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.

Wrap Up June 2021

I will just have to stop complaining that my reading month was awful. There is no way this state of affairs will change, especially now that I am back at work and really, really need to finish my PhD – as I just accepted a PostDoc job starting in August (I am super excited about the job and think I can do it very well but at some point this next year I will need to have the title for it).

This does mean a couple of things for my blog though: I cannot even attempt to write reviews for everything I read (which I have not been doing for about two years anyways) and this will be the part of my hobbies that is least likely to survive. I will for now change the way I do my wrap ups to include mini impressions of the books I read and hopefully will be able to write at least this post each month.

Books I read in June:

I began the month strong by finishing the absolutely incredible Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe (5 out of 5 stars): an impeccable researched and structured deep dive into the Sackler family (of OxyContin “fame) – my main takeaway is, as usual, capitalism is the worst and regulation is indeed not the enemy. The audiobook is read by the author himself which is always something I adore. Afterwards I listened to my chaotic buddy read: Brood by Jackie Polzin (4.5 out of 5 stars) – which has stuck and grown on me. It is a surprisingly gruesome story about a griefing woman and her chicken – and I loved her so much. She is prickly and sad and so sure of some things (and probably very wrong about them!) while being very anxious and unsure about other things. She is a near perfect character. Afterwards I fell even deeper into my reading slump, as I went back to work and got just hammered with things to do. Thankfully, I still have some Ilona Andrews’ books to read, which is what I did. I inhaled the first two books in their Innkepper Chronicles Clean Sweep (4 out of 5 stars) and Sweep in Peace (3.5 out of 5 stars) – they are just my “break in case of reading slump” authors. At least once a year they manage to ignite my love for reading anew. This is technically the third series of theirs that I am reading and while it is not my favourite, it has all the things I love about their work: great world building, brilliant characters with wonderful interactions, main characters that are just my kind of overly powerful women – and an emotional core that hits me as a surprise again and again. I also finally DNFed A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion which had been sitting at 62% read on my Kindle for six months. This is not a bad book by any means but I found it unfocussed and for me at least the mix between coming-of-age and thriller did not work. I thought the coming-of-age elements, even if they followed expected story beats (the skinny dipping scene, the awkward first kiss, the falling out with friends, the fights with sisters), worked beautifully due to how expertly the main character is drawn. The thriller-y elements on the other hand did neither work for me nor kept me interested enough to keep reading.

Favourite of the Month:

Empire of Pain was as brilliant as I expected it to be.

Stats(ish):

I finished four books, three written by women and one by a man. One book was non fiction, one fiction and two can broadly be categorized as Urban Fantasy (albeit with scifi explanations).

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

I should be trying to finally finish some of the books I have been reading for literal months – and stop adding more and more books to my currently reading shelf. 10 books is just ridiculous!

Most anticipated fiction releases of 2021

For my final post about my most anticipated releases of 2021 I will be rounding up books that interest me that can be categorized as either fiction, literary fiction, or short stories. I lumped these genres together because I did not find enough literary fiction releases I am excited about to merit a seperate post and short story collections usually do not get as much buzz – the combination is a bit clumsy because my taste in short stories skews towards the at least slightly speculative. You can find my round-ups of SFF releases here and of non-fiction releases here. I organized the books below by publication date and clicking on the covers will lead to the books’ Goodreads pages.

A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion (published by Faber & Faber, January 28th 2021)
The blurb sounds like the book is a thriller but it isn’t and I am intrigued to no end: “When their mother pulls on to the verge and tells Ellen to ‘Get Out’, they all know that is what she is going to do. What none of them know as they drive off leaving their twelve-year-old sister on the side of the road five miles from home, with the dark closing in around her, is what will happen next.” I have an e-ARC for this and hope to be able to get to before the year ends.

