Wrap Up: September & October 2019 or I think I’m back now

I’m back. I think. I quietly stayed away from my blog and Goodreads for weeks now. The reason is a brilliant one though: I am pregnant. While I love it and I am so glad – I also felt like I was run over by a truck for the better part of three months. So, I just didn’t read much. And then when I started reading again, I only read really, really trashy romance novels (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) and didn’t feel quite like talking about them. I also stopped blogging and reading other people’s blogs, but I think I am back now. And excited for it! (I wrote this paragraph a while ago – and then my body decided to not yet be done with feeling awful – so this wrap up is late and mostly without pictures.)

Books I read in September & October:

  1. The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  3. Trick Mirror: Reflections of Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  4. Crossing the Line (Sinner and Saint #1) by Lucy Score: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Breaking the Rules (Sinner and Saint #2) by Lucy Score: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Up in Smoke (Crossing the Line #2) by Tessa Bailey: 2 out of 5 stars
  7. Mr. Fixer-Upper by Lucy Score: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. Duke in Darkness (Wickedly Wed #1) by Nicola Davidson: 3 out of 5 stars
  9. Runaway Girl (Girl #2) by Tessa Bailey: 4 out of 5 stars
  10. Driven by Fate (Serve #5) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  11. The Price of Scandal by Lucy Score: 3 out of 5 stars
  12. Protecting What’s Theirs (Line of Duty #1.5) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  13. His Risk to Take (Line of Duty #2) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  14. Asking for Trouble (Line of Duty #4) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  15. Baiting the Maid of Honor (Wedding Dare #2) by Tessa Bailey: 4 out of 5 stars
  16. The Mopster’s Masseuse by Jessa Kane: 1.5 out of 5 stars
  17. Bared by Alta Hensley: 1.5 out of 5 stars
  18. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: 3 out of 5 strs
  19. Shelf Life by Livia Franchini: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
  20. The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang: 5 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

The Collected Schizophrenias was absolutely stunning. I adored everything about this impeccably written essay collection/ memoir and I want more people to read it. I

Continue reading “Wrap Up: September & October 2019 or I think I’m back now”

Review: Shelf Life by Lidia Franchini

43862291Verdict: Dark, brilliant, creepy, way too many dream sequences.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Literary fiction

Published by Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, August 29th 2019

Find it on Goodreads.

Ruth is thirty years old. She works as a nurse in a care home and her fiancé has just broken up with her. The only thing she has left of him is their shopping list for the upcoming week.

And so she uses that list to tell her story. Starting with six eggs, and working through spaghetti and strawberries, and apples and tea bags, Ruth discovers that her identity has been crafted from the people she serves; her patients, her friends, and, most of all, her partner of ten years. Without him, she needs to find out – with conditioner and single cream and a lot of sugar – who she is when she stands alone.

I don’t know if I have read a book lately with a blurb this accurate that nonetheless completely failed to give an indication what the book will be like. On the surface it’s correct; yes Ruth has just been left by her boyfriend of ten years and has to navigate her life and yes the story is told by way of the shopping list he left behind – but it also something else entirely. Told in varies formats (stream-of-consciousness in the present, a series of text messages in the past, mixing more straight forward narrations with vague ones) and from different perspectives (mainly Ruth’s perspective in first person, but also parts narrated from Neil’s perspectives, parts in second person, parts in first person plural), this book is a portrait of a woman who was very much broken before she met the awful man and became more so during the course of a fairly horrible relationship.

When the book worked, it really worked for me – but there were just so many parts I could not properly get on board with, starting with the endless accounts of weird dreams Ruth and Neil had. I am unsure I grasped what the narrative purpose of those were and I found them relentlessly boring and confusing. While I appreciated the mixed-media approach, I didn’t love reading text messages that just never ended.

I really liked the framing of the story and I thought Franchini did something very clever: in the first chapter, when Neil breaks up with Ruth I couldn’t help but think that was the right choice because she seemed fairly awful. And then Franchini goes back and recontextualizes the scene in a way that made my heart hurt. Neil is, for all intents and purposes, really really awful. He is not only a cheater but also a stalker, he made Ruth into the person he wanted her to be and then punishes her for it, and his thoughts on women are unkind and horrifying (at some point he says this about his girlfriend of ten years: “The fact of her aging makes me uneasy.”). While I found his characterization believable and him endlessly fascinating, spending time in his head was very much not fun. Ruth on the other hand was just the kind of difficult to root for woman I adore in my fiction. Overall, I found this book impeccably structured and impressively constructed  – but often difficult to stick with due to its deliberate darkness.

