Bailey’s Women’s Prize For Fiction

All posts in the Bailey’s Women’s Prize For Fiction category

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

Published September 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

What did I think?:

I’ve put off reading this book for absolutely ages purely because of the hype surrounding it and I was slightly concerned that I wasn’t going to love it as much as everyone else seems to. It was long-listed in 2016 for the Women’s Prize For Fiction, one of my favourite literary prizes and I’ve heard other reviewers whose opinions I totally respect raving about it. So, I bit the bullet and finally did it and am I glad I did! I’ve always been slightly tentative about reading science fiction but after reading the amazing The Sparrow it proved to me that science fiction doesn’t always have to be intimidating, if it’s done in the right way. The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet is an incredible adventure in space with a host of fascinating characters that I instantly fell in love with and whom I feel that I know inside and out, almost as if they weren’t fictional fantasies at all.

The story follows a crew in space on board their ship, The Wayfarer whose purpose it is to tunnel, build and make connections between different parts of the galaxy. They have recently had a new member of staff onto the ship, Rosemary who will play a clerking role alongside the captain, Ashby, the engineering crew Kissy and Jenks, the pilot Sissix, grumpy algae-protector Corbin, the chef and doctor Dr Chef, the ship Artificial Intelligence Lovey and Ohan the navigator. The crew welcome Rosemary into their midst and she quickly becomes part of the family. Then the crew are given an opportunity to make more money with a rather dangerous job near an unstable planet with a potentially hostile alien species. They must pull together and work as a team if they are to complete the mission and maintain their reputation. However, all members of the crew have their own secrets and concerns and not all of them may survive the process in the same shape as when they began.

There’s a multitude of characters in this novel (nine “main” ones in fact)- do not be put off by this, it’s not long at all before you figure out who everyone is and what role they play in the narrative. I honestly don’t think I’ve read a book for a long time where each character is fleshed out so perfectly. Each of them had their own little quirks and foibles and I absolutely loved them for this and, as I mentioned before, felt like I knew them all intimately by the end of the novel. It has the most wonderful mixture of action-packed sequences and slower, more methodical scenes and as I was reading it, I was almost comparing it in my mind to the most expensive and exquisite three course dinner where each course is so delightful it just deserves to be savoured over a longer period of time. One of the best things about this novel was how diverse and unique our protagonists and indeed, the world the author created was. We have a range of different species, sexual preferences, races and ethnic backgrounds living (mostly) in harmony with each other and it was captivating to read about the variety of things that made them special. I would recommend this novel to anybody who is a little bit scared of science fiction and enjoys a terrific character study with a dash of eccentricity. I’ve put the second book in the duology A Closed And Common Orbit on my wishlist already and can’t wait to catch up with this astounding set of characters once more.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Five Star TBR Pile Predictions

Published August 22, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from http://lithub.com/in-praise-of-the-book-tower/

Hello everyone and welcome to something a bit different on my blog today. One of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings recently posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts! Without further ado, I’ve picked five books from my TBR that I think will be five star reads for me and I’ll give you a little bit of background information about how I got the book and why I think I might give it five stars.

1.) Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

Stay With Me came across my radar when it was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction earlier this year. I was lucky enough to attend an event where I got to hear the short-listed authors read from their books and answer some questions. I had already heard brilliant things about this book from reviewers whose opinions I really respect and trust but hearing the author speak on the night had me determined that this book was going to be great. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly because people with very similar reading tastes to my own have praised it to the heavens and I’m anticipating I’m going to feel exactly the same way.

2.) The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

Mercy from Mercy’s Bookish Musings is responsible for my interest in this little beauty. She raved about it in a recent video and after hearing her review, I knew I had to have it. I mean, check out this opening:

“Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.”

Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Again, a great review from a person with similar reading tastes to my own, the dark content and that opening is just too intriguing to resist.

