Reading Ireland Month 2020 TBR

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Reading Ireland Month!

You can read Cathy’s post about it HERE, but basically, it’s what it says on the tin: you read Irish books throughout the month of March.  You can read exclusively Irish lit all month, or you can mix it up – I’ll probably end up doing the latter since March is when the Women’s Prize longlist gets announced, but I still want to cram in as much Irish lit as I can.

Cathy laid out a schedule which you are welcome to follow, should you so desire:

2nd – 8th March – Contemporary Irish Novels

9th – 15th March – Classic Irish Novels

16th – 22nd March – Irish Short Story Collections

23rd – 29th March – Irish Non-Fiction

Last year I themed my reading around the schedule and it worked out really well, but this year I think I’m going to do things a bit more free-form.

Before you see this massive list and panic on my behalf, I am under NO illusions that I will read all of these books in March.  This is just a selection off my shelves that I feel particularly drawn to at this moment in time.  Who knows what I’ll end up going for.

So without further ado, here are some of the books I’m thinking about picking up in March:

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
If All the World and Love Were Young by Stephen Sexton
The Dregs of the Day by Máirtín Ó Cadhain
The Cruelty Men by Emer Martin
For the Good Times by David Keenan
The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel
Being Various edited by Lucy Caldwell
The Long Gaze Back edited by Sinéad Gleeson

Honestly I think if I manage to read even 2 or 3 of these, I will be happy!  Or maybe I’ll read something else entirely, but this list is what I’m feeling drawn toward at this very moment.  So there you have it.  Have you read any of these, and what are your Reading Ireland Month plans?  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!

Anticipated 2020 Releases

It’s that time of year again!

This is one of my favorite posts to write, and I loved periodically checking back in on my 2019 list throughout the year.  I ended up reading 9/16 of those books (so far) which is actually a higher ratio than I was expecting, but also goes to show that this isn’t a strict TBR, just a list of upcoming releases that excite me at this very moment.  I also have a lot more this year than I did last year, and I’m sure I’m still missing plenty.

Summaries (italicized) are from Goodreads; publication dates are for the U.S. unless otherwise indicated.

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Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey
January 7, 2020
Knopf

“Miranda Popkey’s first novel is about desire, disgust, motherhood, loneliness, art, pain, feminism, anger, envy, guilt–written in language that sizzles with intelligence and eroticism. The novel is composed almost exclusively of conversations between women–the stories they tell each other, and the stories they tell themselves, about shame and love, infidelity and self-sabotage–and careens through twenty years in the life of an unnamed narrator hungry for experience and bent on upending her life. Edgy, wry, shot through with rage and despair, Topics of Conversation introduces an audacious and immensely gifted new novelist.”

I added this to my TBR the minute I saw it compared to Sally Rooney – which, to be fair, I know those comparisons are a dime a dozen, but it seems like there could actually be something to this one.  Stay tuned.

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Long Bright River by Liz Moore
January 7, 2020
Riverhead

“In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.”

I’ve never read Liz Moore but a lot of my friends speak highly of her writing, and setting a thriller against the backdrop of the opioid crisis is a premise that really intrigues me.

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The Teacher by Michael Ben-Naftali
translated by Daniella Zamir
January 21, 2020
Open Letter Books

“No one knew the story of Elsa Weiss. She was a respected English teacher at a Tel Aviv high school, but she remained aloof and never tried to befriend her students. No one ever encountered her outside of school hours. She was a riddle, and yet the students sensed that they were all she had. When Elsa killed herself by jumping off the roof of her apartment building, she remained as unknown as she had been during her life. Thirty years later, the narrator of the novel, one of her students, decides to solve the riddle of Elsa Weiss. Expertly dovetailing explosive historical material with flights of imagination, the novel explores the impact of survivor’s guilt and traces the footprints of a Holocaust survivor who did her utmost to leave no trace.”

I just adore this premise – ever since I read that summary I could not wait to get my hands on this book.

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Abigail by Magda Szabó
translated by Len Rix
January 21, 2020
NYRB Press

Abigail, the story of a headstrong teenager growing up during World War II, is the most beloved of Magda Szabó’s books in her native Hungary. Gina is the only child of a general, a widower who has long been happy to spoil his bright and willful daughter. Gina is devastated when the general tells her that he must go away on a mission and that he will be sending her to boarding school in the country. She is even more aghast at the grim religious institution to which she soon finds herself consigned. She fights with her fellow students, she rebels against her teachers, finds herself completely ostracized, and runs away. Caught and brought back, there is nothing for Gina to do except entrust her fate to the legendary Abigail, as the classical statue of a woman with an urn that stands on the school’s grounds has come to be called. If you’re in trouble, it’s said, leave a message with Abigail and help will be on the way. And for Gina, who is in much deeper trouble than she could possibly suspect, a life-changing adventure is only beginning.”

I first encountered Magda Szabó when I finally read The Door earlier this year, which I thought was brilliant, so I’m eager to read more of her work.  This seems like a good place to start.

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Pine by Francine Toon
January 23, 2020
Doubleday

“They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men. Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone. In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago. Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust. In spare, haunting prose, Francine Toon creates an unshakeable atmosphere of desolation and dread. In a place that feels like the end of the world, she unites the gloom of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.”

Atmospheric horror is one of my favorite things to read, so this sounds like it could be a perfect fit for my tastes.

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
January 28, 2020
William Morrow

“2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.”

This sounds like it’s going to be all kinds of twisted and uncomfortable, and I cannot wait.

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The Truants by Kate Weinberg
January 28, 2020
G.P. Putnam’s Sons

“Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat grey skies of East Anglia for one reason: To be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess’s thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna’s thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly-knit group of rule-breakers–Alec, a courageous South African journalist with a nihilistic streak; Georgie, a seductive, pill-popping aristocrat; and Nick, a handsome geologist with layers of his own.

But when tragedy strikes the group, Jess turns to Lorna. Together, the two seek refuge on a remote Italian island, where Jess tastes the life she’s long dreamed of–and uncovers a shocking secret that will challenge everything she’s learned.”

The Goodreads blurb begins with ‘perfect for lovers of Agatha Christie and The Secret History‘ – sold.

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The Island Child by Molly Aitken
January 30, 2020
Canongate (UK)

“Twenty years ago, Oona left the island of Inis for the very first time. A wind-blasted rock of fishing boats and sheep’s wool, where the only book was the Bible and girls stayed in their homes until mothers themselves, the island was a gift for some, a prison for others. Oona was barely more than a girl, but promised herself she would leave the tall tales behind and never return.

The Island Child tells two stories: of the child who grew up watching births and betrayals, storms and secrets, and of the adult Oona, desperate to find a second chance, only to discover she can never completely escape. As the strands of Oona’s life come together, in blood and marriage and motherhood, she must accept the price we pay when we love what is never truly ours . . .”

The only time I get excited at the prospect of reading magical realism is when Irish folklore is involved.  I think this could be a gorgeous book.  Plus, that cover!

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The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams
February 6, 2020
Doubleday

“A mysterious flock of red birds has descended over Birch Hill. Recently reinvented, it is now home to an elite and progressive school designed to shape the minds of young women. But Eliza Bell – the most inscrutable and defiant of the students – has been overwhelmed by an inexplicable illness.

