Tag Archives: TBR

TBR 4.20

New month, new books! My March TBR may not have gone so well, but I’m back for a fresh attempt.

Every month for 2020, I’ll be setting a TBR with five of the books I expect to read (and love!) throughout the month. I won’t mention extras even though I may expect to pick up other things, and at the end of the month, finished or not, each of the five are barred from future 2020 TBR appearances.

Here’s what I’ve got lined up for April:

  1. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara. A Women’s Prize longlister, and my last library book  until things reopen. Since this post is a little late I’ve actually started reading this one already and expect to finish soon- I’m quite enjoying it so far! It’s about a group of children investigating a friend’s disappearance in India.
  2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. A recent release, my first O’Farrell book, and another Women’s Prize longlister. This one features the death of Shakespeare’s son and the play he wrote soon after, titled after the same child. I believe the book focuses on the grief of the entire family.
  3. How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee. Another Women’s Prize longlister. I am planning to read as much of the longlist as possible before the shortlist announcement on the 22nd, so this will be dominating my reading life for a while longer. This book is a Singapore-set dual-narrative novel about WWII and the traumatic aftermath of some of the events of that time.
  4. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. This is a new release that came out at the end of March, and one I’ve been highly anticipating. I don’t know much about it but I think I’m going to love it- that’s one of the criteria I use to put these TBRs together; I wanted to read more high-rating books this year so I try to fill these monthly TBRs with titles I hope will be 4 or 5 star reads for me!
  5. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This is the first book in Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell historical fiction series. The third book has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize. It’s the longlister I’m least certain about finishing on time for the shortlist announcement, but I’m hoping that even if I don’t quite make that cut-off I’ll still finish the trilogy in April. I’m including the first book here as an extra nudge to get started!

tbr4.20

Clearly it’s a Women’s Prize-heavy list, but after partially failing my TBR in March I think this is the surest way to stay on top of things. I hope to pick up more of my 2020 reading goals again in May, including my 20 in ’20 list, 2019 releases I missed, and new releases I’m highly anticipating. But for now, these are some of the books I’m most excited to read in April! Hopefully this will only be the beginning.

 

And even though I don’t think I’ll have time to pick any of these up this month (I still need to catch up on March’s new books!), here is the list of new releases for April that I’ve got my eye on. I’ll be watching for reviews on these throughout the month to help me decide what to prioritize.

  • Sin Eater by Megan Campisi. Historical fiction about an orphaned girl tasked with listening to the confessions of the dying, eating foods that symbolize their sins, and thus granting them access to heaven. Out Apr 7th
  • The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni. A horror/gothic novel featuring a woman who (to her surprise) inherits wealth and a castle in Italy. When she goes to check it out she learns that she’s inherited some dark family secrets as well. Out Apr 7th
  • Notes From an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O’Connell. Nonfiction that tells the tale of one man’s quest around the world to see how people from different places and cultures are preparing for what many see as a grim future for planet Earth. Out Apr 14th
  • You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce. A thriller in which a possibly dead novelist leaves behind a manuscript revealing the literal skeletons buried in her past. Out Apr 21st
  • Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh. A literary mystery about an elderly woman who discovers a note in the woods mentioning a dead body- leaving her to question everything about her new home.

 

Tell me about something you’re reading in April! Are you following the Women’s Prize or picking up any anticipated releases?

 

The Literary Elephant

Vacation + Book Haul!

I think I only mentioned once on my blog that I had a vacation coming up this month, so in case you missed that, I spent last week in New York City!

It was my first time there, I’ve wanted to go for ages, and when I agreed to it (with a friend) there were no COVID-19 cases in the city yet. Ultimately it was probably not the best time to be there, and it was so bizarre seeing Broadway announce it was closing shows two days after I’d seen one, and The Met announce it was closing the day after I’d been there, etc. The employees at the One World Trade Center were talking (loudly) amongst themselves about whether the observatory would close, while they were putting me in the elevator. I’d spent enough on tickets and housing and flights ahead of time that I really didn’t want to back out of my plans, but there’s no way to separate what has been happening with coronavirus from my NYC experience; my friend and I were doing everything we could to stay clean and healthy, to stay outdoors in open air and away from enclosed crowds as much as possible. I had to buy a second pair of shoes in NY because we were walking so much to avoid using public transit when we could. And now that I’ve returned I am isolating myself because I normally have frequent (direct and indirect) contact with my family, which includes three grandparents over 70, at least two of whom would probably not respond well to a bad virus. I’m lucky in that I live rurally and can quarantine myself without it affecting my life much, which was the main reason I was okay with going on this vacation even as things started to look more alarming right beforehand.

Anyway, all that was just to reassure you that I’m being as responsible as possible about taking a vacation in this fraught time; now on to the good stuff! I managed to see everything I wanted to on this trip, and some of the big ticket items for me were popular bookstores, so I’m going to share some photos and my book haul! The plus side of the isolation situation is that I’ll have plenty of time to dig into the eight Women’s Prize longlisters that arrived home in my absence, which I intend to start reading later today. I’ll also be catching up on comments, blog hopping, and posting throughout the week; I have a few non-Women’s Prize reviews to catch up on and then I’ll be dedicating myself to the longlist for the next month or so.

