TBR: Novellas in November (2018)

This year I am planning on participating in Novellas in November. You can find an overview of the history of this event and further links on Laura’s blog.

There are two (main) reasons why I am trying to participate in Novellas in November:

  1. One of my reading resolutions was to read more novellas this year. I haven’t really done that.
  2. My reading has been super slow these last few weeks.

I am not very good at TBRs (which is why I have stopped setting myself any), so I will have to wait and see how it goes this month, but I do have a few novellas I want to get to. I will try to read as many as possible in a single sitting in the hopes of getting into the groove of reading again.

35954933The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer

I adore Jeff VanderMeer’s writing and own a few books of his that I haven’t read, but for some reason I have not picked any of his books up in months. Crossing this one off my TBR would be ace.

25667918Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

I have heard amazing things about this series, but I also DNFed one of Nnedi Okorafor’s other books (man, that one was disappointingly romance heavy). I want to like her writing more than I do, I think. But, this is less than 100 pages long and will hopefully be as great as everybody says it is.

22359316Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

I would be nice to have read at least one classic book this year. I have neglected older books altogether this year and maybe that is a mistake. I have not read any Steinbeck but I have the nagging feeling that I would adore his work if I just got off my butt and actually read one of his books

32606889The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy

This sounds SO brilliant. And creepy. And disturbing. I was super excited when I bought it and really should get to it before the year ends.

 

35519101Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries #3 by Martha Wells

I have read the first two in the series earlier this year and really enjoy the characters and the humor. It is just fluffy enough to hopefully sooth my reading despair.

Are you planning of participating in Novellas in November? What are your reading plans in general?

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Friday Reads: I am not really reading.

I am still not really reading so I did the obvious thing and started two more books today. That brings the number of books I am currently reading to seven. I always read a few books at the same time but a number this high is usually an indication that something isn’t quite working. I don’t have any proper plans for the weekend, so hopefully I’ll get back into the groove. Until then, here are the books I am currently reading, how far into them I am, and a few thoughts.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

I heard a ridiculous amount of great things about this book and it is super readable. But it is also very very long. I am currently on page 231 of 714. I am enjoying it a lot but I just wish the main character wouldn’t talk about his penis so much.

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

I have been reading this for what feels like forever. I am only on page 217 of 526 and I have not made any headway in days. Told from dual perspectives, I am only enjoying one of them. Whenever we switch to the other viewpoint, I bail. I do want to finish it but I do struggle.

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

This is brilliant. But also really dark. I am on page 48 of 240. I do think that this will be a five star read for me but I need to be in the right head space to read it. But it’s brilliant! If you like memoirs you definitely should pick it up.

Vengeful (Villains #2) by V. E. Schwab

I have a difficult relationship with Schwab: I like her books but often don’t love them. and I haven’t finished a single of her series. (I cannot STAND Lila Bard, which is why I still haven’t read the last of the Shades of Magic series) I did absolutely adore Vicious though and have eagerly awaited the sequel for years. I am super enjoying it – but it is also super long. I am on page 230 of 575. This is a fairly quick read though and I will hopefully finish this during the next few days.

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

I was looking for a nice and easy audiobook to listen to on my way to work – and I love memoirs narrated by the authors and have a soft spot for celebrity memoirs (there, I said it). I have only ever seen Mathilda once, but I do like Mara Wilson on twitter. Her book is really warm and lovely and her voice is super soothing. I am around 2 hours from the end; which means that I should finish it next week (I only walk 15 minutes to and from work).

The Outcast Hour ed. by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin

I really enjoyed another anthology the authors edited last year – and sometimes when I am slumpy, reading short stories really helps. I also need to make headway in my newly acquired pile of NetGalley arcs that I amassed over the last few months. I have read the first three stories and I do like the mix of tones. The first story was fairly creepy though – so maybe reading it at nighttime, alone in my house, was not the best idea ever.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

I have heard nothing but good things about this book and especially the audiobook. I figured I should give it a go. Thrillery type, podcasty audiobooks sounds just perfect for my reading mood. I have only listened to the first hour and so far I am really enjoying the full cast production a lot.

How is your reading going? Do you also tend to start too many books when you don’t really feel like reading?

