Rachel and I have too many ARCs – a low-key readathon, 2021 edition

As is traditional, Rachel and I have too many ARCs, again – and using the first two weeks in September to try and remedy that, again. The last two times we tried this were fun but not always super productive, but maybe third time’s the charm?! As always, you are very invited to join but it is also really, really low-key, without prompts or reading sprints or even a hashtag.

I have finally stopped requesting ARCs, so nearly all of the ones I have left to read are backlist by now and I would love to be able to finally review a few of those. I would love for my NetGalley ratio to be in the 90s by the time I the two weeks are up but this is probably unlikely – it is at 86% currently and I just calculated it (and unless I did something stupid) I would have to review 11 books to get there. So this is my absolute stretch goal for now.

Currently reading:

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull (published by Blackstone Publishing, September 7th 2021)

This is incredible so far and I will absolutely keep prioritizing this because I want to be able to shout from the rooftops how much I want everyone to read it. Right now my pitch would be Vita Nostra meets Station Eleven – and if you know me at all, you can guess how giddy this book makes me. It does something very very clever and interesting with perspective, it jumps backwards and forward in time and it is very, very weird. I am in love.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (published by Orbit, April 8th 2021)

The kind of fast-paced but worldbuilding heavy fantasy that can work brilliantly for me and so far this absolutely does. I enjoy the sprawling narrative and the different POVs and it is making me realize that I haven’t read enough fantasy this year. With around 500 pages this is at the edge of my tolerance, page count wise, but I get the feeling that the book’s world necessitated the length.

Most excited:

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (published by Bloomsbury, January 18th 2022)

This was the last book I requested, even after having decided to not request books anymore, because I am just so excited for it. I mean, look at this first sentence of the blurb and tell me this wasn’t written especially for me: “For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, Sequoia Nagamatsu’s debut is a wildly imaginative, genre-bending work spanning generations across the globe as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a devastating plague.” It is set partly in the Arctic Circle (love that!), deals with father-daughter relationships (love this!), told from connected perspectives (love that!), and it was blurbed by Matt Bell who seems to have my exact taste in literature (I really should check his books out finally).

Might still read and review in time for the publication date

On Freedom by Maggie Nelson (published by Jonathan Cape, September 2nd 2021)

Yes, I know this is unlikely but I can still dream. I adore Nelson’s writing and as such was very happy to receive the ARC. I absolutely want to read this – but the footnotes aren’t linked and I always basically have to scroll to the end of the book to get to them. So I might try to read this without reading the footnotes which doesn’t strike me as the best idea.

Dinner Party: A Tragedy by Sarah Gilmartin (published by Pushkin Press, September 16th 2021)

This was blurbed as for fans of Kate Atkinson and Anne Enright – so I took the plunge. This sounds like the kind of book that’ll either blow my mind or be too boring for me to make it through, all depending on the prose style and the structural choices. I am excited though, especially for this part of the blurb: “As the past catches up with the present, Kate learns why, despite everything, we can’t help returning home.”

High priority

I really, really suck at reading tbrs, obviously. Even trying to get to ARCs can lead to a reading slump. But for now these are the books that most excite me.

If I even get to a single of these books in addition to the other books I am planning to read, I will count myself very lucky. Some of these have been on my shelf for longer than they should have been, some of those sound so like my kind of book that it’s a shame I haven’t gotten to them, some, like Empire of Sand, are somehow both of these things.

Need to finally decide if I really, actually, really want to read these books

These books’ publication dates came and went a while ago. I have read bits and pieces of most of them and for some reason or other I am never in the mood for any of them when I am looking for something new to read. If you have read any of these, can you help me make up my mind? Otherwise I will try and finally do a “read a chapter” kind of post to decide if I want to keep these books on my TBR.

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?

Recommendations for Non-Fiction November

As every month is non-fiction month for me, I will not officially be participating in Non-Fiction November but I still wanted to talk about some of my favourites and recommend a few books that those of you who are looking to read more non-fiction might want to check out. Disclaimer first: my non-fiction reading is heavily dominated by memoirs written by women, feminist essays, and creative non-fiction. I rarely read biographies (but really want to more) and general non-fiction, so here your recommendations are very welcome. Recommendations are always welcome, in fact.

