Wrap Up February 2022

Let’s not talk about the month I had. We can talk about how bad the reading month went though – it was pretty bad but maybe by design?

Books I read in February:

I started the month very strong with Melissa Febos’ Girlhood (4.5 out of 5) which I really really enjoyed, especially as a continuation of the earlier Abandon Me (which made my favourites list last year). I thought this filled in some gaps wonderfully while also being more academic in a way than her earlier memoir. Really really recommended! Afterwards I went on a romance binge because my month went to hill. I first read The Sins of Lord Lockwood by Meredith Duran (3.5. out of 5 stars) because I saw excerpts on twitter and it looked as angsty as I wanted – and angsty I got. This was slightly ridiculous but emotionally resonant and very readable. Then I read the first book in the same series Your Wicked Heart (3 out of 5 stars) which I enjoyed but not as much and where I thought the plotting was not nearly as well done. I also would have liked some more groveling! To get my groveling fix I went back to Lauren Layne and read Broken (3 out of 5 stars). I enjoyed this a lot for the most part. I found the couple believable and their chemistry wonderful – but some plot and character developments were a bit too convenient. I also prefer Layne’s older characters. Afterwards I finished what will probably remain my biggest reading disappointment of the year: On the Edge (The Edge #1) by Ilona Andrews (2 out of 5 stars). These are my comfort authors and comfort I craved but this did not work for me at all. I found the two man characters unpleasant and did not like spending time with them which is the opposite of my usual experience with the authors. So then, I read another Lauren Layne book: For Better or Worse (3 out of 5 stars) which was fine – but I have nothing to say about it beyond this. Then I read a clasic “grovel” book; Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (3 out of 5 stars) which was absolutely banana pants (between a heroine who thinks she can talk to a tiger, a hero who works as a circus manager and who’s a contender for the Russian throne (the novel is contemporary-ish), and a marriage of convenience that makes exactly zero sense it sometimes seemed like the author threw everything and the kitchen sink at her WIP) – but addictive and surprisingly emotionally resonant. I did not enjoy the weird, non-specific Christian tone, but loved the heroine. Finally I finished the short story collection The Americans by Molly Antopol (3.5 out of 5 stars) which was dark, depressing, and realist and which I appreciated more than I enjoyed it. The stories are impeccably structured and wonderfully realized, if sometimes ending a bit abruptly. But they are also relentless in their themes of difficult parents and broken familial relationships. The last story, however, was just brilliant, perfect, no notes. I wish they all had been like this.

Favourite of the Month:

Girlhood was the high point in an otherwise fairly bad reading month. Nevertheless, it would have been a highlight in most readings months. Febos is excellent at what she does and I hope she keeps doing this for years to come.

Stats(ish):

I read 8 books, seven of which were written by women and one by a husband and wife team. One short story collection, one essay collection, two historical romance, three contemporary(ish) romances, one speculative romance.

Currently Reading:

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022: Longlist predictions

It’s my favourite bookish time of the year! I love following the Women’s Prize for Fiction, or rather I love what it does with my bookish corner of the internet. I am a bit removed from the blogging world currently but I will make an effort to change that while women’s prize season lasts. Last year I guessed only a few books correctly, but among them the eventual winner and that has got to count like five times. I am not planning on reading the longlist but I might try to read the shortlist, depending what is on there.

Here are my predictions, in no particular order. I have included whether the author was longlisted before or not because longlisted authors are basically a freebie for the publishers to nominate, additionally to the two spots they usually have.

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

Before anything else: I adore this cover.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Yes, actually. But mostly for other people. I am not sure it’s the book for me but many of my friends are excited for it.

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

This is a book about a mother-daughter relationship that focusses on older people – and as such fits the WP to perfection.

Longlisted before: Yes (2017).

Would I be happy to see it: I have wanted to get to Riley’s work before and this has gotten rave reviews from people whose taste I trust, so yes, I would like the added incentive.

Matrix by Lauren Groff

This is the one I am most confident about.

Longlisted before: Weirdly, no..

Would I be happy to see it: Yeah, sure. I like Groff. Enough that I might even read this book about a nun of all things.

When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

This might be a stretch because it is magical realist in nature but there is often at least one book on the list that is at least slightly specultive and this one might be it. It focusses on parents and grief and this is always something the Women’s Prize seems to be interested in.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: I am always here for speculative litfic – even if this sounds maybe a bit too hard hitting for me I would love for it to be included.

The Love Spoongs of W. E. B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Another one I am fairly confident will make the list – and another one I would not read. The reviews are stellar and if you like the kind of sprawling multigenerational novel this is, it seems to be a brilliant one.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: I am ambivalent, to be honest. I think it would be an interesting addition but it’s also very much not my kind of book.

Olga Lies Dreaming by Xóchitl González

This might be too close to the Romance genre to make it – but it’s also about sibling relationships and more importantly about maternal relationships and I am predicting another year with a strong emphasis on that.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: I would, actually. I am always here for romance AND sibling relationships.

