Thoughts: 2019 Hugo Award nominees

I know I have been all about the Women’s Prize for Fiction lately, but my first love is SFF – so I am always ridiculously excited when the Hugo Award nominations are announced and this year was no exception. While I have not been reading all that much hard SFF in these last few months (I am loving my romance spec-fic too much), I have heard of the vast majority of the fiction nominees (and many of the other nominees as well) and I am very excited for this year’s list!

You can find the complete list of nominees here. I do have some thoughts on some of the categories and felt the need to share them, if only to give a counterweight to the heavy lit-fic slant my blog had in March (and because I love talking about book prizes).

Best Novel

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Of these six books, I have read two (I loved both Spinning Silver (review) and Trail of Lightning (review)). I already own Record of a Spaceborn Few (I am a big fan of Becky Chamber’s brand of optimistic scifi and had this book preordered since forever but had to wait until the edition matched the other two books in the series). I have been itching to buy Space Opera because how can I not? A literal space opera? Inspired by my favourite event of the year – the Eurovision Song Contest? Literally everything about this sounds amazing. While I adore Mary Robinette Kowal’s online presence and have heard great things about the book, The Calculating Stars does not speak to me. And Yoon Ha Lee’s writing just scares me. Hard SciFi just is not my idea of a great time.

Best Novella

Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press / JABberwocky Literary Agency)

All I wanted to say is that tor.com really is crushing this category. I learned last year that novellas don’t really work for me – but this list seems stellar.

Best Graphic Story

Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)
Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)
Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden (First Second)
Paper Girls, Volume 4, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)
Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Monstress!! I haven’t read this volume yet but adored the first two and I am very excited to see it on this list. Everything about this series excites me. I haven’t really been reading any graphic novels lately but Monstress is a literal masterpiece.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Katherine Arden (2nd year of eligibility)
S.A. Chakraborty (2nd year of eligibility)
R.F. Kuang (1st year of eligibility)
Jeannette Ng (2nd year of eligibility)
Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2nd year of eligibility)
Rivers Solomon (2nd year of eligibility) 

I am super excited for this list. Katherine Arden obviously has my heart and R. F. Kuang is such an exciting author. I am also really happy to see Jeannette Ng on here, while I didn’t absolutely adore her book The Pendulum Sun her online presence is so very brilliant. And I have not been able to stop thinking about The Pendulum Sun either, so I cannot wait for her next book, whenever that might come out.

So overall I am mostly pleased. I don’t see myself attempting to read a large chunk of the many many nominated books or authors but I cannot wait to see who will win.

Are you pleased with the nominations? Are you planning on reading any of the categories in full? Is there any one book in particular that I should get to?

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Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist: Reaction

The longlist is finally here! I am beyond excited and a bit baffled because of the depth excitement. I stayed up yesterday to hear the announcement the moment it went live, something I have never done for a longlist announcement.

My longlist predictions were so wrong, it’s not even funny; I only correctly predicted two books. Of the 16 books on the longlist I have read three, am currently reading one, and three I had never heard of before yesterday. This means that I have an awful lot of reading to do (according to the Goodreads page counts it’s 4023 pages). I will really try to read the longlist but I will definitely DNF the books that don’t work for me.

Without much further ado, here is the longlist in all its glory:

The Silence of the Girls Pat Barker
Remembered Yvonne Battle-Felton
My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Pisces Melissa Broder
Milkman Anna Burns
Freshwater Akwaeke Emezi
Ordinary People Diana Evans
Swan Song Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
An American Marriage Tayari Jones
Number One Chinese Restaurant Lillian Li
Bottled Goods Sophie van Llewyn
Lost Children Archive Valeria Luiselli
Praise Song for the Butterflies Bernice L. McFadden
Circe Madeline Miller
Ghost Wall Sarah Moss
Normal People by Sally Rooney

My thoughts:

Read: I am beyond thrilled The Pisces by Melissa Broder made the list; it was by far my favourite book of last year and I want more people to read it. In case you need convincing, here is my gushing review for it. I am also happy to see Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi on the list, which I also adored (my review). I was a bit worried that Emezi wouldn’t want to be included as they are non-binary but they are pleased so I am pleased. I am keeping my fingers crossed that people will try to make an effort to use the correct pronouns though (the first glimpse on twitter makes that seem unlikely). The only other book I have read is Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, where I seem to be the only person online to not have enjoyed it all that much (my review) – but others really do, so I am glad for its inclusion.

