Recommendations: Books told (at least in parts) from a you-perspective

I realized a few months ago, that I often discuss the narrative style in my reviews – and that I have distinct preferences when it comes to it. One thing I adore above most other things is a well-done second person singular narration. When this (difficult) voice is done well, I am very likely to have found a new favourite book. This is, however, not something I encounter very often in literature, so I wanted to recommend the books I have read in this style and hope to get recommendations in return (mostly this if I am being honest).

36396289Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

My favourite of last year’s Booker longlist (I didn’t read super many of the books to be fair), I adored pretty much everything about this book. Johnson’s writing is incredible and especially the parts written in second person broke my heart and made me want to read everything she ever writes. This is a myth retelling that maybe works best if you don’t know what myth it retells, although knowing did not stop me from loving it. It is dark and twisted and absolutely stunningly written. My full review is here.

39689872._sx318_A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride

This book is what prompted this post. I thought everything about this book was incredible (even if I didn’t always enjoy my reading experience because it is endlessly bleak and triggering) – but what made my heart hurt the most was the fact that the narrative is addressed to her brother. I adore sibling relationships in books and one this central and tragic was bound to work for me. If you can stomach the subject matter, this is absolutely worth reading (you don’t have to take only my word for it – so far everybody I buddy read this with gave it 4 stars or more). My full review is here.

19161852The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

It wouldn’t be a recommendation post if I didn’t manage to fit at least one books written by Jemisin in. She just is my all-time favourite author. I thought this book and the whole trilogy in fact in an absolute masterpiece. It will be difficult to ever top my reading experience. The second person narration is pitch perfect and Jemisin manages to skillfully pull the rug under me more times than I thought possible. Once everything slots into place it becomes obvious just how damn well this series is constructed. My review is here.

13611052The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I vividly remember my reading experience for this one. I found the atmosphere beyond all-encompassing and the imagination behind this incredible. I am unsure whether I wouldlove it as much now as I did when I read it more than seven years ago, but it has stuck with me. The first chapter already indicated how much I would adore it and the second person narration is a big part of the appeal.

 

Do you like second person narration? What is your favourite book featuring it? I need more!

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The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2019

I cannot believe the year is halfway over.

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2019

36136386Easy answer: Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney. Everything about that book speaks to me. It is not only my favourite book of the year but one of the best books I have ever read. Rooney is my hero.

Continue reading “The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2019”

The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019: Shortlist Thoughts and Winner Predictions

I still haven’t read all the books on the longlist nor the shortlist for that matter (yes, I got sidetracked by fantasy and romance novels) but I read enough of all the books to have opinions. I really enjoyed my journey through the longlist, mostly because I read it with some super wonderful people, and I do plan on doing this again. It is so much fun feeling connected to the blogging community! And our group chat is a thing of beauty. I will still be posting three reviews and I imagine I will have thoughts on the winner come tomorrow, so this isn’t quite the end of my coverage but it feels a bit like it.

I will keep my thoughts on the longlist for when I finish reading it so for now I will concentrate on the six books on the shortlist in order of preference. Overall I find the shortlist underwhelming. The judges have picked mostly traditionally told books instead of the more experimental ones (and there weren’t many to begin with on the longlist) and I personally adore interesting narrative structures more than anything.

6) Ordinary People by Diana Evans

35277858I do not get on with the book so far. The writing style is absolutely not for me and I am not sure yet whether I’ll finish it at all. I find this one does what many of the books I disliked on the longlist did: it gets bogged down in unnecessary detail. I know this is a me thing but it is driving me a little bit up the walls. I would be very surprised if it won.

 

5) An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

33590210Many people love this book but I am not one of those people. I found Jones’ depiction of toxic masculinity convincing – but so very infuriating. I am not sure the book accomplishes what it sets out to do: the deeply problematic behaviour of the main character made me doubt his innocence in a way that undermined the more political points. I do not want this to win but would not be surprised. This book has clearly spoken to many people.

