Vivatramp

adventures, books & creative lifestyle.

End Of Year TBR



[#AD - This post contains a couple of books that I bought with a book token that was sent to me by the folk at Books Are My Bag to help celebrate #BookshopDay last month. The rest were bought by me because I deserved them. All opinions are my own and most of them are quite good.]


2020 has been a year.

As you may know, I've been shielding for the majority as I'm immuno-compromised so I've had a little bit of extra time to read. 

Since we're now in the second lockdown of the year here in Somerset and I have no plans to go anywhere, I figured I'd show you some of the books I'd like to get to before the year is through. 

You're very welcome to leave your own list below. 




01.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett*

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. 

Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect? 

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. 

Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins. 

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The Vanishing Half has been here, there and everywhere of late and I'm so looking forward to dedicating an afternoon to it soon, especially as the stories intersect with one another and cover multiple perspectives and generations. 

I had intended to read Passing by Nella Larsen first so I could better appreciate the ways in which passing and white privilege have been written about over the years but all plans and intentions have exited the building this year.

So many people hold this book in high regard and that has bumped it up to the top of my TBR. 


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02.

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa* 

On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island's inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten.

When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.

A surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss.

//


I feel like this novel would've been right up my street a few years ago when I was on a dystopia kick but, for whatever reason, the concept of this novel still intrigued me enough to want to pick it up even though my taste has somewhat shifted in recent years.

Memory and the things we lose, as well as those that we hang onto, are things I find myself thinking about often - especially as my PTSD drags me back and forth between the past, present and future on a semi-regular basis.

If this blurb pays off, The Memory Police could be a really powerful meditation on those very things. I do worry that it'll be a little too surreal for my tastes these days but I'm willing to suspend belief, especially during these extremely odd times. 



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03.

One By One by Ruth Ware 


Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cosy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

//


So, here's the thing. 

I've read two books by Ruth Ware and neither did anything exceptional for me so it might seem a little weird that I'm once again dipping my toe into the Ware waters but...sometimes I'm not asking for much. 

When it comes to thrillers, I'm either looking for something with a really clever plot that totally floors me or I'm looking for something with an interesting enough concept that'll keep me intrigued for a couple of afternoons. 

And so I find myself in the possession of Ware's latest offering, One by One. Do I think it'll leave a lasting impression on me? No, but it sounds like perfect lazy afternoon fodder and, therefore, I'm sold. 


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04.

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole 

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighbourhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbours she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbour Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbours may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?
 

//


My current read.

I typically gravitate towards psychological reads but I couldn't pass up this sociopolitical thriller. 

I found it especially intriguing that the author typically writes romance novels. Whilst that might alarm a lot of thriller readers, as it's such a difficult genre to get right as the plotting has been to so measured and precise, it suggested to me that she had something important to say that couldn't wait and I admired that.

I'm halfway through and it's safe to say that gentrification, hysterical Karens and the white-washing of Black communities really hold their own in terms of building a burning sense of tension and threat. 

These things, however, are not literary devices. They're very real threats that exist and oppress huge swathes of people on a daily basis. Whilst I was, of course, aware of gentrification and its impact on culture, history and livelihoods, this novel has encouraged me to appreciate the myriad of ways in which it plays out in real-time - how and why an area moves from A to B and what tactics are employed along the way. 

I'm interested to see where the latter half takes me.



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05.

Saltwater by Jessica Andrews

Lucy is lost. Growing up in the northeast she wanted more. When others were thinking about the Nissan factory or call centres she was thinking about Pete Doherty, poetry and the possibilities London seemed to offer. University was the way out, her ticket to the promised land – where she’d become a shinier version of herself, where her nights would be gigs and parties and long exciting conversations about Judith Butler.

But once she gets there Lucy can’t help feeling that the big city isn’t for her, and once again she is striving, only this time it’s for the right words, the right clothes, the right foods. No matter what she tries she’s not right. Until she is. In that last year of her degree the city opens up to her, she is saying the right things, doing the right things. Until her parents visit for her graduation and events show her that her life has always been about pretending and now she’s lost all sense of who she is and what she’s supposed to be doing.

And so Lucy packs up her things and leaves again, this time for her dead Irish grandfather’s stone cottage in a remote part of Donegal. There, alone, she sets about piecing together her history hoping that in confronting where she came from she will know where she should be going. Saltwater is a novel about growing up, about class, about how where we come from shapes who we become, and about the aimless periods we all go through. And it’s about the northeast, mothers and daughters, history and pre-destiny.
 

//


I'm not afraid of poetic, introspective writing styles but I do find I need to be in a very specific mood to be able to get the most out of them.

I've read the first 30-odd pages or so of this novel a couple of times now and they've intrigued me but it never felt like the right time. I was always looking for something linear and 'easy' but I feel like the colder months offer me the best opportunity to dedicate larger blocks of time to reading something so intimate and honest. 


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06.

The Wych Elm by Tana French

One night changes everything for Toby. A brutal attack leaves him traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at the family's ancestral home, the Ivy House, filled with cherished memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins.

But not long after Toby's arrival, a discovery is made. A skull tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden.

As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself.

//


Weird ancestral houses. Weird families. Weird goings-on. What more could I want from a thriller at this time of year?!

This is a standalone novel from prolific crime writer Tana French. 

I decided to start here with her because I didn't want the commitment of jumping in with a series when I'm not mad about crime novels. I've read a few reviews that have said this book isn't as good as the series but I'll reserve judgment for now.

I'm going to save this one for a cold, rainy weekend in December.  



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What's on your end of 2020 TBR? 

Feel free to leave your list below to give me something interesting to read whilst I delete all the spam comments I'll inevitably receive.

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Comments

  1. I'm behind on all my Book Box Club books so I'm going to reading them! I have three left to go! I also have some books from NetGallery to read. Currently reading Rachel Bloom's new book!

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  2. I had the chance to read so much this year, and it seems like I will have even more time until the end of it, haha. Currently reading "The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom" as I am trying to get more into yoga, mindfulness, etc. Looking forward to reading "I'll be gone in the dark" and Anne Rice's "The Witching Hour"!

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