Wrap Up: September 2018 or that was a three star kind of month

I had a surprisingly good reading month, numbers-wise – normally September is not that brilliant for me, but this time around I actually read ten books. Most of them were middle of the road though.

Books read in September:

  1. The Fire This Time ed. by Jesmyn Ward: 3 out of 5 stars
  2. The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski: 3 out of 5 stars
  4. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence: 4 out of 5 stars
  5. Rosewater by Tade Thompson: 4 out of 5 stars
  6. Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  7. The Corset by Laura Purcell: 3 out of 5 stars
  8. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey: 2 out of 5 stars
  9. Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  10. March: Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Yadin & Nate Powell: 4 out of 5 stars

I also DNFed The Sisters of the Winter Wood because I could not get on board with the prose, the poems, or the structure of the story. The thought of having to pick that up and reading another 400 pages made me very unhappy; so I put it down.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: September 2018 or that was a three star kind of month”

Review: The Corset by Laura Purcell

39098246Verdict: Phrenology creeps me out.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Historical/ Gothic Fiction

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing UK / Raven Books, September 20th 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?

Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

I got retroactive FOMO for Laura Purcell’s novel The Silent Companions because everybody seemed to be raving about it, so I knew I needed to read this one. Especially because it focusses on two women, one of them being a prisoner on trial for murder. I love books featuring unapologetically difficult women and Ruth and Dorothea definitely fit the bill.

Dorothea Truelove is a young, unmarried woman, with plenty of suitors who would rather spend her time doing charity work (do not take her to be a kind person though, she really is not). She is most interested in prisons, as she has a strongly developed theory of phrenology that she feels the need to prove (which proves my point about her being maybe not the best person). As such, Ruth seems to be the perfect specimen to research for her: Ruth is sixteen and in prison awaiting her trial that will most likely lead to her execution for murder. The story is told in these dual perspectives, where Ruth is telling her story to Dorothea and the reader is along for the ride to figure out whether Ruth truly killed her mistress with her magic needle work.

For me, this was a really uneven reading experience. While I for the most part really enjoyed Ruth’s perspective and the ambiguity of her story, Dorothea’s part of the book did not work for me (except for the last chapter). Ruth is a compelling character, whose tough and hatred-filled veneer starts to crack the further her story developes. She is still so childlike while being so very broken, it hurt my heart. Dorothea on the other hand with  her boring social life and her creepy obsession with phrenology did not quite keep my interest. This might be different for readers from different countries, but for me phrenology itself makes me very uncomfortable. I do not want to read about this and did not realize how obsessive Dorothea would be describing everybody’s skull (there is an in-story reason for this – but it did not change my gut reaction to this).

Furthermore, I found quite a bit of Ruth’s backstory to toe the line to torture porn, which probably says more about me as a reader than about the book to be honest. I would have liked to have these scenes be a little bit more scarcely used.

However, I found the ending to be very satisfying – Laura Purcell pulls together the two storylines in a really wonderful way. I was fine with the men’s storylines to be unresolved because in the end – this is a book about Ruth and Dorothea.

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

TBR: ARCs on my shelves part IV (2018)

I was SO proud of myself. I was doing so good. I got my NetGalley ARCs way down (I mean, they were in the single digits for like a hot moment). This is not the case anymore. I, again, have so many ARCs on my digital shelves. And so little time. (You can find my earlier round-ups here, here and here.) But oh, what wonderful books I got.

Still to be read:

356108231The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

Publication Date: June 7th

Publisher: Random House, Vintage (Jonathan Cape)

Blurb (from Goodreads): Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences, plus six years, at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. Outside is the world from which she has been permanently severed: the San Francisco of her youth, changed almost beyond recognition. The Mars Room strip club where she once gave lap dances for a living. And her seven-year-old son, Jackson, now in the care of Romy’s estranged mother.

Inside is a new reality to adapt to: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive. The deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner details with humour and precision. Daily acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike. Allegiances formed over liquor brewed in socks, and stories shared through sewage pipes.

Romy sees the future stretch out ahead of her in a long, unwavering line – until news from outside brings a ferocious urgency to her existence, challenging her to escape her own destiny and culminating in a climax of almost unbearable intensity. Through Romy – and through a cast of astonishing characters populating The Mars Room – Rachel Kushner presents not just a bold and unsentimental panorama of life on the margins of contemporary America, but an excoriating attack on the prison-industrial complex.

