Wrap Up: September & October 2019 or I think I’m back now

I’m back. I think. I quietly stayed away from my blog and Goodreads for weeks now. The reason is a brilliant one though: I am pregnant. While I love it and I am so glad – I also felt like I was run over by a truck for the better part of three months. So, I just didn’t read much. And then when I started reading again, I only read really, really trashy romance novels (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) and didn’t feel quite like talking about them. I also stopped blogging and reading other people’s blogs, but I think I am back now. And excited for it! (I wrote this paragraph a while ago – and then my body decided to not yet be done with feeling awful – so this wrap up is late and mostly without pictures.)

Books I read in September & October:

  1. The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  3. Trick Mirror: Reflections of Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  4. Crossing the Line (Sinner and Saint #1) by Lucy Score: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Breaking the Rules (Sinner and Saint #2) by Lucy Score: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Up in Smoke (Crossing the Line #2) by Tessa Bailey: 2 out of 5 stars
  7. Mr. Fixer-Upper by Lucy Score: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. Duke in Darkness (Wickedly Wed #1) by Nicola Davidson: 3 out of 5 stars
  9. Runaway Girl (Girl #2) by Tessa Bailey: 4 out of 5 stars
  10. Driven by Fate (Serve #5) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  11. The Price of Scandal by Lucy Score: 3 out of 5 stars
  12. Protecting What’s Theirs (Line of Duty #1.5) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  13. His Risk to Take (Line of Duty #2) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  14. Asking for Trouble (Line of Duty #4) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  15. Baiting the Maid of Honor (Wedding Dare #2) by Tessa Bailey: 4 out of 5 stars
  16. The Mopster’s Masseuse by Jessa Kane: 1.5 out of 5 stars
  17. Bared by Alta Hensley: 1.5 out of 5 stars
  18. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: 3 out of 5 strs
  19. Shelf Life by Livia Franchini: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
  20. The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang: 5 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

The Collected Schizophrenias was absolutely stunning. I adored everything about this impeccably written essay collection/ memoir and I want more people to read it. I

Continue reading “Wrap Up: September & October 2019 or I think I’m back now”

Sci-Fi Month 2019 TBR(or sci-fi books written by women I own and haven’t read yet)

November seems to be THE month for readathons – there is Non-Fiction November and Novellas in November, but I am most excited about this one: Sci-Fi Month 2019. I adore the community and I am hoping that my enthusiasm for them will finally properly re-introduce me to the blogging world. Sci-Fi Month is hosted by Imyril over @ onemore and Lisa over @ deargeekplace. You can still join up here. I’ll be using this readathon as a motivation to finally pick up some more of the science fiction books I own (true to brand, only those written by women) and hopefully to get back into the groove of reviewing regularly.

I am notoriously bad at following TBRs but I do love compiling them and I had fun looking at the books I own and haven’t read yet. If I read two of these books I will see that as a success.

Priorities

24100285Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

I love everything about the premise. I am a huge (unironic) fan of the Eurovision Song Contest and cannot wait to see what Valente and her signature imagination can do with it. Also, the tagline is a thing of genius: “In space, everybody can hear you sing.” I really need to finally get to this.

32802595Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

I absolutely adore Chamber’s brand of optimistic sci-fi and I cannot believe I still haven’t read this. I haven’t been in the mood for any spec-fic that is dark and twisted, so this one should work perfectly for me.

 

ARCs

40947778The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

I keep talking about this book because it is so ridiculously up my alley: I mean, AI gods? How much more custom-made for me can any sci-fi book be? But then I never pick it up. I really want to change this soon. And I would love to have at least one ARC-review up for Sci-Fi Month.

41085049Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe

This one fell victim to my reading slump (or rather, slump involving anything not romance related) – I read the first few chapters and did enjoy it but didn’t love it. I am determined to finally make a proper dent into it though! I like stories about siblings and I like closed room sci-fi and I like stories set in different timelines.