But first, New York! I was a massive tourist and mainly took the most expected photographs, so I’m not going to caption all of these. Feel free to ask for more info if you want it!

The pizza was a massive highlight- we ate at Julianna’s the first night and loved it so much that we tried two other pizza places throughout the week which were also excellent but didn’t top Julianna’s. I had somewhat low expectations for The Vessel (a honeycomb stair construction), compounded by the fact that my feet and knees and legs in general hurt a lot by the time we got to it, but it turned out to be one of the top hits of the entire trip. The view from the One World Trade Center was incredible, even on an overcast day (it’s ALWAYS an overcast day when I’m going up to ab observatory, this has also happened to me in Chicago, Washington D.C., and St. Louis). There aren’t really any museums around me so it was fantastic seeing some famous artworks in person. I’m not a huge fan of performing arts (I got dragged to a lot of my cousins’ elementary school plays as a kid and never quite recovered) but LOVED seeing my first Broadway show- Wicked! I was already a fan of some of the songs (I know I’m coming late to this game) but was only loosely knowledgeable about the storyline, which turned out to be a great starting point. Otherwise, the best part of the trip was simply wandering around, seeing the sights and getting a feel for different parts of the city (we were mainly in Brooklyn and Manhattan, there just wasn’t enough time to branch farther out). Ironically, the night I took the picture of a (crowded) Times Square was also the night I read a fresh article about Times Square looking like a “ghost town” thanks to coronavirus, so… don’t believe everything you hear! (But seriously, take care of yourself and those around you.)

Aaaand I’m an idiot who got too excited about the books to take any pictures of the bookstores (except for the ceiling mural in Albertine, which is in the top row of photos) but I did buy plenty! More than I was planning to really, but there aren’t many bookstores where I live and I discovered that it was impossible to walk out of any indie bookstore without making a purchase (especially since Barnes and Noble is by necessity my local go-to at home).

Here’s what I picked up!

  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor – I picked up a signed copy at Books Are Magic; this book was already on my TBR (I wanted to focus on buying things I was sure to read) and has a nice pink sticker on the cover that says “signed at Books Are Magic” so I have a little reminder of my trip as well. This is LGBTQ+ lit fic about an Alabama man figuring out life in a Midwest university town.
  • The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William B. Helmreich – Also from Books are Magic. I heard of this one in college but it was barely on my radar- I wanted to pick up something about the city while I was there, and since I was having such a great time walking around this seemed like a good fit. It’s a nonfiction account from a man who walked through every neighborhood in the five boroughs and recorded impressions of them.
  • Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina A. Kover – I picked this book up at Albertine, a French and English bookstore. To be honest we went for the ceiling mural, but I really ended up loving the translation table and had such a hard time leaving with only one book. This one features a young girl whose family fled Iran for France.
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King – From Strand Books. To be honest my feet hurt a lot and I was exhausted by the time we arrived here (they’re open until 10:30, which we took advantage of) so my selection here wasn’t quite as thoughtful. I had seen one positive review of this book and put it tentatively on my TBR, and then went and bought a copy mainly because it had that “Signed at Strand Books” sticker. But it’s about a grown woman trying to write and novel and figure life out, which could be a great fit for me, so hopefully I’ll love it.
  • Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman – My friend and I stayed one night at The Library Hotel and I cannot recommend it highly enough to any bookish people staying in Manhattan. There are so many perks, the staff is incredibly nice, and there are so very many books. This one’s an ARC I found in our room, a mystery that was already on my TBR. It features a woman who gets off a bus in Philadelphia with no idea who she is.
  • Ordinary Hazards by Anna Bruno – When we checked out of the Library Hotel, we were offered more ARCs. I hadn’t heard of any of the choices on the desk but I was drawn to the title of this one, and chose it on the strength of the phrase “grappling with grief and loss” from the blurb. I don’t know any more about it and I’d like to go in blind.
  • Pierce Brown’s Sons of Ares Vol II: Wrath by Pierce Brown, Rik Hoskin, and Eli Powell – I don’t read a lot of comics or graphic novels but maybe I would if I could frequent places like Forbidden Planet. This is the second volume in a Red Rising prequel series; I read the first last year and have been meaning to pick this one up, so was happy to find it!
  • Aries by Stella Andromeda – This was a total whim, found at Kinokuniya Books, a Japanese and English bookstore that hadn’t been on my radar but looked too good from the window to pass up when we walked by. There were so many great new literary hardcovers on display in this store that it was starting to feel a little torturous; I was already worrying about how I was going to fit everything in my carry on for the flight home. So I saw this cute little volume, remembered it’s almost Aries season and that I wanted to learn more about astrology and tarot this year, and I picked it up partially for its small size.
  • Titanic: First Accounts edited by Tim Maltin – I found this at Posman Books. I have a mild Titanic obsession, which began in the third grade when I learned that Titanic sank on an April 15, which is my birthday. (Obviously not the same year.) The obsession has cooled in recent years so I was not aware that this nonfiction collection of firsthand accounts existed but as soon as I saw it I had to have it.
  • The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff – I bought this at the 9/11 memorial museum. I have been wanting to pick this nonfiction account of 9/11 up for so long, and I couldn’t not buy it in New York once I knew I was going, and then I couldn’t not buy it at this museum. It’s on my “20 in ’20” list and it means a lot to me that I’ll be able to remember this trip and the memorial and museum when I read it.

