The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2021

As every year, I am surprised that the year is already half way over. I have had a pretty bad reading year so far but not doing this tag felt too sad.

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2021

By far the two best books I read were by authors whose previous books I also five-starred (I am sure there is a lesson here that I will, as always, forget as soon as I post this). Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain is near perfect: its structure is clever, his use of repetition makes it easy to follow without becoming boring, and his research is impeccable. The Sacklers are the worst though – it took me a while to settle on a least favourite Sackler but I think I got there in the end (It’s Richard). Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is just a perfect book, no word is wasted, no idea left unexplored. I so wish for it to win the Women’s Prize.

Continue reading “The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2021”

Wyrd and Wonder: Let’s talk about series (+ favourite completed series)

As a fantasy and romance reader, my reading is often series heavy – and when I enjoy a series this is one of my favourite parts of reading. I love the depth possible when many books are set in the same world, I love how invested I can become in characters when I have multiple books to spend time with them, and I also like being able to be reasonably sure I will love a book.

I have said in the past that I am not good at reading series – this is not actually quite true I have realized over the last few years (and about 20 books in the Psy-Changeling series later). I am admittedly not that great at finishing trilogies but longer series I enjoy I often inhale – especially if they are romance heavy or adjacent.

I have not been able to post as many non-review posts as I would like this last year- and I have especially not been able to shout my love from the rooftops as much (it feels like I read more disappointing books lately than earlier in my blogging journey, although this does not seem to actually have been the case). I am currently writing this series of posts on series (still to come are “Series I Love and Want to Keep Reading”, “Series I Read the First Book of and want to continue on with”, and “Series on my TBR”) in the hopes of bringing more positivity to my blog again. These posts are partly inspired by Caitlin’s brilliant The Great Series Read Project which you should check out if you haven’t done so.

To start that positivity with a bang, here are some of my favourite completed series.

Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews (review and review)
This comes as no news to anybody as this series re-invigorated my love for Urban Fantasy a couple of years ago. I binge-read the first four books in a breathless (and sleepless) rush over the span of less than a week. It took me a bit longer to read the next five and then I still had to wait a few weeks for the publication of the last book. Ilona Andrews takes what is a fairly typical UF premise: loner, detective-type person solves crimes involving magic and/ or creatures, while falling in love with one of the suspects, and makes it incredibly readable. The world-building is inpeccable, Kate Daniels is a perfect main character, the voice is wonderful, and I ship the main couple a little bit too much. I am currently making my way through all the novellas set in this world and then maybe I will re-read the series. It is just that good. (I still do not love the covers.)

Psy-Changeling by Nalini Singh
The first arc of this still ongoing series finished with book 15 (plus novellas) – and what a satisfying first arc this was! You get the feeling that Singh knows exactly where she wants her story to go and the little hints she plants early on for later books is just brilliant. This paranormal romance series is set in the future and features both Psy and shapeshifters. Each book focusses on another couple but the overall story is what keeps me hooked even if I do not love each individual couple. Incredibly, the series does not show any signs of becoming weaker and I do not foresee myself ever disliking any book Singh writes.

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin is my favourite author and this is her masterpiece. She won three consecutive Hugo Awards for these books – and rightfully so. The trilogy is near perfect, the first book especially was something close to otherworldly for me (review here). I do not know if there is another book that is this perfectly suited to my reading tastes. If you have not gotten around to this series, I really cannot recommend it highly enough.

The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

While not as perfect as the Broken Earth trilogy, this is also an incredible series. It does something I particularly love in fantasy: feature gods. I don’t think Jemisin quite stuck the landing with this one but the first two books were so great. I especially love how distinctly not-human the gods are and I love how the later books recontextualize what happened before. (review for the first book here)

The Divine Cities Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett

Another series featuring Gods (I love it so!), this is set in a world where after a huge war, some gods are missing and/or dead and everything they have built is still there but malfunctioning without the entities that cancelled out certain natural laws powering them. The first book is a murder mystery kind of character heavy secondary world urban fantasy and absolutely brilliant (review here) – but the two other books in the series are also pretty damn amazing. The books feature some of my favourite characters and some of the imagery will stay with me forever, I am certain.

