if you know me, you know I love reading mysteries. I used to binge-read all and any Agatha Christie books I could as a teen, and buddy read them with my sister and mom as we tried to out-detective each other.
The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths
This is the second book of the Harbinder Kaur series, which I didn’t realize when I picked it up at first – but I could totally follow the story with no problem at all. This was such fun! It’s the height of cozy mystery for me, a book full of authors and where books are at the heart of a series of murders… I love this.
The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should not be suspicious. Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing out of the ordinary when Peggy’s caretaker, Natalka, begins to recount Peggy Smith’s passing.
But Natalka had a reason to be at the police station: while clearing out Peggy’s flat, she noticed an unusual number of crime novels, all dedicated to Peggy. And each psychological thriller included a mysterious postscript: PS: for PS. When a gunman breaks into the flat to steal a book and its author is found dead shortly thereafter—Detective Kaur begins to think that perhaps there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.
And then things escalate: from an Aberdeen literary festival to the streets of Edinburgh, writers are being targeted. DS Kaur embarks on a road trip across Europe and reckons with how exactly authors can think up such realistic crimes . . .
The Only Survivors by Megan Miranda
I am still rather new to Megan Miranda’s work, but lately I’ve been gravitating towards these more “classic” mystery-thrillers and this just hit the spot. Small town, mysterious disappearances, a main character who doens’t quite belong… this was a good time!
A mystery about a group of former classmates who reunite to mark the tenth anniversary of a tragic accident—only to have one of the survivors disappear, casting fear and suspicion on the original tragedy.
Now You See Us by Balli Kaur Jaswal
This is a fantastic mystery if you’re really into contemporaries. It reads like a contemporary and, even though I wouldn’t say the mystery isn’t on the foreground of the story, it just really charmed me by how vividly, vibrantly the characters and community were written. Balli Kaur Jaswal always does a fantastic job at bringing characters to life and this is another emotional, sharp novel I flew through.
The wealthy island nation of Singapore seems like an oasis of luxury and order, but it owes everything to the immigrant women no one sees. Corazon, Donita, and Angel are Filipina domestic workers—part of the wave of women sent to Singapore to be cleaners, maids, and caregivers in its decadent homes.
Then an explosive news story shatters Singapore’s famous tranquility—and sends a chill down the spine of every domestic worker: Flordeliza Martinez, a Filipina maid, has been arrested for murdering her female employer. The three women don’t know the accused well, but she could be any of them; every worker knows stories of women who were scapegoated or even executed for crimes they didn’t commit.
Shocked into action, Donita, Corazon, and Angel will use their considerable moxie and insight to piece together the mystery of what really happened on the day Flordeliza’s employer was murdered. After all, no one knows the secrets of Singapore’s elite like the women who work in their homes.
I’ve been slowly dipping my toes again into reading, mostly because I am easily seduced by all the shiny new releases, so I thought it would be nice to talk a little about what I’ve been reading lately. The largest part of what I read can be classified as either a mystery or literary fiction, so I’m doing a few posts about those two categories.
Good Girl by Anna Fitzpatrick
I found out about this book through a Booktuber (I’m not sure who anymore, sorry), and it was giving strong The Pisces / Luster vibes and I was immediately sold. This was surprisingly funny and sometimes almost sweet, but it definitely fits the Messy Woman Trope if you’re into it – the writing is so good, and I devoured this slim novel. I can’t believe this is a debut!
I know I’ve been gone for a while, but since last year I’ve been in a bit of a slump and just recently started to get back into reading more consistently again. Since I’ve been reading lots of ARCs lately and I love, love mysteries and thrillers, I thought I’d talk a bit about books coming out this year that I’ve read and what I thought about them! New releases are always fun to talk about, and mysteries are such a great way to get one out of a reading slump, so here we are. I haven’t read these books with reviewing them in mind, so please be lenient with my rather simple, not very exhaustive reviews
The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero, translated by Annie McDermott
Categories: Literary Fiction, Translated
First Publication Date: 2005
‘Perhaps the luminous novel is this thing that I started writing today; just now. Maybe these sheets of paper are a warm-up exercise. […] But it’s quite possible that if I go on writing – as I usually do – with no plan; although this time I know very well what I want to say; things will start to take shape; to come together. I can feel the familiar taste of a literary adventure in my throat.
