Tag Archives: new release

Top of the TBR 10.07.19

Top of the TBR is a biweekly post that showcases any books recently added to my Goodreads TBR, 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 recently:

43268770. sy475 Girl by Edna O’Brien (Pub: Sept 2019)

How I found it: While browsing new releases on Goodreads.

Why I added it: I very much enjoyed O’Brien’s short story, Paradise, from the Faber Stories collection when I read it earlier this year. I’ve been meaning to look into more of O’Brien’s work, but hadn’t decided on what to pick up next when I came across this one, which looks excellent! Set in a Nigerian forest, this is a story of abducted women.

Priority: Middling. I’ve pretty much already decided what I’m going to be reading for the rest of the year and this one wasn’t on the list, but it’s very tempting!

867361Sybil: The True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Separate Personalities by Flora Rheta Schreiber (Pub: 1973)

How I found it: I remember discussing this book (and watching some of the film) in my high school psychology class. I always meant to pick it up at some point, and was reminded of it when Sybil came up in Norman’s Ask Me About My Uterus.

Why I added it: I tend to enjoy reading about mental health and/or how the human brain works, and this nonfiction account is a classic. I’ve also had my perception of multiple personalities altered by reading Freshwater last year, which showed me how deeply culture can affect our perception of neurodiversity; I’ll be interested to pick this up with that in mind.

Priority: Low. This is available through my library, so it’s ready when I am!

6520929. sy475 Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Pub: April 2009)

How I found it: I was only been vaguely aware of this one, but as it took the #1 spot on Guardian’s list of the 100 best books of the 21st century it recently caught my attention.

Why I added it: Any such list is, of course, subjective, so I’m not rushing out to read all of the books featured that I haven’t read yet, but I am intrigued enough to check out what is *supposedly* the best book of this century! It’s historical fiction, which isn’t always my favorite, but I would like to find something new (to me, at least) to appreciate from that genre. Maybe this is it.

Priority: Low. Also readily available through my library.

33608721. sy475 Tell Me How it Ends by Valeria Luiselli (Pub: 2016)

How I found it: This one might also have been on the Guardian list of best books, if I remember correctly, but I didn’t know what it was until I suddenly started seeing it quite often on Bookstagram over the last couple of weeks!

Why I added it: I really liked Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive, a fictional story about the US border crisis. This is a nonfiction piece about Luiselli’s real experience speaking with children at the border.

Priority: High. This is really short and just came in at my library. I’ll pause my October spooky reads to fit this one in soon.

43263520. sy475 The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (Pub: Oct 2019)

How I found it: I’ve seen this one in lists of upcoming releases, but neither the cover nor the title really caught my eye. Then I saw two positive reviews for it on Goodreads that convinced me to look closer! I’ll link the reviews here and here in case anyone’s curious.

Why I added it: This is a YA dystopian in which girls are banished from their homes for a year in their teens when they are supposedly emitting a magical womanly power that’s considered dangerous to both men and women around them. The story focuses on the dangers these 16 year-olds face in the woods, from the elements, other people, and most of all each other.

Priority: Middling. This sounds like it could be hit or miss for me, but it’s already been optioned for filming so I’d like to get to it before it’s overhyped if possible.

43982054The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Pub: Sept 2019)

How I found it: This is everywhere lately, since Oprah just picked it up for her book club and the publisher has seemingly been sending free copies to every big bookish social media account

Why I added it: I actually think I’m more interested in Coates’s non-fiction, which I still haven’t read, but after skipping my BOTM box twice in a row I was just in the mood to order this time, and this was the best contender.

Priority: High. I’ve fallen behind on my BOTM selections again, so I’m going to try my best to read this one either in October or November to avoid falling farther behind!

43069290Unbelievable by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

How I found it: This book was previously published under the title A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America, which I had heard of but hadn’t really looked into. This story was recently adapted into a Netflix series however, and I’m very in the mood to watch it, so I finally looked closer.

Why I added it: A real story of a girl who reported being raped and was not believed by anyone sounds infuriating but also right up my alley. The fact that it kept happening to more and more women makes it feel like essential reading. I also saw that Rachel started reading it and said it was good so far!

Priority: High. I’ve put a hold on it at my library, but it’s currently checked out. I remain undecided on whether I’ll go ahead and watch the series in the meantime or hold out to read the book first. I find myself caring less which order I consume different formats in lately, so I’ll definitely get to both either way.

