A new year, a new month and a new lot of reading!
January was all about getting stuck into the books I was gifted for Christmas and my birthday. Naturally, whenever anyone asked what I might like for either, I suggested books. My shelf is shouting at me with all the fantastic titles that I cannot wait to get stuck in to.
Here’s what I thought (*spoiler free) of the books that I read in January!
I really wanted to enjoy this book, I had heard really great things about it over on Goodreads, but I just could not connect with it. It tells a story in three parts about four American Indian men after a dramatic event in their lives comes back around to have dire repercussions for them all.
Unfortunately, for me, it spent way too much time focussing on irrelevant parts of the story and not enough on the threat and horror, especially for a book that’s marketed within the horror genre. I did enjoy some of the darker elements, but it could have done a LOT more with it. Ultimately, I found it pretty boring and I couldn’t wait to finish it.
My first full read inside of 2021 (I started The Only Good Indians just after Christmas) and what a way to kick off this year of reading. I absolutely loved this book, and was gripped throughout.
Blue Ticket is about a dystopian world in which women are, when they start bleeding, given either a white or a blue ticket to indicate whether they’re allowed to get pregnant or not. When Calla questions her fate, she has to go on the run to protect herself. We follow her journey as she fights for the choices she has made and the lengths she will go to, to take ownership of her body.
This is a powerful, beautifully-written novel about female desire, bodies, agency, and the longing to be a mother. I loved the short chapters and Sophie’s gorgeous style, which is both soft and sharp. Blue Ticket is pulsing with a tender vulnerability and the raw, visceral power of a woman who will do anything to survive on her own terms.
The Ghastling is a beautifully designed bi-annual magazine brimming with short stories about all things dark and weird. Think: ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. I am a big fan (and a subscriber to) The Ghastling!
Book 12 features eight stories on the theme of ‘strange signs / ritual protection marks’. The book, as always, features the gorgeous design work of Nathaniel Hebert and a selection of creepy tales that get under your skin. I particularly enjoyed ‘Where the Waters Meet’, ‘The Nondescript’ and ‘Devil in my Eye’.
A birthday gift from one of my best friends (alongside the rest of the trilogy), Annihilation first caught my eye after I loved the film adaptation on Netflix. I was intrigued to see how the plot and weird, visual elements of the film compared to the book.
Annihilation tells the tale of four women who venture on an expedition into Area X, a piece of land that has been taken over by something, or someone. The four women make up the 12th group to enter into Area X in hope of mapping its landscape and understanding more about what it contains.
This was an absolute hit for me. I was hooked by this strange, surreal and short novel. I enjoyed how unsettling and ambiguous it was. I would have loved to see it lean a little more into the weirdness of the landscape and animals, in the way that the film did, but regardless of that, I enjoyed it and didn’t want to put it down. Also, please can we talk about how STUNNING the cover is? Gorgeous!
I could talk on and on about how much I love Jeff VanderMeer’s writing and the way that he builds these quietly ominous, disconcerting worlds.
In the second book of the trilogy, we follow the newly appointed head of the Southern Reach. John, or Control as he’s known, has been sent in, in a last attempt to try and understand Area X. He starts with interrogations, reviewing footage and reading up on reports of previous expeditions but starts to learn some surprising truths and comes face-to-face with things that were probably best left alone.
As you read on, you begin to question more and more about what’s really going on and what it is that you’re not seeing. I love the creeping sense of dread, the feeling that you’re always on the precipice of something terrible happening or appearing. The weird elements of the Southern Reach trilogy are just so clever, and totally up my street.
I really enjoyed this funny, beautiful, warm and heart-breaking collection from Erin Bolens which tackles so many different aspects of modern life.
Alternate Endings is a collection of poetry built on worry and hope. Erin shares her stories about life, love and anxieties with a great warmth and compassion. This is a great book to have on your shelf and turn to when it all feels a bit too much. It’s like an honest chat with a good friend.
Of course, I couldn’t have ended the month without moving onto the third, and final, book in the Southern Reach trilogy. In Acceptance, we follow the stories of three key characters in the series and learn more about their connection to Area X.
I’m torn between thinking that the finale of the Southern Reach trilogy perfectly encapsulates Area X and how it should end, whilst also wishing there was a tiny bit more explanation and exploration of some of the important things brought up in the book.
Jeff is an incredible writer. The way he builds worlds is sublime and his creation of a consistently ominous, creepy atmosphere is just wonderful. I was constantly on edge throughout the whole trilogy, anticipating the horrors to come. I would read the trilogy for Jeff’s descriptions of things alone.
Foxfire, Wolfskin is a collection of short stories which draw on myths, fairy tales and folklore from across Europe. From Ireland to Norway, Wales to Croatia, the collection explores the role of women in storytelling, putting a twist on tales that we may have heard before. It tells of the connection between women and nature, animals and themselves.
I’m really enjoying reading and writing more folklore-inspired stories at the moment so this was a fun read. My favourite stories were ‘Wolfskin’, ‘The Bogman’s Wife’ and ‘Foxfire’ which all have a visceral, feral and wild element to them and often lead to consequences: retribution that is so often lacking for women in ancient tales.
What have you read this month?
I’d love to hear about your favourite book of the month and what you’re planning to read in February! I think, for me, the stand out book (or rather, books) has to be the Southern Reach trilogy. I can’t remember that last time I read a trilogy of books like this and I really enjoyed getting stuck in to a lengthy storyline. I also really loved Blue Ticket and its ethereal, dystopian feel.
I have a couple of proofs that I am planning to read in February, ahead of their March release dates and I’m hoping to get around to some of my Christmas/birthday haul books this month. One of my favourite reads of last year, Nightshift by Kiare Ladner is due out on the 18th February 2021 so I highly recommend checking that out for your TBR list too!