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.

Most anticipated fiction releases of 2021

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.)

Mini-Reviews: Literary Fiction novels about female bodies with fabulist elements

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams

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Published by Random House UK, February 6th 2020

I was beyond excited for this book – on paper this sounds like my type of book to the extreme. Its central conceit is a fabulist metaphor, it focusses women and their bodies, and the writing is lyrical enough without being flowery. I think this would have worked a lot better for me had it been a short story. As it was, I did not find it weird enough or realistic enough for me to work. I found the characters indistinct and never got a proper impression of the place – something that would have helped ground me in the world Beams builds here. I am (maybe unfairly) blaming this book for my reading slump because I have been reading it for two months, feeling too guilty to pick up another litfic kind of book and dreading having to pick it back up – so yesterday I decided to just not keep doing that. This is not a bad book and I might have actually rated it 3 stars had I kept with it, but it is very much not the book for me. I struggle with historical fiction and really wish this had been weirder.

My rating: DNF

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

Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

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Published by Random House UK, March 5th 2020

I adored this – the writing, the storyline, the absolute bonkers weirdness, and most of all the wonderful main character. This book is super weird and the prose is flowery enough to sometimes hide what is going on, to really, really work for me. It is also a deeply disturbing book, both in the central imagery of a ground that needs to be fed and of healers opening up their patients and then putting them into the earth to heal and in the casual horror of the main character’s relationship – a horror that Rainsford does not explicate but makes very very obvious nonetheless.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: body horror, pedophilia

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

Wrap Up February 2020 or where did the month go?

I had an incredibly bad reading month, quantity wise. For some reason or other, I was not able to just sit down and read. Parts were due to the incredible high workload I have (I need to get SO much done before I go on leave in April), parts were just general none-interest. I did love or really enjoy every book I finished though, so there is that.

Books I read in February:

  1. Follow Me To Ground by Sue Rainsford: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe: 5 out of 5 stars
  3. A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons #1) by Milla Vane: 4 out of 5 stars (mini-review)
  4. How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones: 4 out of 5 stars
  5. The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy: 5 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

Say Nothing. I cannot recommend this book highly enough – I thought I would like it, I did not realize how very much I would love it. The Man Who Saw Everything was a close second though – I really appreciated this clever, clever, clever book.

Stats(ish):

I read three books written by women and two written by a male authors. Three of the books I read on audio and two as ebooks. I read one literary fiction novel, one short speculative literary fiction novel, one fantasy book with a strong focus on romance, one memoir and one non-fiction title.

Currently Reading:

If I don’t finish The Illness Lesson this weekend, I will call it quits. I think it is partly responsible for my slump – because it is an arc and somewhat lific adjacent, I feel too guilty to start another book before finishing it but I am also really, really not enjoying it. Love her or Lose Her is surprisingly boring for a Tessa Bailey novel but I am determined to stick with it – I do want to know how they resolve their issues. I got sidetracked by Verge’s arrival (and should be finished with it soon), so I have not picked up Orange World in weeks. The two fantasy books are just really long.

Books I should get to soon:

It’s Women’s Prize longlist time! I am so excited and cannot wait to dive into whatever this will bring. Here are some longlist predictions to give an indication what might be to come: Emily’s, Naty’s, Jess’, and my own.

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

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

Books I read in January:

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

Favourite of the Month:

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

Stats(ish):

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

Currently Reading:

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

Books I should get to soon:

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