Wrap Up August 2020

I cannot remember the last time I had a reading month this good. It seems like my choice to finally finish reading some of the books I had started months ago was a very good thing indeed. I have also finally gotten back into the groove of reading and reviewing ARCs – I do hope I can keep the momentum going. Especially because Rachel and I are planning on doing our two-person-ARC-readathon again at the end of September, this time without me being pregnant and not reading. (You are all invited to participate! But it’s super low-key and I am famously bad at reading plans.)

Books I read in August:

  1. Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell: 4 out of 5 stars
  3. Alpha Night by Nalini Singh: 4 out of 5 stars
  4. The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Larkwood: 4.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  5. Sisters by Daisy Johnson: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  6. Luster by Raven Leilani: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  7. Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy #3.5) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel: 5 out of 5 stars (review)
  9. Saphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4, Catalina Baylor Trilogy #1) by Ilona Andrews: 5 out of 5 stars
  10. Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5, Catalina Baylor Trilogy #2) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars

I also started and DNFed The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E. Harrow.

Favourite of the Month:

Quality-wise, The Glass Hotel, hands down. I knew I would love it but also was scared of not being able to properly appreciate it during the pandemic and kept putting it off – I am so glad to have finally read it, it’s as good as I hoped it would be. But my proper favourite is probably Saphire Flames which I kept putting off because I know how addictive Ilona Andrews’ writing is. It’s so good! I had such a blast!

Stats(ish):

I read ten books, seven of which were written by women and the other three by a husband and wife team. Five books can broadly be categorized as literary fiction, one is a fantasy-scifi hybrid and four are some form of romantic fantasy.

Currently Reading:

Review: Sisters by Daisy Johnson

50186889._sx318_sy475_Verdict: Creepy, tense, unsettling – let down by the ending.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Psychological Horror/ Literary Fiction

Published by Jonathan Cape, August 13th 2020

Find it on Goodreads.

After a serious case of school bullying becomes too much to bear, sisters July and September move across the country with their mother to a long-abandoned family home.

In their new and unsettling surroundings, July finds that the deep bond she has always had with September – a closeness that not even their mother is allowed to penetrate – is starting to change in ways she cannot entirely understand.

Inside the house the tension among the three women builds, while outside the sisters meet a boy who tests the limits of their shared experiences.

With its roots in psychological horror, Sisters is a taut, powerful and deeply moving account of sibling love that cements Daisy Johnson’s place as one of the most inventive and exciting young writers at work today.

I read this mostly on the strength of Johnson’s debut novel and did not really know what to expect from it. The blurb is intentionally vague and I was unprepared for how creepy this book was. I was hooked from the very beginning though, racing through this book breathlessly, torn between wanting to keep reading and dreading what was to come – that something is not quite right with September and July is obvious from the beginning. Johnson skillfully leads the reader through her labyrinthian narrative told from the perspective of July, the younger of the two sisters and the more quiet and withdrawn one, always in the shadow of her slightly older and domineering sister September. The sibling relationship is at the core of this novel (and I am always a fan of well-told sibling stories) and that it feels so real is one of the big strengths. Their relationship is creepy and obsessive, they are so close to each other that even their mother has no place in their vincinity. Parts told in third person from their mother’s perspective underscore how weirdly codependent the two sisters are. September often treats July abysmally, and Johnson leans into the inherent creepiness of children’s games when she has her teenaged main characters play them with an increasing escalation of violence.

After some tragedy the family leaves Oxford for a house by the ocean owned by their dead father’s sister; here the mother takes to her room and leaves her daughters to roam Settle House, which is just as unsettling as the name indicates. The tragedy in the wake of July being bullied at school is one of the central mysteries of the book as July does not seem to remember what exactly happened that made her mother abruptly leave Oxford and decide to live in a house she hates as it brings only bad memories of the abusive father of her children. July’s narration is often unclear and I early began wondering how reliable she was, as her mind seems to be fragmenting. The novel works best when Johnson plays with this unreality she invokes, when it isn’t at all clear what is happening. Her fragmented, allusion-rich prose coupled with her vivid and unsettling imagery mirror’s July’s mental state excellently. As such the ending, when things became more clear again, did not work for me as well as the parts that preceeded it. But even so, the pitch perfect prose and an impressively oppressive atmosphere made this a rewarding reading experience that I was nevertheless ultimately glad to be done with – this book gave me nightmares.

Content warnings: bullying, assault, revenge porn, vomit, underage drinking, blackouts, depression, spousal abuse, death of a loved one

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

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!

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?

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?

