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 two. You can read part one here and part three will be out 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)
Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
Short Stories • Science Fiction • Fiction
Synopsis: A perfect introduction for new readers and a must-have for avid fans, this New York Times Notable Book includes “Bloodchild,” winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula awards and “Speech Sounds,” winner of the Hugo Award. Appearing in print for the first time, “Amnesty” is a story of a woman named Noah who works to negotiate the tense and co-dependent relationship between humans and a species of invaders. Also new to this collection is “The Book of Martha” which asks: What would you do if God granted you the ability—and responsibility—to save humanity from itself?
Like all of Octavia Butler’s best writing, these works of the imagination are parables of the contemporary world. She proves constant in her vigil, an unblinking pessimist hoping to be proven wrong, and one of contemporary literature’s strongest voices.
I’ve wanted to read a Butler book for a while but didn’t know where to start. Since I love short story collections so much though, I though this could be a good place to!
The Atmospherians by Alex McElroy
Fiction • Contemporary • Literary Fiction
Synopsis: Sasha Marcus was once the epitome of contemporary success: an internet sensation, social media darling, and a creator of a high profile wellness brand for women. But a confrontation with an abusive troll has taken a horrifying turn, and now she’s at rock bottom: canceled and doxxed online, fired from her waitress job and fortressed in her apartment while men’s rights protestors rage outside. All that once glittered now condemns.
Sasha confides in her oldest childhood friend, Dyson—a failed actor with a history of body issues—who hatches a plan for Sasha to restore her reputation by becoming the face of his new business venture, The Atmosphere: a rehabilitation community for men. Based in an abandoned summer camp and billed as a workshop for job training, it is actually a rigorous program designed to rid men of their toxic masculinity and heal them physically, emotionally, and socially. Sasha has little choice but to accept. But what horrors await her as the resident female leader of a crew of washed up, desperate men? And what exactly does Dyson want?
This cover is eye-catching! I saw Iyana’s @iyanagoestothelibrary review for this one which is hugely praising in nature so naturally I was really interested in it!
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen
Historical Fiction • Witches • Literary Fiction
Synopsis: Katharina is an illiterate widow, known by her neighbors for her herbal remedies and the success of her children, including her eldest, Johannes, who is the Imperial Mathematician and renowned author of the laws of planetary motion. It’s enough to make anyone jealous, and Katharina has done herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone’s business.
So when the deranged and insipid Ursula Reinbold (or as Katharina calls her, the Werewolf) accuses Katharina of offering her a bitter, witchy drink that has made her ill, Katharina is in trouble. Her scientist son must turn his attention from the music of the spheres to the job of defending his mother. Facing the threat of financial ruin, torture, and even execution, Katharina tells her side of the story to her friend and next-door neighbor Simon, a reclusive widower imperiled by his own secrets.
Drawing on real historical documents but infused with the intensity of imagination, sly humor, and intellectual fire for which Rivka Galchen is known, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch will both provoke and entertain. The story of how a community becomes implicated in collective aggression and hysterical fear is a tale for our time. Galchen’s bold new novel touchingly illuminates a society and a family undone by superstition, the state, and the mortal convulsions of history.
Totally grabbed by this title! I love books that feature ‘witches’ in the more realistic historical way, rather than in a magical fantasy way, so this one sounds right up my street!
The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts
Fiction • Historical Fiction • Australian Fiction
Synopsis: As she faces the open wilderness of adulthood, our narrator finds that the world around her is coming undone.
She works as an emergency dispatch operator, trapped in constant crisis as fires and floods rage across Australia. Her personal life is buckling under her self-destructive obsessions – she drinks heavily, sleeps with strangers, wanders the streets of Sydney at night, and pursues a disastrous affair with an ex-lover. Desperate and adrift, she yearns for change.
Building to a tightly controlled bushfire of ecological and personal crisis, The Inland Sea is a fierce and beautiful novel about the search for refuge in a state of emergency.
I‘m always drawn to Australian fiction, I just love the atmosphere of them. This one sounds a bit different to the kinds of books I normally read but I’m very intrigued and bought it from Waterstone’s recently.
The Divines by Ellie Eaton
Fiction • Contemporary • Literary Fiction
Synopsis: Can we ever really escape our past?
