Tag Archives: Books

Top of the TBR 8.5.19

Top of the TBR is a weekly post I created that will showcase any books added to my Goodreads TBR recently, with a short explanation of why each title caught my interest. I’ll aim for 5-10 books per post; in weeks that I’ve added more than that, I’ll hold some back, and in weeks that I don’t have enough, I’ll include titles I haven’t discussed yet. Each title will be linked back to its Goodreads page for anyone interested in exploring further, as I’m not a fan of copy/pasting synopses. Anyone who wants to take part in this series with me is absolutely welcome! Please link back to any of my Top of the TBR posts so I can see what you’re reading! 🙂

Here are some of the new books I’ve added on Goodreads over the last two weeks:

22552026. sy475 Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Pub: Oct 2017)

How I found it: I’ve seen this around quite a bit in the last couple of years, especially in the YA book community. I’ve been on the fence about it for a long time, but then saw this positive review from Elysa that finally convinced me!

Why I added it: I really hate to miss out on a book with so many awards on its cover, and that so many people have loved. Also, it’s written in verse, which is one element my reading life is lacking at the moment.

Priority: Low. I can pick this up at my library any time, but my August TBR is twice as long as I’ll have time for so I’m just not planning to reach for anything extra in the immediate future.

44063239. sy475 The Island Child by Molly Aitken (Pub: March 2020)

How I found it: Callum pointed this one out!

Why I added it: First of all, the cover completely drew me in. Blue is my forever favorite, and the art is just gorgeous! Secondly, from the synopsis, “Rich, haunting and rooted in Irish folklore, The Island Child is spellbinding debut novel about identity and motherhood, freedom and fate and the healing power of stories.” I mean, completely sold.

Priority: High. The publication date is far enough out that it feels easy to commit to right now. I have no idea what my reading plans will actually look like next March, but I can’t imagine this looking any less appealing at that time.

Blank 133x176Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride (Pub: Feb. 2020)

How I found it: I recently did a buddy read of McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (my review should be up tomorrow!) and loved it enough that I went searching for her other publications, which brought me to this upcoming release.

Why I added it: I’m highly intrigued by McBride’s prose style, which worked so well in A Girl… Also, it’s themes sound so appealing; “It is an immensely moving and ultimately revelatory exploration of one woman’s attempts to negotiate her own memories and impulses, and what it might mean to return home.”

Priority: High. Again, February seems like a long way out but I’m sure I’ll want to grab this as soon as possible!

36242816. sy475 The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, trans. by Stephen Snyder (Pub: Aug 2019)

How I found it: August is WIT (Women in Translation) month, and this is one upcoming release I’ve been seeing on so many appealing lists lately.

Why I added it: I’ve not yet ready anything from Ogawa, but I’d like to; this seems like as good a place to start as any. It seems to be a sci-fi story in which the Memory Police can “disappear” things to control what people remember or forget. Except there seems to be one case in which it’s not working? I’m intrigued.

Priority: Middling. I’d love to pick this up if I can work it into WIT month, but I just don’t think I’ll be able to manage it. Hopefully later this fall- I do want to make an effort to read more translations regularly.

41880044The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo (Pub: June 2019)

How I found it: I don’t really have a concrete answer for where I first saw this, I’ve just been seeing it around and decided to look into it this past week.

Why I added it: I haven’t been reading much contemporary fiction lately, but this one sounds potentially fun. It’s a multi-generational story set in Chicago that follows four siblings (sisters) trying to find their way in life, wondering whether they’ll ever find relationships as strong as their parents’. It just sounds like a drama-filled good time.

Priority: Low. This seems like a nice fall read, but it looks like there are a ton of holds on it already through my library, so I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it.

42185853The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (Pub: 1978)

How I found it: I saw that Vintage Classics was introducing a new Iris Murdoch series to their set, and had to check it out.

Why I added it: I’ve not read anything from Murdoch yet, but this one’s been on my radar for years. I love the covers (and especially the spines) of these editions, which will probably motivate me to pick up at least one of them sooner rather than later. This is the one I want to start with.

Priority: Low. Before I order another Vintage Classics book, I need to read the last one I acquired, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. Which I’m hoping to get to before the end of the year, but don’t have definite plans for yet.

30200112. sy475 Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich, trans. by Bela Shayevich (Pub: Aug. 2013)

How I found it: In Ren’s excellent WIT month post of recommendations for nonfiction women in translation!

Why I added it: I really like reading about Russia, though I don’t do that as often as perhaps I should, knowing I enjoy it. And as much as I enjoy Russian settings in fiction, it really is about time I learned a bit more of the country’s actual history.

Priority: Middling. Again, I’d love to fit this into WIT month but I don’t see it happening. It is available at my library though, so I’ll make sure to pick it up at some point!

35407619The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq by Dunya Mikhail, trans. by Max Weiss (Pub: March 2018)

How I found it: Also from Ren’s nonfiction women in translation post!

