Back again with my list of newly discovered books added to my Goodreads to-be-read shelf during the month of June! I got a bit trigger happy in June and added a TON of books to my TBR because I found The Millions ‘Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2021 Book Preview‘ list. I also went on a small trip at the end of June / early July and went on a shopping spree in some independent bookstores so lots of these books have also been purchased! I’ve decided to split June’s books into three posts so it’s not too long! This is part one, keep an eye out for part two and three soon.
As always, the aim of these posts is to hopefully help others find something they think sounds interesting, so do let me know if you add any of these to your TBR!
(Small disclaimer: as mentioned before, I will only be sharing the books that are NEW to me rather than all the ones I forgot to add to my Goodreads beforehand)
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdich
Fiction • Historical Fiction • Mystery • Literary Fiction
Synopsis: The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation.
Part Ojibwe, part white, Evelina Harp is an ambitious young girl prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina’s grandfather, is a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, who bears witness, understands the weight of historical injustice better than anyone. Through the distinct and winning voices of three unforgettable narrators, the collective stories of two interwoven communities ultimately come together to reveal a final wrenching truth.
You will notice a trend in the first few books of this post all being written by Indigenous authors. I noticed a lack of Indigenous stories on my shelves and wanted to fill it. This one comes highly recommended across a number of resources on the internet!
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Fiction • Historical Fiction • Canada
Synopsis: Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.
With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement. Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man.
This one sounds heart-breaking and horrifyingly poignant considering all the recent news about residential schools in Canada. This isn’t going to be an easy or possibly even enjoyable reading experience but it feels like a must and the reviews are brilliant.
The Break by Katherena Vermette
Fiction • Canada • Contemporary
Synopsis: When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.
In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.
I’ve noticed I love reading multi-generational stories as this one is, so this was an immediate add to my list.
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weide
Mystery • Fiction • Thriller
Synopsis: Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.
They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.
This one is quite a recent release (2020). I’d seen it all over Instagram but the cover hadn’t initially drawn me in so I never looked into the synopsis. My mistake cause it sounds great!
Consent by Annabel Lyon
Fiction • Contemporary • Literary Fiction
Synopsis: Saskia and Jenny are twins who are alike only in appearance. Saskia is a hard-working grad student whose interests are solely academic, while Jenny, an interior designer, is glamourous, thrill-seeking, capricious and narcissistic. Still, when Jenny is severely injured in an accident, Saskia puts her life on hold to be with her sister.
Sara and Mattie are sisters with a difficult relationship. Mattie, the younger sister, is affectionate, curious and intellectually disabled. As soon as Sara is able, she leaves home, in pursuit of a life of the mind and the body: she loves nothing more than fine wines, sensual perfumes, and expensive clothing. But when their mother dies, Sara inherits the duty of caring for her sister. Arriving at the house one day, she finds out that Mattie has married Robert, her wealthy mother’s handyman. Though Mattie seems happy, Sara cannot let this go, forcing the annulment of the marriage and the banishment of Robert. With him out of the picture, though, she has no choice but to become her sister’s keeper, sacrificing her own happiness and Mattie’s too. When Robert turns up again, another tragedy happens. The waves from these events eventually engulf Sara and Saskia, sisters in mourning, in a quest for revenge.
I’m always drawn to books with average ratings on Goodreads but this one sounds really interesting. Plus I have a few friends who have read this who’ve rated it highly!
Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories by Richard Van Camp, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, Aviaq Johnston, and others
Horror • Short Stories • Fiction • Anthologies
Synopsis: “Taaqtumi” is an Inuktitut word that means “in the dark”—and these spine-tingling horror stories by Northern writers show just how dangerous darkness can be. A family clinging to survival out on the tundra after a vicious zombie virus. A door that beckons, waiting to unleash the terror behind it. A post-apocalyptic community in the far North where things aren’t quite what they seem. With chilling tales from award-winning authors Richard Van Camp, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, Aviaq Johnston, and others, this collection will thrill and entertain even the most seasoned horror fan.
I love cold-setting horror stories, so a whole collection of them set in the Artic sounds amazing! Plus I really enjoy short story collections.
Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye
Horror • Fiction • Short Stories
Synopsis: The village of Hemmersmoor is a place untouched by time and shrouded in superstition: There is the grand manor house whose occupants despise the villagers, the small pub whose regulars talk of revenants, the old mill no one dares to mention. This is where four young friends come of age—in an atmosphere thick with fear and suspicion. Their innocent games soon bring them face-to-face with the village’s darkest secrets in this eerily dispassionate, astonishingly assured novel, evocative of Stephen King’s classic short story “Children of the Corn” and infused with the spirit of the Brothers Grimm.
Another book with pretty average reviews but I have a few friends I trust who have rated this well, so that’s all the convincing I need to add a short story horror collection to my TBR.