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (published by Grove Press, February 2nd)
This is such a great short story collection that I have already read and reviewed here. These dark but never hopeless stories focus girlhood with all its edges and are impeccably structured with incredible prose. I really hope this will find many readers. Lauren Groff blurbed it and agrees with me, for whatever this is worth to you.

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (published by Bloomsbury, February 2nd 2021)
I was so excited for this, I requested an ARC both from the US and the UK publisher and for some reason got both. Broder’s debut novel is one of my all-time favourite books and even if I didn’t love this one quite as much, her writing is as sharp as ever, her characterisation is still so real it hurts and the has cemented her place on my list of favourite authors.

Kink ed. by R. O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell (published by Simon Schuster, February 9th 2021)
The list of contributors reads like a who is who of a certain kind of literary fiction writer (one that I happen to adore), featuring short stories by Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado, Brandon Taylor (my favourite story on the bunch!), Alexander Chee, and many more. The anthology is as good as I hoped it would be – my review can be found here.

Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap (published by Small Beer Press, February 9th 2021)
This collection sounds incredible: dealing with myths and urban legends and being an immigrant. I have also recently read a bit of what Yap said about the process of writing this, of deciding not to write for the white gaze, and I am extremely looking forward to this. It’s possible that this will be too scary for me but I am willing to try anyways.

Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh (published by Berkley, February 23rd 2021)
I will read whatever Nalini Singh publishes next. I just love what she does, so much that I will even read every thriller-type book she writes. I don’t even really know what this is about, except that bones have been found ten years after everybody thought a woman left her rich husband and now her son starts investigating.

Redder Days by Sue Rainsford (published by Transworld Publishers, March 4th 2021)
I really enjoyed Rainsford’s earlier novel (review here) and jumped on the opportunity to receive an ARC of this book which I accepted without reading what the book is about. I adore her prose and her combination of the weird and horrific with the mundane. That this book features twins (I love stories about siblings) makes me even more excited.

Eat The Mouth That Feeds You by Carribean Fragoza (published by City Lights Books, March 23rd 2021)
Myriam Gurba blurbed this – so I am interested. This part of the description particularly appeals to me: “In gritty, sometimes fantastical stories about Latinx life, women challenge feminine stereotypes and make sense of fractured family histories.” I also do not read enough book published by smaller presses and hope to remedy that.

The Rock Eaters: Stories by Brenda Peynado (published by Penguin Books, May 11th 2021)
This collection of short stories has been compared to Kelly Link and Carmen Maria Machado, and to be honest, I didn’t need to know more to decide I wanted to read it. I like short stories that combine elements of speculative genres with literary fiction and this one sounds like it will deliver on that.

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (published by Riverhead, June 22nd 2021)
Hands down my most anticipated book on this list. I (shamefully) still haven’t gotten around to his Booker shortlisted Real Life but I am actually more excited for his debut collection of short stories. His story in Kink was by far my favourite and I cannot wait to read more of his stuff.

Objects of Desire: Stories by Clare Sestanovich (published by Knopf, June 29th 2021)
I am always looking for short story collections to read – as such when Brandon Taylor enthusiastically reommended this on Twitter that was enough for me to add this to my TBR. This part of the blurb made this a highly anticipated release: “In these stories, thrilling desire and melancholic yearning animate women’s lives–from the brink of adulthood, to the labyrinthine path between twenty and thirty, to middle age, when certain possibilities quietly elapse.”

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder (published by Harvill Secker, July 1st 2021)
The description of this book about a new mother who thinks she is becoming a dog and developing dog-like impulses sounds like it could be the very best thing to come out next year. If the writing is as sharp as the blurb makes me hope, this could very well be my favourite thing I read next year. I combines many things I am interested in: disaster women, early motherhood, surrealism. I hope it’s as good as I hope it is!

Magma by Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir tr. by Meg Matich (published by Grove Atlantic, July 13th 2021)
I often appreciate books about women in their early twenties who are in difficult/ abusive relationships, the cover is absolutely brilliant, and Rachel made me request this on NetGalley. I always want to read more books in translation so this seems an obvious choice.

