Top Ten Tuesday: Freebie: The Last Ten Books I Acquired

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

Freebies can be a little intimidating to me – there are so many lists that I could forge, I find it all a little overwhelming! Sometimes it is nice to just be told what to do! The list of over 543 previous topics is just … wow!

So this week, it being May half term and the May bank holiday we are nearly at the half way point of the year – and with a couple of topics looking ahead coming up – I thought I would look back at the past few weeks and simply share the last ten books that I purchased., picked up or downloaded.

Unsettled Ground, Claire Fuller

What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant?

What would you do to get it back?

Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother’s secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

Whilst this is on my TBR on the strength of its inclusion in the Women’s Prize shortlist, I fear it may languish there for a while: something about the summary on the blurb doesn’t quite appeal… It also feels a little too similar to some of the others on this year’s shortlist.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Hot Stew, Fiona Mozley

Pungent, steamy, insatiable Soho; the only part of London that truly never sleeps. Tourists dawdling, chancers skulking, addicts shuffling, sex workers strutting, punters prowling, businessmen striding, the homeless and the lost. Down Wardour Street, ducking onto Dean Street, sweeping into L’Escargot, darting down quiet back alleyways, skirting dumpsters and drunks, emerging on to raucous main roads, fizzing with energy and riotous with life.

On a corner, sits a large townhouse, the same as all its neighbours. But this building hosts a teeming throng of rich and poor, full from the basement right up to the roof terrace. Precious and Tabitha call the top floors their home but it’s under threat; its billionaire-owner Agatha wants to kick the women out to build expensive restaurants and luxury flats. Men like Robert, who visit the brothel, will have to go elsewhere. Those like Cheryl, who sleep in the basement, will have to find somewhere else to hide after dark. But the women won’t go quietly. Soho is their turf and they are ready for a fight.

This, which like Unsettled Ground, I downloaded literally today sounds much more meaty – and reminds me of Sarah Waters.

Genre: Literary Fiction

At Night, All Blood Is Black, David Diop

Alfa and Mademba are two of the many Senegalese soldiers fighting in the Great War. Together they climb dutifully out of their trenches to attack France’s German enemies whenever the whistle blows, until Mademba is wounded, and dies in a shell hole with his belly torn open.

Without his more-than-brother, Alfa is alone and lost amidst the savagery of the conflict. He devotes himself to the war, to violence and death, but soon begins to frighten even his own comrades in arms. How far will Alfa go to make amends to his dead friend?

Speaking of meaty, I began this book today and it launched straight into the death of Madema, lying in a shellhole in No Man’s Land trying to keep his intestines inside his belly… It wasn’t what I wanted to delve into on a warm gorgeous bank holiday, so I have put it to one side for now.

Genre: Literary Fiction

When We Cease to Understand the World, Benjamín Labatut

Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger: these are among the luminaries into whose troubled minds we are thrust as they grapple with the most profound questions of existence. They have strokes of unparalleled genius, they alienate friends and lovers, they descend into isolated states of madness. Some of their discoveries revolutionise our world for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering. The lines are never clear.

With breakneck pace and wondrous detail, Benjamín Labatut uses the imaginative resources of fiction to break open the stories of scientists and mathematicians who expanded our notions of the possible.

Yes, both these have been picked up for their places on the International Booker shortlist – often a more interesting collection than the standard Booker lists in my humble opinion. And this sounds definitely intriguing…

Genre: Literary Fiction

The Dinner Guest, B. P. Walter

Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen.

And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.

I picked this one up on the strength of a recommendation by staff in my local Waterstones… I have read this one (review to follow) and was not impressed… plot twists need a little more prep work in my opinion, and character development needs some care and credibility.

Genre: Thriller

The Beautiful Ones, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis: the haphazard manifestations of her powers have long made her the subject of gossip – malicious neighbours even call her the Witch of Oldhouse.

But Nina’s life is about to change, for there is a new arrival in town: Hector Auvray, the renowned entertainer, who has used his own telekinetic talent to perform for admiring audiences around the world. Nina is dazzled by Hector, for he sees her not as a witch, but ripe with magical potential. Under his tutelage, Nina’s talent blossoms – as does her love for the great man.

But great romances are for fairy-tales, and Hector is hiding a secret bitter truth from Nina – and himself – that threatens their courtship.

Two things: THIS is a gorgeous cover! And also, Mexican Gothic was great! Gothic socialites sounds potentially thrilling. And also, that cover.