Why I added it: I don’t think I’ve read anything about Iraq, and I love that the focus of this one seems to be on women who have endured too much and yet persevered. I’m also intrigued about how a beekeeper might have become a savior.

Priority: Middling. Same reasoning, although this one is not available through my library so might be harder for me to come by.

15811545. sy475 A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Pub: March 2013)

How I found it: I’ve known about this one for a long time, probably prior to 2015/2016 when I started using Goodreads primarily for my TBR, and somehow it just slipped through the cracks. But I recently saw it mentioned in Laura’s lit fic tag post, which led me to add it this week!

Why I added it: I’ve just heard such good things about it.  The synopsis calls it: “a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.” I believe it’s set in Japan, which will be a nice change from the overabundance of US material I tend to reach for.

Priority: Low. This is another title easily available through my library, so I’ll pick it up when I find the time.

43744294The Swallows by Lisa Lutz (Pub: Aug 2019)

How I found it: This is another new release I’ve just seen everywhere lately, making the rounds.

Why I added it: My appetite for mystery/thrillers has apparently (finally!) increased again; I’ve been having much better luck with the titles I’ve picked up this year than I did last year. But aside from its genre, this looks like an interesting examination of gender roles, particularly in teenagers- it’s set in a school. I love creepy reads that are also thematically rich.

Priority: Middling. I’m in the mood to pick this up right away, but I just don’t think I’ll have time this month. It might make the cut for spooky October though! I’ll definitely keep this one in mind.

 

And that’s that for this week! It’s so sad that the second half of the year always leaves me feeling like I don’t have time to read all the things I want to read; I’m excited about this list, but I just don’t think I’ll manage to pick anything up that isn’t already on my massive August TBR. But, who knows. Despite all my good TBR intentions, I don’t really plan what I’m going to read next beyond the very next book, so anything could happen!

Have you read any of these books, or recognize them from your own TBR?

 

The Literary Elephant

Advertisements

Review: Bad Blood

John Carreyrou’s nonfiction book Bad Blood made enough of a splash in 2018 that it found its way to my TBR even before I decided that I really needed to start reading more nonfiction. Though my efforts haven’t been as fruitful in that regard as I’d intended this summer, picking up Bad Blood proved a worthwhile choice! It’s a unique true crime horror tale that certainly lives up to the hype.

badbloodIn the book, Carreyrou shares the results of his investigations into the Silicon Valley (located in California) startup company that claimed to revolutionize blood testing, but couldn’t back up its statements in the end. Theranos employees share alarming confessions of legal corner-cutting taking place in the lab, as well as the cult-like atmosphere founder Elizabeth Holmes cultivated at company headquarters. Though many investors were charmed by Holmes’s enticing speeches, words weren’t what she needed when she allowed the public to use her untested technology.

“Seeing the mock store and its little lab brought home to Hunter how real it all was. Soon, actual patients were going to get their blood drawn and tested in one of these, he thought uneasily.”

To be honest, I hadn’t paid any attention to the Theranos scandal when it appeared in the news in 2015, so this book opened an entirely new topic for me. From that perspective, I can say that Bad Blood is beginner friendly, though I can’t speak to how much new information it might contain for someone who has followed Theranos coverage more closely.

“What is Theranos?” some of you may be asking. I don’t remember ever hearing the name before I cracked this cover. I wasn’t sure I was interested in reading anything about Silicon Valley or startups or medical devices. But if this sounds like your stance, rest assured that Carreyrou provides a fascinating tale about how one woman came to be in a position where real people were relying on her word to make serious life decisions- and her word turned out to be a lie. It’s about legal loopholes and shady corporate practices and charismatic personalities capable of hoodwinking wealthy backers. Theranos was Elizabeth Holmes’s dream: a company that would create and manufacture blood-testing devices portable enough to be installed in patients’ homes, and capable of running hundreds of tests on a small sample from a fingertip- no needles or venous draws required. It was a great dream, but seemingly destined to come crashing down.

“Elizabeth had wanted all those sweeping claims to be true, but just because you badly wanted something to be real didn’t make it so.”

By far the most compelling aspect is the simple absurdity that something could go so frighteningly wrong on such a grand scale. Elizabeth dropped out of college after one year, and took off running with a patent for a medical device and the hopes of striking it rich. Though she may certainly have hoped to help the public with her technology, it is utterly apparent throughout Carreyrou’s narrative that money must have come first for her. Science and business aside (though surely those with particular medical or legal knowledge will find this story uniquely fascinating), this book will likely work for anyone interested in watching a trainwreck run its course. The details are shocking, but it’s hard to look away.

