The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist comes out this week! More precisely, this Thursday, the 28th. I have my prediction post ready to go and will use the few days until then to finish reading the books that I picked up from the longlist and hopefully aim to read the entire shortlist until the winner is announced. I predict there will be 2 books on the shortlist that I haven’t read yet! If that is the case, it is perfectly reasonable to add 2 books to my TBR for the sake of completing the shortlist. There are a few books I have my eyes on and would be VERY glad for an excuse to get them soon (more precisely, I would like to read Consent by Annabel Lyon, Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon and How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones – especially this last one!).
ALSO Asian Readathon is starting quite soon! I am quite excited and need to come up with a TBR. Will anyone be participating? Every year I suffer because I am in a constant state of “don’t buy more books” but also I try to fulfill all the prompts and it’s a difficult task with only the books I own. We’ll see!
This was a very interesting week reading-wise. I ended up taking a few days off work because of my antidepressants (they are making me SO tired wtf), so I caught up a bit with some of the reading I wanted to do (in the limited hours I was conscious, that is) and I’m quite pleased with the variety of books I picked up – a Brazilian one (translated), two WP books, one classic, and a DNF read.
About the latter – It really caught be my surprise. Once I heard that Andy Weir was coming up with a new book, I immediately added it to my most anticipated list. Which is funny because I did NOT enjoy Artemis a whole lot, but apparently I had blissfully forgotten that and was so happy when I received an eARC for Project Hail Mary. But in the end I had the same issues with Project Hail Mary as I had with all this other books: women characters are written so awkwardly, actually ALL characters are awkwardly and cliché-like, the author does an amazing job at research – you can tell because he never, never shuts up about all the techy tech and speculative science-y stuff. I normally LOVE books that go into detail about their tech or science, but…. gosh, it was insufferable to read.[MILD SPOILERS FOR PROJECT HAIL MARY] There was a scene where the main character brings an alien object into the ship and the FIRST thing he does is remove his helmet and be like “oh wow I could have died from that ha-ha but oh! smells like ammonia! A clue!” and the SECOND thing he does is remove his EVA and TOUCH the alien stuff with his bare hands, which nearly causes a burn (and then he was like “oh but since my reaction was a fraction of second, the temperature must have been 100 degrees Celsius! Anther science-y clue! Haha I’m so quirky and funny and dumb lmaooo but also smart!). [END OF SPOILER] I just could not do another few hundred pages of this. The narrator voice was basically The Martian’s, also the concept is very similar, it was like reading The Martian but not nearly as good and more full of clichés. I think with 2 books out of 3 being flops for me, I’m afraid this might be the last I read of Andy Weir, for the time being. I adored The Martian, but it might have been the exception rather than the rule. Sorry if this sounds mean, but I think Andy Weir might be a bit of a one-trick pony.
This week the weather went completely crazy where I live – we had snow, dark clouds, blue and sunny skies. I put on my winter jacked and the next day had a barbecue on the balcony. April is a bit crazy in these parts. Reading-wise, audiobooks are the reason why I make progress at all in my reading challenge, lately, as I have a lot less spare time these days since I’m often working on Saturdays, having lunch in my office, staying late etc. So I picked up two quite short audiobooks after Valentine and listened to them in 1.5x, which made them SO quick to go through. I’m quite enjoying listening to books, and by TBR finally is leaving the 150 mark and slowing heading towards 140! Yay! Still, I have a preference for reading books in physical format, and haven’t picked up an e-book for what feels like ages (my Netgalley ratio is suffering). But fine, we’ll get to those at some point!
Weekly Wrap Up
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore / audiobook / 3 stars
This is both a very good book and incredibly long for its 320 pages. It took me two weeks to read this, and I think it’s for two reasons: there were too many storylines, so this felt like reading a few books at the same time; and how bleak the story was plus knowing exactly where it was going. While this was beautifully written and so emotional and human, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by how much it dragged on. I wrote a way more eloquent review here if you’d like to see my full thoughts on this book.