The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden

In what should be obvious by now, this is also a series featuring gods. Set in the North of Russia with its seemingly neverending winter, drawing both on fairy tales and real life history, I adored this. I inhaled the first book (review here) and have been a fan of Katherine Arden’s writing ever since. I didn’t quite love the second book but thought the third book really stuck the landing (review here).

What are some of your favourite series? I am particularly always looking for good urban fantasy, preferably written by women and I also am never unhappy to see a heavy romance focus.

Favourite books of 2020

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a New Year’s Eve as good as it could be under the circumstances. Mine was low-key but lovely and I am genuinely excited to live in the new year. I always spend New Year’s Day looking back at my reading and planning ahead. This year I decided to start this with one of my favourite posts to write: My list of favourite books of the year.

I read less in 2020 than I have in the past: usually I easily manage to read 100+ books a year; this year it became clear early on that this wouldn’t happen and I ultimately read 75 books. But I also read some truly amazing books that I want to keep shouting from the rooftops about. Quite a few books on this list can be categorized as “Rachel was right and I should have listened earlier” (if you look at her best of 2019 year list, you’ll see (spoiler alert) quite some overlap).

My list is composed of ten books, 8 of which were written by women, one by a husband and wife team, and one by a man. 5 books are fiction and 5 books non-fiction. The list is embarrasingly white (7 of the ten authors) which is something I want to be more mindful of this coming year.

10) Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
One of the first books I read and one of the very best. I loved this book a whole lot – everything about it just ticked a lot of my boxes. The big draw for me is the way in which Evaristo’s language flows (this will be a running theme here) and the way in which she made me invested into every single character’s story. I would have loved for this to win the Women’s Prize (even if I also really really liked Hamnet) or for this to have won the Booker on its own. (review)

9) Actress by Anne Enright
This was hands down my favourite of the Women’s Prize longlist and a book I would surely not have read if it hadn’t made the list. I thought the prose was beyond excellent, and the winding, narrowing stream-of-consciousness narration a thing of absolute brilliance. I think part of my enjoyment comes down to the audiobook which Enright reads herself, absolutely pitch-perfect. I liked this so much that I want to go back to Enright’s older stuff to see what I missed before. (review)

8) A Mind Spread Out On The Ground by Alicia Elliott
In this absolutely incredible work of non-fiction, Elliott combines memoir with essay writing, drawing from her own experience and extrapolating to larger societal problems in a way that seems custom-made for me. I thought this was incredible. Heart-breaking. Clever. Impeccably structured.

7) The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
I loved this. So very, very much. It does many things I adore in fiction: old unchronologically from a variety of points of views, featuring difficult characters that I nevertheless rooted for (especially Vincent who I just adored), with hints of the supernatural as manifestation of guilt, scenes that would recontextualize what came before, and above all the author’s incredible way with words. (review)

6) In The Dream House by Carmen Mario Machado
One of the rare books that is as impeccably written as it is emotionally resonant. Machado was already one of the writers I am always most looking forward to reading but this was something else. She chronicles her own abusive relationship while also flexing her impressive writing muscles and the end result is a stunning, perfect book of narrative non-fiction.

5) Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews
I love, love, love this series by Ilona Andrews and this installment was my favourite of the year by the author duo (and I read 9 books written by them). I cannot believe I have to wait until 2022 for the final book in this second trilogy but I am sure the wait will be worth it. I am making my way through their complete backlist (including the novellas) and I am loving pretty much every minute of it. (review)

4) Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson
Incredibly well-written memoir in essays; dealing with female bodies, illness, bodily autonomy, and many things more. The essays hit me right in the feelings and I found them perfectly structured. Everything about this works for me. I listened to the audiobooks which I can whole-heartedly recommend.

3) No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder
One of the final books I finished this year and really one of the very best. It is impeccably researched and absolutely breathtakingly structured. Snyder uses case studies to illustrate her points and to drive home the emotional impact of what she is writing about. She did have to make some decisions regarding what she will focus on and I am not always sure they were necessarily the best (she nearly exlusively focusses on heterosexual relationships) but it did make the book insanely readable. I teared up more than once reading this and I want to put this into everybody’s hands.