 

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All in all, a great trip for books! I was proud of myself for limiting my purchases to one book per store, mostly. It’s a nice stack of things I genuinely want to read, which also double as location-specific mementos.

While I was gone, I also read most of Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House which I have since finished and it was fantastic, and started Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies (do not ask why I brought multiple books on a short trip in which I expected to be buying more books, I don’t have the answer) which is also fantastic so far. I expect to finish the latter today and then start reading the Women’s Prize list while I catch up on writing reviews!

Thus ends this episode of where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to, and what’s coming up on my blog. Spot any favorite books or stores in my list, or any favorite locations in my photos?

 

The Literary Elephant

Women’s Prize 2020: Longlist Reaction

It’s been almost 24 hours since the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist was announced, which means it’s time to share some thoughts and plans!

In case you missed it, here’s this year’s lineup:

Image result for women's prize longlist 2020

I’ve read two of the books so far: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, and Weather by Jenny Offill. I think they’re both worthy of the nomination.

I guessed five titles correctly in my prediction list, which isn’t bad for my first attempt at guessing! The titles I predicted correctly were: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, and The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.

The only title I hadn’t heard of from this list is Luan Goldie’s Nightingale Point; I had been hoping for two or three books that were new to me, but this one sounds appealing so I’m pleased with it!

Of the fourteen books I haven’t yet read, five were already on my TBR: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee, Girl by Edna O’Brien, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, and The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. I was also already planning to read The Mirror and the Light, though technically only Wolf Hall, the first in Mantel’s trilogy, was actually on my TBR.

Notable snubs: I think there are quite a few actually, as there were so many great new titles coming out over the last year from authors who’ve been up for other prizes, been previous winners, shortlisters, even longlisters, and been the subject of much popular conversation among readers. That said, the biggest exclusions that I notice are Atwood’s The Testaments, which I’m actually happy not to see, though it won (jointly) the Booker Prize in 2019; as well as Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport and Choi’s Trust Exercise, two of the titles I’d read and loved in the last few months and was most hoping to see longlisted. My first thought on seeing the longlist was actually “Oh no, none of those are Ducks!” For the record, I highly recommend reading it anyway if you’re interested in picking up the best literary books by women published in the last year.

Other early thoughts: since I haven’t read many of the books and don’t like to know too much about them before diving in, I can’t speak to thematic or content patterns yet. I can say I’m a bit surprised to see so many commercial titles in the list, though perhaps I shouldn’t be? There are a number of titles here that I was interested in already but not planning to pick up in any hurry, because I wasn’t sure I’d like them or was in the mood for them at present. But overall, I’m not disappointed in this list! There’s nothing nominated that I feel strongly opposed to reading or seeing honored by the Women’s Prize. To be honest I probably wouldn’t have been reading any of these books this month if not for their placement here, but that also means I’ll be able to go in without many pre-formed biases or expectations. Even though most were on my radar already, they’re fresh content for the top of my TBR! There aren’t any that I’m absolutely dreading off the bat, though I am a bit wary about Fleishman is in Trouble, which is the only title here I think that I’ve seen several underwhelming reviews for. Otherwise I’m mainly just excited to have a fresh list of well-written books by women to dig into, and I think I’m in the right mental space to approach them all open-mindedly! It should be a good prize year!

My plans: I’m determined to read the full list. I’d love to finish it before the shortlist announcement (April 22), which I’m setting as my goal, but it’s certainly going to be a challenge. I’ve already placed library holds and bookshop orders for all of the titles I still need to read, so it’ll mainly be an issue of timing for me. I will be on vacation next week, which will mean a bit less reading for me in general, and also that the books I just ordered won’t be in my hands until I return, so I can’t start reading the list immediately. I do hope in the meantime to tackle my other TBR goals for this month before I can start the Women’s Prize list, so that once I’m ready to begin I can spend the latter half of this month and most of next month focusing solely on this list. If I don’t quite manage to complete the longlist before the shortlist announcement, I’ll continue anyway.

 

Some individual thoughts and plans by title:

41081373. sy475 Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

I’ve read and quite adored this book, though it wasn’t a perfect 5-star read for me. You can follow the link through the title to my review. I’d be happy to see this one shortlisted, even this early in the game.

What’s it about? – twelve British women (most of them black) reveal the struggles they’ve experienced as minorities often overlooked or frowned upon by society at large. It’s a celebration of largely unacknowledged histories and identities.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple LineDjinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

I’ve got a library hold on this title, though it’s currently checked out so I might not be reading it until April.

What’s it about? – Set in India, this mystery follows a group of friends searching for a missing classmate. What begins as amateur sleuthing turns more serious as other children disappear and rumors of djinns abound, speaking to real circumstances in India.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it!

Fleishman Is in TroubleFleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

A copy is already on its way to me. It’s the title I’m least looking forward to, so I’d like to “get it out of the way” within the month.

What’s it about? – A recently-divorced man settles into his new single life full of dates and one-night stands. Then his ex-wife goes missing.

Excitement level: Low. But I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised!

QueenieQueenie by Candice Carty-Williams

My copy will probably arrive while I’m gone next week. I was interested in this book before its nomination and I’d like to read it this month.

