Best ARCs I read

I realized that I usually talk about my review copies in terms of being late and feeling overwhelmed – and this gives a wrong impression, I think. Because I just love getting review copies and have read some really really brilliant ones over the years (I checked, I have been on NetGalley – my main way of getting review copies – since 2016). It feels right using this low-key readathon to talk about some of my favourites.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (review)

I read and reviewed the complete trilogy early – and it is one of my absolute favourite series. I thought both the first and the third book were pitch-perfect and I cannot wait until Arden writes another adult book (she has hinted on twitter at something in the same world as this series and I just cannot wait.)

The Pisces by Melissa Broder (review)

I requested this on a whim, unsure whether I would like it but absolutely loving the cover. I needn’t have worried – this book was just perfect for the kind of reader I am (I also convinced quite a few of my blogging friends to read this and so far they all liked it!). I am currently reading Broder’s second novel which is also really good but so far not as absolutely brilliant as this here was for me.

The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood (review)

I am unsure if I would have gotten to this if I hadn’t been able to read an ARC (there are so many fantasy books coming out and I am not always good at reading series) – but wow, I loved this. I do love fantasy books about gods a lot and I thought that Larkwood executes her premise brilliantly – and pulls her different threads together so very satisfyingly at the end that I cannot wait to read the next one, whenever it will be released.

Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko (tr. by Julia Meitov Hersey) (review)

What a thrill this book was – I adored everything about it. But it is also one of those books that seem to custom-made for me that I am unsure if I can recommend it to people. It is dark, and weird, and set in the deep of Russia, and just so very much my kind of thing.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (review)

I would definitely have read this anyways – but I loved it so much, I am glad I got to it early (it was also one of my earliest reviews that got enough likes to be prominently featured on the book’s Goodreads page). It is still one of my all-time favourite short stories and possibly the one that cemented my love of the format. Such a brilliant book.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (review)

I do not think I would have gotten to this, if I hadn’t requested it fairly early on in my blogging journey. When I read it, I was one of the very first people to review the book on Goodreads – and then it obviously got longlisted for the Women’s Prize. The book is brilliant, compulsively readable, and incredibly emotional.

In writing this blogpost, I realized just how many brilliant books I have read as ARCs – this is helping me a lot to get even more motivated to use these two weeks to catch up with some of my unread ARCs – who knows what brilliant things I will discover.

The year in revue: Favourite books of 2017

I do love talking about things I love. I have been writing this post for weeks and I am so excited!

2017 was a pretty brilliant reading year for me; sure I read some not so great books but overall I am really pleased. This is the first year I reviewed every single book I read, this has made me both more critical and more excited. Writing down all the things I adored in a book makes me give higher ratings, I have found – I am very fine with this. As such it comes as no surprise that I have given 5 stars to more books than in 2016. I am looking forward to even more brilliant books in 2018!

Without much further ado, here are my favourite books of the year. While places 13 to 6 could and did change depending on my mood, my top 5 are certain.

Honorable mention: Grief Cottage – Gail Godwin

33509072I loved this. I found the first 90% absolutely stunning. Because the ending didn’t quite work for me, I gave it 4 stars. But is has stuck with me. My review can be found here.

 

 

Little Nothing – Marisa Silver

29429934I adored this whimsical fairy-talesque beautiful little novel. It sucked me right in and never let me go. There was just something so brilliant here that it left me breathless. I still don’t know why this wasn’t talked about more. My review can be found here.

 

Anything is Possible – Elizabeth Strout

32874103I was sure I would like this book but it took me by surprise with how much I loved this. So much that I went and bought My Name is Lucy Barton and immediately read it – which is something I hardly ever do. You can find my review here.

 

Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

31349579I have talked recently about this book. Because even though I gave it four stars immediately after reading it, it has stuck with me. The longer I think about it, the better I think it is. My review can be found here. I might have changed the rating before this goes online.

 

 

The Unfinished World – Amber Sparks

25622828Hands down my favourite short story collection of the year. I just love Amber Sparks’ imagination and her vivid world building. I love her stories about siblings and about loss and about weirdness and sadness. I found it moving and wonderful and just everything I look for in a short story collection. My review can be found here.

Annihilation (The Southern Reach #1) – Jeff VanderMeer

25970139I devoured this. I just could not get enough of this wonderfully atmospheric and creepy little book. I adore the way Jeff VanderMeer constructs his sentences and builds his world. I love how the weirdness is always rooted in what we know of his world. I am equally scared and excited to see the movie adaptation next year. My review can be found here.

