina Nguyen, a queer trans woman, is a talented violinist who longs to be accepted by her family. After running away from home, she finds herself in a tough spot until she crosses paths with Shizuka Satomi, a famed (and cursed) violin teacher, and Lan Tran, a space alien donut-shop owner. Sounds quirky, doesn’t it? It totally is – and the quirkiness is delightful. The novel is a joyous celebration of Asian Americans, queerness, space aliens, music, and yummy food. But it has a lot going on. In addition to the aforementioned themes, Aoki tackles weightier topics like racism, transphobia, self-harm, rape, and abuse, and Light From Uncommon Stars suffers for the too-busy plot. Aoki is unable to devote adequate time and attention to these aspects of the story, resulting in a weak, thinly-stretched narrative and flat characters with minimal growth. The biggest problem, though, is the novel’s unusual stylistic format. Aoki continually switches character perspective – and I don’t just mean from chapter to chapter. It’s more like, mid-scene and mid-conversation. Every five to ten paragraphs, the narrative is paused by a section break to allow for a perspective shift. It’s jarring, choppy, and distracting. And because I was constantly dropped in and out of the story, I was neither immersed in the narrative nor emotionally connected to the characters. Light From Uncommon Stars is a novel I wish I would’ve loved. And while many of its elements are praiseworthy, more than anything, I found it tiring to read. I was relieved to be done with it. Donut, anyone? My sincerest appreciation to Ryka Aoki, Tor Books, and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy. All opinions included herein are my own. Bantering Books Instagram Twitter Facebook

  3. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Anders

    I've been a fan of Ryka Aoki forever, so I was beyond excited to hear she'd written a novel that combines science fiction and fantasy, featuring a young trans girl protagonist. But wow. Light from Uncommon Stars is so much wilder and more beautiful and sweeter than I could ever have expected. No spoilers here, but this book really captured what it's like to be a trans girl, especially one who's new in her transition, in a way that I'd never quite seen on paper before. I've read a TON of trans no I've been a fan of Ryka Aoki forever, so I was beyond excited to hear she'd written a novel that combines science fiction and fantasy, featuring a young trans girl protagonist. But wow. Light from Uncommon Stars is so much wilder and more beautiful and sweeter than I could ever have expected. No spoilers here, but this book really captured what it's like to be a trans girl, especially one who's new in her transition, in a way that I'd never quite seen on paper before. I've read a TON of trans novels and short stories and memoirs, way more than most people, and I've never seen a trans story like this before. So many tiny details rang true, in ways that made me happy and some ways that broke my heart. The important thing to know is that this book is incredibly soothing and kind and sweet and delightful, despite being very honest about the horrible shit that trans people have to deal with. Including intense stuff like sex work, worrying about where you're going to get hormones and spiro, trying to find a bathroom you can use without getting assaulted. Aoki's characters are flawed and capable of terrible mistakes, but also generous and nuturing, especially toward Katrina, the young trans runaway at the center of the story. And a lot of the life of this book comes from Aoki's lush, gorgeous writing about food and music. This book WILL make you crave various foods, from donuts to Hainan Chicken, and will also fill you with an insatiable desire to listen to Bartók and Paganini and video-game music. That's the other thing: there's a sly thread running through this book about video-game music, and how it's just as valid a musical genre as "proper" classical music. Playing video-game music is sort of Katrina's superpower. Again, no spoilers. The main word that comes to mind for this book is "sensuous." Specifically, Aoki's lovely descriptions really brought my tastebuds and my eardrums to life. Light from Uncommon Stars just swept me away with its beautiful story of friendship, love, and discovering the creative person you were meant to be. I fell in love with these characters, and I did not even realize how desperately I needed this offbeat trans coming-of-age story right now.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    "cursed violins", "Faustian bargains", "donuts", "trans girl protagonist", "sapphic" [absolutely smashes 'want to read' button repeatedly] "cursed violins", "Faustian bargains", "donuts", "trans girl protagonist", "sapphic" [absolutely smashes 'want to read' button repeatedly]

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    This book was weird as hell, but not in a bad way.

