The Fiction Fox
After a disappointing month of May, June was a breath of fresh air… Not literally though, as we’ve had a heatwave for the past week in The Netherlands, but reading-wise for sure. I have 11 books to talk about, of which I finished 10, with an average rating of 4-stars. Not only is that my highest average of the year so far, I also read 2 books that I think will be all-time favorites. Without further ado, let’s get into what I read in the month of June.
1. House of Glass – Susan Fletcher
The first book I have to talk about was my third DNF of the year. This was very much a case of “it’s me, not the book”, as I kept objectively seeing that what I was reading was good, but I just didn’t feel it. House of Glass is a highly atmospheric gothic mystery novel, that has quite a lyrical and literary writing style. Although that is something I usually enjoy, at this moment in time I just couldn’t get into it, and decided to put it down at around the 40%-mark. I hope to pick it back up at some other time, preferably around the autumnal season.
2. The Ghosts of Heaven – Markus Sedgwick Marketed as “Cloud Atlas in YA-form”, I was very interested to see the directions The Ghosts of Heaven would take. Unfortunately, this was a big disappointment to me. Like in Cloud Atlas, we follow 4 different stories, connected by an overarching “theme”. Unlike Cloud Atlas, I didn’t feel like that connection was strong enough to elevate The Ghosts of Heaven to more than the sum of its parts. My full review can be found here.
Rating: 2/5 stars
3. Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black – Markus Sedgwick & Julian Sedgwick
I’m saddened to say that my second disappointment was by the same author. Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black is part novel, part graphic novella, about brotherly love in the second world war. Although I loved the ideas and the art style, it was a hard one to get through, and I felt lost throughout most of it. I’m often drawn to Sedgwicks ambitious and original concepts, but more times than not I’ve been disappointed by the execution. Although none of it is objectively bad, maybe he’s just not for me, and I don’t expect to be picking up more of his work in the foreseeable future. My full review for Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black can be found here
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
From here, we’re going uphill fast, as we get to my favorite sequel of the year sofar: Godsgrave by Jay Kristof. I realize The Nevernight Chronicles are among the most beloved adult fantasy books out there, so 3.75 is on the lower end of the ratings I’ve seen. For me, that’s still a good rating though, especially for a sequel. I really enjoy both books in this series, but I do have some problems with them, preventing me from rating them higher. My full (spoiler free) review can be found here
Rating: 3.75/5 stars
Next up, we have a very happy surprise, that I didn’t expect liking as much as I did. If you’ve read my post on “My bookish buzzwords”, you’ll know that botanical magic is one of them. When I found what can be considered the sci-fi alternative to that (an alien lifeform in the shape of sentient plants), I was immediately drawn to it. The more I thought about that premise, the more apprehensive I got though… This could either be a very smart an unique take on the genre, or a ridiculous version of plants-versus-zombies in literary form. Luckily, it was the former. Semiosis is exactly the kind of first-contact novel I adore: where the alien lifeform isn’t completely anthropomorphic in both appearance, thoughts and philosophy. This felt highly original, and you can tell that the author put a huge amount of thinking and research into the subject, when creating this world. Despite a few minor flaws, this multi-generational first-contact novel was unlike any other I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Rating: 4/5 stars
6. Salt Slow – Julia Armsfield
I originally gave 4.5 stars to Julia Armsfields short story collection Salt Slow, but I’m lowering it to a 4 star a few weeks after finishing it. It contains 9 magical realism stories of which my full review, and rating per story can be found here. The only reason I’m lowering it, is that some of the stories are already slipping from my mind. Where most of my favorite books stay with me for years, this is already beginning to fade, indicating that it may not have impacted me as deep as I originally thought.
Rating: 4/5 stars
7. Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrande
Don’t ask me why yours truly found a heatwave in the middle of June the perfect time to pick up this Halloweeny read… I was in that kind of mood, and life is too short to wait for the turning of seasons. Sawkill Girls is set on a small island, where young girls go missing and rumors of a mysterious entity behind these disappearances run ramped. 3 girls, who each lost someone close to them to the islands curse, take it upon themselves to investigate, and put a stop to it. The book had a bit of a slow start for me, but fortunately, it did revenge itself near the end, earning it 4 stars. In many ways, this was what I wanted The Devouring Gray to be, but didn’t get from that one. I would like to talk about my thoughts on it in more depth, so a review will follow (hopefully) fairly soon.
Rating: 4/5 stars
8. This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay
This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay was a book that has been on my radar ever since it came out, yet I somehow never had the inclination to pick it up, until this month. I’m very glad I did, as this meant more to me than I had expected it would, for multiple reasons, but mostly because of my own experiences in the medical field. It made me laugh, and made me deeply sad in the span of just a few pages, basically as life in the medical field can also do. I’ve talked about it in some other tags and post recently, and wrote a short review on Goodreads, but don’t currently feel up to write a full in-depth review on it. I might still get to that in the future.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
The last 3 books I finished in July happened to be some of the best of the year. Starting with my most recent read Recursion… Wow… I was highly anticipating Recursion, as I’ve loved Crouch’s past work so much. One of my most vivid reading-memories of the last few years has been frantically reading Dark Matter at 2 am on a work-day, because I simply could not put it down. I wasn’t expecting Recursion to be able to match that experience, yet somehow it did! All I want to say about the synopsis, is that we follow two characters in the midst of the chaos that erupts when the world is confronted with a curious condition known as False Memory Syndrome. A detective and a neuro-scientist team up to find out what is going on, and trust me: some mind-bending shit ensues… If you like sci-fi, thrillers, speculated fiction, or especially if you were a fan of Dark Matter: you cannot pass this up!
Rating: 5/5 stars
10. Lanny – Max Porter From the author of one of my all-time favorite works Grief is the Thing with Feathers, comes Lanny. Equally as “weird”, equally as emotional, and perhaps even more masterfully written. I have a full review on this one, so I won’t go into details here. Suffice to say: 5/5 stars, and Max Porter has very much secured his place on my auto-buy author list with this one.
Rating: 5/5 stars
11. Where the Forest meets the Stars – Glendy Vanderah Last but not least, I have to mention what was probably my favorite book of the year so far.
Where the Forest meets the Stars is an adult contemporary novel, with a slight magical realism vibe, that both thematically and tonally seemed almost made for me. (The last time I said that about a book was with A Monster Calls, which is still in my top 3 of all time. )
We follow a graduate student in her mid-twenties, who has isolated and buried herself in her thesis on bird-nesting, in order to keep her mind of the recent events in her personal life. She has recently survived cancer, but only after losing her mother to the same hereditary tumor, and has not allowed herself the time to grieve either of those losses. A remarkable friendship with the similarly reclusive egg-salesman next door, and a mysterious girl who claims to have come from the stars, helps her to find her way back to other people, and to face her feelings and her future again.
This novel was eerily relevant to me, with regards to the events of past winter in my own life, and maybe for that reason, it really meant a lot to me. It was hard at times, but simultaneously so heartwarming to read, and I can already say that it’s going to stay with me for years to come. I will need some time to write a coherent, full review, but I do plan on doing that someday. Until then, I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read, and urge you to do so if you haven’t and feel comfortable with the subject matter.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Usually, this would be where I’d name some of the books I plan on reading over the course of the next month. In July however, I’m going to be participating in the Book Junkie Trial Readathon, for which I have a separate TBR up already, which you can find here. I have quite a busy month ahead, so I hope I have time to get to as many of them as possible, although I won’t blame myself if I don’t even finish my “required” 5. I hope to find the time to update in the meantime. Until then, happy reading!