“He summed up what was going on at the company with an analogy: ‘The way Theranos is operating is like trying to build a bus while you’re driving the bus. Someone is going to get killed.’ “

There were only a couple of elements that kept me from a full 5-star rating here, and I consider them matters of personal taste rather than flaws with the text. The first is that this book feels like a very long news article. I’m not a reader who only wants nonfiction that reads like fiction, but I did find this a bit dense and undeniably factual. The amount of research that went into this project absolutely shows, and gives the story strength; Carreyrou claims to have interviewed over 150 people in the process of assembling this book, and the sheer number of voices is evidence in itself of the magnitude of this scandal. But it also means there’s a LOT of information to wade through, and it can seem repetitive at times. Secondly, with the focus so firmly on what has gone wrong with Theranos, I was left with a high level of curiosity about how the company managed to do anything right. Certain officials were charmed by Holmes, etc. but Theranos won awards! How?! The book does not provide evidence that anything is going right with this company beyond Holmes’s ability to schmooze and her team’s ability to bribe. What I really wanted to know was whether Theranos’s technology might have been functional eventually, with years of testing (and perhaps a different leader at the helm); 300 pages later, I still don’t know whether the basic idea was sound, or whether Theranos was making any positive progress at all. Of course, Carreyrou can only present the information he has, and no one knows what might have been.

Perhaps more information will come to light during Holmes’s trial. I, for one, would love to see a sequel featuring the legal proceedings.

“Hyping your product to get funding while concealing your true progress and hoping that reality will eventually catch up to the hype continues to be tolerated in the tech industry. But it’s crucial to bear in mind that Theranos wasn’t a tech company in the traditional sense. It was first and foremost a health-care company. Its product wasn’t software but a medical device that analyzed people’s blood. As Holmes herself liked to point out in media interviews and public appearances at the height of her fame, doctors base 70 percent of their treatment decisions on lab results. They rely on lab equipment to work as advertised. Otherwise, patient health is jeopardized.”

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. Bad Blood is a wild and alarming story that certainly has left me thinking twice about how far people will go for money. Theranos seems to have found a new moral low. In any case, it was a fascinating addition to my true crime adventures, and a subject I’m glad to have been made aware of. I will be keeping an eye out for news of Elizabeth Holmes in the future!

 

The Literary Elephant

TBR 8.19

I have way too many reading commitments stacked up for August, so the books I acquired in July that I’m *supposed* to be reading next month are probably going to take a backseat for now. Nevertheless, since reading my newly acquired books by the end of the following month was a goal I set for myself this year, I still want to track my progress even though I’m expecting it to be an utter failure this time around. So I’ll do a quick run-through here of the books I’ve hauled this month, followed by an overview of other books I intend to read.

New (unread) books on my shelves this month:

  1. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. My July BOTM selection, a new nonfiction about female desire I’m very intrigued about!
  2. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan. I picked this up in an excellent secondhand bookstore that I visited with a friend on her birthday; it’s one of McEwan’s titles I’m most curious about, and strangely unavailable at my local library and bookstore.
  3. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. I’ve yet to read anything from this author (regrettably!) and fortuitously came across this one in the same secondhand shop.
  4. After Dark by Haruki Murakami. I read and loved Murakami’s Norwegian Wood earlier this year, and have been wanting to try more of his work. I found this one at another secondhand shop.
  5. Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. (There aren’t any secondhand shops close to where I live, so when I had the opportunity I went a little crazy!) Beowulf has been on my TBR for ages, so this was a rather arbitrary time to pick it up, but perhaps having a copy on hand will give me the motivation to finally read it. This edition shows the full Old English text alongside the translation, which appeals to me because I studied Old English in college and want to see how much I remember!
  6. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. My last secondhand grab this month. I included this title in a Top of the TBR post this month and have suddenly been itching to start in.
  7. Wilder Girls by Rory Power. A lot of attractive new releases came out in July, but this is one that fascinated me the most. YA usually goes quickly for me and the synopsis looks great; I expect to be reading this one soon!
  8. The Philosopher’s War by Tom Miller. This is a sequel to Miller’s The Philosopher’s Flight, which was one of the weirdest and most fun books I picked up from BOTM in 2018.
  9. Different Seasons by Stephen King. Barnes and Noble was having a B2G1 sale on SK material (plus discounts!) which I couldn’t pass up. This story collection includes “Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body,” two SK stories I’m most excited to read!
  10. Skeleton Crew by Stephen King. I know less about this story collection, but I do find it easier to read thicker books when I don’t have a library due date looming ahead, so have been waiting for a good opportunity to pick up a copy of this one.
  11. Strange Weather by Joe Hill. I’ve not yet read any of Joe Hill’s work, but given my appreciation for Stephen King’s writing (SK is Hill’s father) and the similarities in style/content that I’ve heard the two share, I really need to remedy that situation. I’ve had my eye on this one since it was released, and like the thought of starting with a set of shorter pieces. (This is a set of four short, related novels.)

tbr8.19

I’d like to pick up as many of these new-to-me titles as I can, because I am pretty excited about this month’s haul list, but I do also have a few other reading plans in mind.