A Carnivore’s Inquiry by Sabina Murray
Horror • Fiction • Literary Fiction
Synopsis: When we meet Katherine, the winning-and rather disturbing-twenty-three-year-old narrator, she has just left Italy and arrived in New York City, but what has propelled her there is a mystery. She soon strikes up an affair with a middle-aged Russian émigré novelist she meets on the subway, and almost immediately moves into his apartment. Katherine’s occasional allusions to a frighteningly eccentric mother and tyrannical father suggest a somberness at the center of her otherwise flippant and sardonic demeanor. Soon restless, she begins journeying across the continent, trailed, everywhere she goes, by a string of murders. As the ritualistic killings begin to pile up, Katherine takes to meditating on cannibalism in literature, art, and history. The story races toward a hair-raising conclusion, while Katherine and the reader close in on the reasons for both her and her mother’s fascination with aberrant, violent behavior.
A brilliantly subtle commentary on twenty-first-century consumerism and Western culture’s obsession with new frontiers, A Carnivore’s Inquiry is an unsettling exploration of the questionable appetites that lurk beneath the veneer of civilization.
This one sounds really different and strange. I can’t remember how I came across this one but it’s got very mixed reviews and it’s completely intrigued me.
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Nonfiction • Poetry • Memoir • Irish Literature
Synopsis: A true original. In this stunningly unusual prose debut, Doireann Ni Ghriofa sculpts essay and autofiction to explore inner life and the deep connection felt between two writers centuries apart. In the 1700s, an Irish noblewoman, on discovering her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem. In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with its parallels with her own life, and sets out to track down the rest of the story. A devastating and timeless tale about one woman freeing her voice by reaching into the past and finding another’s.
I never reach for books written in prose but this one sounded too interesting to pass up. Plus look at that cover! I bought this one while I was away.
Toddler Hunting and Other Stories by Taeko Kōno (translated by, Lucy North, Lucy Lower)
Short Stories • Japan • Fiction • Japanese Literature
Synopsis: Winner of Japan’s top literary prizes (the Akutagawa, the Tanizaki, the Noma, and the Yomiuri), Taeko Kono writes with a strange beauty: her tales are pinpricked with disquieting scenes, her characters all teetering on self-dissolution, especially in the context of their intimate relationships. In the title story, the protagonist loathes young girls but compulsively buys expensive clothes for little boys so that she can watch them dress and undress. Taeko Kono’s detached gaze at this alarming behaviour transfixes the reader: What are we hunting for? And why? Multiplying perspectives and refracting light from the facing mirrors of fantasy and reality, pain and pleasure, Toddler Hunting and Other Stories presents a major Japanese writer at her very best.
Now how’s that for a title?! This sounds intense and horrible… perfect.
Fortune Box by Madeleine Swann
Short Stories • Horror • Bizarro Fiction • Humour
Synopsis: No one knows where or what Tower Ltd Surprise Packages is or why it’s sending gifts to complete strangers across The City. All they know is that each package is the best thing that’s ever happened to them…or the worst.
In one box is a packet of seeds that allows you to grow your perfect date. In another there’s a cupcake that causes anyone who eats it to grow eyeballs all over their skin. There’s also a parcel with a mousetrap that turns all your enemies tiny. Or you could receive your autobiography, which when signed, makes your every thought famous. Or maybe even a key to a secret door that leads to another dimension where all your unfinished and abandoned projects exist. But with each package received comes both fortune and misfortune that will surely result in unexpected consequences.
I’ve never really branched out into bizarro fiction but I’m always open to trying new sub-genres of horror. Plus I love this cover and want it on my shelves immediately.
Vile Men by Rebecca Jones-Howe
Short Stories • Horror
Synopsis: Vile Men is a collection of fourteen short stories that are transgressive in nature, filled with heart and emotion, leaving you sweaty and spent, your heart pounding in your chest. Stolen moments on the subway, fear of intimacy, sexual perversion and dark fears come home to roost all unite in a powerful mixture of literary fiction, contemporary fairy tales, and late night confessions. Shocking and yet touching, unnerving and yet brutally honest, Rebecca Jones-Howe is an emerging author that you’ll want to keep an eye on.
Surprise, surprise, another collection of short horror stories! This one definitely sounds like it’s going to be a tough read.
The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova
Short Stories • Horror • Fiction
Synopsis: Surreal, ambitious, and exquisitely conceived, The Doll’s Alphabetis a collection of stories in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. Dolls, sewing machines, tinned foods, mirrors, malfunctioning bodies – many images recur in stories that are in turn child-like and naive, grotesque and very dark.
In Unstitching, a feminist revolution takes place. In Waxy, a factory worker fights to keep hold of her Man in a society where it is frowned upon to be Manless. In Agata’s Machine, two schoolgirls conjure a Pierrot and an angel in a dank attic room. In Notes from a Spider, a half-man, half-spider finds love in a great European city.
By constantly reinventing ways to engage with her obsessions and motifs, Camilla Grudova has come up with a method for storytelling that is highly imaginative, incredibly original, and absolutely discomfiting.
Any horror collection that gets described as ‘strange, but wonderful’ is immediately getting added to my list, no other explanation needed.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Fiction • Literary Fiction • Contemporary
Synopsis: Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.
Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.
I found this one a list about folk horror/gothic which is one of my favourite genres, so this felt like a must add!
Phew! That’s round one done, parts two and three will be with you all soon. Let me know if you’ve read any of these or have any on your radar, or even better, if you now have them on your radar!!