I am determined to have a better reading year than last year and very purposefully chose my books. I finally finished a few books I had been reading way too long and I am now trying to just pick the books I am absolutely feeling like going forward. This worked out well for this month.
Books I read in January:
Open Book by Jessica Simpson: 4 out of 5 stars
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo: 3 out of 5 stars
Things I Don’t Want To Know by Deborah Levy: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Magic Stars (Kate Daniels #8.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
You Perfect, Broken Thing by C. L. Clark: 4 out of 5 stars
The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Magic Heir (Aurelia Ryder #1) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Favourite of the Month:
My favourite thing I read this month were the first two installments of Deborah Levy’s living autobiography. The last part will be published later this year and I am very excited. While I do not always agree with Levy’s points, her prose is stunning and her structure impeccable. I cannot wait to read more of her backlist while I wait for her next book.
I read 8(ish) books this month. Six were written by women and two by an author team. Three books can be categorized as fantasy, three were non-fiction, one was translated fiction, and I also read one short story.
What I should be getting to next:
I am very close to finishing A Crooked Tree (started brilliantly, is currently dragging) and Hall of Smoke (great world, great main character, odd pacing). Afterwards I will hopefully start on my March ARCs. I am especially excited for Redder Days by Sue Rainsford and The Unbroken by C. L. Clark. Twitter decided on my next physical book (Piranesi by Susanna Clarke) and I could not be more excited. I also did not read a short story collection this month and need to remedy that as soon as possible.
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?
I love December in the bookish world – everybody is talking about their favourite books (I am still hoping for a few amazing books, so I will post in January) and about the books they are most looking forward to. The last few years I tried to write about my most anticipated books twice a year (for the first and the second half of the year) but as I am back at work from June on (then obviously with a child), I am unsure whether I will manage (I did not this year). Thus I decided to post more than one list now and include books for the whole of 2021. First up are the books I am currently aware of and excited for that can be categorized as SFF (the spectrum runs more from fantasy to speculative romance, rather than proper science fiction). I organized them by publication date; clicking on the covers will lead you to the books’ Goodreads pages.
Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder #1) by Ilona Andrews (published by NYLA, January 12th 2021) A new book in the Kate Daniels world? Sold. I don’t know much more but already preordered it. I will eventually read everything Ilona Andrews’ have ever written but the Kate Daniels series has my favourite worldbuilding.
Hall of Smoke by H. M. Long (published by Titan Books, January 19th 2021) I only read as far as the first half sentence of the blurb before requesting this book on NetGalley: “Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream.” I love books featuring gods (see my recommendation post here), which will be completely obvious by the end of this post. Early reviews are favourable and I hope to agree. I do not read enough epic fantasy given how often I adore it.
The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost #1) by C. L. Clark (published by Orbit, March 23rd 2021) What first piqued my interest is the, frankly, disgustingly perfect cover – I mean, just look at that perfection. I also enjoy the author’s presence on twitter and I am always up for kickass women in my fantasy. And two morally grey women fighting and possibly falling in love? Sign me right up.
The Helm of Midnight (The Five Penalties #1) by Marina J. Lostetter (published by Tor Books, April 13th 2021) I happen to really like books that combine more than one genre – when it comes with speculative elements, especially when it’s done in an epic fantasy kind of world, especially so. Thus my interest was already piqued when I realized this was serial killer novel fantasy. That the cover is beautiful didn’t hurt either. I am very excited for the magical homicidal death mask angle and the hints of a plotline and mythology.
Son of the Storm (The Nameless Republic #1) by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (published by Orbit, May 11th 2021) I adore fantasy novels that explore the idea that mythologies might have been passed on wrong – and the idea of an island nation that other places insist does not exist with magic of its own sounds like absolute catnip to me. Add shape-shifters and forbidden magic and I am all in. For some reason I never got around to Okungbowa’s debut even though it features gods, so if I like this one, I’ll surely go back and remedy that.