First, August is Women in Translation month, so I want to be sure I’m supporting some translated women writers in my reading and reviewing throughout the month. The titles I’m going to aim for picking up in August are:

  1. Human Acts by Han Kang. I bought this after loving Kang’s The Vegetarian last year; I expect I’ll love this one as well, and it’ll feel good to tackle an owned-unread book that I’ve neglected too long!
  2. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi. This is another owned-unread book, though much newer. I was hoping to get to this one in July, but it just didn’t happen. This is the 2019 winner of the Man Booker International Prize.
  3. The History of Bees by Maja Lunde. I recently rediscovered this book on my TBR, and feel that it’s time to finally pick it up.

August is also prime time for the Booker Prize longlist; I don’t think I’ll be able to read the full roster, but I am expecting to pick up these titles within the month:

  1. Lanny by Max Porter.
  2. An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma.
  3. The Wall by John Lanchester.
  4. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson.
  5. Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry.

Additionally, as though I didn’t have enough to read, I’ve tentatively agreed to another Stephen King buddy read, which will necessitate my completing:

  1. Finders Keepers by Stephen King. This is the second book in the Bill Hodges trilogy. I own a copy, and enjoyed the first book, but have been slow to pick this one up.
  2. End of Watch by Stephen King. The third book in the Bill Hodges trilogy, which I also already own.
  3. The Outsider by Stephen King. A related follow-up to the Bill Hodges trilogy, and the actual title I expect to buddy read, if I manage to complete the others in time. They’re all of reasonable length, by King standards, and the first book was a pretty quick and immersive read, so I’m hoping I can fly through these pretty quickly.

And last but not least, I also have two books already checked out from the library that I was hoping to squeeze into the end of July, which didn’t quite happen.

  1. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. I’m actually planning to start this one today, and am really looking forward to it!
  2. The Need by Helen Phillips. This is a short thriller that looks pleasantly disturbing, and is a new release I was really excited for. I’m not sure I want to read these two thrillers back-to-back, but they will be due for return soon and I expect to finish them both within a week or so.

All in all… 23 books. There’s no way that’ll happen, so I’ll certainly have to prioritize some categories here above others. I managed to finish 9 books in July (and am expecting to finish a 10th tonight- my wrap-up should be coming up tomorrow!), so I’m realistically hoping to complete about half of this absurdly ambitious TBR.

Have you read any of these? Anything you particularly recommend?

 

The Literary Elephant

 

Booker Prize Longlist 2019

I am skipping my Top of the TBR post again this week, this time because all but one of the books I’ve added to my Goodreads TBR over the last week (and I’ll include that one outlier in next week’s post) have been Booker Prize titles. I’m sure by now everyone who’s interested in following the prize has seen the list, so I’ll try to keep it brief here and just stick to my own plans as far as what I’ll be able to read and review from the list in a timely manner.

I’m not even sure what to say about overall thoughts- my anticipation levels were so high just to see this prize list, and I’ve not read many of the titles or authors yet at all so I’m going to postpone making judgments. But I can say that other than My Sister, the Serial Killer (which I found so easy and fun to read and already appreciated as a nominee for the Women’s Prize earlier this year) none of the titles/authors longlisted this year really surprise me. I really loved the Man Booker longlist last year, as it pushed me to read so many books that I might not have gotten to yet (or at all) otherwise- The Water Cure, From a Low and Quiet Sea, The Mars Room, Everything Under, Normal PeopleMilkman, even The Overstory (which I didn’t love as a narrative but has forever changed the way that I think about trees)! Sadly, I don’t really expect to find quite as much enjoyment and discovery from the 2019 list, which looks more grave and ponderous to me. So maybe I’ll end up disappointed, but I do want to follow along as best I can anyway, because apparently I choose what I read based on curiosity rather than expectations of enjoyment. And so.

I’ve already read:

mysistertheserialkillerMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. This was my first 5-star read of the year. It moves at a quick clip and is light and humorous on the surface, with enough thematic depth underneath to give the reader something to sink their teeth into. It’s entertaining, but not a throw-away story to read once and forget. I was delighted to discover how much texture Braithwaite was able to create in such a short novella-length piece; it really is the balance of light-hearted irony and heavier emotional impact (the sister bond! the feminist undertones! the difficult morals!) that so impressed me.

lostchildrenarchiveLost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. Though clearly well-written, timely, and intellectual from the beginning, this marvel of fiction wasn’t solidified as any sort of favorite for me until I reached the second half of the story. Luiselli’s skill is readily apparent in the section told from the woman’s perspective, but the child’s perspective in the latter half combines that prowess in craft with a level of innocence and tragedy that (again) won me over with its balancing of opposites. I would say this one fits the “grave and ponderous” description for me, though I appreciated it enough that it is the only title I was sincerely hoping to see on this longlist.

On hold from the library:

The Wall  Lanny  An Orchestra of Minorities

Both Max Porter’s Lanny and Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities were on my TBR before the longlist announcement; these two, plus Lanchester’s The Wall, seem to be the only longlisted titles I haven’t read yet that are also readily available in the US at this time. I was able to put library holds on all three books; I expect to read each of them in August. These were all titles that immediately caught my attention on the longlist- I’m not sure if I’ll end up loving the books as much as their synopses, but I’m glad I’ll be able to read them before the shortlist announcement in early September.