  6. 5 out of 5

    gauri

    so delicate. so raw. brutally honest and so soft. a brilliant story about three women navigating through their identity and life <3 thank you tor and netgalley for the arc! original: "made a deal with the devil" smashes to read button so delicate. so raw. brutally honest and so soft. a brilliant story about three women navigating through their identity and life <3 thank you tor and netgalley for the arc! original: "made a deal with the devil" smashes to read button

  7. 5 out of 5

    CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨

    Defiant, affirming, and so tender. Light from Uncommon Stars is a soft and brutally honest SFF about three broken women, whose destinies collide and find belonging and connection with one another. - Follows three women: Katrina, a trans runaway violinist; Shizuka, a Japanese violin teacher who made a deal with the demon to sacrifice seven violin souls to Hell, and is now looking for her final soul; and Lan, a retired space captain and interstellar refugee who opens a donut shop. - This was a gorg Defiant, affirming, and so tender. Light from Uncommon Stars is a soft and brutally honest SFF about three broken women, whose destinies collide and find belonging and connection with one another. - Follows three women: Katrina, a trans runaway violinist; Shizuka, a Japanese violin teacher who made a deal with the demon to sacrifice seven violin souls to Hell, and is now looking for her final soul; and Lan, a retired space captain and interstellar refugee who opens a donut shop. - This was a gorgeous and genuine tribute to violin and music. How this story portrays and depicts playing the violin and the wider violin community - and all its flaws - is probably one of the best depictions I've ever, ever read. - Though the story is incredibly hopeful and soft, it's also brutally honest about trauma and pain. It explores anti-trans experiences, fetishism of trans people, sex work as a trans woman, and parental abuse. - But from that trauma and hurt springs healing and affirmation... which is absolutely what this story is. - I loved the blend of contemporary elements, romantic elements (a sapphic romance!), science-fiction elements and even fabulism. It's absolutely stunning and intertwines so well with one another. - I loved this with my whole heart. This book made me crave donuts. Content warning: anti-trans experience and sentiment, racism, parental physical abuse, deadnaming, war themes. I received a digital advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shaun Hutchinson

    This book was an unexpected treasure. I never expected a book about a soul-stealing violin teacher, a transgender violinist, and aliens running a donut shop to be so perfect, but it is. Everything in this book just works. The writing is gorgeous, the story is heartbreaking and hilarious, the characters are well-drawn and sneak into your heart, and the descriptions of food are divine. Seriously, this book is a love letter to transgender youth, violin music, and food. Definitely a contender for my This book was an unexpected treasure. I never expected a book about a soul-stealing violin teacher, a transgender violinist, and aliens running a donut shop to be so perfect, but it is. Everything in this book just works. The writing is gorgeous, the story is heartbreaking and hilarious, the characters are well-drawn and sneak into your heart, and the descriptions of food are divine. Seriously, this book is a love letter to transgender youth, violin music, and food. Definitely a contender for my very favorite book of the year.

  9. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Oh my heart. My heart. Or maybe my soul? I dunno, but this book has shattered and healed and shattered something again and then healed it once more. Full review on my blog, The Suspected Bibliophile (live October 21, 2021) Trigger Warnings (not complete): racism, homophobia, transphobia, slut-shaming, sexual assault, rape, deadnaming, misgendering I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review Oh my heart. My heart. Or maybe my soul? I dunno, but this book has shattered and healed and shattered something again and then healed it once more. Full review on my blog, The Suspected Bibliophile (live October 21, 2021) Trigger Warnings (not complete): racism, homophobia, transphobia, slut-shaming, sexual assault, rape, deadnaming, misgendering I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  10. 4 out of 5