One by one, the other girls begin to experience the same peculiar symptoms: rashes, fits, headaches, verbal tics, night wanderings. Soon Caroline – the only woman teaching – begins to suffer too. She tries desperately to hide her symptoms but, with the birds behaving strangely and the girls’ condition worsening, the powers-that-be turn to a sinister physician with grave and dubious methods.

Caroline alone can speak on behalf of the students, but only if she summons the confidence to question everything she’s ever learnt. Does she have the strength to confront the all-male, all-knowing authorities of her world and protect the young women in her care?”

It’s hard to say what exactly appeals to me about this blurb when, generally speaking, I have major ‘feminist dystopia’ burnout; but I think this sounds unique enough that it could be very striking.

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Daughter from the Dark by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko
translated by Julia Meitov Hersey
February 11, 2020
Harper Voyager

“Late one night, fate brings together DJ Aspirin and ten-year-old Alyona. After he tries to save her from imminent danger, she ends up at his apartment. But in the morning sinister doubts set in. Who is Alyona? A young con artist? A plant for a nefarious blackmailer? Or perhaps a long-lost daughter Aspirin never knew existed? Whoever this mysterious girl is, she now refuses to leave.

A game of cat-and-mouse has begun.

Claiming that she is a musical prodigy, Alyona insists she must play a complicated violin piece to find her brother. Confused and wary, Aspirin knows one thing: he wants her out of his apartment and his life. Yet every attempt to get rid of her is thwarted by an unusual protector: her plush teddy bear that may just transform into a fearsome monster.

Alyona tells Aspirin that if he would just allow her do her work, she’ll leave him—and this world. He can then return to the shallow life he led before her. But as outside forces begin to coalesce, threatening to finally separate them, Aspirin makes a startling discovery about himself and this ethereal, eerie child.”

Vita Nostra was one of my most pleasant reading surprises of 2018, so at this point I will read anything that the Dyachenkos and Julia Hersey publish.

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Weather by Jenny Offill
February 11, 2020
Knopf

“Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of western civilization. As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you’ve seen the flames beyond its walls. When her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, Lizzie is forced to address the limits of her own experience–but still she tries to save everyone, using everything she’s learned about empathy and despair, conscience and collusion, from her years of wandering the library stacks . . . And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in–funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad.”

I actually wasn’t interested in this book at all based on the summary, but then I read this tweet and I was instantly sold.  This sounds like it could be exactly my type of humor.

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The Snow Collectors by Tina May Hall
February 12, 2020
Dzanc Books

“Haunted by the loss of her parents and twin sister at sea, Henna cloisters herself in a Northeastern village where the snow never stops. When she discovers the body of a young woman at the edge of the forest, she’s plunged into the mystery of a centuries-old letter regarding one of the most famous stories of Arctic exploration—the Franklin expedition, which disappeared into the ice in 1845.

At the center of the mystery is Franklin’s wife, the indomitable Lady Jane. Henna’s investigation draws her into a gothic landscape of locked towers, dream-like nights of snow and ice, and a crumbling mansion rife with hidden passageways and carrion birds. But it soon becomes clear that someone is watching her—someone who is determined to prevent the truth from coming out.”

The publisher reached out to me about reviewing this book, and I accepted partially because I can’t resist a neo-gothic murder mystery, and partially because I have a friend who is obsessed with the Franklin Expedition so I figured I’d start here and see what all the fuss is about.

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The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld
February 13, 2020
Jonathan Cape (UK)

“In 1720s Scotland, a priest and his son get lost in the forest, transporting a witch to the coast to stop her from being killed by the village.

In the sad, slow years after the Second World War, Ruth finds herself the replacement wife to a recent widower and stepmother to his two young boys, installed in a huge house by the sea and haunted by those who have come before.

Fifty years later, Viv is cataloguing the valuables left in her dead grandmother’s seaside home, when she uncovers long-held secrets of the great house.

Three women, hundreds of years apart, slip into each other’s lives in a novel of darkness, violence and madness.”

I’ve only read one Evie Wyld – All the Birds, Singing – and had something of a mixed experience with it, but I loved Wyld’s prose and I love the sound of this book.

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Real Life by Brandon Taylor
February 18, 2020
Riverhead

“A novel of rare emotional power that excavates the social intricacies of a late-summer weekend–and a lifetime of buried pain. Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends–some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.”

Brandon Taylor is great on Twitter, and I loved his short story Anne of Cleves, so I’m really looking forward to his debut novel.

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The Exhibition of Persephone Q by Jessi Jezewska Stevens
March 3, 2020
FSG

“Percy is pregnant. She hasn’t told a soul. Probably she should tell her husband–certainly she means to–but one night she wakes up to find she no longer recognizes him. Now, instead of sleeping, Percy is spending her nights taking walks through her neighborhood, all the while fretting over her marriage, her impending motherhood, and the sinister ways the city is changing.

Amid this alienation–from her husband, home, and rapidly changing body–a package arrives. In it: an exhibition catalog for a photography show. The photographs consist of a series of digitally manipulated images of a woman lying on a bed in a red room. It takes a moment for even Percy to notice that the woman is herself . . . but no one else sees the resemblance.”

I think I am either going to love this book or loathe it, and I don’t see myself falling anywhere in between those two extremes.  It appears to have so much that I love – feminism, art, commentary on the female body – but it’s also about pregnancy, which we all know is not exactly my favorite thing to read about.  So, I don’t know, but I’m going to be optimistic and say that I am really looking forward to this.

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The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
March 24, 2020
Knopf

“Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass-and-cedar palace on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, Vincent’s half brother, Paul, scrawls a note on a windowed wall of the hotel: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company named Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship. Weaving together the lives of these characters, The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.”

Station Eleven is one of my very favorite books, and I am up for reading anything by Emily St. John Mandel.  I have a couple of her backlist titles on my shelf that I should get to, but I know I won’t be able to resist picking this one up when it comes out.

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The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith
March 24, 2020
Harper

“Spanning two thousand years, The Everlasting follows four characters whose struggles resonate across the centuries: an early Christian child martyr; a medieval monk on crypt duty in a church; a Medici princess of Moorish descent; and a contemporary field biologist conducting an illicit affair.

Outsiders to a city layered and dense with history, this quartet separated by time grapple with the physicality of bodies, the necessity for sacrifice, and the power of love to sustain and challenge faith. Their small rebellions are witnessed and provoked by an omniscient, time-traveling Satan who, though incorporeal, nonetheless suffers from a heart in search of repair.

As their dramas unfold amid the brick, marble, and ghosts of Rome, they each must decide what it means to be good. Twelve-year old Prisca defiles the scrolls of her father’s library. Felix, a holy man, watches his friend’s body decay and is reminded of the first boy he loved passionately. Giulia de’ Medici, a beauty with dark skin and limitless wealth, wants to deliver herself from her unborn child. Tom, an American biologist studying the lives of the smallest creatures, cannot pinpoint when his own marriage began to die. As each of these conflicted people struggles with forces they cannot control, their circumstances raise a profound and timeless question at the heart of faith: What is our duty to each other, and what will God forgive?”

