The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2020

Better late than never!  I do this tag every year so I couldn’t let it pass me by.
2017 | 2018 | 2019

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2020

I mean… the Complete Works of William Shakespeare will be my top ‘book’ of 2020 and you all know that.

The only two novels solidly in with a chance of making my top 10 (god I need my reading to pick up in the second half of 2020 or that top 10 is going to be so bleak) are The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel and Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

Question 2 – Your favorite sequel of the year

N/A – I haven’t read a sequel.

Question 3 – A new release that you haven’t read but really want to

SO MANY but toward the top of my list are these three: Real Life by Brandon Taylor (getting to attend his book tour in LA was a wonderful experience!), Luster by Raven Leilani (I don’t think this is quite out yet but I have an ARC, and I have heard NOTHING by good things), and Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski (I don’t have a copy yet, but it sounds ridiculously up my alley).

Question 4 – Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld, The Harpy by Megan Hunter, and Snow by John Banville.

Question 5 – Your biggest disappointment

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams, Saltwater by Jessica Andrews, Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey.  Bad, worse, disappointing.

Question 6 – Biggest surprise of the year

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica – surprising in every sense of the word.

But honorable mentions to Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 which I expected to like in a lukewarm 3.5-4 star kind of way but which I was actually blown away by, and Hysteria by Jessica Gross – another legitimately shocking read.

Question 7 – Favourite new to you or debut author

T Kira Madden, Kate Elizabeth Russell, and Naoise Dolan are all authors I’d love to read more by (and Jessica Gross, from the last question).

Question 8 – Your new fictional crush

As always, pass.

Question 9 – New favourite character

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Constance from King John.  Getting to play her on Zoom has been one of my absolute highlights of the year.  She’s fierce, savvy, prideful, intelligent, and is the absolute heart and soul of this play – despite the fact that she has NO political power she sets the whole thing in motion and then is the one to most acutely suffer the consequences and has some of the most heart-rending monologues in all of Shakespeare (“grief fills the room up of my absent child”).  Also, THIS!!!

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Question 10 – A book that made you cry

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Hm, none so far.  But if I had a heart I would have cried at Traveling in a Strange Land by David Park.

Question 11 – A book that made you happy

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Rereading If We Were Villains was probably the most fun reading experience I’ve had all year, in light of my own newfound Shakespeare thing.

Question 12 – Your favourite book to movie adaptation that you’ve seen this year

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Lady Macbeth, directed by William Oldroyd and starring Florence Pugh.  Contrary to popular belief this is not an adaptation of Macbeth – it’s an adaptation of a Russian novella inspired by Macbeth; Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov.  I haven’t read the novella in question, though I’d like to; but I was really blown away by the film (despite some questionable racial optics…).

Question 13 – Favourite book post you’ve done this year

My Project Shakespeare wrap ups, probably: one, two, three, four.

Question 14 – The most beautiful book you have bought/received this year

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Daughter from the Dark by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko, translated by Julia Hersey.

Question 15 – What are some books you need to read by the end of the year

Other than the rest of Shakespeare’s plays?  Hopefully A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes and the Cromwell trilogy by Hillary Mantel to round out my (shitty) Women’s Prize reading for the year.

Women’s Prize 2020 Longlist Predictions

In case you missed it, I recently spent way too long on this post in which I compiled every longlist in the history of the Women’s Prize.  So just in case it wasn’t clear from that alone: I love this prize, a lot.  And I have been working on my predictions list probably for the last six months (sadly not an exaggeration).  So, here we go!

I’m going to start with a wishlist of sorts – only 8 books – that I will explain in the paragraph down below, then I will move on to my predictions.

Wishlist

My wishlist falls into 2 categories: books I’ve read that I think deserve to make the list, and books I haven’t read, that I’m desperate to read, and I hope to see them on the longlist so I finally have an excuse to read them.  Some of these will show up on my predictions list below; some will not.

Have read/adored:

The Fire Starters by Jan Carson
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
The Body Lies by Jo Baker

Have yet to read:

Bunny by Mona Awad
Supper Club by Lara Williams
Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride
The Island Child by Molly Aitken

Now let’s move on to the main event.

I told Hannah I would not look at her list until I posted my own, but I cheated and peaked at it and I loved that she included whether the author had been longlisted in the past and whether she personally wanted to see the books longlisted, so I am stealing that format.