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

My colleague, who has always read more books who end up eventually longlisted, read this. So I am including it.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: I have no opinion on this book but I want my gamble of including it to pay off, so yes, please.

This One Sky Day by Leone Ross

I have heard nothing but good things about this, another speculative litfic kind of book, this one dealing with change rather than family it seems, but nevertheless, a timely theme.

Longlisted before: Yes.

Would I be happy to see it: Yes!

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

Another book focussing sibligs, this book set in the Scottish wilderness has peaked my interest but never enough so that I made the decision to pick it up.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Yes, very! I would like for the Women’s Prize to make up my mind for me.

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Of the Booker nominated books this, fokussing on a female pilot who vanishing on her way to circumnavigate the world, sounds the most like a Women’s Prize book.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: There is no way I would ever read this, but friends of mine adored it. So, I’m ambivalent about it making the list.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

I keep putting Erdrich’s books on my predictions lists and one of these days I am bound to be correct.

Longlisted before: No!

Would I be happy to see it: Absolutely! I want to finally read Erdrich’s writing.

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

To paraphrase Rachel, I hear motherhood book, I think Women’s Prize.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: No! Nothing about this appeals to me! I do not want to read about society’s ridiculous expectations of mothers

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

This is THE book of the year. I do not think any other book will be equally buzzy. There’s no way I am reading it (I though A Little Life was.. fine) and the reviews have been all over the place but there’s no denying the discourse generating power of it.

Longlisted before: Yes.

Would I be happy to see it: I really do not have an opinion either way but I would like the endless discourse to stop, please.

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer

This is a book about illness and if that isn’t timely than I do not know.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Yes, actually. I think this sounds really excellent but I would like to see some reviews before I embark on a cancer novel.

Cecily by Annie Garthwaite

I have hard literally nothing about this book – but it focusses and I quote on history’s “greatest unseen protagonist” and this just screams Women’s Prize.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Sure why not.

Holding her Breath by Eimear Ryan

This would not be predictions lists without a buzzy Irish debut.

Longlisted before: No.

Would I be happy to see it: Always.

There you have my official 16 predictions. I have left out some buzzy books (especially the new Rooney) and this is a debut heavy list but I am feeling good about it. Which probably means I am going to get two books max right.

Whch books are you most hoping for? Are you planning on reading the longlist?

Wrap Up January 2022

If the rest of this year goes the way my January went, I will have aged a decade by the end of it. This was an exceptionally stressful and emotionally taxing month. As you will be able to tell from the dominance of romance on this wrap up.

Books I read in January:

My first book of the year was Archangel’s Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11) by Nalini Singh (4 out of 5 stars). I am trying to finally catch up to this series – I am so very close! I enjoyed this a lot, especially the last third when everything came together really satisfactorily. The cliffhanger meant that I immediately had to start the next book in the series. But as that one was fairly long with 500 pages, I finished Well, This is Exhausting by Sophia Benoit (3.5 out of 5 stars) first. It worked best for me when the stories stayed close to Sophia Benoit’s own experiences and less when the essays were meant to be more universal. It helps that I find her genuinely hilarious and that I am also, embarassingly, very online. Then I sped through Archangel’s War (Guild Hunter #12) by Nalini Singh (4.5 out of 5 stars) which brought the first arc of this series to a great end and was my absolute favourite book in it so far. I then went on a serious Lauren Layne binge. I first read Good Girl (3.5 out of 5 stars) which I enjoyed and whih gave me exactly the amount of angst I needed. Afterwards I read The Prenup (2 out of 5 stars) which was not my favourite because the male main character was just the absolute worst and didn’t ever seem to understand what he did. Then I finished I Knew You Were Trouble (4 ou of 5 stars) – which I should not have enjoyed as much as I did, given it features one of my least favourite tropes, but enjoy it I did. I loved this and I am so glad I read it. Then I changed it up and finished an ARC of Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker (4 out of 5 stars). This was an emotionally taxing but for the most part worth it read. Following on the one hand the Galvin family where of the 12 children six were diagnosed with schizophrenia and on the other hand the development of schizophrenia research and psychiatry in general, this is harrowing and sad and surprisingly readable. I prefered the more science history aspect but thought the focus on the family managed to put that part into greater focus. I would have prefered to have more emphasis given on the voices of people diagnosed with schizophrenia but I am also very aware of the limitations there. Well worth reading, but be aware of the very very grim topics. I finished the month with my favourite full read of a Lauren Layne novel (I read parts of many many more. When I say I binged, I mean it): Walk of Shame (2 out 5 stars) – I disliked this enough that it finally made me stop binge-reading. Which is a good thing because this kind of reading is ultimately not good for me.

Favourite of the Month:

I loved Archangel’s War so much. I love when Nalini Singh pulls her many plotpoints together and how she manages to make a book with this many characters still emotionally resonant. I just really really love her writing (obviously, having read, what like 40 of her books in the last few years).

Stats(ish):

I read 8 books, even of which were written by women. Two were non fiction, four contemporary romance, two speculative romance.

