I had such hopes for this month – but my reading was erratic at best and I have not finished a single fantasy book – even though I planned to prioritize them.
Books I read in May:
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters: 4 out of 5 stars
Favourite of the Month:
The best book I finished was definitely Detransition, Baby – I adored many things about it and I am a bit miffed that it didn’t make the Women’s Prize shortlist. I loved its exploration of gender and motherhood, Reese is such a wonderfully realized character that made my heart hurt – it is not perfectly structured and sometimes a bit too sprawling for me, but what an excellent, excellent cast of characters.
I finished three books, all of them fiction written by women.
What I should be getting to next:
I do not even know how to get my reading mojo back – and I will be going back to work in two weeks and my tiny reading time will probably disappear completely. The only thing I reliably get to is audiobook listening, so I will probably be switching near completely to that format.
One thing I do know, however, and that is that I will be reading Brood by Jackie Polzin with the possibly most chaotic group chat I will ever be part of. I am excited! (and the audiobook is only about 5 hours long, so I should manage to actually read the book in June.)
As a fantasy and romance reader, my reading is often series heavy – and when I enjoy a series this is one of my favourite parts of reading. I love the depth possible when many books are set in the same world, I love how invested I can become in characters when I have multiple books to spend time with them, and I also like being able to be reasonably sure I will love a book.
I have said in the past that I am not good at reading series – this is not actually quite true I have realized over the last few years (and about 20 books in the Psy-Changeling series later). I am admittedly not that great at finishing trilogies but longer series I enjoy I often inhale – especially if they are romance heavy or adjacent.
I have not been able to post as many non-review posts as I would like this last year- and I have especially not been able to shout my love from the rooftops as much (it feels like I read more disappointing books lately than earlier in my blogging journey, although this does not seem to actually have been the case). I am currently writing this series of posts on series (still to come are “Series I Love and Want to Keep Reading”, “Series I Read the First Book of and want to continue on with”, and “Series on my TBR”) in the hopes of bringing more positivity to my blog again. These posts are partly inspired by Caitlin’s brilliant The Great Series Read Project which you should check out if you haven’t done so.
To start that positivity with a bang, here are some of my favourite completed series.
Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews (review and review) This comes as no news to anybody as this series re-invigorated my love for Urban Fantasy a couple of years ago. I binge-read the first four books in a breathless (and sleepless) rush over the span of less than a week. It took me a bit longer to read the next five and then I still had to wait a few weeks for the publication of the last book. Ilona Andrews takes what is a fairly typical UF premise: loner, detective-type person solves crimes involving magic and/ or creatures, while falling in love with one of the suspects, and makes it incredibly readable. The world-building is inpeccable, Kate Daniels is a perfect main character, the voice is wonderful, and I ship the main couple a little bit too much. I am currently making my way through all the novellas set in this world and then maybe I will re-read the series. It is just that good. (I still do not love the covers.)
Psy-Changeling by Nalini Singh The first arc of this still ongoing series finished with book 15 (plus novellas) – and what a satisfying first arc this was! You get the feeling that Singh knows exactly where she wants her story to go and the little hints she plants early on for later books is just brilliant. This paranormal romance series is set in the future and features both Psy and shapeshifters. Each book focusses on another couple but the overall story is what keeps me hooked even if I do not love each individual couple. Incredibly, the series does not show any signs of becoming weaker and I do not foresee myself ever disliking any book Singh writes.
The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
N. K. Jemisin is my favourite author and this is her masterpiece. She won three consecutive Hugo Awards for these books – and rightfully so. The trilogy is near perfect, the first book especially was something close to otherworldly for me (review here). I do not know if there is another book that is this perfectly suited to my reading tastes. If you have not gotten around to this series, I really cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
While not as perfect as the Broken Earth trilogy, this is also an incredible series. It does something I particularly love in fantasy: feature gods. I don’t think Jemisin quite stuck the landing with this one but the first two books were so great. I especially love how distinctly not-human the gods are and I love how the later books recontextualize what happened before. (review for the first book here)
The Divine Cities Trilogy by Robert JacksonBennett
Another series featuring Gods (I love it so!), this is set in a world where after a huge war, some gods are missing and/or dead and everything they have built is still there but malfunctioning without the entities that cancelled out certain natural laws powering them. The first book is a murder mystery kind of character heavy secondary world urban fantasy and absolutely brilliant (review here) – but the two other books in the series are also pretty damn amazing. The books feature some of my favourite characters and some of the imagery will stay with me forever, I am certain.