Why I requested this: I wanted to read this since the beginning of the year but then held off requesting an ARC because I had so many unread ones already – but now it is nominated for the Man Booker and here we are.

36396289Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

Publication Date: July 12th

Publisher: Random House, Vintage (Jonathan Cape)

Blurb (from Goodreads): Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.

A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.

Daisy Johnson’s debut novel turns classical myth on its head and takes readers to a modern-day England unfamiliar to most. As daring as it is moving, Everything Under is a story of family and identity, of fate, language, love and belonging that leaves you unsettled and unstrung.

Why I requested it: Again, it is nominated for the Man Booker – and it sounds absolutely bloody brilliant and I cannot believe this nearly flew under my radar. This sounds SO up my alley, it’s absurd.

40407148Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt

Publication Date: July 12th

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): A seductive, sensual and sinister love triangle set in 1930s America and inspired by the infamous Nabokov marriage

Zoya Andropova, a young Russian refugee, finds herself in an elite New Jersey boarding school. Having lost her family, her home and her sense of purpose, Zoya struggles to belong, a task made more difficult by her new country’s paranoia about Soviet spies.

When she meets charismatic fellow Russian émigré Leo Orlov – whose books Zoya has obsessed over for years – everything seems to change. But she soon discovers that Leo is bound by the sinister orchestrations of his brilliant wife, Vera, and that their relationship is far more complex than Zoya could ever have imagined.

Why I requested it: I am really enjoying the new Bloomsbury imprint Raven Books and this could be brilliant. But my request was pending for forever and then I was accepted after the release date and now I don’t know when I will get to it.

40206019Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young

Publication Date: August 9th

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): In Can You Tolerate This? – the title comes from the question chiropractors ask to test a patient’s pain threshold – Ashleigh Young ushers us into her early years in the faraway yet familiar landscape of New Zealand: fantasising about Paul McCartney, cheering on her older brother’s fledgling music career, and yearning for a larger and more creative life.

As Young’s perspective expands, a series of historical portraits – a boy with a rare skeletal disease, a French postman who built a stone fortress by hand, a generation of Japanese shut-ins – strike unexpected personal harmonies, as an unselfconscious childhood gives way to painful shyness in adolescence. As we watch Young fall in and out of love, undertake intense physical exercise that masks something deeper, and gradually find herself through her writing, a highly particular psyche comes into view: curious, tender and exacting in her observations of herself and the world around her.

How to bear each moment of experience: the inconsequential as much as the shattering?

In this spirited and singular collection of essays, Ashleigh Young attempts to find some measure of clarity amidst the uncertainty, exploring the uneasy tensions – between safety and risk, love and solitude, the catharsis of grief and the ecstasy of creation – that define our lives.

Why I requested it: I mean, duh, it sounds like such a me-book. Plus, I recently went to New Zealand and an essay collection/ memoir set there feels appropriate.

39780950Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Publication Date: August 9th

Publisher: Random House UK, Vintage Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): In this crackling debut collection Nafissa Thompson-Spires interrogates our supposedly post-racial era. To wicked and devastating effect she exposes the violence, both external and self-inflicted, that threatens black Americans, no matter their apparent success.

A teenager is insidiously bullied as her YouTube following soars; an assistant professor finds himself losing a subtle war of attrition against his office mate; a nurse is worn down by the demand for her skills as a funeral singer. And across a series of stories, a young woman grows up, negotiating and renegotiating her identity.

Heads of the Colored People shows characters in crisis, both petty and catastrophic. It marks the arrival of a remarkable writer and an essential and urgent new voice.

Why I requested it: I wanted to read this since before its US publication because it sounds brilliant and I am always up for exciting short story collections. Also, the UK cover is STUNNING. (I am currently half-way through and it is as brilliant as I hoped)

39225898Foundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennet

Publication Date: August 23rd

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books

Blurb (from Goodreads): The city of Tevanne runs on scrivings, industrialised magical inscriptions that make inanimate objects sentient; they power everything, from walls to wheels to weapons. Scrivings have brought enormous progress and enormous wealth – but only to the four merchant Houses who control them. Everyone else is a servant or slave, or they eke a precarious living in the hellhole called the Commons.

There’s not much in the way of work for an escaped slave like Sancia Grado, but she has an unnatural talent that makes her one of the best thieves in the city. When she’s offered a lucrative job to steal an ancient artefact from a heavily guarded warehouse, Sancia agrees, dreaming of leaving the Commons – but instead, she finds herself the target of a murderous conspiracy. Someone powerful in Tevanne wants the artefact, and Sancia dead – and whoever it is already wields power beyond imagining.