2) The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
or, the book that should have won the Women’s Prize but somehow wasn’t even longlisted. This is brilliant. Hands down, perfect. Structured incredibly clever, with wonderful prose, and a narrator that I wanted to shake but also could not help but feel for. I will eventually read everything Levy has ever written, probably starting with her ongoing non-fiction project – this book was just that good.

1 ) Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
I read this book back in February and nothing could top it for the rest of the year. This is narrative non-fiction at its finest. Combining more personal stories with a more general overview of The Troubles, I could not imagine this book being any better. I felt more knowledgable upon finishing it while also thinking this was impeccably written. What an absolutely brilliant piece of narrative non-fiction.

What was your favourite book of the year? Have you read any of these?

Best ARCs I read

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

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (review)

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

The Pisces by Melissa Broder (review)

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

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

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

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

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

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (review)

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

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (review)

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

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

Review: The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Lardwood

45046552Verdict: Delightful, clever, incredible world-building – not my favourite main character.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Published by Pan Macmillan, February 20th 2020

Find it on Goodreads.

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does. She will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice. On the day of her foretold death, however, a powerful mage offers her a new fate.

Csorwe leaves her home, her destiny, and her god to become the wizard’s loyal sword-hand — stealing, spying, and killing to help him reclaim his seat of power in the homeland from which he was exiled.

But Csorwe and the wizard will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

I loved very many things about this. The worldbuilding is impeccable and wonderfully integrated into the main storyline, giving just enough details to make the world(s) believable without overwhelming the narrative. I loved the prose which I found lyrical enough to work for me while being somehow quintessentially “fantasy”. I nearly always love fantasy books dealing with deities and this one was no exception. Set in a multi-world multiverse governed by many different deities, some of these half dead or lost, with many different belief-systems, our focus is Csorwe who was supposed to be a sacrifice to her (creepy and horrifying) god until a visiting wizard rescued her and made her his bodyguard/ assassin/ ward.

I adored this – the book just worked for me in every single way, except for Csorwe who I found indistinct and to be honest, sometimes painfully daft. She kept getting herself into situations that obviously would not work out the way she expected them to and she never seemed to learn. I did really appreciate her rivalry with another of the wizard’s men and their banter was great. I also loved the fraught and complicated relationship she has with her mentor and the way this wrapped up had me glued to the page. I was not so keen on the love story which ultimately kept me from giving this the whole five stars.

My favourite part of this sci-fi/ fantasy hybrid was the underlying mythology and the way in which Larkwood fleshes it out with different deities and their believers; in parts creepy, in parts interesting, always fascinating. There are so many ways in which the story can be developed next and I am excited for most of them. I had such a great time reading it and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel. This is the best high fantasy novel I have read in ages.

Content warning: disfigurement, death, huge serpents, death cults

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

The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2020

I cannot believe the year is halfway over. Being perfectly honest, I haven’t so far had the best of reading years. I was considering not doing this tag for the first time since I have my blog but that felt too sad.

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2020

I am trying to rank all the books I am reading this year (surprisingly hard!) and one of the things that I am struggling with is my top spot. At the moment it is between The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy and Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe. I cannot yet say which one will ultimately win out but I can say now that both of these books are incredible in their own way.

Continue reading “The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2020”

Favourite Books of 2019

I had a weird reading year – I mostly read romance novels which while they were just what I needed also don’t tend to stick in my brain for any length of time and I read very few SFF novels which usually comprise the majority of my reading. Thus compilling this list turned out to be a lot more difficult than usual – because I did not read that many absolute stand-outs.

Honorable Mentions:

Baiting the Maid of Honor by Tessa Bailey (my favourite of the many books of hers I read this year), A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride (read with the best reading group), Almost Love by Louise O’Neill (too harrowingly close to my own experiences to be something I enjoyed while reading but too brilliant to ignore), the complete Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh (the stand-out reading experience of my year)

Top 10:

2575054610) Act Like It by Lucy Parker (review)

My absolute favourite romance novel of the year, this combines many things I love in the genre: snarky enemies-to-lovers, fake dating, hilarious banter, wonderful secondary relationships. I have since then read every single book in this series and I will do so until Lucy Parker stops writing them. Did I mention it is set in London’s West End?

