Recommendations: Realistic Short Story Collections

I have recommended short story collections before but as I have finally started reading them again, I figured it was time I wrote another post. I don’t think we talk about short stories often enough – a format that can be difficult to get right but when they are good they are often brilliant. Clicking on the covers leads to the books’ Goodreads pages.

Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff

I am in awe of Lauren Groff’s command of language – every single sentence ist perfectly done while not making the writing sound clinical but rather organic and captivating. I also really like the way she structures her stories – they never felt like they were working towards a punchline but rather their endings were perfectly done. Some stories I would have loved to spend more time with but I mean that as a compliment.

Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

I knew I would enjoy this pretty much from the first page on. Nafissa Thompson-Spires has a wonderful tone and an even better command of her stories. I found the stories uncomfortable and biting and so very very clever. Her characters feel real if often difficult and the situations they find themselves in are frustrating and perfectly rendered.

Some stories feature the same people again, which is something I always enjoy. I do like how this gave the stories more depth without them being incomplete without the added context – this is something that I assume is difficult to achieve but oh so satisfying when it works.

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

This collection has possibly my all-time favourite cover. I just adore it. And the stories within are as beautiful. Focussing on women and their complicated relationships to each other and to men, this collection blew me away. I never managed to actually write a review (I was newly pregnant when I read this) and I am sad about it because I should have shouted from the rooftops how brilliant I thought this was. I wish more people read this!

I Hold A Wolf By Its Ears by Laura van den Berg

I adored this! These stories were often sad, sometimes creepy, always impeccably structured. Van den Berg tells her stories unchronologically, often circularly, but always in a way that feels very deliberate and I appreciated this. The stories are told with a conscious darkness but never feel hopeless. Van den Berg focusses on characters that seem unmoored but are still anchored by something, often a sibling (I adore this!). Even when the subject matter is dark (and it is!) it never felt gratuitous or unnecessary to me.

Home Remedies by Juliana Xuan Wang

Really really good! These mostly realistic stories worked exceedingly well for me – especially those that were told unchronologically in a way that I have not encountered in short stories before. This way of telling a story is something I particularly enjoy, so I was very pleased when I realized what Wang was doing. Not every story did work for me but enough did that I will be reading whatever she writes next. I also cannot get over the absolutely stunning cover.

How To Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

I enjoyed these stories a lot with their thoughtful explorations on families, focussing on the lives of Laos immigrants and their children. I particularly enjoyed that the parents depicted really do try to do the best for their children even if they sometimes miss the mark or sometimes cannot be the parent they would love to be if they had more time/ money/ knowledge.

Pure Gold by John Patrick McHugh

A short story collection blurbed by and compared to Sally Rooney and Colin Barrett. McHugh’s prose is incredible (a stunning blend of more colloquial Irish English and super interesting descriptions and metaphors) and the way in which he structures his stories impeccable – this is a very, very bleak collection, featuring many sad and unlikable characters, that I could nonetheless see working for the right reader perfectly.

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.

 

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

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

Books I read in August:

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

Favourite of the Month:

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

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

Wrap Up: July 2019 or I might have finally read too many romance novels in a row

I did something stupid this month: I got Kindle Unlimited. I felt like a kid in a candy store and kind of went overboard with romance novels (again but this time for less money). I might have finally reached the end of that particular binge though – because many of these books I did not enjoy. And the books I loved this month were in different genres. So I might actually be back with my regularly programmed reporting next month (I keep saying that but it is bound to be true at some point).

Books I read in July:

  1. Mouth to Mouth by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  2. The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley: 5 out of 5 stars (review)
  3. Heat Stroke by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  4. Behind the Veil by Kathryn Nolan: 3,5 out of 5 stars
  5. The Trouble With Love by Claire Contreras: 3 out of 5 star
  6. Meant to be Kept by Amelia Foster: 2 out of 5 stars
  7. My Life in Shambles by Karina Halle: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. Remedy by Kaylee Ryan: 1 out of 5 stars (review)
  9. Whiskey Chaser (Bootleg Springs #1) by Lucy Score and Claire Kingsley: 4 out of 5 stars (mini-review)
  10. Untouchable by Sam Mariano: 2 out of 5 stars
  11. Catching Him by Aurora Rose Reynolds: 3 out of 5 stars (mini-review)
  12. Awayland by Ramona Ausubel: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
  13. After All by Karina Halle: 4 out of 5 stars
  14. Vera Nabokov by Stacy Schiff: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  15. Sidecar Crush (Bootlegs Springs #2) by Lucy Score and Claire Kingsley: 2 out of 5 stars
  16. Moonshine Kiss (Bootlegs Springs #3) by Lucy Score and Claire Kingsley: 2 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

The Mere Wife, hands down. I just really loved that book.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: July 2019 or I might have finally read too many romance novels in a row”