Wrap Up January 2020 or Let’s see if I manage to actually write wrap-up posts consistently this year

My january was both the longest month ever and the shortest. I am apparently back at reading a mix of genres, which is nice – but I also did not read a lot.

Books I read in January:

  1. Headliners (London Celebrities #5) by Lucy Parker: 4 out of 5 stars (review) ARC
  2. Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion #1) by Jessie Mihalik: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  4. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo: 4.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  5. Dragon Bound (The Elder Races #1) by Thea Harrison: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  6. The Last Smile of Sunder City (Fetch Philipps #1) by Luke Arnold: 3 out of 5 stars (review)

Favourite of the Month:

Girl, Woman, Other for sure. I just loved that book for everything it did.

Stats(ish):

I finished six books with 1700 pages altogether. Of these six books, five were written by women and one by a man (which was my least favourite of the month, make of that what you want). Five books were fiction, one was non-fiction. Three books were romance novels of some kind (one contemporary, one paranormal, one science ficiton).

Currently Reading:

I am in the middle of six books – and two books behind on my reading challenge. This bodes well for the year.

Books I should get to soon:

I already chose my next audiobook (The Man Who Saw Everything) but except for that I am letting my reading go wherever it wants.

Romance Mini-Reviews: A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh and Headliners by Lucy Parker

46299015._sy475_A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

Published by Gollancz, December 5th 2019

I adore everything Nalini Singh does – so much that I read her newest book even though I rarely, if ever, read anything that could be categorized as either thriller or crime. And I am very glad I did. Everything I adore in her writing was present here, especially her wonderful hand with world-building. Obviously world-building in a real world setting is a lot different to world-building in a paranormal setting, but in the end Singh manages to portrait this small town at the end of the world in New Zealand with much the same flair as her more out there worlds featuring shapeshifters and angels.

The biggest strength of this book is the atmosphere she creates her; the place she portraits seems effortlessly creepy and stifling. Set in the rough West coast of New Zealand’s South Island (a place I was lucky enough to visit last year), her town and its inhabitants come to life in a really satisfying way. I also enjoyed the central romance, even though it did take the backseat to the mystery. These two people are damaged in their own way and find solace in each other – and I was so here for that.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: miscarriage, cheating, infertility, serial killing, stalking, arson

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

47826382Headliners (London Celebrities # 5) by Lucy Parker

Published by Carina Press, January 20th 2020

Of course I loved this. Lucy Parker writes the best romance novels and I have enjoyed every single book in this series. I was beyond ecstatic to receive an ARC of this book I could read over my Christmas break – because this is a Christmas novel at heart. Headliners follows on from the events of The Austen Playbook which for me had the advantage that the dual time-lines usually employed for hate-to-love romances was not necessary, dual time-lines being something I do not particularly enjoy in this genre.

As always, Parker’s characterisation is on point, the snark level is off the charts and the romance at heart is lovely and brilliant and so very funny. Sabrina is a wonderful character whose ambition never means that she sacrifices her own morals, while Nick is actually (underneath his douchebag front) nice and funny – even if he has to realize that ambition should not come before common decency. There were as usual incredibly funny scenes between scenes with genuine heart. Parker’s romances feel real in a way that I find rare in the genre. The romantic gestures are often smaller ones that feel incredibly true to life.

While I thought the book was a tad too long, overall I sped through this and cannot wait to see what Lucy Parker does next.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

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.

 

Most anticipated books of the first half of 2020

There will be so many incredible sounding books released next year that I have been thinking about this post for weeks. As usual, I will for now concentrate on the first half of the year and hopefully write another post some time around June when more books will have been announced. I have tried to no go totally over-board and only include books I am sure I want to get to. You can find more books on my radar on my Goodreads.