40236964._sy475_09) Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

I did not read nearly enough short story collections last year (something I will try to remedy in 2020) but of those ones I read, this was hands-down my favourite. While I normally gravitate towards the more weird end of the spectrum, these hyper-realistic stories focussing on familial relationships worked incredibly well for me.

2977402608) The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (review)

I loved this – even though I rarely think any book needs to be longer than 400 pages, this 800 page tome captured not only my attention but also my heart. This is a love letter to women – in the best possible way in that the women in here are allowed to be flawed and different and absolutely wonderful.

3839105907) The Winter of the Witch (Winternight #3) by Katherine Arden (review)

My love for this series is well-documented and this final installment was no different. There is just something about Arden’s writing that makes me happy – her distinct sentence structure combined with her literary and real world influences make this series just custom-made for me.

44543851._sx318_06) Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden (review)

This is such a cleverly constructed memoir that came together with the final essay in a way that I found beyond impressive. While I did not love every single chapter, the overall book is near perfect.

3792049005) Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse (review)

My favourite fantasy book of the year, I loved this enough that I am seriously  considering reading Roanhorse’s middle grade release from the Riordan imprint. I adore this post-apocalyptic urban fantasy grounded in Native American mythology more than I can say. This year will hopefully bring the first book in another UF fantasy series by Roanhorse and maybe if I am very lucky the third part of this series.

4012199304) The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang (review)

Hands-down my favourite non-fiction book in a year where I did not read enough non-fiction by a long-shot. This book is impeccably structured and unbelievably needed. Wang’s way of talking about her struggle with Schizoaffective Disorder is brilliant – and I not only felt like I learned a lot, I also really enjoyed my experience listening to this book.

3633213603) The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley (review)

I loved this so. I love her wonderfully flawed and actually quite awful women, I love the way Headley plays with language and perspective, I love the way she modernizes Beowolf and made it feel both modern and universal.

3847022902) The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (review)

This was my favourite from last year’s Women’s Prize shortlist by far and the one book that single-handedly made me excited about the list again after I spent a lot of time being rather underwhelmed. It’s another mythological retelling, this time a lot closer to the original myth but brilliant nonetheless.

3613638601) Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney (review)

No contest. I love this a nearly unhealthy amount. Everything about this book worked for me. I have listened to the audiobook twice this year and I will forever read everything Rooney writes.

 

Favourite Books of the Decade

I am in constant awe of the fact that soon we will be living in the 20s. These last ten years were eventful ones for me, mostly because this is the case for most people in their twenties, I reckon. I am not going to reminisce about that though because let’s talk about what really counts: my favourite books published between January 2010 and December 2019. I tried for weeks to narrow it down to ten but I just couldn’t, so here are be eleven absolutely incredible books in chronological order by publication year.

9214995The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch (2011)

The memoir against which I judge all other memoirs, Lidia Yuknavitch’s raw and honest and breathtakingly beautiful account of her life is a book I cannot recommend highly enough. Her sentences are stunning and this book is painful in its brilliance.

23593321Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)

I found this post-apocalyptic story hauntingly beautiful and impeccably structured. Told in vignettes of before, during, and after a world-altering outbreak of a disease, the story is a rummination of what makes us human as much as it is just a brilliant piece of story-telling. I didn’t love the other book by Emily St. John Mandel I read but I have an ARC for her upcoming novel and I could not be more excited.

20174424City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014)

This first in an urban kind of Epic Fantasy trilogy combines many things I adore in books: incredible worldbuilding, stories about gods, sharp characterisations, and main characters I could not help but root for even if they weren’t always perfect. I am not quite as invested in his newest trilogy, the first book of which I read last year, but this whole trilogy is among the best things written in the last decade.