Wrap Up: August 2018

I had a good reading month but a quite difficult work month. I struggled a whole lot with my PhD the second half of the month and buried myself in quick and easy reads to avoid thinking about it. But I had a meeting with my thesis supervisor last week and now I am feeling like I am on the right track again (for the first time in months, I might add).

Books read in July:

  1. Foundryside (The Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. Monstress Vol. 2: The Blood by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda: 5 out of 5 stars
  3. Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young: 3 out of 5 stars
  4. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner: 4 out of 5 stars
  5. I Hate Fairyland Vol. 2: Fluff My Life by Skottie Young: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. There There by Tommy Orange: 5 out of 5 stars
  7. Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood #1) by J. R. Ward: 2,5 out of 5 stars
  8. Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood #2) by J. R. Ward: 2 out of 5 stars
  9. Everything Under by Daisy Johnson: 4,5 out of 5 stars

Continue reading “Wrap Up: August 2018”

Review: Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

36396289Verdict: Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, stunningly realized.

My rating: 4,5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Literary Fiction

Published by Vintage/ Jonathan Cape, July 12th 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.

A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.

Daisy Johnson’s debut novel turns classical myth on its head and takes readers to a modern-day England unfamiliar to most. As daring as it is moving, Everything Under is a story of family and identity, of fate, language, love and belonging that leaves you unsettled and unstrung.

I am so glad this book was longlisted for the Man Booker because I don’t think I would have read it otherwise and that would have been such a shame. This is for sure my favourite of the list so far and I really hope it’ll make the shortlist so that more people will read this stunning little book.

The plot is difficult to summarize and I find it even more difficult because I was spoiled in a pretty major way before even starting the book. It did not change my enjoyment of the story per se but I do think I would have liked to have been able to read it with less knowledge. This is loose re-telling of a Greek myth; if you don’t know which one yet I would urge you to go in blind. At its heart this is a book about family, lost and found. We follow different narrative strands that converged and inform each other: we follow Gretel in her cottage with her mother who she has just found again and who is struggling with dementia, we follow Gretel during the fateful winter her mother left her, Gretel also tells Marcus’ story, the boy who spent a few weeks with them before her mother disappeared. The story is told exquisitely in different perspectives, including my personal favourite: a really well-done second person narrative. These different perspectives and the wonderful way Daisy Johnson weaves her story were by far the strongest part of this book. Gretel’s voice is brilliantly done and I love the musings on identity and memory.

Daisy Johnson’s language is just stunning, she creates an atmosphere so mesmerizing it felt like coming up air whenever I needed to stop reading. Her sentences are stunning, both linguistically and with the imagery employed.

Whatever is was that pressed through the calm, cold waters that winter, that wrapped itself around or dreams and left its clawed footprints in our heads. I want to tell you that it might never have been there if we hadn’t thought it up.

Johnson draws on riddles and fairy-tale, of subcultures and gender studies, in a way that felt super satisfying to read. The juxtaposition of the fluidity of both the prose and Gretel’s memories with the rigidity of fate worked incredibly well for me.

While I think this is an absolutely stunning work of fiction which did many new and exciting things while being stylistically brilliant, I do think the last 20% were not quite as strong. Here Johnson makes quite a lot of the subtext text and it did detract from the brilliance a bit. Mind, I still will read whatever else she has written because this was just so exciting.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Vintage Publishing/ Jonathan Cape in exchange for an honest review.

TBR: ARCs on my shelves part IV (2018)

I was SO proud of myself. I was doing so good. I got my NetGalley ARCs way down (I mean, they were in the single digits for like a hot moment). This is not the case anymore. I, again, have so many ARCs on my digital shelves. And so little time. (You can find my earlier round-ups here, here and here.) But oh, what wonderful books I got.

Still to be read:

356108231The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

Publication Date: June 7th

Publisher: Random House, Vintage (Jonathan Cape)

Blurb (from Goodreads): Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences, plus six years, at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. Outside is the world from which she has been permanently severed: the San Francisco of her youth, changed almost beyond recognition. The Mars Room strip club where she once gave lap dances for a living. And her seven-year-old son, Jackson, now in the care of Romy’s estranged mother.

Inside is a new reality to adapt to: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive. The deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner details with humour and precision. Daily acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike. Allegiances formed over liquor brewed in socks, and stories shared through sewage pipes.

Romy sees the future stretch out ahead of her in a long, unwavering line – until news from outside brings a ferocious urgency to her existence, challenging her to escape her own destiny and culminating in a climax of almost unbearable intensity. Through Romy – and through a cast of astonishing characters populating The Mars Room – Rachel Kushner presents not just a bold and unsentimental panorama of life on the margins of contemporary America, but an excoriating attack on the prison-industrial complex.