Content warning: stalking, grooming, eating disorders, disordered eating, cheating, emotional abuse, bullying, assault, sexual harrassment

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Transworld Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Trick Mirror – Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

44282599._sy475_Verdict: Sharp, rambling, wonderful.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Essay collection

Published by Fourth Estate, August 6th 2019

Find it on Goodreads.

We are living in the era of the self, in an era of malleable truth and widespread personal and political delusion. In these nine interlinked essays, Jia Tolentino, the New Yorker’s brightest young talent, explores her own coming of age in this warped and confusing landscape.

From the rise of the internet to her own appearance on an early reality TV show; from her experiences of ecstasy – both religious and chemical – to her uneasy engagement with our culture’s endless drive towards ‘self-optimisation’; from the phenomenon of the successful American scammer to her generation’s obsession with extravagant weddings, Jia Tolentino writes with style, humour and a fierce clarity about these strangest of times.

Following in the footsteps of American luminaries such as Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Rebecca Solnit, yet with a voice and vision all her own, Jia Tolentino writes with a rare gift for elucidating nuance and complexity, coupled with a disarming warmth. This debut collection of her essays announces her exactly the sort of voice we need to hear from right now – and for many years to come.

This is an incredibly strong essay collection, brought down by a first essay that did not work for me and made picking this back up difficult for me. But once I finished that first essay, Jia Tolentino gives the reader an incredibly well-structured and presented collection. I know why this was one of my most anticipated reads for this year.

Jia Tolentino writes about many different things but always through a lense of feminism and internet culture – something I particularly adore as a feminist who is very much online. Her essays have a rambling quality that worked exceedingly well for me because I could trust her to pull her different strands of argument back together by the end of each essay. She combines the personal with the political, always underpinning her arguments with quotes and statistics in a highly effective way. This is the type of essay collection I adore.

My absolute favourite essay of this collection is about ecstacy – both the drug and the concept in religion. Tolentino reflects on her own religious upbringing, her relationship to drugs, her discovery of Houston’s hip hop scene, and her experience with god in a way that should not work for me (I am not particularly interested in any of these topics on their own) but that was just incredible. If you are only going to read one essay from this collection, make sure it is this one.

Content warning: discussions of rape culture and rape, bigotry, misogyny, racism.

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

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

18366739._sx318_Verdict: Off the rails, addictive, wonderful.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Published by Bloomsbury, 2013

Find it on Goodreads.

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

This book is off the rails, it reads like Samantha Shannon crammed about five books into one, and it follows familiar beats but I loved it. I had a complete blast reading this and I cannot believe I started a seven book series with only three books published so far. I loved this so, because it seems like it’s certainly not the most original thing I have ever read and it is in parts ridiculous – but Shannon gives her story and her tropes enough of a twist to keep me on my toes.

The book starts fairly unoriginal in a future dystopic world where clairvoyant people are hunted and their mere existence is outlawed but soon goes completely off the rails. Shannon does not give the reader any moment to breath before her main character kills somebody with her powers (it is self-defense, because let’s not get overly excited, the main character is a good person – which I happen to adore in my fiction to be honest, regardless of my snark) and has to run, only to be captured and driven to Oxford which is not supposed to exist anymore. And then suddenly – aliens. Sexy aliens even. I thought I could see where this was going from a mile away (there is even the inevitable early 2010s love triangle between her childhood friend and a sexy, dark, brooding stranger) but I did not care one bit and I was also not quite correct. Shannon had me hooked and increasingly frantic to find out more about this world and to see where this is going. In a way, I think this book was better for me because I have not read all that many of the YA staples and as such the familiar beats were comforting without being boring – also, this story while certainly not without crossover appeal, most certainly is a work of adult fantasy and worked all the better for me in its deliberate darkness. I also really think that Shannon’s writing and her characterization are on point. I found this addictive and her main character sympathetic without being unbelievable. Her reactions always made sense and even though she is impulsive this is always tempered by her wish to do what is right.

This might be the most backhandedly complimentary four star review I have ever written but I did really love it, even if I can see on some level why it totally would not work for other readers. But I will surely read every single thing Shannon ever writes.

Content warning: Slavery, bigotry, mind rape, assault, a really uncomfortable sex scene tinged with regret

Wrap Up: August 2019 or a month mostly away from my blog.

I do not think my blog has ever been as quiet as it has been the last three weeks; and this in a year where my focus has been elsewhere to begin with. But this month I also did not keep my Goodreads up to date, which hasn’t ever happened since I got one. Hopefully I will kick this blogging slump soon because I really do like having a blog. I have dragged my feet writing this post and as to not make this take even longer, this’ll be a brief wrap-up, with very few pictures.

