The Fiction Fox
Blue Monday Booktag (original) 2023
Blue Monday [noun]: Blue Monday is a name given to a day in January (typically the third Monday of the month) claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.
This year, one of my original tags is making a return. I created this tag to spread a little bookish joy on what many people consider the most depressing, drab day of the year. You all know the concept of a tag, so let’s not make this intro too long. Without further ado, let’s get into the prompts.
1. It’s Monday again… you’re already tired and still have the whole workweek ahead of you. Pick a book or series that was hard to get into, but had a great pay-off in the end.
Although I haven’t finished this series yet, so I can’t speak to the ultimate pay-off, The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams immediately comes to mind, starting with The Ninth Rain. We’re dropped off into the almost post-apocalyptic setting of the city of Ebora, once the wealthy home of tree-gods, now fallen into derelict after a cataclysmic event. Alongside our three protagonists (an adventurous archaeologist, a charismatic Eborian nobleman fallen from grace and a young outlawed witch) it’s up to us to figure out the mystery of this cataclysmic event, and prevent history from repeating itself. Jen Williams creates a truly original world that is a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and doesn’t spoon-feed its lore to you. Instead, she trusts the reader to figure things out along the way, alongside her characters. This can make for a bit of a daunting start, where you feel dropped in the deep end without floaties. Once you get swimming however, the story, the mystery and the engaging characters make for one of the best and most underrated fantasy novels I’ve read recently.
2. The weather outside is gray and dark. Pick a book with a dark, grey or gloomy cover, and contrast it with a beautifully coloured one.
Since there are too many good options to choose from, I’m picking the two most recent releases on my shelves, both of which I’ve read as ARCS, and both of which I’d recommend. For a dark and gloomy cover, it doesn’t get more gloomy than a skull in the pine-timbers. Say hello to the cover of Briardark by S.A. Harian, a sci-fi horror novel that reads like what would happen if Netflix’s Dark teamed up with Blake Crouch, and wrote a mystery set in Area X from Annihilation…? Intrigued? You should be! Briardark is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat from page one. Our colourful counterpart is We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride, with its iridescent cover filled with butterflies and flowers. Don’t be fooled though: this book packs equal parts beauty and sadness, following the friendship between two teens, both having suffered the hardships of trauma and depression, finding back the magic and beauty in the world and themselves.
3. Your bank-account is empty after your Christmas spendings. Pick a book you can read right now without, without spending a single penny. Think: a book from your owned-TBR or at your local library.
City of Saints and Madmen holds the title of one books to have been on my TBR for the longest, as well as the book I’ve picked up for the lowest price. This book was a lucky thrift-store find, where I paid 3 euro’s for a book by one of my favourite authors that I genuinely wanted to read. Since then, I’m ashamed to say that it’s been sitting on my shelves idly, as I’ve been too intimidated by its size and strangeness to pick it up. I’m hoping to change that soon. City of Saints and Madmen is the start of Jeff Vandermeer’s Ambergris universe; a collection of new-weird fantasy tales set in the fictional city of Ambergris. It promises to combine philosophy, Lovecraftian horror, changing geometry and hallucinogenic mushrooms in a literary tapestry like none other. I have no idea what any of that means, but by the hands of this author, I’m desperate to find out and report back.
4. Your next vacation seems so far away. Pick a book to take you on a trip to faraway lands, or offer you vacation-vibes.
If you’re in the market for “’vacation-vibes”, might I redirect you towards my post on Beach Reads That Aren’t All Romance, or if you fancy a trip around the world, why not browse the books on my list of Mythology Inspired Fiction from Around the World. A special shout out goes to a wholesome book that gives me ultimate vacation-vibes, but also packs an emotional punch: August Isle by Ali Standish. This underrated middle-grade gem tells the story of a young girl making new friends, conquering her fears and confronting family-secrets as she spends her summer vacation at the Floridian island where her mother used to spend her childhood summers decades ago.
5. And above all; your new-year’s resolutions are becoming very hard to stick to. How are you doing on your bookish resolutions so far? Personally I’m doing good on account that I didn’t really make any strict resolutions this year. I set up a 30-book master TBR, from which I’ve already read 5 books, but otherwise I’m winging it this year, and it’s working great for me.