4) Circe my Madeline Miller

37134404I want to love this book. I love Millers writing on a sentence-by-sentence level and I agree with her political points but the book is killing me. I find her narrative style patronizing, she does not seem to trust her readers to understand subtext, and everything is spelled out. There are glimpses of brilliance (Medea!) but overall, I find Circe’s story dull and overshadowed by the men in her life – which seems to be the exact opposite of what Miller set out to do. But still, what pretty sentences. This does have a pretty good chance of winning and I wouldn’t pull my hair out if it did. Also, nearly everybody loves this, so I am probably just the wrong reader.

3) My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

38819868I enjoyed this book a lot while reading it and I think it is a lot deeper than people give it credit for. But there is no way in hell this is the best book written by a woman or a non-binary author in the last year (that is obviously The Pisces but I am not still bitter about that). I loved the way the language flowed and I am always a fan of sibling relationships. If this won I wouldn’t be upset but I am not rooting for it. It does seem to be a lot of people’s prediction for the winner though, so colour me intrigued.

2) Milkman by Anna Burns

36047860This book has grown on me. While I found it brilliant from the beginning, I also struggled with my reading experience. But, god, what brilliance. This book is narratively the most interesting and accomplished book on the shortlist and it is the one I want to win even if it isn’t my personal favourite. There is just something mesmerizing about this book and I want Burns to have both the Booker and the Women’s Prize. Because this might actually be the best book written by a woman this last year (kidding, that is still The Pisces).

1) The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

38470229I loved, loved, loved this book. It was near perfect for me and seems practically custom-made. I love the way Barker tells her story and I find her characters endlessly compelling (they are the only really compelling characters on a shortlist filled with books whose characters did not work for me). I find her book very clever in its deliberate play with expectations (Achilles in humanized but not through his love to Patrocles but rather his difficult relationship with his parents; Briseis struggles more with her lack of agency than with the rest of her situation) and I am so very happy to love at least one book on the shortlist.

Which book are you rooting for? Is the book you’re rooting for the book you think will win? It doesn’t seem like there is a clear front runner, so I cannot wait for tomorrow.

Now I nearly forgot: I am predicting Milkman.

Tag: 5 Star Predictions Round 2ish

I know I have done this before – and then promptly never read the books I listed, so we’re all just going to pretend I am doing this for the first time. I was tagged by Rachel and I think it might be a good opportunity to get excited about some of these million unread books on my shelves because so far this year, my reading has been overwhelmingly digital (ebooks and audiobooks) and I want to get my physical TBR down to a manageable size (she says, while buying new books all the time).

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

36332136I recently read and LOVED The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker and wanted another myth retelling. I needed a new audiobook for my walk to work and this one has intrigued me since it came out. I haven’t read Beowolf and in fact I know next to nothing about the plot but I am super excited about this one. It sounds absolutely brilliant and like something I could really adore.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

36510722I adore Moreno-Garcia’s writing, without ever having read one of her novels. Her short stories are consistently the best thing in the anthologies I read and I really need to get to her stuff. I was lucky enough to receive a NetGalley-ARC for this and I could not be more thrilled. There is something about her imagination and her imagery that just speaks to me and I hope to adore her novels as much as her shorter works.

Walk Through Walls by Marina Abramovic

34511802I adore Abramovic’s art and I hope that will translate into loving her memoir. I haven’t been reading enough non-fiction these last few months and it shows – I do miss it and need to get back into the groove. This one seems like an obvious choice.

 

 

When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy

38821165Everything I hear about this book makes me more excited and simultaneously more scared to read it. I am sure I will love it but I am also sure it will be harrowing. So part of me including this is to finally push myself to read this. I read the first page a while ago and really meshed with the writing style.

 

Monstress Vol. 3 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

41952016I don’t know why I haven’t read this already. I gave the other two volumes already published five stars – I adore everything from the seriously stunning art, to the female centric narration, to the darkness underneath the beauty. I cannot see myself not loving this.

