Santa Olivia (Jacqueline Carey)

Santa Olivia is the first novel in the Santa Olivia series by Jacqueline Carey.
Finished on: 5.12.2020

Plot:
Santa Olivia is a small town caught in the no man’s land between the USAmerican and the Mexican border wall. Officially, neither the town, nor its people exist – there is just the USAmerican military base next to it. And yet, here they are. Among the people in Santa Olivia is Loup, daughter of an escaped enhanced human out of a military project and one of the poor women of Santa Olivia who fell in love with the fugitive. But her father had to move on and her mother died, so Loup only has her bigger half-brother Tom to take care of her. Growing up in an orphanage, careful not to show the superstrength and -speed that she inherited from her father, Loup soon finds that the town may be in need of a hero. Only, what can a single hero really do?

I remember grabbing Santa Olivia a few years ago from a bargain bin somewhere and having finally read it, I am very glad I did. It is an interesting take on superheros, set in a highly political world and has a queer protagonist. It’s basically everything I could have hoped for.

The book cover showing a woman in a long blue blowing coat, her face in shadows.
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Find Me (André Aciman)

Find Me is a kind-of-sequel to Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman.
Finished on: 27.11.2020

Plot:
Sami Perlman is on his way to Rome. On the train, he meets Miranda, who is much younger than him, but somehow the two strike up a conversation that doesn’t want to end. Miranda invites Sami home to meet her father, just so that they can spend more time together.
Sami’s son Elio meets an older man, Michel, with whom he too finds an instant connection. But Elio’s heart still somehow belongs to his first love, Oliver.
Oliver, too, finds himself reaching for Elio a lot, thinking about a reunion, even though they haven’t seen each other in decades.

Find Me was the worst book experience I had in 2020. Generally, it was one of the worst book experiences I think I ever had. To say it was disappointing is to put it too mildly. It’s only due to its structure that I finished it at all – because it saved the bit that is actually interesting for the last 15 pages or so. I still want to scream just thinking about it.

The book cover showing a red and a yellow house next to each other, possibly in Italy.

[SPOILERS]

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Someone Like Me (M.R. Carey)

Someone Like Me is a novel by M.R. Carey.
Finished on: 17.11.2020

Content Note: domestic violence, stalking

Plot:
Liz tries really hard to bring up her two children and keep her abusive ex-husband in check. But one night when he brings them back to her and she confronts him with the fact that he is late, he almost kills – until something takes over her and almost kills Marc right back. Liz is understandably shaken and worried about psychiatric issues, especially since what took over her – or rather who – doesn’t seem to want to leave. Meanwhile Fran, a school mate of Liz’ son Zak, also struggles with her own trauma. She was abducted when she was a child and ever since, she has had Jinx, an imaginary fox, accompany her. She knows that Jinx isn’t real, but she is a comfort. When her issues flare up again and she arranges an appointment with her psychiatrist, seeing Liz there. Only she sees something strange about Liz, something that isn’t right. When Fran and Zak get closer and Fran is actually introduced to Liz, things keep getting stranger still.

Someone Like Me is a rather slow book, but not in the sense that it gets boring. I’d say it sits more on the thriller side of things than on the horror side, which is not that much my cup of tea, but it still worked for me, albeit not as well as The Girl with All the Gifts.

The book cover showing a woman or girl in a red hoodie standing in front of a pale green background. Her reflection as if in a lake can be seen below her, only that the reflection is looking in the other direction than her.
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My Sister, the Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite)

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite.
Finished on: 1.11.2020

Plot:
Korede and Ayoola are sisters, though they are very different. Korede is rather calm and conscientous, working as a nurse and has been pining after one of the doctors at the hospital – Tade. Ayoola, on the other hand, is lively, super-pretty and seems to do not much more than dating one guy after the other. The thing is, three of her boyfriends already ended up dead – stabbed by Ayoola. Supposedly in self-defense, but Korede – whom Ayoola always called to help with the clean-up – isn’t too sure about that self-defense part. Maybe Ayoola is just a psychopath. When Ayoola comes to the hospital and meets Tade, Korede has to work out her options, urgently.

My Sister, the Serial Killer was an entertaining and very quick read that I really enjoyed. It does have a couple of issues, but they are easy to forgive, especially since it’s a debut novel.

The book cover showing the face of a black woman wearing a headscarf and sunglasses. The sunglasses are red and you can see a raised hand with a knife reflected in them.

[Slight SPOILERS]

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One to Watch (Kate Stayman-London)

One to Watch is a novel by Kate Stayman-London.
Finished on: 29.10.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) fat hate (internalized and otherwise), bimisia

Plot:
Bea Schumacher has made her career as a fat fashion blogger and she is mostly very happy with her life, if it wasn’t for her being unhappily in love. She is also a huge fan of the reality show Main Squeeze where several people compete for the heart of one person. But when she makes her frustration with the lack of body diversity public, she gets the most surprising offer of all times: how about she herself becomes the next star on Main Squeeze and have men compete for her for a change? Bea accepts, but dating while being fat comes with a lot of challenges – and that isn’t even factoring in the fact that she will have to do it in front of an audience of millions.

