Least Favourite Books of the Year 2018

It is that time of the year again where we all look back and talk about the books we read this year. I am starting with my least favourite books and will then during the next days talk about the best books of my reading year. Overall, I had a wonderful year but there were five books that disappointed me for one reason or another. None of these books got one star from me and they all are books I am sure would work for a different reader. I think the fact that I haven’t disliked a book I have finished this year enough to give it one star is a wonderful development. As much as I like reading other people’s one star reviews, I don’t always like reading books I dislike.

Folk by Zoe Gilbert

35892355This is one of those books that I grew more irritated by the more time passed. I initially gave it three stars on the strength of one or two stories in it but now I can only remember my feeling of deep disappointment in this books of interconnected short stories. If I hadn’t been so very excited about this release, I might have enjoyed this more but as it stands, this is by far my least favourite short story collection of the year. You can find my review here.

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

34846987I adored the prologue of this – and then the book rapidly lost my interest. It is wordy and descriptive with characters that more often than not follow tropes in a way I do not appreciate. The whimsy of the language (and the endless descriptions of millions of inventions) were at odds with the ever darker path the story took. My full review can be found here.

 

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

35530073I adore the premise of this book – I think there really was something interesting to be explored in a book about a society where ideals of health and long living become oppressive. But again, this book’s failures came from uninteresting and ill-defined characters. The main character is around 100 years old but behaves like a particularly stupid teenager – it drove me up the walls. My full review can be found here.

 

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

31445891Brilliant premise – that could not sustain a plot that seems rushed and a tone that swung widely between glib and humorous and incredibly brutal. One of my reading resolutions was reading more novellas, an experience that did not quite work for me – and this book is emblematic for that. My full review can be found here.

 

Sick by Porochista Khakpour

32600407This was definitely my biggest reading disappointment of the year. I was looking forward to this for month and then did not enjoy my reading experience. I found the writing to be weirdly clumsy in parts and long stretches of it unclear. Khakpour wrote parts of this while in the throes of a Lyme relapse – and I think this shows. My review can be found here.

 

What were your least favourite books of the year?

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: Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

35530073Verdict: Ugh.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: Dystopian, Speculative Fiction

Published by Hodder & Stoughton, July 12 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

What are you doing to help yourself? What are you doing to show that you’re worth the resources?

In a near-future world, medical technology has progressed far enough that immortality is now within grasp -but only to those who show themselves to be deserving of it. These people are the lifers: the exercisers, yogacisers, green juicers and early nighters.

Genetically perfect, healthy and wholesome, one hundred-year-old Lea is the poster girl for lifers, until the day she catches a glimpse of her father in the street, eighty-eight years after their last encounter. While pursuing him, Lea has a brush with death which sparks suspicions. If Lea could be so careless, is she worthy of immortality?

Suicide Club wasn’t always an activist group. It began as a set of disillusioned lifers, gathering to indulge in forbidden activities: performances of live music, artery-clogging meals, irresponsible orgies. But now they have been branded terrorists and are hunted by the state.

And Lea has decided to give them a call.

This book has such a brilliant premise: in this future, immortality is within grasp, but only for those ‘deserving’ and as such suicide is illegal, anything that might be construed as bad for your health is illegal in fact. I found this idea of preservation of life being the most important thing even before individual happiness and fulfillment so very very brilliant. But I struggled with the execution to no end.

I did think that the world Rachel Heng has created here is interesting and developed in such a way that it never felt info-dumpy. But once you start pulling at the threads it does not really make sense. Innovation has led to a world where organs are augmented, skin can be built to be near indestructible, and science has found out the best ways to life long and healthy lives – but at the same time there are people who will not receive those treatments and it never did become clear to me how that works – I would have liked to have this dichotomy explored more: how is decided whose life if worthy enough to make their suicide illegal? There are infinite possibilities to make this a strong indictment on our current society and I would have loved the book more for it. There were other things that did not make sense for me: it never becomes clear how much in the future we are and as such I did not buy the fundamental changes in education that have occurred. It is a plot point that only those who have long life-spans can become medical doctors because the education takes 40 years – and I don’t buy that. Why would anybody have to study for 40 years to be a good doctor? I don’t think education would change this fundamentally. It irked me especially because I think another explanation would have worked far better: medical degrees are expensive, amongst the most expensive in fact (when considering how much a single student costs universities), so why not make the exclusion of people with shorter life spans about this?

My biggest issue, by far, was the main character, Lea. I found her to be less than convincing and unpleasant to spend time with.  She is 100 years old and even if that is young in the scheme of her potential life span she is still more than three times as old as I am but she felt like she was 20, tops. I did not get her and the weird back story she had did not work for me either. She never felt her age and never felt like a person. I had this whole elaborate theory in fact that she might actually not be human because this would be the only way her behaviour makes any sense. Also, a petty problem I had with her: she kept sweating behind her knees whenever she was uncomfortable and if that doesn’t scream ‘weirdly programmed robot’ then I don’t know (I am sorry if I am the weird one and everybody is in fact sweating behind their knees).

The second main character, Anja, was so much more interesting and if the book had been told from her perspective I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more. Her mother was one of those whose bodies were used to test new procedures and now her heart keeps going even though she is brain-dead but she is not allowed to die because life is precious even though she might be stuck and suffering. This is such a creepy, brilliant concept that I would have loved to have seen explored more. But we spend so much more time with Lea than with Anja that this could not save the book for me.

So yes, I struggled with this, and I am super disappointed because the bones of this story are so brilliant.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton in exchange for an honest review.

TBR: ARC-Round Up 2018-II

I want to start something new: I will update on the ARCs I received, link to the reviews of the ones I have already read and generally talk about how excited I am. I also hope this will keep me organized. I don’t know how often I will need to post such lists because I seem to be seriously lacking in self-control when it comes to books I want to read and review. (Seriously, do you remember my bookish resolutions? I apparently don’t.)

I have last posted in the middle of January talking about the ARCs I still needed to read. You can find that post here. Since that post I have received 9 eArcs from NetGalley. The books are in no particular order below.

Still to be read:

37807353Happiness by Aminatta Forna

Publication Date: April 3rd

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Blurb (from Goodreads): London. A fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. The distraction causes two pedestrians to collide–Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech. From this chance encounter, Aminatta Forna’s unerring powers of observation show how in the midst of the rush of a great city lie numerous moments of connection.

Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his “niece” who hasn’t called home in a while. Ama has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing.

When, by chance, Attila runs into Jean again, she mobilizes the network of rubbish men she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens–mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London–come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds.

Meanwhile a consulting case causes Attila to question the impact of his own ideas on trauma, the values of the society he finds himself in, and a grief of his own. In this delicate tale of love and loss, of cruelty and kindness, Forna asks us to consider the interconnectedness of lives, our co-existence with one another and all living creatures, and the true nature of happiness.

Why I requested it: This has been compared to KazuoIshiguro’s The Remains Of The Day, which I loved. The author was born in Glasgow and raised in Sierra Leone. Plus, the blurb sounds fantastic.

Continue reading “TBR: ARC-Round Up 2018-II”