Why I requested this: I wanted to read this since the beginning of the year but then held off requesting an ARC because I had so many unread ones already – but now it is nominated for the Man Booker and here we are.

36396289Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

Publication Date: July 12th

Publisher: Random House, Vintage (Jonathan Cape)

Blurb (from Goodreads): Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.

A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.

Daisy Johnson’s debut novel turns classical myth on its head and takes readers to a modern-day England unfamiliar to most. As daring as it is moving, Everything Under is a story of family and identity, of fate, language, love and belonging that leaves you unsettled and unstrung.

Why I requested it: Again, it is nominated for the Man Booker – and it sounds absolutely bloody brilliant and I cannot believe this nearly flew under my radar. This sounds SO up my alley, it’s absurd.

40407148Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt

Publication Date: July 12th

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): A seductive, sensual and sinister love triangle set in 1930s America and inspired by the infamous Nabokov marriage

Zoya Andropova, a young Russian refugee, finds herself in an elite New Jersey boarding school. Having lost her family, her home and her sense of purpose, Zoya struggles to belong, a task made more difficult by her new country’s paranoia about Soviet spies.

When she meets charismatic fellow Russian émigré Leo Orlov – whose books Zoya has obsessed over for years – everything seems to change. But she soon discovers that Leo is bound by the sinister orchestrations of his brilliant wife, Vera, and that their relationship is far more complex than Zoya could ever have imagined.

Why I requested it: I am really enjoying the new Bloomsbury imprint Raven Books and this could be brilliant. But my request was pending for forever and then I was accepted after the release date and now I don’t know when I will get to it.

40206019Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young

Publication Date: August 9th

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): In Can You Tolerate This? – the title comes from the question chiropractors ask to test a patient’s pain threshold – Ashleigh Young ushers us into her early years in the faraway yet familiar landscape of New Zealand: fantasising about Paul McCartney, cheering on her older brother’s fledgling music career, and yearning for a larger and more creative life.

As Young’s perspective expands, a series of historical portraits – a boy with a rare skeletal disease, a French postman who built a stone fortress by hand, a generation of Japanese shut-ins – strike unexpected personal harmonies, as an unselfconscious childhood gives way to painful shyness in adolescence. As we watch Young fall in and out of love, undertake intense physical exercise that masks something deeper, and gradually find herself through her writing, a highly particular psyche comes into view: curious, tender and exacting in her observations of herself and the world around her.

How to bear each moment of experience: the inconsequential as much as the shattering?

In this spirited and singular collection of essays, Ashleigh Young attempts to find some measure of clarity amidst the uncertainty, exploring the uneasy tensions – between safety and risk, love and solitude, the catharsis of grief and the ecstasy of creation – that define our lives.

Why I requested it: I mean, duh, it sounds like such a me-book. Plus, I recently went to New Zealand and an essay collection/ memoir set there feels appropriate.

39780950Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Publication Date: August 9th

Publisher: Random House UK, Vintage Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): In this crackling debut collection Nafissa Thompson-Spires interrogates our supposedly post-racial era. To wicked and devastating effect she exposes the violence, both external and self-inflicted, that threatens black Americans, no matter their apparent success.

A teenager is insidiously bullied as her YouTube following soars; an assistant professor finds himself losing a subtle war of attrition against his office mate; a nurse is worn down by the demand for her skills as a funeral singer. And across a series of stories, a young woman grows up, negotiating and renegotiating her identity.

Heads of the Colored People shows characters in crisis, both petty and catastrophic. It marks the arrival of a remarkable writer and an essential and urgent new voice.

Why I requested it: I wanted to read this since before its US publication because it sounds brilliant and I am always up for exciting short story collections. Also, the UK cover is STUNNING. (I am currently half-way through and it is as brilliant as I hoped)

39225898Foundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennet

Publication Date: August 23rd

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books

Blurb (from Goodreads): The city of Tevanne runs on scrivings, industrialised magical inscriptions that make inanimate objects sentient; they power everything, from walls to wheels to weapons. Scrivings have brought enormous progress and enormous wealth – but only to the four merchant Houses who control them. Everyone else is a servant or slave, or they eke a precarious living in the hellhole called the Commons.

There’s not much in the way of work for an escaped slave like Sancia Grado, but she has an unnatural talent that makes her one of the best thieves in the city. When she’s offered a lucrative job to steal an ancient artefact from a heavily guarded warehouse, Sancia agrees, dreaming of leaving the Commons – but instead, she finds herself the target of a murderous conspiracy. Someone powerful in Tevanne wants the artefact, and Sancia dead – and whoever it is already wields power beyond imagining.