Currently Reading:

Wrap Up December 2021

I do not think I ever had a wrap up up this late. I debated if I even should still post it and while it’s a bit weird to have a December wrap up go up two days before the January wrap up, I also didn’t want to miss this month because I had a pretty good reading months with three five star reads and only one book I did not really enjoy.

Books I read in December:

I began the month with Just One Night by Lauren Layne (3 out of 5 stars) which was fun but not really all that remarkable. Then I finished the brilliant Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (4.5 out of 5 stars). I am a huge Sally Rooney fan and this book worked for me the same way all her books work for me. I thought it was structurally brilliant with its introspective email chapters and the more aloof third person chapters alternating and give different lenses through which to understand her characters – and her characters are what shine as usual. I didn’t love this as much as Conversations With Friends but more than Normal People I think and I cannot wait to see what she does next, or rather what variation on her theme she dos next. Afterwards I finally finished For The Wolf (Wilderwood #1) by Hannah Whitten (3 out of 5 stars) which took me basically half a year. I adored the beginning with its lush and description heavy writing and its emphasis on atmosphere before all. But after a while I found it indulgent and weirdly vague in what was going on. I also do not love plots that hinge on people just not using their words. The ending intrigues me enough though to want to read the second book in the series. Then I read my first Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking (5 out of 5 stars) which was just as good or even better than I thought it would be. The prose is impeccable, the thoughtful use of repetition and returning to earlier themes and ideas is perfect and the emotional punch is harsh – there is a reason she is counted amongst the best stylists. I want to read as many of her books as possible. Afterwards I finished the very disappointing Fen by Daisy Johnson (2 out of 5 stars) – I was so sure I would love this, as I enjoyed both of her novels but I found this repetitive and sad and weirdly sex negative in its outlook. Then I read another extremely brilliant book: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (5 out of 5 stars). I have not been able to stop thinking about this book but at the same time I have trouble putting my thoughts and feelings into words. This is brilliant. I knew very little going into this book except that I will read anything Emily St. John Mandel writes and as such the book surprised me again and again. It is losely connected to her most recent two novels, Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, and I love her extended universe so much. She does this better than David Mitchell, whose writing I also adore, and I cannot wait to read whatever comes next. This book is both perfectly structured and compulsively readable, and as always her characterwork is beyond compare. So yes, I loved this. My final book of the year was The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) by Andrea Stewart (4 out of 5 stars) and thankfully one I liked a lot. I thought the premise was excellent and original. There were a couple of really effective reveals as a result of Stewart not being afraid to lean into the creepiness. I did think the book had pacing issues and differently exciting plotlines but I really enjoyed how they all come or did not come together. The cliffhanger really makes me anxious to get to the next book in the series.

Favourite of the Month:

I really had an exceptional reading month. Both The Year of Magical Thinking and Sea o Tranquility surpased my already high expectations. But it is the latter that really blew me away in every possible way. I will have to reread the whole lose trilogy at some point but right now Sea of Tranqulity might be my favourite of the three. It’s better than Station Eleven? Blasphemy but also probably true. She really is on top of her game.

Stats(ish):

I read seven books, all of which were written by women – one memoir, one short story collection, two fantasy novels (both first in a series), two literary fiction, and one romance novel.

Currently Reading:

Favourite books of 2021

This is always one of my favourite blog posts to write and it took me nearly three weeks into the new year to finally have it up. This does not bode well for my blogging year but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

My reading year went well – quality wise. I only read half as many books as I used to but I got better at picking books I would love rather those I read for hype or fomo reasons, so this was a nice side effect. As a result, I have 10 books to share today; the first threeI rated a high 4.5 stars, the latter seven all got 5 stars. I tried to put them in order of enjoyment but as always this is a snap shot and could have been different on any other day.

10 Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
I am a huge fan of Sally Rooney and this book worked for me the same way all her books work for me. I thought it was structurally brilliant with its introspective email chapters and the more aloof third person chapters alternating and give different lenses through which to understand her characters – and her characters are what shine as usual. I didn’t love this as much as Conversations With Friends but more than Normal People I think and I cannot wait to see what she does next, or rather what variation on her theme she dos next.

09 Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
This broke my heart. Here the whole was better than the sum of its parts but even the weaker essays are great. Febos puts herself and the reader through the ringer and her honesty and special attention to themes and repetitions makes this a perfect fi for me. I will be reading as much of her work as possible.

08 Animal Wife Stories by Lara Ehrlich
The only short story collection to make my list but what a brilliant book it is. It reminded me exactly why I love short story collections. It is weird and extremely well written, with a strong theme of feminism and motherhood and the stories are the exact perfect length each time (varying from the very short to the slightly longer than most short stories).


07 Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
This 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. I didn’t quite love this as much as Say Nothing by the same author which took the very top spot of my favourite books on 2020 but it is incredible nonetheless. The Sacklers are indeed the worst and I had a running ranking who was the very worst of them (spoiler alert: it’s Richard).

06 White Magic by Elissa Washuta
This is just brilliant but in a way that I find difficult to put into words, again. It’s both a structurally perfect memoir and one that doesn’t pull any punches and I adored it. Washuta disects her own trauma, both immediate and intergenerational, while writing circularly about a relationship disintegrating. It is very introspective in the best possible way and I love how she focusses herself more than anything else.