Books I read in August:

  1. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. Book Boyfriend by Claire Kingsley: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. Cocky Roommate by Claire Kingsley: 4 out of 5 stars
  4. Protecting What’s His (Line of Duty #1) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Officer Off Limits (Line of Duty #3) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Staking His Claim (Line of Duty #5) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  7. Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine: 5 out of 5 stars
  8. Irresistible by Melanie Harlow: 3 out of 5 stars
  9. Three Part Harmony by Holley Trent: 3 out of 5 stars
  10. Always Will by Claire Kingsley: 4 out of 5 stars
  11. Two Weeks Notice by Whitney G.: 2 out of 5 stars
  12. Pretend You’re Mine by Lucy Score: 4 out of 5 stars
  13. Mr. Fixer-Upper by Lucy Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

I adored Sabrina & Corina in a way that I haven’t loved a short story collection in a long while. But the book that will most likely stay with me the longest will have to be A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride. Not only is the book absolutely stunningly executed (if incredibly traumatic) my reading experience with my wonderful Women’s Prize group was amazing as always.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: August 2019 or a month mostly away from my blog.”

Rachel and I have too many ARCs – a “hold me accountable” TBR

I have too many unread ARCs on my shelves and I am starting to get really annoyed at the fact. My reading has been very different the last I don’t even know how many months (actually I do know; since October last year) and as a result I haven’t read the books I thought I would read but have not stopped requesting books either. Which means that at the moment I have the ridiculous number of 26 unread ARCs, 15 of which are past their publication date. I don’t know about you all but for me, once I don’t manage to read an ARC by its publication date, chances are I won’t read it anytime soon – which is stupid because I want to read those books! I am not alone in this, so Rachel @paceamorelibri and I have decided to hold each other responsible and do a two week long stretch of reading ARCs, starting on September 1st. You should join us!

High priority:

39714124Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

Published November 2018

I was approved for this ARC after it had already been published and then I just never got around to reading it. Which is a shame because apparently it features gods (possibly my favourite thing ever! See recommendations here) and a really well-done romance – this book could not be more up my alley if it had been written with me in mind. I figure if I read it now I can get hyped about the next book in the series, which will be released in November.

42123790._sy475_Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

Publishing Date: Oktober 1st 2019

Pretty much the only Booker longlisted book I am interested in this year. I adored Winterson’s memoir when I read it last year and have wanted to read more of her ever since. This sounds absolutely brilliant I really should get to it before the short list is announced – so that I have at least one potential horse in the game.

 

43521657The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Publishing Date: September 12th 2019

I was a bit apprehensive when I requested it but it so anyways because the hype got to me. But since then people whose taste I trust have loved it – so I am really looking forward to this. I do love a good portal fantasy but I don’t love books about books. But the reviews are so good!

 

40947778._sy475_The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

Published June 2019

I have a complicated relationship with scifi. I want to love it and often adore the premises but then never super enjoy the books. This one sounds SO brilliant and made for me though. I mean, AI Gods? (Like I said, I adore books about gods) How could I not request a copy? I really need to get to this.

44282599._sy475_Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Published August 2019

I have been looking forward to this book for ages, so I have absolutely no excuse. I really, really want to read this. But for some reason I have not been able to read non fiction lately at all. I hope this will change soon!

 

Unsure and will do a Try A Chapter Tag with

40407148Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt

Published July 2018

Another book I received after its publication date – and one I keep forgetting that I own. It is losely based on the Nabokov marriage and I think it would be interesting to compare it to what I learned about Vera and Vladimir Nabokov reading Stacy Schiff’s incredible Vera a few weeks ago. It is, however, historical fiction, a genre I frequently struggle with and have mostly given up on. Hopefully this will work for me now.

40060700The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell

Published March 2018

I requested this when I was trying to read as many eligible books for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. And then promptly never picked it up. It isn’t quite my type of book but the reviews are good. I will have to read a bit and see how much I like it.

 

44596261._sy475_Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

Publishing Date: September 3rd 2019

I wished for this because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. However, I apparently did not expect to have my wish granted (it is the third wish I have had granted, so maybe I am a unicorn?) – I am not sure I will love this. I have struggled a lot with YA these last few years, so this might not work for me at all. It does sound interesting though and maybe myself-imposed absence in the YA world will help me like this.

Read a bit and need to decide whether I want to keep reading:

I have the habit of starting a book and putting it down at some point when I am not immediately loving it. I have five ARCs that I have read at least some part of but for some reason or other put down again. I need to read a bit more of each of these books and then make the decision whether I want to keep reading or not.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

Cala by Laura Legge

Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe

The Snakes by Sadie Jones

Knock Wood by Jennifer Militello

 

Please join us in our attempt to finally make a dent into our ARC piles! Which of these books should I prioritize? (I cannot promise to actually listen to anybody)

 

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!