Currently reading: I have started Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli a while ago and really enjoyed the first few pages but found the prose very wordy – I am excited to see it on the list though because that means there is at least one book I don’t need to hunt down.

Well pleased: I am super excited to get to Normal People by Sally Rooney; I finished Conversations With Friends yesterday and I am so very much in love with it that I will read everything Rooney ever publishes (I spent yesterday periodically exclaiming “What a book!”) – and Normal People sounds brilliant. I am also happy to see both Circe by Madeline Miller and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker on the list; I adore feminist myth retellings and I have heard great things about both books. I did not think both would make it but I am glad for it. I am also really excited to have an excuse to finally take the plunge and read Milkman by Anna Burns, a book that scares me but also sounds really great. I opted for the audiobook version of this as I have heard listening to the prose makes the book more accessible. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite is another one of the books I did want to read at some point anyways and this is a welcome excuse to prioritize it.

Cautiously optimistic: I requested a review copy of Ordinary People by Diana Evans last year and didn’t get approved but it does sound like a book I could really enjoy. Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott isn’t quite a book I would have picked up on my own but I have heard great things about it. I am not good with books that deal with injustice, but again I have heard brilliant things about An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, so hopefully I will enjoyed it. I hadn’t heard of Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn but it is a short book that actually sounds like it could be my cup of tea.

Slightly pessimistic: While Number One Chinese Restaurant Lillian Li sounds interesting, I have read rather negative reviews of it – however, sometimes my taste is different to Goodreads’ average and I might enjoy this more (after all, The Pisces has a dreadfully low rating as well and that book is perfection). Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton could be great but it is also really outside my wheelhouse.

Really dreading: Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden does not sound like my type of book at all – and the blurb includes this: “educational, eye-opening account of the practice of ritual servitude in West Africa.” and I do not really appreciate books that are meant to be educational. I am hoping to be proved wrong.

Overall I am mostly pleased (The Pisces!!!) but also sad for a few notable exclusions. I was really hoping for both My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh and Motherhood by Sheila Heti because I really, really want to read these books. I was also hoping for Women Talking by Miriam Toews because it sounds intriguing but I don’t know whether I’ll get to it without the added push. I also thought there would be more overlap with the Man Booker longlist and would have really liked The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh and Everything Under by Daisy Johnson to get a shout out because I really liked both books and think the authors are awesome.

What are your thoughts? Are you still planning on reading the longlist?

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019: Predictions

I am attempting to read the longlist of this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction which is actually the only prize I can see myself even trying to do this for. I am no good at following TBRs and my reading has been heavily slanted towards Fantasy and Non-Fiction these last few months but I do hope to at least give it a good whirl. It is basically going to be a big buddy read with Rachel (whose prediction post you should definitely check out) and I am so looking forward to this.

I have spent altogether too much time on this list already (I started a draft post basically the minute the eligibility period started last year) and then spent the last three weeks narrowing down the list to 16 books. I have no idea if my predictions have any basis in reality or even if all these books are indeed eligible but still, the process has been fun. These are not all books that I hope will make the longlist but those are some that I think have a good chance of making it (some of these books do not sound like my type of book at all, so maybe I am hoping to be wrong).

The first batch are the big names, those that have been nominated for other prizes and/ or have received a fair amount of hype:

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (I read and loved this and do think its ambiguity would make a lovely addition to the list)

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson (this was my favourite of the books longlisted for the Man Booker and I adored what Johnson did with perspective here).

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (while it does not quite sound like my type of book, it intrigues me enough that I would not be disappointed if it made the list – and it has been mostly positively reviewed)

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (another of the many feminist myth retellings, I opted for this instead of the more popular Circe – it seems to be closer to the mythological heart of its story)

Motherhood by Sheila Heti (I just really want to read this.)