Ordered or pre-ordered:

Frankissstein: A Love Story  Night Boat to Tangier  The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)

I always enjoy Atwood’s writing, and appreciated The Handmaid’s Tale enough a few years ago that I pre-ordered The Testaments weeks ago; it’s set to release in September, about a week after the shortlist announcement. I’m honestly a bit disgrntled to see so many sequels/modernizations in this year’s longlist, as they sometimes require additional reading. (At least, I usually do prefer to read the original text first.) I am excited about Winterson’s Frankissstein appearing here though; I have already read (and loved!) Shelley’s Frankenstein, so I’m tentatively expecting this will be a good fit for me. Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier also looked too good to miss in  its longlisted moment; I should be reading both Barry and Winterson in August, and Atwood in September.

Which leaves:

Girl, Woman, Other  Ducks, Newburyport  Quichotte

I’m interested in Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, but don’t see any US release date for it (please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d really like to pick this one up!). For now… I have no definite plans of if/when I might pick this one up. Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport was at first a strong NO for me, at 1000+ pages and divided into only a very few sentences (I’ve seen claims for 1, 4, and 8 sentences, I’m no longer sure which is correct) it certainly seems daunting. But the more I consider this, the more intrigued I am to see how Ellmann pulls this off in a way worthy of a Booker Prize nomination, and I’ll almost definitely be picking up a copy upon its September US release to give it a try. I think my interest will hold long enough for this to happen even if it isn’t shortlisted. But the Rushdie, Quichotte, is less certain. Though I’m sure it’s a fine book that I’ll want to read eventually, I (unfairly) hate that it’s here simply because I want to read Don Quixote first and don’t see that happening (much less both books) this fall. Of course if it’s shortlisted or wins the prize I may feel differently, but for now I’m not expecting to read this before the winner announcement.

The Man Who Saw Everything  10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World

Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything and Shafak’s 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World sound only vaguely interesting to me right now. Both are authors I would like to read eventually, and if these titles were more readily available in the US I wouldn’t hesitate to pick them up. But I’m not excited enough about their synopses to buy them, and sadly it doesn’t look like they’ll be available in the US prior to the winner announcement so I’m just not sure I’ll be able to pick them up. If they’re shortlisted, I might try harder to get my hands on them, but for now, I’m not making any definite plans.

In Conclusion:

Right now I’ve read 2 longlisted books, and am planning to read 5 more before the shortlist announcement and 1 after. Barring unforeseen disasters, I’m expecting to read 8 longlisted books for sure. I’m also tentatively hoping to read a 9th (Ducks, Newburyport) during the shortlist stretch, regardless of the shortlist. But I’ll probably post some sort of update around the time of the shortlist announcement, so I’ll check in again with my longlist progress and shortlist plans in early September!

Are you planning to read any of the Booker Prize nominated books?

 

The Literary Elephant

Top of the TBR 7.22.19

I skipped this post last week because I was off Goodreads during the Amazon protest, and didn’t have many new books to talk about either. Now that I have two weeks to catch up on, I have plenty of newly added books to choose from!

Top of the TBR is a weekly post I created that will showcase any books added to my Goodreads TBR recently, with a short explanation of why each title caught my interest. I’ll aim for 5-10 books per post; in weeks that I’ve added more than that, I’ll hold some back, and in weeks that I don’t have enough, I’ll include titles I haven’t discussed yet. Each title will be linked back to its Goodreads page for anyone interested in exploring further, as I’m not a fan of copy/pasting synopses. Anyone who wants to take part in this series with me is absolutely welcome! Please link back to any of my Top of the TBR posts so I can see what you’re reading! 🙂

Here are some of the new books I’ve added on Goodreads over the last two weeks:

41555931. sy475 Whisper Network by Chandler Baker (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: I’ve been seeing this one around all month and can’t remember where it first popped up for me, but one of the recent reviews I’ve seen that helped convince me was this one from Jenna!

Why I added it: Office politics in fiction don’t often catch my interest, but this one sounds promisingly feminist. I’m also intrigued by the little flood of negative reviews I’ve been seeing for it, on the grounds that the characters seem unlikable; I often enjoy stories with unlikable characters and suspect that it might succeed for me in the precise way is seems to have failed for others.

Priority: Low. There is a possibility I could end up hating these characters right along with the masses, but though I’m willing to take that chance I’m just too swamped with reading commitments to pick anything up on a whim right now. In fact, I’ve got such a packed reading schedule that I’ll warn you right now most of this list is going to present as low priority mainly for that reason.

39127647His Hideous Heart ed. by Dahlia Adler (Pub: Sept 2019)

How I found it: I saw this post from Lala on Instagram!