Maybe

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz and Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

I bought those two books when I decided I wanted to read more science fiction early in 2018 – that I still haven’t picked them back up is maybe not the best sign. But then again, I got overly ambitious and bought way too many books at once. Both come highly praised as well – especially Ancillary Justice has won pretty much every prize there is to win and my boyfriend who reads more science fiction than I do really loved it.

35519101Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

I enjoyed both ealier installments of this series – and Murderbot is just the perfect protagonist. This could double as the only book I read for Novellas in November so I am indeed very tempted to pick it up. Especially because it would be a very quick and fun read.

I really hope I’ll manage to pick up at least some of these books. Are you planning on participating in Sci-Fi Month?

Review: Shelf Life by Lidia Franchini

43862291Verdict: Dark, brilliant, creepy, way too many dream sequences.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Literary fiction

Published by Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, August 29th 2019

Find it on Goodreads.

Ruth is thirty years old. She works as a nurse in a care home and her fiancé has just broken up with her. The only thing she has left of him is their shopping list for the upcoming week.

And so she uses that list to tell her story. Starting with six eggs, and working through spaghetti and strawberries, and apples and tea bags, Ruth discovers that her identity has been crafted from the people she serves; her patients, her friends, and, most of all, her partner of ten years. Without him, she needs to find out – with conditioner and single cream and a lot of sugar – who she is when she stands alone.

I don’t know if I have read a book lately with a blurb this accurate that nonetheless completely failed to give an indication what the book will be like. On the surface it’s correct; yes Ruth has just been left by her boyfriend of ten years and has to navigate her life and yes the story is told by way of the shopping list he left behind – but it also something else entirely. Told in varies formats (stream-of-consciousness in the present, a series of text messages in the past, mixing more straight forward narrations with vague ones) and from different perspectives (mainly Ruth’s perspective in first person, but also parts narrated from Neil’s perspectives, parts in second person, parts in first person plural), this book is a portrait of a woman who was very much broken before she met the awful man and became more so during the course of a fairly horrible relationship.

When the book worked, it really worked for me – but there were just so many parts I could not properly get on board with, starting with the endless accounts of weird dreams Ruth and Neil had. I am unsure I grasped what the narrative purpose of those were and I found them relentlessly boring and confusing. While I appreciated the mixed-media approach, I didn’t love reading text messages that just never ended.

I really liked the framing of the story and I thought Franchini did something very clever: in the first chapter, when Neil breaks up with Ruth I couldn’t help but think that was the right choice because she seemed fairly awful. And then Franchini goes back and recontextualizes the scene in a way that made my heart hurt. Neil is, for all intents and purposes, really really awful. He is not only a cheater but also a stalker, he made Ruth into the person he wanted her to be and then punishes her for it, and his thoughts on women are unkind and horrifying (at some point he says this about his girlfriend of ten years: “The fact of her aging makes me uneasy.”). While I found his characterization believable and him endlessly fascinating, spending time in his head was very much not fun. Ruth on the other hand was just the kind of difficult to root for woman I adore in my fiction. Overall, I found this book impeccably structured and impressively constructed  – but often difficult to stick with due to its deliberate darkness.

Content warning: stalking, grooming, eating disorders, disordered eating, cheating, emotional abuse, bullying, assault, sexual harrassment

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Transworld Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

My Favourite Authors

Instead of writing all the reviews I still have to write, I found this tag on Jennifer’s channel Insert Literary Pun Here and could not stop thinking about it. The tag, created by Steve Donoghue, works like this: you name six authors that aren’t quite your favourite, four authors that maybe are your favourite and then you rank your five favourite authors.

This was pretty hard; as always, I find it easier to name my favourite author, singular, than naming my favourite authors, plural (I have the same issue with favourite book vs. favourite books, favourite movie vs. favourite movies): naming more than one makes me want to definite criteria. What makes an author a favourite? Can somebody be a favourite if I have only read one book? Can an author whose books I haven’t read in years still be considered a favourite? But it was fun thinking about this and even if I am sure that the list would be completely different had I done it half a year ago and will surely change in the coming years (at least I would hope so, I am eternally looking for new favourite authors), I want to have this post on my blog to be able to look back to it.