The girls of St John the Divine, an elite English boarding school, were notorious for flipping their hair, harassing teachers, chasing boys, and chain-smoking cigarettes. They were fiercely loyal, sharp-tongued, and cuttingly humorous in the way that only teenage girls can be. For Josephine, now in her thirties, the years at St John were a lifetime ago. She hasn’t spoken to another Divine in fifteen years, not since the day the school shuttered its doors in disgrace.
Yet now Josephine inexplicably finds herself returning to her old stomping grounds. The visit provokes blurry recollections of those doomed final weeks that rocked the community. Ruminating on the past, Josephine becomes obsessed with her teenage identity and the forgotten girls of her one-time orbit. With each memory that resurfaces, she circles closer to the violent secret at the heart of the school’s scandal. But the more Josephine recalls, the further her life unravels, derailing not just her marriage and career, but her entire sense of self.
I’m not 100% sure how I feel about books about boarding schools or dark academia but I sure do love a pink book cover!
The Removed by Brandon Hobson
Fiction • Contemporary • Literary Fiction • Magic Realism
Synopsis: In the fifteen years since their teenage son, Ray-Ray, was killed in a police shooting, the Echota family has been suspended in private grief. The mother, Maria, increasingly struggles to manage the onset of Alzheimer’s in her husband, Ernest. Their adult daughter, Sonja, leads a life of solitude, punctuated only by spells of dizzying romantic obsession. And their son, Edgar, fled home long ago, turning to drugs to mute his feelings of alienation.
With the family’s annual bonfire approaching—an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death, and a rare moment in which they openly talk about his memory—Maria attempts to call the family together from their physical and emotional distances once more. But as the bonfire draws near, each of them feels a strange blurring of the boundary between normal life and the spirit world. Maria and Ernest take in a foster child who seems to almost miraculously keep Ernest’s mental fog at bay. Sonja becomes dangerously fixated on a man named Vin, despite—or perhaps because of—his ties to tragedy in her lifetime and lifetimes before. And in the wake of a suicide attempt, Edgar finds himself in the mysterious Darkening Land: a place between the living and the dead, where old atrocities echo.
Drawing deeply on Cherokee folklore, The Removed seamlessly blends the real and spiritual to excavate the deep reverberations of trauma—a meditation on family, grief, home, and the power of stories on both a personal and ancestral level.
I love books that draw on folklore from all cultures so this synopsis grabbed me right away. I bought this one whilst on my trip away!
Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro (translated by Christina MacSweeney)
Horror • Fiction • Short Stories
Synopsis: Combining the gritty surrealism of David Lynch with the explosive interior meditations of Clarice Lispector, the stories in Elvira Navarro’s Rabbit Island traverse the fickle, often terrifying terrain between madness and freedom. In the title story, a so-called “non-inventor” conducts an experiment on an island inhabited exclusively by birds and is horrified by what the results portend. “Myotragus” bears witness to a man of privilege’s understanding of the world being violently disrupted by the sight of a creature long thought extinct. Elsewhere, an unsightly “paw” grows from a writer’s earlobe; a grandmother floats silently in the corner of a room.
These eleven stories from one of Granta’s “Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists” are psychogeographies of dingy hotel rooms, shape-shifting cities, and graveyards. They act as microscopes fixed upon the regions of our interior lives we often neglect, where the death of God and the failures of institutions have given way to alternative modes of making sense of the world. They are cracked bedroom mirrors. Do you like what you see?
Translated horror is some of my favourite. This sounds so damn good and I love the fluffy cover!
U Up? by Catie Disabato
Mystery • Fiction • Thriller
Synopsis: Eve has a carefully curated online life, works occasionally, and texts constantly with her best friend, Ezra. Basically, she is an archetypal L.A. millennial. She has also been carrying on a year-long conversation with her deceased friend Miggy over text. But when Ezra goes missing on the anniversary weekend of Miggy’s death, Eve feels like her world is shattering.
Over a frantic weekend Eve investigates Ezra’s disappearance, scouring social media for clues, while drowning her anger and anxiety in drinks, drugs, and spiritual cleansing. Eve starts to spiral as her friends try to convince her that she’s overreacting, and ghosts–both real and metaphorical–continue to haunt her. When she uncovers clues to a life Ezra kept hidden, Eve starts to question how much she really knows about her best friend… and herself.
I’m not even sure if this is a book I would like, despite it being a mystery/thriller. But I love books that play around with the traditional format of books so I would quite like to give this one a go.