What’s it about? – A Jamaican British woman in her mid-twenties grapples for a place in London society, making questionable choices while trying to figure out where her life is headed.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it!

DominicanaDominicana by Angie Cruz

My copy will probably arrive while I’m gone next week. I’m expecting to read it in April.

What’s it about? – A teenaged Dominican girl agrees to a marriage and a move to New York. It’s a loveless match, but the US offers her attractive opportunities, including the possibility of helping her family immigrate.

Excitement level: Meh. I’m drawn to the premise and themes, but suspect the tone and style might not work for me, based on reviews I’ve seen.

ActressActress by Anne Enright

I’m third in line for this one at my library, and suspect I’ll get to it in early April.

What’s it about? – An Irish actress rises to and falls from fame, in the end committing a “bizarre” crime. Her daughter follows her career and stands by her side as long as she can, looking for happiness in her own passion projects.

Excitement level: Meh. I’m neither thrilled nor wary about this one, anything could happen here.

The Mirror & The Light The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

I’ve ordered the entire Cromwell trilogy (I’ve yet to read any of them) and am hoping to binge it all in time; just in case it’s not going to be possible, I’ll probably save this one for last, in mid-late April.

What’s it about? – The final years of historical figure Thomas Cromwell, beginning in 1536.

Excitement level: So excited! The size of these books is definitely a bit frightening in combination with the “deadline” for the end of this prize, but I do think I’ll love this trilogy!

Nightingale PointNightingale Point by Luan Goldie

My copy should be arriving mid/late March; I’m aiming to read it in April.

What’s it about? – Set in the 1990’s, something “extraordinary” changes everything in a single day for the residents of this micro community.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it! I’m confused but intrigued as to what this is actually about.

A Thousand ShipsA Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

My copy should be arriving mid/late March; I’m aiming to read it in April.

What’s it about? – The Trojan War retold entirely from female perspectives.

Excitement level: So excited! I just read previous WP winner Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, which has put me right in the mood for more Greek mythology retellings!

How We DisappearedHow We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

My copy should be arriving mid/late March; I’m aiming to read it before the end of March.

What’s it about? – Set in historical Singapore, this is a dual narrative following a woman’s experience with the 1940s Japanese invasion and years later, a boy who hears an unexpected confession.

Excitement level: Meh. I was already interested in this title pre-longlist, but I’m afraid I’m not in the mood for WWII fiction at present. Hoping it’ll win me over anyway!

GirlGirl by Edna O’Brien

A copy is on its way to me; it’ll probably be one of the first longlist titles I read in March.

What’s it about? – Set in Nigeria, this is one woman’s tale of survival following the abduction and incarceration of women by Boko Haram.

Excitement level: Cautiosuly optimistic! This one was already on my TBR and I have high hopes. The suggestion that it’s a tale of faith and redemption makes me slightly wary though, I prefer hard-hitting fiction not to pull punches. But I don’t know yet which way this will go!

HamnetHamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

My copy probably won’t arrive until early April, so this will likely be one of the last longlisted books I read in mid/late April.

What’s it about? – Agnes and her husband (Shakespeare) lose a son in the 1590’s; what follows is a tale of grief and the writing of a play called Hamlet.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it!

WeatherWeather by Jenny Offill

I just read this last week! I have mixed thoughts, though I don’t mind it’s place on the longlist at all. Full review should be up later this week.

What’s it about? – A librarian spends her time trying to save everyone she knows, which becomes increasingly difficult as she begins answering mail for a friend’s podcast about climate change; as she worries that humanity is doomed, she’s left to wonder if there’s anything to be done at all, and whether the effort will be worth the time in the end.

Red at the BoneRed at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

A copy is on its way to me! The brevity is appealing, I’ll probably pick this one up as soon as I can.

What’s it about? – A generational family tale centered around a teen girl’s coming of age ceremony; an exploration of identity, parenthood, and long-lasting decisions people are forced to make, sometimes before they are ready.

Excitement level: Meh. I suspect this doesn’t have a lot of plot, and I’m not in the mood for parenthood stories at the moment. But I’ve heard great things and am hoping to be pleasantly surprised!

The Dutch HouseThe Dutch House by Ann Patchett

A copy is on its way to me! I’m aiming to read this one sometime in March.

What’s it about? – A pair of siblings must leave the house of their childhood to their stepmother, and return to the poverty that their parents crawled out of years before.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it! This will be my first Patchett novel, which is long overdue.

The Most Fun We Ever HadThe Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

A copy is on its way to me! I’m aiming to read this one before the end of March.

What’s it about? – A family saga featuring an abundantly happy marriage and the four drastically different daughters it produces. A long-buried secret shakes their perspective on love and their relationships with each other.

Excitement level: Cautiously optimistic. I can’t pinpoint what exactly calls to me about this novel, but I have a good feeling about it.

 

All in all, I’m predicting quite a few of these will fall in the 4-star range for me, though I am hoping for a few 5s! I’ve divided the 14 I have left to read into 7 to read in March and 7 for April (plus the rest of the Cromwell trilogy), which will be a slight push considering when I’ll be able to get started and the fact that the shortlist is announced before the end of April. But it seems possible! I’ll be catching up on end-of-February reviews this week and likely I’ll be absent most or all of next week; following that, you can expect plenty of Women’s Prize content from me!