I have based my recommendations on other genres, so that this is also accessible to those who don’t ever read non-fiction.

If you usually read contemporary, then memoirs might be the way to go. Usually fairly accessible, memoirs often deal with that weird period of life between being a child and being properly “grown up” and for me offered a much-needed glimpse into other people’s lives. (I have written a whole post on why I love memoirs which can be found here.)

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

35840657One of my absolute favourite books of the year, this short memoir packs an enormous punch. Written in fragments and often in a spiralling way, Mailhot chronicles her fight with mental illness and what it means to be Native. She does not claim to speak a universal truth, but only her truth and I found this incredibly effective. Her language is poetic and abrasive and I am very much in love. I still don’t have the words to talk about this properly, but in my review I tried.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

34381333This book took me totally by surprise. It took me a while to find my bearing and to get used to the abrasive writing style, but once I did and once I realized what Gurba’s essays were working towards, I was hooked and in awe. The book is a total punch to the gut, but so very brilliantly executed that I cannot help but adore it. My review can be found here.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995No list would be complete without me recommending this book. In fact, if you only read one book from this list, maybe choose this. It was my favourite book of last year and just a complete masterpiece. Lidia Yuknavitch has a brilliant way with words and her memoir is raw and honest and just perfect. My longer review can be found here.

If you are really invested in politics, then some of these feminist essay collections might be of interest for you.

Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay

35068524One of the best books I have read this year, this collection of personal essays on rape culture really is a must read. I am obviously a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s work and I was very impressed by the way she curated these wonderful essays. There was not a single essay in this collection that I did not appreciate and I found a lot of people whose next work I am eagerly awaiting and whose other essays I am reading religiously. If you can deal the subject matter, I really do recommend picking this up. My longer review can be found here.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

25175985Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project and her collection of essays on the subject and on the project is definitely worth checking out. I listened to the audiobook, which Laura Bates narrates herself and I found myself really immersed in her writing. Her book is impeccably researched and wonderfully realized; she draws both on literature and statistics and on the more personal anecdotes shared on the Everyday Sexism page and builds a really convincing whole. It also did not end with me wanting to burn the world down, which is always a plus. My review is here.

If you usually read literary fiction, then creative non-fiction might just be the thing for you. It is usually exceptionally well-written and for me at least, has a poetry to the sentences that I just adore (and closely mirrors the very best literary fiction in that sense).

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (or any book written by Maggie Nelson)

28459915Maggie Nelson is possibly the queen of creative non-fiction. Her sentences are crisp and she flits between different ideas and styles in a highly impressive way. The Argonauts deals with her relationship with her gender-fluid husband and chronicles the changes to her body due to pregnancy and the changes to Harry’s body due to hormone therapy. It also deals with so much more, drawing on gender theory and sociology and everything inbetween, and as a reading experience is highly rewarding. Bluets by the same author is also highly recommended.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

22244927This book is seriously short but packs an unbelievable punch. Sarah Manguso writes about her complex relationship with her diary, which she kept religiously for most of her adult life, and about why she stopped keeping one. I found this moving and thought-provoking and incredibly well-done. You can find my review here.

Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich

37690295Leah Dieterich writes about her marriage, but she also writes about dance and art and polyamory and everything in-between. I absolutely adored her short and snappy essays that build to a much larger whole. She made me think and smile and sad and in general this book just really worked for me. You can find more of my thoughts on the book here.

Are you planning on participating in Non-Fiction November? What books are you planning on reading? Also, what is your favourite non-fiction book?

Tag: How I Choose My Books

I was tagged (a while ago, sorry) by Hadeer over @ Cairene Librarian for this absolutely wonderful tag. Thank you so much!

Find a book on your shelves with a blue pink cover. What made you pick up the  book in the first place?