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
Fiction • Historical Fiction • Literary Fiction • Contemporary
Synopsis: In Baxter Beach, Barbados, moneyed ex-pats clash with the locals who often end up serving them: braiding their hair, minding their children, and selling them drugs. Lala lives on the beach with her husband, Adan, a petty criminal with endless charisma whose thwarted burglary of one of the Baxter Beach mansions sets off a chain of events with terrible consequences. A gunshot no one was meant to witness. A new mother whose baby is found lifeless on the beach. A woman torn between two worlds and incapacitated by grief. And two men driven by desperation and greed who attempt a crime that will risk their freedom — and their lives.
I’ve seen some great reviews for this on Instagram! I love this cover edition so much too, it’s a shame that the UK editions are so ugly in comparison. I’ll definitely be seeking out a place to buy this US cover version someday soon!
Abundance by Jakob Guanzon
Fiction • Literary Fiction • Contemporary • Dark
Synopsis: Evicted from their trailer on New Year’s Eve, Henry and his son, Junior, have been reduced to living out of a pickup truck. Six months later, things are even more desperate. Henry, barely a year out of prison for pushing opioids, is down to his last pocketful of dollars, and little remains between him and the street. But hope is on the horizon: Today is Junior’s birthday, and Henry has a job interview tomorrow.
To celebrate, Henry treats Junior to dinner at McDonald’s, followed by a night in a real bed at a discount motel. For a moment, as Junior watches TV and Henry practices for his interview in the bathtub, all seems well. But after Henry has a disastrous altercation in the parking lot and Junior succumbs to a fever, father and son are sent into the night, struggling to hold things together and make it through tomorrow.
In an ingenious structural approach, Jakob Guanzon organizes Abundance by the amount of cash in Henry’s pocket. A new chapter starts with each debit and credit, and the novel expands and contracts, revealing the extent to which the quality of our attention is altered by the abundance—or lack thereof—that surrounds us. Set in an America of big-box stores and fast food, this incandescent debut novel trawls the fluorescent aisles of Walmart and the booths of Red Lobster to reveal the inequities and anxieties around work, debt, addiction, incarceration, and health care in America today.
I wasn’t initially drawn to this one due to the cover, but again, once I read it was structurally different to traditional novels, it had my interest. The reviews for it are pretty good too!
Eat the Mouth That Feeds You by Carribean Fragoza
Short Stories • Horror • Fiction
Synopsis: Carribean Fragoza’s imperfect characters are drawn with a sympathetic tenderness as they struggle against circumstances and conditions designed to defeat them. A young woman returns home from college, only to pick up exactly where she left off: a smart girl in a rundown town with no future. A mother reflects on the pain and pleasures of being inexorably consumed by her small daughter, whose penchant for ingesting grandma’s letters has extended to taking bites of her actual flesh. A brother and sister watch anxiously as their distraught mother takes an ax to their old furniture, and then to the backyard fence, until finally she attacks the family’s beloved lime tree.
Victories are excavated from the rubble of personal hardship, and women’s wisdom is brutally forged from the violence of history that continues to unfold on both sides of the US-Mexico border.
Not usually drawn to photos of people on covers, this one still managed to grab me by that title. Absolutely love the sound of this and ordered it recently on Wordery.
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar
Fiction • LGBT • Historical Fiction
Synopsis: Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.
One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.
As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.
This one does sound quite convoluted, but also a really unique and interesting story. Excited to see what this one is like as I bought it recently.
Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa
Fiction • Historical Fiction • Contemporary
Synopsis: As Nahr sits, locked away in solitary confinement, she spends her days reflecting on the dramatic events that landed her in prison in a country she barely knows. Born in Kuwait in the 70s to Palestinian refugees, she dreamed of falling in love with the perfect man, raising children, and possibly opening her own beauty salon. Instead, the man she thinks she loves jilts her after a brief marriage, her family teeters on the brink of poverty, she’s forced to prostitute herself, and the US invasion of Iraq makes her a refugee, as her parents had been. After trekking through another temporary home in Jordan, she lands in Palestine, where she finally makes a home, falls in love, and her destiny unfolds under Israeli occupation.
I’ve seen some great things said about this one on Instagram so I’m very intrigued by it!
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak (translated by Natalia Wiśniewska)
Fiction • Literary Fiction • Contemporary
Synopsis: For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her…
Charlie @otterly_bookish reviewed this one quite a while ago and it caught my attention straight away. I only added it to my Goodreads recently because I’m forgetful…
Phew! That’s round two done, part 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!!