Have you read any of the list already, or see anything you’re now more interested in picking up?

 

The Literary Elephant

 

 

 

 

TBR 3.20

And so it begins again!

Every month for 2020, I’ll be setting my TBR with five of the books I expect to read throughout the month. I won’t mention extras even though I may pick up other things, and at the end of the month, finished or not, each of the five are barred from future 2020 TBR appearances.

This has been working perfectly for me so far, having completed both my January and February lists on time (monthly wrap-up coming soon!). I’m a bit more worried about March though, for two reasons: 1) the Women’s Prize longlist will be announced in just a few days, and I hope to read as much as possible from that list this coming month. Perhaps I could’ve waited to create and share my TBR, but what I read in March will be determined not only by what’s on the list, but which of those titles are most readily available; we could be halfway through the month before I have a clear idea of in what order I’m going to be reading the longlist, partially because 2) I’m also going on a trip this month! I will be in New York City for 6 days in the second week of March, which came up unexpectedly but I am very excited about it. I’ve never been and have long wanted to go, so I probably won’t be reading quite as much that week, and I expect I’ll order/library request the longlist books before I leave, which means I probably won’t know what will arrive first until I’m back. So I’m not sure a regular TBR will work this month on top of all that, but I’m going to try! If all goes well, here’s what I’d like to read in March:

  1. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. I have been majorly slacking on nonfiction this year (by which I mean, I haven’t read ANY yet, and I regret it!); this one’s on the list of 2019 books I wish I had read last year. It’s a very-hyped memoir about an abusive same-sex relationship, with experimental formatting. It’s the book I’m planning to take on my flight, so hopefully I’ll be able to read at least this one book while I’m gone!
  2. The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina- Separating the Myth from the Medicine by Dr. Jen Gunter. I started this nonfiction medical book back in January, and sadly haven’t made much progress in February. I am very excited that this exists even though I get more out of some chapters than others. I had to set it aside in a busy week and always struggle to get back into a book after I’ve done that, but I know I will appreciate this one and hope the extra push will help me finish it this month!
  3. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. This is a library checkout, and one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 (out this February). If it’s longlisted for the Women’s Prize I’ll get to it sooner, but I’ll definitely be reading this one either way. It’s a historical fiction novel set in 1600s Norway and focusing on witch trials. My genre spotlight post for March will feature historical fiction, so I’m using the rest of this TBR to keep me on track for that as well.
  4. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. This is one of my own-unread “20 in ’20” books, in addition to being the right genre for my spotlight post. But it’s long, so I’m uncertain. It’s an Irish 20th century lgbtq+ saga of one gay man’s life, and I am very much looking forward to finally picking it up!
  5. Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. Another historical fiction, this one featuring kidnapping and supernatural powers in Victorian London. It’s a library checkout and a February release I was very excited about. I’m hoping to squeeze this in before my trip and before longlist copies start coming in. (This is technically eligible for nomination as well, but it’s not one of my longlist predictions!)

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February’s TBR didn’t bring nearly as many high ratings to my reading as January’s did, but it still helped keep me on track with various reading plans so I’m calling it a success. The real reward, honestly, was just the excitement of completing the list after I thought I wasn’t going to finish in time; I hope the prospect of doing so again will help motivate me to complete March’s list as well, even though I will probably be prioritizing the Women’s Prize longlist where I can. But anything could happen! Maybe March will be my best reading month so far this year. 🙂

Even though I don’t expect to get to many (if any) of these right away, here are the new releases this month that I’ve got my eye on! This is a list of releases on my radar that I’ll be watching out for this month in reviews and bookshops:

  • Anna K by Jenny Lee. A YA contemporary romance Anna Karenina retelling, in Gossip Girl style. Out Mar 3rd
  • The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Uncovering Secrets, Reuniting Relatives, and Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland. Nonfiction about the pros and cons of widespread DNA testing and its impact on families, communities, and culture. Out Mar 3rd
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. Contemporary fiction featuring a woman who looks back on a relationship she had with a teacher as a teen and looks closer at whether it was abuse. Out Mar 10th
  • The Deep by Alma Katsu. Historical fiction horror centered around the sinking of Titanic and the subsequent use of a sister ship amidst plague and war. Out Mar 10th
  • The Operator by Gretchen Berg. Historical fiction about a phone operator in a 1950s Midwestern town who hears something shocking while listening in on a private conversation. Out Mar 10th
  • The Keeper by Jessica Moor. Mystery/thriller about a woman who worked at a domestic violence shelter and has turned up dead. Out Mar 10th
  • Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. Thriller about a woman who was victim to Munchhausen by proxy as a child, out for revenge. (I’m on the fence about this one, having seen some comments about the way mental health is handled.) Out Mar 17th
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. Literary fiction following several lives connected to a five-star hotel in British Columbia. Out Mar 24th
  • Constellations by Sinead Gleeson. Nonfiction essays centered around female bodies and health, grounded in one Irish woman’s experiences with art, illness, grief, and more. Out Mar 24th
  • Look by Zan Romanoff. YA contemporary about a girl with a large social media following, finding the line between what she presents to the world and who she really is. Out Mar 31st
  • Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang. Literary fiction about an Asian American woman in an interracial relationship who must choose where her career is heading and find her place in society. Out Mar 31st

There are several titles coming out in March that I’ve been looking forward to for months, and which have featured on my most anticipated releases of 2020 list. It’s a bit frustrating that I can’t pick them all up immediately, but there are so many great bookish things going on this month that I’m sure to find some quality reads no matter what I focus on! And surely I’ll be coming back to the titles I don’t manage to pick up within the month. I’m very interested to see what other readers will think about these books as they emerge into the world.