 

I downloaded a bunch of romance novels and I have thoughts

I have been enjoying romance a lot more lately than I have in years and a while ago I downloaded a bunch of very different romance novels off NetGalley to figure out what might work for me. While I did choose the books partly because of their titles (some of that will become clear once you see the actual titles), I did also try to download a variety of typical subgenres to get a better feel for what I might like – and in that sense this was a success. I also read some truly, truly awful books, but I did really enjoy the process. I am at a point in my life where I just want to read whatever strikes my fancy and as it turns out, right now that is very often romance books – there is just something soothing about the genre that works as an antidote to my ridiculous worklife. It is so wonderfully predictive!

I will only be writing the miniest of mini reviews for these books because I don’t have all that much to say about these books individually.

The Bastard by Lisa Renee Jones

43518466This book is absolutely compulsively readable in a way that I found stressful but also entertaining. I bought the second book in the series the second I finished this one but then DNFed this at the half-way point, once I woke from the fugue state the book caused. I do very much not like books that play with consent apparently. The main couple were angsty and horrible to each other and I don’t want to read about this type of relationships when I am supposed to root for them. The book does what it sets out to do but just is not for me whatsoever.

The Sheikh’s Pregnant Lover by Leslie North

44153436I admit it, I only requested this because of the title – and because apparently this is a big subgenre, this “pregnant by a super rich man after a one-night-stand”. This one was hilarious but not on purpose and super did not work for me. I have many thoughts on the fetishization of cultures the author isn’t part of but would like to leave that to other people more qualified to write about this. But god, what a perfect title.

The Playmaker by Cathryn Fox

41561680If somebody had told me I would enjoy a Hockey romance I would not believed it. But I really really enjoyed this. It’s hilarious, the main character has a wonderful best friend, the consent is always explicit, and the writing style is readable. I thought the ending was way over the top but in general I had a lot of fun with this one.

 

Lady No Says Yes by Jess Michaels

42766253I used to read a lot of historical romance when I was a bit younger but haven’t in years. I enjoyed this for what it was but I don’t think I will be making a proper return to the genre. Again, I appreciate the explicitness of the consent and the way in which these two characters communicated. The book is a tad short and as such I didn’t really build any deeper connections to the characters. It is however well-written enough that I am sure my lukewarm reaction has more to do with who I am as a reader than with anything else.

A Son for the Texas Cowboy by Sinclair Jayne

45436223This is one where I can see that it is objectively ok-written but just a subgenre I do not appreciate at all. Apparently cowboys don’t do it for me (I cannot say that I am surprised) and I also did not enjoy that the main character kept her son with her ex a secret from said ex.

 

Distracted by Belinda Wright

45416669I do not like books about people pretending to be something they are not (as a general rule, not only in romance) and given that the main female character lied about her job the moment she met the main male character, this book was never going to impress me much. I did not find it very well-written either and I skimmed a lot of it in the end. The endless descriptions of the main characters’ work days did not help my boredom much.

So, what did I learn about my reading? I need consent to be explicit and cannot deal with characters that are properly awful to each other. I enjoy reading romance more when the main storyline is a SFF one, something I assumed before but now know for certain. I do not want to read about cowboys, but apparently can deal with hockey players as long as the book is well-written enough. I like the men cocky but nice and have no patience when they try to tell the women what to do with their lives. I like romance novels that are funny a lot more than those that are angsty. Apparently I should stay away from books with grumpy looking dudes in suits on the cover but half-naked men are fine. Nobody uses their words and it drives me insane. I am glad I don’t live in a romance novel.

 

Recommendations: fantasy books featuring gods

ww-2019-dragon-banner-all-capsI love books that ruminate on humanity by way of talking about gods. Love, love, love it. So I figured, I should write about my favourite books that deal with this. I am writing this post as part of Wyrd & Wonder – a month-long celebration of the fantastic hosted by imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie @ Jorie Loves a Story. You can sign up here!

The Inheritance trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

It is no secret that I adore N. K. Jemisin’s writing – and her lesser known trilogy is no exception to this. Set in a world where after a war between the gods some of those gods are enslaved by humans and one is revered, her world building is as impeccable as ever and her characters are brilliant. Some of the main characters gods, some aren’t, all are compelling. She does not shy away from how otherworldly and often awful beings with near endless power could be and the books are better for it.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

4407

This is my favourite of Neil Gaiman’s books (although the Sandman graphic novels are a close second); I love everything about its sprawling plot and its integration of countless belief-systems. Shadow Moon is a brilliant main character to anchor the story and his acceptance of the strangeness around him worked exceedingly well for me.