I will mostly focus on books that aren’t part of ongoing series but there are plenty of those I am excited about; for example: Headliners (London Celebrities #5) by Lucy Parker, Dirty Martini Running Club #2 by Claire Kingsley, Shorefall (Founder #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett, Alpha Night (Psy-Changeling Trinity #4) by Nalini Singh (hands down my most anticipated release of the entire year).

Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey (Knopf/ January 7th, 2020)

45754997Miranda Popkey’s first novel is about desire, disgust, motherhood, loneliness, art, pain, feminism, anger, envy, guilt–written in language that sizzles with intelligence and eroticism. The novel is composed almost exclusively of conversations between women–the stories they tell each other, and the stories they tell themselves, about shame and love, infidelity and self-sabotage–and careens through twenty years in the life of an unnamed narrator hungry for experience and bent on upending her life. Edgy, wry, shot through with rage and despair, Topics of Conversation introduces an audacious and immensely gifted new novelist.

Everything about that blurb appeals to me – that it has been praised as similar to Sally Rooney alone would have been enough to make me excited though. Continue reading “Most anticipated books of the first half of 2020”

Romance Mini Reviews: Slightly Off-Limits

I am not the biggest fan of off-limits romances but when they are only slightly so, I can enjoy them because they add a bit of angst without it being overwhelming. I am also old though and I just cannot with romances involving really young people, so the books I read with off-limits romances only involve people who have been adults for at least a few years.

35836021Disturbing His Peace by Tessa Bailey

Published by Avon, 2018

This is the third in Tessa Bailey’s The Academy trilogy and by far my favourite. The Off-Limits-factor is that Danika is a recruit and Greer one of her teachers but it isn’t icky because they are both adults (and have been a while) and she doesn’t take any crap from him. I really enjoy Bailey’s writing and I do love how very much into each other these two are.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: Attempted assault, child abandonment (backstory)

30631124Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Published by Carina Press, 2017

I love, love, love Lucy Parker’s romances: they are funny and lovely and super charming. In this one Luc Savage casts Lily Lamprey for her first West End role after playing a rather sexual role in a TV show – and as such dating her director would be absolutely catastrophic for her reputation. These two are not the biggest fans of each other in the beginning but they have a ridiculous amount of chemistry – and I loved them.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: slut shaming (always challenged), harassment, heart attack, death of a loved one

43834305._sy475_The Trouble with Love by Claire Contreras

Published May 2019

This was lovely – but also kind of forgettable. Morgan is starting her dream job at the company she has always wanted to work at – but her boss’ son is not only her brother’s best friend but her one-night-stand from a year ago. Bennett is relatively newly divorced and really does not believe in love any more – and he thinks that his best friend’s younger sister is seriously off-limits for him. Obviously this is not how it works out. I enjoyed how clever and driven Morgan is and I did like how very nice these two are to each other. I don’t love this whole idea that you should never ever sleep with your friends’ sisters – because that frames sex as something at least slightly shameful and degrading you shouldn’t be doing to a woman who has any connection to a man you know and I am not here for that. I am also not the biggest fan of the “super evil ex-wife” trope though and as such could not really warm to the book as a whole.

3 out of 5 stars

Content warning: Infidelity (back story), infertility, drug addiction (back story), child abandonment (back story), prostitution (mostly respectful), stalking

 

 

Romance Mini Reviews: Fake Dating

As I am mostly reading romance at the moment but really not feeling up to writing proper reviews for that genre, I have decided to start mini reviews, organized by theme or trope. Starting with my absolute favourite: fake dating. I am not quite sure why I am loving that trope so much but I think it has to do with the fact that it makes the story so very obviously divorced from reality that it becomes easier for me to suspend my disbelief (which seems an odd thing to struggle with as somebody who usually reads mostly spec-fic).