Not Quite

Ilona Andrews

There is something safe and wonderful about Ilona Andrews’ writing. I haven’t read everything the duo has written (this will become a running theme here) but I adored, adored the Kate Daniels’ series and the first trilogy in their Hidden Legacy series got me through a particularly grueling time last year. They will always have a soft spot in my heart. The books are snarky, the banter between the love interests is brilliant (and I ship them more than is healthy), and the world building is excellent. In a genre I often struggle with, these books are a definite highlight for me.

Robert Jackson Bennett 

Again, I haven’t read everything he has written but his The Divine Cities trilogy is one of my all time favourite series. I am also super excited to see where he is taking his current series next (the second book will be published early 2020). I love what he has to say about fate and gods and the interaction between these two things. His characterizations are brilliant and his language sharp.

Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson is just so very clever. She is arguably currently the best at what she does: creative non-fiction that centers herself unashamedly while combining it with social and gender theory. I adore the way her mind works and her books are always a joy to read. I haven’t read her poetry and don’t plan on doing so, but I will surely read everything else she ever publishes.

Neil Gaiman

This is an odd one – because Gaiman started out in my favourites pile until I filled the spots in and realized he isn’t quite there for me anymore and then I kept bumping him lower and lower. I love his writing and I have read nearly every book he has published – but somehow his writing doesn’t feel like a favourite for me anymore.

Amber Sparks

She is my absolute favourite short story writer and I cannot wait to read her new collection next year – but for some reason or other I cannot think of her as a favourite writer. She’s brilliant on twitter though and I want more people to read her work, so if you like short stories with a speculative slant, you really should check her out!

Katherine Arden

The Winternight trilogy has a special spot in my heart: it is the first series I completely read as review copies before each book released. My most successful review on Goodreads is for one of her books I haven’t read yet and all I said was “I would read Katherine Arden’s shopping if she published it” (I am not at all bemused by that fact and not at all bitter that this is the review that gets noticed when I put so much more effort into others I have written). Her writing feels custom-made for me: lush language with an immersive world-building, set in Russia in its endless winter, combining fairy tales with original stories, with a love story that work for me in a way it should not have. I really hope she’ll publish another adult book soon – although I will eventually pick up her middle grade.

Maybe

Nalini Singh

I adore Singh’s writing – but the whole is greater than it’s parts. I have read nearly every book in the Psy-Changeling series, plus the novellas, and while not every book worked for me, overall I find her world incredible. The world-building is impeccable and exciting, her characters are recognizable over long stretches of time, and I love her approach to romance. It is a shame her worldbuilding is not discussed more often in the fantasy community, as it really is brilliant, but I guess that is part of writing romance. I love her though and am currently making my way through her backlist (which is thankfully extensive!).

Lauren Groff

Groff feels like a favourite author without her books being absolute favourites of mine. I really like the way her language flows and find her prose so very soothing in the best possible way. Her short stories are brilliant but I also adored Fates and Furies which is pretentious in the best possible way. I own her other two novels but for some reason never pick them up. I really need to change that.

Melissa Broder

Even if she only ever wrote one book, The Pisces would be strong enough for her to feature on this list. It was my absolute favourite book of last year and my favourite to win this year’s Women’s Prize (I am sad it didn’t even make the short list). Lucy is such an endlessly compelling character and Broder’s observations and the way she describes the awful normality of sadness really resonated with me. Her memoir was not quite as strong but a really interesting framework for her novel. I cannot WAIT for her next book – my expectations could not be higher.

David Mitchell

My favourite male author, hands down. I adore David Mitchell’s writing. He is so good at conjuring awful characters and making them feel real in an instant. His command of narrative voice is incredibly impressive and his novels that are often closer to collections of very interconnected short stories, stay with me long after I finish them. I have two of his books left on my shelves and I am saving them for a figuratively rainy day. I was informed today that his new novel is coming out next summer and I could NOT be more excited.

