Review: No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

“‘We’re all blind’, he says after swallowing. ‘Take solace in that. Choice comes first. Meaning comes later.”

No Gods, No Monsters – published by Blackstone Publishing, September 7th 2021

One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.

Find it on Goodreads.

Verdict: My favourite book of the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I am so very much in love with this book – enough to feel the need to write my first full-length review in half a year. As is often the case when a book is this custom-made for me, I am having problems divorcing my enjoyment from that fact – but I loved it so very much!

No Gods, No Monsters is literary fiction maquerading as urban fantasy and if there is anything that is my absolute catnip, it is this. The prose is brilliant, the character work perfect, and the structure made me happy. Turnbull does something so very clever with perspective that it made me giddy with joy – I love a clever play on perspective and here it did not only work stylistically but also made perfect sense in-universe which is something that I assume is very hard to pull off.

At its core, this is a story about bigotry – and while I am not always a fan of using fantastical creatures as a stand in for minority groups, here it worked well because Turnbull also grounds his book in real world oppression. His characters casually but intentionally have diverse backgrounds and gender expressions and sexual orientations and they feel as real as possible. The inciting incident is a case of deadly police brutality that ends up revealing to the world that monsters (and gods?) are real and among us. From this point the story spirals outward and inward, jumping from one storyline to the next in every chapter. I loved this. I loved this all the more because I felt I could trust Turnbull to know where he is going and what he wants to achieve. I did not find this book confusing but I found it challenging – it kept me on my toes and it made sure I was paying attention. I found the way Turnbull pulled of the various narrative strands very impressive, especially the way he made me emotionally invested in all of these (to be fair, quite a few strands are sibling stories and these are often my favourite). And while the book is definitely dark, it is not hopeless and there is a core of community and community action running through this that made the book ultimately an optimistic one.

In short, I adored this, I want more people to read this and most of all I want the second book in the series (even though this one does have a satisfying ending!).

Content warnings: police brutality, bigotry, domestic abuse, drug abuse

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

Wrap Up August 2021

Somehow the end of the month came suddenly. Where is the time going? I had a pretty decent reading month, courtesy of some much needed rereading of favourites of mine.

Books I read in August:

It took me nearly two weeks to finish my first book of the month. I read Tessa Bailey‘s newest: It Happened One Sommer (3 out of 5 stars) which was fun but not my favourite of hers. For some reason I do not get on as well with her traditionally published books. I appreciated that she switched it around and had her heroine be the one with the commitment problems for once and I adored that the hero just wanted her to see how brilliantly he thinks she is. But other than that, I can hardly remember anything about my reading experience. Then I reread the the first book in the second Hidden Legacy trilogy by Ilona Andrews, Sapphire Flames (5 out of 5 stars) – which I loved as much as the first time I read it. I am still sad that the publication of the third book was postponed until the summer of 2022 though. Then I finally read my ARC of Magma by Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir (4 out of 5 stars) – a quick and intense read chronicling an abusive relationship using short, diary type chapters. It made me a bit too mad for it to be a five star read and I didn’t quite love the ending but it is absolutely well worth the hype, with its perfectly sharp chapters with perfectly sharp prose, and its main character who is difficult: she is lonely and judgemental and even in the midst of her (horrible!) relationship that she knows is horrible cannot admit that her friends might know what they are talking about when they say they are worried. Afterwards, I needed something light and fun – and inhaled the next book in the Hidden Legacy series, Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews (which I upgraded to 5 out of 5 this time around). I just love this series and the characters and the family dynamics and this time around, Alessandro’s arc really hit me in the feelings in the best way possible. Afterwards I finished the absolutely incredible Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger (5 out of 5 stars). This is impeccably structured in a way that blew my mind, the self reflection at the core of this made me realize what memoirs can do, the inclusion of art is necessary and so helpful in grounding this, and I just loved this a whole lot, even the more sentimental parts. Then I finished Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (3 out of 5 stars) which I did not love as much as thought I would. Everybody adores these stories, so do take my opinion with a grain of salt. While there were some really interesting sentences and the observations were really sharp, overall the structure of the stories didn’t ever seem to work for me and with short stories, structure is really what makes a story work for me.

I then decided to DNF Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford – the memoir just did not work for me and once I realized I was actively avoiding listening to the audiobook even when I had the time, I decided to call it quits.

Favourite of the Month:

Negative Space. I adored this book beyond measure and want everyone to read it. It is very clever, very beautiful, very honest.