Sancia will need every ally, and every ounce of wits at her disposal, if she is to survive – because if her enemy gets the artefact and unlocks its secrets, thousands will die, and, even worse, it will allow ancient evils back into the world and turn their city into a devastated battleground.

Why I requested it: Because it is my most anticipated read of the second half of the year. I adore Bennett’s earlier trilogy and possibly squealed when I was accepted.

39287231City of Lies by Sam Hawke

Publication Date: August 23rd

Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers

Blurb (from Goodreads): Only a handful of people in Silasta know Jovan’s real purpose in life. To most, he is just another son of the ruling class. The quiet, forgettable friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible heir. In reality, Jovan has been trained for most of his life to detect, concoct and withstand poisons in order to protect the ruling family.

His sister Kalina is too frail to share in their secret family duty. While other women of the city hold positions of power and responsibility, her path is full of secrets and lies – some hidden even from her own brother.

Up until now, peace has reigned in Silasta for hundreds of years. But when the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army storms the gates, the so-called Bright City is completely unprepared. It falls to Jovan and Kalina to protect the heir and save their homeland – but first they must make their way through a new world of unexpected treachery – a world where the ancient spirits are rising . . . and angry.

Why I requested it: I am finding my overwhelming love for fantasy again (in normal years it is by far the genre I read most of) and I loved the way this sounded (it is also written by a woman, which never hurts a book in my case). The early reviews are favourable and the first sentence is just brilliant. I am super excited about this!

39098246The Corset by Laura Purcell

Publication Date: September 20th

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Blurb (from Goodreads): The new Victorian chiller from the author of Radio 2 Book Club pick, The Silent Companions.

Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?

Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

Why I requested it: Again, I am liking Bloomsbury’s Raven Books imprint and felt like something mystery-ish set in the past (which surprised me more than anybody). Laura Purcell’s debut has been racking up praise, so I cannot wait to see how her follow-up is. (Do you sometimes get retroactive fomo? I did get it with her debut.)

37534857City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender

Publication Date: November 20th

Publisher: Macmillan/ Tor-Forge

Blurb (from Goodreads): Five hundred years ago, magi created a weapon they couldn’t control. An infestation that ate magic–and anything else it came into contact with. Enemies and allies were equally filling.

Only an elite team of non-magical humans, known as sweepers, can defuse and dispose of infestations before they spread. Most die before they finish training.

Laura, a new team member, has stayed alive longer than most. Now, she’s the last–and only–sweeper standing between the city and a massive infestation.

Why I requested it: God, this sounds so brilliant. I requested it not thinking I would get it (I don’t think Tor often has the rights for Germany) but here we are and I am SO looking forward to this.

40908694The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Publication Date: February 7th, 2019

Publisher: Scribner (UK)

Blurb (from Goodreads): The eagerly awaited new novel from the author of The Age of Miracles.

Imagine a world where sleep could trap you, for days, for weeks, months… A world where you could even die of sleep rather than in your sleep.

Karen Thompson Walker’s second novel is the stunning story of a Californian town’s epidemic of perpetual sleep.

Why I requested it: I don’t remember who it was but somebody online said this was their favourite of the year so far. So, excited is an understatement. It sounds amazing and the cover is stunning and everything about this screams “read me now”.

Read and Reviewed:

40022793Putney by Sofka Zinovieff

Publication Date: July 12th

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): It is the 1970s and Ralph, an up-and-coming composer, is visiting Edmund Greenslay at his riverside home in Putney to discuss a collaboration. Through the house’s colourful rooms and unruly garden flits nine-year-old Daphne – dark, teasing, slippery as mercury, more sprite than boy or girl. From the moment their worlds collide, Ralph is consumed by an obsession to make Daphne his.

But Ralph is twenty-five and Daphne is only a child, and even in the bohemian abandon of 1970s London their fast-burgeoning relationship must be kept a secret. It is not until years later that Daphne is forced to confront
the truth of her own childhood – and an act of violence that has lain hidden for decades.

‘Putney’ is a bold, thought-provoking novel about the moral lines we tread, the stories we tell ourselves and the memories that play themselves out again and again, like snatches of song.

Why I requested it: It sounded intriguing and the cover is beautiful. And I enjoyed it but it made me need a shower. (You can find my review here)

Have you read any of these books? Which are you most excited about? Do you have any arcs that you are dying to read?