Genre: Gothic? Historical? Moreno-Garcia does seem to love blending genres. Of this novel, she writes on Goodreads

For people who only know me for Mexican Gothic, I should warn you all my books tend to straddle different genres and have a very different feel for one another. This is very much a novel of manners and a romance, much closer in tone to Gods of Jade and Shadow than some of my other work and very far from Mexican Gothic.

Sistersong, Lucy Holland

King Cador’s children inherit a land abandoned by the Romans, torn by warring tribes. Riva can cure others, but can’t heal her own scars. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, although born a daughter. And Sinne dreams of love, longing for adventure.

All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold, their people’s last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. However, change comes on the day ash falls from the sky – bringing Myrdhin, meddler and magician. The siblings discover the power that lies within them and the land. But fate also brings Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear them apart.

Riva, Keyne and Sinne become entangled in a web of treachery and heartbreak, and must fight to forge their own paths. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.

Retellings and re-imaginings, yes please… for me though – despite it being a recommendation by my boss – this does not grip me. But I am willing to give it a try.

Genre: Historical

Q, Christina Dalcher

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s new elite schools. Her daughters are exactly like her: beautiful, ambitious, and perfect. A good thing, since the recent mandate that’s swept the country is all about perfection.

Now everyone must undergo routine tests for their quotient, Q, and any children who don’t measure up are placed into new government schools. Instead, teachers can focus on the gifted.
Elena tells herself it’s not about eugenics, not really, but when one of her daughters scores lower than expected and is taken away, she intentionally fails her own test to go with her.
But what Elena discovers is far more terrifying than she ever imagined…

Another novel that I am willing to give a chance to – is there a novel I wouldn’t?! – but with rather low expectations: I didn’t find Dalcher’s Vox terribly well thought through.

Genre: Dystopian

Rosy & John, Pierre Lemaitre

Jean Garnier lives on the fringes – a lonely nobody who has lost everything dear to him. His girlfriend was killed in an unexplained accident, his mother has just been sent to prison – he has even lost his job after the sudden death of his boss.

In one last, desperate cry for help, Jean sets up seven lethal bombs, hidden all over Paris and timed so that one will explode every 24 hours.

After the first detonation, Jean gives himself up to the police. He has one simple demand: his mother must be released, or the daily explosions will continue.

Camille Verhoeven is faced with a race against time to uncover the secrets of this troubled young man and avert a massive human disaster.

Compared to Dalcher, Lemaitre is an author I really enjoyed: Blood Wedding was one of the most gripping and taut thrillers I have read for a long time, and on the back of that I have picked up his Camille Verhoeven trilogy – Irene, Alex and Camille which becomes I suppose a tetralogy with the release of this one. It may take a while to get to as I still have two books in the original trilogy to go!

Genre: Thriller

Sorrowland, Rivers Solomon

Vern, a hunted woman alone in the woods, gives birth to twins and raises them away from the influence of the outside world. But something is wrong – not with them, but with her own body. It’s changing, it’s stronger, it’s not normal.

To understand her body’s metamorphosis, Vern must investigate the secluded religious compound from which she fled and the violent history of dehumanisation, medical experimentation and genocide that produced it. In the course of reclaiming her own darkness, Vern learns that monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire histories, systems and nations.

This seems intriguing and I do love a bit of body metamorphosis when I am in the mood…

Genre: Literary Fiction.

So, there we have the last ten books I acquired. A lot of which – Rivers Solomon, Lucy Holland, Benjamín Labatut, David Diop, Claire Fuller – are new-to-me authors. It would be great if you could let me know which ones you have read and why you loved (or didn’t love) them!

Have a great TTT!

  • June 8: Books I Loved that Made Me Want More Books Like Them (The wording is weird here, so if you have a better way to say this please let me know! What I’m thinking is… you read a book and immediately wanted more just like it, perhaps in the same genre, about the same topic or theme, by the same author, etc. For example, I once read a medical romance and then went to find more because it was so good. The same thing happened to me with pirate historical romances and romantic suspense.)
  • June 15: Books On My Summer 2021 TBR (or winter, if you live in the southern hemisphere)
  • June 22: Bookish Wishes (My birthday is today, so celebrate with me by granting the wishes of your friends! This is a popular thing to do on Twitter, but today we’re blog hopping. List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to a wishlist so that people can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader so people know how to get the book to you. After you post, jump around the Linky and grant a wish or two if you’d like. Don’t feel obligated!)
  • June 29: Most Anticipated Books of the Second Half of 2021
  • July 6: Reasons Why I Love Reading

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