Wrap Up June 2021

I will just have to stop complaining that my reading month was awful. There is no way this state of affairs will change, especially now that I am back at work and really, really need to finish my PhD – as I just accepted a PostDoc job starting in August (I am super excited about the job and think I can do it very well but at some point this next year I will need to have the title for it).

This does mean a couple of things for my blog though: I cannot even attempt to write reviews for everything I read (which I have not been doing for about two years anyways) and this will be the part of my hobbies that is least likely to survive. I will for now change the way I do my wrap ups to include mini impressions of the books I read and hopefully will be able to write at least this post each month.

Books I read in June:

I began the month strong by finishing the absolutely incredible Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe (5 out of 5 stars): an impeccable researched and structured deep dive into the Sackler family (of OxyContin “fame) – my main takeaway is, as usual, capitalism is the worst and regulation is indeed not the enemy. The audiobook is read by the author himself which is always something I adore. Afterwards I listened to my chaotic buddy read: Brood by Jackie Polzin (4.5 out of 5 stars) – which has stuck and grown on me. It is a surprisingly gruesome story about a griefing woman and her chicken – and I loved her so much. She is prickly and sad and so sure of some things (and probably very wrong about them!) while being very anxious and unsure about other things. She is a near perfect character. Afterwards I fell even deeper into my reading slump, as I went back to work and got just hammered with things to do. Thankfully, I still have some Ilona Andrews’ books to read, which is what I did. I inhaled the first two books in their Innkepper Chronicles Clean Sweep (4 out of 5 stars) and Sweep in Peace (3.5 out of 5 stars) – they are just my “break in case of reading slump” authors. At least once a year they manage to ignite my love for reading anew. This is technically the third series of theirs that I am reading and while it is not my favourite, it has all the things I love about their work: great world building, brilliant characters with wonderful interactions, main characters that are just my kind of overly powerful women – and an emotional core that hits me as a surprise again and again. I also finally DNFed A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion which had been sitting at 62% read on my Kindle for six months. This is not a bad book by any means but I found it unfocussed and for me at least the mix between coming-of-age and thriller did not work. I thought the coming-of-age elements, even if they followed expected story beats (the skinny dipping scene, the awkward first kiss, the falling out with friends, the fights with sisters), worked beautifully due to how expertly the main character is drawn. The thriller-y elements on the other hand did neither work for me nor kept me interested enough to keep reading.

Favourite of the Month:

Empire of Pain was as brilliant as I expected it to be.

Stats(ish):

I finished four books, three written by women and one by a man. One book was non fiction, one fiction and two can broadly be categorized as Urban Fantasy (albeit with scifi explanations).

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

I should be trying to finally finish some of the books I have been reading for literal months – and stop adding more and more books to my currently reading shelf. 10 books is just ridiculous!

Wrap Up May 2021

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:

  1. No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood: 2.5 out of 5 stars
  2. Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. 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.

Stats(ish):

I finished three books, all of them fiction written by women.

Currently Reading:

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.)

Wrap Up April 2021

Apparently I will now forever only finish two books a month. I exaggerate but it does feel this way.

Books I read in April:

  1. Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough: 4.5 out of 5 stars
  2. 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.

Stats(ish):

I read two books, both by women. One non-fiction title and short story collection.

Currently Reading:

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!

Wrap Up March 2021

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:

  1. Real Estate by Deborah Levy: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. 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.

Stats(ish):

I read two books, both by women. One non-fiction title and one fiction novel.

Currently Reading:

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.

Wrap Up February 2021

I am trying to finish my PhD thesis this year and recently decided that this means that I will have to try to write something every day. This is going, well, not great, but better than before. But this also means that I do not have as much time for reading. I am still quite pleased with my reading month..

Books I read in February:

  1. Hall of Smoke by H. M Long: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  2. Beautiful Mutants by Deborah Levy: 4 out of 5 stars
  3. The Unwanted Wife by Natasha Anders: 3 out of 5 stars
  4. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke: 5 out of 5 stars
  5. Women and Other Monsters by Jess Zimmermann: 3.5 out of 5 stars (review)

Favourite of the Month:

I adored Piranesi. I was fairly sure I would and Clarke delivered. Her prose is as excellent as ever and this tiny book packs such a punch. I loved trying to solve its mystery and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Stats(ish):

I read five books, all of them written by women. I read one non fiction title, one romance, one literary fiction, one fantasy, and one thing I would call literary speculative fiction.

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

I should just finish the books I am currently reading before my squirrel brain is allowed to start anything new again. I am, however, very excited for quite a few March releases, especially The Unbroken by C. L. Clark and Redder Days by Sue Rainsford – I hope this stays this way, so that I can actually read them.

Wrap Up January 2021

I am determined to have a better reading year than last year and very purposefully chose my books. I finally finished a few books I had been reading way too long and I am now trying to just pick the books I am absolutely feeling like going forward. This worked out well for this month.

Books I read in January:

  1. Open Book by Jessica Simpson: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. Things I Don’t Want To Know by Deborah Levy: 4.5 out of 5 stars
  4. Magic Stars (Kate Daniels #8.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. You Perfect, Broken Thing by C. L. Clark: 4 out of 5 stars
  6. The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  7. Magic Heir (Aurelia Ryder #1) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

My favourite thing I read this month were the first two installments of Deborah Levy’s living autobiography. The last part will be published later this year and I am very excited. While I do not always agree with Levy’s points, her prose is stunning and her structure impeccable. I cannot wait to read more of her backlist while I wait for her next book.

Stats(ish):

I read 8(ish) books this month. Six were written by women and two by an author team. Three books can be categorized as fantasy, three were non-fiction, one was translated fiction, and I also read one short story.

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

I am very close to finishing A Crooked Tree (started brilliantly, is currently dragging) and Hall of Smoke (great world, great main character, odd pacing). Afterwards I will hopefully start on my March ARCs. I am especially excited for Redder Days by Sue Rainsford and The Unbroken by C. L. Clark. Twitter decided on my next physical book (Piranesi by Susanna Clarke) and I could not be more excited. I also did not read a short story collection this month and need to remedy that as soon as possible.

Wrap Up December 2020

The year is gone. And I cannot say I am not relieved. This December was different for me than before (I am sure this is the case for many of us!) but also in parts really nice: we had our first Christmas as a three person family! With our very own Christmas tree!

My daughter has not been sleeping well at all, so I have not really been reading all that much but I did read one of my very favourite books of the year, so this is nice. I had lofty ambitions to finish all the books I am currently reading to be able to start the new year with a completely clean slate but alas.

Books I read in December:

  1. Deal With The Devil (Mercenary Librarians #1) by Kit Rocha: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder: 5 out of 5 stars
  3. Sabrina by Nick Drnaso: 3 out of 5 stars

I also DNFed The Ocean House by Mary-Beth Hughes (review) as it just did not work for me and my reading is not great as it is.

Favourite of the Month:

By far my favourite, and indeed one of my very favourite books of the year, was No Visible Bruises. I just want everybody to read this (trigger warnings galore though!).

Stats(ish):

I finished three books, one speculative romance, one non-fiction, and one graphic novel.

Currently Reading:

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.)