See anything on my lists that you’ve read or are looking forward to reading?

 

The Literary Elephant

Top of the TBR 2.10.20

Top of the TBR is a (now biweekly) post that showcases some of the books recently added to my Goodreads TBR, with a short explanation of why each caught my interest. Each title will be linked back to its Goodreads page for anyone interested in exploring further. 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 looking forward to reading! 🙂

Here are some of the books I’ve added on Goodreads recently:

49223060. sy475 Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel (Pub: Mar 2020)

How I found it: I’ve seen a lot of anticipation for this one among thriller readers, but wasn’t really paying attention to it until I saw it on Kristen’s list of her favorite mysteries and thrillers!

Why I added it: I haven’t been reading as many thrillers the last couple of years, but I’d love to find more that can really surprise me and/or give me some commentary to sink my teeth into. I thought this one was in good company on Kristen’s list, which bodes well!

Priority: Low. This book comes out in March, but my focus at that time will be on the Women’s Prize longlist, which means this will have to wait for now!

45730892Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison (Pub: Dec 2019)

How I found it: Melanie posted an excellent review of this one on her blog!

Why I added it: I don’t often (okay, ever) read self-help or health books, but I found myself so interested in the details of this book- about the history of dieting and its place in society, and modern wellness crazes as dieting. It sounds like there’s interesting info here for anyone with an eye toward body image, good or bad.

Priority: Low. It’s not currently available through my library.

47364233Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Pub: Feb 2020)

How I found it: I think I’ve seen other readers anticipating this one, but it was Emily May’s review on Goodreads that hooked me!

Why I added it: This is a 1980’s story of a young Scottish boy with a distracted father and alcoholic mother, whose older siblings find their own ways to escape and leave him to hold the family together. It looks like a hard-hitting story that I could love.

Priority: Middling. This one is available at my library, and I am trying to keep up with as many new releases this year as I can. But again, I’m trying to keep my reading schedule open until I can plan around the Women’s Prize.

45553633. sy475 The Truants by Kate Weinberg (Pub: Jan 2020)

How I found it: This one has been on my radar for months, but comparisons to The Secret History had me keeping a cautious distance- then I read Karissa’s wonderful review and my optimism was restored!

Why I added it: If it can live up to the Secret History comparisons, this could be absolutely brilliant. It’s a campus novel about a group of students and a teacher who becomes perhaps too involved in their lives. Of course the synopsis also promises a tragedy, a secret, a mystery…

Priority: Middling. This one is also available at my library, and a recent release that I’d love to pick up soon. Once the Women’s Prize list is announced in March I’ll have a better idea of where I can fit this into my reading schedule, and hope to bump it up to high priority as soon as possible.

42119168. sy475 Anna K by Jenny Lee (Pub: Mar 2020)

How I found it: This one’s a BOTM selection for February!

Why I added it: This is a young adult contemporary romance marketed as a Gossip Girl-esque retelling of Anna Karenina. I actually read the sample on BOTM’s website (I’d link it, but I don’t think you can see anything on the site without a membership) and hated it, and yet I’m so morbidly curious that I couldn’t walk away. This will be an interesting experience for sure, and very possibly a miss for me, but I was in the mood to give it a chance!

Priority: High. I’d like to keep up with my BOTM choices this year (as I say every year, before failing miserably), and it would also give my romance reads some more variety this month, in preparation for my romance Spotlight post coming up later in February.

826846The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (Pub: 1951)

How I found it: Wyndham was an author I missed in my recent Spotlight on Sci-Fi post, who came up in the comments (thanks Callum)!

Why I added it: I was thrilled to add several sci-fi books to my TBR based on titles and authors that different commenters had mentioned there, but instead of turning this into a sci-fi TBR post I’m sticking to mentioning this one title I’m excited about: a post-apocalyptic classic in which plants walk about, wreaking havoc on humanity.

Priority: Low. This is available through my library, so it’s ready when I am; but I’m now realizing a downside to my spotlight series this year: it’ll be harder to pick up fresh recommendations promptly while I’m focusing on the next upcoming genre.

38599259. sy475 Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown (Pub: Jan 2020)

How I found it: Booksandlala has been mentioning this one on various social media!

Why I added it: Sometimes I agree with Lala’s recommendations. This looks like a fantasy/magical realism YA book about a black teen girl in New York who “travels between two worlds,” which seems both literal as a magical element but also may serve as a commentary on culture? GR calls it “heavily autiobiographical.” I don’t read a lot of YA these days, but this would be perfect for Black History Month and sounds like just the sort of story I would still enjoy from the YA age range.

Priority: Middling. My library doesn’t seem to have it, but I’d be happy to pick up a copy.