25750546Act Like It by Lucy Parker

Published by Carina Press, 2015

This book combines many things I apparently love in romance novels: fake dating, enemies to lovers, hilarious banter, a grumpy male character, a lovely female character, and theatre. Lainey and Richard are starring in a West End play together – and cannot stand each other. They are mostly forced into a fake relationship by their management because ticket sales are down due to Richard being a bit of a knobhead in public (and in private and everywhere in fact). The book works for me because he is not a total ass and she is funny and not a pushover. I loved Lainey’s relationship with her family and I love how Richard actually makes a effort to be nicer. There is very little miscommunication and they both are honest with each other; which I love.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: attempted sexual assault, suicide (in the past), death of a sibling (in the past), cancer (in the past)

39854434Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Published by Avon, 2019

I have been on a serious Tessa Bailey binge and I have figured out that I like her books most when they are less angsty and more fun. This one is a lot of fun. While I am personally not partial to the “in love with my big brother’s best friend”, I do love fake dating and quirky heroines. Here Georgie and Travis start fake dating: for him it’s a way of bettering his image so that he has the chance of some kind of important baseball job (I know nothing about baseball), for her it’s a way of making people see her as a grown-up for once plus she has been in love with Travis most of her life (that surely will not blow up in her face at all). I thought this was absolutely lovely; I enjoyed the relationship and their banter, I love how they inspire each other to believe more in themselves, and Georgie’s women’s club was brilliant. I did think the ending was seriously over the top, but still, as a whole this was well worth the read.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: none? (the main character works as a clown, in case that is somebody’s phobia; I would wish to know if the main character worked with spiders so I am mentioning this)

45183911._sy475_Faking Ms. Right by Claire Kingsley

Published by Always Have, 2019

This was the book that made it very obvious to me that I enjoy the trope. It does a few things I am not always happy with but I still enjoyed it a whole lot due to the wonderful fake dating element. Here Shepherd is fake dating his personal assistant Everly because his (gold-digging) ex-girlfriend is dating his father (it doesn’t reeeally make that much sense in the book either). Everly is wonderfully sunny and super competent and her group of friends are similarly wonderful and totally made the book for me. I am not a big fan of super rich dudes in romance novels but this time it did work for me – mostly because Shepherd doesn’t really use his wealth to win Everly – which is something that always makes me cringe. They are believable as a couple and the whole book was a lot of fun.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: none that I can remember.

Wrap Up: June 2019 or apparently I am a romance blogger now

It is summer and I want to die. Germany is melting under a record heatwave and I am not dealing well with it. I miss Scotland.

Books I read in June:

  1. Faking Ms Right by Claire Kingsley: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. The Austen Playbook (London Celebrities #4) by Lucy Parker: 4 out of 5 stars
  3. Manchester Happened by Jennifer Sansubuga Makumbi: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
  4. Wolf Rain (Psy-Changeling #18, Psy Trinity #3) by Nalini Singh: 4 out of 5 stars
  5. Circe by Madeline Miller: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
  6. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey: 4 out of 5 stars
  7. The Duchess Deal (Girl meets Duke #1) by Tessa Dare: 3 out of 5 stars
  8. Relationship Material by Jenya Keefe: 4 out of 5 stars
  9. Chase Me (Broke and Beautiful #1) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  10. The Governess Game (Girl meets Duke #2) by Tessa Dare: 3 out of 5 stars
  11. Need Me (Broke and Beautiful #2) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  12. Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney: 5 out of 5 stars (reread)
  13. Getaway Girl (Girl #1) by Tessa Bailey: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

Continue reading “Wrap Up: June 2019 or apparently I am a romance blogger now”

Soul Ripping Romance Tag

I haven’t been reading many books I want to write long reviews on lately (mostly romance novels, so this tag is especially apt), but I still want to post at least some things this month, so I was super happy to be tagged by Naty, whose wonderful blog you should all be checking out. (There might be slight spoilers here, so if you prefer to go into books completely blind, be careful.)