Stats(ish):

I read six books, three of which were written by women, one by a man and two by a husband and wife team. I read two speculative romances, one contemporary romance, a short story collection, one translated novel and one memoir. I rated three books five stars!

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

For the next two weeks I will be focussing on my ARCs for Rachel and my #ArcsOfShame readathon. Wish me luck!

Rachel and I have too many ARCs – a low-key readathon, 2021 edition

As is traditional, Rachel and I have too many ARCs, again – and using the first two weeks in September to try and remedy that, again. The last two times we tried this were fun but not always super productive, but maybe third time’s the charm?! As always, you are very invited to join but it is also really, really low-key, without prompts or reading sprints or even a hashtag.

I have finally stopped requesting ARCs, so nearly all of the ones I have left to read are backlist by now and I would love to be able to finally review a few of those. I would love for my NetGalley ratio to be in the 90s by the time I the two weeks are up but this is probably unlikely – it is at 86% currently and I just calculated it (and unless I did something stupid) I would have to review 11 books to get there. So this is my absolute stretch goal for now.

Currently reading:

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull (published by Blackstone Publishing, September 7th 2021)

This is incredible so far and I will absolutely keep prioritizing this because I want to be able to shout from the rooftops how much I want everyone to read it. Right now my pitch would be Vita Nostra meets Station Eleven – and if you know me at all, you can guess how giddy this book makes me. It does something very very clever and interesting with perspective, it jumps backwards and forward in time and it is very, very weird. I am in love.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (published by Orbit, April 8th 2021)

The kind of fast-paced but worldbuilding heavy fantasy that can work brilliantly for me and so far this absolutely does. I enjoy the sprawling narrative and the different POVs and it is making me realize that I haven’t read enough fantasy this year. With around 500 pages this is at the edge of my tolerance, page count wise, but I get the feeling that the book’s world necessitated the length.

Most excited:

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (published by Bloomsbury, January 18th 2022)

This was the last book I requested, even after having decided to not request books anymore, because I am just so excited for it. I mean, look at this first sentence of the blurb and tell me this wasn’t written especially for me: “For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, Sequoia Nagamatsu’s debut is a wildly imaginative, genre-bending work spanning generations across the globe as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a devastating plague.” It is set partly in the Arctic Circle (love that!), deals with father-daughter relationships (love this!), told from connected perspectives (love that!), and it was blurbed by Matt Bell who seems to have my exact taste in literature (I really should check his books out finally).

Might still read and review in time for the publication date

On Freedom by Maggie Nelson (published by Jonathan Cape, September 2nd 2021)

Yes, I know this is unlikely but I can still dream. I adore Nelson’s writing and as such was very happy to receive the ARC. I absolutely want to read this – but the footnotes aren’t linked and I always basically have to scroll to the end of the book to get to them. So I might try to read this without reading the footnotes which doesn’t strike me as the best idea.

Dinner Party: A Tragedy by Sarah Gilmartin (published by Pushkin Press, September 16th 2021)

This was blurbed as for fans of Kate Atkinson and Anne Enright – so I took the plunge. This sounds like the kind of book that’ll either blow my mind or be too boring for me to make it through, all depending on the prose style and the structural choices. I am excited though, especially for this part of the blurb: “As the past catches up with the present, Kate learns why, despite everything, we can’t help returning home.”

High priority

I really, really suck at reading tbrs, obviously. Even trying to get to ARCs can lead to a reading slump. But for now these are the books that most excite me.

If I even get to a single of these books in addition to the other books I am planning to read, I will count myself very lucky. Some of these have been on my shelf for longer than they should have been, some of those sound so like my kind of book that it’s a shame I haven’t gotten to them, some, like Empire of Sand, are somehow both of these things.

Need to finally decide if I really, actually, really want to read these books

These books’ publication dates came and went a while ago. I have read bits and pieces of most of them and for some reason or other I am never in the mood for any of them when I am looking for something new to read. If you have read any of these, can you help me make up my mind? Otherwise I will try and finally do a “read a chapter” kind of post to decide if I want to keep these books on my TBR.

Wrap Up July 2021

I am back on track for my reading goal!

While this was not my best month ratings wise, I do feel like I am a bit back in the groove of actually choosing to pick up a book rather than mindlessly scroll through social media.