I’ll take that as confirmation; then; and start describing what I think was the beginning of my spiritual awakening – though nobody should expect religious sermons at this point; they’ll come later. It all began with some ruminations prompted by a dog.’
A writer attempts to complete the novel for which he has been awarded a big fat Guggenheim grant; though for a long time he succeeds mainly in procrastinating – getting an electrician to rewire his living room so he can reposition his computer; buying an armchair; or rather; two: ‘In one; you can’t possibly read: it’s uncomfortable and your back ends up crooked and sore. In the other; you can’t possibly relax: the hard backrest means you have to sit up straight and pay attention; which makes it ideal if you want to read.’
Insomniacs; romantics and anyone who’s ever written (or failed to write) will fall in love with this compelling masterpiece told by a true original; with all his infuriating faults; charming wit and intriguing musings.
I cannot believe I haven’t posted this before – it’s been sitting on my drafts for literally a year and half.
I haven’t written many reviews lately but I had SO many thoughts on this book that I couldn’t not write a review for it. In short, The Luminous Novel is a piece of autofiction about Levrero’s attempt to write the eponymous luminous novel after receiving a grant, and instead procrastinating, keeping the weirdest sleeping schedules, trying (not too hard) to fight his computer games addiction and reading detective novels. His first attempt to write the Luminous Novel started in 1984 and sixteen years later, he isn’t entirely sure he still has it in him to write it. I had not read anything by Levrero before, but now I’m also interested in reading Empty Words, his first work translated into English.
I took some issue with the way Levrero’s life is basically a bunch of women who keep feeding him, making him company, helping him find apartments, giving out prescriptions and doing a whole lot of work for him, which gave me a bit of a weird feeling that he just doesn’t know how to stay alive without women pampering him and doing all the work of keeping him going out of the house, fed and cleaning the place, plus all the emotional work. That, and all the talk about pornography, give me the feeling that in real life I would not have liked him very much.
This is such an incredibly difficult novel to rate; one the one hand I feel like my overall experience and enjoyment were about four stars, and I do love the way this novel added such playfulness and ingenuity into what is in actuality a plotless book. It takes a lot of talent to write 600 pages of rambling and procrastinating and still make it an interesting book. On the other hand, this was not a perfect read for me, and of course I was a bit bored at some points, plus the issues I mentioned in the paragraph above caused me to consider bringing it down to 3 stars. Regardless of the rating, though, if you’re looking for something different (maybe a bit weird, too), if you enjoy autofiction and reading a book just for its writing and narrator and not particularly looking for a plot, for any action or for a Great Uruguayan Novel, then you’ll enjoy this!
For a change, I decided to post my most anticipated books in January instead of last month because honestly, I just had so many things I wanted to talk about, that this post kept getting pushed. And literally every week I find new books to add to it, so as usual it’s just very hard to choose when to post this because I feel like this post becomes incomplete the moment I post it.
The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai – January 10, 2023
OKAY LISTEN UP we’re starting with a banger. This is one of my most anticipated titles of the year and I HAVE AN ARC FOR IT, so this will definitely be on a priority on my reading list for me this year. This is a fantasy set in an Egypt-inspired world, it is about characters from different backgrounds fighting for women’s rights, and it sounds incredible. I also bought a copy! Full disclosure: I know the author, she’s a wonderful, smart, lovely person and we are in a group chat in Twitter, and so my review may be biased because I really like her, even if I try my hardest to stay neutral.
As a waterweaver, Nehal can move and shape any water to her will, but she’s limited by her lack of formal education. She desires nothing more than to attend the newly opened Weaving Academy, take complete control of her powers, and pursue a glorious future on the battlefield with the first all-female military regiment. But her family cannot afford to let her go–crushed under her father’s gambling debt, Nehal is forcibly married into a wealthy merchant family. Her new spouse, Nico, is indifferent and distant and in love with another woman, a bookseller named Giorgina.
Giorgina has her own secret, however: she is an earthweaver with dangerously uncontrollable powers. She has no money and no prospects. Her only solace comes from her activities with the Daughters of Izdihar, a radical women’s rights group at the forefront of a movement with a simple goal: to attain recognition for women to have a say in their own lives. They live very different lives and come from very different means, yet Nehal and Giorgina have more in common than they think. The cause–and Nico–brings them into each other’s orbit, drawn in by the group’s enigmatic leader, Malak Mamdouh, and the urge to do what is right.
