Have I read my most anticipated releases of 2020?

Every year I round up my reading – amongst other things I look if I have gotten around to the books I was most excited about. To be fair, mostly I only read about half of the books I mentioned in my various lists (you can find my post from last year here)- and let’s see if I even did that this year. I only posted one list of books this year (here) because the second half got away from me.

Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey: I did not read this one because the early reviews were kind of atrocious – and especially because Rachel did not like this (review) and we often agree on this kind of book.

The Island Child by Molly Aitken: I also did not get to this one – even though I got an ARC. I was just never in the mood for this. I really should remedy that.

Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch: I read but didn’t love this. This is probably my most disappointing read of the year because I was looking forward to a collection of short stories by one of my favourite authors for a while.

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams: I DNFed this – I just did not get on with this one at all and other reviews (mostly Rachel’s again) convinced me that this would not change.

Daughter from the Dark by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko: I cannot believe I did not get to this yet – I adored the other book by the Dyachenko that was translated into English so much. I really need to by this one soon.

And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges by Amber Sparks: I read and enjoyed this. I don’t think Sparks can even write a short story collection that I would not like.

The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Larkwood: I loved this; my favourite epic fantasy novel of the year.

So We Can Glow: Stories by Leesa Cross-Smith: I am upset I did not get to this because I am still convinced I would love it.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin: This is the main victim of my weird reading year. I started this the moment it arrived, having pre-ordered it ages ago, and then somehow did not manage to finish it. I have been reading this for months – something about it hits a bit too close and it is also my least favourite of her books so far. I am determined to finish it before the year ends though!

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby: Loved it, will read everything Samantha Irby ever writes.

Godshot by Chelsea Bieker: Another victim of my only reading e-books; the cover is so stunning I would want to own a paperback copy.

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell: I own a copy, but haven’t read this.

I Hold A Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg: Read and loved it. Made me want to read every short story collection Laura van den Berg has ever written.

Best ARCs I read

I realized that I usually talk about my review copies in terms of being late and feeling overwhelmed – and this gives a wrong impression, I think. Because I just love getting review copies and have read some really really brilliant ones over the years (I checked, I have been on NetGalley – my main way of getting review copies – since 2016). It feels right using this low-key readathon to talk about some of my favourites.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (review)

I read and reviewed the complete trilogy early – and it is one of my absolute favourite series. I thought both the first and the third book were pitch-perfect and I cannot wait until Arden writes another adult book (she has hinted on twitter at something in the same world as this series and I just cannot wait.)

The Pisces by Melissa Broder (review)

I requested this on a whim, unsure whether I would like it but absolutely loving the cover. I needn’t have worried – this book was just perfect for the kind of reader I am (I also convinced quite a few of my blogging friends to read this and so far they all liked it!). I am currently reading Broder’s second novel which is also really good but so far not as absolutely brilliant as this here was for me.

The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood (review)

I am unsure if I would have gotten to this if I hadn’t been able to read an ARC (there are so many fantasy books coming out and I am not always good at reading series) – but wow, I loved this. I do love fantasy books about gods a lot and I thought that Larkwood executes her premise brilliantly – and pulls her different threads together so very satisfyingly at the end that I cannot wait to read the next one, whenever it will be released.

Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko (tr. by Julia Meitov Hersey) (review)

What a thrill this book was – I adored everything about it. But it is also one of those books that seem to custom-made for me that I am unsure if I can recommend it to people. It is dark, and weird, and set in the deep of Russia, and just so very much my kind of thing.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (review)

I would definitely have read this anyways – but I loved it so much, I am glad I got to it early (it was also one of my earliest reviews that got enough likes to be prominently featured on the book’s Goodreads page). It is still one of my all-time favourite short stories and possibly the one that cemented my love of the format. Such a brilliant book.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (review)

I do not think I would have gotten to this, if I hadn’t requested it fairly early on in my blogging journey. When I read it, I was one of the very first people to review the book on Goodreads – and then it obviously got longlisted for the Women’s Prize. The book is brilliant, compulsively readable, and incredibly emotional.

In writing this blogpost, I realized just how many brilliant books I have read as ARCs – this is helping me a lot to get even more motivated to use these two weeks to catch up with some of my unread ARCs – who knows what brilliant things I will discover.

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”

Wrap Up: December 2018 or there goes the year.

I cannot believe the year is over. It feels like it went both super quick and super slow. My reading in December was a bit erratic because the first half I felt mega burned out (mostly due to work) and could not concentrate on anything difficult, then there was Christmas were I did not get any reading done – and then I had a few days to wrap up all the books written by men I was still reading.

Books I read in December:

  1. Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko: 5 out of 5 stars
  2. Dopesick by Beth Macy: 5 out of 5 stars
  3. Angel’s Blood (Guild Hunter #1) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  4. Archangel’s Kiss (Guild Hunter #2) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Archangel’s Consort (Guild Hunter #3) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Archangel’s Blade (Guild Hunter #4) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  7. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  8. Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  9. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #1) by Theodora Goss: 3 out of 5 stars
  10. Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1) by Nalini Singh: 3,5 out of 5 stars
  11. New Suns ed. by Nisi Shawl: 2 out of 5 stars
  12. Doggerland by Ben Smith: 3 out of 5 stars
  13. Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch: 4 out of 5 stars
  14. Heavy by Kiese Laymon: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

I adored Vita Nostra – every single second of reading this was a pleasure. Dopesick was another book that I appreciated immensely – it is wonderfully researched and impeccably told. Both books made my best of the year lists.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: December 2018 or there goes the year.”