    Darce

    ARC copy provided in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changes my rating or review. 4 CONFUSING STARS This was… interesting. In a good way! It made me really think, and required brain power, which is probably why I didn’t know what was happening half the time – I really shouldn’t have read this at 1am for like four nights in a row hahaha. Light From Uncommon Stars is a stunning novel. It’s brutal (I mean it when I say check the triggers), and it discusses incredibly powerful subjects – ARC copy provided in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changes my rating or review. 4 CONFUSING STARS This was… interesting. In a good way! It made me really think, and required brain power, which is probably why I didn’t know what was happening half the time – I really shouldn’t have read this at 1am for like four nights in a row hahaha. Light From Uncommon Stars is a stunning novel. It’s brutal (I mean it when I say check the triggers), and it discusses incredibly powerful subjects – transphobia, familial love, souls, and how much we will risk for our passion. From the very beginning, Light From Uncommon Stars accosted me with abuse, misgendering, porn, sexual assault, rape and so much more – and at first, I really wasn’t prepared. But as I continued reading, I grew to appreciate the author’s brutal writing style more and more, until I was completely invested in this enriching and bold sci-fi/fantasy novel, rich with outer space adventures, aliens, demons, soul-selling and so much more. “Yet, this student, this human being, had been forsaken not for ambition, nor revenge, nor even love, but for merely existing? Who needs the Devil when people can create a hell like this themselves?” (This quote may not be in the published version of this novel, it was copied from the advanced reader’s copy.) This is a story ripe with hate, and cruelty, and abuse of all kinds. It hits hard, and it leaves a mark. One of our protagonists, Katrina, is a queer transgender runaway – and her life is not easy. Not in the slightest. But this story is also one of love and hope and the dream of a better world, and Katrina’s growth and development displays this in an absolutely gorgeous way. Her passion for the violin, her fear of the world but her desperation to be free – Ryka Aoki has turned all these emotions into a powerful performance, and I loved watching it happen. “Tomorrow is tomorrow. Over there is over there. And here and now is not a bad place and time to be, especially when so much of the unknown is beautiful.” (This quote may not be in the published version of this novel, it was copied from the advanced reader’s copy.) Ryka Aoki’s writing style is magical and captivating, and though I found this story very confusing at times – very. confusing. – I still loved reading the way she’d crafted each sentence. Each character was so very human – metaphorically – and whether they were plum-coloured, Vietnamese or someone who’d been dooming people’s souls for years, I loved learning about each character and watching them grow. And grow they did. No character was perfect, and they made mistakes – big ones, the kind that happen in real life but tend to be brushed over in books to be replaced with dramatic missions to save the world – and then learnt from these mistakes. The sapphic romance was so sweet, and I thought the ending was absolutely touching. We also got the POVs of some of the side characters, and I loved their little storylines as well, as they learnt about how food is better when baked with love, and how maybe family – though they may try to protect you – aren’t always right. This book also had a measure of humour, which I really appreciated, as it offset the serious themes really well. “These are aubergines? Miss Satomi—my violin is named… Eggplant?” (This quote may not be in the published version of this novel, it was copied from the advanced reader’s copy.) All in all, I really enjoyed Light From Uncommon Stars, and my only complaint is that I was often confused – possibly my fault though, maybe I should have slept instead of reading this in the early hours of the morning haha. Ryka Aoki’s writing is powerful and magical, and I look forward to reading more of her work! The queer and trans rep was superb, and I have only the highest respect for someone who manages to tie so many vastly different themes into one book. Thank you so much to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the ARC copy provided in exchange for an honest review ❤.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki Well, this was one peculiar book and I like peculiar! It had space people, a demon, cursed objects, a trans on the run, a pair of women who fall in love, and donuts! But there was also violent abuse, sexual assault, rape, racism, aggression towards LGBTQ groups, and more. This is a bold book that takes on abuse, sexual assault, Trans and gay issues, and racism against Asians. I think maybe it just had too much in it or needed editing. Katrina is a trans that l Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki Well, this was one peculiar book and I like peculiar! It had space people, a demon, cursed objects, a trans on the run, a pair of women who fall in love, and donuts! But there was also violent abuse, sexual assault, rape, racism, aggression towards LGBTQ groups, and more. This is a bold book that takes on abuse, sexual assault, Trans and gay issues, and racism against Asians. I think maybe it just had too much in it or needed editing. Katrina is a trans that left her abusive home with her violin. She meets a teacher that is famous for her violin. (And all her previous students dying!) She agrees to teach her. That teacher meets a space woman that runs a donut shop. That donut shop's daughter is really a hologram that is made from the essence of a miscarriage and a computer program. These are some of the strange characters in the story! The story is okay but dwells way to much on Katrina's feeling of inadequacy. The book TELLS us repeatedly! I felt like it was covered extensively on each page! It doesn't show us! This is the way of the whole book. I don't regret reading the book but I feel someone READ me a folktale. I didn't feel like I was immersed in a book. I didn't really feel connected to any of the characters. I had no emotions throughout except disgust at times. To me, this was not a normal TOR book. TOR has always been my go-to Publisher for great books! I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for letting me read this strange book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    "Defiantly joyful" is a good word for this book- a story that looks unflinchingly at the harsh realities that many trans youth face, all the while weaving a hopeful tale about love, music, found family, and mouthwatering food. It's character driven science fiction peppered with Faustian bargains, cursed violins, and aliens who run a donut shop. There's a lot happening here but somehow it manages to fit together in a beautiful tapestry. Katrina Wen is a trans runaway and a gifted violin prodigy us "Defiantly joyful" is a good word for this book- a story that looks unflinchingly at the harsh realities that many trans youth face, all the while weaving a hopeful tale about love, music, found family, and mouthwatering food. It's character driven science fiction peppered with Faustian bargains, cursed violins, and aliens who run a donut shop. There's a lot happening here but somehow it manages to fit together in a beautiful tapestry. Katrina Wen is a trans runaway and a gifted violin prodigy using sex work to survive and hopefully afford more hormones. She's early in her transition, dealing with hate and violence, living in fear, even in places that should have been safe. Her life changes when she meets Shizuka Satomi- an infamous violinist who offers to become her teacher. But Satomi has made a deal with the devil to deliver the souls of her students to hell. And yet...she shows kindness to Katrina and in turn Katrina begins to worm her way into her heart. Meanwhile in a donut shop and alien family is in hiding, using replicators to make donuts that never quite have that taste of home. And when Satomi happens into the store, she and the Lan (matriarch of the alien family) are immediately attracted to each other. Like I said, there's a lot happening here but it's a surprisingly quiet, beautiful story that is raw and vulnerable in presenting the experience of being a young trans woman. And it's clear the author knows and loves music. Permeating the book is a passion for the violin, and equally a passion for food with descriptions that will probably make you hungry! At first I didn't love the audio narration because it didn't always echo the more silly and lighthearted tone of some scenes, but eventually I really fell in love with it because it really gets across the emotional depth. I received an audio review copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own. Note that this book does include semi-graphic scenes of sexual assault, slurs, dead-naming, etc.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Heather K (dentist in my spare time)