45046574You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce (Pub: Apr 2020)

How I found it: Hadeer briefly mentioned this one in her January wrap-up post! This is kind of comical actually, as she had only a sentence or so about it in her post and wasn’t finished reading it at the time, but I was attracted to the cover (not this cover) and went looking for the blurb, and was sold on the premise of a maybe-dead novelist who left behind a final manuscript full of secrets.

Why I added it: Hadeer calls it a “very creepy supernatural thriller.” Goodreads likens it works by Gillian Flynn and Neil Gaiman. What’s not to like?

48128302. sy475 The Snow Collectors by Tina May Hall (Pub: Feb 2020)

How I found it: This has been on my radar, but it wasn’t until reading Laura’s appealing description in her recent review(s) that I realized this might be a great fit for me! Even though sadly it wasn’t for Laura.

Why I added it: It looks like a gothic historical novel about a solitary woman thrown into an old mystery. GR has this to say: “Suspenseful and atmospheric, The Snow Collectors sketches the ghosts of Victorian exploration against the eerie beauty of a world on the edge of environmental collapse.” It sounds right up my alley.

Priority: High. I just put a hold on this one through my library, letting it jump the queue in my TBR because with a title like The Snow Collectors I know I won’t get to it until next winter at least if I don’t pick it up now.

1012204. sx318 Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp (Pub: Apr 2003)

How I found it: Gil mentioned this one as a favorite in her nonfiction wrap-up for January, and for a book 17 years old it still sounds (frustratingly) timely.

Why I added it: Knapp asks (and attempts to answer, I’m sure) “How does a woman know, and then honour, what it is she wants in a culture bent on shaping, defining and controlling women and their desires?”

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

 

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

 

The Literary Elephant

TBR 2.20

After an unexpectedly busy week, I’m far behind on blogging; here’s my monthly TBR to help me get back on track!

Every month for 2020, I’ll be setting my TBR with five of the books I expect to read throughout the month. I won’t mention extras even though I may pick up other things, and at the end of the month, finished or not, each five are barred from future 2020 TBR appearances.

This worked so well for me in January; I was able to read all five books on the list, plus pick up several extras, without feeling bad at the end of the month for anything I might not have gotten around to (a common issue for me with planned TBRs- I get too ambitious).

In that spirit, I’m hoping for an equally positive result this month, and once again have carefully curated my list based on various goals and commitments. The list:

  1. A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne. This is a library checkout, a group buddy read, and a previous Women’s Prize winner. It’s a literary mystery following a woman looking back on an upsetting crime and the events from her childhood in the 1970s. I’ve actually finished this one already! Review to come.
  2. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. A romance classic set in 1800s England, featuring a trio of sisters and their adventures in love. This is one of only two Austen novels I have left unread and one of the titles from my 20 in ’20 list. This will also be great to read in preparation for my Spotlight post this month, which will focus on the romance genre.
  3. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. This is an LGBTQ+ romance featuring the Prince of Wales and the son of the (female!) US President. I’m slowly working through my backlog of unread BOTM selections, and this title will also be great to read in conjunction with my Spotlight romance post.
  4. Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips. Structured as a series of vignettes from around a Russian community, this is a novel about the mysterious disappearance of two local girls. It’s the only book I acquired in January that I haven’t read yet, it’s on my list of 2019 publications I should’ve read last year, and it was shortlisted for the National Book Award for fiction, so I’m eager to (finally!) get to this one!
  5. Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown. This is a historical/contemporary fiction novel following a housewife who finds a cookbook in her home with notes written in the margins about its previous owner’s fraught marriage. It’s a library checkout for me and an anticipated 2020 release; I’m also hoping it’ll be a nice counterbalance to all the romance this month.

tbr2.20

Last month I was hoping for 5 5-star reads from my TBR, and ended up with an impressive 3 5-stars and 2 4-stars; this month I’m less confident, but still hoping for at least 2 5-stars. I have some other hopeful titles I’d love to pick up this month, including some library checkouts that I’ll probably get to and some titles relating to Black History Month that I should get to, but I don’t want to muddle the TBR system this early in the game. I will of course review what I end up reading as I go.

In the meantime, here’s a list of February releases I have my eye on! These are not necessarily books that I’ll be picking up this month (though I’d really like to) or even at all (I ended up crossing two of my January releases off my TBR entirely); they’re new releases I’m interested in at the moment, and will be checking out reviews for throughout the month and am hoping to learn more about! Since my TBRs are limited this year I thought this would be a nice way to share the news of some upcoming books and perhaps put some great titles on your radar. These are the new titles I’ve got my eye on for February:

  • The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons. Supernatural romance in which a woman strikes up a relationship with a man who is dead. He’s not supposed to become involved with any living people while he waits to join the afterlife, which results in a string of bizarre consequences for the pair. Out Feb 4th
  • Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. Historical fantasy following a female detective in Victorian London who pursues the case of a kidnapped child rumored to possess supernatural powers that various “collectors” have taken an interest in.
  • Smacked by Eilene B. Zimmerman. Nonfiction autobiography/memoir of a woman discovering that her (now deceased) ex-husband was a high-functioning addict and workaholic- without anyone noticing the drug abuse until his death. Out Feb 4th
  • The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams. Historical fiction in which a school for young women is rocked by a mysterious illness; the single female teacher can advocate for the students only by confronting the male authorities in charge. Out Feb 11th
  • Weather by Jenny Offill. Literary fiction about a librarian woman who is also a fake shrink, called upon to answer a popular podcast’s influx of mail about the state of the modern world. Out Feb 11th
  • The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. LGBTQ+ historical fiction about a Norwegian storm and 1600s witch trials. Out Feb 11th
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor. LGBTQ+ literary fiction about an African-American man from Alabama at a Midwest university, where various encounters reveal “a lifetime of buried pain.” Out Feb 18th
  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. Nonfiction set in WWII Britain, following Churchill’s personal and political life. Out Feb 25th

Is there anything here you’ve read, or that catches your eye? I’d love to hear more thoughts! Tell me what you’re most excited to be reading this month!