Sancia will need every ally, and every ounce of wits at her disposal, if she is to survive – because if her enemy gets the artefact and unlocks its secrets, thousands will die, and, even worse, it will allow ancient evils back into the world and turn their city into a devastated battleground.

Why I requested it: Because it is my most anticipated read of the second half of the year. I adore Bennett’s earlier trilogy and possibly squealed when I was accepted.

39287231City of Lies by Sam Hawke

Publication Date: August 23rd

Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers

Blurb (from Goodreads): Only a handful of people in Silasta know Jovan’s real purpose in life. To most, he is just another son of the ruling class. The quiet, forgettable friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible heir. In reality, Jovan has been trained for most of his life to detect, concoct and withstand poisons in order to protect the ruling family.

His sister Kalina is too frail to share in their secret family duty. While other women of the city hold positions of power and responsibility, her path is full of secrets and lies – some hidden even from her own brother.

Up until now, peace has reigned in Silasta for hundreds of years. But when the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army storms the gates, the so-called Bright City is completely unprepared. It falls to Jovan and Kalina to protect the heir and save their homeland – but first they must make their way through a new world of unexpected treachery – a world where the ancient spirits are rising . . . and angry.

Why I requested it: I am finding my overwhelming love for fantasy again (in normal years it is by far the genre I read most of) and I loved the way this sounded (it is also written by a woman, which never hurts a book in my case). The early reviews are favourable and the first sentence is just brilliant. I am super excited about this!

39098246The Corset by Laura Purcell

Publication Date: September 20th

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Blurb (from Goodreads): The new Victorian chiller from the author of Radio 2 Book Club pick, The Silent Companions.

Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?

Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

Why I requested it: Again, I am liking Bloomsbury’s Raven Books imprint and felt like something mystery-ish set in the past (which surprised me more than anybody). Laura Purcell’s debut has been racking up praise, so I cannot wait to see how her follow-up is. (Do you sometimes get retroactive fomo? I did get it with her debut.)

37534857City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender

Publication Date: November 20th

Publisher: Macmillan/ Tor-Forge

Blurb (from Goodreads): Five hundred years ago, magi created a weapon they couldn’t control. An infestation that ate magic–and anything else it came into contact with. Enemies and allies were equally filling.

Only an elite team of non-magical humans, known as sweepers, can defuse and dispose of infestations before they spread. Most die before they finish training.

Laura, a new team member, has stayed alive longer than most. Now, she’s the last–and only–sweeper standing between the city and a massive infestation.

Why I requested it: God, this sounds so brilliant. I requested it not thinking I would get it (I don’t think Tor often has the rights for Germany) but here we are and I am SO looking forward to this.

40908694The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Publication Date: February 7th, 2019

Publisher: Scribner (UK)

Blurb (from Goodreads): The eagerly awaited new novel from the author of The Age of Miracles.

Imagine a world where sleep could trap you, for days, for weeks, months… A world where you could even die of sleep rather than in your sleep.

Karen Thompson Walker’s second novel is the stunning story of a Californian town’s epidemic of perpetual sleep.

Why I requested it: I don’t remember who it was but somebody online said this was their favourite of the year so far. So, excited is an understatement. It sounds amazing and the cover is stunning and everything about this screams “read me now”.

Read and Reviewed:

40022793Putney by Sofka Zinovieff

Publication Date: July 12th

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): It is the 1970s and Ralph, an up-and-coming composer, is visiting Edmund Greenslay at his riverside home in Putney to discuss a collaboration. Through the house’s colourful rooms and unruly garden flits nine-year-old Daphne – dark, teasing, slippery as mercury, more sprite than boy or girl. From the moment their worlds collide, Ralph is consumed by an obsession to make Daphne his.

But Ralph is twenty-five and Daphne is only a child, and even in the bohemian abandon of 1970s London their fast-burgeoning relationship must be kept a secret. It is not until years later that Daphne is forced to confront
the truth of her own childhood – and an act of violence that has lain hidden for decades.

‘Putney’ is a bold, thought-provoking novel about the moral lines we tread, the stories we tell ourselves and the memories that play themselves out again and again, like snatches of song.

Why I requested it: It sounded intriguing and the cover is beautiful. And I enjoyed it but it made me need a shower. (You can find my review here)

Have you read any of these books? Which are you most excited about? Do you have any arcs that you are dying to read?