The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden
In what should be obvious by now, this is also a series featuring gods. Set in the North of Russia with its seemingly neverending winter, drawing both on fairy tales and real life history, I adored this. I inhaled the first book (review here) and have been a fan of Katherine Arden’s writing ever since. I didn’t quite love the second book but thought the third book really stuck the landing (review here).
What are some of your favourite series? I am particularly always looking for good urban fantasy, preferably written by women and I also am never unhappy to see a heavy romance focus.
Apparently I will now forever only finish two books a month. I exaggerate but it does feel this way.
Books I read in April:
Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Eat The Mouth That Feeds You by Carribean Fragoza: 4 out of 5 stars
Favourite of the Month:
Before the Twitter Thing, I would probably have said Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing – but that was a very unpleasant experience and I cannot divorce my feelings from that. I thought Eat The Mouth that Feeds You was an excellent collection, let down by a couple of stories that didn’t work for me.
I read two books, both by women. One non-fiction title and short story collection.
What I should be getting to next:
I should focus on the books I am already reading an try to finally finish one of the eleven (!) books I am in the middle of. May is Wyrd and Wonder though and I am planning on prioritizing fantasy accordingly. I also hope to make some progress in the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlisted books I am planning on reading. Let’s hope my reading pace picks up!
Was this my worst reading month since I started my blog? Absolutely. I could not get myself to read when I found the time to do so and I did not have much time to read to begin with.
Books I read in March:
Real Estate by Deborah Levy: 4 out of 5 stars
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
I also DNF-ed two books (Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron and The Conductors by Nicole Glover)- I read so little I really could not make myself continue with books I wasn’t enjoying a lot.
Favourite of the Month:
I guess Real Estate by default. I read the whole Living Autobiography sequence this year and found the experience really rewarding – but haven’t quite yet found the words to talk about the books yet.
I read two books, both by women. One non-fiction title and one fiction novel.
What I should be getting to next:
I should definitely not be getting to anything new but rather work on finally finishing the books I am already reading. This is not my best reading mode – as I have talked about before, four books is my sweet spot.
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.)
I love December in the bookish world – everybody is talking about their favourite books (I am still hoping for a few amazing books, so I will post in January) and about the books they are most looking forward to. The last few years I tried to write about my most anticipated books twice a year (for the first and the second half of the year) but as I am back at work from June on (then obviously with a child), I am unsure whether I will manage (I did not this year). Thus I decided to post more than one list now and include books for the whole of 2021. First up are the books I am currently aware of and excited for that can be categorized as SFF (the spectrum runs more from fantasy to speculative romance, rather than proper science fiction). I organized them by publication date; clicking on the covers will lead you to the books’ Goodreads pages.
Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder #1) by Ilona Andrews (published by NYLA, January 12th 2021) A new book in the Kate Daniels world? Sold. I don’t know much more but already preordered it. I will eventually read everything Ilona Andrews’ have ever written but the Kate Daniels series has my favourite worldbuilding.
Hall of Smoke by H. M. Long (published by Titan Books, January 19th 2021) I only read as far as the first half sentence of the blurb before requesting this book on NetGalley: “Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream.” I love books featuring gods (see my recommendation post here), which will be completely obvious by the end of this post. Early reviews are favourable and I hope to agree. I do not read enough epic fantasy given how often I adore it.
The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost #1) by C. L. Clark (published by Orbit, March 23rd 2021) What first piqued my interest is the, frankly, disgustingly perfect cover – I mean, just look at that perfection. I also enjoy the author’s presence on twitter and I am always up for kickass women in my fantasy. And two morally grey women fighting and possibly falling in love? Sign me right up.