23398763._sy475_Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014)

This short, little, perfect book made Celeste Ng an auto-buy author within a few pages. I loved everything about this – but especially the nuanced characterisations of people who seem too real to have come from somebody’s imagination. I found this book a lot stronger than Little Fires Everywhere and it is one I keep recommending to people in real life. (it also started my tradition of gifting my incredible stepmother sad books for Christmas)

23995336The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (2015)

It seems like I never talk about this book which is a shame because I love it so. This novel is more a set of interconnected short stories set in Chechnya but they built to something more than just the sum of its parts. I do not think I have read any author who is better at characterisation with just a sentence or two. Marra’s prose is near painfully beautiful and his stories are incredibly well-structured.

19161852The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (2015)

Of course this book made the list. I have not stopped shouting its praise since reading it and N. K. Jemisin is probably my favourite author of all time. This book is near perfect for me. Jemisin’s brand of fantasy with its political core and incredibly structured narrative is just everything to me. I also love books told at least in part in second person – so yes, perfect book is perfect. (If I had to name an absolute favourite of this list, this would be it.)

25622828The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks (2016)

My all-time favourite short story collection by my favourite short story author. Sparks’ prose in connection with her exuberant imagination, made this a near perfect reading experience for me. Amber Sparks’ language is neither too flowery nor too sparse but hits that sweet spot of being evocative without being too much, and of being precise without being boring.

27313170All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (2016)

This book sits comfortably in smack in the middle of my reading preferences, combining fantasy and sci-fi, chronicling in an interesting way a friendship slash love story, this firmly established Charlie Jane Anders as an auto-buy author for me. I love the weirdness and the emotional core of this book and have not stopped thinking about the ending in the years since I read it.

32187419._sy475_Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2017)

At this point, I feel like I find a way to talk about this book constantly – but damn, do I love this. Rooney has written the perfect book for me. Her characterizations are so sharp they cut deep, I felt so very much for Frances and even Nick (and I never feel for the older man having an affair with a younger women!). I like the understatedness of her prose which does nothing to hide the clear and precise picture she draws of human interactions.

37590570The Pisces by Melissa Broder (2018)

Another one of those books that I constantly bring up, The Pisces in unforgettable for me. Broder has written an incredibly sharp and honest portrayal of a woman who keeps hitting rock bottom and still manages to always choose the most damaging course of action – while also making her, at least for me, deeply relatable (and seriously hilarious). This is not a book for everybody but it is very much a book for me.

35840657Heart Berries by Marie Terese Mailhot (2018)

I adored this and have had troubles ever since articulating exactly what worked for me. Terese Mailhot packs an unbelievable punch into a book this short. I could not stop reading it: her language is hypnotic, her turn of phrase impressive, her emotional rawness painful. This book does not follow conventions, Terese Mailhot tells her story the way she wants to and needs to. She is unapologetically herself. She bares her soul and hides it at the same time.

Non-Fiction Mini-Reviews: The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang and Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

I know I said I was back, properly this time, but then I didn’t post for – let’s just say a few weeks. I am still not back in the groove and my reviews backlog is not helping. So I have decided to just admit to myself that full-length reviews won’t be happening any time soon. So, for the foreseeable future, I’ll only be posting mini-reviews and other bookish content and maybe at some point I will know how to write reviews again.

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

40121993Verdict: Incredible.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Personal Essays.

I absolutely, perfectly loved this book. The first essay took me a while because Wang gets fairly technical in her introduction to her personality disorder in a way that wasn’t easily accessible to me – but this basis is indeed needed. It grounds her book into a reality that helped me to put things into perspective in a way that I found highly effective and helpful. Esmé Weijun Wang has Schizoaffective Disorder and discusses her life and her illness through her own personal lense but always taking the larger picture into account – that she worked in psychology before being diagnosed herself helps ground this memoir. I found her voice incredible – and incredibly needed. Oftentimes we do not hear of those people directly influenced by what Wang calls the “Collected Schizophrenias” but rather of those who are indirectly influenced (family members and other loved ones). Everything about this book worked for me – and most of that is down to Wang’s impeccable command of language and structure. Her essays are not only interesting and needed but also near perfect on a technical level – my favourite type of non-fiction. This is for sure my favourite non-fiction book of the year and one I cannot recommend highly enough.