This summary sounds absolutely bonkers and I could not be more excited for this book.  This sounds like exactly the style of weird that works for me.  Plus, anything set in Italy is an automatic win.

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Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
March 31, 2020
Tinder Press

“Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.

Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.”

(This is not the final cover, as evidenced by the extra ‘R’ in her last name.)  I’ve never read any of Maggie O’Farrell’s fiction, but I loved I Am, I Am, I Am and have been meaning to dive into her backlist.  But before I do that, I think I’m going to be distracted by her newest release, which sounds amazing.  (Plus it’s published on my birthday, so clearly it’s meant to be.)

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Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
March 31, 2020
Doubleday

“Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.

It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper. She is fighting to cover the disturbing reports of violence coming out of Vienna and Berlin when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.”

So, I am typically not into this style of WWII historical fiction.  However, I had to do a lot of research on Noor Inayat Khan this year for my job, which naturally led me to quite a lot of research about Nancy Wake.  So when I saw this summary, I couldn’t resist.  Nancy Wake is incredible and I cannot wait to see what Ariel Lawhon makes of her story.

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Photograph: Jess Lowe/AFP/Getty Images

Lost, Found, Remembered by Lyra McKee
April 2, 2020
Faber & Faber (UK) – cover TK

“When the Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee was murdered in Derry in April 2019 aged just 29, she was survived by her articles that had been read and loved by thousands worldwide.

This memorial anthology will weave together the pieces that defined her reputation as one of the most important and formidable investigative journalists of her generation. It showcases the expansive breadth of McKee’s voice by bringing together unpublished material alongside both her celebrated and lesser-known articles.

Released in time for the anniversary of her death, it reveals the sheer scope of McKee’s intellectual, political, and radically humane engagement with the world – and lets her spirit live on in her own words.”

The murder of Lyra McKee earlier this year was more devastating than I have words for, and I am so appreciative that Faber is putting together this anthology of her work.  I imagine that in addition to an incisive commentary on the current sociopolitical state of Northern Ireland, it will touch on what it was like for McKee growing up gay in Belfast, the subject of her letter to her 14 year old self that went viral.

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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
translated by Jamie Chang
April 14, 2020
Liveright

“In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul, Kim Jiyoung—a millennial “everywoman”—spends her days caring for her infant daughter. Her husband, however, worries over a strange symptom that has recently appeared: Jiyoung has begun to impersonate the voices of other women—dead and alive, both known and unknown to her. Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that very person. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, Jiyoung’s concerned husband sends her to a psychiatrist, who listens to her narrate her own life story—from her birth to a family who expected a son, to elementary school teachers who policed girls’ outfits, to male coworkers who installed hidden cameras in women’s restrooms and posted the photos online. But can her doctor cure her, or even discover what truly ails her? Rendered in eerie prose, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 announces the arrival of a major international writer.”

Another one that I think will be hit or miss for me, depending on how big of a thematic focus motherhood receives.  But the subgenre of ‘millennial women having mental breakdowns’ almost always works for me, so I think there’s a good chance I’ll like it.

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Lake Like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong
translated by Natascha Bruce
March 10, 2020
Two Lines Press

“By an author described by critics as “the most accomplished Malaysian writer, full stop,” Lake Like a Mirror is a scintillating exploration of the lives of women buffeted by powers beyond their control. Squeezing themselves between the gaps of rabid urbanization, patriarchal structures and a theocratic government, these women find their lives twisted in disturbing ways. By an author described by critics as “the most accomplished Malaysian writer, full stop,” Lake Like a Mirror is a scintillating exploration of the lives of women buffeted by powers beyond their control. Squeezing themselves between the gaps of rabid urbanization, patriarchal structures and a theocratic government, these women find their lives twisted in disturbing ways.

This was first put on my radar by the publisher after I asked on Twitter for Malaysian lit recommendations, and it sounds like it could be incredible.

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Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
April 21, 2020
Penguin Press

“While on her normal daily walk with her dog in the nearby forest woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with a frame of stones. Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body. Our narrator is deeply shaken; she has no idea what to make of this. She is new to this area, having moved here from her longtime home after the death of her husband, and she knows very few people. And she’s a little shaky even on her best days. Her brooding about this note quickly grows into a full-blown obsession, and she begins to devote herself to exploring the possibilities of her conjectures about who this woman was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But as we follow her in her investigation, strange dissonances start to accrue, and our faith in her grip on reality weakens, until finally, just as she seems to be facing some of the darkness in her own past with her late husband, we are forced to face the prospect that there is either a more innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one—one that strikes closer to home.”

New Ottessa Moshfegh, need I say more?!  My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Eileen are two of my favorite books from recent years, and this one sounds even more up my alley than both of those did.

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If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
April 21, 2020
Ballantine Books

“Kyuri is a heartbreakingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a “room salon,” an exclusive bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake with a client may come to threaten her livelihood.

Her roomate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the super-wealthy heir to one of Korea’s biggest companies.

Down the hall in their apartment building lives Ara, a hair stylist for whom two preoccupations sustain her: obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that is commonplace.

And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to get pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise and educate in the cutthroat economy.

Together, their stories tell a gripping tale that’s seemingly unfamiliar, yet unmistakably universal in the way that their tentative friendships may have to be their saving grace.”

It sounds like there’s a lot going on here, and almost all of it appeals to me.

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What’s Left of Me is Yours by Stephanie Scott
April 21, 2020
Doubleday

“In Japan, a covert industry has grown up around the “wakaresaseya” (literally “breaker-upper”), a person hired by one spouse to seduce the other in order to gain the advantage in divorce proceedings. When Satō hires Kaitarō, a wakaresaseya agent, to have an affair with his wife, Rina, he assumes it will be an easy case. But Satō has never truly understood Rina or her desires and Kaitarō’s job is to do exactly that–until he does it too well. While Rina remains ignorant of the circumstances that brought them together, she and Kaitarō fall in a desperate, singular love, setting in motion a series of violent acts that will forever haunt her daughter’s life.”

I think this was pitched as a ‘for fans of Everything I Never Told You‘ situation, and that’s a comp that always gets me; but at the same time, this sounds unlike anything I’ve read before.

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Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski
April 28, 2020
William Morrow

“When university student Ludwik meets Janusz at a summer agricultural camp, he is fascinated yet wary of this handsome, carefree stranger. But a chance meeting by the river soon becomes an intense, exhilarating, and all-consuming affair. After their camp duties are fulfilled, the pair spend a dreamlike few weeks camping in the countryside, bonding over an illicit copy of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Inhabiting a beautiful natural world removed from society and its constraints, Ludwik and Janusz fall deeply in love. But in their repressive communist and Catholic society, the passion they share is utterly unthinkable.

Once they return to Warsaw, the charismatic Janusz quickly rises in the political ranks of the party and is rewarded with a highly-coveted position in the ministry. Ludwik is drawn toward impulsive acts of protest, unable to ignore rising food prices and the stark economic disparity around them. Their secret love and personal and political differences slowly begin to tear them apart as both men struggle to survive in a regime on the brink of collapse.”

Everything about this sounds heart-rending.  Sign me up.

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Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride
May 5, 2020
FSG (no cover announced yet – using UK cover)

“At the mid-point of her life a woman enters an Avignon hotel room. She’s been here once before – but while the room hasn’t changed, she is a different person now.