    DNF. Not my style.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Silvia

    I am the personification of the 🥺 emoji rn RTC

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    5/5 I have so many emotions reading this. Where do I even begin? Light From Uncommon Stars is many things. An ode to the LA/SoCal food scene and the immigrants, refugees, and diaspora communities that make it flourish. A love story to those who feel in love with a violin, with music, and felt their lives changed. The honest and unflinching experiences of a young trans woman escaping the trauma a horrible family environment without a positive support group, and slowly learning to love herself agai 5/5 I have so many emotions reading this. Where do I even begin? Light From Uncommon Stars is many things. An ode to the LA/SoCal food scene and the immigrants, refugees, and diaspora communities that make it flourish. A love story to those who feel in love with a violin, with music, and felt their lives changed. The honest and unflinching experiences of a young trans woman escaping the trauma a horrible family environment without a positive support group, and slowly learning to love herself again. The gentle tender new love of two broken women, finding solace in each other. As an Asian woman, as a queer woman, as a young girl who played the violin for 9 years, I felt ever part of me resonate as I read. I checked Google Maps for every donut shop within a 10 mile radius. I made plans to visit restaurants serving all the delicious foods described. I cried with the characters and the racism, the sexism, the homphoboia and transphobia they're forced to endure I smiled at the soft, quiet moments of feeding ducks in a park and shared meals of home-cooked dishes. I wanted to pick my violin up again. I went in knowing little beyond a violin and a deal with the devil, and came out crying on my couch with soft violin playing in the background. Light from Uncommon Stars hits so closely to my own experiences and I cannot beg readers enough. Please read this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Fanna

    March 31, 2021: “Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.” You can't put this in a blurb and think I won't count down to September. March 31, 2021: “Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.” You can't put this in a blurb and think I won't count down to September.