Appleseed by Matt Bell (published by Custom House, July 13th 2021)
Matt Bell blurbs all my favourite short story collections – yet I have not read any of his books. I really want to remedy that and why not go with his newest book first. This seems to be a climate chance novel with dual time-lines (past and future), combining speculative elements with thruiller tropes – and I am here for it. (I am also now wondering if this book would have better fit with my SFF list but I am expecting more of a litfic slant here.)

Matrix by Lauren Groff (published by Riverhead, September 2021)
I love Lauren Groff’s writing and want to have one day read everything she has ever written. I have two books of her backlist left to read and I am even willing to read a book about nuns during the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine if she is the one writing it. There is something about the way her sentences flow that works extremely well for me. (no cover yet, so Goodreads link here.)

My Favourite Authors

Instead of writing all the reviews I still have to write, I found this tag on Jennifer’s channel Insert Literary Pun Here and could not stop thinking about it. The tag, created by Steve Donoghue, works like this: you name six authors that aren’t quite your favourite, four authors that maybe are your favourite and then you rank your five favourite authors.

This was pretty hard; as always, I find it easier to name my favourite author, singular, than naming my favourite authors, plural (I have the same issue with favourite book vs. favourite books, favourite movie vs. favourite movies): naming more than one makes me want to definite criteria. What makes an author a favourite? Can somebody be a favourite if I have only read one book? Can an author whose books I haven’t read in years still be considered a favourite? But it was fun thinking about this and even if I am sure that the list would be completely different had I done it half a year ago and will surely change in the coming years (at least I would hope so, I am eternally looking for new favourite authors), I want to have this post on my blog to be able to look back to it.

Not Quite

Ilona Andrews

There is something safe and wonderful about Ilona Andrews’ writing. I haven’t read everything the duo has written (this will become a running theme here) but I adored, adored the Kate Daniels’ series and the first trilogy in their Hidden Legacy series got me through a particularly grueling time last year. They will always have a soft spot in my heart. The books are snarky, the banter between the love interests is brilliant (and I ship them more than is healthy), and the world building is excellent. In a genre I often struggle with, these books are a definite highlight for me.

Robert Jackson Bennett 

Again, I haven’t read everything he has written but his The Divine Cities trilogy is one of my all time favourite series. I am also super excited to see where he is taking his current series next (the second book will be published early 2020). I love what he has to say about fate and gods and the interaction between these two things. His characterizations are brilliant and his language sharp.

Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson is just so very clever. She is arguably currently the best at what she does: creative non-fiction that centers herself unashamedly while combining it with social and gender theory. I adore the way her mind works and her books are always a joy to read. I haven’t read her poetry and don’t plan on doing so, but I will surely read everything else she ever publishes.

Neil Gaiman

This is an odd one – because Gaiman started out in my favourites pile until I filled the spots in and realized he isn’t quite there for me anymore and then I kept bumping him lower and lower. I love his writing and I have read nearly every book he has published – but somehow his writing doesn’t feel like a favourite for me anymore.

Amber Sparks

She is my absolute favourite short story writer and I cannot wait to read her new collection next year – but for some reason or other I cannot think of her as a favourite writer. She’s brilliant on twitter though and I want more people to read her work, so if you like short stories with a speculative slant, you really should check her out!

Katherine Arden

The Winternight trilogy has a special spot in my heart: it is the first series I completely read as review copies before each book released. My most successful review on Goodreads is for one of her books I haven’t read yet and all I said was “I would read Katherine Arden’s shopping list if she published it” (I am not at all bemused by that fact and not at all bitter that this is the review that gets noticed when I put so much more effort into others I have written). Her writing feels custom-made for me: lush language with an immersive world-building, set in Russia in its endless winter, combining fairy tales with original stories, with a love story that work for me in a way it should not have. I really hope she’ll publish another adult book soon – although I will eventually pick up her middle grade.