Favourite Fiction Books of 2018

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

11) Florida by Lauren Groff

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

10) Hidden Legacy Book 2 and 3 by Ilona Andrews

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

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

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

08) Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

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

07) Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

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

 

 

06) A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel

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

 

 

05) Vita Nostra by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko

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

04) Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

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

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

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

02) There There by Tommy Orange

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

01) The Pisces by Melissa Broder

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

What were your favourite books of the year?

Review: Vita Nostra by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko

38633526Verdict: Just incredible.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Published by HarperVoyager, November 1st, 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

Our life is brief . . .

While on holiday at the beach with her mother, Sasha Samokhina meets the mysterious Farit Kozhennikov under the most peculiar circumstances. The teenage girl is powerless to refuse when this strange and unusual man with a sinister air directs her to perform strange and uncomfortable tasks. He rewards her efforts with a strange golden coin.

As the days progress, Sasha carries out other acts for which she receives more coins from Kozhennikov. As summer ends, her new domineering mentor directs her to move to a remote village and use her gold to enter the Institute of Special Technologies. Though she does not want to go to this unknown town or university, she also feels that somehow it’s the only place she should be. Against her mother’s wishes, Sasha leaves behind all that is familiar and begins her education.

As she quickly discovers, the institute’s ‘special technologies’ are unlike anything she has ever encountered. The books are impossible to read, the lessons maddeningly obscure, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, their families pay a terrible price.

Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of… and suddenly all she could ever want.

Sometimes a book is so custom-made for me that I am unsure whether I can reasonably recommend it to anyone or if the reading experience was incredible just because the book hit all my favourite things. This is one of those times. Combining some of my greatest loves in fiction: dark fantasy, inspired by Russian literature, set in the middle of nowhere with plenty of snow, combining boarding school tropes with unconventional storytelling, this book was everything to me.

This book follows Sasha, whose life is changed forever when she is approached by an otherworldly man who tells her she is stuck in a time-loop and the only way to change this is to get up at four in the morning (never missing a day) and nakedly swimming in the ocean. She does so every day, vomiting up weird gold coins afterwards. Returning home and to what she thinks will be normalcy, she is approached again, having to follow new sets of rules, always throwing up gold coins afterwards. She does not feel she has a choice when the man tells her she will be attending a rural university instead of the one she had planned for all her life.

This book is a wild ride, and for the vast majority of its duration it stays opaque and the reader is left in the dark just as much as Sasha is. I did not mind this one bit and I loved this introspective, weird book a whole lot. There is a menacing undercurrent here that is made even more spell-binding as we closely follow Sasha and her fears without ever really being in her head at all. I found the use of third-person narration worked really well here and made the book all that more compulsive for me.

While Sasha is definitely the heart of this book and I adored her prickliness and her focus and her love for her family, I have to admit my favourite characters were the two main teachers and her mentor, the latter one being so very fascinating and awful and just everything I wanted him to be.

I do want everybody to read this, for one thing because it is brilliant and one of the highlights of my reading but also for another, totally selfish reason, I want it to be successful enough that the second book gets translated as soon as possible. I want to spend more time in this world and with this characters and I have very many theories where this might go next.

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

Wrap Up: November 2018 or Genre Fiction is the best

I had a pretty horrific month, personally. But my reading recovered from the abysmal month that was October, which is at least something; within 10 days I had read as much as I had read in the whole month before.

Books I read in November:

  1. The Outcast Hour ed. by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin: 3 out of 5 stars
  2. Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson: 4 out of 5 stars
  3. Vengeful (Villains #2) by V. E. Schwab: 4 out of 5 stars
  4. Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor: 2 out of 5 stars
  5. Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  6. White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  7. Wild Fire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. Broken Magic (Chronicles of Amicae #1) by Mirah Bolender: 3 out of 5 stars
  9. The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein: 4 out of 5 stars
  10. Be With Me Always by Randon Billings Noble: 3,5 out of 5 stars
  11. Sadie by Courtney Summers: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

Continue reading “Wrap Up: November 2018 or Genre Fiction is the best”

TBR: ARCs on my shelves part V (2018)

I have not talked about the ARCs I added to my virtual shelves in three months and while I did not request as many ARCs as I have done in the past, I have acquired a few and want to talk about them.

Still to be read:

38633526Vita Nostra by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko

Publication Date: November 1st, 2018

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Blurb (from Goodreads): The definitive English language translation of the internationally bestselling Ukrainian novel—a brilliant dark fantasy with “the potential to be a modern classic” (Lev Grossman), combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.

Our life is brief . . .

While vacationing at the beach with her mother, Sasha Samokhina meets the mysterious Farit Kozhennikov under the most peculiar circumstances. The teenage girl is powerless to refuse when this strange and unusual man with an air of the sinister directs her to perform a task with potentially scandalous consequences. He rewards her effort with a strange golden coin.

As the days progress, Sasha carries out other acts for which she receives more coins from Kozhennikov. As summer ends, her domineering mentor directs her to move to a remote village and use her gold to enter the Institute of Special Technologies. Though she does not want to go to this unknown town or school, she also feels it’s the only place she should be. Against her mother’s wishes, Sasha leaves behind all that is familiar and begins her education.

As she quickly discovers, the institute’s “special technologies” are unlike anything she has ever encountered. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, their families pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.

A complex blend of adventure, magic, science, and philosophy that probes the mysteries of existence, filtered through a distinct Russian sensibility, this astonishing work of speculative fiction—brilliantly translated by Julia Meitov Hersey—is reminiscent of modern classics such as Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Max Barry’s Lexicon, and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, but will transport them to a place far beyond those fantastical worlds.

Why I requested it: I love Russian literature and this one sounded right up my alley. And then my slump hit. Continue reading “TBR: ARCs on my shelves part V (2018)”