Longlist prediction

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Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

This National Book Award winner has been incredibly Marmite, which I have to say I’m intrigued by.  While I personally know quite a few people who hated it, the widespread literary praise it’s received can’t be ignored, which I think makes it a solid contender.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Honestly, it would not be my first, second, or third choice.

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The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

This historical mystery about a maid accused of murder was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel award, and I’ve seen so much other praise for it, especially in the UK.  I think it’s a solid contender.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No – debut.

Would I be happy to see it?  Yes!  I’d love to read this.

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The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

I don’t know too much about this, but I keep seeing it crop up in ‘2020 debuts to look out for’ lists.  I think it’s a Nigerian coming of age tale about a young girl advocating for her education – seems very Women’s Prize to me.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No – debut.

Would I be happy to see it?  Sure!

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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

This co-Booker winner is a bit of an obvious choice.  It’s received so much praise, and I think the general mood about it is indignation that it was not the sole Booker winner.  (That also explains my omission of The Testaments from my own predictions – while there are hardly American Dirt levels of ill-will toward it, I do think on the whole people are a bit tired of it, and I have to wonder if Atwood herself may have asked that it not be submitted to the Women’s Prize.  She seemed a bit embarrassed by the Booker co-win, honestly.)

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes.

Would I be happy to see it?  YES.  It is a crime that I haven’t read this book.

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The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel

I think it’s fair to assume that this one is going to show up on just about every prize list this year.  I haven’t actually read Mantel yet, but I’ve heard so many good things about her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, which The Mirror & The Light will be concluding.  Both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies made the Women’s Prize shortlist in years past, and – notably – both won the Booker.  I think this one is a pretty safe prediction.

Has the author been longlisted before?  Shortlisted 3 times and longlisted 1 time beyond that.

Would I be happy to see it?  It’s inevitable but no.  I really, really, really want to read the Wolf Hall trilogy, but I also want to read the entire longlist and the thought of reading a whole trilogy on top of 16 books stresses me out.  I should have read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies this month to prepare.

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Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride

I also think this one is a safe prediction, and if it doesn’t make the longlist, I think it will be because the word count fell short.  It seems to be borderline, so it’s hard to predict without knowing the exact word count, but I’m going out on a limb and throwing it on here.  McBride’s debut A Girl is a Half-formed Thing won, and her sophomore novel The Lesser Bohemians was also longlisted.  I’ve heard excellent things about this one too.

Has the author been longlisted before?  1 time winner, 1 time longlister beyond that.

Would I be happy to see it?  YES.  I am DYING to read this.

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The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

Another one I don’t know too much about – Italian invasion of Ethiopia, I think?  This made its way onto my predictions list when I felt I was lacking those ‘epic length historical fiction’ picks.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Not really.

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Long Bright River by Liz Moore

One thing that struck me when I was scrolling through past longlisters was just how many crime novels have been longlisted in the past.  I feel like the Women’s Prize has been moving away from mysteries and thrillers in recent years, but the fact that Paula Hawkins is on the judging panel this year gives me an inkling that we might see at least one literary thriller on the list.  Long Bright River seems the obvious choice for a lot of reasons – Moore is a versatile author who’s written literary fiction in the past, this novel tackles Serious Issues (the opioid crisis, namely), and it was blurbed by – you guessed it! – Paula Hawkins.  It was a great, solid, well-written thriller that I would not mind seeing on the list, even if my personal choice for a thriller would be The Body Lies, if we can just have one.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Sure, I think it’s deserving.

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Inland by Téa Obreht

Obreht won the Women’s Prize for her brilliant novel The Tiger’s Wife back in 2011, and her follow-up Inland had been a long time coming.  It sounds incredibly different, other than both of them being historical fiction, but Obreht is such a strong writer I would not be surprised to see this on there.

Has the author been longlisted before?  Winner!

Would I be happy to see it?  Not really.  I loved The Tiger’s Wife but the summary of this one does not appeal.

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Girl by Edna O’Brien

O’Brien is such a prolific and esteemed author I was a bit shocked to see that she’s only been longlisted once in the past, but I still feel confident that her newest novel, Girl, is going to make the list this year.  Set in Nigeria, this follows the girls who are kidnapped by the Boko Haram.  It sounds harrowing, but I also think it will spark some conversations about #ownvoices in literary fiction should it get longlisted.