Recommendations for Non-Fiction November

As every month is non-fiction month for me, I will not officially be participating in Non-Fiction November but I still wanted to talk about some of my favourites and recommend a few books that those of you who are looking to read more non-fiction might want to check out. Disclaimer first: my non-fiction reading is heavily dominated by memoirs written by women, feminist essays, and creative non-fiction. I rarely read biographies (but really want to more) and general non-fiction, so here your recommendations are very welcome. Recommendations are always welcome, in fact.

I have based my recommendations on other genres, so that this is also accessible to those who don’t ever read non-fiction.

If you usually read contemporary, then memoirs might be the way to go. Usually fairly accessible, memoirs often deal with that weird period of life between being a child and being properly “grown up” and for me offered a much-needed glimpse into other people’s lives. (I have written a whole post on why I love memoirs which can be found here.)

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

35840657One of my absolute favourite books of the year, this short memoir packs an enormous punch. Written in fragments and often in a spiralling way, Mailhot chronicles her fight with mental illness and what it means to be Native. She does not claim to speak a universal truth, but only her truth and I found this incredibly effective. Her language is poetic and abrasive and I am very much in love. I still don’t have the words to talk about this properly, but in my review I tried.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

34381333This book took me totally by surprise. It took me a while to find my bearing and to get used to the abrasive writing style, but once I did and once I realized what Gurba’s essays were working towards, I was hooked and in awe. The book is a total punch to the gut, but so very brilliantly executed that I cannot help but adore it. My review can be found here.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995No list would be complete without me recommending this book. In fact, if you only read one book from this list, maybe choose this. It was my favourite book of last year and just a complete masterpiece. Lidia Yuknavitch has a brilliant way with words and her memoir is raw and honest and just perfect. My longer review can be found here.

If you are really invested in politics, then some of these feminist essay collections might be of interest for you.

Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay

35068524One of the best books I have read this year, this collection of personal essays on rape culture really is a must read. I am obviously a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s work and I was very impressed by the way she curated these wonderful essays. There was not a single essay in this collection that I did not appreciate and I found a lot of people whose next work I am eagerly awaiting and whose other essays I am reading religiously. If you can deal the subject matter, I really do recommend picking this up. My longer review can be found here.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

25175985Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project and her collection of essays on the subject and on the project is definitely worth checking out. I listened to the audiobook, which Laura Bates narrates herself and I found myself really immersed in her writing. Her book is impeccably researched and wonderfully realized; she draws both on literature and statistics and on the more personal anecdotes shared on the Everyday Sexism page and builds a really convincing whole. It also did not end with me wanting to burn the world down, which is always a plus. My review is here.

If you usually read literary fiction, then creative non-fiction might just be the thing for you. It is usually exceptionally well-written and for me at least, has a poetry to the sentences that I just adore (and closely mirrors the very best literary fiction in that sense).

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (or any book written by Maggie Nelson)

28459915Maggie Nelson is possibly the queen of creative non-fiction. Her sentences are crisp and she flits between different ideas and styles in a highly impressive way. The Argonauts deals with her relationship with her gender-fluid husband and chronicles the changes to her body due to pregnancy and the changes to Harry’s body due to hormone therapy. It also deals with so much more, drawing on gender theory and sociology and everything inbetween, and as a reading experience is highly rewarding. Bluets by the same author is also highly recommended.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

22244927This book is seriously short but packs an unbelievable punch. Sarah Manguso writes about her complex relationship with her diary, which she kept religiously for most of her adult life, and about why she stopped keeping one. I found this moving and thought-provoking and incredibly well-done. You can find my review here.

Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich

37690295Leah Dieterich writes about her marriage, but she also writes about dance and art and polyamory and everything in-between. I absolutely adored her short and snappy essays that build to a much larger whole. She made me think and smile and sad and in general this book just really worked for me. You can find more of my thoughts on the book here.

Are you planning on participating in Non-Fiction November? What books are you planning on reading? Also, what is your favourite non-fiction book?

Review: A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel

16158505Verdict: Vicious, weird, wonderful.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Short Stories, Magical Realism

Published by Riverhead, 2013

Find it on Goodreads.

Major new literary talent Ramona Ausubel combines the otherworldly wisdom of her much-loved debut novel, No One Is Here Except All of Us, with the precision of the short-story form. A Guide to Being Born is organized around the stages of life—love, conception, gestation, birth—and the transformations that happen as people experience deeply altering life events, falling in love, becoming parents, looking toward the end of life. In each of these eleven stories Ausubel’s stunning imagination and humor are moving, entertaining, and provocative, leading readers to see the familiar world in a new way.