  17. 5 out of 5

    hiba

    i'm torn over this book because there are some genuinely beautiful moments in here - but it was also an extremely frustrating reading experience. what i loved: the concept is pretty creative and bold for a debut so kudos to the author for that. i also appreciated how the story felt like a love letter to asian american culture. my favorite character by far was katrina - i loved seeing her arc, how she painfully but surely grew into herself, how her journey to fully accept herself paralleled with i'm torn over this book because there are some genuinely beautiful moments in here - but it was also an extremely frustrating reading experience. what i loved: the concept is pretty creative and bold for a debut so kudos to the author for that. i also appreciated how the story felt like a love letter to asian american culture. my favorite character by far was katrina - i loved seeing her arc, how she painfully but surely grew into herself, how her journey to fully accept herself paralleled with her learning the violin, how she realized she's more than trans and queer but that being trans and queer are also what make her beautiful. unfortunately, i have some major gripes with the story - mainly its strange narrative structure and writing choices that didn't work for me at all. i don't mind multi-POV stories and POV changes but this was a little absurd - we had constant and relentless POV changes that would come every few paragraphs. POVs would switch so abruptly mid-scene that i would have to go back and check to see what the hell i'm reading. because of this, most of the scenes and character interactions felt incomplete. every time i started settling into a scene and getting the feel for a character, i'd be cut off and shoved into a new scene. so even though this is a fairly short book, it took me forever to get through. also because of the structure, pretty much all the characters felt underdeveloped (except for katrina and shizuka). i wish this story was just about katrina and her journey with shizuka - i didn't care for the other storylines and i hated that they interrupted katrina's scenes. lan and her family, for instance, felt so disconnected from the rest of the book. they had so many complicated things going on, like the struggle of being immigrants (from space) and trying to be a real family but thanks to the story structure, we were only given bits and pieces instead of the real depth their issues deserved. overall, while i'm disappointed i didn't like this book as much as i wanted to, i'd still recommend it for katrina alone - and i think this author definitely has a lot of potential. cws: racism, transphobia, deadnaming, misgendering, homophobic slurs, mentions of rape, on page sexual assault rep: chinese/vietnamese/mexican trans queer mc, japanese sapphic mc, vietnamese sapphic mc

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amy Imogene Reads

    Arc received! Bring on the demon-violin shenanigans. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Simone

    What does a violin teacher from Hell, a trans runaway, and an alien donut shop owner have in common? Well, I was skeptical too, but then I read Light from Uncommon Stars and now I feel like anything is possible. Thanks Tor Books for a gifted copy of this book. This book is incredible. Full stop. Beautifully written and smartly displayed. It gave me TJ Klune and Becky Chambers vibes. It gave me donuts and so much delicious Asian food. It made me think of my violin-playing youth. And it was a massive What does a violin teacher from Hell, a trans runaway, and an alien donut shop owner have in common? Well, I was skeptical too, but then I read Light from Uncommon Stars and now I feel like anything is possible. Thanks Tor Books for a gifted copy of this book. This book is incredible. Full stop. Beautifully written and smartly displayed. It gave me TJ Klune and Becky Chambers vibes. It gave me donuts and so much delicious Asian food. It made me think of my violin-playing youth. And it was a massive love letter to the Asian communities of LA. I honestly was so astounded by the beauty, the embrace, and the creativity this book provided. It's definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I don't even know where to begin with how to explain my feelings. Let's start with the characters. There are several different characters that this book follows, but the main ones are Lan, an interstellar alien trying to escape from a deadly plague that's ravishing star systems around the universe. She's escaped to Earth where her family work to rebuild their ship and as a cover they run an old donut shop. Shizuka was a violin virtuoso back in the day, but not anymore. In fact, she's spent the last 49 years cultivating young violin students, bringing them great fame and fortune, only to lose them all to tragic ends. Why? Because she works for the devil and collecting the souls of virtuoso is what she does. Katrina is a young trans youth who's recently run away from home. Without a place to stay, money to get food, or anyone to turn to, she's made her way doing sexual favors. That is, until one day, when Katrina plays her violin in the park and Shizuka just happens to hear. The story surrounds these three individuals and their lives become more and more intertwined learning about each other, themselves, and what they're all capable of doing when given a little bit of love. The beauty of this story is surrounding their relationships and how they each grow so drastically in the pages within. Honestly, it's so incredible reading this book and watching how these people become the people they're supposed to be. Of course, the story wasn't without its truths. There was a lot of heartbreaking depictions of Katrina as she struggles with being loved by someone unconditionally, with coming-to-terms with what's happened to her in the past, and how she finds herself through her music and the support of Shizuka and Lan. But there were also some uplifting moments where Katrina and Shizuka's relationship really made you believe in the good of people; even if they're actually conditioning their souls for the devil. It was interesting to see Shizuka grow as well because she's been literally grooming children for death and eternal damnation. To see her change little by little with Katrina just makes you think there's possibility for bad people to be good again. And Lan, she changes immensely as well. Coming from a pragmatic people who don't understand why people would want a variety of donut flavors or why they waste their time with video games, you see how important these things are to humans and how this level of entertainment can be the exact thing the universe needs to keep moving forward. Then, there was the violin play. Honestly, the violin was its own character in this book. As someone who has played violin for 10 years of her adolescent life, actually played Schradieck and tried her hand at Paganini, these violin references were SPOT ON. Even down to the kinds of bridges used and the kinds of sound the instrument can make if you use the right strings. It's literally so accurate that I thought Ryka Aoki was a long-time player like me. It was surprising when I realized that Ryka Aoki doesn't actually play the violin. She really fooled me because she had everything from the makers of violins to the differences a bow can make read like she was as experienced at the violin as Shizuka was. The descriptions of the violin reminded me so much of The Red Violin; one of my all-time favorite movies. It was this idea that the violin held someone's soul and the music it played was seductive, embracing, and completely spell-binding. There was something free and beautiful about the violin that everyone coveted it and throughout the movie, you see how it makes its way around the world and touches everyone that plays it. You can watch the trailer here. So much of that feeling was deeply held to the violin parts in this book. I was honestly so moved by the way Ryka Aoki wrote the violin and the way it touched both Shizuka and Katrina's lives. The ending is where you see everything come together. Honestly, I was so surprised. I had a feeling the ending would go a certain way; an ultimate sacrifice, but then it was completely thwarted and put a huge smile on my face. It was an incredible ending to finish off such an incredible experience.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    Ate donuts for dinner. Laid on the floor and cried. I need to unearth my violin.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bob/Sally

