Last 10 Books Tag

I saw this tag on Rachel’s blog and it looked so much fun I decided to steal it.

1. What was the last book you DNFed?

41747005I have two DNF shelves on my Goodreads, “Will probably not finish” and “on hold”. Both show how unsure I am whether a book is really properly DNFed or if I will pick it back up at some point. The last book I put down, and I am dreading admitting this because it is so very beloved, is The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. I will maybe pick it back up at some other point but it is very much not a book for me. I can see why people love it for sure, but for me the melodrama and over-the-topness did not work. I also wished the protagonist would stop talking about his penis so much.

2. Last book you reread?

Oh, hello again, rereading questions. The last book I reread was Kassandra by Christa Wolf. It is my all-time favourite book and the only one I really make a habit out of regularly rereading.

3. Last book you bought?

32802595I preordered the UK paperback edition of Becky Chambers Record of a Spaceborn Few, the third in the Wayfarer series, which I love. I also love this title and I am so glad to proper-sized paperback edition is publishing soon.

 

 

4. Last book you said you read but didn’t?

I rarely do that. But, technically, I did not finish War and Peace because I ragequit it way too close to the end. The only character I found interesting died and I put the book down and just never picked it back up. I read enough to have an opinion of the book (and it is as follows: Tolstoy got worse the older he got and his didactics ruin an otherwise brilliant writer) and as such might have said to have read it at some point.

5. Last book you wrote in the margins of?

It’s probably the last book I bought for my thesis, and I couldn’t say which one it is. I only write in the margins of books I read for an academic purpose.

6. Last book you got signed?

None.

7. Last book you lost?

Not technically lost but I don’t have the first two books in The Hunger Games trilogy anymore and coincidentally, the exact same editions are in my youngest stepsister’s room at her mum’s house. But everybody is backing her up in that these are her books and it seems petty to argue. I still haven’t replaced the books though.

8. Last book you had to replace?

10860047A friend of mine I am no longer speaking to still has my copy of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I went ahead and just replaced the book because it looks pretty and I really loved it when I read it.

 

 

9. Last book you had an argument over?

Not argument per se but I tried listening to It by Stephen King and when I gave up halfway through (after more than 20 hours I might add!), I may have ranted at my boyfriend for long enough for him (who is a very patient man, an attribute I adore) to tell me that maybe I am overreacting. He really likes Stephen King so it was not my most diplomatic moment. But that book drove me up the walls!

10. Last book you couldn’t get a hold of?

Lidia Yuknavitch has two short story collections that are impossible to find. I would love to be able to read those because she is my hero and I think her style would lend itself beautifully to the format.

As I wasn’t tagged, I also won’t do that but if you decide to do a post on this, please let me know!

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Book Postscript 2018 Tag

I have not gotten around to write a proper wrap up post for this year – but I got tagged by the lovely Rachel for this tag (created by Adam @ Memento Mori on Booktube) and figured this is the perfect way to wrap up.

1. The longest book you read this year and the book that took you the longest to finish.

12591698The longest book I read this year was Caliban’s War, the second book in the Expanse series by James S. A. Corey (review here). I did not read very many long books this year. Part of that has to do with reading less High Fantasy, part has to do with me often picking up shorter books that I can read quicker. I also really love short books because they can pack such a punch.

35099035The book that took me the longest to finish was Red Clocks by Leni Zumas; it took me more than three months to read its 369 pages. While I appreciate the book, I was just never inclined to pick it up once I put it down. It’s not a bad book by any stretch and it is cleverly done for the most part – just not something that excited me (review here).

2. A book you read in 2018 that was outside of your comfort zone.

Probably the first two books of The Expanse series – I do like science fiction but I rarely read those that are very military in tone. While I am glad to have read two of those books, I bailed while reading the third one. It just could not keep my interest.

3. How many books did you re-read in 2018?

Zero. I am not the biggest rereader. I do sometimes reread parts of books but very rarely the complete thing. Maybe I should be doing this more – but I also really like reading new books.

4. Favorite re-read of 2018.

Well.

5. A book you read for the first time in 2018 that you look forward to re-reading in the future.

What is it with all those rereading questions?

But, nevertheless, I do actually have an answer. I do so very much look forward to rereading the first few books in the Kate Daniels’ series. I sped through them at a ridiculous pace (I needed to know all the things) and think I want to savour them the next time. Because, god, I loved that reading experience.