Forever caught between check-in and check-out, she will go on to occupy other hotel rooms, from Prague to Oslo, Auckland to Austin, each as anonymous as the last, but bound by rules of her choosing. There, amid the detritus of her travels, the matchbooks, cigarettes, keys and room-service wine, she will negotiate with memory, with the men she sometimes meets, and with what it might mean to return home.”

Eimear McBride is one of my favorite writers, but apparently she eschews her signature fragmentary style in her newest book in favor of actually writing in normal sentences, which is something that greatly intrigues me.

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Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah
translated by Deborah Smith
May 5, 2020
The Overlook Press

“A startling and boundary-pushing novel, Untold Night and Day tells the story of a young woman’s journey through Seoul over the course of a night and a day. It’s 28-year-old Ayami’s final day at her box-office job in Seoul’s audio theater. Her night is spent walking the sweltering streets of the city with her former boss in search of Yeoni, their missing elderly friend, and her day is spent looking after a mysterious, visiting poet. Their conversations take in art, love, food, and the inaccessible country to the north.
 
Almost immediately, in the heat of Seoul at the height of the summer, order gives way to chaos as the edges of reality start to fray, with Ayami becoming an unwitting escort into a fever-dream of increasingly tangled threads, all the while images of the characters’ overlapping realities repeat, collide, change, and reassert themselves in this masterful work that upends the very structure of fiction and narrative storytelling and burns itself upon the soul of the reader.”

I haven’t read Bae Suah yet, but Deborah Smith, say no more.

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Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh
May 7, 2020
Penguin

“Calla knows how the lottery works. Everyone does. On the day of your first bleed, you report to the station to learn what kind of woman you will be. A white ticket grants you children. A blue ticket grants you freedom. You are relieved of the terrible burden of choice. And, once you’ve taken your ticket, there is no going back.

But what if the life you’re given is the wrong one?

Blue Ticket is a devastating enquiry into free will and the fraught space of motherhood. Bold and chilling, it pushes beneath the skin of female identity and patriarchal violence, to the point where human longing meets our animal bodies.”

I feel like The poor Water Cure couldn’t catch a break there for a while in the book community, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed it, and Mackintosh’s second novel sounds like it could be even better.

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Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
May 12, 2020
Custom House (UK)

“Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines Murillo, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. Even the school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves within the formidable iron gates of Catherine. For Ines, it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had. But the House’s strange protocols soon make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.”

I mean… this kind of sounds like it could be the perfect book.

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Sisters by Daisy Johnson
June 4, 2020
Jonathan Cape (UK)

“After a serious case of school bullying becomes too much to bear, sisters July and September move across the country with their mother to a long-abandoned family home.

In their new and unsettling surroundings, July finds that the deep bond she has always had with September – a closeness that not even their mother is allowed to penetrate – is starting to change in ways she cannot entirely understand.

Inside the house the tension among the three women builds, while outside the sisters meet a boy who tests the limits of their shared experiences.”

I had something of a mixed experience with Everything Under – I was adoring it, ready to give it 5 stars, and then toward the end an extremely literal manifestation of a magical realism subplot kind of ruined things for me.  That said, I loved Johnson’s writing, and I love the sound of her new book, so, count me in.  Fingers crossed for less magical realism.

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Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
July 7, 2020
Dutton Books

“In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.”

I haven’t even read this summary yet, but I am all aboard the Riley Sager hype train.  The Last Time I Lied didn’t entirely work for me, but Final Girls and Lock Every Door are two of my all-time favorite thrillers, so at this point I’ll read anything that Sager writes.

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Luster by Raven Leilani
August 4, 2020
FSG

“Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties—sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She’s also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage—with rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric’s family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.”

I love the sound of this – I don’t know what it is about books about young women exploring unhealthy sexual arrangements that appeals to me so much, but here we are.

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Hysteria by Jessica Gross
August 18, 2020
Unnamed Press

“In HYSTERIA, we meet a young woman an hour into yet another alcohol-fueled, masochistic, sexual bender at her local bar. There is a new bartender working this time, one she hasn’t seen before, and who can properly make a drink. He looks familiar, and as she is consumed by shame from her behavior the previous week— hooking up with her parents’ colleague and her roommate’s brother— she also becomes convinced that her Brooklyn bartender is actually Sigmund Freud. They embark on a relationship, and she is forced to confront her past through the prism of their complex, revealing, and sometimes shocking meetings.

With the help of Freud—or whoever he is—she begins to untangle her Oedipal leanings, her upbringing, and her desires. Jessica Gross’s debut is unflinchingly perceptive and honest, darkly funny, and unafraid of mining the deepest fears of contemporary lives.”

This sounds utterly unique and I am obsessed with that cover.


So, there we have it, at this point, these are my most anticipated books of 2020!  Are you looking forward to any of these?  Which other 2020 releases have caught your eye?  Comment and let me know!

Book of the Month TBR

I’ve been subscribed to Book of the Month since… the end of 2016, I think? and I’ve been slowly breaking up with them for the past year or so.  Even though I skip most months I have yet to pull the trigger and cancel my subscription, but I think it’s going to happen very soon.  I’ve become increasingly frustrated with them over the years: their selection is appealing to me less and less (I feel like there was a lot more literary fiction when I joined than there is now), subscription price has gone up, the physical quality of their books has gone down, and they now charge you for the month if you forget to click ‘skip’ which is frankly ridiculous and a really insidious way to hold subscribers hostage for longer than they’re interested.

But I do still have a fondness for BOTM; it’s the only book subscription service I’ve ever used, and I enjoy the simplicity of it (I like watching unboxings but all the swag in OwlCrate and whatnot stresses me out; if I could have a subscription that did literary fiction and tea, maybe with the occasional mug, I would be very happy).  And waking up on the first of every month and looking at the selection will never not give me a thrill (except now they announce it randomly like two and a half days beforehand so there’s always a bit of a panic when I realize the list has been up for a few days and I’ve been wasting time by not selecting anything, but I digress).

I realize that most posts that specifically talk about a service tend to be more positive than this, so I realize this hasn’t been the best opening for BOTM-enthusiasts, but I just wanted to be honest about my experiences, which have ultimately been mixed over the years.  I’d love to hear from you if you also subscribe to BOTM, whether you have the same frustrations that I do or whether you’re still happy with what they provide.

I’ve purchased 28 books through Book of the Month over the years, and of those, I’ve read 19.  That leaves 9 that are still on my TBR.  I wanted to take a look at those now to hopefully inspire myself to pick these up sooner rather than later.

Going chronologically from publication date, with summaries from Goodreads in italics and my own thoughts below:

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness.

When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!”

Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born.

And someone is hunting him.

This is a textbook case of ‘the hype made me do it’.  Science fiction really isn’t my thing, but I feel like I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book, enough that I ended up adding this as an extra to one of my boxes a while back.  I still haven’t gotten around to picking it up (obviously), but I do still have FOMO about this one and want to pick it up before the end of the year.

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As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

I actually remember vividly that none of the selections appealed to me the month I chose this, but I had just been in the mood to buy a book.  So, here we are.  Of this entire list, this is the one that I’m most likely to unhaul without reading it, but the completionist in me shudders at the thought.  We’ll see.  If you loved this, convince me to read it!