The first book with a pink cover I found on my shelves is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, one of my favourite authors. I bought this because I enjoyed The Bone Clocks enough to feel like he is somebody I want to read more of – and that book I chose because the cover just spoke to me in a book shop (and it sounded JUST like my type of book). I am in general a huge fan of the way Mitchell’s books look. Continue reading “Tag: How I Choose My Books”

Review: Bluets – Maggie Nelson

31817300Verdict: A near perfect book.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Date read: April 15th, 2018

Published by Jonathan Cape, 2017 (First published 2009)

Find it on Goodreads.

Bluets winds its way through depression, divinity, alcohol, and desire, visiting along the way with famous blue figures, including Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Yves Klein, Leonard Cohen and Andy Warhol. While its narrator sets out to construct a sort of ‘pillow book’ about her lifelong obsession with the colour blue, she ends up facing down both the painful end of an affair and the grievous injury of a dear friend. The combination produces a raw, cerebral work devoted to the inextricability of pleasure and pain, and to the question of what role, if any, aesthetic beauty can play in times of great heartache or grief.

Much like Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse, Bluets has passed between lovers in the ecstasy of new love, and been pressed into the hands of the heartbroken. Visceral, learned, and acutely lucid, Bluets is a slim feat of literary innovation and grace, never before published in the UK.

This is the third book by Maggie Nelson I have read and my favourite so far. I admire her craft very much and thought this book near perfect. It is a collection of short thoughts, brief paragraphs that pack a punch, all losely structured around the colour blue.

Maggie Nelson, as always, unapologetically places herself in the center of her art; I adore that. This is an introspective book centered around the loss of a partner and grief and depression and the injury of a close friend and, yes, the colour blue. She talks about many things, in fragmented but poignant form. There are not many writers that I know of who can pull this disjointed form off, but Maggie Nelson can and her thoughts shine with an urgency that I could not escape.

She has a brilliant way with words. Her writing is both theoretical (drawing on Wittgenstein and Goethe and Warhol and many writers more) and visceral (her descriptions of sex are graphic and honest) in a way that I find mesmerizing and very difficult to describe. She mixes these two parts of her writing so effortlessly that it seems easy and like her sentences just flow out of her without further editing (and I am sure this is far from the truth). A near perfect book.

First sentence: “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.”

2018 Book Haul #2: I want to own all the memoirs.

I have not bought any books since I posted my last haul, so obviously I just went overboard and purchased too many. Now, to be fair to myself, I have been craving memoirs and essay collections and hardly own any anymore that I haven’t read, so I had to remedy that. Also, as I have recently talked about, I just love owning books.

And now, without further ado, here are the books I bought, first fiction, then nonfiction (but in no particular order):

When I hit you: or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy

38821165Blurb: Seduced by politics and poetry, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor and agrees to be his wife, but what for her is a contract of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of a kept woman, bullying her out of her life as an academic and writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape.

Smart, fierce and courageous When I Hit You is a dissection of what love meant, means and will come to mean when trust is undermined by violence; a brilliant, throat-tightening feminist discourse on battered faces and bruised male egos; and a scathing portrait of traditional wedlock in modern India.

Why I bought it: This is one of the few books on this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist that I am actually interested in and don’t own already. Also, that title is just brilliant. Continue reading “2018 Book Haul #2: I want to own all the memoirs.”

Review: The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial – Maggie Nelson

31817301Verdict: Yes, Maggie Nelson IS brilliant.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date read: December 28th, 2017

Published by Vintage, 2017 (first published 2007)

Find it on Goodreads.

In 1969, Jane Mixer, a first-year law student at the University of Michigan, posted a note on a student noticeboard to share a lift back to her hometown of Muskegon for spring break. She never made it: she was brutally murdered, her body found a few miles from campus the following day.

The Red Parts is Maggie Nelson’s singular account of her aunt Jane’s death, and the trial that took place some 35 years afterward. Officially unsolved for decades, the case was reopened in 2004 after a DNA match identified a new suspect, who would soon be arrested and tried. In 2005, Nelson found herself attending the trial, and reflecting with fresh urgency on our relentless obsession with violence, particularly against women.

Resurrecting her interior world during the trial – in all its horror, grief, obsession, recklessness, scepticism and downright confusion – Maggie Nelson has produced a work of profound integrity and, in its subtle indeterminacy, deadly moral precision.

Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts was one of the first non fictions books I read when I decided to vary my reading a few years back. I adored it – Maggie Nelson’s particular brand of intellectual maybe even academic memoir writing resonates with me. As such it is a bit of shame that it took me so long to read another of her books. But now that I read this, I will for sure read all her other books as well.

A few months before Maggie Nelson published her book of poetry, Jane, which focusses on her late aunt who fell victim to a violent murder, she is contacted by a police officer – the case seems to have finally been solved (more than 30 years later) and an arrest will be made soon. This book chronicles this time where fiction and fact collide. Maggie Nelson and her mother sat through the whole trial.

She does not only chronicle the trial but also muses on our society’s fixation on murder, especially on murdered young women. She talks about this obsession while also never losing sight of the fact that she perhaps is doing exactly the same thing the media is doing: telling Jane’s story without maybe having the right. This reflexive self-consciousness was my favourite part of this book. She makes her own experience vey much the center of her work while also understanding this and acknowledging it. This is very brilliant. This focus on herself and on the role of her art is so well done and I adore that she does not apologize for putting herself in the center of her book.

 

Book Haul: How did this happen again?

I keep telling myself (and others) that I won’t be buying any books in the foreseeable future – and then I do. I had a frustrating few reading weeks, so obviously I need more books to overwhelm me. I make brilliant choices … But then again, I don’t think I can actually have too many books. My own personal rule so far is that I do not want my unread books to be more than a third of my book collection and I am very far away from that.

Since my last haul I have bought 11 books and 1 audiobook.

His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

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I only owned these books in German (and now not anymore because apparently my father decided there were his all along) and really wanted to have an English edition. I love the way these books look together. While these are not my favourite books, I adored them when I read them and felt my bookshelves were incomplete without them.

Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie

35898777

Practical-minded Isma has spent the years since her mother’s death watching out for her twin brother and sister in their North London home. When an invitation to grad school in America comes through unexpectedly, it brings the irresistible promise of freedom too long deferred. But even an ocean away, Isma can’t stop worrying about her beautiful, headstrong, politically inclined sister, Aneeka, and Parvaiz, their brother, who seems to be adrift—until suddenly he is half a globe away in Raqqa, trying to prove himself to the dark legacy of the father he never knew, with no road back.

Then Eamonn Lone enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to—or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The instrument of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined.

This has been on my TBR for a while now and I finally could not resist it anymore. This sounds like something I will just adore and I need these kinds of books right now.

Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor

31143800From the award-winning author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things and Even the Dogs. Reservoir 13 tells the story of many lives haunted by one family’s loss.

Midwinter in the early years of this century. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home.

Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed.

The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must.

As the seasons unfold there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together or break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals.

Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods – mating and fighting, hunting and dying.

An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, Reservoir 13 explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a stranger’s tragedy refuse to subside.

Another one from the Man Booker Longlist that I never got to, this has since been nominated for other prizes and garnered even more praise. There was no way I could not buy and read this. This sounds like something that will either blow my mind or bore me to tears.

Sour Heart – Jenny Zhang

36146264Centered on a community of immigrants who have traded their endangered lives as artists in China and Taiwan for the constant struggle of life at the poverty line in 1990s New York City, Zhang’s collection examines the many ways that family and history can weigh us down and also lift us up. From the young woman coming to terms with her grandmother’s role in the Cultural Revolution to the daughter struggling to understand where her family ends and she begins, to the girl discovering the power of her body to inspire and destroy, these seven stories illuminate the complex and messy inner lives of girls struggling to define themselves.

I was refused for a review copy more than once and this was one of those times I was super disappointed. I hope to read this sooner rather than later because I am so very excited about it.

The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial – Maggie Nelson

31817301In 1969, Jane Mixer, a first-year law student at the University of Michigan, posted a note on a student noticeboard to share a lift back to her hometown of Muskegon for spring break. She never made it: she was brutally murdered, her body found a few miles from campus the following day.