One to Watch is a fun read and definitely scratches romance itches, but what made it extra special to read for me as a fat woman is that it features a fat protagonist and takes on many ways fat hate operates. It’s not always perfect, but it is a very good read.

The book cover showing the drawing of a fat woman from behind. She is wearing a fashionable pink dress with roses. Her hair is also pink. She has one hand behind her back holding a ring. Five movie cameras are pointed at her from all directions.
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The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson)

The Haunting of Hill House is a novel by Shirley Jackson.
Finished on: 27.10.2020

Plot:
John Montague is an avid researcher of supernatural phenomena. When he learns of Hill House, he is convinced that he has finally found the location where he can definitely prove that hautings really take place. He rents Hill House for the summer and invites several people to join him, all of whom have – according to his research – some experience with the supernatural. The ones who take him up are Eleanor Vance, a shy young woman, and Theodora, her polar opposite. Additionally joining them is Luke Sanderson who will inherit Hill House at some point. The four of them settle in Hill House – and things do take an eerie turn quickly, in ways no-one expected.

Shirley Jackson had been on my to-read-list since about forever, and watching Shirley finally gave me the last push to pick up The Haunting of Hill House (which had been lying on my nightstand for at least a year). And hot damn, it was so absolutely great. I’m completely blown away by it.

The book cover showing a woman's shadow reflected in water.
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Trail of the Spellmans (Lisa Lutz)

Trail of the Spellmans is the fifth novel in the Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz.
Finished on: 24.10.2020
[Here are my reviews of the rest of the series.]

Plot:
Spellman Investigations is busy as usual, but also as usual, Izzy has to keep a close eye on her family members as well because something is going on with pretty much all of them. Rae and David aren’t speaking, and neither is David’s little daughter Sydney. Rae has gone off to college. Izzy’s mother keeps finding new hobbies for herself so that she is barely home – only it doesn’t seem like she actually likes her new activities. And Henry’s mother is coming to visit and, what is even worse, Henry wants to have a talk with Izzy – two encounters Izzy has been trying to avoid by sneaking and hiding, her usual strategies. And Izzy’s father is working a case that seems to be connected to her own, but he won’t let Izzy peek at his files. Things are complicated indeed.

Trail of the Spellmans gives us some nice twists and turns that continue in the Spellman series tradition, but also add some new elements. It was fun and enjoyable until it ripped out my heart.

The book cover showing a stylized person wearing a hat and trenchcoat. But when you look more closely, you see that the face only consists of eyes that are footprints.
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Lady of Misrule (T.A. Pratt)

Lady of Misrule is the eighth of the Marla Mason novels by T.A. Pratt.
Finished on: 21.10.2020
[Here are my reviews of the other Marla Mason novels.]

Plot:
When Marla awakes from her month in the underworld, she faces quite a few surprising changes in the mortal world. For one, Pelham and Rondeau are in trouble (well, that may not be the biggest change) and things are happening in Felport. But that is not even the biggest issue: there is something walking the earth, looking for gods to kill – and it might as well start with Marla. The threat is so big that Bradley Bowman, overseer of the multiverse, sends a part of himself to that particular universe to make sure that it doesn’t spread from there. Things are dire. Or, to put it another way, just another Tuesday for Marla.

Lady of Misrule takes fans of the series on a rather comfortable ride – until it hits you with a suckerpunch of an ending that left me with my mouth open. Talk about a cliffhanger – I will need to read the next one soon.

The book cover showing the drawing of a grumpy looking brunette in a tank top. She's having a coffee at a bar, but there are tentacles everywhere. She has speared one of the tentacles in front of her with a dagger.
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My Brilliant Friend (Elena Ferrante)

My Brilliant Friend is the first of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read the German translation (Meine geniale Freundin) by Karin Krieger.
Finished on: 15.10.2020

Plot:
Elena is in her 60s when she hears that her best childhood friend Lila has disappeared, leaving no trace. Elena starts to remember ther childhood and adolescence in a poor area of Naples in the 50s. Elena and Lila always had a rather complicated relationship, part competition, part incomprehension, completely different from each other, but unified in the certainty that the both of them are nothing like the kids around them. Between their families, the Camorra and just being a kid, it really isn’t easy to navigate life.

My Brilliant Friend is quite the bestseller and I have to admit that I don’t entirely get it. My experience with the novel was very mixed, some good parts, some not so good parts. I probably will continue reading, but I’m a little reluctant.

The book cover showing to girls from behind. They are looking from a balcony over the sea. They are wearing two dresses from the same cloth, so you can't tell where one ends and the other begins.
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Down a Street That Wasn’t There (Marie Brennan)

Down a Street That Wasn’t There is a short story collection by Marie Brennan.
Finished on: 29.9.2020
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Down a Street That Wasn’t There is a very nice short story collection, even if I didn’t quite love it as much as Brennan’s other collection The Nine Lands. But given that I work at university myself and am a perpetual student, it is nice that a lot of her stories reference academia in one way or another. It was a very good read overall.

The book cover showing a human figure with butterfly wings walking down a stone corridor.

Read more about each of the stories after the jump.

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