The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley (published by Bloomsbury, May 25th 2021) To be totally honest, I requested an ARC of this mostly because it was compared to David Mitchell and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Like I said, I like genre-bending books and I am always looking for something like Mitchell’s writing. This is apparently an alternative history, science-fiction, time-travel kind of book – this will either work brilliantly for me or not at all. I am excited.
A Dance of Smoke and Steel (A Gathering of Dragons #3) by Milla Vane (published by Berkley, June 8th 2021) I loved both books in the series so far (I haven’t yet read the novella because I am pacing myself). This is the dark and gritty fantasy romance of my heart. I thought the romance worked better in the first book but the world got way more exciting in the second part. Again, this features actual gods, mythology that differs depending on who is telling it, and kickass women – this series is basically custom-made for me. This might be the last book in the series but I am kind of hoping not because there is so much world yet left unexplored.
For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten (published by Orbit Books, June 15th 2021) I am easily swayed by comp titles, it seems. This one has been compared to Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale, both of which I adored, so this seems like it will be right up my alley. Fairytale re-tellings can be brilliant if they are done right – this seems to be a spin on Red Riding Hood and the wolf is not a monster but a man. Sign me right up, this sounds wonderful.
She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan (published by Tor Books, July 20th 2021) Speaking of re-tellings, this is based on Mulan which on its own would have been interesting but the setting during the Ming dynasty intrigues me to no end. I will have to see how I get on with the “pretending to be her own brother” part of the plot, as lying often makes me anxious but everything else sounds just too amazing.
Last Guard (Psy-Changeling Trinity #5) by Nalini Singh (published by Berkley, July 20th 2021) I cannot wait for this. I loved the first arc of this long-running series and I am excited to see where Nalini Singh takes her story next. I can always trust in her ability to spin stories I enjoy and her worldbuilding is impeccable. I should also be up to date with her other series (Guild Hunter) come next year, so I am also excited for the next book there.
The Thousand Eyes (The Serpent Gates #2) by A. K. Larkwood (published by Tor Books, August 24th 2021) I am SO excited for this. I adored the first book in the series (review) and loved where it left off. I love the way Larkwood blends fantasy with science fiction, I obviously adore the way she employs mythology, I thought the first book was perfectly plotted, and I just think this could be absolutely perfect. (No cover yet; link to Goodreads here.)
The first half of this reading month was rough – I only finished one book in the first two weeks and really, really hated it. Afterwards I tried to give myself leeway to just read whatever I want – but a rising number of Covid 19 cases made reading not as easy as it sometimes it. Thankfully the last few days of the month I kind of got back into reading. Lets hope this will keep up in December.
Books I read in October:
Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam: 1.5 out of 5 stars (review)
A Touch of Snow and Stone (A Gathering of Dragons #2): 4 out of 5 stars
Kink: Stories edited by Garth Greenwell and R. O. Kwon: 4 out of 5 stars
A Mind Spread out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Pew by Catherine Lacey: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Archangel’s Viper (Guild Hunter #10) by Nalini Singh: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I also DNFed Naked in Death (In Death #1) by J. D. Robb which was fine but not my kind of book.
Favourite of the Month:
I absolutely adored A Mind Spread out on the Ground – I was sure I would and it exceeded my high expectations.
I finished six book, four of which were written by women, one by a man, and the last one was an anthology by various authors. Two books were speculative romance, one was a horror/ satire hybrid, one literary fiction, one an essay collection, and finally one short story anthology.
I jinxed it. I had such good readings months and started to feel complacent. This was not a good reading month at all for me.
Books I read in October:
Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels #5.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
The Shapeless Unease by Samantha Harvey: 2 out of 5 stars (review)
Magic Gifts (Kate Daniels #5.4) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz: 4 out of 5 stars
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Favourite of the Month:
None of the books I read this month worked perfectly for me, even the four star reads were low four star reads. But I did enjoy spending time in the Kate Daniels’ universe again and am considering rereading the full-length novels soon.
I finished six books, of these books four were written by women and two by a husband and wife team. I finished one short story collection, one non-fiction book, one literary fiction novel, and three books that are broadly speculative in nature with a romantic focus.