But their problems may seem small in the broader context of their world, as tensions are rising with a neighboring nation that desires an end to weaving and weavers. As Nehal and Giorgina fight for their rights, the threat of war looms in the background, and the two women find themselves struggling to earn–and keep–a lasting freedom.
I love recommending Brazilian literature. In my litfic circles I tend to read loads and loads of American and British books, and not nearly enough Brazilian ones, so from time to time I like to write these posts dedicated to highlighting the books from my homeland. I usually will have a post talking about the books that make it to my end-of-the-year lists – like this one: The Best Books I Read in 2021 – Part 1: Brazilian Books – but today I wanted to talk about every single book I read this year because my taste in literature is so specific that I thought it’s worth talking about books I didn’t like as well, because for sure they’ll appeal to some readers.
I’ll be doing it chronologically just because it’s nice to look back and see what interested me in January and how that’s different from what interested me now in December. Also! A lot of these aren’t available in translation but I wanted to talk about them to my English-speaking audience as well – I’ll let you know for each title when there are translations available.
De silêncios e demoras by Cristiano de Sales
This was the year that I read the most Brazilian poetry, and I really enjoyed it. This one is an indie published collection from a poet living in Curitiba and I thought this was very good. I find it super hard to talk about poetry but – this was good. If you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten path, this is a nice option. Not available in translation.
I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been actually quite depressed these past months, and I find a lot of solace in books that reflect that state of mind. Especially during Winter, I find the cold and darkness harder to deal with, and so inevitably get a bit down or downright depressed during these months. So I created this list thinking that maybe some people might also find comfort in reading about other people being sad during the colder months – I’ve also added a few books that don’t necessarily take place in winter but gave me a winter vibe in some sort of way (I’ll explain for each book below what my reasoning was).
Also this post is the result of a poll on Twitter:
Without further ado, here are my book recommendations for a proper sad (or S.A.D) girl winter!
The Shutter of Snow by Emily Holmes Coleman
The Shutter of Snow is the fictitious account of Mrs Marthe Gail’s time at a mental institute in the 1930s, when she had a breakdown after having her child and beleives she is God. The story, although fiction, is heavily based upon the writer’s real life experience. of being committed to an insane asylum after suffering from puerperal fever and a nervous breakdown after giving birth. The writing is both haunting and disconcerting, especially in the beginning as Marthe is less lucid and experiences things in a very confusing, but often poetic way. The novel takes place during winter and has several allusions to the weather outside, so I think it’s a perfect Winter read.
Today is my birthday! So to celebrate I decided to publish the post that I typically start writing on January every year – my favorite reads! I’ve played around with all the kinds of lists I could write (very long post with a top 3 for each genre/category? Short post with top 5 overall? Only 2022 releases? Best 22 books?) but ended up to keep it simple and just list all the books that truly, truly shone to me. So now we have like 25+ books, a mix of fiction, non-fiction, titles in English and in Portuguese.All brilliant.
Quarto de Despejo by Carolina Maria de Jesus
This is the diary of Carolina, who lived in the favela for a long time and described her experience with a cool, detatched, but heartbreaking writing style that turned such a sad topic into something not entirely bleak to read – it’s even poetic here and there (but not in a romanticized kind of way). I loved this. It’s also translated into English as Child of the Dark.
Torto Arado Itamar by Vieira Junior
Oh if you love this kind of lyrical, a bit magical heartbreak of story, you will love this. Torto Arado is truly a gem in Brazilian literature and I can easily recommend it for fans of family epics (although this is a slim book) and literary fiction. I believe it’s available in English as Crooked Plow even though it doesn’t show in Goodreads, it comes out on 2023.
The It Girl by Ruth Ware
I believe this was my second Ruth Ware book – the first one I DNF-ed because I was bored out of my mind, but this one! This one I devoured. It’s a mystery rather than a thriller, so a slow-paced story and it was so addictive, with its dark academia atmosphere, tight-knit friend group with a secret, a possible wrongful murder… really it just worked for me.
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer
Oh, I loved this. If you want to be completely devastated, pick this up. It tells the story of a woman, but it’s also told through the eyes (?) of an illness growing inside her. The audiobook was fantastic, the writing so lyrical, it broke my heart.