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes.

Would I be happy to see it?  Torn.  I desperately want to read more Edna O’Brien (I’ve only read one short story, but it was brilliant), but I’m not convinced this is the best place to start for me.

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Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Her upcoming novel inspired by Shakespeare and his son is quite a departure for Maggie O’Farrell – I don’t think she’s written historical fiction before?  It’s been getting quite a bit of buzz and I would not at all be surprised to see it longlisted.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No, surprisingly!

Would I be happy to see it?  Yes!!!

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Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

This literary-mystery hybrid set in a remote Russian peninsula is such a brilliant depiction of a culture and community that is so often neglected by western literary fiction.  I think it’s a brilliant depiction of a rural community torn apart by tragedy and also by racism against its indigenous population – I would be delighted to see it longlisted.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No – debut.

Would I be happy to see it?  YES YES YES.

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Another literary thriller of sorts, this one explores the long-lasting psychological damage on a young woman by the teacher she had been involved with in high school.  This has been on my TBR for so long that I’ll be a little gutted if it doesn’t make the list, but I do intend to read it soon either way.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No – debut.

Would I be happy to see it?  God yes!

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Bina by Anakana Schofield

Requite Canadian pick!  I honestly don’t know a whole lot about this other than that people have been raving about it and that it was blurbed by Eimear McBride and Rachel Cusk.  Seems like a safe bet.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  No strong feelings either way.

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Supper Club by Lara Williams

Williams’ sophomore novel is about a secret society of women who meet after dark to feast.  I don’t know anything more and I don’t need to.  I just desperately want to read this.

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Absolutely!

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Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

Winterson’s novel is a sort of playful retelling of Frankenstein that ticks so many feminist boxes that I will be incredibly surprised if it’s not longlisted.

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes, twice.

Would I be happy to see it?  It wouldn’t be my top choice for the Booker crossover (team Levy!!!), but I did enjoy it, so sure.


There you have it.  If you’ve done your own Women’s Prize longlist predictions, please link me!  Otherwise, comment and let me know what you expect to see on the list!


Other longlist predictions on my radar:

wrap up: February 2020

  1. Long Bright River by Liz Moore ★★★★☆ | review
  2. Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey ★★☆☆☆ | review
  3. The Snow Collectors by Tina May Hall ★★★★☆ | review
  4. Saint X by Alexis Schatkin ★★★★☆ | review to come for BookBrowse
  5. The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams ★★☆☆☆ | review to come
  6. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour ★★★★☆ | review to come
  7. Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza | review and rating to come

Omitting my favorite of the month section because honestly, there wasn’t a stand-out, though I thoroughly enjoyed everything I 4-starred (and I’m enjoying Optic Nerve as well – I’ll finish it by the end of the day).

FEBRUARY TOTAL: 7
YEARLY TOTAL: 14

Other posts from February:

February was an excellent month!  I just got back yesterday from spending a week in LA – one of my favorite cities – with some of my favorite people.

Highlights included:

Spending the day at Universal with Will and Jess, the dream team behind one of my favorite blogs, Books and Bao.  If you don’t follow them, you need to rectify that immediately, because they are genuinely wonderful, delightful people who shine a light on translated fiction from around the world in their excellent blog.

Attending Brandon Taylor‘s book event at Skylight Books for his debut novel Real Life.  Brandon is one of my favorite personalities on Twitter, and he was such an engaging and intelligent speaker.  If his book tour is coming to your city, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Spending four straight days with my friend Abby going down a BTS rabbit hole.  Honestly it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages so I’m not even going to apologize for how silly this is.  If you’re into BTS, comment and tell me who your bias is!

Anyway, due to the fact that I was gone for a week and didn’t take my laptop, I am VERY BEHIND on blogging and replying to comments.  Bear with me!  Also comment and tell me what you’ve been up to lately!

And the next post you can expect to see from me is my Women’s Prize 2020 longlist prediction.  I’m finishing that up as we speak.

Currently reading:

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What was the best book you read in February?  Comment and let me know!