05 The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
I knew I would enjoy Didion but I loved this even more. The prose is impeccable, the thoughtful use of repetition and returning to earlier themes and ideas is perfect and the emotional punch is harsh – there is a reason she is counted amongst the best stylists. I want to read as many of her books as possible.

04 Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Pretty much all of this worked for me, from the characters to the peculiar prose to the structure; especially the first half was near perfect for me. I do admit that this just hits a lot of my pleasure buttons and I can see where it might not work for other readers but I am glad that many people have taken a chance on this. Ultimately, on a metaphor-level I think this is a book about loneliness and about the structures we impose to deal with it. Clarke is chronically ill and you can tell she knows what she is writing about here. For me, this hit particularly hard given the slowly becoming unbearable pandamic and the intrinsic loneliness of new motherhood. I will treasure this book.

03 Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger
If you pick up any of my non-fiction recommendations from this list, please pick this one. I loved this and I want so many more people to read this. It took Dancyger 10 years to write this book and it shows. It is so good. She achieves a level of reflexivity that is very rare in memoirs and it is structurally so very well done. It also packs an emotional punch while wielding its sentimentality as a weapon and I am just so impressed with this.

02 Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
I have not been able to stop thinking about this book but at the same time I have trouble putting my thoughts and feelins into words. This is brilliant. I knew very little going into this book except that I will read anything Emily St. John Mandel writes and as such the book surprised me again and again. It is losely connected to her most recent two novels, Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, and I love her extended universe so much. She does this better than David Mitchell, whose writing I also adore, and I cannot wait to read whatever comes next. This book is both perfectly structured and compulsively readable, and as always her characterwork is beyond compare. So yes, I loved this.

01 No Gods, No Monster by Cadwell Turnbull
I ADORED this. So much, that I actually wrote a proper review for it. 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.

Most anticipated releases of 2022

Until a few weeks ago, I had very few non-sequel books on this list. This has changed. As a result, writing this post has taken me a lot longer than I anticipated (I am not used to blogging and the time it takes anymore!) – but these posts are always among my favourites to write and read, so here it is, my list of 19 most anticipated releases for 2022, organized by genre and then by publication date (there is no rhyme or reason as to when I chose the UK or the US date – sorry). The covers and blurbs are taken from Goodreads.

This year I have surprisingly few short story collections and non fiction titles on this list. I am sure this will change over the year but for now it is what it is. I am also determined to read more backlist next year, especially when it comes to memoirs (I recently read my first Didion and the sheer quality of her prose and structure made me happy and also angry because it has taken me too long to get to her writing).

Fiction

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

Blurb: Follow a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague
Beginning in 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus.
Once unleashed, the Arctic Plague will reshape life on Earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects—a pig—develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.
From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resiliency of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.

Hi, yes, absolutely custom-made for me, this was more or less the last ARC I requested before I stopped doing that. This is great and I want more people to read this. (review here)

The Devil House by John Darnielle (Published by MCD, January 25th 2022)

Blurb: Gage Chandler is descended from kings. That’s what his mother always told him.
Now, he is a true crime writer, with one grisly success–and movie adaptation–to his name, along with a series of subsequent lesser efforts that have paid the bills but not much more. But now he is being offered the chance for the big break: To move into the house–what the locals call “The Devil House”–in which a briefly notorious pair of murders occurred, apparently the work of disaffected 1980s teens. He begins his research with diligence and enthusiasm, but soon the story leads him into a puzzle he never expected–back into his own work and what it means, back to the very core of what he does and who he is.

I love John Darnielle, mostly his music but I also enjoy his fiction. So, even though this does not necessarily sound like my type of book, I still really want to read it.

Very Cold People by Sarah Manguso (Published by Hogarth, February 8th 2022)

Blurb: The much-anticipated debut novel from the author of 300 Arguments: a shattering account of growing up and out of the suffocating constraints of small-town America.
For Ruthie, the frozen, snow-padded town of Waitsfield, Massachusetts, is all she has ever known. But this is no picturesque New England. Once “home of the bean and the cod, where Lowells speak only to Cabots, and Cabots speak only to God,” by the tail-end of the twentieth century it is an unforgiving place, awash with secrets.
Very Cold People tells Ruthie’s story, through her eyes: from the shame handed down through her immigrant forebears and indomitable mother, to the violences endured by her high school friends, each suffering a fate worse than the last. For Ruthie, Waitsfield is a place to be survived–and a girl like her would be lucky to get out alive.
Part social commentary and part Gothic horror, Very Cold People is an ungilded portrait of girlhood at the crossroads of history and social class. In her eagerly anticipated debut novel, Sarah Manguso has produced a masterwork on how very cold places make for very cold people, and a pitiless look at an all-American whiteness.

I love Sarah Manguso’s non fiction, especially her prose style and I am very hopeful that it’ll translate into brilliant fiction.