46344636The Keeper Jessica Moor (Pub: March 2020)

How I found it: Penguin just had an “influencer event” to introduce some of their upcoming titles, and this is one that I’ve seen Bookstagramers picking up and promoting!

Why I added it: This looks like a literary thriller featuring a murdered woman who worked at a domestic violence shelter; the crime is supposed to be shocking/thrilling but also speak more deeply about “violence against women and the structures that allow it to continue.” I definitely want to keep that on my radar.

Priority: Middling. I’ll keep an eye out for early reviews prior to release, and if it still sounds good I might want to pick this one up right away!

32758901. sy475 All Systems Red by Martha Wells (Pub: May 2017)

How I found it: This novella has been winning awards and making a splash in the sci-fi community, and I just saw an announcement that this series is getting a full novel next year. It just felt like time to get around to it.

Why I added it: I like sci-fi. I like novellas. This one’s about a security android that calls itself Murderbot. “Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.” It sounds hilarious but also insightful.

Priority: Middling. The length makes this really tempting to pick up immediately, and it looks like it’s in my library’s database. But I might want to try timing it so I can read all of the novellas just before the novel’s release. Tbd.

43232971The Vagina Bible by Jennifer Gunter (Pub: August 2019)

How I found it: I read Ren’s stellar review!

Why I added it: One of the things I was hoping to find in Norman’s Ask Me About My Uterus was some general info about endometriosis and how it’s treated; though I ended up enjoying that the book was a personal story rather than a medical overview, this informational book about female health and debunking vagina myths came at just the right time. It looks like it covers everything I didn’t know I was interested in learning, and just seems generally very useful for any living person with a uterus.

Priority: High. I’ve already ordered a copy, and am planning to start reading as soon as it arrives. Ren says it’s not exactly binge material, so I can’t say for sure when I’ll finish and review, but I’m really looking forward to it!


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


The Literary Elephant

Top of the TBR 9.9.19

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! 🙂

I had to skip this post last week to fit in my August wrap-up and some Booker Prize content, but I’ve added so many books to my TBR since the last time I posted a Top of the TBR that I’ll just be picking and choosing the titles that catch my eye right now. And so, here are some of the new books I’ve added on Goodreads recently:

43289181Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis (Pub: Sept 2019)

How I found it: I’ve been seeing positive reviews for this one on Bookstagram!

Why I added it: This is a historical fiction novel about queer women in the tumultuous political climate of 1970s Uruguay. The narrative spans decades, following five women’s lives as they find sanctuary both on an isolated cape and with each other. I can see why this is getting high ratings.

Priority: Low, sadly. It’s not currently available at my library and I’m trying to prioritize books I already own (and haven’t read yet) for the next few months.

35605474Ask Me About My Uterus by Abby Norman (Pub: March 2018)

How I found it: I’ve seen this one before, but it wasn’t until hearing about it on a Reading Women podcast last week that I realized it was about endometriosis and doctor dismissal of female pain.

Why I added it: I’ve been talking with a friend for months about her belief that she has endometriosis, and her doctor’s unwillingness to take her requests for treatment seriously, so this sounds like a perfect way to learn more about a phenomenon I didn’t even know existed before this year.

Priority: High. I’ve got Three Women slated as my next nonfiction read, and I’m aiming to pick up this one after.

44142473. sy475 Milton in Purgatory by Edward Vass (Pub: Aug. 2019)

How I found it: I saw Kristen talk about this one in her August wrap-up!

Why I added it: I read Bottled Goods from this collection of Fairlight Moderns earlier this year, and enjoyed it enough that I wanted to pick up another title from the set. I’ve been slow getting around to it, as I haven’t heard much about the other books, but this one sounds mysterious and intriguing!

Priority: Low. Not available at my library, and I don’t want to buy right now while I’m trying to lower the percentage of unread books on my shelves.

46642254. sx318 Mostly Hero by Ana Burns (Pub: Oct. 2019)

How I found it: A friend and I discovered while browsing the current titles that Faber is soon releasing a new batch of Faber Stories.

Why I added it: I’ve just finished reading the final volume from the original set of 20 Faber stories (I’ll have the mini-reviews for my latest reads up tomorrow!) and am eager to see what more this collection will have to offer. I’ve actually added all 10 new titles to my TBR, but this is the one I’m most excited about, from the author of Milkman.

