Mid-Year Check In
Somehow, we are half way through 2021. Somehow, I have read more than 80 books. The trade-off is that since finishing my manuscript for The Good Daughter in March of this year, I have hardly written a word of fiction. The well is dry! In order to fill it up again, I am focussing on reading good books and just generally trying to open my mind to new ideas. I've been here before, after 'finishing' Between the Sleepers and starting The Good Daughter, and that lightning strike of inspiration will come again. (Because it has to!) I keep reminding myself of what Emma Chapman once said on her blog: you are not a tap. You can't just turn the tap on and have ideas come out on demand. So, in the spirit of not being a tap, let's talk about books. I've borrowed this 'tag' from Youtube.
1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2021
I've been keeping track of what the best book I read each month is but haven't really thought about what the best of the best would be. I think, at the risk of being a cliche, I would have to say The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, because it's the book I wish I had written. It's historical fiction, and spans the life of a young woman who is the daughter of one of the lexicographers working on the creation of the dictionary at the beginning of the 20th century. She becomes fascinated by words and their gendered and class-based uses, and about the power dynamic behind who gets to decide how language works and what gets recorded. I really wanted to hate it because it's been so popular and it's been the bane of my existence at the library because everyone wants to read it and then they get upset when there's no copy available for weeeeeeeks, but I loved it. I loved it so much I know I'll be reading it again soon, and I do not ever get time to reread things.
I think a close second would have to be Outlawed by Anna North. It was a counter-factual historical Western dystopian sort of genre mash up book about women's body autonomy and cowboy gangs made of 'unnatural women' who roved about in the desert trying to get justice for womankind. One of the earliest books I read this year and i still think about it. Very much The Handmaid's Tale of the wild west.
2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2021
I don't read a lot of series... mostly because I am impatient and I hate waiting for the next books to come out. This is why I never finished reading the Game of Thrones books. Also because the ending to the TV series definitely killed my interest...
Anyway. I guess the answer would have to be the fourth Bone Season book, which came out in February. It's called The Mask Falling. Hard to talk about what the book is about without spoiling earlier books but it's a series I have been reading for a few years now, very immersive dystopian fantasy set in an alternate London where this shadow government is in charge and have outlawed any kind of clairvoyance. The main character, Paige, is a very rare kind of clairvoyant who can walk in other people's dreams.
3. New release you haven't read yet, but want to.
Pretty much my whole TBR was at one point in time a new release I wanted to read but then didn't get to... next up on the TBR pile are: Locust Summer by David Allan-Petale, Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir, Widowland by C.J. Carey and Still Life by Sarah Winman. Trying to get through those all this month.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.
The new Lauren Groff! Here's the blurb.Born from a long line of female warriors and crusaders, yet too coarse, too wild, too rough-hewn for 12th-century courtly life, Marie de France is cast from the royal court. To her dismay, she is sent to the muddy fields of Angleterre to take up her new duty as the prioress of an impoverished abbey.
The abbey is a dreadful place- its inhabitants are on the brink of starvation, beset by disease, stoic and stern, yet plagued with an unholy tendency to gossip. Marie cannot help but pine for the decadence and comfort of France; her secret lover Cecily, her queen Eleanor, and the very court that had spited her.
Yet Marie soon realises that, though she may be tied to a life of duty, she wields more power than she could have imagined. With the fearlessness that has always set her apart, she inspires her new sisterhood to awaken their spirits and finally claim what is theirs.
A dazzling work of literature, Matrix gathers currents of violence, sensuality and ecstasy in a mesmerising portrait of consuming passion and womanhood.
5. Biggest disappointment.
Ooh this feels mean. I don't really want to say but I'm sure there have been a few. I am trying to be more ruthless though and DNF books when I'm not into them.6. Biggest surprise.
I don't really know how I am supposed to answer this one... does the question mean something you loved that you didn't expect to? Because I don't really pick up books expecting not to like them. I guess Driving Stevie Fracasso was surprisingly excellent, I picked it up because the author is from W.A. like me and then found myself going through the gamut of emotions while reading it. Very Nick Hornby. I recommend.
Get it here.
7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)
My favourite writer at the moment is Maggie O'Farrell. I'm carefully rationing out all her books so I don't run out.
8. Newest fictional crush.
Not book related but Patrick from Offspring, which I finally watched. I'm still mad about what happened.
9. Newest favourite character.
Beatrice Belladonna Eastwood, and not just because she is a librarian.
10. Book that made you cry.
I do not cry in books unless a dog dies. Came close to crying while reading The Dictionary of Lost Words though.
11. Book that made you happy.
Most books make me happy.
12. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year (or received)
I try reallllllly hard not to buy books just because they are pretty but I guess the most recent cover-buy was Still Life.
13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
The rest of my TBR.