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur
Oh god, what a unique short story collection! I can barely describe it properly, but suffices to say, if you’re looking for a good dark, horror story collection and are okay with some gore and some disgusting stuff happening, then you’ll love this. The first story really challenged me (if you know, you know) but it was nevertheless fantastic and got me thinking about its themes for a long time.
Reputation by Sarah Vaughan
Oh this book is going to make you so angry, but in a good way. If you’re looking for a thriller that will do more than just the usual formulaic story, that makes the reader really think and is sometimes a bit difficult to read – oh this is a great one. Reputation tells the story of a politician who is caught in a scandal when the body of a journalist shows up in her house and she’s suspected of killing him.
If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga
This slim gem of a novel made my heart break. It takes place after the Arab Spring and centers around the doomed romance between an Egyptian-American expat and a local photographer whose life is taking a dark turn. It explores so many interesting themes, like the romanticizing of a country, class disparity, the power of storytelling… it was fantastic.
Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy
This reads like a Stephen King horror with an middle aged lady (who might be housing the spirit of a serial killer) as the protagonist and I had a fantastic time with it! It felt like a very classic horror, with all the bloodbath one could wish for.
Sea of Tranquility Emily St. John Mandel
Oh my god this was amazing. Pick it up if you love literary fiction, not if you’re a sci-fi fan – really, this is very focused on characters and with St. John Mandel’s impeccable, clever writing, but the science fiction aspect of it might not be quite enough to convince sci-fi fans. I am not sure how to describe it, really – it takes place in several points in time, as we spend time with different characters, all of which experience an anomaly in time as space.
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
This one I highly recommend for fans of mysteries, especially if you’re into true crime as well. It tells the story of a serial killer, but through the eyes of three women: his mother, a policewoman and the sister of one of his victims. It was such a great book, so very nuanced and asking questions about justice, redemption and our society’s obsession with true crime and a serial killer’s psyche.
Vladimir by Julia May Jonas
This book was completely bonkers. It tells the story of a woman whose husband is being investigated for his inappropriate relationship with students while she becomes obsessed with a new, handsome professor. It took me for a wild ride and I really enjoyed the dark, unflinching themes of this book.
A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins
I’m not the hugest fan of Paula Hawkins, but I devoured this! It is a slow-paced mystery about a man who’s found murdered in a houseboat, and three women who are suspected of having something to do with it. The story was wild, taking unexpected turns and I loved every minute of it.
The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
This is a historical fiction set in Pompeii a few years before the volcano exploded. It tells the story of a group of women who are forced into prostitution, and their brutal lives – but what really charmed me about this novel was the clever main character, who will do anything to be freed. Fate takes wild turns at times, and the ending left me breathless.
Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
Fonda Lee ruined me with this book. This is, and will probably always be, one of my favorite fantasies of all time. The scheming, the magic system, the relationships, the twists and the many times it shocked me – I loved this so much! I don’t want to talk too much about this story because Jade Legacy is the third book of a series but I have talked about the series before: Review: Jade City, by Fonda Lee, Review: Jade War (The Green Bone Saga #2), by Fonda Lee.
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
I love Patricia Highsmith’s writing so much. She does psychological, noir thrillers like no one else – Strangers on a Train is a classic about two men who meet accidentally in a train and one of them tries to convince the other to commit the perfect crime. It had me hooked the entire time.
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
This was the year when I fell in love with classics again. I remember enjoying Rebecca but I loved My Cousin Rachel. Such a clever story, so atmospheric and mysterious. It’s about a young man whose cousin dies and leaves him everything – strangely leaving nothing for his new wife, Rachel. When she shows up at his door, he feels immediately intrigued by her, even though she might have had something to do with the death of his cousin.
Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
This was a bit of a surprise for me – I had Under the Net on my list for years already, because I was curious about Iris Murdoch’s work, but I had no real expectations. But this was very entertaining, wonderfully written, a fun mix of an irreperable but loveable main character and a bit of philosophizing. I really enjoyed this.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
This was a big project for me this year, and it look me long time to read this classic of feminist literature – despite it obviously being outdated, I had a wonderful time reading this. I recognized lots of the questions I struggled with as a young woman, and she has such a wonderful way to precisely express her thoughts, and a lot of times I felt like she was talking about things I knew but could not find the words for. I definitely need to re-read this.