Maybe

Nalini Singh

I adore Singh’s writing – but the whole is greater than its parts. I have read nearly every book in the Psy-Changeling series, plus the novellas, and while not every book worked for me, overall I find her world incredible. The world-building is impeccable and exciting, her characters are recognizable over long stretches of time, and I love her approach to romance. It is a shame her worldbuilding is not discussed more often in the fantasy community, as it really is brilliant, but I guess that is part of writing romance. I love her though and am currently making my way through her backlist (which is thankfully extensive!).

Lauren Groff

Groff feels like a favourite author without her books being absolute favourites of mine. I really like the way her language flows and find her prose so very soothing in the best possible way. Her short stories are brilliant but I also adored Fates and Furies which is pretentious in the best possible way. I own her other two novels but for some reason never pick them up. I really need to change that.

Melissa Broder

Even if she only ever wrote one book, The Pisces would be strong enough for her to feature on this list. It was my absolute favourite book of last year and my favourite to win this year’s Women’s Prize (I am sad it didn’t even make the short list). Lucy is such an endlessly compelling character and Broder’s observations and the way she describes the awful normality of sadness really resonated with me. Her memoir was not quite as strong but a really interesting framework for her novel. I cannot WAIT for her next book – my expectations could not be higher.

David Mitchell

My favourite male author, hands down. I adore David Mitchell’s writing. He is so good at conjuring awful characters and making them feel real in an instant. His command of narrative voice is incredibly impressive and his novels that are often closer to collections of very interconnected short stories, stay with me long after I finish them. I have two of his books left on my shelves and I am saving them for a figuratively rainy day. I was informed today that his new novel is coming out next summer and I could NOT be more excited.

Favourites

5) Sally Rooney

The newest addition to this list, Sally Rooney blew me away with her debut Conversations With Friends when I read it earlier this year. There was never any doubt in my mind that her book would top my best of the year list, it spoke to me so deeply. I loved everything about it, from her sharp language, to her flawed but sympathetic main character, to the way she made me feel for Nick, to her wonderful way with dialogue. Everything about the book just worked for me. Her second novel Normal People is brilliant but I am unsure if anything can ever top Conversations With Friends for me.

4) Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s writing works best for me in short stories. I don’t even think she is capable of writing a bad story. Her essays are brilliant as well and her non fiction regularly rips my heart out. I haven’t read her novel because I am scared it will scar me, but I follow what she does online very closely. She is an incredibly editor who chooses incredible voices and manages to make them even better, I think. She is such a hero.

3) Lidia Yuknavitch

The Chronology of Water is my alltime favourite non fiction book. Yuknavitch forever defined what I think of as possible in memoirs. The book is, on a sentence-by-sentence basis, incredible. Her turn of phrases are so sharp, so raw, so honest, they cut me to the bone. Her prose is definitely her biggest strength for me, but her way of connecting the real with the fictional (as done so in The Small Backs of Children) is a close second. Again, I need to read her other books but I am also scared to get to the end of her work and to have to wait. She will publish a collection of short stories later this year and I am ecstatic to get to read those.

2) Christa Wolf

I have read nowhere near her complete works, but Kassandra is, as most of you will know, my favourite book of all time. I also really loved Medea and Kindheitsmuster and I am planning on eventually reading everything she has ever written. She should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature but it wasn’t meant to be. Her writing still is incredible and I wish more people would read her.

1) N. K. Jemisin

Like I said, Favourite Author is easy for me: N. K. Jemisin is the best. I adore her brand of socially critical fantasy, I love the way she writes her characters, I adore her on twitter and in speeches, I think The Fifth Season is the best fantasy book written, possibly ever, I adore what she does with perspective and framing, and I think she deserves all the acolades she gets. She isn’t only an outstanding fantasy author, she is outstanding, full stop. I still haven’t read her collection of short stories nor her first duology but that does not detract from the fact how very brilliant I think she is.