P.S. Follow me!  @ Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Letterboxd | Ko-fi

wrap up: January 2020

 

  1. Saltwater by Jessica Andrews ★☆☆☆☆ | review
  2. What Red Was by Rosie Price ★★★☆☆ | review
  3. Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park ★★★★☆ | review
  4. Little Gods by Meng Jin ★★★★☆ | review to come for BookBrowse
  5. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino ★★★★☆ | mini review
  6. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel ★★★★★ | review to come for BookBrowse
  7. Daughter from the Dark by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko ★★★★★ | review

Favorite: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Runner up: Daughter from the Dark by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko
Least favorite: Saltwater by Jessica Andrews

JANUARY TOTAL: 7
YEARLY TOTAL: 7

January was not a great month for me: personally, professionally, as a reader, none of it.  So I don’t have a whole lot to say here!  I did end the month with two books that I absolutely adored, so that’s always exciting, and reviews will be coming very soon.  Thank you all for bearing with me as I’ve been very behind on blogging lately; I haven’t been reading a whole lot and tend to find myself gravitating away from ‘filler content’ for my blog, so sometimes that naturally leads to weeks-long hiatuses.  Hopefully February will see my triumphant return.

Currently reading:

 

What was the best book you read in January?  Comment and let me know!

P.S. Follow me!  @ Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Letterboxd | Ko-fi

 

book review: What Red Was by Rosie Price

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WHAT RED WAS by Rosie Price
★★★☆☆
Crown, 2019

 

[trigger warning for sexual assault]  I think this is a very interesting, very uneven book.  What Red Was follows Kate and Max, two friends who meet during the first week of university and become inseparable.  They come from very different backgrounds – Kate is from a poor single-parent household and Max’s family is large and affluent – and after they graduate university, Kate’s life is shattered when she’s raped during a party at Max’s family home.

From reading this book’s summary and seeing its comparisons to Normal People by Sally Rooney and Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, I expected two things from What Red Was: a nuanced exploration of the aftermath of sexual assault (and Price mostly delivered here – more on this in a minute), and alternating perspectives between Kate and Max.  What I didn’t expect was that Max’s family would feature so heavily into the narrative.  We do indeed hear from both Max and Kate, but we also hear from Max’s mom, Max’s cousin, Max’s uncle, Max’s father, Max’s sister, all of whom have very generic Rich People Problems.  There’s talk of depression, alcoholism, inheritance drama, all of which in theory has the potential to be compelling, but none of it really is.  I can only imagine that Rosie Price structured her book this way because she wanted this to be more robust than ‘a book about rape’; the result is that characters and stories which should merely exist to contextualize Kate’s own narrative end up overpowering it.

The other problem which I encountered early on was that I didn’t love Rosie Price’s prose, which felt to me very conversational and millennial to the point where it distracted when we were in the heads of older characters.

However, when this book did focus on Kate, it excelled.  This is a brilliant examination not only of the long-lasting physical toll taken by sexual assault, but also of the delicate balance that every victim must go through of deciding who to share their story with, and how much of their story to share.  This isn’t a book that advocates that victims not speak out, but it is an incredibly sympathetic look on how much more challenging it can be in reality than in theory.

I also thought Rosie Price did an excellent job at writing Kate and Max’s friendship – a lot of the foundation of their relationship was glossed over given that four years of university were covered in about fifty pages, but I still found myself believing them and sympathizing with the extent to which Kate was concerned with Max’s feelings.

Ultimately, I thought this was an important and nuanced book when it zeroed in on its central topic, but it did meander a bit too much for my liking.


You can pick up a copy of What Red Was here on Book Depository.

wrap up: December 2019

  1. I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya ★★★★☆ | review
  2. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado ★★★★★ | review
  3. Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips ★★★★★ | review
  4. Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry ★★★☆☆ | review
  5. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead ★★★★☆ | review
  6. The Marquise of O– by Heinrich von Kleist ★★☆☆☆ | review
  7. On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl ★☆☆☆☆ | review
  8. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg ★★★☆☆ | review
  9. Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb ★★★★★ | review
  10. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater ★★☆☆☆ | review
  11. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht ★★★★☆ | review to come
  12. If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha ★★★★☆ | review

Favorite: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Runner up: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
Least favorite: On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl

DECEMBER TOTAL: 12
YEARLY TOTAL: 112

I’m behind, clearly, both in reviewing and in reading all of your posts.  Today is going to be a catch-up day for me, so you can expect all of those reviews up within the next week.

Other posts from December:

What was the best book you read in December?  Comment and let me know!

