Wrap Up September 2020

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:

  1. In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: 5 out of 5 stars
  2. You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South: 2 out of 5 stars (review)
  3. Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  4. Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels #3.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Machine by Susan Steinberg: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  6. Pain Studies by Lisa Olstein: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  7. 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).

Stats(ish):

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.

Currently Reading:

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).

Review: Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford

“It wasn’t crazy to me. Being her daughter was all I’d ever known.”

Crooked Hallelujah – published by Grove Altantic, July 14th 2020

It’s 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and fifteen-year-old Justine grows up in a family of tough, complicated, and loyal women, presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. After Justine’s father abandoned the family, Lula became a devout member of the Holiness Church – a community that Justine at times finds stifling and terrifying. But Justine does her best as a devoted daughter, until an act of violence sends her on a different path forever. Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine–a mixed-blood Cherokee woman– and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma’s Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn’t easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world–of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados–intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.

In lush and empathic prose, Kelli Jo Ford depicts what this family of proud, stubborn, Cherokee women sacrifice for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. This is a big-hearted and ambitious novel of the powerful bonds between mothers and daughters by an exquisite and rare new talent.

Find it on Goodreads.

Verdict: Brilliant, heartbreaking, let down by the ending.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This is a book about family, or rather a book about mother-daughter-relationships. Following four generations of Cherokee women in their attempts to live their lives and to make better choices possible for their daughters, this book is focussed on the peculiar relationships women can have with their mothers. The story is told chronologically but jumping forward in time, sometimes in first person, sometimes in close third person, and as such fairly introspective. Kelli Jo Ford chose to tell every chapter from the perspective of the daughter in the relationship she focusses for this moment – and I adored that choice.

I thought this was excellent – especially when Ford focussed the difficult relationship between Lula (hyper religious and often harsh) and her daughter Justine (who has her own daughter at 16). I loved the parallels between these two women who seem at first glance very different but who both try their very best to change their daughters’ trajectories for the better. Both make the best of the limited choices they have – and this limitation of choices due to poverty is at the core of this book. Justine who is prickly, difficult, lonely, strong remained my favourite until the end.

There were two things that did not completely work for me. There is a chapter in the middle of the book that is only tangentially related to the rest of the book and that I found gratuitous in its depiction of homophobic violence. I also thought that the final chapter taking place in the near future in a climate change ravaged Texas, did not completely work. I understand the thematic relevance and I loved the mirroring Ford achieved here, I just would have liked to not have it take place in the future. But even if I have slight problems, this book was for many pages absolutely brilliant and I love the tenderness Ford’s writing has for her characters. Even when the women fight, they always, obviously love each other and only want to help each other.

Content warnings: rape, miscarriage, tubal pregnancy, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, Christian fundamentalism, death of loved ones, death of animals (horse), teenaged pregnancy, robbery, homophobia, epilepsy

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

Rachel and I have too many ARCs – another try at an emergency readathon (2020 edition)

Last year around this time, Rachel and I created a two-person-readathon to get our amount of unread ARCs under something resembling control. Ask me how that went! (Not great. Not great at all. I was newly pregnant and feeling pretty awful) But, it was fun! So we are doing it again the last two weeks of September and hopefully this time around I will actually make a dent into my (even bigger) mountain of unread ARCs. You are all absolutely invited to join but we don’t have any prompts, we won’t be doing anything fancy like reading sprints, but it is fun all the same!

Most of my ARCs are overdue and I do not even know how this will ever change – but I really am trying to at least get my number of unreviewed ARCs down significantly over the next few months.

I am currently in the middle of two ARCs – these will obviously my priority:

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

Published by Titan Books, October 6th 2020

I did not expect to be approved for this – it is Schwab after all and people have been looking forward to this book for years, but I did and I am so glad. I was super in the mood for her kind of writing and prefer reading on my kindle to reading physical books lately.

Crooked Halleluja by Kelli Jo Ford

Published by Grove Atlantic, July 14th 2020

I am absolutely loving this – but it is also a difficult read due to its content. I am super enjoying Ford’s characterization and her prose. If this keeps up, it will surely be one of my favourites of the year.

I usually read a few books at the same time but try to read different genres. Once I finish Crooked Hallelujah, I will pick one of my more literary fiction ARCs, and once I finish Addie LaRue, I will choose another speculative novel.

