Mid-Year Check-In Tag

Taken from Eric Karl Anderson’s (Lonesome Reader’s) YouTube video. A bit of a late mid-year check-in, but I arrived back from Australia on 30th June and went straight to another conference in Birmingham in the first week of July, so I’m behind!

1. How many books have you read so far this year? 91 (was 85 at the end of June). This is definitely above average for me – I’ve been doing a lot of travelling, so that’s probably contributed.

2. What’s your favourite book so far this year? Natasha Pulley’s The Bedlam Stacks has probably made the deepest impression upon me so far in its beautiful mixture of historical fiction and speculative fantasy set in the Peruvian rainforest.

3. What’s the most disappointing book you’ve read this year? Jessica Andrews’s Saltwater is probably the one I feel most irritated about; I’d been so hoping for a brilliant coming-of-age novel set in the north-east and instead I got standard-issue literary writing coupled with no sense of place.

4. What genre have you read most this year? This is impossible to answer, as I do read a lot of genres, but my reading has probably skewed towards science fiction and speculative literary fiction.

5. Name a new favourite author that you’ve discovered this year. Natasha Pulley, as above – I also very much enjoyed her The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – but I was also bowled over by Nina Allan’s The Riftand can’t wait to read her first novel, The Race, although her latest, The Dollmakerdidn’t quite land for me.

6. What’s the most surprisingly good book you’ve read so far this year? Ha, this has to go to Melissa Broder’s The Pisces, which I initially refused to read because I thought it was going to be crude and sensationalist, and then liked so much that it made my personal Women’s Prize shortlist.

7. What are your favourite and most anticipated 2019 releases? Some of my original picks still haven’t come out (or have been moved to 2020 very sad about this Evie Wyld), but here are some new picks [links to Goodreads]:

  • I’m a huge fan of Ann Patchett, so I can’t wait to read her latest, The Dutch House (September): ‘Set over the course of five decades… a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past.’
  • I loved Amy Waldman’s The Submission, so I’m looking forward to her second novel, A Door in the Earth (August),which focuses on ‘Parveen Shamsa, a college senior in search of a calling, [who] feels pulled between her charismatic and mercurial anthropology professor and the comfortable but predictable Afghan-American community in her Northern California hometown’.
  • This is already out (May), but I’ve heard great things about Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, OtherI wasn’t a fan of her Blonde Roots but I love this blurb: ‘follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.’
  • I’ve long admired Tash Aw’s writing but find his novels weirdly forgettable; I’m hoping that his latest, We, the Survivors (out since April), will break the trend. It focuses on Ah Hock, a poor inhabitant of a Malaysian fishing village who murders a migrant worker from Bangladesh.
  • I’m so excited for Louise Doughty’s new novel, Platform Seven (August)like everyone else, I was impressed by Apple Tree Yard, but personally, I felt that her last novel, Black Watertook her writing to new heights. And just look at the blurb! ‘Two deaths on Platform Seven. Two fatalities in eighteen months – surely they’re connected? No one is more desperate to understand what connects them than Lisa Evans herself. After all, she was the first of the two to die.’ It sounds like Point Horror meets literary fiction, and I am in.
  • In genre fiction, I’m definitely going to read Becky Chambers’s new SF novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate (September); I loved her Wayfarers series even if I felt that A Long Way… was much better than the other two. ‘In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of galaxy transform themselves.’ I have requested this from NetGalley so hopefully it will come through soon please.
  • I’m also looking forward to Erica Ferencik’s next thriller, Into the Jungle (out since May, but not published in the UK and so expensive on Kindle!); I found her The River at Night evocative and gripping. ‘a young woman leaves behind everything she knows to take on the Bolivian jungle, but her excursion abroad quickly turns into a fight for her life.’

8. What’s your next big priority for your reading? Getting my 20 Books of Summer read before I’m distracted by the new exciting titles above.

9. What’s been your bookish highlight of the year so far? Definitely attending the Wellcome Book Prize ceremony after shadowing the award for the second time, and also the 5×15 Stories event that featured five of the shortlisted writers.

I don’t tend to tag people, but if anyone hasn’t already done a mid-year round-up and fancies this tag, go for it! I’d love to hear others’ responses.

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18 thoughts on “Mid-Year Check-In Tag

  1. I’m also looking forward to the Patchett and am equally disappointed about the Wyld. However I must be the only reader in Britain who got bored with Apple Tree Yard and gave up half way through, so I won’t be hurrying out to get a copy of Doughty’s new novel. I gave a copy of Girl, Woman, Other to a friend whose research work is in that area and she loved it.

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    • One of the things I really like about Louise Doughty’s writing is how versatile she is, so (assuming that you got on with her prose) you might prefer one of her other novels. Black Water in particular is VERY different from Apple Tree Yard, and probably superior.

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  2. 91 books is so impressive! Your assessment of Saltwater makes me want to immediately take it off my TBR: stories that are meant to be anchored to a specific place that don’t do any work to build up the setting are beyond frustrating.

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    • Yes, weirdly even though who liked her writing a lot better than I did seem to agree that the sense of place is lacking, which is bizarre as the whole thing is marketed as a north-east coming-of-age story. I wonder if it’s actually because Andrews grew up in Sunderland that she’s taken too much for granted and hasn’t put the detail in that her readers need? (I know how easy this is to do as a writer when you know something too well…)

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    • I know they do, but I don’t understand why (unless they are driving on a road trip or similar…) For me, travelling always involves lots of public transport, so that’s the perfect time to read.

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      • Ahh, I see! I think that it’s common for people in the U.S. to see vacation as a time to go, go, go. Gotta make it worth that vacation time you used up, gotta make it worth the money for the trip itself. No lounging, all experiencing! It’s exhausting.

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        • Ha, that’s pretty much how I approach vacations, but I guess to get to all the things I have to spend a lot of time on public transport (and I don’t have a problem reading on buses etc, which I know makes some people sick).

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  3. Cackling at how much of this is similar to my assessment (initial disgust at the idea of The Pisces followed by intense admiration; loving Natasha Pulley; loving Nina Allan, though I liked The Dollmaker more than you did). Girl Woman Other is great, you’ll love it. And I’m also quite keen on Ann Patchett’s new book.

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