P.S. Follow me!  @ Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Letterboxd | Ko-fi

 

2020 Reading Goals

Let’s start off this post by revisiting my 2019 goals:

  • Read at least 80 books.  Success!  112
  • Request fewer ARCs/read more books I already own.  lol
  • Read at least two books a month from any of these categories: plays, poetry collections, short story collections, nonfiction.  I did ok at this for a while and then eventually fell off the wagon.  But I did succeed in diversifying my reading (I definitely read more nonfiction in particular than ever before) so I’m not going to dwell on the specifics of this one.
  • Read my 2019 backlist TBR.  4.5/12.  Spectacular fail.
  • Read at least 12 classics.  I actually had to go back and count just now, but no, I did not succeed, I only read 7.  That’s especially low for me so I’m not really sure what happened there.  Oh well.

Some brief personal ramblings, if you’re at all curious why my goals went so badly.  If not, definitely skip these paragraphs.  2019 was… an interesting year for me.  Less than two months into the year the company I’d been working for for 5 years went out of business (long story) and I subsequently found myself unemployed for two months, which was awful.  And I almost feel bad about how awful it was for me emotionally, because I had enough savings that I wasn’t even in a position where I had to rush out and find a job the next day, and I know so many people aren’t as fortunate.  But I’d be lying if I pretended that that didn’t hit me very hard.

In April, I found a job which in many ways was my dream job on paper (I work in editorial and foreign rights for a local indie children’s book publisher), and while I do love my job in many ways, it was… a rather rough transition for me.  It’s a very, very, very different environment from anywhere I’ve ever worked before, and it took a pretty serious toll on my mental health.  Suffice to say, for the better part of the year I was suffering from worse depression and anxiety than I have in years.  I managed to read 112 books, which, yes, is a lot!  But it’s also about 20-30 fewer than I’d been managing in previous years, and I wasn’t even reading particularly long or dense books for the most part, so that goes to show that I was just really struggling in the second half of the year.  All this to say, in 2020 I’m going to be kinder to myself with my goals, because I can’t predict how my work/life/sanity balance is going to affect my reading.  I know it seems like I have a lot of goals here, but a lot of them are pretty basic and easily achievable.

(Sorry if that was all very ‘woe is me’ – I hate and struggle with talking about my personal life publicly, but I do feel like I owe it to you guys to sort of let you know where my head is at when it naturally affects my reading and blogging quite a great deal.)

So without further ado, 2020 reading (and blogging!) goals:

  • Read at least 90 books.  … ok, I was going to go lower, but I couldn’t resist.  I’ve been gradually been increasing my Goodreads goal by 10 each year for many years and I didn’t want to break the pattern.  I know a lot of people feel very restricted by their Goodreads goal, but this is actually one of the goals I care the least about.  If I hit it, great, if I don’t, I’ll change it to a lower number.
  • Read my 2020 backlist TBR.  Again, I don’t particularly care if I succeed at this goal or not, but as of this moment in time, it’s a pile of books I’m really, really excited about.  I also purposefully picked less ‘challenging’ books than the ones I put on my 2019 list, so I think this is more achievable.
  • Read my ARCs ahead of publication date.  At this point it’s an annual tradition to put this on my list and then fail at it.  So.  Whatever.  I’ll give it a go.  The road to hell etc etc.
  • Read the Women’s Prize longlist, and no other literary prize longlists.  I’ve discovered over the years that despite how much I love following literary prizes, I cannot focus my reading around them year-round.  However, I love the Women’s Prize too much to throw in the towel with this annual tradition.  Last year I read through the longlist with a group of friends and we all had such a blast with it that I think we’re all planning on doing it again, and I cannot wait.  If you enjoy my Women’s Prize series of posts every year you can absolutely look forward to that again.
  • Participate in Reading Ireland Month (March) and Women in Translation Month (August) and no other themed reading challenges.  Again, I just can’t focus my reading around community-wide initiatives, no matter how fun or well-intentioned they are.  But despite that, these two have my heart, and I am so looking forward to participating in both.  That said, I don’t plan on reading exclusively Irish lit in March (only because of the Women’s Prize tbh – otherwise I’d love to) or only Women in Translation in August.  I don’t want to restrict myself too much.
  • Unfollow a lot of blogs.  Don’t panic!  If we regularly interact on here, I am not talking about you.  When I first discovered this community, I would follow just about everyone.  I also had a lot more free time back then to read through my WordPress Reader more thoroughly.  I still like to rely on that tool to stay caught up, but nowadays I follow like 600 accounts on here and I find myself scrolling past way more blogs than I actually click on.  This just isn’t a sustainable way for me to stay engaged with the blogs I actually want to engage with.  So I know this seems like a kind of negative resolution, but it’s not, I promise.  This will be a lot better in the long run to focus my blogging interests.  And then, the flip side of this is that once my reader is more manageable, I want to be able to seek out some more bloggers whose reading tastes overlap with mine.
  • Review books immediately after finishing them.  I can’t believe I actually have to write this down as one of my resolutions, because this is something I have never struggled with.  I’ve always written my reviews within an hour of finishing the book.  But unfortunately I’ve been so mentally and emotionally drained lately that I find myself putting it off, and then resenting the process once I do sit down to review.  This just isn’t me.  I need to get back to the basics.