 

The Literary Elephant

Top of the TBR 1.27.20

Top of the TBR is a (now biweekly) post that showcases some of the books recently added to my Goodreads TBR, with a short explanation of why each caught my interest. Each title will be linked back to its Goodreads page for anyone interested in exploring further. 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 looking forward to reading! 🙂

Here are some of the books I’ve added on Goodreads recently:

36365112. sy475 Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park (Pub: March 2018- UK)

How I found it: I read Rachel’s excellent review!

Why I added it: I’m very curious about this book as a driving narrative; driving in poor conditions is something I’ve experienced but not really read about, and I’d be interested to see how well Park captures it (very well, according to Rachel!). I’m also interested in the grief angle.

Priority: Low, because I don’t have a copy on hand and by the time a Book Depository order would arrive I think I’ll be less inclined to read a snow story- perhaps next winter!

10560393The Doll: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier (Pub: Jan 2011)

How I found it: Callum mentioned this one in the comments of my recent review for du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel.

Why I added it: I’d like to pick up some short story collections this year, and I definitely want to read more of du Maurier’s gothic/horror fiction this year. In particular I’m very attracted to the idea that these are “lost” stories published before her Rebecca fame and gone out of print for years.

Priority: Middling. It doesn’t look like this one’s at my library so I’ll have to find a copy, but I’d really like to read this in 2020.

46263943Real Life by Brandon Taylor (Pub: Feb 2020)

How I found it: I’ve seen this one around, mostly in anticipated releases posts but also a couple of advance copies. But I hadn’t really looked into it until I came across it again in the Goodreads list of Feb. releases.

Why I added it: It’s LGBTQ+ fiction about an African-American man at a Midwestern university whose encounters with other various other people “conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.” It sounds like a potentially fantastic read.

Priority: Middling. This one doesn’t seem to be on my library’s radar yet, but I’m making a point to keep checking on 2020 releases that I’m interested in. If I find it there, I’ll definitely pick it up. If not, I’m not sure when I will get to it.

41933195100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism by Chavisa Woods (Pub: May 2019)

How I found it: I read Karissa’s compelling review!

Why I added it: This is a book in which the author recounts a hundred times that she’s encountered/experienced sexism. I suspect it’ll have a similar effect on me as Not That Bad did, though the subject matter is slightly different.

Priority: Middling. I want to read this very badly, but again, it doesn’t seem to be available at my library so I’ll have to keep an eye out for it elsewhere.

36429751. sy475 Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak (Pub: 2016)

How I found it: Gilana mentioned this one!

Why I added it: Gilana’s post was a First Line Friday meme, but even just the first line managed to catch my interest. I wasn’t sure right away after reading Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World whether I would venture into more of the author’s work, but something about this one appeals to me. It takes place in one evening, the narration apparently split between present terrorist attacks and memories of a scandal in the narrator’s past.

Priority: Low. This one is available at my library so I should be able to pick it up easily- my reading schedule is packed already for February though, and the Women’s Prize longlist will be coming up in March, so I’m not ready to focus on this one yet.

43352954. sx318 This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: I’ve been seeing this one around for months, but it first caught my interest based on Naty’s wonderful review!

Why I added it: In all honesty I am not really sure what this book is. I’ve read the synopsis, I’ve read reviews, and something about it remains elusive. But I keep seeing it come up with rave reviews and high ratings, and I love a good genre-bender, so I think I need to give this one a chance!

Priority: Middling. I’ve been reading (a little) and thinking (a lot) about sci-fi this month, in preparation for a post I’ve got coming up this week, so this one fits my current reading mood. However, I’ve been reading slower than I’d like and I don’t have time to pick it up in conjunction with that post. It is available at my library though, so I’m hoping to pick it up later this year! It’s a short book, so it should be easy enough to squeeze in somewhere.

26883528Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (Pub: March 2016)

How I found it: This book was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2016, which is probably what put it on my radar. I recently read another Levy book (The Man Who Saw Everything) and highly enjoyed it, so I went looking for more info on this one!

Why I added it: Liking another one of the author’s books is generally enough to convince me to pick up a further title. This one’s about an anthropologist who travels to Spain with her mysteriously ill mother, seeking a last-chance cure.

Priority: Low. Available at my library when I’m ready for it.

 

This might be the first time there were no high priority books on the list! That’s not because I’m not highly interested in these books, but because I call a “high priority” book something that I’m trying to pick up immediately, which is hard to do when I’ve got my February TBR already planned and am expecting to read the Women’s Prize longlist in March and April. Still, I’m looking forward to picking up these books when I can!

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

 

The Literary Elephant