    Light From Uncommon Stars was a bizarre, beautiful, bewildering read. There were so many pieces that were not to my taste, so many elements in which I had zero interest, and yet, as a whole, I found it captivating. Above all else, even if the emotions it evoked were too often rage and sadness, Ryka Aoki had me emotionally invested in Katrina's fate, so much so that I had to keep reading. There's a lot going on here, far too much to boil down into a simple synopsis, but let me touch on the high po Light From Uncommon Stars was a bizarre, beautiful, bewildering read. There were so many pieces that were not to my taste, so many elements in which I had zero interest, and yet, as a whole, I found it captivating. Above all else, even if the emotions it evoked were too often rage and sadness, Ryka Aoki had me emotionally invested in Katrina's fate, so much so that I had to keep reading. There's a lot going on here, far too much to boil down into a simple synopsis, but let me touch on the high points. It's a story of queer identities and queer love, with the identity of Katrina Nguyen (transgender violin prodigy) taking precedence over the love affair between Shizuka Satomi (demonically cursed violin teacher) and Lan Tran (alien manager of a donut shop). It's a story about the difference between technical perfection and inspired imperfection, whether that be in music, cooking, or living. It's a story about the families we're born into versus those we choose (or which choose us). It's also a story about death and change versus mortality and stagnation, and those themes become increasingly important as we get closer to the end. I'm not one for trigger warnings, but there's a TON of misgendering, deadnaming, transphobic slurs, and all-around transphobic hate within this story - and that's where my rage came in. I'd hoped it would get better, that Katrina's life would get better, but Aoki doubles down on allowing characters to spew hatred in the final arc of the book, forcing a make-or-break moment as we push towards resolution. It's a queer-positive story, and Aoki clearly has a lot of love and compassion for Katrina, but the ugliness of the world got too much for me on more than one occasion. I will say, however, I was relieved by the fact that Katrina's transgender identity was never magically resolved through demonic deals or alien technology, as there were times I feared the story was going there. Narratively, Light From Uncommon Stars is told in brief snippets, leaping back-and-forth between POVs, and that was a major challenge for me. I find those hard stops and sudden shifts take me out of the story, keep me at arm's length, and if it weren't for being so invested in Katrina as a character, I likely would have DNF'd this early on. In terms of genre, I loved the urban fantasy and romance vibes, but I struggled with the sci-fi aspects. I get why they were there and what Aoki was doing with them thematically, but the whole starship/stargate donut shop idea was rather absurd and often tiresome. So, hardly my favorite read of the year, but Light From Uncommon Stars overcame a lot of negatives to keep me reading through to the end. It lost me a bit there, as the tone, telling, and pacing suddenly jumped from impulse to warp drive, with too many twists and climaxes bogging down the narrative, but I came away satisfied with Katrina's arc, and that was really all that mattered. https://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.com/...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Light From Uncommon Stars is an original book, that's for sure. It merges lots of different elements together, elements that should not work together, but somehow they actually do. Shizuka Satomi is a violin teacher who's looking for her next student so that she can finally end her deal with the devil. But things get complicated when she decides to teach Katrina, a transgender girl who escaped her An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Light From Uncommon Stars is an original book, that's for sure. It merges lots of different elements together, elements that should not work together, but somehow they actually do. Shizuka Satomi is a violin teacher who's looking for her next student so that she can finally end her deal with the devil. But things get complicated when she decides to teach Katrina, a transgender girl who escaped her family home because of the abuse she was facing. Katrina's mesmerizing talent impresses Shizuka and that's why she decides to take her on as a student and support her every step of the way. In the meantime Shizuka is also dealing with the blossoming feelings she has for Lan, a woman who has a donut shop and who's actually an alien refugee who fled to earth with her whole family. My favourite parts were definitely the ones about music, especially when Katrina shares her knowledge with Shizuka and shows her how she can play music from video games or anime. Their practice sessions were truly mesmerizing to read and they were written so beautifully. Even though the space aspect sounded interesting at first, I must admit I lost interest pretty quickly, maybe because I felt like it didn't really add anything meaningful to the storyline. Overall I felt like the book was progressing way too slowly for my taste which is something I did not enjoy. This is definitely one of a kind book and if the plot sounds like something you might enjoy, I totally suggest you give this a try!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    This novel in its totality is unlike anything else I’ve read in recent years, though there are elements of it that feel familiar and make it easy to slip into the tale. There are a lot of fascinating aspects to this story: individuals fleeing an empire at war and their futuristic technology, donuts and plenty of delicious things, a well-known violin teacher and her latest student, a deal with the devil. It honestly all sounds rather disjointed, but Aoki successfully wove it all together into a c This novel in its totality is unlike anything else I’ve read in recent years, though there are elements of it that feel familiar and make it easy to slip into the tale. There are a lot of fascinating aspects to this story: individuals fleeing an empire at war and their futuristic technology, donuts and plenty of delicious things, a well-known violin teacher and her latest student, a deal with the devil. It honestly all sounds rather disjointed, but Aoki successfully wove it all together into a cohesive, readable tale. It can be hard to read at times considering the difficult experiences included or mentioned, but it ultimately gives the reader the same safe spaces and community that our characters eventually find in the story. Content Warnings: physical parental abuse, mild racist comments, sexual assault, lack of or dubious consent, suicidal thoughts, deadnaming and misgendering, homophobic and transphobic commentary + acts, weapon violence, mentions of war, cutting