Why I added it: This is a collection of retellings of popular Edgar Allen Poe stories from thirteen prominent YA authors. I love retellings of classics, I love horror and Poe, I’m attracted to these being short stories, and I’m looking forward to sampling authors who might write novels in this genre. I haven’t heard of all of these authors, so it’ll be fun to check out their work in these shorter pieces! I still like some YA but have fallen a bit out of touch this year, and a book like this looks like an easy path back into the age range. Everything about this just seems like a perfect fit for me.

Priority: Middling. I would love to pick this up in October, but fall is a difficult time of year for me to get my hands on new releases and I’m not filling my Oct. TBR this far in advance yet.

42245770. sy475 The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: I don’t remember exactly, I’ve been seeing this around for a while. Sarah Dessen was one of my favorite authors in middle school and I still tend to notice when she has a new book coming out.

Why I added it: In 2017 I reread my favorite Dessen novel, The Truth About Forever, and loved it all over again. Though I wasn’t at all interested in Dessen’s last release, Once and For All, my 2017 reread convinced me that I might still enjoy some of Dessen’s work, so I’m willing to give this one a chance.

Priority: Low. I was planning to reread Dessen’s Just Listen in November, and even though this one looks very summery (it takes place at a lake!) I just don’t think I’ll get around to it before November at the earliest, after my reread.

The Iliac CrestThe Iliac Crest by Christina Rivera Garza, Trans. by Sarah Booker (Pub: Oct 2017)

How I found it: In one of Callum’s exciting posts about books to read for Women in Translation month (August)!

Why I added it: I really want to incorporate more translations into my regular reading, and especially translations of women writers. I am working on a small list that I’ll try to tackle in August, mainly of books already on my shelves, but I’m also gathering some other titles that look fantastic for future reading. Callum’s description of this one sounded 100% appealing, as did the rest of his translation recs, of course! This one’s a short Gothic piece that appears full of commentary on gender identity.

Priority: Middling. This sounds like another title I’d like to rush out and read either for WIT month or as a spooky read for October, but I don’t know exactly when I’ll be able to fit it in, and I’ll have to track down a copy first!

967251In & Oz by Steve Tomasula (Pub: Sept 2005)

How I found it: Melanie mentioned this one to me! Her recommendations always seem spot-on to what I’m looking for.

Why I added it: The synopsis sounds wonderfully bizarre, and I expect it’s also thematically rich. It is: “a novel of art, love, auto mechanics, and two places: the actualities of the here and now and the desire for somewhere better. Five men and women- an auto designer, photographer, musical composter, poet/sculptor and mechanic- find themselves drawn together when they begin to suspect that the thing lacking in their lives might be discovered in the other place.” Consider me intrigued.

Priority: Low. This looks super interesting, but I’m not sure yet where I’ll find a copy.

42790782. sy475 Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher (Pub: May 2019)

How I found it: I actually stumbled across this title in a used book store last week, which was a sad way to discover I’d missed one of the Stranger Things companion novels completely. It was nearly full price and my last Stranger Things companion read was only a 3-star, so I didn’t end up buying it.

Why I added it: Though I don’t think I want to own this, I am interested in the companion novels connected to Stranger Things. This one looks like a history of Hopper’s life, which especially has my attention after the direction season 3 took.

Priority: Middling. I’m already feeling the wait between seasons 3 and 4, and would love to pick this up in the fall if I can get it through my library at that time.

153480Medea: A Modern Retelling by Christa Wolf (Pub: 1996)

How I found it: In Hannah’s fantastic post about unlikable but compelling female characters!

Why I added it: I’ve already loved or previously added to my TBR all of the other books Hannah included in her excellent list, so it seems like a safe bet that I’ll enjoy this one as well. I do like picking up the occasional Greek retelling.

Priority: Middling. I’ve barely read anything Greek all year, which feels a bit odd after reading two retellings last year, plus some original Homer. I don’t know when I’ll have time and will be able to find a copy, but I’d like to pick this up before the end of the year if possible.

44287149The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan (Pub: Nov 2019)

How I found it: In Ren’s post of great upcoming nonfiction releases!

Why I added it: I’ve been trying to increase my nonfiction reading this summer, and have been enjoying it enough that I want to continue making nonfiction a more permanent part of my reading regimen. This one is about a group of people who go undercover into an asylum in the 1970s, only to emerge when they can convince the doctors they’re sane. It sounds like a fascinating inside look at diagnoses and treatments, and a historical (if you can call 40 years ago historic) look at mental illness practices. I’m unversed in the topic, but so on board to learn.

Priority: Middling. Maybe by November my schedule will have mellowed out a bit and I’ll have time to pick this up as a new release!

36478784. sy475 The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (Pub: April 2019)

How I found it: I’m not sure anymore where I first saw this title; it’s been on my radar since its release, if not before.

Why I added it: This looks like a romance that leans a bit more toward traditional contemporary than some from the genre tend to. I wasn’t sure at first if this sounded to my taste, but I keep wanting to like the romance genre and then struggling with it a bit, so it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to try another type of romance novel to see if it helps me decide where I fit in that genre.