None of This is Serious by Catherine Prasifka (Published by Canongate, Aprul 7th 2022)

Blurb: Dublin student life is ending for Sophie and her friends. They’ve got everything figured out, and Sophie feels left behind as they all start to go their separate ways. She’s overshadowed by her best friend Grace. She’s been in love with Finn for as long as she’s known him. And she’s about to meet Rory, who’s suddenly available to her online.
At a party, what was already unstable completely falls apart and Sophie finds herself obsessively scrolling social media, waiting for something (anything) to happen.
None of This Is Serious is about the uncertainty and absurdity of being alive today. It’s about balancing the real world with the online, and the vulnerabilities in yourself, your relationships, your body. At its heart, this is a novel about the friendships strong enough to withstand anything.

This sounds Rooney-esque, I want Rooney-esque.

Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty (Published by Tin House Books, July 5th 2022)

Blurb: How do the living come back to life? 
Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy.
In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty—with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight—breathes life into tales of family and community bonds as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson, and thinks he is her dead brother come back to life; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs. 
In a collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of a Native community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.

For some reason, there are very few short story collections on my radar – but thankfully this one sounds absolutely brilliant.

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra (Published by Hogarth Press, July 19th 2022)

Blurb: The epic tale of a brilliant woman who must reinvent herself in order to survive, moving from Mussolini’s fascist Italy to 1940s Hollywood–a timeless story of love, sacrifice, and deceit from the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
When we first meet Maria Lagana in 1941, she’s a highly talented but underappreciated scriptwriter at Mercury Pictures, Hollywood’s worst studio that churns out monster movies and cut-rate romances. Maria’s boss has escaped the anti-Semitism of Poland via Brooklyn, and he brings a refugee’s grit and tenacity to the backlots of Los Angeles, imparting valuable lessons about playing around the edges of the law in order to survive to his young apprentice.
Maria herself is no stranger to transgression, however–she arrived in America as a child, after her father was arrested for anti-fascist activity in Rome. While Maria carefully revises scripts in order to evade Hollywood censors, Giuseppe Lagana is in a prison bloc in southern Italy, composing a dictionary that encodes messages to fellow resisters across the globe. When Giuseppe meets Nino and Corrado, a pair of scheming fellow prisoners who have concocted an escape plan that will take them all the way to L.A., he seizes his chance to communicate with his estranged daughter. But when a love triangle develops between the two men and Maria, Giuseppe’s message is compromised, and a series of betrayals culminates in a murder on the backlot of Mercury Pictures–putting Maria and her family in a new kind of danger.
A story sprawled across two tethered worlds, each haunted by its own version of history, Mercury Pictures Presents is an epic novel of transformation, freedom, love, and forgiveness in a time of war and crisis.

Full disclosure, if this was written by any other author, this blurb would not appeal to me. But I adored, five star adored, Marra’s previous two books and had just about given up hope to get a third one. So yes, I shall be reading a historical fiction novel set during WWII.

Speculative Fiction

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd (Published by William Morrow, March 15th 2022)

Blurb:What is the purpose of a map?
Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field, and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.
But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable, and also exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence… because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.
But why?
To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret, and discover the true power that lies in maps…
Perfect for fans of Joe Hill and V.E. Schwab, The Cartographers is an ode to art and science, history and magic—a spectacularly imaginative, modern story about an ancient craft and places still undiscovered.

I adored Shepherd’s debut novel The Book of M, and while this book sounds completely different, I am also very much on board for the premise.

The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller (Published by Tor Books, March 22nd 2022)

Blurb: Sara A. Mueller’s The Bone Orchard is a fascinating whodunit set in a lush, gothic world of secrets and magic–where a dying emperor charges his favorite concubine with solving his own murder, and preventing the culprit, which undoubtedly is one of his three terrible sons, from taking control of an empire.
Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow.
Charm is a prisoner, and a survivor. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain.
Charm is a whore, and a madam. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren’t real.
Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself.
But now–Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire—by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.
If she does this last thing, she will finally have what has been denied her since the fall of Inshil — her freedom. But she will also be betraying the ghosts past and present that live on within her heart.
Charm must choose. Her dead Emperor’s will or the whispers of her own ghosts. Justice for the empire or her own revenge.

This sounds bonkers and incredible and I cannot wait to see what it is acually about. It is another one I hope will lean into the darkness of the premise.

The City of Dusk (The Dark Gods #1) by Tara Sim (Published by Orbit, March 22nd 2022)

Blurb: Set in a gorgeous world of bone and shadow magic, of vengeful gods and defiant chosen ones, The City of Dusk is the first in a dark epic fantasy trilogy that follows the four heirs of four noble houses—each gifted with a divine power—as they form a tenuous alliance to keep their kingdom from descending into a realm-shattering war.
The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.
But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying.
Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light— will sacrifice everything to save the city.
But their defiance will cost them dearly.

This had me at “vengeful gods”.

Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda (Published by HarperVia, April 5th 2022)

Blurb: A young, mixed-race vampire must find a way to balance her deep-seated desire to live amongst humans with her incessant hunger in this stunning debut novel from a writer-to-watch.
Lydia is hungry. She’s always wanted to try Japanese food. Sashimi, ramen, onigiri with sour plum stuffed inside – the food her Japanese father liked to eat. And then there is bubble tea and iced-coffee, ice cream and cake, and foraged herbs and plants, and the vegetables grown by the other young artists at the London studio space she is secretly squatting in. But, Lydia can’t eat any of these things. Her body doesn’t work like those of other people. The only thing she can digest is blood, and it turns out that sourcing fresh pigs’ blood in London – where she is living away from her vampire mother for the first time – is much more difficult than she’d anticipated.
Then there are the humans – the other artists at the studio space, the people at the gallery she interns at, the strange men that follow her after dark, and Ben, a boyish, goofy-grinned artist she is developing feelings for. Lydia knows that they are her natural prey, but she can’t bring herself to feed on them. In her windowless studio, where she paints and studies the work of other artists, binge-watches Buffy the Vampire Slayer and videos of people eating food on YouTube and Instagram, Lydia considers her place in the world. She has many of the things humans wish for – perpetual youth, near-invulnerability, immortality – but she is miserable; she is lonely; and she is hungry – always hungry.
As Lydia develops as a woman and an artist, she will learn that she must reconcile the conflicts within her – between her demon and human sides, her mixed ethnic heritage, and her relationship with food, and, in turn, humans – if she is to find a way to exist in the world. Before any of this, however, she must eat.

This sounds fantastic. Difficult woman but make her a vampire? Yes, please, thank you.

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Powers (Published by Del Rey, April 5th 2022)

Blurb: Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family safe—even if it tears the siblings apart—in the first book of a mythic epic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.
Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.
Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.

Sibling relationships are among my favourite things in fiction. This could be absolutely glorious, especially if it gets as messy as the blurb hints at.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (Published by Knopf, April 19th 2022)

Blurb: The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.
Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.
Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.
When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.

I didn’t even read the blurb before requesting and reading this book – because it is Emily St. John Mandel who by all accounts is incapable of writing a book I do not love. This was every bit as brilliant as I hoped and I am currently mulling over how to review it.

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah (Published by Orbit, May 17th 2022)

Blurb: Neither here nor there, but long ago…
Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.
With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

If this leans into the inherent creepiness of jinns, this could be excellent. I am always here for fairy tale reimagings and I love One Thousand and One Nights – my hopes are high!

Thrust by Lidia Yuknavitch (Published by Riverhead Books, June 8th 2022)

Blurb: As rising waters–and an encroaching police state–endanger her life and family, a girl with the gifts of a carrier travels through water and time to rescue vulnerable figures from the margins of history
Lidia Yuknavitch has an unmatched gift for capturing stories of people on the margins–vulnerable humans leading lives of challenge and transcendence. Now, Yuknavitch offers an imaginative masterpiece: the story of Laisve, a motherless girl from the late 21st century who is learning her power as a carrier, a person who can harness the power of meaningful objects to carry her through time. Sifting through the detritus of a fallen city known as the Brook, she discovers a talisman that will mysteriously connect her with a series of characters from the past two centuries: a French sculptor; a woman of the American underworld; a dictator’s daughter; an accused murderer; and a squad of laborers at work on a national monument. Through intricately braided storylines, Laisve must dodge enforcement raids and find her way to the present day, and then, finally, to the early days of her imperfect country, to forge a connection that might save their lives–and their shared dream of freedom.
A dazzling novel of body, spirit, and survival, Thrust will leave no reader unchanged.

New, speculative Lidia Yuknavitch? I do not need to know more to know I want to read it.

One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig (Published October 18th 2022)

Blurb: Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.
But nothing comes for free, especially magic.
When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.
Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.

This has the potential to be the very perfect book for me. I love the romance aspect and I love the idea of this getting really dark.

There is also a number of sequels that I am very excited for coming out next year: Temple of No God (Hall of Smoke #2) by H. M. Long, The Thousand Eyes (The Serpent Gates #2) by A. K. Larkwood, A Dance of Smoke and Steel (A Gathering of Dragons #3) by Milla Vane, For The Throne (Wilderwood #2) by Hannah Whitten, Storm Echo (Psy-Changeling #21) by Nalini Singh, Dance With the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #3) by Kit Rocha, Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy #6) by Ilona Andrews (I NEED IT), Blitz (The Checquy Files #3).