Who are your favourite authors? How do you define who makes that list and who doesn’t? Do you find the singular or the plural easier to decide?

Favourite Fiction Books of 2018

I have already talked about my least favourite books and my favourite non-fiction books of the year. Today I can finally talk about the fiction books I loved the most this year. These are books I read this year but not necessarily ones published this year. I have tried putting them in order of preference, but this order might have been a different one had I done it another day.

11) Florida by Lauren Groff

36098092I adore, adore Lauren Groff’s writing and her newest short story collection was one of the best things I read this year. I am slowly making my way through her back catalogue because I love the way she structures her sentences and her stories. These stories center (as the title indicates) on Florida, but more so they center women and their difficult relationships to themselves and their children. Beautifully done. Full review here.

10) Hidden Legacy Book 2 and 3 by Ilona Andrews

And this is where I cheat a little. I obviously adored reading many of Ilona Andrews’ books this year and this second series written by the duo made me very happy indeed. I adore the worldbuilding and I appreciate the central couple, which all things considered is surprisingly drama free and honest in their interaction.  My series review can be found here.

09) Kate Daniels’ Book 3 and 4 by Ilona Andrews

I adored my whole reading experience of this series, which I read completely this year and couldn’t not put it on my favourites list. I most of all loved books 3 and 4 which I read on two consecutive days, reading way too long into a night (something I don’t really do all that often because I need my sleep to properly function at work). These books are wonderfully plotted with a brilliant world and a relationship at its heart that I rooted for way too much. My two series reviews are here and here.

08) Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

36396289My favourite of the Man Booker longlisted books I read this year, I cannot believe this nearly went under my radar (I blame the cover which I do not like and which everybody else seems to weirdly love). Johnson retells an ancient myth and thoroughly modernizes it. I loved her prose and her play with perspectives (I do love a well-done second person narrative) and thought this was impressively done, even if the ending makes quite a lot of the subtext text and consequently loses some of its magic. My review can be found here.

07) Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

38606192This book made me very, very happy. I love fantasy books inspired by fairy tales and when they are set in the winter, I am in love. I adored this. My review can be found here.

 

 

06) A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel

16158505By far the best short story collection I have read this year. And my favourite cover. I love the way Ramona Ausubel’s language flows and how she constructs her beautiful but dark stories. (review here)

 

 

05) Vita Nostra by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko

38633526I cannot believe I left this book off when I excitedly published this post 20 minutes ago. Because I loved this so! It is so very custom-made for me that I cannot comfortably recommend it because I am so not objective, but believe me when I say it is brilliant and special and so so very worth reading. I am currently mostly positive that the next book will be translated into English as well and I cannot wait to spend more time in this world. My full review is here.

04) Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

35412372One of the first books I finished this year – and what a start that was. Emezi’s debut novel explodes on the page into something stunning and beautiful and very different. Their story is intimate and violent and apparently at least partly autobiographical in the best possible way. My review can be found here.

03) Monstress Vol. 2: The Blood by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

33540347The only comic series I am currently properly following, something about the collaboration between Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda really blows me away. The art is stunning and the story intriguing. It is a bit complicated to follow but all the more rewarding I find. I have heard people saying they cannot stomach the brutality of the story line, but for me it works extraordinarily well – the grimness of the world is juxtaposed with the stunning brilliance of the art. (Review here)

02) There There by Tommy Orange

36356614I adored this book from the very first page. Something about Orange’s prose just clicked with me and I was very impressed with the way he constructs his characters and their voices. I cannot wait to see what he does next. My review can be found here.

01) The Pisces by Melissa Broder

37590570It feels like I just cannot stop talking about this book. Of all the books I have read this year, this one sticks out the most. It might not technically be the best book I read but it is for sure my favourite. I just loved everything about this, but most importantly I found Lucy an incredible protagonist. My full review is here.