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Still Lives by Maria Hummel

Kim Lord is an avant-garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances. Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala. Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls on the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

I have heard… almost nothing positive about this book, but the combination of feminism and art history in its blurb convinced me that it was something I was going to love.  I don’t remain quite as convinced at this point, but I do want to read this as Hummel is a local (Vermont) author.

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Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Willa Knox has always prided herself on being the embodiment of responsibility for her family. Which is why it’s so unnerving that she’s arrived at middle age with nothing to show for her hard work and dedication but a stack of unpaid bills and an inherited brick home in Vineland, New Jersey, that is literally falling apart. The magazine where she worked has folded, and the college where her husband had tenure has closed. The dilapidated house is also home to her ailing and cantankerous Greek father-in-law and her two grown children: her stubborn, free-spirited daughter, Tig, and her dutiful debt-ridden, ivy educated son, Zeke, who has arrived with his unplanned baby in the wake of a life-shattering development.

In an act of desperation, Willa begins to investigate the history of her home, hoping that the local historical preservation society might take an interest and provide funding for its direly needed repairs. Through her research into Vineland’s past and its creation as a Utopian community, she discovers a kindred spirit from the 1880s, Thatcher Greenwood.

A science teacher with a lifelong passion for honest investigation, Thatcher finds himself under siege in his community for telling the truth: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting new theory recently published by Charles Darwin. Thatcher’s friendships with a brilliant woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor draw him into a vendetta with the town’s most powerful men. At home, his new wife and status-conscious mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his financial worries and the news that their elegant house is structurally unsound.

It would be a stretch to say that I’m a massive Kingsolver fan since I’ve only ever read The Poisonwood Bible, but I did really love that.  I actually only picked this up because I was convinced that it was going to be a strong contender for the Women’s Prize longlist: obviously that did not happen.  Unsheltered has been polarizing, but I remain curious about it.

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

I have a rule that I don’t read thrillers written by men (I find that poorly written female protagonists and using sexual assault as a plot point both occur much less frequently in female-authored thrillers; yes, I’m aware this is a generalization, sue me), but I’m breaking that rule twice in this list.  Further down it’s a favorite author who I discovered before I implemented my female-author-only thriller rule, and here’s in because this book sounds absolutely marvelous.  It’s a loose retelling of Euripides’ Alcestis, a play and a story that I adore, so I am very curious to see how Michaelides has interpreted it here.

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The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

Historical fiction set in East Asia is one of my favorite things to read, and I don’t think I’ve read anything set in Malaysia before.  The magical realism element… makes me a bit nervous, but I ultimately decided to bite the bullet and give this one a try, since I just find the premise so intriguing.

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The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer

In 1940, Varian Fry—a Harvard-educated American journalist—traveled to Marseille carrying three thousand dollars and a list of imperiled artists and writers he hoped to rescue within a few weeks. Instead, he ended up staying in France for thirteen months, working under the veil of a legitimate relief organization to procure false documents, amass emergency funds, and set up an underground railroad that led over the Pyrenees, into Spain, and finally to Lisbon, where the refugees embarked for safer ports. Among his many clients were Hannah Arendt, Franz Werfel, André Breton, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Marc Chagall.

My biggest interest outside of the bookish world is art history, so I was never going to be able to resist this premise.  World War II fatigue aside, I think this sounds incredible, and I’ve heard some really amazing things about it.  I’m a bit intimidated by the length, but I shouldn’t be!

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Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Based on years of immersive reporting, and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is a groundbreaking portrait of erotic longing in today’s America, exposing the fragility, complexity, and inequality of female desire with unprecedented depth and emotional power. It is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy, that introduces us to three unforgettable women—and one remarkable writer—whose experiences remind us that we are not alone.

I barely know what this is about but I think I’ve been told to read it four times this week alone.  Alright, I give in!

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Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

I haven’t even read the summary that I just copied and pasted here but in my opinion Riley Sager is one of the best thriller writers working today.  Final Girls is arguably my favorite-ever thriller, and though I wasn’t quite as enamored with The Last Time I Lied overall, I couldn’t put it down and I thought the final twist was all kinds of brilliant.  So regardless of what this newest offering is actually about, I cannot wait to dive into it.


So, that’s that!  Have you read any of these books, and if so, which would you recommend that I pick up straight away?  If you haven’t, are you interested in any?  And have you ever subscribed to Book of the Month, and what are your thoughts on their subscription service?  Do you have other [adult lit] book subscription services you’d recommend?  Let me know all your thoughts!

Women in Translation Month 2019 TBR

In case you’re unfamiliar with Women in Translation Month, or #WITmonth, this Twitter account is a good place to start.  But it’s pretty self explanatory: in the month of August, should you feel inclined, you can challenge yourself to read books by women (or nonbinary folk) which were initially written in a language other than English.  These can either be books written or translated by a woman, or both, and you can read one or ten or twenty or however many you like.  I wrote a little recommendations post last year that you can check out, and this year I thought I’d share my TBR with you guys.

I can already tell you this TBR is overly ambitious, but I want to give myself a lot of options, so here we are.  Linking all of these to Book Depository in case you’d like to pick up any for yourself.

 

I’ve been going a little NYRB classics crazy in my recent hauls, and I’ve been saving all of these for this month.

White Walls by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambell and Antonina W. Bouis

This is a short story collection that I’ve had on my TBR for about a year (I THINK this was recommended to me by Ren but correct me if I’m wrong?!) but I only picked up a copy recently.  The amount of Russian lit I’ve read is painfully lacking (I actually think the only translated Russian book I’ve ever read is War and Peace) so I’m looking forward to expanding my repertoire a little bit.

The Door by Magda Szabo, translated from the Hungarian by Lex Rix

I put this on my latest 5 star reads prediction list without knowing much about it; sometimes you’ve just gotta go off a vibe.  Plus, introduction by Ali Smith!  Yes please.

Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang, translated from the Chinese by Karen S. Kingsbury and Eileen Chang, &
Little Reunions by Eileen Chang, translated from the Chinese by Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz

I’ve never read Eileen Chang before but I know Claire loves her and that’s good enough for me!  I’m almost certain I’ll start with Love in a Fallen City, but I picked up Little Reunions recently so I wanted to include it as an option here in case I’m up for both.

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated from the Chinese by Bonnie Huie

I feel like this is a bit of a modern cult classic that I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about.  I think it has to do with queer students in Taiwan; that’s all I need to know, really.

 

Valerie (or The Faculty of Dreams in the UK) by Sara Stridsberg, translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner

This is the only ARC I’ve got on this list.  I didn’t read any of the Man Booker International longlist this year (though I will be picking up Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk in a couple of days, which I’m not including in this post as I have to finish it before August), but The Faculty of Dreams, or now Valerie in the US, is the one whose premise excited me the most off that list.  And I have heard nothing but good things.

Purge by Sofi Oksanen, translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers

This was another one of my 5 star read predictions; and again, I know next to nothing about it.  That’s my favorite way to go into books, as I’m sure you can tell by now.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

Ogawa’s collection Revenge was as close to perfection as I think I’ve ever read in a short story collection.  So I’m interested in seeing how her writing works for me in a longer format.

Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays by Christa Wolf, translated from the German by Jan van Heurk

This has been on my TBR for literally years.  Hannah has given it the coveted title of her favorite book, I adored Wolf’s Medea, I put this on my 2019 Backlist TBR (which I am kind of failing at – or at least, I’m behind by 2.5 books at this point).  Anyway, all things considered, I just need to read this immediately.  I mean, it’s a novel about Cassandra.  And then four essays.  There is nothing that could go wrong here.


I am almost certainly not going to finish, or even start, all of these books.  And I might end up reading a couple of other non-WIT things (I know I’m going to be seduced by the Booker longlist, but after my frustrating experience with the Women’s Prize this year I’m going to try to resist, so I can save some of my literary prize stamina for next year’s WP).  But this is a selection of titles that I am very, very excited about at this point.  We’ve got Russian, Hungarian, Chinese, Swedish, Finnish, Japanese, and German language books on this list and that’s a variety that excites me very much indeed.

What’s your favorite book by a woman in translation?  Are you planning on taking part in #WITmonth, and what are you looking forward to reading?  And have you read any of these books?  Come chat with me in the comments!  And if you’ve done your own TBR or recommendations posts for #WITmonth, feel free to link them here so I can check them out.

The Highest and Lowest Rated Books on my TBR

This is a premise that’s inspired many a booktube video over the years, but I got the idea to do this post in particular when I was watching Lala’s recent video about reading the highest rated books on her TBR.  After I watched that I decided to go through my own Goodreads TBR and sort it by average ratings, and then I thought it would be fun to make a post to show you guys the results of that search.

Note that I’m only going to include books that were published prior to 2019.  Summaries are from Goodreads.

The 5 Highest

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Becoming by Michelle Obama – 4.67

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

This one isn’t a huge surprise; I’ve heard that if you love Michelle Obama you’re going to love this book, and if you don’t love Michelle Obama you probably aren’t going to pick it up in the first place.  I was planning on listening to this on audio before realizing the audiobook is 18 hours long (I have audiobook commitment issues), but I do have the hardcover and should probably pick this up at some point.  I will say, I’m not terribly enthusiastic about it for some reason?  I mean, I don’t love political memoirs, so that is probably the reason.  But I do love Michelle Obama, so I do want to read this.  At some point.

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War Music: An Account of Homer’s Iliad by Christopher Logue – 4.61

Logue’s account of Homer’s Iliad is a radical reimagining and reconfiguration of Homer’s tale of warfare, human folly, and the power of the gods in language and verse that is emphatically modern and “possessed of a very terrible beauty” (Slate). Illness prevented him from bringing his version of the Iliad to completion, but enough survives in notebooks and letters to assemble a compilation that includes the previously published volumes War Music, Kings, The Husbands, All Day Permanent Red, and Cold Calls, along with previously unpublished material, in one final illuminating volume arranged by his friend and fellow poet Christopher Reid. The result, War Music, comes as near as possible to representing the poet’s complete vision and confirms what his admirers have long known: that “Logue’s Homer is likely to endure as one of the great long poems of the twentieth century” (The Times Literary Supplement)

Now this is what we’re talking about: I think this is part translation, part adaptation of Homer’s Iliad, and it sounds very experimental.  This kind of thing is very, very much up my alley.  I also have a copy of this and I really need to make time to read it.

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The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America by Isaac Butler – 4.58

Now, on the 25th anniversary of that Broadway premiere, Isaac Butler and Dan Kois offer the definitive account of Angels in America in the most fitting way possible: through oral history, nearly 200 voices in vibrant conversation and debate. The intimate storytelling of actors (including Streep, Parker, Jeffrey Wright, and Nathan Lane), directors, producers, and Kushner himself reveals the turmoil of the play’s birth-a hard-won miracle in the face of artistic roadblocks, technical disasters, and disputes both legal and creative. And historians and critics help to situate the play in the arc of American culture, from the staunch activism of the AIDS crisis through civil-rights triumphs to our current era, whose politics are a dark echo of the Reagan ’80s. The World Only Spins Forward is both a rollicking theater saga and an uplifting testament to one of the great works of American art of the past century, from its gritty San Francisco premiere to the starry revival that electrified London in 2017.

I am a massive fan of Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America, which I think is one of the best pieces of theatre from the 20th century, so reading about its behind the scenes history sounds like a fun time to me.

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Sons of Achilles by Nabila Lovelace – 4.56

Sons of Achilles questions what it means to be in and of a linage of violence. In this collection, Nabila Lovelace attempts to examine the liminal space between violence and intimacy. From the mythical characters that depict and pass down a progeny of violence through their canonization, to the witnessing of violence, Lovelace interrogates the ways violence enters and inhabits a life.

I don’t remember where I first heard about this poetry collection but I was undoubtedly drawn to it because of the title.  It sounds absolutely brilliant, and I’d like to get my hands on a copy at some point.

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Indecent by Paula Vogel – 4.55

When Sholem Asch wrote God of Vengeance in 1907, he didn’t imagine the height of controversy the play would eventually reach. Performing at first in Yiddish and German, the play’s subject matter wasn’t deemed contentious until it was produced in English, when the American audiences were scandalized by the onstage depiction of an amorous affair between two women. Paula Vogel’s newest work traces the trajectory of the show’s success through its tour in Europe to its abrupt and explosive demise on Broadway in 1923—including the arrest of the entire production’s cast and crew.

I missed the recent Broadway production of this play, sadly, but hopefully I’ll catch it in Boston this April.  I’ve heard that this is absolutely gut-wrenching and I have no doubt that I will love it.

The 5 Lowest

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Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li – 3.10

The Beijing Duck House in Rockville, Maryland, is not only a beloved go-to setting for hunger pangs and celebrations; it is its own world, inhabited by waiters and kitchen staff who have been fighting, loving, and aging within its walls for decades. When disaster strikes, this working family’s controlled chaos is set loose, forcing each character to confront the conflicts that fast-paced restaurant life has kept at bay. Owner Jimmy Han hopes to leave his late father’s homespun establishment for a fancier one. Jimmy’s older brother, Johnny, and Johnny’s daughter, Annie, ache to return to a time before a father’s absence and a teenager’s silence pushed them apart. Nan and Ah-Jack, longtime Duck House employees, are tempted to turn their thirty-year friendship into something else, even as Nan’s son, Pat, struggles to stay out of trouble. And when Pat and Annie, caught in a mix of youthful lust and boredom, find themselves in a dangerous game that implicates them in the Duck House tragedy, their families must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to help their children.

Haaa, we meet again.  I already know that I’m going to be reading this in the next couple of months because I’m reading the entire Women’s Prize longlist, and I knew that it had a low average rating, but I don’t think I expected to see it on this list.  But here we are.  I don’t know, you guys, I’ve heard a couple of positive things but the vast majority of reviews that I’ve seen for this book have been lukewarm at best… so we’ll see!