Non-Fiction

Ancestor Trouble by Maud Newton (Published by Random House March 29th 2022)

Blurb: An acclaimed writer goes searching for the truth about her wildly unconventional Southern family–and finds that our obsession with ancestors opens up new ways of seeing ourselves.
Maud Newton’s ancestors have vexed and fascinated her since she was a girl. Her mother’s father, who came of age in Texas during the Great Depression, was said to have married thirteen times and been shot by one of his wives. Her mother’s grandfather killed a man with a hay hook and died in a mental institution. Mental illness and religious fanaticism percolated through Maud’s maternal lines, to an ancestor accused of being a witch in Puritan-era Massachusetts. Maud’s father, an aerospace engineer turned lawyer, was a book-smart man who extolled the virtues of slavery and obsessed over the “purity” of his family bloodline, which he traced back to the Revolutionary War. He tried in vain to control Maud’s mother, a whirlwind of charisma and passion given to feverish projects: thirty rescue cats, and a church in the family’s living room where she performed exorcisms.
Their divorce, when it came, was a relief. Still, the meeting of her parents’ lines in Maud inspired an anxiety that she could not shake; a fear that she would replicate their damage. She saw similar anxieties in the lives of friends, in the works of writers and artists she admired. As obsessive in her own way as her parents, Maud researched her genealogy—her grandfather’s marriages, the accused witch, her ancestors’ roles in slavery and genocide–and sought family secrets through her DNA. But sunk in census archives and cousin matches, she yearned for deeper truths. Her journey took her into the realms of genetics, epigenetics, and the debates over intergenerational trauma. She mulled modernity’s dismissal of ancestors along with psychoanalytic and spiritual traditions that center them.
Searching, moving, and inspiring, Ancestor Trouble is one writer’s attempt to use genealogy–a once-niche hobby that has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry—to expose the secrets and contradictions of her own ancestors, and to argue for the transformational possibilities that reckoning with our ancest
ors has for all of us.

I’ll be honest, the apparent US American obsession with DNA and DNA-tests confuses me. From an American friend of mine telling me he was descendend from Herman the German (“I’m sure loads of people im Germany think that!” – no, they don’t. I live close to where Herman the German lived and nobody thinks they are related) to the weirdness of gifting each other DNA tests to Christmas, I am baffled. But this sounds fascinating, not least of all because the blurb makes it sound like it could explain the obsession to me.

Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks by Patrick Radden Keefe (Published by Doubleday Books June 28th 2022)

Patrick Radden Keefe has garnered prizes ranging from the National Magazine Award to the Orwell Prize to the National Book Critics Circle Award for his meticulously-reported, hypnotically-engaging work on the many ways people behave badly. ROGUES brings together a dozen of his most celebrated articles from The New Yorker. As Keefe says in his preface “They reflect on some of my abiding preoccupations: crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the bonds of family, the power of denial.”
Keefe brilliantly explores the intricacies of forging $150,000 vintage wines, examines whether a whistleblower who dared to expose money laundering at a Swiss bank is a hero or a fabulist, spends time in Vietnam with Anthony Bourdain, chronicles the quest to bring down a cheerful international black market arms merchant, and profiles a passionate death penalty attorney who represents the “worst of the worst,” among other bravura works of literary journalism.
The appearance of his byline in The New Yorker is always an event, and collected here for the first time readers can see his work forms an always enthralling but deeply human portrait of criminals and rascals, as well as those who stand up against them.

Patrick Radden Keefe is an absolute master of his craft. Whatever he decides to report on, it will be meticulously researched and readably presented. In both 2020 and 2021, one of his books made my Top 10 of the year, let’s hope the trend continues!

Enjoy me among my ruins by Juniper Fitzgerald (Published by Feminist Press, July 12th 2022)

Blurb: Combining sociological theory, fandom, and memoir, this experimental manifesto rejects dominant narratives about marginalized bodies.
Combining feminist theories, X-Files fandom, and personal memoir, Enjoy Me among My Ruins draws together a kaleidoscopic archive of Juniper Fitzgerald’s experiences as a queer sex-working mother. Plumbing the major events that shaped her life, and interspersing her childhood letters written to cult icon Gillian Anderson, this experimental manifesto contends with dominant narratives placed upon marginalized bodies and ultimately rejects a capitalist system that demands our purity and submission over our survival.

Yes. This sounds great! Also what an incredible cover!

This I Know: A Memoir of Heresy by Jeanna Kadlec (Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Autumn 2022)

This doesn’t even have a blurb (or a cover) yet but even tis short description, taken from the author’s home page makes me excited beyond measure: “My memoir in essays This I Know: A Memoir of Heresy — on getting divorced, coming out, leaving the evangelical church, and talking about life and community after — is forthcoming from HarperCollins in fall 2022.” I love her presence on Twitter (I know how this has turned out in the past, I k n o w) and this has the potential to be breath-taking.

Wrap Up November 2021

This was a MONTH.

Books I read in November:

I started the month strong with the incredble Animal Wife by Lara Ehrlich (4.5 out of 5 stars) which reminded me exactly why I love short story collections. It is weird and extremely well written, with a strong theme of feminism and motherhood and the stories are the exact perfect length each time (varying from the very short to the slightly longer than most short stories). It did get a bit repetitive but not enough for me to not round the rating up. Then I finished yet another Ilona Andrews book: Sweep With Me (Innkeeper Chronicles #3.5) (4 out of 5 stars) – which I obviously enjoyed. I always love their writing and am slowly making my way through their backlist while I wait for the next books in the two series of theirs I am current with. Afterwards I finished my oldest ARC (let’s just not talk about how long that sat unread on my kindle): Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt (2.5 out of 5 stars). I am conflicted about this because the prose was truly spectacular and I do like the framing device and the way Celt chooses to end her book. I did however not enjoy the pacing at all – it felt a lot longer than the 240 pages it was long and for vast stretches of it I was, indeed, bored. I then finished the absolutely brilliant Abandon Me by Melissa Febos (4.5 out of 5 stars) which broke my heart. Here the whole was better than the sum of its parts and I was right – this is an author whose complete works I want to read. Afterwards, my month went to hell. Which is why I finished a book that was sure to be comforting: Last Guard (Psy-Changeling #20) by Nalini Singh (3.5 out of 5 stars). As always, I enjoyed the worldbuilding and I am excited to see where the series goes next – because I always trust Nalini Singh in her macro plots, but this one didn’t completely work for me. The pacing was off and the central couple not my favourite. The final book I read, I inhaled in a day: The Trouble with Love by Lauren Layne (4 out of 5 stars). This was just what I needed with the perfect mix of funny and angsty. I loved this a whole lot, especially the focus on friendship – I will surely read the rest of this series and the follow up series. I am not often a fan of second chance romances but this worked perfectly because the past storyline never overwhelmed the present storyline (and because what happened in the past was just deliciously angsty without being a dealbreaker – and without them being horrible to each other).

Favourite of the Month:

Animal Wife was not only my favourit book of the month but my favourite short story collection of the year. Really recommended!

Stats(ish):

I somehow finished 6 books, five of which were written by women and one by a husband and wife team. One romance, two speculative romance, one short story collection, one historical fiction and one memoir.

Currently Reading:

Wrap Up October 2021

This did not feel like a bad reading month even though I finished very few books. Mostly because I am in fact reading regularly and I am also reading fantasy again which is making me very happy indeed.

Books I read in October:

The first book I finished in October was an ARC of How High We Go ind the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (4 out of 5 stars). I enjoyed many things about this – it is basically custom-made for me after all. I loved the changing perspectives as we moved further into the future, I loved revisiting people from earlier chapters as side characters in the later chapters, I enjoyed the weirdness Nagamatsu embraced and how unlikable he lets his characters be – but I did not love this book as a whole the way I wanted (and honestly expected) to. Parts are to do with the prose that did not always work for me, parts are definitely the increasingly bleak outlook of the stories. Overall, I found this slightly uneven but in parts genuinely brilliant. The book comes out in January 2022. I then read The Devil You Know (Mercenary Librarians #2) by Kit Rocha (4 out of 5 stars) which gave me exactly what I needed. I cannot wait for the next book in the series because I just love this world and its focus on community so very much.

Favourite of the Month:

I adored The Devil You Kow and I am very upset I will need to wait until next year to be able t read the next book.

Stats(ish):

I finished two books, both of which were speculative in nature. One written by a man and one written by two women.

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

Apparently not a lot. I am in the middle of enough books to be occupied for the whole month.

Wrap Up September 2021

I am so stressed. Is anybody surprised? I am not surprised. September is always busy and I am trying to juggle so very many things, professionally, that I am glad for every minute I manage to read for fun.

Books I read in September:

During Rachel’s and my ARC-readathon, I first finished two romance novels instead – because of course I did. If I was good at TBRs, the state of my NetGalley shelf would not necessitate a readathon to catch up. I read I Hate, I Bake, and I Don’t Date by Alina Jacobs (2 out of 5 stars) which was banana-pants but I could not look away. If the central couple had been less awful (especially him, whose name I have forgotten but who is a trash person) I would have rated this higher because I was indeed very entertained. Afterwards, I did what I always do when I read a particularly weird and/or awful romance novel and reached for a favourite romance author. I read Love According to Science by Claire Kingsley (3 out of 5 stars) which was my least favourite in the series so far but still a whole lot of fun. Then I finished the absolute brilliant No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull (5 out of 5 stars) which I liked so much that I have written a full review for the first time in half a year. I lso read One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3) by Ilona Andreas (3.5 out of 5 stars) which I obviousy enjoyed – I do not think they even can write a book I won’t like at this point. I then finished the incredible White Magic by Elissa Washuta (5 out of 5 stars) which is just brilliant but in a way that I find difficult to put into words. It’s both a structurally perfect memoir and one that doesn’t pull any punches and I adored it.

I also decided to DNF Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone during our readathon which meant two reviews written in the two weeks, which at this point, I’ll consider a win. I got increasingly more bored with this and put it down 40% in. I do not think this book knows what it wants to be – it’s a thriller without having thriller pacing but with thriller plot beats, it’s a coming of age story without actually dealing with the coming of age, It’s literary fiction but the language felt more self-indulgent than anything else. This just did not work for me at all – and I am very sad because the premise and the promise of a dysfunctional sibling relationship really are brilliant.

Favourite of the Month:

No Gods, No Monsters – which is so far also my favourite book of the year.

Stats(ish):

I read five books, three of which were written by women, one by a man and one by a husband and wife team.Two books were romance, two can broadly be categorized as speculative, and one essay collection/memoir.

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

Whatever I feel like. I won’t try to police my reading at all.

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.