What were your favourite books of the year?

Have I read my most anticipated releases of 2018?

I have written about my most anticipated releases twice this year, for the first and for the second half of the year. Let’s see how many of those I have actually read (and which I have enjoyed).

In my first post, I named 13 books that I was super excited to get to.

  1. Brave by Rose McGowan. I have neither read nor bought this book because before I could, she started showing TERFy tendencies, which I just cannot support. I have since seen some reviews that make me think not reading this was the right decision.
  2. Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot. I loved this book so very much.
  3. Folk by Zoe Gilbert. I read this before it came out and it was ok. And now I cannot really remember much of it, to be perfectly honest.
  4. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. Again, I loved this book. I knew from the very first chapter that I was in for something extraordinary.
  5. The Sea Beast Takes A Lover by Michael Andreasen. This collection of short stories did not quite work for me, but I did enjoy some stories.
  6. Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay. Of course I loved this.
  7. The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh. This has possibly my favourite cover of the year and I really enjoyed this interesting book.
  8. Florida by Lauren Groff. She is becoming one of my favourite authors and this collections was no exception.
  9. Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch. I have not yet read it but will definitely do so before the end of the year. I have waited too long for this book to not pick it up soon.
  10. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I loved this just as much as I thought I would. Slow-paced, wintery fairy-tales are my jam.
  11. Sick by Porochista Khakpour. Biggest disappointment of my reading year.
  12. The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden. The release date was moved to January but I have an ARC and want to get lost in this wonderful world, possibly during my (short) winter break.
  13. Vengeful by V. E. Schwab. I had so much fun reading this and it made me excited again for Schwab’s writing in a way I hadn’t been in a while.

I actually did okay here. There are only three books I haven’t read yet (and one of those is no longer on my TBR), I also enjoyed the majority of the books on my list, with four of them getting five stars.

Let’s take a look at my second list, with only eight titles on it.

  1. Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennet. I enjoyed this a lot but it did not reach the heights of his Divine Cities trilogy yet. Still, I am excited to see where he takes the story next.
  2. Heavy by Kiese Laymon. I am embarrassingly enough still reading this. I started it at a really bad moment and while I think it is brilliant, it also deeply sad and I cannot quite get myself to pick it up.
  3. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. I am still super excited about this but the book is only out in hardback and still very expensive. It will be one of the next books I buy though.
  4. Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. Another book that isn’t out in paperback yet and a bit too expensive.
  5. Rosewater by Tade Thompson. I really enjoyed this even if it confused me.
  6. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. I did not love this and I am unsure whether Moss’ writing is quite for me.
  7. Trail of Lightening by Rebecca Roanhorse. I loved this and it started my binge-reading of Urban Fantasy. I cannot wait for the next one!
  8. Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri. I got an ARC of this the day it released and I am super excited still. But I am also drowning in arcs at the moment. Hopefully I’ll get to it before the end of the year though.

Again, around three books I have not got to which isn’t too bad considering how absolutely abysmal I am at setting myself TBRs.

How did you do with your most anticipated releases of this year? Did you manage to get to them?

2018 Book Haul #3: All these books are beautiful.

It has been a while since I posted my last book haul but if I wait any longer to post this one, writing it would take forever. Because I went overboard. But I have also read quite a few of the books I bought already, so that’s at least something.

So Sad Today by Melissa Broder

29213247Blurb: So sad today? Many are. Melissa Broder is too. How and why did she get to be so sad? And should she stay sad?
She asks herself these questions over and over here, turning them into a darkly mesmerising and strangely uplifting reading experience through coruscating honesty and a total lack of self-deceit.
Sexually confused, a recovering addict, suffering from an eating disorder and marked by one very strange sex fetish: Broder’s life is full of extremes. But from her days working for a Tantric nonprofit in San Francisco to caring for a severely ill husband, there’s no subject that Broder is afraid to write about, and no shortage of readers who can relate. When she started an anonymous Twitter feed @sosadtoday to express her darkest feelings, her unflinching frankness and twisted humour soon gained a huge cult following.
In its treatment of anxiety, depression, illness and instability; by its fearless exploration of the author’s romantic relationships (romantic is an expanded term in her hands); and with its inventive imagery and deadpan humour, So Sad Today is radical. It is an unapologetic, unblinkingly intimate book that splays out a soul and a prose of unusual beauty.