6. Favorite single short story or novella that you read in 2018.

16158505My favourite short story of the year is Safe Passage, the very first story in my favourite short story collection of the year, A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel. The story is just pitch perfect in its dark whimsy laced with melancholy.

 

34417038My favourite novella was The Murders Of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson. Spooky, intensely readable, super thought-provoking. I read more novellas this year (it was part of my reading resolutions) but found that the length often does not work for me – but this darkly twisted horror tale really impressed me.

7. Mass Appeal: A book you liked and would recommend to a wide variety of readers.

36356614Huh. Good question. I am not sure my favourite books have mass appeal (I am not saying mass appeal is a bad thing!). I think I will go with There There by Tommy Orange which I found just impeccably written and still accessible in its structure.

 

8. Specialized Appeal: A book you liked but would be hesitant to recommend to just anyone.

37590570The Pisces by Melissa Broder is the obvious answer here. I seriously adored this book (it did top my best of the year list after all) but I can see how it is not a book for everybody. Reactions for this book are all over the place and the average rating on Goodreads is shamefully low. But for me, it sparkled.

9. Reflect on your year as a bookish content creator (goals met, good/bad memories, favorite videos blog posts you made, etc).

This is the first full year I owned a blog. I am quite pleased I stuck with it and I am also pleased I realized that sticking with a schedule does not work for me at all. I have written reviews for the vast majority of the 115 books I read (so many words!). I have read widely and differently while also keeping a part of my reading just fun.

10. Tag some fellow bookish content creators.

As I am super late with this, I am not tagging anybody. But if you do decide to take part, please let me know!

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

38391059Verdict: Still in love.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Re-Telling

Published by Ebury Publishing, January 10 2019

Find it on Goodreads.

One girl can make a difference…

Moscow has burned nearly to the ground, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to hold accountable. Vasya finds herself on her own, amid a rabid mob that calls for her death, blaming her witchery for their misfortune.

Then a vengeful demon returns, renewed and stronger than ever, determined to spread chaos in his wake and never be chained again. Enlisting the hateful priest Konstantin as his servant, turmoil plagues the Muscovites and the magical creatures alike, and all find their fates resting on the shoulders of Vasya.

With an uncertain destiny ahead of her, Vasya learns surprising truths of her past as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all…

I adored this beyond measure.

I am a huge fan of this trilogy, have been ever since reading the very first chapter of the first book. I was both super excited and a bit apprehensive before reading this book – but I didn’t have to worry because Katherine Arden absolutely sticks the landing here. This book is both a great conclusion to this brilliant series as well as a great book in its own right.

What Arden does better than most authors I read is building an atmosphere so immersive I become lost in her (impeccably researched) world. I found reading this book a very rewarding experience and I am definitely a life-long fan. Drawing on Russian fairy tales and real world figures to build a world uniquely her own, Arden tells a story of a girl and her choices. Whatever happens in this book is always filtered through Vasya’s lenses and her destiny and I am in love with this. Vasya is a difficult character but someone I could not help root for. I wanted her to find her place and be happy. She is allowed to be prickly and nurturing, she can be rash and caring, and altogether wonderfully rounded. Her relationship to the Winter King just worked for me in this book (I was not fully on board in the book before) and I really liked the overwhelming tenderness between those two.

I adore how the world becomes more complicated as Vasya grows and the scope increases. Things that seemed very black and white to her in the first book become more ambivalent, people grow while staying true to their characterization, and overall the world becomes ever more believable.

Arden has a very distinct and very beautiful writing style that hints at her influences while being very much her own thing and from the very first chapter I was glad to be back in her capable hands. There is a rhythm to her writing that I find very beautiful and this coupled with a story that wraps up strong makes this a strong contender for my favourite book of this year (I just know it’ll make the list).

Other books in the series:
The Bear and the Nightingale: 5 out of 5 stars
The Girl in the Tower: 4 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Ebury Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch

36534574Verdict: Great, as always

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Published by Gollancz, November 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

The seventh book of the bestselling Rivers of London urban fantasy series returns to the adventures of Peter Grant, detective and apprentice wizard, as he solves magical crimes in the city of London.

Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

To save his beloved city Peter’s going to need help from his former best friend and colleague–Lesley May–who brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch….

This is one of my all-time favourite series – and this installment was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint, as usual. There is just something charming and compulsive about this series that makes me very happy.