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (Moshfegh is an author I am super intrigued by and this novels seems to be her best book yet – and I love books with unapologetically difficult main characters)

Normal People by Sally Rooney (if this doesn’t make the list, then I don’t even know. I am currently reading her debut novel and adoring it without measure and I would love to have an excuse to read this next)

Women Talking by Miriam Toews (everything I hear about this book sounds like it would make the perfect candidate for the long list – plus, I have been so on the fence about it that it would be nice to be convinced one way or the other)

And the second batch are the rest of the books I can see making this list for no reason at all except for a vague feeling of them doing so.

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (a multigenerational family drama set in Zambia would make a good counterweight to my more conventionally Western first predictions)

The Binding by Bridget Collins (I do think that at least one of the longer historical fiction books will make the list and this one sounds like something I might actually enjoy)

Orchid and the Wasp by Caoilinn Hughes (this is on here purely based on gut instinct)

Permission by Saskia Vogel (I am beyond intrigued by the blurb and it is short enough to pack a proper punch in the way I adore)

The Pact We Made by Layla AlAmmar (another book based in myth, this sounds timely and important and might be absolutely stunning – it isn’t completely in my wheelhouse but I am intrigued)

The Fourth Shore by Virginia Baily (this is historical fiction set in fascist Italy – and this is the only reason it made my list but it’s also the one I would dread reading the most – I am not too keen on either historical fiction or WWII)

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith (semi-autobiographical novel dealing with disability and grief? This sounds like it could be a punch to the gut in the best possible way)

Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li (everything about this sounds brilliant)

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am for the longlist – and for this wonderful time in the online book community when suddenly many people are reading the same books.

What are your predictions for the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist? And which books do you hope to see on there? Are you planning on following the prize at all? Let’s chat!

Thoughts: On romance

For a long time I have been telling myself and everybody else that I am not that interested in romance in books. Turns out, that is not quite true. I am not a fan of romance in books where it is the obligatory B-plot; I very much love books where a well-done romance is the A-plot (and preferably the B-plot is kickass-women kicking ass) or where the B-plot romance is done exceedingly well (looking at you, Ilona Andrews). I am apparently a hopeless romantic at heart and I have been loving reading romantic genre fiction so very much these last few months.

There is something comforting about a well-done romance – and I need comforting at the moment. I love the feeling of trusting an author to both write an exciting story and to not break my heart while doing it. Thus I find predictability (when it comes to the eventual outcome and not the way there) a definite plus right now. When romance is done well the authors show an incredible insight into the human condition – and I find it highly frustrating that this is not more well-respected. A well-done romance is such a difficult thing to achieve! Other people have talked about how this dismissal of romance is a gendered thing and I don’t feel like getting angry at the world today, so I won’t write about this. I have just realized how much I am enjoying the genre at the moment – and I am liking this a lot.

But there are some tropes that set my teeth on edge and while I am a lot more forgiving of possessive behaviour in books than I am in real life (as is everybody I guess), I am still unsure how to choose books to read because so very often the male love interest is godawful and I would want to spend zero time with them. I am not a fan of books with huge power imbalance (on the emotional level especially) and I am thus hugely not a fan of big age differences, especially in realistic fiction or when the main female character is under 25. For me, YA romance really does not work at all for a number of reasons – especially when the romance feels like it is only included because that seems like the thing to do. I also get a bit grumpy when a book is too angsty and teenagers tend to be rather angsty and I’d rather not read about that. I want to read about adults falling in love and saving the world.

Here are two series I have loved and swooned about recently to give an indication what works for me:

The Kate Daniels’ series by Ilona Andrews: These books are definitely Urban Fantasy and as such the romantic subplot is not the main focus. The world-building and the overarching story is ridiculously well-done, but what kept me reading way past my bed time were the relationships Kate develops, not only romantic ones but also platonic ones. Kate is a wonderfully realized main character, with flaws but also seriously kickass and who is before every thing else a good person – and her relationship with Curran really, really worked for me. It was slow-burn enough to nearly kill me and then after a bit of angst, solid enough to keep me engaged. God, I love this series.

The Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh: I am still reading this, but after racing through the first 11 (!) books in a bit over a month, I needed to take a breather. Unlike the Kate Daniels’ series, these books each follow different main characters, which has the advantage of instant satisfaction but also lessened the squeal. The relationships here are all different and follow different tropes (some of which I like less than others), but what works for me exceedingly well is that any possessiveness the male characters might feel is always tempered by them being ridiculously in love with the women and not wanting to change them – this fundamental acceptance of who the women are at their core is a lovely thing to read.

Please do recommend books to me! The genre is a minefield and I want to only read books that make me happy! I recently bought Darkfever by Karen Marie Mooning because it was only a Euro but that book set my teeth on edge within a couple of pages and I called it quits after 30 pages or so. Which is why I need help.

Bookish Resolutions for 2019

I procrastinated writing this blog post for literal months – because unlike last year where I had a plethora of reading resolutions, this year I pretty much only have one (which I have already kind of failed, more on that later) and I am a bit apprehensive about sharing it with the world. These last few years I always picked a genre to read more of during a year but I think now I read widely enough to just stick with what I like.

But, first things first, here are some of my standard reading resolutions before we come to the big one:

Read 100 books.

This number is the amount of books I have aimed for the last few years and it is a number that works for me. I do read pretty consistently two books a week and it feels like a goal I can reach no problem without shying away from longer books.

Keep writing reviews.

I have recently fallen off the waggon a bit but I wrote reviews for most of the books I have read last year and I want to keep doing this. I also want to be more ok with just writing super short reviews for the books I don’t have all that much to say about – and I hope allowing myself that will help me with this goal.

Post around two to three times a week.

For a short period this last year I managed to post every other way – I had posts scheduled and everything. But to be completely honest, this is not quite feasible for me. For one thing, life gets in the way and sometimes I cannot schedule in advance, and sometimes I don’t finish enough books to keep posting at a rate this high. But I do want to post reasonably often and I think I can do two to three times a week, with some weeks being busier and other weeks not so much.

Read by whim. (AKA request fewer ARCs)

I cannot for the life of me stick to a TBR and trying to do so just sucks the joy out of reading for me. And I don’t want that. So, for next year I want to just read what I like and for that reason I will try to request fewer ARCs as to not become overwhelmed.

And now that those rather easy resolutions are out of the way, here comes my big reading challenge for the upcoming year:

Only read books by women and non-binary authors

I read more books by women to begin with and these books are more likely to be my favourites. As such, my resolution is really not that much of a stretch. But still, this year I want to challenge myself to not read any books written by men. Mostly it’s a fun way for me to change up my reading and be more thoughtful about the books I approach, partly it has something to do with those articles that crop up every now and then where famous men admit to only ever reading books written by men. Only really partly though. Today I rearranged my physical TBR shelves and freeing up that room (by shoving the books I own that were written by men to one end) felt oddly cathartic. My reading is really only for me and the fun I have with it, which is the angle I am approaching this particular resolution from. Which is the reason why I am not too stressed about the fact that I did not manage to finish reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf before the year ended – which means I have basically already failed this test of mine.

What are your reading resolutions, if you have any that is?

 

Final Update: How did I do with my Bookish Resolutions?

I set myself 10 reading resolutions this year; something I did absolutely enjoy but which did not always work as well as I thought it would. As the year is rapidly drawing to a close, I think it is time to give a final update on my progress.

Read 100 books.

As of writing this post I have read 108 books – so I absolutely achieved that goal. I did read a lot of short books and a ridiculous amount of UF (a genre that I read particularly fast) but with an average of 308 pages per book I don’t think that number is too shabby at all.

Read at least one author’s complete work.

Well… I did not do this in the slightest. I am so bad at this resolution! Hopefully, next year will be the year when I finally tackle the unread books on my shelves by authors whose work I have adored.