Auto da Compadecida by Ariano Suassuna / audiobook / 5 stars
No surprise that I loved this – it’s one of my favorite books of all time. It’s the first time I listen to it in audio and it was perfect. I love a good full cast! This is still best played by actors in a theater, but audio is surely second best. Not sure if I love this more or the movie adaptation (it’s such an excellent movie), but either way, this was brilliant.
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells / audiobook / 3 stars
I’ve had this as an ebook for ages and never picked it up because there’s something about H. G. Wells’ stories that seem a bit bland to me. I guess all sci-fi classic seem like that, and I hesitate to read them knowing I won’t enjoy them as much as someone reading them in the time they were written would have. Still, I enjoyed The Invisible Man, even if I was a little bored. It was definitely an interesting sci-fi horror classic, but it left me underwhelmed. I might still read The War of the Worlds and the Time Machine though – I like reading the classics that inspired the contemporary books I love, so I will probably read these a bit more in an analytical/chore-like fashion instead of for the enjoyment factor.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett / physical copy / 4 stars
This was such a great read! I wanted to take a break from Lit Fic and read something lighter, but this actually reads a bit more (I couldn’t come up with a better word) commercial, and I flew through it. The Vanishing Half draws a complex portrait of the two white-passing twin sisters, one choosing to live as black and the other as white. This has one of the “tropes” that I enjoy the most: several characters telling a bit of their story that, when put together, paints a bigger picture. The psychological make of each character was so interesting, their complicated relationships with race, family, their past, trauma… I found myself feeling for all the characters and understanding their reasons for acting the way they did. This is such a great book that feels both current and classic and I highly recommend!
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller / physical copy / ongoing
I just started this! Again I wanted to take a break from Lit Fic but I remember that Bitter Orange didn’t read to me like heavy lit fic so I decided to give this a shot. I’m not sure yet if I like it, but I am surely intrigued.
The Easter holidays are nearly done, and they were such a good break from my quite stressful work days. I feel a lot more relaxed. I also managed to get a bit more reading done than my usual, especially considering I was reading Shuggie Bain this week PLUS my new medication gave me some side effects that left me useless for a day or two. So, everything considered, I think I got a lot of reading done, and surprisingly a lot of rather dark/bleak books.
Weekly Wrap Up
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez / audiobook / 3 stars
This is the adult debut of Julia Alvazez and tells the story of four sisters, focusing mainly on one of them, Antonia, who has just retired and is ready to enjoy a quiet life when, suddenly, her husband dies, her sister disappears and a pregnant girl shows up in her doorstep. While I thought this book had a few tender moments and very interesting conversations at times (immigration, grief, mental illness, forgiveness, doing what is right vs putting yourself first), this fell a bit flat for me. The emotion just was not there, neither did I feel much tension in the book, despite the immense potential from all the themes the book touched on. I had hoped for something more out of this. I will continue reading Julia Alvarez’ books (I’m especially interested in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents), but this one was not my cup of tea.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart /physical copy / 4 stars
Oh, gosh, this was a hard book to go through. Despite it being named after Shuggie, its his mother, Agnes Bain, who is the main character for most of this story. She has left her Catholic husband and married Hugh Bain (Big Shug). Stuck in an unhappy marriage, living with her parents and struggling with alcoholism, Agnes’ life turns darker and bleaker, even as Shuggie does his best to keep her happy, healthy and away from the drink. This was a very, very bleak book and I had to stop reading this in January because it was too much, but read it relatively quickly this week (3-4 days for this 430-page book) because I knew I could not stay in this story for too long. It’s beautifully written, touching, incredibly sensitive and reads surprisingly fast – but yes, it’s definitely bleak and not a good time.
His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet / physical copy
This is a literary thriller which was shortlisted for the Booker in 2016. I had been wanting to read this for a while, so I’m excited to finally pick it up. I LOVE murder stories where there are interview extracts, letters and so on.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore / audiobook / ongoing
I received this as an eARC and since then I’ve been avoiding reading it – for the same reason that I avoided Shuggie Bain. This is such a bleak story, set in the 70s in Texas about a teenage Mexican girl who is brutalized by a white man and the town where this happened wants to let the man go unpunished. It’s a heartbreaking read and it’s really well-written, but considering my rather depressed mood lately, I might alternate this with a bit more cheerful reads.