Favourites

5) Sally Rooney

The newest addition to this list, Sally Rooney blew me away with her debut Conversations With Friends when I read it earlier this year. There was never any doubt in my mind that her book would top my best of the year list, it spoke to me so deeply. I loved everything about it, from her sharp language, to her flawed but sympathetic main character, to the way she made me feel for Nick, to her wonderful way with dialogue. Everything about the book just worked for me. Her second novel Normal People is brilliant but I am unsure if anything can ever top Conversations With Friends for me.

4) Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s writing works best for me in short stories. I don’t even think she is capable of writing a bad story. Her essays are brilliant as well and her non fiction regularly rips my heart out. I haven’t read her novel because I am scared it will scar me, but I follow what she does online very closely. She is an incredibly editor who chooses incredible voices and manages to make them even better, I think. She is such a hero.

3) Lidia Yuknavitch

The Chronology of Water is my alltime favourite non fiction book. Yuknavitch forever defined what I think of as possible in memoirs. The book is, on a sentence-by-sentence basis, incredible. Her turn of phrases are so sharp, so raw, so honest, they cut me to the bone. Her prose is definitely her biggest strength for me, but her way of connecting the real with the fictional (as done so in The Small Backs of Children) is a close second. Again, I need to read her other books but I am also scared to get to the end of her work and to have to wait. She will publish a collection of short stories later this year and I am ecstatic to get to read those.

2) Christa Wolf

I have read nowhere near her complete works, but Kassandra is, as most of you will know, my favourite book of all time. I also really loved Medea and Kindheitsmuster and I am planning on eventually reading everything she has ever written. She should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature but it wasn’t meant to be. Her writing still is incredible and I wish more people would read her.

1) N. K. Jemisin

Like I said, Favourite Author is easy for me: N. K. Jemisin is the best. I adore her brand of socially critical fantasy, I love the way she writes her characters, I adore her on twitter and in speeches, I think The Fifth Season is the best fantasy book written, possibly ever, I adore what she does with perspective and framing, and I think she deserves all the acolades she gets. She isn’t only an outstanding fantasy author, she is outstanding, full stop. I still haven’t read her collection of short stories nor her first duology but that does not detract from the fact how very brilliant I think she is.

Who are your favourite authors? How do you define who makes that list and who doesn’t? Do you find the singular or the plural easier to decide?

Review: Trick Mirror – Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

44282599._sy475_Verdict: Sharp, rambling, wonderful.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Essay collection

Published by Fourth Estate, August 6th 2019

Find it on Goodreads.

We are living in the era of the self, in an era of malleable truth and widespread personal and political delusion. In these nine interlinked essays, Jia Tolentino, the New Yorker’s brightest young talent, explores her own coming of age in this warped and confusing landscape.

From the rise of the internet to her own appearance on an early reality TV show; from her experiences of ecstasy – both religious and chemical – to her uneasy engagement with our culture’s endless drive towards ‘self-optimisation’; from the phenomenon of the successful American scammer to her generation’s obsession with extravagant weddings, Jia Tolentino writes with style, humour and a fierce clarity about these strangest of times.

Following in the footsteps of American luminaries such as Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Rebecca Solnit, yet with a voice and vision all her own, Jia Tolentino writes with a rare gift for elucidating nuance and complexity, coupled with a disarming warmth. This debut collection of her essays announces her exactly the sort of voice we need to hear from right now – and for many years to come.

This is an incredibly strong essay collection, brought down by a first essay that did not work for me and made picking this back up difficult for me. But once I finished that first essay, Jia Tolentino gives the reader an incredibly well-structured and presented collection. I know why this was one of my most anticipated reads for this year.

Jia Tolentino writes about many different things but always through a lense of feminism and internet culture – something I particularly adore as a feminist who is very much online. Her essays have a rambling quality that worked exceedingly well for me because I could trust her to pull her different strands of argument back together by the end of each essay. She combines the personal with the political, always underpinning her arguments with quotes and statistics in a highly effective way. This is the type of essay collection I adore.