6. Overall: you’re just not feeling your best this Monday… Pick a book that made you cry, but was 100% worth it.
These are few and far between for me, so I have to give this to my favourite read of 2022 once more. Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer made me cry harder and better than I’ve had in a long time. I’ve talked about this book in depth in my review, my yearly favourites and on many other places, so I’m keeping this short. This fantastic debut literary novel about a woman’s journey with terminal cancer, told from the perspective of herself, her daughter and the sentient voice of her tumor, was something truly special to me. It resonated and impacted me like no other (adult) novel on cancer has ever done before. I understand the subject matter may make this a difficult read for many, but if you’re up for it, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
7. Rainy weather makes for the perfect reading-mood. Show a book you (could) read in one sitting
For me, there are two types of books that I can read in a single sitting. My favourite kind is one that’s relatively short and packed to the brim with tension, so it’s impossible to put down midway-through. Recently, that book was What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher for me. As a gothic retelling of the classic Fall of the House of Usher, the unsettling tension and atmosphere are palpable in this one, and despite being familiar with the source material, Kingfisher had me so invested in here adaptation of the characters that I was on the edge of my seat to see their faiths play out. It helps that this book is <200 pages, making it perfectly binge-worthy. If you want to take this prompt the opposite way, and are looking for a cheer-up book to warm you up inside whilst curled up with a blanket, might I recommend Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree. Although this wasn’t a new favourite to me in the way it was for many people, I did read it in just 2 sittings and I can see what it did for others. Legends and Lattes is a cozy fantasy novel about an orc barbarian who gives up a life of adventuring in favour of the quiet life and starts a coffee-shop in her local town. It reads like a warm steaming latte in book-form and will make for the perfect book to unwind and cheer you up when down.
8. Spring is already fast approaching. Shout out your most anticipated spring-release for this year.
I’m taking March, April and May as my definition of Spring, and these months happen to hold some of my most anticipated releases of the entire year. A full list of those can be found here, but I want to give a shout out to the 3 that I’m most eager for at this moment. First is Assassin of Reality by Marina Dyachenko, the sequel to one of my favourite “weird-dark-academia-fantasy” novels Vita Nostra. This is out in the original Russian already, but the English translation is set for release on March 14th of this year. Second is Sea Bean by Sally Huband; literary fiction where nature writing about the ocean meets themes of disability, body and grief. This ticks all of my boxes, and I’m desperately hoping it delivers. Third and last I’m looking forward to The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter by Soraya Palmer. Compared to the works of Helen Oyeyemi, this book combines folktales and spirit-animals with a coming of age tale of two Jamaican-Trinidadian sisters in Brooklyn grappling with their mother’s illness, their father's infidelity, and the truth of their family’s past.
9. And there’s so much more to life than just money. Share a book that taught you an important lesson
This feels like the perfect opportunity to shout out some of my (semi-)recent favourite non-fiction reads. And given my personal brand as a reader, it’d only be fitting to recommend some disability- or grief-related nonfiction. First and foremost, two of my all-time favourite disability memoirs are When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, about a young neuro-surgeons journey following his terminal lungcancer diagnosis, as well as Sitting Pretty by Rebekkah Taussig, about her coming of age, journey towards motherhood and so much more as a wheelchair-bound young-adult.
On the topic of grief, might I recommend one of my most recent reads, and probably the first “self-help-ish” book I’ll ever endorse: It’s OK that You’re Not OK by Megan Devine. This book tackles the journey of grief in a society that doesn’t offer the time or space for it in a comprehensive and compassionate way, without ever preaching to the reader.
10. And the upside to a “down-day” is that tomorrow can only be better. Share a book that gives you hope.
I’ve blabbered your ears off about my two queens of hope-punk, Emily St. John Mandell and Nina LaCour, so I’m trying to pick a slightly more unexpected answer. Let’s switch gears and talk about the protagonist with the biggest capacity for hope and optimism amidst dire situations: Mark from Andy Weir’s The Martian. This man is literally left for dead on a foreign planet with nothing but his wit, a broken space-rover and a packet of potato seeds and still manages to be the most optimistic and determined character in the universe. Whether you love or hate his snarky humor (I personally adore it!), you cannot help but admire this man’s perseverance in the face of adversity. It’s what makes Mark one of my all-time favourite characters and one I aspire to be like in my own little ways as well.
This year I don’t want to pressure anyone in particular by tagging them personally. Instead, if you’re a bookish-creator and would like to spread some joy today for yourself, consider yourself tagged. Whether you decide to answer these questions for yourself, remember: better days are coming. Hang in there, and happy reading.