In “Atria” a pregnant teenager believes she will give birth to any number of strange animals rather than a human baby; in “Catch and Release” a girl discovers the ghost of a Civil War hero living in the woods behind her house; and in “Tributaries” people grow a new arm each time they fall in love. Funny, surprising, and delightfully strange—all the stories have a strong emotional core; Ausubel’s primary concern is always love, in all its manifestations.

I have lamented before how difficult I find reviews for short story collections, even the ones I love. And it is a shame because I want to do this justice: I loved this. Ramona Ausubel has written the best short story collection I have read this year and I want to convince as many people as possible to pick it up.

This collection is pretty much custom-made for me: it combines lyrical language and stark imagery with themes of family, lost and found; the stories are weird and poetic and in parts disturbing, but they are also so very beautiful and profound. The stories center families in such a wonderful way while also being incredibly unique, I am just so in awe.

My favourite stories (in a collection where there was not a single story that I did not enjoy) were the very first story, “Safe Passage” about the end of a life which I found heartbreaking and heartwarming (First sentences: “The grandmothers – dozens of them – find themselves at sea. They do not know how they got there.”), and “The Ages” about young love which I found incredibly moving (First sentences: “When the girl and the boy moved in together, they had sex in the bed and everyone could probably hear it. Houses were pretty close together and there were a lot of open windows.”). But like I said, the stories are all very strong and if you can stomach a little weirdness (well, ok, a lot of weirdness) I would absolutely recommend these stories.

Review: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

25079993Verdict: Heartbreaking and hilarious.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Memor

Published by Vintage, 2012

Find it on Goodreads.

This memoir is the chronicle of a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser drawer; about growing up in a north England industrial town in the 1960s and 1970s; and about the universe as a cosmic dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past, which Winterson thought she had written over and repainted, rose to haunt her later in life, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also a book about literature, one that shows how fiction and poetry can guide us when we are lost. Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

I do not know why I haven’t picked up a Jeanette Winterson book earlier. I loved this a whole lot and cannot wait to read more of her books. Jeanette Winterson tells the story of relationship with her mothers; both her biological mother and her adopted mother. I listened to her tell this story on audiobook and I cannot recommend this highly enough. Winterson infuses the story with her wry tone and wit and it was just a wonderful listening experience.

The family she is adopted in are conservative to no end and especially her mother (who she almost exclusively calls Mrs Winterson throughout the book) is often horrible to her. Listening to Jeanette Winterson detail the abuse she suffered would have been unbearable if she didn’t manage to always infuse her story with a sense of optimism. This sense of reflection was what struck me the strongest about this book. While Jeanette Winterson does not have everything figured out by a long shot, she is eloquent and wise and often deeply funny and this made this memoir a joy to read.

I will now definitely have to read Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, a semi-fictional account of Winterson’s life to see how she transformed her suffering into wonder.

Thoughts: Man Booker 2018 Predictions

I have not read the shortlist; I do not plan on reading the shortlist. That does not mean I am not super interested to see who will win later today. And I also have thoughts.

I read only two of the shortlisted books:

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

356108231I really enjoyed reading this but the longer I keep thinking about it, the more it falls apart. I found Romy a fascinating protagonist, difficult and flawed but also warm and somewhat easy to root for. I liked getting the glimpses into the other inmates’ stories and thought this added a nice, political layer to this book. But, the male perspectives did only peripherally add anything substantial to the book. I do get some parallels and what that says about misogyny but I would have liked this more without these men. I also think that the book is fairly flawed, as much as I enjoyed it. I do think it has a fair chance at winning and I would not be disappointed if it did, but I would not be overjoyed.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

36396289I loved this; and unlike The Mars Room, it just keeps on growing on me. I love the non-linear timeline and Johnson’s prose and her wonderful way with characterization. I loved the whole reading experience and I am so very glad that the Man Booker gave me the nudge I needed to read this book. Because I am NOT as enamoured with the cover as everybody seems to be. I would be thrilled if this one won, but I am not really seeing it. But I would be so very pleased!

The four others on the shortlist just all do not sound like my cup of tea, for various reasons.