3.) The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber

This book has been languishing on my TBR for a ridiculous amount of time and it’s about time it gets read! I’m a big fan of Michel Faber, especially after his beautiful novel, The Crimson Petal And The White and I’ve been looking forward to reading this for the longest time. I feel like it’s going to be a bit like The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, both of which I loved. I understand Michel Faber is either taking a break from writing or has said that he’s not going to write any more novels at all and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting off reading this book – I just don’t want to admit to myself that I’m never going to read anything new by him again! Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly due to the premise which immediately pulled me in and I have to say, that gorgeous cover. Okay I know, never judge a book by its cover! (But I do!).

4.) The Bear And The Nightingale – Katherine Arden

I’ve been coveting this book ever since I first saw it in a bookshop – I mean, just look at that cover! There’s a few buzz words that will guarantee I’ll buy a book and some of them are “fairy tale,” “Russian,” “with a dark edge,” and this book has all these things, I’m certain it’s going to be gorgeous. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? It looks to have everything I would want from a novel and yep…..that cover again!

5.) Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts And Daring To Act Differently – Emer O’Toole

I love a bit of non-fiction, especially when it’s a topic that fascinates me, in this case gender stereotypes and feminist issues. There have been some brilliant reviews of this book and I can’t wait to get to it. I think it’s going to be interesting, eye-opening and I’m hoping to learn a lot too. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Probably because of the subject matter which I’m always hungry for and the fact that I’ve heard nothing but good things.

So that’s five books from my TBR which I think (and hope!) are going to be five star reads for me in the future. I’ll get on with reading them in the next few months and then I’ll be back with a wrap up post where I’ll let you know if I was right in my predictions or not. I will also be reviewing each book separately as always but I’ll do that after my wrap up post so as to not give anything away ahead of time. 

Make sure to check out Mercy’s video on her channel to see which books she has predicted will be five star reads for her. If anyone else wants to do this, I would absolutely love to see your choices, please leave a link to your post (or just tell me your choices) in the comments section below!

 

Mini Pin-It Reviews #12 – Four Random Books

Published August 19, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four random books for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) City Of Thieves – David Benioff

What’s it all about?:

From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival — and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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2.) Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) – Jeff VanderMeer

What’s it all about?:

Winner of the 2015 Nebula Award.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

3.) Beyond Black – Hilary Mantel

What’s it all about?:

Alison Hart is a medium by trade. But her ability to communicate with spirits is a torment rather than a gift. Behind her plump, smiling and bland public persona is a desperate woman. Her days and nights are haunted by the men she knew in her childhood, the thugs and petty criminals who preyed upon her hopeless, addled mother, Emmie. And the more she tries to be rid of them, the stronger and nastier they become.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) How To Be Both – Ali Smith

What’s it all about?:

Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith’s novels are like nothing else. A true original, she is a one-of-a-kind literary sensation. Her novels consistently attract serious acclaim and discussion—and have won her a dedicated readership who are drawn again and again to the warmth, humanity and humor of her voice.

How to be both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a Renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real—and all life’s givens get given a second chance.

A NOTE TO THE READER:
Who says stories reach everybody in the same order?
This novel can be read in two ways and this book provides you with both.
In half of all printed editions of the novel the narrative EYES comes before CAMERA.
In the other half of printed editions the narrative CAMERA precedes EYES.
The narratives are exactly the same in both versions, just in a different order.

The books are intentionally printed in two different ways, so that readers can randomly have different experiences reading the same text. So, depending on which edition you happen to receive, the book will be: EYES, CAMERA, or CAMERA, EYES. Enjoy the adventure.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four YA Novels.

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Published August 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

What did I think?:

If you’ve not heard of A Little Life before now where the devil have you been? Critically acclaimed, this incredibly powerful novel was short-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction in 2015, was a finalist for the National Book Award in the same year and won the Kirkus Prize in Fiction, also in 2015. I jumped on the bandwagon a bit later (as usual!) in February of 2016 but because of my back-log in reviews I’m only getting round to reviewing it now. There is also the minor fact that I can’t seem to form any coherent thoughts about it without wanting to turn into a blubbering mess but we’ll leave that to the side for now!