What are your 2020 reading and blogging goals?  Comment and let me know!

2020 Backlist TBR

Last year I challenged myself to read 12 specific books off my physical shelves throughout the year.  I failed spectacularly, reading only 4 and a half (I’m halfway through Cassandra) out of 12.  It’s not that I don’t want to pick up the remaining 7, it’s just that the timing never quite felt right for any of those.  So, I am officially relieving them of that pressure, by putting the pressure onto a different set of 12 books for 2020.  I’ll probably fail spectacularly at this too.  Who cares.

So, here are the 12 books that as of now, 12:50 pm on December 31, 2019, I have every intention of reading in 2020:

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Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb.  I recently finished and really loved Royal Assassin (review to come), the second book in Hobb’s Farseer trilogy.  Unfortunately I’ve heard from numerous accounts that Assassin’s Quest is the weakest in this trilogy, and beyond that, it’s over 100 pages longer than Royal Assassin, which already took me six months to read.  However, I am vowing that I need to pick this up soon before I lose the momentum I was gaining with Royal Assassin toward the end; plus, it ended on a cliffhanger and I am dying to see what happens.

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Regeneration by Pat Barker.  I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages and it recently got a rave review from Chelsea, meaning it’s been bumped up on my TBR.  I actually bought this entire trilogy earlier this year – something I rarely do, but the bookstore had them all used for $5 each so I couldn’t resist.  I hope I love this as much as I loved The Silence of the Girls (though I’m obviously expecting something quite different).

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What Red Was by Rosie Price.  One from my Christmas haul.  I love the sound of this, and it’s been pitched as Sally Rooney meets Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, so, that sounds stupidly relevant to my interests.  Plus I know Callum loved this.

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The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.  I’ve publicly announced that I’m going to read this book so many times that I think it’s lost all meaning.  But I swear to god, do not let me enter 2021 without having read this.  I love Donal Ryan and this is ridiculously short, so why on earth do I keep postponing this?!

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Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.  I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what this is about, I just know that I’ve felt drawn to it for years and I’m ready to give it a go.

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Solar Bones by Mike McCormack.  It’s Irish, it’s one sentence, it’s a literary fiction novel by a man that even Hannah likes.  So I just know I am going to love this.

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The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon.  It’s about Alexander the Great.  Rick likes it.  That’s all I need to know.

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A Separate Peace by John Knowles.  This is a modern classic that a lot of people have to read in high school and that a select number of my good friends hated, and I think it has to do with a boy falling out of a tree, or being pushed out of a tree?  I don’t know.  Don’t tell me.  I’m intrigued.

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The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North.  I’ve had this on my shelf for years and I actually forgot about it entirely until it recently showed up on Laura Tisdall’s books of the decade list.  She then further sold it to me by saying there are traces of Lu Rile, the brilliant protagonist of one of my favorite books, Rachel Lyon’s Self-Portrait with Boy, in Sophie Stark.  That quickly made this one a priority for me.

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A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard.  Poor Marija has been yelling at people to read this book for months and very few have taken up her call, so I decided to bite the bullet and I ordered this online the other day.  All I know is that it’s a short story collection inspired by mythology, and Goodreads tells me it’s adult even though I keep thinking it’s YA for some reason (I just realized it’s the ‘blank of blank and blank’ title), but anyway, this is a good sign.