The Red Parts is Maggie Nelson’s singular account of her aunt Jane’s death, and the trial that took place some 35 years afterward. Officially unsolved for decades, the case was reopened in 2004 after a DNA match identified a new suspect, who would soon be arrested and tried. In 2005, Nelson found herself attending the trial, and reflecting with fresh urgency on our relentless obsession with violence, particularly against women.

Resurrecting her interior world during the trial – in all its horror, grief, obsession, recklessness, scepticism and downright confusion – Maggie Nelson has produced a work of profound integrity and, in its subtle indeterminacy, deadly moral precision.

I adored Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts when I read it and have since wanted to read more of her books. I love creative non fiction when it is done right and Maggie Nelson really knows what she is doing. I rarely read true crime (if ever) but I trust her and am intrigued to see how she tells this story of her aunt.

The Clocks in this House all tell Different Times – Xan Brooks

32869842‘An orphan is travelling through the deep, dark woods and discovers that the monsters she encounters are as much tragic as wicked and that the handsome young prince may be ugly inside. The world around her is callous, unjust and horribly scarred by the past. But she brings compassion and even a glimmer of hope.’

Summer 1923. The modern world. Orphaned Lucy Marsh climbs into the back of the old army truck and is whisked off to the woods, where the funny men live. If she can only avoid all the hazards on the path, she may just survive into a bright new tomorrow.

This is on the Costa First Novel Award Shortlist and it sounds so amazing that I am a bit confused as to why I haven’t already read it. From the title to the cover art to the blurb this book amazes me.

The Wrong Way To Save Your Life – Megan Stielstra

32600746From an important new American writer comes this powerful collection of personal essays on fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice.

In this poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. In her titular piece “The Wrong Way To Save Your Life,” she answers the question of what has value in our lives—a question no longer rhetorical when the apartment above her family’s goes up in flames. “Here is My Heart” sheds light on Megan’s close relationship with her father, whose continued insistence on climbing mountains despite a series of heart attacks leads the author to dissect deer hearts in a poetic attempt to interrogate her own feelings about mortality.

Whether she’s imagining the implications of open-carry laws on college campuses, recounting the story of going underwater on the mortgage of her first home, or revealing the unexpected pains and joys of marriage and motherhood, Stielstra’s work informs, impels, enlightens, and embraces us all. The result is something beautiful—this story, her courage, and, potentially, our own.

Intellectually fierce and viscerally intimate, Megan Stielstra’s voice is witty, wise, warm, and above all, achingly human.

I don’t remember whose review it was that made me add this to my TBR, but I know that Roxane Gay’s blurb is what convinced me to buy it (I am so obviously a fan). I have read the first essay already and I can tell that I will enjoy this immensely.

The Beginning of The World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

36453128‘These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That’s why I bought her heart online.’

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.

Jen Campbell is one of my favourite BookTubers and there was no way I would not pick up her first short story collection. Plus, that title.

Dora: A Headcase – Lidia Yuknavitch

13544002Ida needs a shrink . . . or so her philandering father thinks, and he sends her to a Seattle psychiatrist. Immediately wise to the head games of her new shrink, whom she nicknames Siggy, Ida begins a coming-of-age journey. At the beginning of her therapy, Ida, whose alter ego is Dora, and her small posse of pals engage in “art attacks.” Ida’s in love with her friend Obsidian, but when she gets close to intimacy, she faints or loses her voice. Ida and her friends hatch a plan to secretly film Siggy and make an experimental art film. But something goes wrong at a crucial moment—at a nearby hospital Ida finds her father suffering a heart attack. While Ida loses her voice, a rough cut of her experimental film has gone viral, and unethical media agents are hunting her down. A chase ensues in which everyone wants what Ida has.

It will come as a surprise to absolutely no-one that I am a huge fan of Lidia Yuknavitch (exhibit a). I want to read everything she has ever written and I want to read it now. But I also want to take time to do so because I don’t want to not have any of her books left to read. It’s a dilemma.

The Child Finder – Rene Denfield

36264514Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

This book was surrounded by so much buzz I couldn’t not read it. I rarely read crime fiction but this sounded like something I would enjoy. I have already started listening to this and I am more than half way through and it deserves all the praise it has gotten.

Have you read any of these books and which would you recommend the most? Let me know your thoughts!