Best Books of 2019 (at the halfway point)

I wasn’t going to do a post like this because I thought my reading year hadn’t been that great – turns out, I actually read quite a few books I loved and really felt like sharing those. I gave seven books 5 stars so far or 10% of my reading – which is pretty normal for me but still surprised me because my reading year has been feeling distinctly mediocre for some reason. I could only narrow it down to six books for this list though (I would have prefered a list of five but just could not do it). Below are the books in order of when I read them (I couldn’t rank them just yet but will do so when my end of the year wrap ups come around).

36332136The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

I adored this. Everything about this retelling of Beowolf set in suburbia really worked for me. Maria Dahvana Headley has a wonderful way with words, the rhythm of her language enthralled me, her flawed and kind of awful female characters excited me, but it is her play with different perspectives (mixing first person with third person and complimenting this with a chorus-like first person plural) that made this an instant favourite for me. I am nothing if not predictable. (Review)

36136386Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

I am sorry if I have become a Sally Rooney fan blog. But she really is just that brilliant.

I don’t think I need to talk about this book anymore. I have been shouting its praise from the rooftops for months and I recently finished my reread of it. Everything about this works for me. (Review)

38470229The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

This was my favourite of the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlisted books – and I was just so very pleased to have finally loved a book (I was a bit of the grinch of our Women’s Prize group chat and I love loving books much more than snarking about them). Parker’s retelling of the Illiad from Briseis’ perspective broke my heart and excited me. I found Briseis’ endlessly fascinating and loved how Barker constructed a character that was allowed to be flawed and surprising while remaining true to the heart of the myth. Her take on Achilles also really worked for me. (Review)

29774026The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

I loved Shannon’s female centric take on a classic epic fantasy novel. I am usually of the opinion that no book needs to be longer than 400 pages but I was hooked for all 800 pages of this. Shannon carefully puts her pieces into place and builds towards a wonderful whole; her characters are wonderful: all are flawed, some are better humans than others, all are compelling. In books with many perspectives there are usually a few that don’t work as well for me but here I wanted to spend time with every single one on them and needed to know what happens next. (Review)

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

The first book in the series reignited my love for urban fantasy – and the sequel was even more incredible. I just love Roanhorse’s worldbuilding, and her prickly main character, and her language, and her imagination, and basically everything about this. I did the thing again, where I read the book as soon as it came out and now I have to wait for who knows how long until I can read the next book in the series. (Review)

38391059The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

I love this series with all my heart – and I have a particular soft spot for it because it is the first series where I got all books as review copies while they were coming out. Katherine Arden has a very particular style of sentence structure that just makes me happy; it is recognizably hers while mirroring traditional fairy tales in the best possible way. I cannot wait for her next adult series – I will be reading whatever she decides to do next.

What was your favourite of the year so far?

Favourite Fiction Books of 2018

I have already talked about my least favourite books and my favourite non-fiction books of the year. Today I can finally talk about the fiction books I loved the most this year. These are books I read this year but not necessarily ones published this year. I have tried putting them in order of preference, but this order might have been a different one had I done it another day.

11) Florida by Lauren Groff

36098092I adore, adore Lauren Groff’s writing and her newest short story collection was one of the best things I read this year. I am slowly making my way through her back catalogue because I love the way she structures her sentences and her stories. These stories center (as the title indicates) on Florida, but more so they center women and their difficult relationships to themselves and their children. Beautifully done. Full review here.

10) Hidden Legacy Book 2 and 3 by Ilona Andrews

And this is where I cheat a little. I obviously adored reading many of Ilona Andrews’ books this year and this second series written by the duo made me very happy indeed. I adore the worldbuilding and I appreciate the central couple, which all things considered is surprisingly drama free and honest in their interaction.  My series review can be found here.

09) Kate Daniels’ Book 3 and 4 by Ilona Andrews

I adored my whole reading experience of this series, which I read completely this year and couldn’t not put it on my favourites list. I most of all loved books 3 and 4 which I read on two consecutive days, reading way too long into a night (something I don’t really do all that often because I need my sleep to properly function at work). These books are wonderfully plotted with a brilliant world and a relationship at its heart that I rooted for way too much. My two series reviews are here and here.

08) Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

36396289My favourite of the Man Booker longlisted books I read this year, I cannot believe this nearly went under my radar (I blame the cover which I do not like and which everybody else seems to weirdly love). Johnson retells an ancient myth and thoroughly modernizes it. I loved her prose and her play with perspectives (I do love a well-done second person narrative) and thought this was impressively done, even if the ending makes quite a lot of the subtext text and consequently loses some of its magic. My review can be found here.

07) Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

38606192This book made me very, very happy. I love fantasy books inspired by fairy tales and when they are set in the winter, I am in love. I adored this. My review can be found here.

 

 

06) A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel

16158505By far the best short story collection I have read this year. And my favourite cover. I love the way Ramona Ausubel’s language flows and how she constructs her beautiful but dark stories. (review here)

 

 

05) Vita Nostra by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko

38633526I cannot believe I left this book off when I excitedly published this post 20 minutes ago. Because I loved this so! It is so very custom-made for me that I cannot comfortably recommend it because I am so not objective, but believe me when I say it is brilliant and special and so so very worth reading. I am currently mostly positive that the next book will be translated into English as well and I cannot wait to spend more time in this world. My full review is here.

04) Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

35412372One of the first books I finished this year – and what a start that was. Emezi’s debut novel explodes on the page into something stunning and beautiful and very different. Their story is intimate and violent and apparently at least partly autobiographical in the best possible way. My review can be found here.

03) Monstress Vol. 2: The Blood by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

33540347The only comic series I am currently properly following, something about the collaboration between Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda really blows me away. The art is stunning and the story intriguing. It is a bit complicated to follow but all the more rewarding I find. I have heard people saying they cannot stomach the brutality of the story line, but for me it works extraordinarily well – the grimness of the world is juxtaposed with the stunning brilliance of the art. (Review here)

02) There There by Tommy Orange

36356614I adored this book from the very first page. Something about Orange’s prose just clicked with me and I was very impressed with the way he constructs his characters and their voices. I cannot wait to see what he does next. My review can be found here.

01) The Pisces by Melissa Broder

37590570It feels like I just cannot stop talking about this book. Of all the books I have read this year, this one sticks out the most. It might not technically be the best book I read but it is for sure my favourite. I just loved everything about this, but most importantly I found Lucy an incredible protagonist. My full review is here.

What were your favourite books of the year?

Favourite Book Covers of 2018

I want to talk about so many of my bookish thoughts of this nearly finished year that I figured I might as well start early. Because while I think my favourite books my still change (there are over two weeks left yet), I don’t think my favourite covers will. I will be concentrating of the covers of the books I have actually read because otherwise we might be here forever.

Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko

38633526

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

35448496

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

34666764

Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot

35840657

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

37590570

And finally my absolute favourite cover of the year, even if the book has been published for a while:

A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel

16158505

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.