A Little Life is not an easy read, far from it and as a result may not be for everyone. There are trigger warnings for physical and sexual abuse but the entire novel felt like an insanely emotional roller-coaster for me. The story follows four friends in New York and we learn a little bit about each of their lives and the bonds of friendship that tie them all together. However, we mainly hear from Willem and more specifically Jude, the latter of whom has undergone major trauma and suffering in his past – trauma that still deeply affects him in his everyday life, threatens to spoil his future happiness and has the potential to ruin relationships with those dearest to him. Throughout the novel, we learn more about what Jude’s mammoth struggles, both in the past and in the present, learn more about him as an individual and, in the end, suffer with him as it seems like his disturbing past will be a cross to carry for the rest of his life.

As I mentioned earlier this book is incredibly harrowing and deals with some intensely difficult subjects. If you find abject misery and trauma hard to read about, this book might not be for you. I hesitate to say that I “enjoyed” this book, enjoy is not quite the right word as the topics I read about were so awful at times I found it hard to keep turning the pages. It’s quite strange, by about fifty pages in, I honestly couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and was seriously considering putting it down. Yet by about one hundred pages, I was completely invested in the characters and their lives and if someone had tried to tear the book out of my hands, there might have been trouble! This might sound very silly but it’s a novel where when I finished it, I actually felt changed as a person and that feeling has stayed with me over a year later as have the characters of Willem and Jude. I can’t stop thinking about them or about the fact that I know what it feels like now to have your heart break into pieces when you read an astounding story such as this.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction Longlist Revealed!

Published March 18, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk

The Baileys Prize for fiction (previously known as the Orange prize) was first established in 1996 and celebrates work from female authors all over the world. The long-list for 2016 was announced on Tuesday 8th March and it looks so amazing that I just had to set myself a little challenge. Yes, to read the long-list! I’ve got a little head start as I finished A Little Life recently and plan to read The Glorious Heresies as part of my Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC review copy month in April as I was lucky enough to receive a copy a while back from Book Bridgr. Here are the titles long-listed this year with a mini description of each as I take the best bits from the GoodReads synopsis:

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Kate Atkinson: A God in Ruins

A companion novel to Life After Life focusing on Ursula’s younger brother Teddy as he faces living in a future he never expected to have.

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Shirley Barrett: Rush Oh!

A debut novel about a young woman coming of age in one of the harshest whaling seasons in the history of New South Wales. Family struggles, sibling rivalries, first love and a bit of a “dark side” this novel blends both fact and fiction to celebrate an extraordinary episode in history.

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Cynthia Bond: Ruby

Beautiful Ruby Bell has suffered beyond imagining and flees her small town for New York in the 1950’s. When a telegram requests her return she is forced to confront the devastating violence in her childhood.

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Geraldine Brooks: The Secret Chord

The Old Testament’s King David is brought to life in Second Iron Age Israel through the eyes of those who love and fear him. A beautifully written saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal and power.

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Becky Chambers: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this novel tells the tale of nine different characters somewhere in our crowded sky. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

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Jackie Copleton: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

Amaterasu Takahashi opens her door to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing.

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Rachel Elliott: Whispers Through a Megaphone

Miriam hasn’t left her house in three years, and cannot raise her voice above a whisper while Ralph has opened a closet door to discover his wife doesn’t love him and never has. A chance meeting of the two explores their attempts to meaningfully connect with themselves and others, in an often deafening world – when sometimes all they need is a bit of silence.

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Anne Enright: The Green Road

Spanning thirty years and three continents, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigan family, and her four children. When Christmas Day reunites the children under one roof, each confronts the terrible weight of family ties and the journey that brought them home. The Green Road is a major work of fiction about the battles we wage for family, faith, and love.

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Petina Gappah: The Book of Memory

Memory, the narrator of The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life.