How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by K.C. Davis
This is the gentlest, kindest book I’ve ever read. It’s no secret that I’ve suffered from depression that leaves me completely useless for long stretches of time, and doing chores is very, very difficult in those times.So I intend on using the strategies on this book a lot.
Vilette by Charlotte Brontë
I am a total Brontë fan, I just love the dramatic, romantic, Gothic novels. They are always problematic in such a delicious way – and Vilette was the same! It felt like a more mature novel than Jane Eyre, and I liked the writing better, really.
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet
This book reminded me a bit of The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood in tone (which I’m currently reading and loving), and also a bit of the Iris Murdoch style, which I loved. This was a fun read that had a definitely “oldey” feel to it, taking place mostly in the 60s and adding some philosophy on the “self” and brilliantly vivid characters. Quite a different tone from His Bloody Project (far less gory) but this is probably solidifying Graeme Macrae Burnet as one of my auto-buy authors.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
This was a re-read for me and I was so glad to love it again! As just said, I love the Brontë problematic, Gothic dramas and it’s a pity Emily didn’t publish more books.
Strangers I Know by Claudia Durastanti
I read the Brazilian translation of this gorgeous novel. It tells the story of a couple, both deaf, falling in love, marrying and eventually separating. Their daughter tells the story, herself having moved form Italy to the US. This is a book about language, belonging and forever feeling like a stranger/foreigner. I can’t believe this didn’t get more hype when it came out in English this year, it’s such a gorgeous non-fiction.
Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis
Also a re-read for me. This is a classic of Brazilian literature and there is so much more to it than the main mystery of whether Capitu cheated or not. This is a fascinating story of entitlement, paranoia, and in my opinion, of the limits of women’s options in those times, their lives decided by men and their moods. In English, it is also called Dom Casmurro, in case you are interested.
Olhos d’água by Conceição Evaristo
Oh god, this was a punch to the stomach of a book. It’s a gorgeous Brazilian collection of stories which puts in focus the experiences of the Afro-Brazilian population. It’s wonderful, raw, powerful, the characters so vivid they almost come out of the page. One story in particular almost brought me to tears – and I don’t easily cry. I don’t think this has a translation yet.
Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
This was such a strange little collection of stories that I was surprised to find myself falling in love with. They’re about belonging (or rather, not belonging) and it has a delicious mix of science fiction, dystopia and literary that just works.
Nightshift by Kiare Ladner
Another one perfect for those looking to be traumatized and depressed forever, but it’s totally worth it because it’s such a great book. This is the story of a woman who becomes obsessed with her coworker and decides to change to the Night Shift so as to stay close to her. I loved this but I have to say, it’s full of triggers and very, very difficult to read at times.
2022 is almost over. There were so many incredible releases this year and I wanted to read literally hundreds of books – obviously there isn’t time for that, but I did read most of the books I was most anticipating and curious about. I like to get to as many books as possible in the year they get published because usually that’s when they get hype and people pick them up – so if I review them or generally talk about them in that time, there’s a bigger chance that my readers will know the book and be interested, or will have just read the book and we can chat about it. Also, who doesn’t love a shiny new book?
Here are the books I wanted to read this year, and I own some (most) of these, so I’ll probably pick them up at some point!
Ithaca by Claire North
Okay, so Greek myths retellings are getting a bit overdone by now, but I’m not quite over them yet. I was not initially going to read this until I realized it was a retelling of Penelope’s story! And as all my fans know, my cat is named after Penelope, the mythological figure. So, my cat made me request this ARC (?) but I haven’t read yet – I hope to get to it pretty soon.
Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom.
Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door.
No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne—not yet. But everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, and Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning, wit, and her trusted circle of maids, can she maintain the tenuous peace needed for the kingdom to survive.
This is the story of Penelope of Ithaca, famed wife of Odysseus, as it has never been told before. Beyond Ithaca’s shores, the whims of gods dictate the wars of men. But on the isle, it is the choices of the abandoned women—and their goddesses— that will change the course of the world.
After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz
I picked this up after it was highly recommended by Willow at Books and Bao, and I’m so excited for this! I’M planning to pick it up during my Christmas vacation so I can read it peacefully instead of in snippets during my commute and lunch breaks.
IT’S 1895. Amid laundry and bruises, Rina Pierangeli Faccio gives birth to the child of the man who raped her – and who she has also been forced to marry. Unbroken, she determines to change her name; and her life, alongside it.