Why I bought it: I adored The Pisces so much (my gushing review is here), I needed to read this ASAP. And I also loved it. Continue reading “2018 Book Haul #3: All these books are beautiful.”

Wrap Up: July 2018 or that was a binge read.

As you can see below I went a bit over-board with the Kate Daniels books but I could NOT stop reading them. For most of the month I was more or less up to date with my ARCs and as such could just read what I want to read and apparently I wanted to read pretty much a whole series in a month. And then I went on a requesting spree on NetGalley (so my reading will be a bit more balanced next month).

Books read in July:

  1. Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels #3) by Ilona Andrews: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  3. Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels #4) by Ilona Andrews: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  4. Swimmer Among the Stars by Kanishk Tharoor: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Magic Slays (Kate Daniels #5) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  6. Suicide Club by Rachel Heng: 2 out of 5 stars
  7. Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  8. Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
  9. Magic Breaks (Kate Daniel #7) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  10. Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  11. Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires: 4 out of 5 stars
  12. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss: 3 out of 5 stars
  13. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race: 3 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the month:

I mean, the obvious answer is all the Kate Daniels books. I had so much fun reading them and I cannot wait to finish the series. It might not be the best thing to have ever been written but I am enjoying it so much and I am so very invested in everybody’s journey. (My mini-reviews for the first five books can be found here.)

I also really enjoyed Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds; her stories are intricately structured and wonderfully human. I now own all her books and will have to get to her two remaining novels soon.

Stats(ish):

I have read the ridiculous amount of 13 books (with 3916) pages this month, which is the most I have read in I don’t even know how long. Of these 13 books, one was written by a man, five were written by women, and seven were written by a husband and wife team. I read seven fantasy books, three short story collections, one essay collection, one dystopian novel, and one literary fiction novel.

Currently reading:

Books I should get to next:

I have a few ARCs I want to get to this month, most importantly City of Lies by Sam Hawke and Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young. I also hope to read Everything Under as soon as I finish The Mars Room. I also finally caved and bought myself a copy of Red Sister by Mark Lawrence and won’t be able to hold off reading for much longer. The rave reviews for this one are serious.

(Some of the) blog posts I loved:

I adored Teagan and Jess’ review for Dragon Actually.

Zuky’s list of authors whose next book she is impatiently awaiting is a topic I will have to steal – I love it.

I do like it when people talk about the books that did not quite work for them – if you do as well you should check out Ally’s list of books she thought she would like more than she did.

Laila’s review of The Fire This Time (ed. by Jesmyn Ward) reminded me that I really need to get to this book soon.

Alice wrote a great review of My Brilliant Friend, a book I have been wanting to read for ages, and made me even more excited for it. Talking of which, has anybody read the German translation? Is it wort reading or do I better pick up the English version?

Hadeer’s review of Mr. Darcy, Vampire is just beyond brilliant.

If you are as excited about the Man Booker Prize longlist announcement you should check out Rachel’s and Elle’s thoughts on the list. (PS: If you talked about the Prize somewhere, please do let me know, I want to read everybody’s thoughts!)

 

Review: Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff

10153529Verdict: Stunning.

My rating: 4,5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Short Stories, Fiction

Published by Windmill Books, 2009

Find it on Goodreads.