Content warning: hallucinations, paranoia, involuntary section, discussions about the possibility of passing her illness to her potential children

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

34763824Verdict: The ending alone makes this worth reading.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Memoir

I loved this – but it is also a memoir that needs the reader to trust the author. T Kira Madden’s memoir is impeccably structured in a way that I highly appreciated by the end. She tells of her life in fragments, not always taking time to ground the reader, and some the chapters did not work for me – until the incredible last essay that reframes much of what came before and had me so in awe that I set staring at nothing after finishing the book. For me, the language alone would have been enough to make this a worthwhile read, so much that I didn’t mind when the book still felt a bit aimless to me – but wow, that ending. I am still realing, nearly a month after finishing it. Madden does something clever here that I cannot quite discuss without taking some of the impact away but believe me when I say that I will be reading whatever she puts out next.

Content warning: Sexual assault of a minor, neglect, drug abuse, disordered eating (incl. bulimia), racism, slurs, forced adoption

My Favourite Authors

Instead of writing all the reviews I still have to write, I found this tag on Jennifer’s channel Insert Literary Pun Here and could not stop thinking about it. The tag, created by Steve Donoghue, works like this: you name six authors that aren’t quite your favourite, four authors that maybe are your favourite and then you rank your five favourite authors.

This was pretty hard; as always, I find it easier to name my favourite author, singular, than naming my favourite authors, plural (I have the same issue with favourite book vs. favourite books, favourite movie vs. favourite movies): naming more than one makes me want to definite criteria. What makes an author a favourite? Can somebody be a favourite if I have only read one book? Can an author whose books I haven’t read in years still be considered a favourite? But it was fun thinking about this and even if I am sure that the list would be completely different had I done it half a year ago and will surely change in the coming years (at least I would hope so, I am eternally looking for new favourite authors), I want to have this post on my blog to be able to look back to it.

Not Quite

Ilona Andrews

There is something safe and wonderful about Ilona Andrews’ writing. I haven’t read everything the duo has written (this will become a running theme here) but I adored, adored the Kate Daniels’ series and the first trilogy in their Hidden Legacy series got me through a particularly grueling time last year. They will always have a soft spot in my heart. The books are snarky, the banter between the love interests is brilliant (and I ship them more than is healthy), and the world building is excellent. In a genre I often struggle with, these books are a definite highlight for me.

Robert Jackson Bennett 

Again, I haven’t read everything he has written but his The Divine Cities trilogy is one of my all time favourite series. I am also super excited to see where he is taking his current series next (the second book will be published early 2020). I love what he has to say about fate and gods and the interaction between these two things. His characterizations are brilliant and his language sharp.

Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson is just so very clever. She is arguably currently the best at what she does: creative non-fiction that centers herself unashamedly while combining it with social and gender theory. I adore the way her mind works and her books are always a joy to read. I haven’t read her poetry and don’t plan on doing so, but I will surely read everything else she ever publishes.

Neil Gaiman

This is an odd one – because Gaiman started out in my favourites pile until I filled the spots in and realized he isn’t quite there for me anymore and then I kept bumping him lower and lower. I love his writing and I have read nearly every book he has published – but somehow his writing doesn’t feel like a favourite for me anymore.

Amber Sparks

She is my absolute favourite short story writer and I cannot wait to read her new collection next year – but for some reason or other I cannot think of her as a favourite writer. She’s brilliant on twitter though and I want more people to read her work, so if you like short stories with a speculative slant, you really should check her out!

Katherine Arden

The Winternight trilogy has a special spot in my heart: it is the first series I completely read as review copies before each book released. My most successful review on Goodreads is for one of her books I haven’t read yet and all I said was “I would read Katherine Arden’s shopping list if she published it” (I am not at all bemused by that fact and not at all bitter that this is the review that gets noticed when I put so much more effort into others I have written). Her writing feels custom-made for me: lush language with an immersive world-building, set in Russia in its endless winter, combining fairy tales with original stories, with a love story that work for me in a way it should not have. I really hope she’ll publish another adult book soon – although I will eventually pick up her middle grade.