The Long Take by Robin Robertson

35659255This might be brilliant or it might not be, but I am not interested in Post War books (I read way too many in school) and I am also not the biggest fan of poetry (in English – there is something about English poetry that makes me doubt my language proficiency). I do think that this one is least likely to win, for one because the whole “should poetry be part of the Man Booker”-discussion would get blown up even more, and for another, I just don’t think this is anybody’s favourite to win.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

39731474This is so far outside my reading taste, it’s quite impressive actually. I don’t like adventure stories and I also don’t like historical novels. This might be brilliant and it might add something new to the slave narrative and I am sure the writing is lovely, but I don’t see myself reading it. I also don’t think this’ll win the Booker, but I wouldn’t be mad if it did. It does seem to be an accomplished book after all.

 

Milkman by Anna Burns

36047860This sounded right up my alley, until I read parts of it. Stream of consciousness does not always work for me and I am not quite sure my English is good enough for me to appreciate this book (I had similar problems with A Brief History of Seven Killings by the way). It does sound like it might be the best book, from a technical standpoint, on this list and I would be weirdly enough pretty pleased if this won.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

35187203People are really divided on this book and while it sounds fascinating, it is also a ridiculously long book about trees. And I just don’t see myself reading this any time soon (which more often than not means never). I do think that the chances this will win are pretty high, even if the Brits will be aghast if another American man won. I am fairly unbothered either way to be honest.

 

So, to recap, I am pulling for Everything Under but I don’t think it’ll win, I do think The Overstory might win and people will be frothing at their mouths. Or Anna Burns wins this and all will be great.

Which one do you think will win? Which one would you like to win?

Recommendations: Short Story Collections

I love short stories. I only started properly reading them a few years ago but I have developed such an appreciation for the format. When a short story is done right, it can pack an unbelievable punch.

16158505I am currently reading A Guide To Being Born by Ramona Asubel, a rather brilliant collection, with twisty, dark, wonderful, magical stories (I understand why Jen Campbell names this as one of her favourites) and the reading experience got me thinking about what I like in the collections I adore. I gravitate towards short stories with a bit of a magical twist – I find these stories to be super mesmerizing. I also appreciate more realistic stories but here I often find that these collections are overall rather bleak which can get too much for me.

Here are some of my favourite short story collections, in case you are (like me) always looking for more collections to read.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

28818921Nobody is surprised to see this collection of this list: I adored every second of it. I am in general a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s writing and these stories are a perfect example for her prose and her characterization, which I am just in awe of. The stories are well-plotted and purposefully structured. You can find my review here.

 

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

29236311One of my all-time favourite books, everything about this spoke to me. Marra tells an overarching story in wonderfully structured short stories. His command of language is impressive, his way of characterising people with a sentence and a half something that I find fascinating, and his sense for pacing and plotting is absolutely on display here. Be warned though, the book and its subject matter is bleak (it is after all set in Chechnya and unblinking in its depiction of war and atrocities), but Marra infuses it with just enough hope to be a stunning ode human connection. I cannot wait for his next book.

The Brink by Austin Bunn

22693283I loved this (and its perfect cover!). The stories all deal with some sort of Brink – often the end of the world as we know it. I adored the vagueness of the stories and the punch they had. Bunn is a another of those authors whose next work I am eagerly awaiting. You can find my review here.

 

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

32874103Another set of interconnected short stories where I found the whole even greater than the sum of its parts. Strout shows great tenderness for her characters while being unflinching in her portrayal of their short comings. Her stories are wonderfully structured and impeccably paced. She excels especially in depicting families in all their dysfunctional glory. I adored this. My review is here.

Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory

33570520These stories are peculiar. They feature anthropomorphic animals (amongst other things) and revel in their weirdness. But for me, these stories worked exceedingly well and I had a blast with this collection. There is just something poetic and lyrical in the way Loory’s language flows and his imagination is glorious. My review can be found here.

 

The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks

25622828These stories just combine everything I adore in short fiction: they are magical and weird, wonderfully written, and often feature sibling relationships (I adore that). Her language flows wonderfully and every story in this collection is strong on its own. My review can be found here. (Sparks is apparently working on a new collection, an angry, feminist collection, which I cannot wait for.)

Do you read short stories at all? What are your favourite collections?