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3) – N. K. Jemisin

31817749This was hands down my most anticipated book published in the second half of the year. And boy, did it ever deliver. N. K. Jemisin is the most exciting voice in fantasy at the moment (the Hugo jury seems to agree with me) and THIS is how you end a trilogy. My review can be found here.

 

City of Stairs (The Divine Cities #1) – Robert Jackson Bennett

25452717I adored this. Last year, I started to become less enamored with fantasy as genre – but apparently I have just been reading the wrong books because this year I found so much to love again. Robert Jackson Bennett’s series of lost divinities and mythology and flawed characters and grey morality just floored me. You can find my longer, gushing review here.

 

05) The Wrong Way To Save Your Life – Megan Stielstra

32600746This book snuck up on me; I was enjoying it and then suddenly I was loving it. It made me think, it made me smile and it made me cry. I could not sleep one night because I could not stop thinking about this. I just want everybody to read this. My review can be found here.

 

04) Hunger: A memoir of (my) body – Roxane Gay

32940570Roxane Gay is my hero. That is all.

(Longer version here.)

03) The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) – N. K. Jemisin

19161852My introduction to N. K. Jemisin’s world remains my favourite of hers. She creates a brutal world where the earth is volatile and out to kill its inhabitants and the society that evolved from this makes sadly so much sense. I adore the political core of her work and how she never sacrifices the story she wants to tell to it. Her characters are brilliant, her language mesmerizing, her talent undeniable. This is why I love fantasy. My review is here.

02) Kassandra – Christa Wolf

4412083This feels a bit like cheating – I have read this book quite possibly more often than any other book since I was an adult. This retelling of the story of Troy is one of my all-time favourite books. Stylistically brilliant, brutally devastating, wonderfully imagined. My full thoughts are here.

 

01) The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995Everything about this book is pure perfection. This will forever define what I think a memoir can do; Lidia Yuknavitch’s honesty about her trauma and her mistakes and her life is a wonder. I still do not have the words to describe how absolutely beyond brilliant this book is. But you can see my attempt here.

There are three memoirs, two short story collections, six books that can broadly be categorized as SFF, and eleven books written by women on this list. I think I am okay with this.

What about you? What were your favourite books of the year? Have you read any of the books on my list? What are your thoughts?

 

Thoughts: On Revising Ratings

I am currently tinkering with my Best of the Year List and this got me thinking. There are at least two books that I gave 4 stars (Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo and Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin) to but that I am still thinking about, while there are two 5 star books that have not really stuck with me. I am going to talk about why am considering changing my 4 star ratings to five stars and then I will try to talk about my thoughts on changing ratings a bit more in-depth.

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

31349579The longer I stew over this book and the more reviews I read, the more I adore this book. I have already bought it to look pretty on my shelves and I am very tempted to read it again, which is always a sign of how much I love a book.

Ayobami Adebayo has created wonderfully flawed characters that have stuck with me. I find myself wondering what might have happened to them after the events of the book.

I am so very much looking forward to whatever she will write next.

Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin

33509072This is a different case. I adored this book, and it is one of my favourite reads of the year. However, I remember exactly why I gave it four instead of five stars: the ending did not work for me.

But, the first 90 % of this book were just utter perfection and I remember being completely swept up in this story of grief and family and somehow moving on.

 

 

I often find that my initial thoughts on a book change over time, either because I cannot stop thinking about it and it keeps on growing on me or because after a while I cannot quite recollect why I enjoyed it so much in the first place. Sometimes I go back and change my rating, sometimes I don’t. In this case, I will probably go back before the end of the year to change my rating of Stay With Me to five stars because that book just shines so much in my memory.

Star ratings are highly subjective anyways; they depend on my mood and on the books I read immediately before or after; I have genre preferences; sometimes I talk myself into changing a rating while writing my review.

There are downsides to changing a rating: what if my memory just sucks and I was right the first time I rated the book? Also, shouldn’t past me’s thoughts be allowed to just stand without being changed? Another thing I keep thinking about, what about the people who agreed with my first rating? What if my new rating does not reflect their thoughts anymore? But then again, I do mostly write my reviews for myself…

My thoughts are complicated, as is often the case. What are your thoughts? Do you ever go back and change a rating? Do you even go back and change reviews? Let me know if I am the only one who often feels conflicted.

Look what came in the post

This week I broke down and bought some books although I am on a self-imposed book buying ban. I have too many unread books already and quite a few NetGalley arcs to get to – but sometimes you still have to buy some books! So, here they are, first the ones that I haven’t read yet and then the ones I had arcs for and wanted to own to look pretty on my shelves.