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book has a lot of heart but almost no tension, the food descriptions are lush and decadent and there's probably no way to read it and not have an intense craving for a donut and that's nice, but there are several bursts of intense violence that sort of come out of nowhere and there's also way too much going on. My interest waned when the focus was on the space alien family who'd escaped an intergalactic war and ran a donut shop while also building a star gate or the violin repairing woman w This book has a lot of heart but almost no tension, the food descriptions are lush and decadent and there's probably no way to read it and not have an intense craving for a donut and that's nice, but there are several bursts of intense violence that sort of come out of nowhere and there's also way too much going on. My interest waned when the focus was on the space alien family who'd escaped an intergalactic war and ran a donut shop while also building a star gate or the violin repairing woman who came from a long line of sexist violin repairing men and suffered from feelings of inadequacy as a result, because I was much more interested in the trans violin prodigy who was maybe going to sell her soul to a demon and her cursed teacher, and I wish Aoki had chosen one path to tread rather than combining multiple story lines.

  25. 4 out of 5

    rain

    i don't really know anything about the violin (except for the fact that sherlock holmes owned a stradivarius but that hardly counts ajdgsgdhs) but even so, i still loved this book very much!!! i may not have understood most of the music jargon but this book spoke directly to my soul so it didn't really matter. light from uncommon stars mixes several genres—including contemporary fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi—in a brilliant way that took me by surprise. i loved all the characters and became attach i don't really know anything about the violin (except for the fact that sherlock holmes owned a stradivarius but that hardly counts ajdgsgdhs) but even so, i still loved this book very much!!! i may not have understood most of the music jargon but this book spoke directly to my soul so it didn't really matter. light from uncommon stars mixes several genres—including contemporary fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi—in a brilliant way that took me by surprise. i loved all the characters and became attached to them very easily. the pacing was just right and i adored how the story wrapped up. this is a story about music, space, identity, finding oneself, and healing the soul. very highly recommend this raw and heartwarming book. YOU WON'T REGRET PICKING THIS UP.