I had a fairly good reading month, not as great as August though – which is probably due to my daughter sleeping a lot less and being a lot more active. I am still making my way though my ARC-backlist in the hopes of some day maybe catching up (one can dream).
Books I read in September:
In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: 5 out of 5 stars
You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South: 2 out of 5 stars (review)
Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels #3.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
Machine by Susan Steinberg: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
Pain Studies by Lisa Olstein: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy #5.1) by Ilona Andrews
Favourite of the Month:
In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado was every bit as brilliant as I expected it to be. I haven’t written a review yet because I want to pair the review with one for No Visible Bruises, a non fiction book about domestic violence that I am currently reading. That one, however, has the tiniest font and I can only read it during the day time hours (I feel old).
I read 7(ish) books this month. Of these books, five were written by women and two were written by a husband and wife team. I read two non fiction books, two literary fiction novels, one short story collection, and two Urban Fantasy books.
I am, again, reading too many books at once. Four really is my sweet spot, everything more messes with my reading mojo. I am hoping to finish a few of these books over the next week or so (both the Schwab and the Alam are published in early October and I would love to have my reviews up before that – this is probably too ambitious).
There was very little chance of me not enjoying this book – therefore it feels necessary to begin this review with a disclaimer. I have read more than 20 books by Nalini Singh in about 18 months, I love what she does with her world building and I nearly always adore the couple she centers in each of these books. I am in no way impartial. But, if like me you enjoy these books (or if you like romance and interesting sci-fi-esque fantasy worlds and haven’t read any of her books, I really recommend you remedy that!), you will be pleased to hear that her latest (the 19th full-length novel in her Psy-Changeling universe) is as great as we all hoped.
Singh explores a new dynamic here with a mating at first sight and while this for sure is not my favourite trope, I thought she pulled it off. Ethan and Selenka are an interesting and believable couple and I bought into their relationship immediately. They are, however, not my favourite and I enjoyed the parts concerned with the larger political developments more. I am very excited to see where Singh takes the story next as this book indicates some far-reaching changes. I have said so before but it is worth saying it again: if this series wasn’t primarily romance focussed, Singh would be one of the authors always recommended when impeccable world-building is discussed.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ireceived an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Catalina Baylor Trilogy (Hidden Legacy #3.5, #4, #5) by Ilona Andrews
I am upset. And I only have myself to blame.
I managed to hold of reading the first two books until the week the second full novel in the continuation of the brilliant Hidden Legacy series released and then I basically inhaled them. I obviously love this but you know what I do not love? The absolutely brutal cliffhanger and the fact that I now have to wait until at least 2021 to find out how this is going to be resolved.
I always love Ilona Andrews’ particular mix of kickass women, snark, great world building, and incredibly binge-able writing style. I thought Catalina was an incredible new main character and I love her. I love the family dynamics as much as I always did, I love her power and the way in which her modus operandi differs from her older sister. I did not love Alessandro as much as I loved Mad Rogan but he did grow on me. The world is as impeccable as ever and I can always trust that the Andrews’ have a plan.
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:
Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell: 4 out of 5 stars
Alpha Night by Nalini Singh: 4 out of 5 stars
The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Larkwood: 4.5 out of 5 stars (review)
Sisters by Daisy Johnson: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
Luster by Raven Leilani: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy #3.5) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel: 5 out of 5 stars (review)
Saphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4, Catalina Baylor Trilogy #1) by Ilona Andrews: 5 out of 5 stars
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!
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.
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.
White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews: 5 out of 5 stars (reread)
Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews: 5 out of 5 stars (reread)
By a Thread by Lucy Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Favourite of the Month:
My favourites were my rereads: the second and third book in Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series are as brilliant as I remembered them. I am really looking forward to finally continuing with the series in preparation for the next book coming out.
I read 8(ish) books, all of which were written by women. I read two romance novels, two urban fantasy books, one short story collection and one short story, and two literary fiction novels nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Books I should get to soon:
I have for now given up on the Women’s Prize longlist and will instead be focussing on whatever strikes my fancy and hopefully a lot of fantasy reads. Given that I am currently always tired and napping all the time, I am unsure how much reading I will be doing at all, if I am being honest.