Literary Fiction

Machine by Susan Steinberg (published by Pushkin Press, August 6th 2020)

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld (published by Knopf Doubleday, September 1st 2020)

Pew by Catherine Lacey (published by Granta, May 14th 2020)

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (published by Faber & Faber, August 20th 2020)

Of those four I am most excited about Emezi’s second novel – I adored Freshwater and have high hopes that this will also be a favourite.

Speculative Fiction:

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri (published by Orbit, November 2018)

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron (published by HarperCollins, September 2019)

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (published by Titan Books, August 11th 2020)

Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam (published by Bloomsbury, October 6th 2020)

I am most excited about Empire of Sand – but I also never pick it up. I am fairly certain I will love it – many people with similar tastes to mine have already adored it, I love speculative romance, and Suri is a delight on twitter. I really should finally get to this. But I am also intrigued by Alam’s book, who is also a delight on twitter – but I also scare easily, so we will have to see how this horror/ fantasy/ thriller hybrid works for me.

I have also quite a few ARCs I have read parts of but for some reason did not finish. I hope to return to some of these and decide whether I want to keep reading.

This list of ARCs is by far not complete but it is more than enough to keep me occupied for more than the two weeks the readathon runs. And also, who am I kidding, I recently got an ARC of Melissa Broder’s second novel Milk Fed which does not release until next year but which I will probably read before anything else because I am so very excited (and this is how I manage to never ever catch up on my unread ARCs).

TBR: ARCs on my shelves part I (2020)

I have not felt the need to write up a post like this in quite some time – but I have quite a few ARCs now that I am super excited for and want to share that excitement. For many reasons, I am even worse at following TBRs than I used to be but some of these books I am so very much looking forward to that I am hoping to read and review these books before their publication date for a change.

49385085._sy475_The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mantel

Picador, April 30th

Station Eleven by the same author is one of my all-time favourite books, so you can imagine how excited I am that this newest book of hers is getting rave reviews. I need to carve out a day to immerse myself in what is likely to be one of my favourite books of the year.

47545450._sy475_Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh

Hamish Hamilton, May 7th

I really enjoy Mackintosh’s debut novel and am currently loving this one – I am about a quarter of the way through. Her prose is even better than in her first novel and I love the way in which she uses dystopian settings to explore human behaviour. People looking for a more classical dystopian novel are bound to be disappointed – but I get the feeling that this is just not the type of writer Mackintosh is.

44778722._sy475_The Shapeless Unease by Samantha Harvey

Grove Atlantic, May 12th

This is a non-fiction book about the author’s struggle with insomnia. I have read the first few pages and it seems like just my type of book. It is just the right mix of personal and experimental that I really appreciate in creative nonfiction.

52272255._sx318_sy475_Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight

Bloomsbury Publishing, May 14th

A book about a failed PhD student, obsession, and poisonous plants sounds like it could be perfect for me. I am hoping for difficult women and introspective narration.

50186889._sx318_sy475_Sisters by Daisy Johnson

Jonathan Cape, July 2nd

I adored, adored Johnson’s debut and have been looking forward to her next book ever since. Her prose and imagination are just perfect and her brand of magical realism really works for me. I am beyond excited for this one, which focusses two sisters and their complicated relationship.

43301992Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford

Grove Atlantic, July 24th

The cover drew me in and then the blurb featured this brilliant sentence: “Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world—of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados—intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.” – and I could not not request this. I love stories about familial relationships and I am interested in the influence religious devotion can have on those.

51541496._sx318_sy475_Luster by Raven Leilani

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, August 4th

Honestly, this novel about a twenty-something woman getting caught up in a couple’s open marriage sounds like it could be similar to The Pisces, which is always enough to convince me to try a book – I have been chasing that high since reading Broder’s magnificent book about a horrible woman.

48637753._sy475_The Harpy by Megan Hunter

Grove Atlantic, August 11th

Again, a book by an author whose debut I really enjoyed, this also has possibly my favourite cover of the year. The premise of a woman whose husband has cheated on her and in return has agreed to be hurt by her three times sounds incredible – coupled with Hunter’s strong prose, this could be a favourite for me.