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Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, translated from the French by Tina Kover.  This is my pick for Women in Translation Month (August) if I don’t manage to read it sooner.  I don’t really know what this is – I think a family saga? – but I haven’t heard a single negative thing about it.  And I love Tina Kover on Twitter.  And Kristin has raved about it!

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The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara.  It is time.  Despite proclaiming A Little Life my book of the decade, I still haven’t read Yanagihara’s debut.  I’ve heard it’s very different from A Little Life but still devastating, and frankly, after being so thoroughly destroyed by Yanagihara’s sophomore effort I haven’t felt up to it.  But I’m ready.  I think.

Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think?  What backlist books are at the top of your 2020 TBR?  Comment and let me know!

Hannah and I have too many ARCs: an emergency readathon

Hannah and I are always lamenting how many unread ARCs we have, so we finally decided to put our money where our mouth is and actually, you know, read some of them.  So we are doing a two-person readathon for the first 2 weeks of September, where we read only ARCs in that time.  I say it’s a two-person readathon, but feel free to join us!  This isn’t going to be a big affair with prompts and hashtags and all that good stuff.  The only prompt is to read your damn ARCs already.  But if this endeavor inspires you, please do join in, we’d love to hear from you.

So, what will I be reading?  No clue.  So I am just going to tell you all of the ARCs I have.  Please don’t judge me too unkindly.

Links are included to Book Depository for each of these titles, in case you’d like to grab a copy or read more about them.

Frontlist

Backlist

The only book I can tell you with 100% certainty that I will be reading for this readathon (assuming it arrives in the mail on time) is Liar.  Two I’ve started reading since starting this post are We, The Survivors, and Isolde and I’ll probably finish them before September so there’s really no point in including them here but I’m doing it anyway.

Otherwise, who knows.  Tell me what to read!  If a particular book gets mentioned a lot in the comments, or if someone makes a particularly compelling case, I’ll definitely be more inclined to prioritize that one.  I do know that I want to tackle a bit of backlist, so I may try to focus my attention there, but I haven’t decided yet.

Which ARCs do you have that you’re behind on reading?  Anything from this list that catches your eye?  Let’s chat!

wrap up: May 2019

Happy Colin Farrell’s Birthday, everyone!  Another month, another reading wrap up:

  1. Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong ★★★★★ | review
  2. Good And Mad by Rebecca Traister ★★★★★ | review
  3. A Natural by Ross Raisin ★★★★☆ | review
  4. Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott ★★☆☆☆ | review
  5. So Sad Today by Melissa Broder ★★★★☆ | review
  6. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong ★★★★★ | review to come
  7. Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton ★★☆☆☆ | review
  8. Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants by Mathias Énard ★★★★★ | review
  9. Spy Princess by Shrabani Basu ★★★☆☆ | mini review (read for work)
  10. The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman ★★★☆☆ | mini review (read for work)
  11. Forest Bathing by Qing Li ★★★☆☆ | no review (read for work)

Favorite: Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants by Mathias Énard
Honorable mention: Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister
Least favorite: Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott

MAY TOTAL: 11
YEARLY TOTAL: 56

Other posts from this month:

Life updates:

I’m still settling into the new job and trying to find the optimal work/life/blogging balance, so again, apologies for falling behind on here, but I’m working on it!  Not having as much free time has also forced me to think about my blog content and the kind of posts I want to be writing, other than my book reviews which will always be my staple, so ironically enough I’m actually more inspired than ever regarding my blog content, I just need to carve out the time to sit down and write.

The reason my On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous review is being held up is that it’s actually a commissioned review, my very first!  You’ll be able to read my piece in mid-June, so apologies for the wait to everyone who’s been asking for my thoughts on that book.  Spoiler alert: it was good!

Also, this probably won’t be of any interest to anyone but oh well: after two straight months of car troubles, I am very excited to announce that this afternoon I am picking up my brand new car.  This is the first new car I’ve ever bought and excited is honestly an understatement.  I feel like I haven’t gone a single month without some car problem or other in the last decade, so I’m very excited to have a clean slate on the car-repair front.

Currently reading: The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See (lol, I’m working on it), The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story edited by Anne Enright, The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang (it’s good!), The Fire Starters by Jan Carson (it’s marvelous!).

What was the best book you read in May?  Comment and let me know!

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