I won’t write about the plot so much, because doing so invariably would spoil the books that came before (and what twists and turns there were) except to say that I found the way the story went and how some parts wrapped up highly satisfying. I know that there is a novella coming out in a few months (I am so glad!) but except for that I do not know where the story will go next – but wherever it is, I am sure I will be reading it.

The best part, as always, is Peter’s wonderful narration, this time aided by the absolutely brilliant Kobna Holdbrook-Smith who narrates the audiobook to perfection. I felt a bit spoiled, having pre-ordered the paperback and then buying the audiobook but it was definitely worth it. Peter’s tone and his sense of humour are as brilliant as ever – but what I appreciate most is that he is a genuinely good person, always striving to be better. This is something I am always looking forward to in my reading, especially in a genre saturated by anti-heroes, and something I needed at the end of the long year that was 2018.

There were some genuinely heartbreaking and heartwarming scenes in this book (the dancing! It made me teary eyed) and the ending was so very wonderful – I cannot wait for my partner to read this book so that I can squeal at him.

If you like Urban Fantasy and haven’t checked this out, I highly recommend you do – I love Ben Aaronovitch’s mix of police procedural and highly inventive fantasy, his characters are wonderfully drawn and realistically diverse (it is set in present-day London after all), and his storylines (especially the overarching ones) are exciting and well-thought-out.

 

Review: Heavy by Kiese Laymon

29430746Verdict: Brilliant but near unbearable to read.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Memoir

Published by Bloomsbury, October 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

In this powerful and provocative memoir, genre-bending essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse.

Kiese Laymon is a fearless writer. In his essays, personal stories combine with piercing intellect to reflect both on the state of American society and on his experiences with abuse, which conjure conflicted feelings of shame, joy, confusion and humiliation. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of growing up in a nation wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we’ve been.

In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood—and continues through twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations.

I find this memoir near impossible to review for a number of reasons:

  1. the book was near impossible to read for me;
  2. the book is brilliant;
  3. the book is not written for me.

If you only take one thing from my review, let it be this: Kiese Laymon is utterly, utterly brilliant. On a simple sentence by sentence level his writing is absolutely stunning, it wrecked me in the perfection of his prose. But even more so, the structure of this memoir is impeccable and the way he tells his story and makes is points is just brilliant. I read very many memoirs but it is rare that I have a reaction as visceral as I had here. The whole book is a lesson in how to gut your reader with your words. And I mean this in the best possible way (and the worst: it took me forever to finish this because I needed to take breaks to read something else).

Laymon tells the story of his body – and how his relationship to his body is influenced by his difficult relationship to his mother. The way he grounds his experiences in the way his body reacted to them added a layer to this memoir that I appreciated immensely. Written in second person narration addressing his mum, Laymon lays it all bare for the world to see. Especially the first and last chapters really drove home how incredible his craft is and how deep the cuts his life made are. I found the book near unbearable in the claustrophobia of the unfairness of it all: the unfairness of racism, of poverty, of eating disorder, of addiction. The book is this successful because it is written for black people rather than about black people – a point Laymon makes at various points throughout the book, something he learned from his mother and his own mistakes.

Ultimately this is an intimate love/hate letter to the most important person in his life and I feel very grateful to have been able to read this.

 

Wrap Up: December 2018 or there goes the year.

I cannot believe the year is over. It feels like it went both super quick and super slow. My reading in December was a bit erratic because the first half I felt mega burned out (mostly due to work) and could not concentrate on anything difficult, then there was Christmas were I did not get any reading done – and then I had a few days to wrap up all the books written by men I was still reading.

Books I read in December:

  1. Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko: 5 out of 5 stars
  2. Dopesick by Beth Macy: 5 out of 5 stars
  3. Angel’s Blood (Guild Hunter #1) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  4. Archangel’s Kiss (Guild Hunter #2) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Archangel’s Consort (Guild Hunter #3) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Archangel’s Blade (Guild Hunter #4) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  7. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  8. Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  9. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #1) by Theodora Goss: 3 out of 5 stars
  10. Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1) by Nalini Singh: 3,5 out of 5 stars
  11. New Suns ed. by Nisi Shawl: 2 out of 5 stars
  12. Doggerland by Ben Smith: 3 out of 5 stars
  13. Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch: 4 out of 5 stars
  14. Heavy by Kiese Laymon: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

I adored Vita Nostra – every single second of reading this was a pleasure. Dopesick was another book that I appreciated immensely – it is wonderfully researched and impeccably told. Both books made my best of the year lists.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: December 2018 or there goes the year.”

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?