Books I read in July:

The first book I finished this month was Neon Gods (Dark Olympus #1) by Katee Robert (2.5 out of 5 stars) – a fake dating retelling of Hades and Persephone which happens to be my exact catnip. But the world building is flimsy at best and the romantic and emotional beats did not always work for me. I also finished Pure Gold by John Patrick McHugh (3 out of 5 stars), a short story collection blurbed by and compared to Sally Rooney and Colin Barrett. McHugh’s prose is incredible (a stunning blend of more colloquial Irish English and super interesting descriptions and metaphors) and the way in which he structures his stories impeccable – but this was so very, very bleak, featuring many sad and unlikable characters, many of which where teenaged boys. Afterwards, I went on a bit of a romance kick having recently renewed my Kindle unlimited subscription because it was free for three months. I first read Twisted Love (Twisted #1) by Ana Huang (2 out of 5 stars) which I thought was fun but unfocussed. A jumble of tropes (brother’s best friend, only one bed, grumpy and sunshiny one, I hate everybody except you, morality chain) and sub-genres (small town romance, darkish romance, New Adult) meant that some parts worked better for me than others. I did not expect this to go this dark and I kind of wish it hadn’t. To counteract the darkness of this romance, I went to an author whose work I often enjoy and read Claire Kingsley’s Marrying Mr. Wrong (Dirty Martini Running Club #3) (3.5 out of 5 stars) which was just what I needed. I like how fundamentally kind Kingsley’s characters are and how competent the women are at their jobs. I particularly like the friendship at the heart of this series. Still feeling like this exact kind of romance, I reread Claire Kingsley’s Cocky Roommate (4 out of 5 stars) which is probably my favourite of her books. I then finished my audiobook of The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold (4 out of 5 stars) – which I found very clever and interesting and heartbreaking. I loved how the murderer is incidental to the story and that Rubenhold does not linger on the gruesome details, choosing rather to tell these women’s lives to the best of her abilities. The prose is effortless but effective, the research is impeccable, and Rubenhold manages to fill the gaps in a way that I found mostly satisfying if sometimes a little bit too convenient. I learned a lot about Victorian London and I really appreciated the structure and the humanity of the venture. I then finally finished an ARC – Pop Songs by Larissa Pham (3.5 out of 5 stars) was a wonderful reading experience for the most part. I found it clever and stimulating (I kept googling all the art and artists she refers to), but sometimes rather sentimental. I enjoyed her musings on art more than I enjoyed her post-mortem of her unsuccessful relationship with the unnamed “you” she kept refering to. I then finally finished Big Bad Wolf by Suleikha Snyder (2 out of 5 stars) which took me four months to read because although I liked the world building and the secondary characters – the romance did not work for me at all and Joe was not my favourite. I think if this had gone harder for the fated mates angle with the accompanying compulsion, this could have worked for me better. But most of all, I found this boring which is something I cannot deal with in urban fantasy.

I also finally DNFed a couple of ARCs that I had started ages ago (but never even added to my Goodreads currently reading shelf), both because they were just too dark for me. After the Silence by Louise O’Neill I could not read because it stressed me out very badly. A combination of new motherhood and a pandemic made reading stressful books impossible for me. I felt claustrophobic reading this – from the very first page. O’Neill’s writing had this effect on me before in the only other book of hers I’ve read (Almost Love) but where I loved that one, this time around I could not get myself to read this. I am sure this book will work beautifully for other people who are not as anxious about reading as I am. In the Dark by Loreth Anne White was different to what I anticipated. I expected something less tense and more along the beats of a romantic suspense (heavy on the romance, light on the suspense) but from the 15% I read, this was not the case. I am sure this will work better for people who actually can read thrillers without being stressed out but I am not that reader, especially not anymore.

I also moved the books I hadn’t picked up to my “on hold” shelf to return to them when I am more in the mood for them. This helps me for some reason.

Favourite of the Month:

I really appreciated The Five’s project with its focus on the victims of Jack the Ripper and their lives and I am very happy to have listened to my friend Jill (the Book Bully on Youtube).

Stats(ish):

I finished 8 book, 7 of which were written by women and one written by a man. Five books can broadly be categorized as romance, two non fiction, and one short story collection.

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

I am mostly feeling like reading non fiction and speculative romance, so this is what I will be picking up I think. Or, I could actually try to read the books I am currently reading and have the lovely feeling of a clean slate.

Two of my pre-ordered books cme out this month: Battle Royal by Lucy Parker and The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha and I am so vey excited for both of them.

