Lists

2017 Fiction Favorites

My Absolute DarlingIt’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again, but it is… Best books of 2017. This was decidedly not my year for maintaining this site. I blame the baby, a big (new) job transition, and more sports practices than I can count. However, I did read a lot this year. A lot of it was backlist fiction, but I did manage a fair amount of new releases. I haven’t stayed as involved in the book blogging universe as I would’ve like (I miss you guys!), so I’m unaware of what’s been well-received, but I do know what I’ve enjoyed. As opposed to a traditional top ten list, I’m going to qualify each entry.

Hardest to Read: My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. Part coming of age novel, part survival story, this novel oozes with tension and dread, leading up to a catastrophic ending.

Favorite Dystopian Fiction: Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed. Eerie, bleak, and full of dread, Jennie Melamed’s debut novel is excellent. Her beautiful prose balances the grim existence of the characters, and the multiple narrators works to flesh out life on the island.

Grittiest, Most Artfully Barbaric: The Savage by Frank Bill. A no holds barred look into post-apocalyptic America.

Biggest Surprise from a Favorite Author: The Hearts of Men by Nikolas Butler. A bit of a departure from the wonderful Shotgun Lovesongs, but great nonetheless.

Most Overlooked Short Story Collection: The Saints of Rattlesnake Mountain by Don Waters. An ode to the American West, Waters short stories are complex and full of heart.

Most Like The Handmaid’s Tale: Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich. It’s certainly a novel that stands on its own, but it did remind of Margaret Atwood’s classic.

Favorite Short Story Collection: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. It received a lot of well-deserved hype. A solid short story collection.

As Good as Expected: The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash. An excellent historical fiction novel that is still very relevant to today’s political climate.

It’s been long enough since I’ve done this to discover PicMonkey is no longer free. What do you use to create a collage? And more importantly, what was your favorite book this year?

Reviews

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

BeastsLong time, no post!

After many, many, many technical difficulties, I am back up and running for the time being. I got so frustrated with my hosting and domain issues that I actually created another site (just a regular wordpress.com site), but I couldn’t access the back up of my current site and I didn’t want to start over from scratch. Decisions, decisions.

Regardless of my website woes, I do have a book recommendation for you.

Although I hesitate to use the word quirky, the story of Weylyn Grey is just that. Filled with quirk, charm, and a healthy dose of magical realism, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance* is a perfectly strange, heartwarming debut novel by Ruth Emmie Lang. Orphaned, raised by wolves, and possessing the unusual habit of influencing the weather – when he least expects it – Weylyn is not your average man. The novel is told through the eyes of those that meet him, whether they love him or think he’s odd. The novel is a warm, weird story that simply made me happy, and I’ll be recommending it to those need of something just a little different.

(If you can resist “raised by wolves” in the description of a novel, you’re a stronger than I’ll ever be.)

*With thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Miscellanea

Wild Swans // Six Degrees of Separation

The idea behind this exercise is to connect books in any way that’s meaningful to you, from the profound to the inane. Although Kevin Bacon is typically behind the six degrees game, books are just a bit more fun. September’s pick is Wild Swans. I thought, finally, a book I’ve read! Only it’s not that Wild Swans… The subtitle is important (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang), clearly.

Wild Swans Six DegreesNaturally that is my first link. Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood is a novel about complicated family dynamics, particularly between mothers and daughters. So that is the connection between my next choice, Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser focuses on teenager Percy and her incredibly irresponsible, often absent mother. It reminds me, in the best possible way, of the television show Justified, which is one of my all time favorites.

Justified is based on, among other Elmore Leonard works, the novella Fire in the Hole, which appears in the short story collection When the Women Come Out to Dance.  Although I dearly love Stephen King, and Bag of Bones is one of my favorites, I found the television adaptation to be absolute shit, not to put too fine a point on it. Pierce Brosnan was the wrong actor to cast to play a young-ish American widower.

When I read that he’d be cast to star in the adaptation of another favorite of mine, The Son by Philipp Meyer, I was nervous. I’ve not had the chance to see it yet, but I hope it’s better than I expect. If I can, I like to end the chain with one I haven’t read, but plan to. In this case, I just downloaded My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (like The Son, I do believe there is a fraught parent-child relationship), which I’ve heard wonderful (and also terrible) things about.

Care to join in? Please do!

Miscellanea

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

Isle au Haut

 

  1. I keep waiting to have something meaningful to post about. You can clearly see how that is going for me.
  2. My baby just hit 9 months old. I know everyone says it, but I honestly don’t know how that happened. She might be one before I publish my next post…(I wish I was kidding)
  3. I haven’t been particularly satisfied since returning to work post “maternity leave.” I’m in the process of competing for a new job that would be both terrifying and fantastic. So wish me luck.
  4. I don’t watch much in the way of television, but I am very excited for the return of Outlander. I think it works better as a television series than as a book series (how long are those things?!).
  5. If I do get a new job, I will be using that as an excuse to buy new clothes. Regaining my former shape and size has not been a smooth process. I am working on it though.
  6. We recently returned from a 9 day trip to New England (including Isle au Haut, pictured above) and I still can’t get back in the groove of things (plus school just started again). I feel like I just need a push in the right direction, but there’s no one to give me that push (my husband is incredibly forgiving of my disorganization/need for take-out).
  7. Because I hardly visit this space anymore, I suspect I may see how difficult it is to switch BACK to wordpress.com (as opposed to wordpress.org). Anyone have any tips?
  8. On said vacation, I randomly decided to read out of my normal zone and bought Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. It was fun, but as I read on in the series, I was reminded of exactly why I don’t start with that nonsense in the first place. The final book I read ended on a ridiculous cliffhanger. It’ll be nearly a year before the next one, and will I even remember my interest by that point? Sadly no.
  9. If any of you happen to stumble upon this post/haven’t entirely giving up on me putting a coherent sentence together, what is THE book of the summer? What have I missed?

    Photo found here.

Reviews

Gather the Daughters // Jennie Melamed

GatherWhoa.

Please tell me at least one of you thought of Joey Lawrence.

If a book can be said to be both dreadful and wonderful at the same time, then Gather the Daughters is one such book. Set in a unknown period after a fire destroys civilization, an island community is formed by ten men desiring a deeply patriarchical society. These men, now known as the ancestors, made a list of things a person shalt not do and those are the rules that govern their small society. Now the men farm, or carve, or labor outside the home, while the women keep house. Females submit to their father until they are married, and then they submit to their husbands. When their child has a child, they take their final draught. The shalt-nots are never questioned, and if women were to question them, well, bleeding out is very common in childbirth.

Janey, Amanda, Caitlin, and Vanessa are four girls living in this rustic island community. Desperate to avoid coming of age, but yearning to get away from their fathers, each girl feels trapped and helpless. They begin to question the rules that govern their lives, and that is a very, very dangerous thing to do. When one of the girls is murdered for her desire for something better for her own daughter, the girls begin a resistance.

Eerie, bleak, and full of dread, Jennie Melamed’s debut novel is excellent. Her beautiful prose balances the grim existence of the characters, and the multiple narrators works to flesh out life on the island. For those who enjoy dystopian fiction, this will be my go-to recommendation of the summer.

(Also, that cover.)

*I received a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

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