The Helm of Midnight (The Five Penalties #1) by Marina J. Lostetter (published by Tor Books, April 13th 2021) I happen to really like books that combine more than one genre – when it comes with speculative elements, especially when it’s done in an epic fantasy kind of world, especially so. Thus my interest was already piqued when I realized this was serial killer novel fantasy. That the cover is beautiful didn’t hurt either. I am very excited for the magical homicidal death mask angle and the hints of a plotline and mythology.
Son of the Storm (The Nameless Republic #1) by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (published by Orbit, May 11th 2021) I adore fantasy novels that explore the idea that mythologies might have been passed on wrong – and the idea of an island nation that other places insist does not exist with magic of its own sounds like absolute catnip to me. Add shape-shifters and forbidden magic and I am all in. For some reason I never got around to Okungbowa’s debut even though it features gods, so if I like this one, I’ll surely go back and remedy that.
The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley (published by Bloomsbury, May 25th 2021) To be totally honest, I requested an ARC of this mostly because it was compared to David Mitchell and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Like I said, I like genre-bending books and I am always looking for something like Mitchell’s writing. This is apparently an alternative history, science-fiction, time-travel kind of book – this will either work brilliantly for me or not at all. I am excited.
A Dance of Smoke and Steel (A Gathering of Dragons #3) by Milla Vane (published by Berkley, June 8th 2021) I loved both books in the series so far (I haven’t yet read the novella because I am pacing myself). This is the dark and gritty fantasy romance of my heart. I thought the romance worked better in the first book but the world got way more exciting in the second part. Again, this features actual gods, mythology that differs depending on who is telling it, and kickass women – this series is basically custom-made for me. This might be the last book in the series but I am kind of hoping not because there is so much world yet left unexplored.
For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten (published by Orbit Books, June 15th 2021) I am easily swayed by comp titles, it seems. This one has been compared to Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale, both of which I adored, so this seems like it will be right up my alley. Fairytale re-tellings can be brilliant if they are done right – this seems to be a spin on Red Riding Hood and the wolf is not a monster but a man. Sign me right up, this sounds wonderful.
She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan (published by Tor Books, July 20th 2021) Speaking of re-tellings, this is based on Mulan which on its own would have been interesting but the setting during the Ming dynasty intrigues me to no end. I will have to see how I get on with the “pretending to be her own brother” part of the plot, as lying often makes me anxious but everything else sounds just too amazing.
Last Guard (Psy-Changeling Trinity #5) by Nalini Singh (published by Berkley, July 20th 2021) I cannot wait for this. I loved the first arc of this long-running series and I am excited to see where Nalini Singh takes her story next. I can always trust in her ability to spin stories I enjoy and her worldbuilding is impeccable. I should also be up to date with her other series (Guild Hunter) come next year, so I am also excited for the next book there.
The Thousand Eyes (The Serpent Gates #2) by A. K. Larkwood (published by Tor Books, August 24th 2021) I am SO excited for this. I adored the first book in the series (review) and loved where it left off. I love the way Larkwood blends fantasy with science fiction, I obviously adore the way she employs mythology, I thought the first book was perfectly plotted, and I just think this could be absolutely perfect. (No cover yet; link to Goodreads here.)
There was very little chance of me not enjoying this book – therefore it feels necessary to begin this review with a disclaimer. I have read more than 20 books by Nalini Singh in about 18 months, I love what she does with her world building and I nearly always adore the couple she centers in each of these books. I am in no way impartial. But, if like me you enjoy these books (or if you like romance and interesting sci-fi-esque fantasy worlds and haven’t read any of her books, I really recommend you remedy that!), you will be pleased to hear that her latest (the 19th full-length novel in her Psy-Changeling universe) is as great as we all hoped.