  26. 4 out of 5

    whataslacker

    Ugh. Glad this one is over. I was reading an ARC so editing issues can be expected, but boy did they abound in this book. Double words, missed words, sometimes in comprehensible sentences. It was tough, but I stuck it out. Overall the story was okay, very convoluted and overly wordy, but okay.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Toya (the reading chemist)

    OMG, this book is so damn good. SO GOOD! I'll try to come up with a review that is somewhat coherent. OMG, this book is so damn good. SO GOOD! I'll try to come up with a review that is somewhat coherent.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sage

    4.5 stars. I don’t know how to distill my thoughts about this book, but two things: a) it was absolutely wonderful and it made me feel a lot of things and I loved it a lot. And b) I cannot believe that Ryka Aoki learned how to play the violin specifically to write this book. THE COMMITMENT. Love to see it. Also I want a donut now plz. I got to dial into a zoom panel with Ryka and TJ Klune yesterday and the authors were in conversation about their upcoming books, coming out a week apart in Septem 4.5 stars. I don’t know how to distill my thoughts about this book, but two things: a) it was absolutely wonderful and it made me feel a lot of things and I loved it a lot. And b) I cannot believe that Ryka Aoki learned how to play the violin specifically to write this book. THE COMMITMENT. Love to see it. Also I want a donut now plz. I got to dial into a zoom panel with Ryka and TJ Klune yesterday and the authors were in conversation about their upcoming books, coming out a week apart in September 2021. I had read TJ’s upcoming Under the Whispering Door already and adored it (also had me all up in my feelings) and if anything, the panel made me even more excited to dive into Light from Uncommon Stars. I didn’t know much about the book before reading (even after attending the spoiler-free panel) but this book was just.....*chef’s kiss* SO GOOD. I tore through it in basically a day and a half ish. The writing was so beautiful, and the characters were so heartfelt and real, and I want to give every single one of them a giant hug (except for Demon Dude, GET FUCKED). Katrina must be protected at all costs, I love her so much, and DEATH to all of her enemies (looking at you Evan + all the other shitbags). Her relationship with Shizuka (and Astrid) was so fascinating, and layered, and each of them was hiding things, and learning to trust one another (and love🥺). I really loved the way that developed. Love Shizuka and Lan (Olive Garden!!!), LOVE Shirley (her friendship with Katrina is so pure), and enjoyed Lucy’s storyline - although I coulda done without her misogynistic shitbag family. This book made me feel a lot of things. I can’t remember which part of the book this quote is from, but it hit me in my heart: “Yet this student, this human being, had been forsaken not for ambition nor revenge nor even love, but for merely existing? Who needs the Devil when people can create a Hell like this themselves?” Shout out to my beloved friend for letting me shriek @ her about this book 🥰

  29. 4 out of 5

    skye

    [inhales] AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA i picked this up on a whim a few days ago because i was so intrigued by the premise of a deal with the devil, but friends, oh friends — this book expanded and delighted my imagination SO much, and i was reduced to such a soft mess upon the reaching final page. • the plotline details the intersection of the lives of three very different queer women: katrina nguyen, a trans teen girl with an unsung passion for music, shizuka satomi, a legendary larger-than-life violi [inhales] AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA i picked this up on a whim a few days ago because i was so intrigued by the premise of a deal with the devil, but friends, oh friends — this book expanded and delighted my imagination SO much, and i was reduced to such a soft mess upon the reaching final page. • the plotline details the intersection of the lives of three very different queer women: katrina nguyen, a trans teen girl with an unsung passion for music, shizuka satomi, a legendary larger-than-life violin teacher on the prowl for one final student in order to fulfill a demonic pact, and lan tran, (seemingly) a vietnamese single mother who runs a beloved donut store. • i was truly NOT PREPARED for how healing and queer/trans-affirming this story is. how soft its found family. how wonderful its characters. this book is so so so so loving. it is about violins and deals with the devil and aliens, yes, but it’s also about this really sweet found family coming together amidst trauma and pain, and what it means to be human: to love food and music, what it means to care for someone unexpectedly. • it is one that holds your hand and assures you: you are worthy. you are safe. you are more than your queerness but also beautiful because of it. your body may not look how you want it to yet, but look, it is still capable of producing such lovely things. what more can i ask of a book?

  30. 4 out of 5

    rachel ☾

    Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts. featuring #ownvoices queer, trans & asian-american rep! 🙏 Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts. featuring #ownvoices queer, trans & asian-american rep! 🙏 Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram

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