City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2) – Robert Jackson Bennet

28436115The city of Voortyashtan was once the domain of the goddess of death, war, and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin. General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to try to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone missing in the middle of a mission, but the city of war offers countless threats: not only have the ghosts of her own past battles followed her here, but she soon finds herself wondering what happened to all the souls that were trapped in the afterlife when the Divinities vanished. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

This one is the reason why I bought books in the first place this week. I absolutely adored the first book in this series – City of Stairs – and just had to know how the story continues. And then the book arrived late. And then I started a different fantasy book already. And now it is smiling at me from my night stand and testing my resolve. I am beyond excited to get started with this.

City of Miracles (The Divine Cities #3) – Robert Jackson Bennet

31522139Revenge. It’s something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing.

So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara’s killers deserve.

Yet as Sigrud pursues his quarry with his customary terrifying efficiency, he begins to fear that this battle is an unwinnable one. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death will require him to take up arms in a secret, decades-long war, face down an angry young god, and unravel the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself. And perhaps most daunting of all finally face the truth about his own cursed existence.

I am squinting very hard as to not read the synopsis I just pasted above. I do not want to spoil the second book for me. I am a bit annoyed at myself that I – again – managed to buy books in the same series in different editions but at the same time I don’t want to get too hung up about it because I try to still see whats inside the books as way more important than their covers.

Monstress Vol. 2: The Blood – Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

33540347This is the second volume in the brilliant Monstress series. I adored the first book and had this one pre-ordered for months. I haven’t been reading that many graphic novels lately but want to remedy that. I love the artwork done by Sana Takeda and I adore how very feminist this work is at its core.

My review for the first volume can be found here.

 

 

 Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch – Kelly Sue DeConnick & Taki Soma

29972029A few years down the road in the wrong direction, a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords results in exile to the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. But what happened on Earth that this new world order came to pass in the first place? Return to the grim corridors of Auxiliary Compliance Outpost #2, to uncover the first clues to the history of the world as we know it…and meet PRESIDENT BITCH.

Again, I am very excited to finally have this in my hands. I loved the first volume when I read it forever ago. Again, super feminist graphic novel, which is something I usually enjoy.

 

Stay with me – Ayobami Adebayo

31349579Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.

This is one of the books I had an arc for but wanted to have for my shelf. I adored this book and was very pleased to see it short listed for the Bailey’s Prize for fiction, even if it ultimately did not win. You can find my gushing review here.

Little Nothing – Marisa Silver

29429934In an unnamed country at the beginning of the last century, a child called Pavla is born to peasant parents. Her arrival, fervently anticipated and conceived in part by gypsy tonics and archaic prescriptions, stuns her parents and brings outrage and disgust from her community. Pavla has been born a dwarf, beautiful in face, but as the years pass, she grows no further than the edge of her crib. When her parents turn to the treatments of a local doctor and freak sideshow proprietor, his terrifying cure opens the floodgates persecution for Pavla. Little Nothing unfolds across a lifetime of unimaginable, magical transformation in and out of human form, as this outcast woman is hunted down and incarcerated for her desires, her body broken and her identity stripped away until her soul is strong enough to transcend all physical bounds. Woven throughout is the journey of Danilo, the young man entranced by Pavla, obsessed only with protecting her. Part allegory about the shifting nature of being, part subversive fairy tale of love in all its uncanny guises, Little Nothing spans the beginning of a new century, the disintegration of ancient superstitions and the adoption of industry and invention. With a cast of remarkable characters, a wholly shocking and original story, and extraordinary, page-turning prose, Silver delivers a novel of sheer electricity.

I adored this. It ticks all my boxes: lyrical writing, fantasical retelling, matter of fact story telling, wonderfully drawn characters. My review for this wonder of a book can be found here.

Blissful Basil – Ashley Melillo

29502542Experience the happiest side of life through beautiful, nourishing foods.

Ashley Melillo believes in enjoying a wide array of wholesome foods in order to thrive—physically, mentally, and emotionally. For her blog, Blissful Basil, she finds innovative ways to use plants for fun, flavorful dishes that keep her readers coming back. Her gorgeous debut cookbook brings brand-new recipes, plus a handful of signature dishes, from her kitchen to yours.

Blissful Basil focuses on bringing out the best flavors of whole foods and features more than 100 plant-based dishes that will delight vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike. What’s more, most of the recipes are free from gluten, soy, and refined sugars.

This is, hands down, the best cookbook I have ever seen, own, or tried recipes from. Since I had the pleasure to receive an arc for this, I have tried and loved many of the recipes here. Some becoming favourites of my partner and me. Especially the vegan Chili is absolutely to die for and has impressed many of our friends so far. You can find my review here.

I am so glad to finally own the book because it is even more beautiful this way. I adore the pictures accompanying the recipes and I cannot wait to try more dishes.