Priority: High. Since short stories don’t take much time out of my reading schedule (plus I had a goal to read more short stories this year), I probably will allow myself to purchase some of these and read them right away even though I’m trying to cut back on buying new books. Some exceptions must be made.

19194802Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (Pub: 1985)

How I found it: I just finished reading (and loved!) Winterson’s Frankissstein at the end of August, and wanted to pick up more of her work. Melanie recommended starting with this one!

Why I added it: Aside from the recommendation (thanks, Melanie!) this is one of Winterson’s titles that I’ve actually heard of, as well. I believe it’s semi-autobiographical.

Priority: Middling. I can read this for free on Kindle Unlimited; I don’t go for ebooks much, but free is convenient, so I’m hoping to get around to this one before my subscription ends in a couple of months.

44294958Midwestern Strange: Hunting Monsters, Martians, and the Weird in Flyover Country by B. J. Hollars (Pub: Sept. 2019)

How I found it: I saw Ren’s enticing review!

Why I added it: I have lived in the Midwest all my life, and love all things strange! The legends Ren mentioned in her review didn’t sound familiar to me, which means I expect to find some fun new content here. I appreciate that it sounds like the author neither believes these tall tales nor is trying to disprove them- objective reportage of folklore and its place in society is definitely appealing.

Priority: Low, sadly. I’d love to pick this up in October, but again, I’m trying not to keep buying a ton of new books at the end of the year and this one’s not at my library.

36723245The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir (Pub: June 2018)

How I found it: BOTM put this one on my radar last year, but it seemed like it could either be very my taste or very not, so I’ve just been patiently waiting for some indication of whether I should read it or not. Finally an irl friend I trust read it.

Why I added it: My friend rated it 4 stars and specifically recommended it to me, which is a very good sign. It’s about a religious reality TV show, and a girl who rebels.

Priority: Middling. I will probably borrow this from my friend in the near future, and I prefer to read borrowed books right away (they give me anxiety if I leave them sitting around). So, not sure exactly when, but soonish.

24612419All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (Pub: April 2014)

How I found it: I read (and quite enjoyed!) Toews’s Women Talking earlier this year and have been vaguely planning to pick up another Toews book but only recently remembered to actually add it to my TBR. I’ve talked with a couple of Toews readers now (including Karissa!) about where I should go next with her work, and this one sounds like the best first choice.

Why I added it: This is one of Toews’s most well-known works, from what I’ve gathered, and it features two close sisters- one a pianist, and one who wants to die. It sounds like it will make me cry.

Priority: Middling. This one is available at my library, and the synopsis sounds perfect for fall/winter.

39813948The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien (Pub: Sept. 2014)

How I found it: This one’s been on my radar for a long time, but I used to not read memoirs, and then I read The Glass Castle, which I liked but made me think I didn’t need to read more stories about women growing up in extreme families. Sarah’s recent review convinced me to rethink that assumption!

Why I added it: My parents were tough, but the synopsis states that Maude’s parents tried to “eliminate weakness” by subjecting her to awful tasks and keeping her isolated, so this will surely put my childhood into perspective.

Priority: Middling. Another title available through my library, and I am hoping to increase my nonfiction intake in the last few months of this year!

43261166Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur (Pub: Oct 2019)

How I found it: BOTM put this on my radar, as it’s one of their September selections.

Why I added it: From one difficult childhood memoir to another… I actually skipped my BOTM box this month because I didn’t feel the need to own this one or read it immediately, but I do think I’ll give it a try at some point. Complicated family dynamics appeal to me, and apparently The Glass Castle is not the only memoir out there with that sort of content!

Priority: Low. It might end up at my library, or I could add it to a later BOTM box if I see convincing reviews in the meantime, but right now I’m just not in a hurry. Interested, but patient.


I suppose ten titles is enough for now, but I’ve got plenty more in store for next week as well! I’m reading a few long books in September, so I’m looking forward to catching up on some of my tags and non-review content in the next couple of weeks.

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


The Literary Elephant

Top of the TBR 8.19.19

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 week:

11989. sy475 The Plague by Albert Camus (Pub: June 1947)

How I found it: In Diana’s excellent Translated Literature Tag post! Also I read Camus’s Create Dangerously last year, so I’ve been somewhat on the lookout for a next title to try.