Priority: Low. I don’t read romance often, and I do already have a couple of titles queued up for further romance genre experiments. Unsure of when I’ll get to this one.

43789029. sy475 Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy (July 2019)

How I found it: This one was just brought to my attention today by Rachel, who finds the best books. (Seriously, if you’re not following her blog, you’re missing out!)

Why I added it: “Reminiscent of the suspense of Shirley Jackson and soaked in the folk horror of the British landscape, Water Shall Refuse Them is an atmospheric coming-of-age novel and a thrilling debut.” Everything about this appeals to me. Also historical heat wave. Accidental drowing. Rural seclusion. Family unraveling. It sounds so promising it almost can’t be real, haha.

Priority: Middling. I really wish I could pick this one up right away, especially since the heat wave setting sounds perfect for summer reading, but I’ll have to find a copy and try to squish it into my overflowing reading schedule.

 

My reading taste is so varied that my Top of the TBR lists never look very cohesive, but this one really is quite a mix! A couple of literary fictions, but otherwise all different genres and even a couple of different age ranges. Maybe someday I’ll find a niche, but I’m not in any hurry.

Have you read any of these books or recognize them from your own TBR?

 

The Literary Elephant

Soul Ripping Romance Tag

I am skipping Top of the TBR this week because I only had three books to talk about today anyway, and more importantly because there’s an Amazon protest going on until the 16th and I don’t want to log into Goodreads (which is Amazon-based) in the meantime.

Which means this is the perfect time for a tag- and thanks to the kind and wonderful Naty (who nominated me for this one; check out her post here!), I have the perfect tag in mind!

“It feels intellectually unserious to concern himself with fictional people marrying one another. But there it is: literature moves him.” -Sally Rooney, Normal People 

The Rules

  • Thank the person who tagged you and create a pingback to the original author – Nel at Reactionary Tales.
  • Share at least 5 (but more are welcome) romances that tugged your heart strings. They can be from books, movies, TV shows, manga; anything you can think of! They can be examples of sad tears, angry tears, happy tears or a combination of all three.
  • Nominate 5 (or more) people to share their emotional traumas
  • (Note: Try not to spoil the story for your readers in case they would like to check out these romances on their own)

The Romances

  1. crookedkingdomLeigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. Romance-driven fantasies don’t often work for me, but when the romance is a background detail I tend to love it. Romance is definitely not the Point of Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology, and for that reason I think the relationships feel so much stronger. There’s also the fact that they’re friendship-based, which is excellent. I particularly love the way Kaz and Inej skirt around each other (though Jesper and Wylan are also adorable and Nina and Matthias are clearly meant for each other). I desperately want Kanej to have an honest conversation about their feelings, but I do not want the eventual third book in this series cheapening the romance with too much wish fulfillment. *fingers crossed for subtle greatness*
  2. theblindassassinMargaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. I use this book in tags as often as I can, because though the pace is a bit slow the payoff was huge for me, (and it fits so many prompts!). It’s a genre-bending novel by one of my favorite writers, part family saga, part fantasy- and completely, utterly tragic. The chapters switch in and out of a mysterious ongoing affair throughout most of the novel, but the heart-wrenching love story comes in a bit later. It all fits together so incredibly, I doubt I’ll ever forget this one.
  3.  Margaret Mitchell’s gonewiththewindGone With the Wind. This was one of the first classics I ever read, and I was young enough at the time that reading it opened doors for me, so it holds a special place of honor in my reading life. This is another tragic romance, in my opinion. Scarlet O’Hara was the first unlikable character that I ever really appreciated. She’s so set on having what (and whom) everyone else seems to want that she can’t see what’s in front of her, which might be a better match. Her love life was always destined to go awry because dissatisfaction with her lot (even when everything is grand) is her modus operandi, and frankly, that’s why I found her choices so compelling.
  4. conversationswithfriendsSally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends. Naty already used Normal People, so I have to go with Rooney’s other novel because I can’t refrain from including one! The relationships in Rooney’s books are just brilliant- awkward, difficult, somewhat inappropriate, and completely captivating. Though Normal People resonated with me more, Conversations with Friends was delightful to read. It gave me a lot of anxiety because as usual the characters repeatedly make poor decisions without learning from them, but the intensity of emotion that Rooney manages to invoke- all kinds of emotion- is only further proof of her skill.
  5. Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever. thetruthaboutforeverI figured that with this being a romance tag, I should at least pick one book that’s an actual romance novel. Here is a YA contemporary romance that I first fell in love with at age 12, and reread (for the first time in a long time) in 2017 only to fall in love with it all over again. Sarah Dessen is one of my most nostalgic tween/teen authors, and I was so relieved to discover upon the reread that I enjoy her work just as much as an adult. The Wish Catering crew in this novel is probably my favorite fictional friend group of all time, the romance is a slow-burn built on honesty, and underneath the banter are heavier themes like handling grief, finding a self-identity separate from what others expect of you, and refraining from judging others because there’s always more to them than you see on the surface. I am not a YA contemporary romance reader anymore. But I will 10/10 read this again and love it just as much.