My absolute favourite essay of this collection is about ecstacy – both the drug and the concept in religion. Tolentino reflects on her own religious upbringing, her relationship to drugs, her discovery of Houston’s hip hop scene, and her experience with god in a way that should not work for me (I am not particularly interested in any of these topics on their own) but that was just incredible. If you are only going to read one essay from this collection, make sure it is this one.

Content warning: discussions of rape culture and rape, bigotry, misogyny, racism.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Fourth Estate in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

18366739._sx318_Verdict: Off the rails, addictive, wonderful.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Published by Bloomsbury, 2013

Find it on Goodreads.

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

This book is off the rails, it reads like Samantha Shannon crammed about five books into one, and it follows familiar beats but I loved it. I had a complete blast reading this and I cannot believe I started a seven book series with only three books published so far. I loved this so, because it seems like it’s certainly not the most original thing I have ever read and it is in parts ridiculous – but Shannon gives her story and her tropes enough of a twist to keep me on my toes.

The book starts fairly unoriginal in a future dystopic world where clairvoyant people are hunted and their mere existence is outlawed but soon goes completely off the rails. Shannon does not give the reader any moment to breath before her main character kills somebody with her powers (it is self-defense, because let’s not get overly excited, the main character is a good person – which I happen to adore in my fiction to be honest, regardless of my snark) and has to run, only to be captured and driven to Oxford which is not supposed to exist anymore. And then suddenly – aliens. Sexy aliens even. I thought I could see where this was going from a mile away (there is even the inevitable early 2010s love triangle between her childhood friend and a sexy, dark, brooding stranger) but I did not care one bit and I was also not quite correct. Shannon had me hooked and increasingly frantic to find out more about this world and to see where this is going. In a way, I think this book was better for me because I have not read all that many of the YA staples and as such the familiar beats were comforting without being boring – also, this story while certainly not without crossover appeal, most certainly is a work of adult fantasy and worked all the better for me in its deliberate darkness. I also really think that Shannon’s writing and her characterization are on point. I found this addictive and her main character sympathetic without being unbelievable. Her reactions always made sense and even though she is impulsive this is always tempered by her wish to do what is right.

This might be the most backhandedly complimentary four star review I have ever written but I did really love it, even if I can see on some level why it totally would not work for other readers. But I will surely read every single thing Shannon ever writes.

Content warning: Slavery, bigotry, mind rape, assault, a really uncomfortable sex scene tinged with regret

Wrap Up: August 2019 or a month mostly away from my blog.

I do not think my blog has ever been as quiet as it has been the last three weeks; and this in a year where my focus has been elsewhere to begin with. But this month I also did not keep my Goodreads up to date, which hasn’t ever happened since I got one. Hopefully I will kick this blogging slump soon because I really do like having a blog. I have dragged my feet writing this post and as to not make this take even longer, this’ll be a brief wrap-up, with very few pictures.

Books I read in August:

  1. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. Book Boyfriend by Claire Kingsley: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. Cocky Roommate by Claire Kingsley: 4 out of 5 stars
  4. Protecting What’s His (Line of Duty #1) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Officer Off Limits (Line of Duty #3) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Staking His Claim (Line of Duty #5) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  7. Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine: 5 out of 5 stars
  8. Irresistible by Melanie Harlow: 3 out of 5 stars
  9. Three Part Harmony by Holley Trent: 3 out of 5 stars
  10. Always Will by Claire Kingsley: 4 out of 5 stars
  11. Two Weeks Notice by Whitney G.: 2 out of 5 stars
  12. Pretend You’re Mine by Lucy Score: 4 out of 5 stars
  13. Mr. Fixer-Upper by Lucy Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

I adored Sabrina & Corina in a way that I haven’t loved a short story collection in a long while. But the book that will most likely stay with me the longest will have to be A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride. Not only is the book absolutely stunningly executed (if incredibly traumatic) my reading experience with my wonderful Women’s Prize group was amazing as always.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: August 2019 or a month mostly away from my blog.”