My 2018 Reading List (So Far)

I’m looking forward to a busy and exciting year of reading in 2018. First, I’m intrigued by some of the Wench Books of the Month scheduled throughout the year. I’m halfway through the first one as I write this — The Woman in the Window — and riveted by the mystery and suspense. I am a complete sucker for a good thriller with an unreliable narrator!

There’s also an assortment of books awaiting my attention on my e-reader, and I’d like to tell you about the ones I’m most interested in right now. The list is still heavy with my last-year’s favorite dystopian, post-apocalyptic themes and complex fantasy worlds. But there’s room for the occasional thriller or literary work completely unrelated to my usual fare, and some rereads of old favorites, and I’m delighted that PNR/UF is making a bit of a comeback for me!

As excited as I am about this list, I should mention that I can’t promise I’ll stick strictly to it. Because I can be a bit fickle, easily distracted, and shamelessly susceptible to the allure of cool-looking covers and shiny new characters that entice me to follow, then lure me astray....


New book?!




The Power

Naomi Alderman
In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power — they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.

I grabbed this book the instant I read about it in an article about new book recommendations. My intense interest no doubt reflects the lingering effects of watching The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace last year. What some call the Atwood Effect, after the author of the books those shows were based on. The next book in my list fits the same category, very different story.

I was most pleasantly surprised to see The Power on the 2017 reading list that President Obama shared last month.

Future Home of the Living God

Louise Erdrich
The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant. [snip]

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

Like the previous book, I grabbed this the instant I read about it in the same article. The Atwood Effect is hard to cure, and I don’t want to.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Gail Honeyman
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a quirky yet lonely woman whose social misunderstandings and deeply ingrained routines could be changed forever — if she can bear to confront the secrets she has avoided all her life. But if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship — and even love — after all.

I bought this for the same reason I bought The Dry when I read about both in an article: Reese Witherspoon’s production company bought the screen rights. I loved The Dry and hope to write a review. But whenever I read the description for this book, it doesn’t grab me. I’m determined to read it though, because I saw both books on all kinds of best-of-2017 lists, and I’d be all kinds of shocked if I didn’t like it. So far I’ve liked Witherspoon’s other book-to-screen projects.

The Book of Joan

Lidia Yuknavitch
In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet’s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin.

Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule — galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one—not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself — can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations.

A riveting tale of destruction and love found in direst of places — even at the extreme end of post-human experience — Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan raises questions about what it means to be human, the fluidity of sex and gender, and the role of art as means for survival.

I can’t remember how I found this book, but every time I forget it, it shows up on another “best of” list and I have to go remind myself what it’s about. (No, I realize again, I didn’t buy it only because my sister-in-law’s name is Joan.) I’m intrigued by the disturbing spin on Joan of Arc’s story, and I’m hoping that including it in this post will remind me to read it!

Borne

Jeff VanderMeer
In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.

At first, Borne looks like nothing at all — just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.

Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells — she cannot break that bond.

Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind — or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.

Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?

Well, alrighty then. Are you as mystified as me? This is by the same author who wrote the complete weirdness that is the Southern Reach trilogy. Book 1, the Nebula-award-winning Annihilation, blew me away with one of the most imaginative landscapes/characters/I’m not quite sure what that I’ve ever encountered. The reason I haven’t reviewed the trilogy is that I am still trying to figure out WTH I read. Seriously. Yet here I am, ready to dive back in to the supremely batshit bizarre mind of VanderMeer with his most recent novel. Which, and I realize I sound like a broken record digital feedback loop, is on all kinds of best-of-2017 lists!

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth series)

N.K. Jemisin
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS. AGAIN.

Three terrible things happen in a single day.

Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.

She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

The whole time I was marveling at the incomprehensible indescribability of the Southern Reach trilogy, Wench Merit kept telling me she could use the exact same words about the Broken Earth trilogy! So how could I resist? I’ve learned over the years that I usually love the books she loves! And, of course, this whole series is on lots of lists. The first two books have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and many fans expect the third book to do the same.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass series)

Sarah J. Maas
When magic has gone from the world, and a vicious king rules from his throne of glass, an assassin comes to the castle. She does not come to kill, but to win her freedom. If she can defeat twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition to find the greatest assassin in the land, she will become the King’s Champion and be released from prison. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her.

And a princess from a foreign land will become the one thing Celaena never thought she’d have again: a friend.

But something evil dwells in the castle — and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying, horribly, one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival — and a desperate quest to root out the source of the evil before it destroys her world.

This has been on my e-reader ever since Wench Merit reviewed it a couple of years ago, but I haven’t been in much of a PNR/YA fantasy mood. In the meantime, Maas published her A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Over the Christmas holidays, innumerable members of Outlander and Fever groups I follow on Facebook were reading ACOTAR and raving about it. (The Moning Maniacs group created a whole new Facebook group dedicated to reading Maas’s series.) So I jumped on the bandwagon, and I absolutely loved it! I haven’t felt that way about a PNR (IMHO not really YA) series in forever. Yet another of Wench Merit’s spot-on recommendations! And now I can’t wait to read Throne of Glass!

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy series)

Ilona Andrews
Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career — a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan — a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

I actually read this book 3+ years ago, when it came out, and by the time the other two books were published, I’d completely forgotten the story. But I hear from reliable sources (most of the Wenches, practically everybody else who has read it, and all the interwebs) that this is a most excellent series. So I promise to treat myself to it very soon!

The Paper Swan

Leylah Attar
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit.

They lie.

For 21 days she held on.

But on Day 22, she would have given anything for the sweet slumber of death.

Because on Day 22, she realizes that her only way out means certain death for one of the two men she loves.

A haunting tale of passion, loss, and redemption, The Paper Swan is a darkly intense yet heartwarming love story, textured with grit, intrigue, and suspense.

Because Wench Barb is probably getting tired of telling me to read it! (Here’s her review.) And because I loved Mists of the Serengeti so incredibly much. (Here’s that review, plus it was in our best-of-2017 list.)

And last but not least, I plan to save time for...

Outlander series

Diana Gabaldon
Because Droughtlander is long and arduous. I’m going through withdrawals now that season 3 of the Starz TV series is over. I believe the doctor is recommending yet another reread of Voyager (but who’s counting?) and then a leisurely wallow indulgence in Drums of Autumn while I wait. For season 4. And book 9, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. And, as long as I’m wishing, The Winds of Winter (A Song of Ice and Fire #6).

You probably already know that I’d drop just about anything I was reading like a hot potato if either of those last two books were released!

What’s on your 2018 reading list, Saucy Readers? I hope you’ll share with us! We’re always looking for a great new distraction read!

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