Wrap Up September 2020

I had a fairly good reading month, not as great as August though – which is probably due to my daughter sleeping a lot less and being a lot more active. I am still making my way though my ARC-backlist in the hopes of some day maybe catching up (one can dream).

Books I read in September:

  1. In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: 5 out of 5 stars
  2. You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South: 2 out of 5 stars (review)
  3. Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  4. Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels #3.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Machine by Susan Steinberg: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  6. Pain Studies by Lisa Olstein: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  7. The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy #5.1) by Ilona Andrews

Favourite of the Month:

In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado was every bit as brilliant as I expected it to be. I haven’t written a review yet because I want to pair the review with one for No Visible Bruises, a non fiction book about domestic violence that I am currently reading. That one, however, has the tiniest font and I can only read it during the day time hours (I feel old).

Stats(ish):

I read 7(ish) books this month. Of these books, five were written by women and two were written by a husband and wife team. I read two non fiction books, two literary fiction novels, one short story collection, and two Urban Fantasy books.

Currently Reading:

I am, again, reading too many books at once. Four really is my sweet spot, everything more messes with my reading mojo. I am hoping to finish a few of these books over the next week or so (both the Schwab and the Alam are published in early October and I would love to have my reviews up before that – this is probably too ambitious).

Review: Machine by Susan Steinberg

“at times you want to ask for forgiveness; but you don’t know forgiveness from what; and you don’t know who you’re asking it from; but at times you feel like you’ve done something wrong; you feel the need to be absolved;”

Machine – published by Pushkin Press ONE, August 6th 2020

A haunting story of guilt and blame in the wake of a drowning, the first novel by the author of Spectacle

Susan Steinberg’s first novel, Machine, is a dazzling and innovative leap forward for a writer whose most recent book, Spectacle, gained her a rapturous following. Machine revolves around a group of teenagers—both locals and wealthy out-of-towners—during a single summer at the shore. Steinberg captures the pressures and demands of this world in a voice that effortlessly slides from collective to singular, as one girl recounts a night on which another girl drowned. Hoping to assuage her guilt and evade a similar fate, she pieces together the details of this tragedy, as well as the breakdown of her own family, and learns that no one, not even she, is blameless.

A daring stylist, Steinberg contrasts semicolon-studded sentences with short lines that race down the page. This restless approach gains focus and power through a sharply drawn narrative that ferociously interrogates gender, class, privilege, and the disintegration of identity in the shadow of trauma. Machine is the kind of novel—relentless and bold—that only Susan Steinberg could have written.

Find it on Goodreads.

Verdict: Incredible prose, wonderful structure, slightly too vague maybe..

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A girl is dead. She died by drowning at night while the rich kids kept partying on around her. This event is one of many that make the main character’s summer one that chances everything about her life. Still, the dead girl is incidental to the central narrative, even though it grounds the book as main character cannot seem to see outside her own head. Set during the summer in a coastal town, this book deals with trauma and privilege and guilt and toxic masculinity.

The book is told mostly in short, fragmented sentences, seperated from each other by semi-colons – and for me this prose choice made the book compulsively readable and stronger than it would have otherwise been. I am a sucker for interesting stylistic choices and for books told unchronologically – which this was, going backward and forward in time, talking about things that happened or that could have happened or that might still happen. This is not a book for everyone – but it was very much my kind of thing. The characters are all deeply, deeply unlikable and as we stay closely in the unnamed narrator’s head, nobody except for her is fully fleshed out. The book remains vague but purposefully so – for me this worked because I always felt like the author knew what she was doing. I trusted her to lead me through the labyrinthian narrative and I thought she stuck the landing in a way that made this a very satisfying reading experience.

Content warnings: death by drowning, drug abuse, underage drinking, sexual assault, domestic abuse, psychological abuse

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

Rachel and I have too many ARCs – another try at an emergency readathon (2020 edition)

Last year around this time, Rachel and I created a two-person-readathon to get our amount of unread ARCs under something resembling control. Ask me how that went! (Not great. Not great at all. I was newly pregnant and feeling pretty awful) But, it was fun! So we are doing it again the last two weeks of September and hopefully this time around I will actually make a dent into my (even bigger) mountain of unread ARCs. You are all absolutely invited to join but we don’t have any prompts, we won’t be doing anything fancy like reading sprints, but it is fun all the same!

Most of my ARCs are overdue and I do not even know how this will ever change – but I really am trying to at least get my number of unreviewed ARCs down significantly over the next few months.

I am currently in the middle of two ARCs – these will obviously my priority:

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

Published by Titan Books, October 6th 2020

I did not expect to be approved for this – it is Schwab after all and people have been looking forward to this book for years, but I did and I am so glad. I was super in the mood for her kind of writing and prefer reading on my kindle to reading physical books lately.

Crooked Halleluja by Kelli Jo Ford

Published by Grove Atlantic, July 14th 2020

I am absolutely loving this – but it is also a difficult read due to its content. I am super enjoying Ford’s characterization and her prose. If this keeps up, it will surely be one of my favourites of the year.

I usually read a few books at the same time but try to read different genres. Once I finish Crooked Hallelujah, I will pick one of my more literary fiction ARCs, and once I finish Addie LaRue, I will choose another speculative novel.

Literary Fiction

Machine by Susan Steinberg (published by Pushkin Press, August 6th 2020)

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld (published by Knopf Doubleday, September 1st 2020)

Pew by Catherine Lacey (published by Granta, May 14th 2020)

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (published by Faber & Faber, August 20th 2020)

Of those four I am most excited about Emezi’s second novel – I adored Freshwater and have high hopes that this will also be a favourite.

Speculative Fiction:

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri (published by Orbit, November 2018)

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron (published by HarperCollins, September 2019)

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (published by Titan Books, August 11th 2020)

Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam (published by Bloomsbury, October 6th 2020)

I am most excited about Empire of Sand – but I also never pick it up. I am fairly certain I will love it – many people with similar tastes to mine have already adored it, I love speculative romance, and Suri is a delight on twitter. I really should finally get to this. But I am also intrigued by Alam’s book, who is also a delight on twitter – but I also scare easily, so we will have to see how this horror/ fantasy/ thriller hybrid works for me.

I have also quite a few ARCs I have read parts of but for some reason did not finish. I hope to return to some of these and decide whether I want to keep reading.

This list of ARCs is by far not complete but it is more than enough to keep me occupied for more than the two weeks the readathon runs. And also, who am I kidding, I recently got an ARC of Melissa Broder’s second novel Milk Fed which does not release until next year but which I will probably read before anything else because I am so very excited (and this is how I manage to never ever catch up on my unread ARCs).