Lauren Groff’s critically acclaimed “The Monsters of Templeton” was shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Award for New Writers 2008, and critics hailed her as an enormous talent and a writer to watch. In “Delicate Edible Birds”, she fulfils that promise. “Delicate Edible Birds” includes nine stories of vastly different styles and structures. “L. De Bard and Aliette” recreates the tale of Abelard and Heloise in New York during the 1918 flu epidemic; “Lucky Chow Fun” returns to Templeton, the setting of Groff’s debut novel, for a contemporary account of what happens to outsiders in a small, insular town; the title story of “Delicate Edible Birds” is a harrowing, powerfully moving drama about a group of war correspondents, a lone woman among them, who fall prey to a frightening man in the French countryside while fleeing the Nazis. With a dazzling array of voices and settings, “Delicate Edible Birds” will cement Lauren Groff’s reputation as one of the foremost talents of her generation.

I love Lauren Groff. And I am trying to be better about reading other books authors I love have written, so I am currently making my way through her back catalogue and I am seriously happy about it. I think I liked this short story collection even more than her new one (which I reviewed earlier this year) and I enjoyed that one immensely. But this collection here just blew me away.

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.

I do have the same problem with these short stories that I had with Groff’s second collection: I am not too keen on her descriptions of overweight bodies; and the fixation on weight did not always work for me. I cannot quite put my finger on why I think she does this, but I do wish she stopped focussing on weight so much. But for me it never crossed the line into problematic territory and as such is not enough to ruin my enjoyment of these brilliant short stories.

My favourite of the bunch is the last story “Delicate Edible Birds” – I loved it so much I considered giving the collection 5 stars because it ended on such a high note. Set during the Second World War (which I usually am not too keen on), this story is told from different perspectives of a group of journalists fleeing Paris on the eve of its occupation. It was harrowing and wonderful and absolutely beautifully written. Bern, the female main character, was so absolutely brilliant, I wish there was a whole book about her.

Recommendations: Books told differently

I keep saying that I like books that are told in an unconventional manner or unchronologically or just plain differently. This is the thing that link most of my favourite books. So it seems only necessary to recommend some of those books in the hope that you might like some as well and so that you can tell me about your favourite books that might be a bit different.

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

23574514I adore everything I have read by David Mitchell. His characterisations are brilliant, his tone is pitch-perfect, and his way of loosely structuring his books just works extremely well for me. Most of his books are told in intersecting short stories and even more so, all his books allude to each other in one way or another – and ugh, I love that.

Ghostwritten might be my favourite of his – even though I also admire Cloud Atlas beyond everything. Mitchell is just a genius.

Kassandra by Christa Wolf

4412083Christa Wolf is possibly my favourite author – and Kassandra is definitely my favourite book of all times. I don’t even have the words to describe how much this books means to me. Told in stream of consciousness during the last few hours of Kassandra’s life, this book goes forward and backward in time in just the perfect way. Every sentence, every word is pitch-perfect.

The Zsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

29236311Anthony Marra should really get to writing more books because I have five-starred both books he has written so far and I don’t think I have done that with any other author. He has a way with words that makes me speechless and he is able to make characters of every single person in his books, often with just a sentence in a half. This book is (again) in the form of intersecting short stories that span years and genres and it is just absolutely breathtaking and sad. You really should read it if you haven’t already.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

9549746Again, a book told in short stories that span genres and feelings, this book made me so very happy while reading it. It very deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize and shows how different styles can be used without feeling gimmicky. Also, I do love pretentious books, so this was right up my alley. I was less impressed with Egan’s newest book, so I in no rush to read the rest of her oeuvre, but this one is really something.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

24612118I am a big fan of Lauren Groff’s writing in general (I am slowly making my way through everything she has ever written), but this book in particular was just made for me. Written first from the perspective of Lotto (often employing his horribly pretentious plays to do so), Groff than changes everything we know by telling the same (but very different) story from his wife’s (Mathilde) perspective. And I LOVED this. This book is just the right amount of indulgent and pretentious for me.

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for me based on these books?