Why I added it: I really want to read more translated lit, and this has been an excellent month (WIT month!) to see what’s out there and boost the translations section of my TBR. Camus doesn’t fit into Women In Translation reading (which I’m still planning to contribute some reviews toward before the end of the month!) but I hope to be reading more translations throughout the year henceforth.

Priority: Low. This one is available through my library, which helps, but I have too many other TBR plans right now to be picking up new things. The trend continues…

9998The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe (Pub: 1962)

How I found it: This one also appeared in Diana’s Translated Literature Tag post, but seeing it there reminded me that I’d enjoyed her review as well!

Why I added it: A man on a day trip becomes trapped in a seashore village. He is lodged with one lonely woman at the bottom of a sand pit. This just sounds so bizarre and compelling that I can’t pass it up.

Priority: Low. I’m a bit more interested in this one than the Camus, but it’s not available at my library which will make it harder to come by. (I’m trying really hard to stop buying every book that looks good, it’s an unsustainable habit.)

43209280 Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention by Donna Frietas (Pub: Aug. 2019)

How I found it: I’ve seen this one around bookstagram a bit, but it was Jenna’s recent review that really caught my attention!

Why I added it: Though my interest in fiction has grown, I would still say I’m fairly picky about memoirs. But this one sounds like a subject I’d be interested to read about- a college woman stalked by her professor- that would be difficult to read about from any other perspective than a firsthand account. So I’ll give this one a go for sure.

Priority: Middling. I’d like to get to this one while it’s still fairly new, but it doesn’t seem to be at my library yet, so we shall see.

44596140How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann (Pub: Jan 2020)

How I found it: Naty spotted this one! She’s got a good eye!

Why I added it: The Dry meets The Silence of the Lambs in historical small-town Alaska. I mean, could it possibly sound more promising? There’s also a missing twin, a German bush pilot, and some sort of mysterious game involving tasks in exchange for information. If Fleischmann can pull this off… it should be great.

Priority: Middling. Could easily be shifted to high, but I’d like to see what Naty thinks! If it’s a success, January would be a great time to read a cold-setting thriller like this.

40390773. sx318 I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi (Pub: Aug. 2019)

How I found it: I read Ren’s wonderful review!

Why I added it: This is another new-release nonfiction title that I’ve seen around a bit but not looked into (I should have!). It’s a set of essays that read more or less like a memoir about life with mental illness (bipolar II disorder, anxiety, depression). This is another topic that is probably ideal to read in a firsthand account, and it’s a subject I’ve not read about before, which adds to the appeal.

Priority: Middling. Again, I’d like to get to this while it’s new, but my library doesn’t have it.


And that’s a wrap! It was a slow week for my Goodreads TBR, which is actually nice because I’ve got so much on my plate already and am tentatively planning to focus on books I already own (and can get through the library) in my TBRs for the next few months. It’s actually kind of torturous to look through all the books I’m excited about reading that I don’t have time for yet- a side effect I wasn’t expecting from this series, but the excitement of sharing new finds has so far outweighed any negatives.

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


The Literary Elephant

Review: Lock Every Door

CW: murder, missing person, cruelty against those in poverty

Final Girls is one of my all-time favorite thrillers. The Last Time I Lied was less exciting as a follow-up, though still entertaining. With a 2/2 track record, I could not miss Riley Sager’s 2019 release, Lock Every Door. I wasn’t quite confident enough to buy a copy outright this time around, but I should have been!

lockeverydoorIn the novel, Jules answers a vague ad for an apartment-sitting job. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend and needs a temporary place to stay. She’s also just lost her job and needs some quick money. But the gig turns out even better than she could have imagined: the apartment is a luxurious two-story place in the Bartholomew, famous for housing the rich and famous, and the pay is phenomenal. Jules can’t believe they’re even letting her through the door, much less willing to pay her to live in such a fancy place. Some of the rules are a little weird, but Jules moves in anyway. When one of the other apartment sitters goes missing though, Jules can’t deny that there might be more to the Bartholomew than meets the eye.

The bulk of this story takes place over six days, alternating between past and present narration; until the two meet, the past contains the meat of the story while the present serves as quick, tantalizing glimpses of the fallout to come. When the story lines merge, the narration spirals through several more climactic days before reaching its final conclusion.

” ‘I really don’t think this is a good idea,’ Nick says.