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Come With Me by Helen Schulman – 3.08

Amy Reed works part-time as a PR person for a tech start-up, run by her college roommate’s nineteen-year-old son, in Palo Alto, California. Donny is a baby genius, a junior at Stanford in his spare time. His play for fortune is an algorithm that may allow people access to their “multiverses”—all the planes on which their alternative life choices can be played out simultaneously—to see how the decisions they’ve made have shaped their lives. Donny wants Amy to be his guinea pig. And even as she questions Donny’s theories and motives, Amy finds herself unable to resist the lure of the road(s) not taken. Who would she be if she had made different choices, loved different people? Where would she be now? Amy’s husband, Dan—an unemployed, perhaps unemployable, print journalist—accepts a dare of his own, accompanying a seductive, award-winning photographer named Maryam on a trip to Fukushima, the Japanese city devastated by tsunami and meltdown. Collaborating with Maryam, Dan feels a renewed sense of excitement and possibility he hasn’t felt with his wife in a long time. But when crisis hits at home, the extent of Dan’s betrayal is exposed and, as Amy contemplates alternative lives, the couple must confront whether the distances between them in the here and now are irreconcilable.

I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher, and when I first received it the book had something like a 2.0 rating on Goodreads, which I assumed was down to a couple of negative ARC reviews, but half a year later the rating doesn’t seem to have improved that much.  I may just pass on my copy to someone else.  I honestly can’t even follow what’s going on in this summary, it sounds like there may be too much happening and none of it is sufficiently developed, I’m not sure.

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The Gathering by Anne Enright – 3.06

Anne Enright is a dazzling writer of international stature and one of Ireland’s most singular voices. Now she delivers The Gathering, a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family and a shot of fresh blood into the Irish literary tradition, combining the lyricism of the old with the shock of the new. The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light. The Gathering is a daring, witty, and insightful family epic, clarified through Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. It is a novel about love and disappointment, about how memories warp and secrets fester, and how fate is written in the body, not in the stars.

I get the impression that this might be one of those books that people dislike because they go into it expecting a thriller and then it isn’t really a thriller…?  At any rate, it’s Irish, it won the Booker, and I own a copy, so I will definitely be giving this one a try.

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The Shades by Evgenia Citkowitz – 2.98

A year has passed since Catherine and Michael Hall lost their teenage daughter in a car accident, leaving them and their sixteen-year-old son, Rowan, reeling in the aftermath of the tragedy. After Rowan escapes to boarding school, Catherine withdraws from her life as a successful London gallerist to Hamdean, an apartment in a Georgian country manor, where she and Michael had hoped to spend their retirement. When a beguiling young woman, Keira, appears at the house claiming to have once lived there, Catherine is reanimated by the promise of a meaningful connection. However, their relationship soon shifts to one of forbidding uncertainty as the mysteries of the past collide with the truth of the present.

This is partially on my TBR because the cover is a stunner, and partially because I think that summary sounds genius.  The average rating does concern me a little, but I think my curiosity is going to win out with this one.

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Little Constructions by Anna Burns – 2.66

At the centre of Anna Burns’s startling new novel lies the Doe clan, a closely knit family of criminals and victims whose internal conflicts and convoluted relationships propel this simultaneously funny and terrifying story. Bound together by love and loyalty, fear and secrets, the Does and other inhabitants of Tiptoe Floorboard make up an unforgettable cast of characters. In a voice that is by turns chilling and wickedly funny, the narrator documents their struggle to make and maintain connections with each other, and – weaving back and forth in time – examines what transpires when unspeakable realities, long pushed from consciousness, begin to break through.

And, ironically, the book in this entire post that I’m probably the most excited for is the one with the lowest rating.  However, in this case the average rating does not scare me, because I know Anna Burns’ work is not for everyone.  From those who adored Milkman and went back to read her backlist I get the impression that Milkman is probably her most accomplished novel, though No Bones and Little Constructions are still good.  So, I’ll definitely be giving them both a try, and hopefully will be able to contribute to this book’s rating getting a tiny bit higher.


So, that’s that!  Have you guys read any of these books, and if so does your rating fall above or below the average?  Let me know which books I should prioritize off this list!

(NB I’ve scheduled this post and am in New York for another couple of days, so I’ll probably be late in replying to comments.)

top 10 tuesday: Books I Meant to Read in 2018

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week’s topic:

January 22: Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To

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Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.  I had a planned buddy read with Chelsea for this book back in JULY but then we mutually dropped that ball and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since.  Obviously I’m not a big fantasy reader, but I’ve been curious about Robin Hobb for a while as she’s such a big name in the genre, and I know she has a million books set in this world so I’m just really really hoping I fall in love with it.  Anyway, our buddy read is now tentatively scheduled for some point in the next couple of weeks… pray for us.

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Villette by Charlotte Bronte.  I’m a big Jane Eyre fan but that’s only one of two Bronte novels I’ve read (the other being Wuthering Heights – how predictable).  I do eventually want to read all of the Bronte novels and I think the next one I want to pick up is Villette, it just sounds very much like something I will enjoy, and I already know I love Charlotte’s writing.

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The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan.  I read the first 20 pages of this when I was in the Bahamas and then decided to opt for The Magpie Murders instead for the third book that I read on that trip, but this promises to be very dark and twisted and obviously that’s what I’m all about.

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The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.  What is with me and this book?!  It’s been on my TBR I think since 2015, I’ve owned a copy for years, I’ve packed it with me on several trips, I’ve loved 2/2 of Ryan’s novels that I’ve read…. and I still haven’t gotten around to this and I have absolutely no idea why.  If I need you guys to hold me accountable for reading one book in 2019, it’s this one.

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The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson.  I have had a lot of great conversations with Ren at What’s Nonfiction about Maggie Nelson which all basically end with her saying ‘you need to read The Red Parts‘ and me agreeing ‘I definitely need to read The Red Parts‘ and yet, I still have not read The Red Parts.  This is one that’s consistently available with zero holds on Overdrive so I’m planning on picking it up there when I’m in the mood, but the problem is that I tend to forget about books I want to read if I don’t physically own them or have a digital ARC.  So, maybe I should just buy a copy?!  Either way, I’m going to try to get to this soon.

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The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.  I don’t even know what this book is about, but a couple of years ago a friend who knows my taste well told me she thinks I’ll love it, and then she lent me her copy when I was visiting her last year… and I still have not picked it up.  Soon, hopefully!

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Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith.  I don’t read a whole lot of poetry but that’s something I’m going to try to change this year.  I bought this book as soon as it came out because it sounded brilliant, but it’s still sitting on my shelf.  Plus, I love Danez Smith on social media so I’m very eager to try their work.

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The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  I have been in possession of Hadeer’s copy of this book for literally years at this point.  I think it intimidates me because I don’t read a whole lot of nonfiction outside of memoirs, but I do really want to pick it up this year.

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The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan.  Like a lot of people I think I was first drawn to this because of its striking naked hardback cover, but the summary sounds fantastic as well.  I haven’t read anything by Kirsty Logan and I’ve been meaning to change that for years now.

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Still Lives by Maria Hummel.  I skipped BOTM almost every month in 2018 but this was one of my only selections all year… and I still have not read it.  I’ve not been hearing terribly promising things (it has a 3.35 on Goodreads) BUT it’s about the contemporary art scene in LA which is ridiculously up my alley, and the author is from Vermont and I like to read locally.

Have you guys read any of these books?  Which should I prioritize?