Singh explores a new dynamic here with a mating at first sight and while this for sure is not my favourite trope, I thought she pulled it off. Ethan and Selenka are an interesting and believable couple and I bought into their relationship immediately. They are, however, not my favourite and I enjoyed the parts concerned with the larger political developments more. I am very excited to see where Singh takes the story next as this book indicates some far-reaching changes. I have said so before but it is worth saying it again: if this series wasn’t primarily romance focussed, Singh would be one of the authors always recommended when impeccable world-building is discussed.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ireceived an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Catalina Baylor Trilogy (Hidden Legacy #3.5, #4, #5) by Ilona Andrews
I am upset. And I only have myself to blame.
I managed to hold of reading the first two books until the week the second full novel in the continuation of the brilliant Hidden Legacy series released and then I basically inhaled them. I obviously love this but you know what I do not love? The absolutely brutal cliffhanger and the fact that I now have to wait until at least 2021 to find out how this is going to be resolved.
I always love Ilona Andrews’ particular mix of kickass women, snark, great world building, and incredibly binge-able writing style. I thought Catalina was an incredible new main character and I love her. I love the family dynamics as much as I always did, I love her power and the way in which her modus operandi differs from her older sister. I did not love Alessandro as much as I loved Mad Rogan but he did grow on me. The world is as impeccable as ever and I can always trust that the Andrews’ have a plan.
I cannot remember the last time I had a reading month this good. It seems like my choice to finally finish reading some of the books I had started months ago was a very good thing indeed. I have also finally gotten back into the groove of reading and reviewing ARCs – I do hope I can keep the momentum going. Especially because Rachel and I are planning on doing our two-person-ARC-readathon again at the end of September, this time without me being pregnant and not reading. (You are all invited to participate! But it’s super low-key and I am famously bad at reading plans.)
Books I read in August:
Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell: 4 out of 5 stars
Alpha Night by Nalini Singh: 4 out of 5 stars
The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Larkwood: 4.5 out of 5 stars (review)
Sisters by Daisy Johnson: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
Luster by Raven Leilani: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy #3.5) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel: 5 out of 5 stars (review)
Saphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4, Catalina Baylor Trilogy #1) by Ilona Andrews: 5 out of 5 stars
Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5, Catalina Baylor Trilogy #2) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
I also started and DNFed The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E. Harrow.
Favourite of the Month:
Quality-wise, The Glass Hotel, hands down. I knew I would love it but also was scared of not being able to properly appreciate it during the pandemic and kept putting it off – I am so glad to have finally read it, it’s as good as I hoped it would be. But my proper favourite is probably Saphire Flames which I kept putting off because I know how addictive Ilona Andrews’ writing is. It’s so good! I had such a blast!
I read ten books, seven of which were written by women and the other three by a husband and wife team. Five books can broadly be categorized as literary fiction, one is a fantasy-scifi hybrid and four are some form of romantic fantasy.
The Harpy by Megan Hunter: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson: 3 out of 5 stars
I Hold A Wolf By The Ears by Laura van den Berg: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson: 5 out of 5 stars
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I also DNFed Beach Read by Emily Henry. I might come back at another time but for now the book was just not what I expected and was in the mood for.
Favourite of the Month:
Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson is as incredible as everybody said. I cannot recommend it highly enough – I listened to the audiobook and just love the way Gleeson narrates her essays.
I read five books this month. Of these books four were written by women. I read two non-fiction books, one thriller, one short story collection, and one literary fiction novel.
Still too many books. Whenever I am reading more than four books it really messes with my reading mojo, so I am currently trying to finish as many books as possible before starting new ones. Ideally I would get it down to zero because I love being able to choose all new books but we’ll have to wait and see if that will happen.
I cannot believe the year is halfway over. Being perfectly honest, I haven’t so far had the best of reading years. I was considering not doing this tag for the first time since I have my blog but that felt too sad.
Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2020
I am trying to rank all the books I am reading this year (surprisingly hard!) and one of the things that I am struggling with is my top spot. At the moment it is between The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy and Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe. I cannot yet say which one will ultimately win out but I can say now that both of these books are incredible in their own way.