‘You said you wanted to help.’

The two of us are in the kitchen of 12A, standing shoulder to shoulder as we stare into the open dumbwaiter.”

After the initial introduction of characters and premise, it actually took me a while to warm up to this one. Sager does a lot of things right with Lock Every Door, but sadly he gives us a main character of the sort that appears in cheesy horror films, making obvious, life-threatening mistakes. Though Jules’s backstory and perspective are unusual and fascinating, her actions are frustratingly careless; it wasn’t until the plot picked up in the second half that I was able to fully invest in this story.

“Nick was right. This is not a good idea. I’m literally inside the walls of the Bartholomew. Any number of bad things could happen.”

But there is plenty to hold the reader’s attention in the meantime. First, the narration provides a wonderful set of creepy details to lend the proper atmosphere, including gargoyles perched around the building and an ancient dumbwaiter in Jules’s apartment; the narration doesn’t try too hard to force these elements into the plot (it bothers me when thriller/horror stories try to cram too many unrelated creepy elements into one plotline), but their presence keeps the reader alert and unsettled as any good thriller should. There’s also just enough suspicious activity surrounding the Bartholomew to keep the reader curious about what exactly is going on. Even Jules herself offers a distraction from her poor detective skills with an interesting exploration of what it’s like to be the one left behind in a Missing Person situation (or two), and how thoroughly the strain of poverty can break a family down. Though her specific situation is uncommon, her feelings of ordinariness and inadequacy occasionally come across as disturbingly relatable.

“I’m a dime a dozen, and everyone is looking for a quarter.”

By far the most compelling part of this novel is the mystery itself- the red herring, and the final solution. I thought it was superbly crafted; I caught all the key clues and still wasn’t quite able to solve the puzzle- the very best type of thriller experience! Furthermore, the themes behind the mystery are engaging and conducive to further thought, unlike the standard “girl finds herself running for her life from new lover / new lover’s ex” situations that really are a dime a dozen. Lock Every Door is a wild story, but (for me, at least) the concept is just plausible enough to leave me questioning the ways in which the wealthy and powerful might be abusing their levels of influence. It was almost convincing enough to allow me to overlook how very bothersome I found Jules. Almost.

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. Though not quite on par with Final Girls (which somehow manages both to spoof the slasher thriller genre and also provide a captivating story that fits within it), I did find Lock Every Door a step up from The Last Time I Lied and am eager to see what Sager will come up with next. There’s no word of a fourth release yet, but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out, and I might even look into buying my own copy of Lock Every Door for a future revisit. All in all, quite a success, and I think my luck with thrillers is really turning around this year!


The Literary Elephant

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

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

Review: Recursion

CW: suicide, death (including death of a child), gun violence, nuclear attack, Alzheimer’s diesease

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter may very well have been one of the books that “broke” the thriller genre for me. I read it in early 2017, only a few months before every thriller I picked up started to seriously disappoint me (with the major exception being Riley Sager’s Final Girls). It was my first sci-fi thriller, and such an all-around fun experience that there was no way I could miss Crouch’s 2019 release, another sci-fi thriller, titled Recursion.

recursionIn the novel, Barry is investigating a suicide in which the victim (prior to jumping) claims to have been affected by False Memory Syndrome- a new “disease” slowly sweeping the world that leaves those affected with two sets of memories, one “real” and one “false.” His investigation soon becomes much more hands-on than he intended. Meanwhile, Helena has been forced to switch her life’s focus from saving memories for those with Alzheimer’s to erasing all traces of her invented technology from the world; she learns the hard way that manipulating memories- even with the best of intentions- can only go horribly awry.

” ‘What’s more precious than our memories?’ he asks. ‘They define us and form our identities.’ “

Much in the spirit of Dark Matter (comparisons are inevitable), Recursion is also a story of what-ifs, in which some of the main characters are able to re-live parts of their lives as though they’d made different choices. Both titles examine some of the moral and emotional consequences of altering reality, as well as dissecting the science (in a novice-friendly way) that might lead to these possibilities. And of course, both are fast-paced adventures full of unique threats and psychological twists and turns.