1902. Romaine Brooks sails for Capri. She has barely enough money for the ferry, nothing for lunch; her paintbrushes are bald and clotted… But she is sure she can sell a painting – and is fervent in her belief that the island is detached from all fates she has previously suffered.
… In 1923, Virginia Woolf writes: I want to make life fuller – and fuller.
Told in a series of cascading vignettes, featuring a multitude of voices, After Sappho is Selby Wynn Schwartz’s joyous reimagining of the lives of a brilliant group of feminists, sapphists, artists and writers in the late 19th and early 20th century as they battle for control over their lives; for liberation and for justice.
Sarah Bernhard – Colette – Eleanora Duse – Lina Poletti – Josephine Baker – Virginia Woolf… these are just a few of the women (some famous, others hitherto unsung) sharing the pages of a novel as fierce as it is luminous. Lush and poetic; furious and funny; in After Sappho, Selby Wynn Schwartz has created a novel that celebrates the women and trailblazers of the past – and also offers hope for our present, and our futures.
Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors
This is another one that I’m not sure what the plot is and I want to go into it a little bit blind. All I know is that it’s a story about relationships (romantic ones, I think?), and it seems to be that kind of sad litfic that I enjoy, in the vain of My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Luster.
Twenty-four-year-old British painter Cleo has escaped from England to New York and is still finding her place in the sleepless city when, a few months before her student visa ends, she meets Frank. Twenty years older and a self-made success, Frank’s life is full of all the excesses Cleo’s lacks. He offers her the chance to be happy, the freedom to paint, and the opportunity to apply for a Green Card. But their impulsive marriage irreversibly changes both their lives, and the lives of those close to them, in ways they never could’ve predicted.
Each compulsively readable chapter explores the lives of Cleo, Frank, and an unforgettable cast of their closest friends and family as they grow up and grow older. Whether it’s Cleo’s best friend struggling to embrace his gender queerness in the wake of Cleo’s marriage, or Frank’s financially dependent sister arranging sugar daddy dates to support herself after being cut off, or Cleo and Frank themselves as they discover the trials of marriage and mental illness, each character is as absorbing, and painfully relatable, as the last.
As hilarious as it is heartbreaking, entertaining as it is deeply moving, Cleopatra and Frankenstein marks the entry of a brilliant and bold new talent.
Nettleblack by Nat Reeve
I also picked this up after recommendation from Willow, it just sounds incredible. It’s set in Victorian era, it has mysteries and murders in a small town, plus it’s told through letters and journal entries (which I love), it sounds incredible. This is another that I want to read when I have some time off, because it’s hefty and it sounds so atmospheric, I just want to take my time reading this in peace. My 2 weeks of vacation will have to do lots of work to fit all the books I want to read!
The year is 1893. Having run away from her family home to escape an arranged marriage, Welsh heiress Henry Nettleblack finds herself ambushed, robbed, and then saved by the mysterious Dallyangle Division – part detective agency, part neighbourhood watch. Desperate to hide from her older sisters, Henry disguises herself and enlists. But the Division soon finds itself under siege from a spate of crimes and must fight for its very survival. Assailed by strange feelings for her new colleague – the tomboyish, moody Septimus – Henry quickly sees that she’s lost in a small rural town with surprisingly big problems. And to make things worse, sinister forces threaten to expose her as the missing Nettleblack sister. As the net starts to close around Henry, the new people in her life seem to offer her a way out, and a way forward. Is the world she’s lost in also a place she can find herself?
Told through journal entries and letters, Nettleblack is a picaresque ride through the perils and joys of finding your place in the world, challenging myths about queerness – particularly transness – as a modern phenomenon, while exploring the practicalities of articulating queer perspectives when you’re struggling for words.
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
I want to go into this one knowing little to nothing, I’ve heard it’s amazing and if you want to know more about it, I’ve copied the synopsis below! I think it will be a dark, heartbreaking litfic and it looks great.
Kiara and her brother, Marcus, are scraping by in an East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Regal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent–which has more than doubled–and to keep the nine-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed.
One night, what begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger turns into the job Kiara never imagined wanting but now desperately needs: nightcrawling. Her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland Police Department.
Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough
Sarah Pinborough’s books are not for everyone – they’re really out there, completely bonkers and a lot of them are supernatural. I had mixed feeligs about Behind Her Eyes, but had such fun reading it that I really want to pick this up. I’m not super intent on reading this, which is why I wanted to read it before the end of the year, before it starts falling behind on my radar. I don’t currently have any plans to read this, but do hope to get to it at some point.
In this twisty, mind-bending thriller from the bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes, Emma Averell worries that her crippling insomnia is a sign that she’s slowly going insane—like the mother she’s worked so hard to leave in her past.
Emma Averell loves her life—her high-powered legal career, her two beautiful children, and her wonderful stay-at-home husband—but it wasn’t always so perfect. When she was just five years old, Emma and her older sister went into foster care because of a horrific incident with their mother. Her sister can remember a time when their mother was loving and “normal,” but Emma can only remember her as one thing—a monster. And that monster emerged right around their mother’s fortieth birthday, the same age Emma is approaching now.
Emma desperately wants to keep her successful life separate from her past, so she has always hidden her childhood trauma. But then she’s unable to sleep, and now losing time during the day, also one of the first symptoms her mother showed. Is the madness in her blood, just as her mother predicted? Could she end up hurting her family in her foggy, frenetic state? Or is she truly beginning to lose her mind?
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
I loved The Book of M, so this was initially very high on my radar, but ended up falling behind because I forgot about it entirely. Since I got rejected an ARC and don’t buy books all that often (I mostly listen to books on Scribd), this kind of just fell of my radar. Also, I haven’t heard anything about it, so no idea if it’s any good? I read a couple of the reviews in Goodreads but that’s usually not the best way for me to assess whether this is a book I will like or not…
Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.
But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable and exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence… because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.
To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power that lies in maps…
Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James
Okay, so I have a reason to not have read this yet. This is the second installment of Marlin James’ fantasy series and I LOVED the first book, then received an ARC for the second book and – it got archived before I could read it. As I don’t buy physical books very often at all plus I can’t say for sure that a series I loved a couple of years ago is still my cup of tea, I’ve been delaying and delaying getting a copy of this, and by now I doubt I’ll get to it before next year.
In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Sogolon the Moon Witch proved a worthy adversary to Tracker as they clashed across a mythical African landscape in search of a mysterious boy who disappeared. In Moon Witch, Spider King, Sogolon takes center stage and gives her own account of what happened to the boy, and how she plotted and fought, triumphed and failed as she looked for him. It’s also the story of a century-long feud—seen through the eyes of a 177-year-old witch—that Sogolon had with the Aesi, chancellor to the king. It is said that Aesi works so closely with the king that together they are like the eight limbs of one spider. Aesi’s power is considerable—and deadly. It takes brains and courage to challenge him, which Sogolon does for reasons of her own.
Both a brilliant narrative device—seeing the story told in Black Leopard, Red Wolf from the perspective of an adversary and a woman—as well as a fascinating battle between different versions of empire, Moon Witch, Spider King delves into Sogolon’s world as she fights to tell her own story. Part adventure tale, part chronicle of an indomitable woman who bows to no man, it is a fascinating novel that explores power, personality, and the places where they overlap.
Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire
Another one that is a second installment of series whose first book I loved. This isn’t focusing on the characters of the first book, so it just kind of fell of my radar after a while, I’m wondering it to pick it up next year for Fall? It just looks like such a perfect Fall read.
Melanie has a destiny, though it isn’t the one everyone assumes it to be. She’s delicate; she’s fragile; she’s dying. Now, truly, is the winter of her soul.
Harry doesn’t want to believe in destiny, because that means accepting the loss of the one person who gives his life meaning, who brings summer to his world.
So, when a new road is laid out in front of them—a road that will lead through untold dangers toward a possible lifetime together—walking down it seems to be the only option.
But others are following behind, with violence in their hearts.
It looks like Destiny has a plan for them, after all….
Self-Portrait with Ghost: Short Stories by Meng Jin
This is a classic “the problem is me, not you!. I loved Meng Jin’s Little Gods SO much, but I don’t really gravitate towards short stories, so this gorgeous-looking collection (that I’m sure is a banger) has been metaphorically collecting dust in my eReader.
Meng Jin’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Little Gods, was praised as “spectacular and emotionally polyphonic (Omar El-Akkad, BookPage), “powerful” (Washington Post), and “meticulously observed, daringly imagined” (Claire Messud). Now Jin turns her considerable talents to short fiction, in ten thematically linked stories.