Auto da Compadecida by Ariano Suassuna / audiobook / ongoing
I needed something cheerful to read to balance out Valentine a bit, so I picked up in audio one of my favorite books of all time: The Rogue’s Trial, a play set in the north-east of Brazil, which comes with a wonderful cast, Bordel music and the accents are just perfect. This is a book I love and that always brightens my mood so I’m enjoying re-reading it, especially in a format I hadn’t read it in before.
This was such a good reading week – I’m still busy at work, so it’s nice to have some great books to immerse myself into. None of the books I picked up this week were “cozy reads”, but all were so brilliant. I’m thinking of picking up next a book from the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist.
Weekly Wrap Up
The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee / 5 stars
I’ve been meaning to read this for a loooong time. I finally decided to pick this up on audio, although I have it as an ebook already. The narration is really good, and I like listening to nonfiction, so it’s going pretty well! It’s really eye-opening and well-written.
1808 by Laurentino Gomes / ongoing
I’m highly enjoying this book, which tells the story of the Portuguese royal family escaping Napoleon’s troops and fleeing to Brazil, then being shocked by how the Brazilian colonies differed from Portugal and trying to “improve” it.
The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao / 4 stars
This is a slow-paced literary mystery/thriller (I can’t decide which it is) that I thought would be just okay, with its very dramatic first chapter and slightly overwritten style. But as the story went on, it grew on me – to the point where I think the second half of it was maybe a 5-star! Still, it took a while for me to warm to the story, which is why I gave it 4 stars in the end. I loved the intriguing plot, the twists I sometimes did not see coming at all, the dark tone of the story and its ruthlessness. I’m surprised by how many themes the author managed to put into one highly addictive story – it talks about abuse in marriage, racism, the violence in being absurdly wealthy etc. Truly a fantastic book!
Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, translated by Sarah Moses / ongoing
This is a weird book. It tells the story of a man who works at a slaughterhouse, except… in this world, all animal meat has been turned deadly for human consumption because of a virus, and now humans are being bred for slaughter. It’s a stomach-churning concept that is very well executed and brings to light the horrors of slaughterhouses and meat consumption. I have mixed feelings about this because I kind of detest the main character – he feels like a typical sci-fi protagonist written by a white man in the 1950s to me and I resent the lack of discussion regarding consent when it comes to his “relationship” to one of the women bred for consumption. There’s still some of the book to go, so maybe that’s dealt with somehow but I simply don’t like the guy and it makes my enjoyment of the book dwindle. Still, I think the book’s execution of a difficult theme is so amazing – it’s ruthless, crude but the level of (gory) detail does not feel gratuitous.
Usually I do my monthly wrap up and next month’s TBR in one post together, but the last wrap up (which went live yesterday!) had two months instead of one, so the post turned out very long and I didn’t want to make it even longer.
I’m participating on Non-Fiction Novemberand picking up a bunch of Non-Fics that have been on my TBR for a while. I am personally calling this No Excuses November and I will try and read at least 3 ARCs and reduce my TBR (it’s at 175 now and I am aiming to end up under 170). Last month I also started Faust, but I am not trying to finish it this month and therefore it’s not included in this TBR!
I’m doing a September and October Wrap Up because I was on vacation during the end of September, so I didn’t write a wrap up back then. So it will be a monstrous list, but that’s for 2 months, and for a few weeks I was on vacation plus a few days when I got sick leave, so… please don’t be scared. I normally would read far less and actually have a life (when there’s no pandemic, at least). It also helped that my husband and I did a reading sprint and got several books read in a day.
My September and October planned TBRs were as follows (in bold are the books I actually read):
The Fire Starters by Jean Carson
The Mercies by Kiran Millwoood Hargrave
Luster by Raven Leilani
A Falência por Júlia Lopes de Almeida
Burning Roses by S. L. Huang
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
The Harpy by Megan Hunter
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (started)
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
Daughter from the Dark by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu
The Three-Body Problem by Cinxin Liu
Penumbra por André Vianco (dnf)
O Vilarejo por Raphael Montes
I deviated (a lot) from my planned TBR and read also:
I managed to read 5 books in two and a half weeks, which is less than I hoped for and lower than my average, but still a pretty good amount. I’m glad to have gotten a few ARCs done (4 of those were ARCs and1 a backlisted title). I have now 11 ARCs to hopefully finish this year, and one of them I’m reading already so I’m feeling actually positive about my chances.