 

The Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett

This series is set in a world formerly ruled by Divinities and their whims – where even the laws of nature have been bent. Bulikov is far from its former glory as the centre of the world and the seat of the Gods – most of it was destroyed together with its Gods. It is now ruled by the very people it used to enslave.

I adored the mythology Bennet sets up here: what happens to all the things created by gods if they die? Especially when they ignored all natural laws to create those things? I find his world very well thought out and mesmerizing in its implications. Just thinking about these books make me giddy. I didn’t quite love the first book in his current trilogy but the ending made me VERY excited to see where the story goes next.

The Library of Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

26892110This stand-alone is a lot darker than most books I usually read, but with impeccable world-building and enough of a sense of the bizarre to be just my type of book. I adored how cleverly Hawkins sets up his readers and at least for me caught me totally unawares by the ending. I didn’t whole-heartedly love it – but I will still read anything he published next, if he ever does so, that is.

 

The Sixth World by Rebecca Roanhorse

I think I have been sufficently gushing about this series as of late – but I cannot help it, it is just perfect for the type of reader I am. I am very excited to see where it goes next and I love the glimpses of what I am assuming will be major themes going forward: the idea of agency in a world ruled by the whims of gods. That is just catnip for me.

I need to read more books like these; do you have any recommendations for me?

 

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019: Shortlist reaction

Yesterday at midnight UK time, the shortlist for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced – and I am glad I did not stay up until then because then I would be disappointed and tired today as opposed to just disappointed. I am obviously still making my way through the longlist but I do have thoughts. Even if I haven’t loved many of the books that were longlisted (as of writing this I have finished 10 books on the list and am in the middle of two others), I did think the overall list was exciting and varied. The shortlist? Not so much.

But first things first, here is the shortlist:

  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • Milkman by Anna Burns (review)
  • Ordinary People by Diana Evans
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (review)
  • Circe by Madeline Miller

Of these six, I have only read two so far (Milkman and An American Marriage), but I am more than halfway through My Sister, the Serial Killer. Even if I didn’t always love Milkman, I can absolutely see its brilliance and the inclusion on the shortlist makes sense. I struggled more with An American Marriage and would not have been sad to not see it advance further. My Sister, the Serial Killer I am really enjoying but not as much as some other books on the longlist. The three other books on the shortlist are all books I am really looking forward to reading, so there is that. I did not think both feminist myth retellings (Circe and The Silence of the Girls) would make it but I am intrigued enough by both of them to be ok with the fact. I am also a bit baffled that both Ordinary People and An American Marriage made the list; these books seem to be similar in theme and I would have wished a totally different book had made it.

I find the shortlist strangely underwhelming; maybe because there are two obvious pairs and another book that is enjoyable but not blowing me away. I cannot believe my three five star reads did not make the list at all. The book I am missing most on the shortlist is Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (review), which I found brilliant and original and just in a whole different league than most other books. My heart obviously beats for The Pisces (review), but I never genuinely thought it would make the shortlist. It is still the winner of my heart. But even so, I do wish it had made the list because at least this one was polarizing and it does something very interesting with its subject matter. While I adored Normal People (review), I think it is Conversations With Friends (review) that should have seen Sally Rooney nominated as it is the stronger book. But if I cannot have this, I would have at least liked to see her get shortlisted.

As of the moment, I am weirdly enough most excited to see Milkman on the list. It is such an obvious masterpiece that I cannot begrudge it all the praise it gets. It has also grown on me a lot since finishing it, enough that I might still change my rating.

I will now spend the next few weeks finishing up the longlist, I am so close I can almost imagine myself getting to the end. The only good thing about this list might be that three  and a half of the six books I haven’t read are on it, which makes picking them up a lot easier. Plus, I think I might finally give myself permission to DNF Lost Children Archive – a book that I just very much dread having to pick up again.

What are your thoughts? Are you as baffled as I am? Did your favourite make the list?