2019 Backlist TBR

One of my 2019 reading goals is going to be spending less time on new releases and more time on backlist books that I neglected this year (that is, books published prior to 2018).  But, this is one of my reading goals every single year and I never end up able to resist the pull of new books.  So I decided to make this post to hold myself accountable.  I am most certainly going to read more backlist books than the ones I’m mentioning here, but these are just a few that I’m interested in, AND I already own all of them.  I’ve narrowed it down to 12, so I can conceivably read one a month which doesn’t feel too intimidating:

  1. Troubles by J.G. Farrell: This is a pretty seminal work of Anglo-Irish fiction that I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet.  I have no reason to believe I’m not going to adore this.  EDIT: ★★★★☆ | review
  2. A Natural by Ross Raisin: I don’t know much about this other than that it features a gay protagonist who plays football (soccer), and that a friend of mine loved it and recommended it to me very highly.  I included it on my last 5 star predictions post that I made way earlier this year, so I do want to get to this one sooner rather than later.  EDIT: ★★★★☆ | review
  3. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy: I read my first Hardy a few months ago, Far From the Madding Crowd, and I really loved it and want to check out more of his writing.  I had a very in depth discussion with someone about whether to choose Tess of the D’Urbervilles next or Jude the Obscure, and she convinced me to choose Tess.  Incidentally, a lot of my close friends seem to really despise this book… so I’m a little scared but mostly convinced that I’ll like it.
  4. The Quiet American by Graham Greene: This one also featured on my 5 star predictions post, so this is definitely another one for the first quarter of 2019.  I haven’t read any Graham Greene before, but this seems like the kind of modern classic that’ll be right up my street.  EDIT: ★★★★☆ | review
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker: I mean, enough said.  I hate admitting that I haven’t read this book when it seems so short and accessible?  And I’m sure I will love this.  EDIT: ★★★★☆ | review
  6. The Persian Boy by Mary Renault: I read Fire From Heaven uhh… nearly two years ago?!  I loved it and had every intention of continuing this series, but that book also took me something like 4 months to read, so whenever I look at this one I’m a little intimidated.  But I need to just do it.  I think people have generally preferred The Persian Boy to Fire From Heaven anyway, so hopefully that’s also true for me.  But I don’t really mind either way, I just really love Alexander the Great and am eager to dive back into this series.
  7. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch: 2018 was going to be the year that I read more backlist Man Booker winners, and… suffice to say, 2018 was not that year.  But maybe 2019 will be.  I’ve wanted to check out Murdoch for years.
  8. Cassandra by Christa Wolf: I adored Wolf’s take on Medea and I LOVE the character Cassandra and I’ll read just about any mythological retelling.  And Hannah raves about this.
  9. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: I just don’t know how I haven’t read this yet.  The Secret History is probably one of my top five favorite books of all time.
  10. No Bones by Anna Burns: After adoring Milkman by Man Booker winning queen Anna Burns I immediately added her two backlist books to my TBR.  I bought a copy of No Bones and it’s probably one of the titles on this list that I’m the most excited for.  But Milkman wasn’t exactly a quick, breezy read and I doubt this one will be either, which is why I didn’t dive straight into it when I bought it.  But soon.
  11. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov: I’m either going to love this or hate this and I don’t see myself falling anywhere in between.  But, I’ve wanted to give it a shot for ages, and I do love that cover.
  12. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien: I’ve been wanting to read this ever since it was shortlisted for the Booker in 2016 and I just never got around to it.  This seems 100% like my kind of book.

Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think?  And what are some backlist titles you’d like to read in 2019?  You should comment here with your list or make your own post and link to me so we can all hold each other accountable.  2019 is gonna be the year of the backlist!

Bahamas TBR

That’s right friends, I am off to spend 10 days in the Bahamas doing absolutely nothing other than reading on the beach.  Which obviously necessitates a TBR.

I don’t really believe in the concept of a ‘beach read,’ much in the same way that I tend not to be a very seasonal reader.  I like what I like and I am not going to force myself to read books that aren’t depressing just because I’m on a beach.  So this TBR may seem a bit odd, but I make my own rules here.  Though I did throw in a few thrillers just in case I’m in the mood for something a bit more pacy.

Physical books:

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney: After adoring Normal People a few months back I finally bought Rooney’s debut the other day and I have high hopes for it.  I’ve noticed that people tend to strongly prefer one or the other but there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus on which is ‘better,’ so I’m just very interested to discover which side I’ll end up taking in this debate.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz: These next two I won in a giveaway from the wonderful Naty ages ago (go follow her!), and I was actually specifically saving them both for this trip; this one in particular because it’s a tiny mass market paperback which will be perfect for my luggage.  I’ve been wanting to read this ever since it came out and have heard excellent things.

The Dry by Jane Harper: Another giveaway win that I’m so excited about – I feel like the last person on earth who hasn’t read this book yet so I’m dying to get to it.

The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan: I recently discovered a love for McEwan’s writing after adoring On Chesil Beach earlier this year, and from the rest of his back catalog this is one of the books that jumped out at me the most.  It’s supposed to be quite dark and twisted and that suits me just fine, beach or no beach.

The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey: My favorite booktuber Jennifer @ Insert Literary Pun Here raves about this book, and I say she’s my favorite not only because her reviews are incisive and intelligent, but because we tend to have very similar tastes in fiction.  So I have high hopes for this.

E-Books/ARCS:

You can read my thoughts about why these books interest me in my ARCs I need to read post that I am failing spectacularly at.  I’m actually reading The Lies We Told right now so I may be done with it by the time this post comes out of the queue, but that seems doubtful.

Anyway, am I going to read all of these books in 10 days?  Not a chance in hell.  But I like to keep my options open rather than limit myself to a very strict TBR.

Have you guys read any of these books?

NB: blogging hiatus from November 15-25!  I’ll probably queue a few things and I’ll still be reading your comments on the app and I’ll be active on Twitter, so if you want me to see any of your posts feel free to link them to me there.  But I hate reading my feed on the app so mostly I’m just going to try to catch up when I get back.

top 10 tuesday: Books On My Spring TBR

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish which is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.

March 20: Books On My Spring TBR

 

EDIT with links to reviews:

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill: ★★★★★
The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie: ★★★★☆
Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: ★★★★☆
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan: ★★☆☆☆
Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter: ★★★★☆

In general I’m not a big fan of weekly meme prompts that are about your TBR, because there’s only so much you can say about a book you haven’t read yet, but I felt like doing this one to get organized.  I’m currently reading Tin Man by Sarah Winman and Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan, and when I finish those I’ll be caught up with ARCs at long last, and I’m looking forward to tackling the many unread books I already own.  Here are 10 that I’m looking forward to reading in the near future – I may not stick to this list completely*, but you get the idea.  It’s a combination of Christmas presents, books that were lent to me, and books that have been sitting on my shelf.

*Though I will absolutely be reading Asking for It and Murder at the Vicarage, as both of those were included on my 5-star predictions list and I want to wrap that up soon.  (That also means pushing myself to finally finish Days Without End, which… ugh.  Let’s just say this is not going as expected.)

Have you guys read any of these?  Which should I read first?  Comment and let me know!