Wrap Up: February 2018 or I read so very many memoirs

I had an okay to good reading month. I read some absolutely brilliant books, finished a few meh books, and have also been stuck on some books for longer than I would like to admit (How I Lose You is taking me forever). I did read a lot of books though.

These are the books I read this month:

  1. I Am I Am I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale: 2 out of 5 stars
  3. Mean by Myriam Gurba: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot: 5 out of 5 stars
  6. All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells: 4 out of 5 stars.
  7. The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn: 3 out of 5 stars.
  8. This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins: 4 out of 5 stars.
  9. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie: left unrated.
  10. Meaty: Essays by Samantha Irby: 4 out of 5 stars.

Favourite of the Month

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot was just so unbelievably stunning that I still don’t really have the words to talk about it. It is hypnotic and mesmerizing, honest and raw, and most of all poetically beautiful. And also the opposite of cathartic.

Mean by Myriam Gurba is another memoir that I can only recommend.

Stats (ish)

My reading month was dominated by memoirs and genre fiction. More than half of the books I read were memoirs or essay collections or something in between. This has never happened but I am loving every second of it.

I finished 2929 pages worth of books. Of these ten books I read six memoirs, two science fiction books (one of those was a novella), one post-apocalyptic book, and one fantasy book. Three books were written by men, seven by women. six books were written by people of colour (so at least I seem to be succeeding with parts of my resolutions).

How did I do with my TBR:

This month I set myself a TBR; I don’t usually do this but I had so much fun thinking about the books I might read this month. I think I will keep doing this, if only for the fun. Because sticking to a TBR? Not that much my thing. I read a lot more non-fiction than I thought I would this month. But memoirs seem to be the kind of books I gravitate to right now. I will take that into account for my TBR next month.

I read two books of my TBR… Oops.

Currently Reading:

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson: I am absolutely loving this. I am listening to the audio book of this and Juno Dawson is hilarious.

The Sea Beast takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen: I am nearly finished with this and have a few thoughts that I still need to organize in my head.

How I Lose You by Kate McNaughton: This is taking me forever. While I enjoy parts of it, others drag. I will finish this though, hopefully before the release date on the 8th.

(Some of the) Blog posts I loved:

I wasn’t very good at remembering to bookmark the posts I loved this month. So this list is “slightly” shorter this month.

I loved Paula’s review of a book I had never heard of before.

I am glad I am not the only one with way too many unfinished series. Also Jeroen agrees with my assessment of The Name Of The Wind.

And finally, Sarah compiled a brilliant list of upcoming SFF-releases.

How was your reading month? What was the best book you read?

TBR: ARC-Round Up 2018-II

I want to start something new: I will update on the ARCs I received, link to the reviews of the ones I have already read and generally talk about how excited I am. I also hope this will keep me organized. I don’t know how often I will need to post such lists because I seem to be seriously lacking in self-control when it comes to books I want to read and review. (Seriously, do you remember my bookish resolutions? I apparently don’t.)

I have last posted in the middle of January talking about the ARCs I still needed to read. You can find that post here. Since that post I have received 9 eArcs from NetGalley. The books are in no particular order below.

Still to be read:

37807353Happiness by Aminatta Forna

Publication Date: April 3rd

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): London. A fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. The distraction causes two pedestrians to collide–Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech. From this chance encounter, Aminatta Forna’s unerring powers of observation show how in the midst of the rush of a great city lie numerous moments of connection.

Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his “niece” who hasn’t called home in a while. Ama has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing.

When, by chance, Attila runs into Jean again, she mobilizes the network of rubbish men she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens–mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London–come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds.

Meanwhile a consulting case causes Attila to question the impact of his own ideas on trauma, the values of the society he finds himself in, and a grief of his own. In this delicate tale of love and loss, of cruelty and kindness, Forna asks us to consider the interconnectedness of lives, our co-existence with one another and all living creatures, and the true nature of happiness.

Why I requested it: This has been compared to KazuoIshiguro’s The Remains Of The Day, which I loved. The author was born in Glasgow and raised in Sierra Leone. Plus, the blurb sounds fantastic.

Continue reading “TBR: ARC-Round Up 2018-II”

Review: The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn

34921578Verdict: Fascinating premise, weak characters.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Published by Bloomsbury UK & NZ, February 20th, 2018

Genre: Dystopia/ Post-Apocalyptic

Find it on goodreads.

A chilling yet redemptive post-apocalyptic debut that examines community, motherhood, faith, and the importance of telling one’s own story.

When ninety-five percent of the world’s population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can’t afford to lose. Four years after the Rending, Mira has everything under control. Almost.

Then Mira’s best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first in this strange world and a new source of hope for Mira. But Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and soon other women of Zion do, too—and the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new world begins to fray. As the community wrestles with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world outside Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn’t return, Mira has to decide how much she’s willing to let go in order to save her friend, her community, and her own fraught pregnancy.

Like California by Edan Lepucki and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Rending and the Nest uses a fantastical, post-apocalyptic landscape to ask decidedly human questions: How well do we know the people we love? What sustains us in the midst of suffering? How do we forgive the brokenness we find within others—and within ourselves?

I love vague, quiet, introspective dystopian stories; the premise of this intrigued me to no end and I was hoping for something incredible. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed this; just not as much as I thought I would.

I loved the vagueness of the world building. All the reader knows is that six years prior to the events of this book, most people and most things vanished without a trace. What is left of the things is mostly in random piles, while those who are left of the people have to try to make sense of the changed world. These exploration of what makes us human is exacerbated when women start to fall pregnant and then giving birth to objects rather than babies. I adore the setting and I love that Schwehn left the how unexplained. I am not interested in the mechanics of apocalypse but rather in the human condition as influenced by it. But, and this is my main problem with this book, the characters were not all that well explored.

The story is told in first person perspective by Mira who was 18 when the Rending (this is what her group of people started calling the apocalyptic event) happened and she lost her whole family. She is supposedly plagued by the guilt of losing her brother but this never really felt the case as she kept forgetting him the moment something happened. Her relationship to Lana and Rodney is at the core of this book, especially her friendship with the former. But again we are told of her friendship rather than it being shown. This lack of an emotional core made it difficult for me to connect with her. Parts of this is very much on purpose I am sure: Mira is blunted by the Rending, this new world does not offer anything in way of comfort and as such this could have worked brilliantly if it had been explored more. As it is, I cannot help but wonder if I would have liked the book better had the protagonist been older. Now her narration felt superficial and left me feeling at a distance.

The timeless manner in which the story is told (I was unsure for a while when the Rending had occured and had just settled on the nineties when Mira starts talking about smart phones) worked both for and against my enjoyment of the story. I liked how it underscored the parable like story and how it made the story both personal and universal. But at the same time it further led to the protagonist being ill-defined. Her pop culture references were dated without there being an in-story reason for that.

So overall, I loved the worldbuilding and the premise and the language of parable, while the characters and their relationships did not quite work for me.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing (UK/NZ) in exchange for an honest review.