Recommendations: Realistic Short Story Collections

I have recommended short story collections before but as I have finally started reading them again, I figured it was time I wrote another post. I don’t think we talk about short stories often enough – a format that can be difficult to get right but when they are good they are often brilliant. Clicking on the covers leads to the books’ Goodreads pages.

Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff

I am in awe of Lauren Groff’s command of language – every single sentence ist perfectly done while not making the writing sound clinical but rather organic and captivating. I also really like the way she structures her stories – they never felt like they were working towards a punchline but rather their endings were perfectly done. Some stories I would have loved to spend more time with but I mean that as a compliment.

Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

I knew I would enjoy this pretty much from the first page on. Nafissa Thompson-Spires has a wonderful tone and an even better command of her stories. I found the stories uncomfortable and biting and so very very clever. Her characters feel real if often difficult and the situations they find themselves in are frustrating and perfectly rendered.

Some stories feature the same people again, which is something I always enjoy. I do like how this gave the stories more depth without them being incomplete without the added context – this is something that I assume is difficult to achieve but oh so satisfying when it works.

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

This collection has possibly my all-time favourite cover. I just adore it. And the stories within are as beautiful. Focussing on women and their complicated relationships to each other and to men, this collection blew me away. I never managed to actually write a review (I was newly pregnant when I read this) and I am sad about it because I should have shouted from the rooftops how brilliant I thought this was. I wish more people read this!

I Hold A Wolf By Its Ears by Laura van den Berg

I adored this! These stories were often sad, sometimes creepy, always impeccably structured. Van den Berg tells her stories unchronologically, often circularly, but always in a way that feels very deliberate and I appreciated this. The stories are told with a conscious darkness but never feel hopeless. Van den Berg focusses on characters that seem unmoored but are still anchored by something, often a sibling (I adore this!). Even when the subject matter is dark (and it is!) it never felt gratuitous or unnecessary to me.

Home Remedies by Juliana Xuan Wang

Really really good! These mostly realistic stories worked exceedingly well for me – especially those that were told unchronologically in a way that I have not encountered in short stories before. This way of telling a story is something I particularly enjoy, so I was very pleased when I realized what Wang was doing. Not every story did work for me but enough did that I will be reading whatever she writes next. I also cannot get over the absolutely stunning cover.

How To Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

I enjoyed these stories a lot with their thoughtful explorations on families, focussing on the lives of Laos immigrants and their children. I particularly enjoyed that the parents depicted really do try to do the best for their children even if they sometimes miss the mark or sometimes cannot be the parent they would love to be if they had more time/ money/ knowledge.

Pure Gold by John Patrick McHugh

A short story collection blurbed by and compared to Sally Rooney and Colin Barrett. McHugh’s prose is incredible (a stunning blend of more colloquial Irish English and super interesting descriptions and metaphors) and the way in which he structures his stories impeccable – this is a very, very bleak collection, featuring many sad and unlikable characters, that I could nonetheless see working for the right reader perfectly.

Wrap Up June 2021

I will just have to stop complaining that my reading month was awful. There is no way this state of affairs will change, especially now that I am back at work and really, really need to finish my PhD – as I just accepted a PostDoc job starting in August (I am super excited about the job and think I can do it very well but at some point this next year I will need to have the title for it).

This does mean a couple of things for my blog though: I cannot even attempt to write reviews for everything I read (which I have not been doing for about two years anyways) and this will be the part of my hobbies that is least likely to survive. I will for now change the way I do my wrap ups to include mini impressions of the books I read and hopefully will be able to write at least this post each month.

Books I read in June:

I began the month strong by finishing the absolutely incredible Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe (5 out of 5 stars): an impeccable researched and structured deep dive into the Sackler family (of OxyContin “fame) – my main takeaway is, as usual, capitalism is the worst and regulation is indeed not the enemy. The audiobook is read by the author himself which is always something I adore. Afterwards I listened to my chaotic buddy read: Brood by Jackie Polzin (4.5 out of 5 stars) – which has stuck and grown on me. It is a surprisingly gruesome story about a griefing woman and her chicken – and I loved her so much. She is prickly and sad and so sure of some things (and probably very wrong about them!) while being very anxious and unsure about other things. She is a near perfect character. Afterwards I fell even deeper into my reading slump, as I went back to work and got just hammered with things to do. Thankfully, I still have some Ilona Andrews’ books to read, which is what I did. I inhaled the first two books in their Innkepper Chronicles Clean Sweep (4 out of 5 stars) and Sweep in Peace (3.5 out of 5 stars) – they are just my “break in case of reading slump” authors. At least once a year they manage to ignite my love for reading anew. This is technically the third series of theirs that I am reading and while it is not my favourite, it has all the things I love about their work: great world building, brilliant characters with wonderful interactions, main characters that are just my kind of overly powerful women – and an emotional core that hits me as a surprise again and again. I also finally DNFed A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion which had been sitting at 62% read on my Kindle for six months. This is not a bad book by any means but I found it unfocussed and for me at least the mix between coming-of-age and thriller did not work. I thought the coming-of-age elements, even if they followed expected story beats (the skinny dipping scene, the awkward first kiss, the falling out with friends, the fights with sisters), worked beautifully due to how expertly the main character is drawn. The thriller-y elements on the other hand did neither work for me nor kept me interested enough to keep reading.