Keep writing reviews for every book you read.

I fell of the waggon a bit during the second half of the year. Part of this has to do with the speed with which I raced through some of the series I read, never pausing in between the installments, part of it has to do with the ridiculous amount of stuff going on in my life. I did write reviews of the majority of books I have read though and still have not lost hope that I might go back and write the 10 or so reviews that are still pending.

Read more women; especially WOC.

I did not do much better at this than I did last year (when I read around 60% women): 68% of the books I read were written by women. But to be fair, only 19% were written by men. Around a third of the books I read were written by authors of colour – a percentage I absolutely want to improve on next year.

Read some of the books that have been on the TBR forever.

I did not do that. Only four of the books I read had been on my shelves for more than a year. I am really not great at prioritizing books that I bought ages ago.

Only request books if a) you really really really want them and have been looking forward to them or b) you have reviewed all other ARCs you had.

I got a lot better at this. Still not perfect but as I am sitting comfortably at around 90% feedback ratio on NetGalley I am fine with the way I am doing this.

Finish at least one unfinished series.

I did not do this in a proper sense. All the series I had unfinished before the year started are still unfinished. Maybe next year.

Read only YA that comes highly recommended.

I did it! I only read three YA books this year and enjoyed them all.

Read more Science Fiction.

I read nine proper sci-fi books and four dystopian novels. I still gravitate towards fantasy a lot more but I did enjoy my foray into the genre. I will keep reading sci-fi from now on out.

Read more novellas.

I tried, I really did. I read a few novellas and even enjoyed some but mostly the length left me unsatisfied. I don’t think I will pursuing this any further from here on out.

How did you do on your reading resolutions?

Most anticipated releases of 2019 (first half)

This year I started paying way more attention to new releases than I have ever done before; bookblogging does that for you. As I have done quite well with actually reading the books I am excited about (you can see my blogpost about that here) I wanted to write about some of the books I am most excited about in 2019.

40121993The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

Graywolf Press, February 4th 2019

I have been excited about this memoir for months now. It’s about the author’s struggle with chronic illness and mental health and I need more of these kinds of books in my life.

37534907The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Tor Books, February 12th 2019

I adore adore Charlie Jane Anders – and her first novel is one of my all-time favourite books. “Excited” does not even cover it – I am ecstatic beyond measure to get a new book by her.

40539185Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev

Simon & Schuster, February 12th 2019

There are few things I adore more than unconventionally written memoirs by women and this one sounds right up my alley.

 

40123339Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Hamish Hamilton, February 28th 2019

I have been excited about this book for so very long. I thankfully got an ARC for this book and should have read this by the end of the year. This sounds like everything I could ever want – literary fantasy is one of my favourite things.

34763824Long Live The Tribe Of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

Bloomsbury Publishing, March 19th 2019

The title alone would have me hooked – and the following part of the blurb makes it impossible for me to not pick this up: With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai’i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It’s a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful.”

37920490Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Saga Press, April 23rd 2019

I seriously adored the first book in the series and it ended in such a way that I am dying to know what happens next.

 

42201997What My Mother And I Don’t About ed. by Michele Filgate

Simon & Schuster, April 30th 2019

This essay collection sounds incredible – it features essay written by Lidia Yuknavitch (my hero), Kiese Laymon, Carmen Mario Machado, and many other incredible writers. I cannot wait to get my hands on this.

38362811The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

Hachette Books, May 7th 2019

I seriously adored Lindy West’s Shrill and might have squealed a little when I realized the had a new book coming out next year. Her voice is something extraordinary.

40653143No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder

Bloomsbury Publishing, May 14th 2019

This books sets out to give a comprehensive overview on domestic violence. While this is a topic I have been interested in for some time, I haven’t read a non-fiction book that grapples with the topic broadly and I think it is much needed.

41118857The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

Harper Voyager, August 6th 2019

The first book the series surprised me in how much I adored it and the ending scares me very much for what is still to come in this duology. Still, I cannot wait to read it.

What are your most anticipated books on the coming year?