Recursion opens on Barry’s first brush with False Memory Syndrome, which provides a perfect introduction to a concept that is, at first, as mysterious to the protagonist as the reader. When the time is right, the story doubles back to Helena’s research efforts, switching to a new protagonist with more knowledge on memory and the pertinent technology to guide the reader through a phase of discovery. Of course the two plotlines eventually merge, as Helena and Barry meet and unite against a common enemy- someone who wants to use Helena’s invention to change the world in the name of progress, no matter the consequences.

“Memory is … the filter between us and reality. You think you’re tasting this wine, hearing the words I’m saying, in the present, but there’s no such thing. The neural impulses from your taste buds and your ears get transmitted to your brain, which processes them and dumps them into working memory- so by the time you know you’re experiencing something, it’s already in the past. Already a memory…We think we’re perceiving the world directly and immediately, but everything we experience is this carefully edited, tape-delayed reconstruction.”

If the science sounds intimidating or you think sci-fi just isn’t the genre for you, rest assured that it’s largely a conceptual backdrop to a fairly accessible thriller plot. Crouch throws in a few sentences that must be based in fact- statements about neurons firing in the brain, memory storage, and déjà vu- but the rest is one big thought experiment mainly featuring the fictional logistics of time travel via memory. As long as you understand the gist (the heroes and villains are obvious enough), it’s really not strictly necessary to pay close attention to all of the specifics. In fact, even the scientists in Recursion require plenty of trial and error with the equipment in order to understand what it’s capable of. There’s no need to worry about getting bogged down in details.

It’s a smart, exciting ride that balances right on the edge between realistic and fantastic, with just enough realistic detail to ground the reader while allowing the imagination plenty of room to run free.

“Time is an illusion, a construct made out of human memory. There’s no such thing as the past, the present, or the future. It’s all happening now.”

But there are a few ways in which the layering of timelines frustrated me. Note: these are fairly small issues that come down to stylistic preference.

First is the repetition. There are moments, days, and even years that some characters experience repeatedly; in a few instances, a particular event is written out numerous times, back to back, highlighting variations. This tactic does lend credence to the matter of false/dead memories causing insanity, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts, but I nevertheless found it annoying to know I was reading scenes that were ultimately not leading anywhere productive.

Second, once it becomes clear that characters who possess the proper knowledge and equipment can revisit key moments limitlessly, the stakes are lowered. It is infinitely harder to worry about heroes dying or villains causing irreparable damage when one only has to make provisions for re-entering the moment if things turn sour, and try another path.

Third is the way that these relationships are skewed by the lack of chronology. There are several occasions in which a character must introduce him- or herself to someone they already know well, which allows for alliances to be formed with proof of knowing someone else’s secrets rather than a gradual rapport built from circumstance and personality. As a consequence, I can recall many of the events of this book, but I would struggle to tell you what kind of person any of the main characters are beyond basic motives- doing what is right, saving the world, making a name for oneself with a life-changing invention. Unfortunately, I did find it harder to invest in characters that I wasn’t able to fully understand, and books in which the characters feel like afterthoughts to the plot (even a stellar plot) never have quite the same strength that character-driven narratives do for me.

This is starting to look like a list of complaints rather than a recommendation to read a book that I had an excellent time with, but that is only because I can’t help comparing my Recursion reading experience to that of Dark Matter, which I enjoyed slightly more- possibly only because I happened to read it first. In the end, both are great books that I can’t see disappointing many readers, including those who are wary of the sci-fi aspect. My only gripe here is that when I have read a book that I loved (Dark Matter), I don’t hope for the author to write a very similar book that will give me a repeat experience (Recursion); I hope for something that raises the bar. Though I think Recursion is an excellent book on par with Dark Matter, it  wasn’t quite the step up into new territory that I was most hoping for.

“We have made it far too easy to destroy ourselves.”

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. This has been an extremely difficult book to review, because 1) everything is a plot twist so it’s hard to talk about without spoilers, and 2) I struggled to find the right balance between explaining why I both had a great time reading it and yet also didn’t. I believe this is a personal quirk, that for something to impress me enough for a 5-star rating it has to be great but also hold an element of surprise; sometimes greatness itself can be a surprise, but with a follow-up title I definitely need something new to supercede the greatness that I was already expecting based on the first book. (Does this make sense to anyone other than me?) In any case, I’m still on board to read more of Crouch’s work- I’m hoping to pick up Pines this October, and I’ll certainly keep an eye out for future publications as well.

Have you read any of Blake Crouch’s novels? What’s been your favorite so far?


The Literary Elephant