Maybe

Nalini Singh

I adore Singh’s writing – but the whole is greater than its parts. I have read nearly every book in the Psy-Changeling series, plus the novellas, and while not every book worked for me, overall I find her world incredible. The world-building is impeccable and exciting, her characters are recognizable over long stretches of time, and I love her approach to romance. It is a shame her worldbuilding is not discussed more often in the fantasy community, as it really is brilliant, but I guess that is part of writing romance. I love her though and am currently making my way through her backlist (which is thankfully extensive!).

Lauren Groff

Groff feels like a favourite author without her books being absolute favourites of mine. I really like the way her language flows and find her prose so very soothing in the best possible way. Her short stories are brilliant but I also adored Fates and Furies which is pretentious in the best possible way. I own her other two novels but for some reason never pick them up. I really need to change that.

Melissa Broder

Even if she only ever wrote one book, The Pisces would be strong enough for her to feature on this list. It was my absolute favourite book of last year and my favourite to win this year’s Women’s Prize (I am sad it didn’t even make the short list). Lucy is such an endlessly compelling character and Broder’s observations and the way she describes the awful normality of sadness really resonated with me. Her memoir was not quite as strong but a really interesting framework for her novel. I cannot WAIT for her next book – my expectations could not be higher.

David Mitchell

My favourite male author, hands down. I adore David Mitchell’s writing. He is so good at conjuring awful characters and making them feel real in an instant. His command of narrative voice is incredibly impressive and his novels that are often closer to collections of very interconnected short stories, stay with me long after I finish them. I have two of his books left on my shelves and I am saving them for a figuratively rainy day. I was informed today that his new novel is coming out next summer and I could NOT be more excited.

Favourites

5) Sally Rooney

The newest addition to this list, Sally Rooney blew me away with her debut Conversations With Friends when I read it earlier this year. There was never any doubt in my mind that her book would top my best of the year list, it spoke to me so deeply. I loved everything about it, from her sharp language, to her flawed but sympathetic main character, to the way she made me feel for Nick, to her wonderful way with dialogue. Everything about the book just worked for me. Her second novel Normal People is brilliant but I am unsure if anything can ever top Conversations With Friends for me.

4) Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s writing works best for me in short stories. I don’t even think she is capable of writing a bad story. Her essays are brilliant as well and her non fiction regularly rips my heart out. I haven’t read her novel because I am scared it will scar me, but I follow what she does online very closely. She is an incredibly editor who chooses incredible voices and manages to make them even better, I think. She is such a hero.

3) Lidia Yuknavitch

The Chronology of Water is my alltime favourite non fiction book. Yuknavitch forever defined what I think of as possible in memoirs. The book is, on a sentence-by-sentence basis, incredible. Her turn of phrases are so sharp, so raw, so honest, they cut me to the bone. Her prose is definitely her biggest strength for me, but her way of connecting the real with the fictional (as done so in The Small Backs of Children) is a close second. Again, I need to read her other books but I am also scared to get to the end of her work and to have to wait. She will publish a collection of short stories later this year and I am ecstatic to get to read those.

2) Christa Wolf

I have read nowhere near her complete works, but Kassandra is, as most of you will know, my favourite book of all time. I also really loved Medea and Kindheitsmuster and I am planning on eventually reading everything she has ever written. She should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature but it wasn’t meant to be. Her writing still is incredible and I wish more people would read her.

1) N. K. Jemisin

Like I said, Favourite Author is easy for me: N. K. Jemisin is the best. I adore her brand of socially critical fantasy, I love the way she writes her characters, I adore her on twitter and in speeches, I think The Fifth Season is the best fantasy book written, possibly ever, I adore what she does with perspective and framing, and I think she deserves all the acolades she gets. She isn’t only an outstanding fantasy author, she is outstanding, full stop. I still haven’t read her collection of short stories nor her first duology but that does not detract from the fact how very brilliant I think she is.

Who are your favourite authors? How do you define who makes that list and who doesn’t? Do you find the singular or the plural easier to decide?