Written during the turbulent years of the Trump administration and the first year of the pandemic, these stories explore intimacy and isolation, coming-of-age and coming to terms with the repercussions of past mistakes, fraying relationships and surprising moments of connection. Moving between San Francisco and China, and from unsparing realism to genre-bending delight, Self-Portrait with Ghost considers what it means to live in an age of heightened self-consciousness, seemingly endless access to knowledge, and little actual power.
Page-turning, thought-provoking, and wholly unique, Self-Portrait with Ghost further establishes Meng Jin as a writer who “reminds us that possible explanations in our universe are as varied as the beings who populate it” (Paris Review).
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
I loved Elsewhere and Young Jane Young, but I feel like both books kind of flew under the radar (comparatively, that is, to other books that I heard a lot more buzz about when these two came out). I’m a bit suspicious about this one blowing up, although I can’t say why. In my mind, if I loved two books that a lot of people didn’t care much for, then maybe I won’t care much about this book that’s getting so much buzz? The logic makes no sense and I know I should just read this, and maybe I will!
In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.
On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.
Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe
It says “Patrick Radden Keefe”, so obviously I will end up reading this (I loved both Say Nothing and Empire of Pain). But as said I’m not a huge fan of collections of stories (even true ones), so I am dawdling instead of reading this. But I will!
Patrick Radden Keefe has garnered prizes ranging from the National Magazine Award to the Orwell Prize to the National Book Critics Circle Award for his meticulously reported, hypnotically engaging work on the many ways people behave badly. Rogues brings together a dozen of his most celebrated articles from The New Yorker. As Keefe says in his preface, “They reflect on some of my abiding preoccupations: crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the bonds of family, the power of denial.”
Keefe brilliantly explores the intricacies of forging $150,000 vintage wines, examines whether a whistleblower who dared to expose money laundering at a Swiss bank is a hero or a fabulist, spends time in Vietnam with Anthony Bourdain, chronicles the quest to bring down a cheerful international black market arms merchant, and profiles a passionate death penalty attorney who represents the “worst of the worst,” among other bravura works of literary journalism.
The appearance of his byline in The New Yorker is always an event, and collected here for the first time readers can see his work forms an always enthralling but deeply human portrait of criminals and rascals, as well as those who stand up against them.
Bliss Montage by Ling Ma
Oh, same thing really – I adored Severance, it will always have a special place in my heart, as I found it strangely soothing to read during the beginning of the pandemic (don’t ask) – but as a short story collection, I don’t find myself too drawn to it. That cover is so stunning though, I’m thinking of reading it during Summer next year.
What happens when fantasy tears through the screen of the everyday to wake us up? Could that waking be our end?
In Bliss Montage, Ling Ma brings us eight wildly different tales of people making their way through the madness and reality of our collective delusions: love and loneliness, connection and possession, friendship, motherhood, the idea of home. From a woman who lives in a house with all of her ex-boyfriends, to a toxic friendship built around a drug that makes you invisible, to an ancient ritual that might heal you of anything if you bury yourself alive, these and other scenarios reveal that the outlandish and the everyday are shockingly, deceptively, heartbreakingly similar.
I’ve been on a bit of a ruthless mood this year. Usually if I am reading a book, I’m able to push through and finish it, since I read quite fast and it won’t take me more than a few days, anyway. But after reading so many books I didn’t enjoy and entering a bit of a slump this fall (which is my favorite time of the year to read, so I resent that), I decided to DNF a book unless I truly, wholeheartedly thought it would get better. I think Cherish Farrah was the only book I DNF-ed on the first half of this year, so all the other books I’ve DNF-ed from Fall on – yeah, I may have snapped a bit, after one too many disappointing reads.
Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow
I’ve already talked about this book in The 10 Most Disappointing Mysteries & Thrillers of 2022 but I just could not stand the voice of the narrator. I loved the concept of this book, with a manipulative main character trying to weasel into another family’s life to improve her station, just to be caught up in something darker than she expected. Very, very cool. But the narrator herself was so obnoxious and self-centered and all talk and no doing anything really. I got pretty deep into the story, like 60% through or so, but just couldn’t do it anymore to myself, and so this was the first book I DNF-ed this year.