It’s not autumn/fall here in Southern California. The only visible reddish hues are from the wildfires. Ideally, one day I’ll have a house in Vermont in which I can spend these autumnal months, so I can live in a sweater, tea in one hand, book in the other. But for now, it’s hazy LA days, cars covered in ash, but the reading continues. As does the tea.
I have reader’s remorse. My two most-anticipated releases of 2020, Sisters by Daisy Johnson, and Summerwater by Sarah Moss, were only four-star books for me. I was so excited for these books; Everything Under by Johnson, and Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, are in my top ten books ever. I suppose my expectations were unrealistically high, and maybe I drew unfair comparisons to their previous, completely unrelated works. Don’t get me wrong, Sisters and Summerwater are both very strong books, but just didn’t rock my world.
My favorite books of this year have been complete surprises. Some from completely unfamiliar authors. I generally take chances on things that are described as “uncanny”, or “unnerving”, but I no longer finish books I’m not enjoying.
One of my favorite surprises of this year was Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook, by Christina Henry. I enjoy dark fairy tales, so given her writing includes dark versions of Alice in Wonderland, and Little Red Riding Hood, it was only a matter of time before I read Henry’s work.
Lost Boy is incredible. I finished it a week ago, and I’m still thinking about it. It turns the story of Peter Pan right on its head. It reinforces the message that, like Elphaba in Wicked, villains are not born; they are created. Pan really does a number on Hook in Lost Boy. It genuinely infuriated me. I’m basically a pro-Hook activist now.
Another surprise was the enchanting Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings. I was just re-reading my highlighted favorite lines from this book, and I did a little squeal of excitement.
“In a small Western Queensland town, a reserved young woman receives a note from one of her vanished brothers—a note that makes question her memories of their disappearance and her father’s departure.”
The above plot synopsis does not even begin to convey just how delightfully weird this book is. Our central character, Bettina Scott, is a Merricat in the making. Part road-trip, part coming-of-age story, part folklore, all bloody terrifying. This has been added to my yearly reads list, along with the aforementioned Ghost Wall, and Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black.
I’m having a good 2020 so far, in terms of reading (let’s not talk about the other stuff). 74 books and 350 short stories read at the time of writing. If you’re interested, here are my favorite novels so far:
- Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid (I listened to the audiobook of this, and the superb voice acting enhanced what is already a very engrossing story.)
- Ormeshadow – Priya Sharma (Priya Sharma is the best author you have yet to discover. Her short story collection, All the Fabulous Beasts, is also wonderful.)
- The Bass Rock – Evie Wyld (Time-jumping female injustice. Dazzling.)
- Starve Acre – Andrew Michael Hurley (More weird folklore-ish horror. Could even be better than The Loney. Can’t wait to see what he does next.)
- Little Eyes – Samanta Schweblin (A perfect, strange little story. Schweblin can do no wrong.)
- Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line – Deepa Anaparra (I still think about this one. A wonderful novel that deserves more attention)
- Things in Jars – Jess Kidd (Another gorgeous novel from Jess Kidd. Long live Bridie Devine.)
- Pew – Catherine Lacey (Mentioned in a previous post. Again, this book deserves more attention.)
As well as my towering TBR, I’m really looking forward to some awesome releases towards the back end of this year.
- The Ghost Tree – Christina Henry (out now, and currently sitting on my coffee table!)
- The Seventh Mansion – Maryse Meijer (see above!)
- Earthlings – Saraka Muyata (October 10 – the author of Convenience Store Woman, get excited!)
- Ring Shout – P. Djèlí Clark (October 13 – I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this one; look at that cover!)
- The Butcher’s Blessing – Ruth Gilligan (November 10)
- Eartheater – Dolores Reyes (November 17)