I’m actually quite pleased it’s October. Sure it’s cold, dark, foggy and seasonal depression is just around the corner, but at least there is pumpkin soup! I find German winters quite depressing, but Fall is in fact one of my favorite times of the year. I do much better with the cool weather than the harsh cold or the unforgiving heat, plus it’s a great time for baking and cozying up with a book.
As I struggle to keep up with my ARCs, we slowly approach the end of the year! By October I will be reading mostly creepy stuff, then November I will panic realizing I need to read a thousand ARCs and some books in genres I’m sorely lacking, and by December I will half-heartedly attempt to read books I lost interest in since I requested/bought them while eyeing greedily next year’s books. So I am trying to get a bit ahead now in September with some ARCs. Oh, the life of a book blogger.
I’ve been playing around with the block editor and I have *gasp* started to get used to it and even enjoy some aspects – I’ve now created a “Book Review” block so it will be quicker to write my reviews! Do expect some weird-looking posts as I try to decide for a look, especially for the reviews, which I have changed a bit (you’ll see on my review of The Harpy this week!). I quite like to play with new toys. So much for my complaining before. Let me know if you would like a short list of tips for using the block editor as a book blogger. I’m assuming by now most people are quite used to it but just in case that would be actually useful, let me know!
I went a little bit excitedly into Netgalley and Edelweiss a couple weeks ago and requested 16 books. Last week I got approved for eight and this week for another three, two of which I had no memory of requesting (although I’m very excited for them!). So… I’m in trouble.
I also have gotten the block editor for WordPress and had a mild meltdown on Twitter:
I’m slowly getting used to it but it’s a somewhat frustrating experience. Thankfully I had a bunch of posts ready and took some time on Sunday to learn how to use the editor, I can’t imagine what it’s like if you actually post every day and write your posts the day you post them and suddenly get the new editor blocks. ANYWAY.
My Netgalley haul this week:
Weekly Wrap Up
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell / 3 stars
I feel like this is objectively a 4-star read but I was incredibly bored during the entire book and I’ve been struggling to write a review – hopefully I have one prepared for tomorrow because on the 9th we have the announcement of the WP winner and I want my review post to be up before that!
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami / Ongoing
I’m halfway through! This is such a great book I’m considering getting a physical copy to re-read it at some point. I loved part 1 and I think part 2 is not as strong but it’s still a great read and I’m having one of those “oh this is why I love reading” moments every time I pick it up, which doesn’t happen all that often.
The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea / DNF
I went all the way to 33% and literally all we had was an endless repetition of the 3 facts that we get to know already in the beginning. It took 20% of the book for us to even be introduced to the actual main characters. I am sure this will be an entertaining read once we get past say, half of the book, but I got really bored and lost any curiosity for who the killer might be. I’m also not very happy about the representation of Rory, an autistic girl with OCD and social anxiety, who seems like a Sheldon-like caricature of a quirky genius. I wouldn’t have minded that so much if the story had been actually gripping (although I resent the whole “it’s okay if you’re different/eccentric as long as you’re a genius!!” thing that is so prevalent in thrillers/police TV shows). I do love the whole true crime podcast thing, and that’s what kept me reading for that long in the first place. But then it was all gore and sensationalism and quirky genius girl and slow plot, so I gave up.
A Falência por Júlia Lopes de Almeida / Ongoing
I am truly enjoying this??? It’s about a high society married woman who’s having a (ridiculously poorly hidden) affair and one day her husband loses his fortune. Apparently it’s more about the class struggles than the affair (I thought it’d be sort of a Anna Karenina / Madame Bovary book, but not really) I’m around 25% through so far but her writing is GORGEOUS and she’s so sharp, I can’t believe people (men) erased her books.