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Vesna Goldsworthy: Gorsky

London dances to the tune of Gorsky’s billions. The most enigmatic of oligarchs, Gorsky has been led to the city by his love for Natalia, whom he first knew in Russia. That she is now married to an Englishman is an inconvenient detail. When Gorsky’s armour-plated car halts in front of a down-at-heel bookshop, the startled young man behind the till receives the commission of a lifetime. The bookseller suddenly gains privileged access to the wealthy and the beautiful; a world filled with delectable books but fraught with danger…

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Clio Gray: The Anatomist’s Dream

Philbert is born with a ‘taupe’, a disfiguring inflammation of the skull. Abandoned by both parents and with only a pet pig for company, he eventually finds refuge and companionship in a travelling carnival, Maulwerf’s Fair of Wonders. But then Philbert meets Kwert, ‘Tospirologist and Teller of Signs’, and when he persuades the boy to undergo examination by the renowned physician and craniometrist, Dr Ullendorf, both Kwert and Philbert embark on an altogether darker and more perilous journey that will have far-reaching consequences for a whole nation.

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Melissa Harrison: At Hawthorn Time

An exquisite and intimate novel about four people’s lives and our changing relationship with nature. As the lives of these four people overlap, we realize that mysterious layers of history are not only buried within them, but also locked into the landscape. A captivating novel, At Hawthorn Time is about what it means to belong—to family, to community, and to place—and about what it is to take our own, long road into the unknown.

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Attica Locke: Pleasantville

In this sophisticated thriller, lawyer Jay Porter, hero of Locke’s bestseller Black Water Rising, returns to fight one last case, only to become embroiled once again in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win. With a man’s life and his own reputation on the line, Jay is about to try his first murder in a case that will also put an electoral process on trial, exposing the dark side of power and those determined to keep it.

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Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies

One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.

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Elizabeth McKenzie: The Portable Veblen

The Portable Veblen is a dazzlingly original novel that’s as big-hearted as it is laugh-out-loud funny. Set in and around Palo Alto, amid the culture clash of new money and old (anti-establishment) values, and with the spectre of our current wars looming across its pages, The Portable Veblen is an unforgettable look at the way we live now. Throughout, Elizabeth McKenzie asks: Where do our families end and we begin? How do we stay true to our ideals? And what is that squirrel really thinking? Replete with deadpan photos and sly appendices, The Portable Veblen is at once an honest inquiry into what we look for in love and an electrifying reading experience.

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Sara Nović: Girl at War

Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Jurić is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival. Ten years later Ana is haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost.

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Julia Rochester: The House at the Edge of the World

Shortly after their eighteenth birthday, twins Morwenna and Corwin’s father dies accidentally (and ignominiously) when he falls off a cliff, drunk. Over the past fifty years, Matthew has meticulously painted every important event in the family’s life on top of an ordnance survey chart. Part record and part legend, the map has been a subject of fascination to Morwenna and Corwin for as long as they can remember. But is there a deeper meaning hidden among the tiny pictures of shipwrecks, asps and farting devils, and could it lead them closer to what really happened to their father all those years ago?

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Hannah Rothschild: The Improbability of Love

Annie McDee, alone after the disintegration of her long-term relationship and trapped in a dead-end job, is searching for a present for her unsuitable lover in a neglected second-hand shop. Annie stumbles across ‘The Improbability of Love’, a lost masterpiece by Antoine Watteau, one of the most influential French painters of the eighteenth century. Soon Annie is drawn unwillingly into the art world, and finds herself pursued by a host of interested parties that would do anything to possess her picture. In her search for the painting’s true identity, Annie will uncover the darkest secrets of European history – and in doing so, she will learn more about herself, opening up to the possibility of falling in love again.

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Elizabeth Strout: My Name is Lucy Barton

In My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter. Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

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Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

I’m loving this list and can’t wait to get stuck in! I’m particularly intrigued and looking forward to A God In Ruins which I got as a Christmas present from my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads, A Dictionary Of Mutual Understanding (love anything remotely Japanese based), Girl at War and The House At The Edge Of The World which I have copies of from NetGalley, The Book Of Memory which I have as a Goldsboro Book Of The Month customer, The Improbability of Love which has been on my radar for a while now and The Anatomist’s Dream which looks fascinating. But hey – don’t they all look great? I’m championing A Little Life at the moment (review to come at some point) which was so amazing I don’t have enough words to describe my love for it. That could all change however once I’ve read the complete long-list!

Have you read any of these titles or which ones are you excited about? Let’s have a chat about it in the comments below!