Favourite of the Month:

Empire of Pain was as brilliant as I expected it to be.

Stats(ish):

I finished four books, three written by women and one by a man. One book was non fiction, one fiction and two can broadly be categorized as Urban Fantasy (albeit with scifi explanations).

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

I should be trying to finally finish some of the books I have been reading for literal months – and stop adding more and more books to my currently reading shelf. 10 books is just ridiculous!

The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2021

As every year, I am surprised that the year is already half way over. I have had a pretty bad reading year so far but not doing this tag felt too sad.

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2021

By far the two best books I read were by authors whose previous books I also five-starred (I am sure there is a lesson here that I will, as always, forget as soon as I post this). Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain is near perfect: its structure is clever, his use of repetition makes it easy to follow without becoming boring, and his research is impeccable. The Sacklers are the worst though – it took me a while to settle on a least favourite Sackler but I think I got there in the end (It’s Richard). Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is just a perfect book, no word is wasted, no idea left unexplored. I so wish for it to win the Women’s Prize.

Continue reading “The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2021”

Wrap Up May 2021

I had such hopes for this month – but my reading was erratic at best and I have not finished a single fantasy book – even though I planned to prioritize them.

Books I read in May:

  1. No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood: 2.5 out of 5 stars
  2. Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

The best book I finished was definitely Detransition, Baby – I adored many things about it and I am a bit miffed that it didn’t make the Women’s Prize shortlist. I loved its exploration of gender and motherhood, Reese is such a wonderfully realized character that made my heart hurt – it is not perfectly structured and sometimes a bit too sprawling for me, but what an excellent, excellent cast of characters.

Stats(ish):

I finished three books, all of them fiction written by women.

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

I do not even know how to get my reading mojo back – and I will be going back to work in two weeks and my tiny reading time will probably disappear completely. The only thing I reliably get to is audiobook listening, so I will probably be switching near completely to that format.

One thing I do know, however, and that is that I will be reading Brood by Jackie Polzin with the possibly most chaotic group chat I will ever be part of. I am excited! (and the audiobook is only about 5 hours long, so I should manage to actually read the book in June.)

Wyrd and Wonder: Let’s talk about series (+ favourite completed series)

As a fantasy and romance reader, my reading is often series heavy – and when I enjoy a series this is one of my favourite parts of reading. I love the depth possible when many books are set in the same world, I love how invested I can become in characters when I have multiple books to spend time with them, and I also like being able to be reasonably sure I will love a book.

I have said in the past that I am not good at reading series – this is not actually quite true I have realized over the last few years (and about 20 books in the Psy-Changeling series later). I am admittedly not that great at finishing trilogies but longer series I enjoy I often inhale – especially if they are romance heavy or adjacent.

I have not been able to post as many non-review posts as I would like this last year- and I have especially not been able to shout my love from the rooftops as much (it feels like I read more disappointing books lately than earlier in my blogging journey, although this does not seem to actually have been the case). I am currently writing this series of posts on series (still to come are “Series I Love and Want to Keep Reading”, “Series I Read the First Book of and want to continue on with”, and “Series on my TBR”) in the hopes of bringing more positivity to my blog again. These posts are partly inspired by Caitlin’s brilliant The Great Series Read Project which you should check out if you haven’t done so.

To start that positivity with a bang, here are some of my favourite completed series.

Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews (review and review)
This comes as no news to anybody as this series re-invigorated my love for Urban Fantasy a couple of years ago. I binge-read the first four books in a breathless (and sleepless) rush over the span of less than a week. It took me a bit longer to read the next five and then I still had to wait a few weeks for the publication of the last book. Ilona Andrews takes what is a fairly typical UF premise: loner, detective-type person solves crimes involving magic and/ or creatures, while falling in love with one of the suspects, and makes it incredibly readable. The world-building is inpeccable, Kate Daniels is a perfect main character, the voice is wonderful, and I ship the main couple a little bit too much. I am currently making my way through all the novellas set in this world and then maybe I will re-read the series. It is just that good. (I still do not love the covers.)

Psy-Changeling by Nalini Singh
The first arc of this still ongoing series finished with book 15 (plus novellas) – and what a satisfying first arc this was! You get the feeling that Singh knows exactly where she wants her story to go and the little hints she plants early on for later books is just brilliant. This paranormal romance series is set in the future and features both Psy and shapeshifters. Each book focusses on another couple but the overall story is what keeps me hooked even if I do not love each individual couple. Incredibly, the series does not show any signs of becoming weaker and I do not foresee myself ever disliking any book Singh writes.

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin is my favourite author and this is her masterpiece. She won three consecutive Hugo Awards for these books – and rightfully so. The trilogy is near perfect, the first book especially was something close to otherworldly for me (review here). I do not know if there is another book that is this perfectly suited to my reading tastes. If you have not gotten around to this series, I really cannot recommend it highly enough.

The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

While not as perfect as the Broken Earth trilogy, this is also an incredible series. It does something I particularly love in fantasy: feature gods. I don’t think Jemisin quite stuck the landing with this one but the first two books were so great. I especially love how distinctly not-human the gods are and I love how the later books recontextualize what happened before. (review for the first book here)

The Divine Cities Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett

Another series featuring Gods (I love it so!), this is set in a world where after a huge war, some gods are missing and/or dead and everything they have built is still there but malfunctioning without the entities that cancelled out certain natural laws powering them. The first book is a murder mystery kind of character heavy secondary world urban fantasy and absolutely brilliant (review here) – but the two other books in the series are also pretty damn amazing. The books feature some of my favourite characters and some of the imagery will stay with me forever, I am certain.

The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden

In what should be obvious by now, this is also a series featuring gods. Set in the North of Russia with its seemingly neverending winter, drawing both on fairy tales and real life history, I adored this. I inhaled the first book (review here) and have been a fan of Katherine Arden’s writing ever since. I didn’t quite love the second book but thought the third book really stuck the landing (review here).

What are some of your favourite series? I am particularly always looking for good urban fantasy, preferably written by women and I also am never unhappy to see a heavy romance focus.

Review: Deborah Levy’s Living Autobiography

I adore Deborah Levy’s writing and am trying to read all her published fiction and non-fiction books this year. I started my journey with the audiobooks for the first two books in her Living Autobiography and then read an ARC of the third and for now final book in the sequence. First things first: I adored this experience. I rarely manage to read books in any kind of series this close to each other and here it really worked rather well. Levy writes her non-fiction in much the same way she constructs her novels: perfectly structured, looping back and forth, with sentences so sharp they could cut.

Things I Don’t Want to Know (published March 2013)

The first book in the trilogy focusses on Levy as a writer and how her life experiences influence the way she writes and thinks. I thought the second essay, on her childhood in Apartheid South Africa was pitch-perfect. Her prose is excellent and her structure great as always – even if I do not always agree with the more political points Levy makes. She is very much a second-wave feminist and you can tell.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Cost of Living (published April 2018)

Impeccably structured, heart-breaking and still somehow optimistic, with prose as sharp as ever. I love Levy’s writing. I liked the essays closer to her life more than the ones that tried to draw on wider societal themes but the ending did nearly make me give this five stars. The impressive way she draws back to what she said before and the way in which she constructed this memoir like one of her fiction novels might still make me change my mind. Near perfect.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Real Estate (published by Hamish Hamilton, May 13th 2021)

Organized around musings on Levy’s dream house and what she would like it to be like, this concluding volume draws onto themes explored in the previous books and works as a conclusion in a way that I found highly, highly satisfying. There are few writers whose prose and narrative structure mean that I will read whatever they put out and will enjoy myself even if I do not always agree with their political points. Levy is this good.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I loved this. I am kind of wistful having now completed all three and I am somehow hoping against hope that Levy decides to keep writing these sharp, wonderful books. Thankfully Levy has an extensive backlist that I can still jump into, probably in publication order now that I finished all her non-fiction.