The Rules

  • Thank the person who tagged you and create a pingback to the original author – Nel at Reactionary Tales.
  • Share at least 5 (but more are welcome) romances that tugged your heart strings. They can be from books, movies, TV shows, manga; anything you can think of! They can be examples of sad tears, angry tears, happy tears or a combination of all three.
  • Nominate 5 (or more) people to share their emotional traumas
  • (Note: Try not to spoil the story for your readers in case they would like to check out these romances on their own)

No post of mine this year would be complete without a shoutout to Sally Rooney, so I am getting this out of the way early. Frances and Nick are such an interesting, flawed couple that I could not help but root for.

I enjoy the way Nalini Singh writes her romances a whole lot in general (very little angst, people who are honest about their feelings, men who are totally vocal in how great they think their partners are) but my favourite couple of hers are Mercy and Riley, both are stubborn and headstrong but they also are super into each other and willing to meet in the middle.

The slow burn that was Kate Daniels and Curran’s relationship has a special place in my heart – even if she is so much cooler than he is and both of them are pretty much flying blind (they did not have the best of role models) and as such making mistakes left and right. The anticipation of the “when will they finally” was way too much fun for me to not include them here.

Sabran and Ead’s relationship in The Priory of the Orange Tree was wonderfull realized. I love how they complement and challenge each other, I love how they are fundamentally honest, and how they never lose their own lives and ambitions out of sight.

The romance in Act Like It by Lucy Parker combines many things I love: enemies-to-lovers, fake dating, London, and theatre. Lainie is lovely and witty and doesn’t take any shit, Richard is grumpy and vulnerable. Their banter is hilarious and their relationship believable.

Honorable mentions:

Kassandra and Aeneas, Veronica Mars and Logan (I knoooow he’s an ass, don’t judge me), Chandler and Monica, Vasya and Morozko (only in The Winter of the Witch though, weirdly), Buffy and Spike (I knooow, he is the worst but still)

Tagging:

Sarah / Lisa / Kathy / Caitlin / Jess

I mostly tagged spec fic bloggers because I want more specfic romance but if you decide to do this tag, please let me know! I am having so much fun with romance heavy books this year.

Wrap Up: May 2019 or this was Wyrd and Wonder

First things first, as a housekeeping note: I’ll be trying to include trigger warnings in my reviews from now on. (I read two books at the same time that really knocked me sideways and while I know this is a weirdly self-involved reason to start including trigger warnings, it has given me the incentive to finally take the plunge, something I have thought about doing for a while) If I get anything wrong or forget to include something, please let me know.

Except for this unfortunate being knocked sideways and the resulting abandonment of any book even remotely challenging (and the resulting binge-reading of romance novels which soothed me), I had a pretty damn brilliant reading month. I rated three books five stars! That never happens!

I had so much fun with Wyrd and Wonder – a month-long celebration of the fantastic hosted by imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie @ Jorie Loves a Story, even if I didn’t end up posting a whole lot but I am so glad to have participated. Thank you so much for hosting and for the fun and the new people I followed!

Books I read in May:

  1. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. Silver Silence (Psy-Changeling Trinity #1) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse: 5 out of 5 stars (review)
  4. Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson #2) by Patricia Briggs: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson #4) by Patricia Briggs: 2,5 out of 5 stars
  7. Act Like It (London Celebrities #1) by Lucy Parker: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. Pretty Face (London Celebrities #2) by Lucy Parker: 4 out of 5 stars
  9. Making Up (London Celebrities #3) by Lucy Parker: 3,5 out of 5 stars
  10. Disorderly Conduct (The Academy #1) by Tessa Bailey: 3 out of 5 stars
  11. Disturbing His Peace (The Academy #3) by Tessa Bailey: 4 out of 5 stars
  12. Indecent Exposure (The Academy #2) by Tessa Bailey: 4 out of 5 stars
  13. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: 5 out of 5 stars (review)
  14. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: 5 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

Continue reading “Wrap Up: May 2019 or this was Wyrd and Wonder”