The Tags

I’ve tagged a bunch of specific people in my last few tag posts, so I’m going to open it up in this one instead, to whoever wants to participate. If you’ve read this far and your heart has ever stirred for fictional characters, consider yourself tagged!

What’s your favorite romance of all time?

 

The Literary Elephant

 

Review: Animals Eat Each Other

I hadn’t heard of Elle Nash’s Animals Eat Each Other before reading the succinct and compelling review that Callum wrote about it last month, but it sounded like just the sort of brief, bizarre, and hard-hitting story that’s been working so well for me this year. I couldn’t miss it. (And if this book sounds at all interesting, you can’t miss Callum’s review!)

animalseateachotherIn the novel, “Lilith,” not long out of high school, is working with an old friend at a RadioShack. One day an enigmatic couple enters the store, and the friend persuades “Lilith” to show them her latest tattoo. Later, “Lilith” is told that the pair is interested in her, and she goes to their apartment to meet them again. Mark and Frankie name her Lilith and adopt her as their girlfriend, treating her more like a pet than an equal. As she becomes more involved with them, she grows less certain of herself.

“All I could think about was how I was not like these people, and how that was bad. I wanted to feel part of something. I wanted Frankie to like me so badly. I was ready to mold myself into what she wanted.”

At its core, this slip of a novel is an examination of identity; how we define who we are, how other people can change our sense of self, what is left of us in times when those powerful influences are not present. “Lilith,” our first person protagonist who reveals no name for herself beyond what Mark and Frankie bestow upon her, is only nineteen and at a perfect point in her life for a crisis in self-discovery. Most of the cast is around the same age, floating between legal adulthood (18) and the legal age for alcohol consumption (21- US); they are more or less all leaning on each other… some leaning a little harder than others.

“I spent so much of my life doing what everybody asked me that I wasn’t even sure what I wanted anymore, if I wanted anything, if I had needs at all.”

The book opens with an intense glimpse into Lilith’s sex life with Matt and Frankie; it’s a grim but memorable moment that sets the tone for everything that will follow. It did leave me a bit worried that Lilith’s account of this period of personal exploration might deteriorate into explicit gratuity, but fortunately this is not the case. Nash keeps the focus consistently on the protagonist’s emotional and mental state, displaying behaviors primarily as a means of characterization and development. There is no denying the narration’s brutal honesty, but it’s handled shrewdly. In fact, there were a few instances in which I had to double check the MC’s age, such is the level of her self-awareness. She may be confused about what she’s gotten into and where it will end for her, but she does recognize that a major change is taking place and is often able to pinpoint what unsettles her.

One thing I found particularly interesting about this story is that while her  experiences with Matt and Frankie clearly alter our protagonist, it seems equally clear that her shaky sense of identity runs deeper than this questionable relationship. Well before meeting Matt and Frankie, she’s tattooed the backs of her thighs with a slogan she’s not sure has ever fit her. She began sleeping with her boss only to tick off a box on a list of taboos. She took a job because her mother prodded her to, and chose the RadioShack because her friend was able to get her a position there. It seems as though Lilith has been waiting a long time for someone to tell her what to do and who to be; she’s uniquely suited for this story. If Matt and Frankie had approached anyone other than this girl they’ve managed to shape as their Lilith, it’s hard to believe that things would have escalated to the level that they do.

“I was an object in her eyes. I was a tool. Every time I heard the name Lilith, pieces of me slipped and gave way underneath her perception of me.”

The only other element that curbed my enthusiasm for this book was the writing- I just didn’t quite get on with Nash’s style. Though I tabbed over a dozen brilliant lines and passages in this 120-page volume, there were plenty of places where it felt to me like the narration was trying a bit too hard to be taken as profound. Furthermore, I thought it relied a little too heavily on telling rather than showing in a way that might have been avoided if the piece had been given a bit more length; some of my favorite concepts and observations in the narration came as quick comments and then were left behind, where I would have appreciated further expansion. The plot is fairly predictable, which shouldn’t matter too much in a character study like this, but when a character takes center stage in this way I hope for a full exploration, to an extent I didn’t quite find here.

But overall, I did find the story compulsively readable. It’s main theme- that people destroy each other- will stick with me, as will some of the more vivid details. There’s one scene, in which Frankie displays her power over Lilith in a very public way at the local WalMart, that will particularly haunt me.

My reaction: 3 out of 5 stars. I’m still debating between a 3 and 4 star rating here, and may change this number as I let it settle more firmly in my mind. Though it didn’t have quite as strong an effect on me as I was hoping for based on its early chapters, this was nevertheless a captivating and read that left quite an impression. I’m glad I picked it up, and would certainly be curious to check out more from this author if she were to publish again.

 

The Literary Elephant