Friday, February 21, 2020

7 Books To Read This Year: Guest Post from Desiree Villena

Today we have a guest post from Desiree Villena.

I must admit, I have not read any of her seven choices, so I'll have to add them to my own lenghty TBR list. Here's Desiree's recommendations for your 2020 reading.

7 Books to Read This Year

Spring might be right around the corner, but the year’s still young—and now’s the perfect time to check in on your reading goals for 2020. Whether you’re breezing through your TBR like a champ or getting a slow start since life got in the way, you can still make this your best reading year yet!

From buzzy Big 5 memoirs to dazzling indie adventures, here are seven books to help you ring in a new decade of reading. Keep the momentum going or turn over a new leaf (of a book)—you can make 2020 a literary year to remember.

1. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray                                                                     

This gorgeous contemporary novel might be Anissa Gray’s first published book, but she’s no stranger to bylines and writerly recognition: she’s spent the past two decades covering global finance for the likes of Reuter and CNN. Given her history of breaking big news, you might expect her first book to be action-packed and lightning paced—say, a globetrotting thriller where huge sums change hands. Instead, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls is a thoughtful family story of trauma, recovery, and relationships that hurt even as they heal.

The story kicks off when upstanding couple Althea and Proctor are arrested, to the shock of the entire community. Althea’s sisters, Lillian and Viola, step up to care for their teenaged nieces while Althia and Proctor prepare for a grueling legal battle. Will their family ever be the same again?

2. Destiny’s War: Saladin’s Secret by Pyram King     

Self-published author Pyram King’s debut is many things: a pulse-raising adventure, a lush Lawrence of Arabia homage, and a painstaking—though never painful—work of historical imagination. It’s also among the best that self-publishing has to offer.

There’s a lot going on in Destiny’s War, but it’s all pulled together by a charismatic leading man of the old school: the dashing war correspondent, amateur archaeologist, and spy Francis Marion Jäger. Incredibly enough, he was also a real person. King based his story on Jäger’s diaries—with some artful embellishments, of course. Sent to Egypt to cover the Middle Eastern theater of the Great War, Marion gets ensnared in a medieval legend that may just have bearings on the conflict raging around him. 

3. Highfire by Eoin Colfer     

If you were a YA buff during the early aughts, you probably remember the long-running Artemis Fowl series—a playful hybrid of high tech and old magic that pitted a prepubescent criminal mastermind against a scrappy, subterranean fairy cop. The series’ last installment came out in 2012, but Eoin Colfer fans can rejoice: the Irish author just came out with his first work of adult fantasy, and it’s just as witty and original as his YA.

Highfire’s hero, fifteen-year-old Squib Moreau, isn’t as precocious as Artemis. But he has his own issues with law enforcement as the corrupt local constable, who also runs the town’s drug trade, won’t stop harassing his mom. Luckily, Squib makes a friend that even a gun-toting kingpin would be afraid to cross: the world’s last surviving dragon—who also happens to be a vodka-swilling Flashdance fan.

4. The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin     

This thoughtful family saga serves up science fiction in an elegant lit fic package, although author Tara Conklin may not think of it that way. Still, The Last Romantics’ ambitious genre-bending is encapsulated by its opening scene: in the year 2079, a poet contemplates the climate apocalypse.

Conklin shifts effortlessly between this fire- and flood-ravaged future, when Fiona Skinner is 102, and her formative years from the 1980s onward. The youngest of four children, she grows up in a family fractured by the unexpected death of her father and the slow emotional withdrawal of their mother. In the absence of real parental support, Fiona and the other Skinner kids band together, and the novel centers on their complex, moving relationships. Its title, incidentally, comes from the name of Fiona’s sex blog, The Last Romantic—the only outlet for her writerly ambitions before she finds poetic success.

5. Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey   

There’s been a lot of conversation about this polarizing debut novel, which is both disarmingly complex and what it says on the tin: a series of conversations. Needless to say, this is a talky, thinky sort of book, light on action sequences and heavy on introspection. Its 200-plus pages are full of relationships being played out through poignant (and often meandering) talk. And because all the talkers are women, Topics of Conversation place female desire, ambition, and pain front and center.

Come for the pitch-perfect dialogue, stay for the floridly gorgeous writing. Miranda Popkey is an ambitious stylistic who cheerfully ignores the dictates of literary minimalism. In a market glutted with wannabe Hemingways, her plush style can be a surprising breath of fresh air. 

6. Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener  

A book-length expansion of a viral n+1 essay, this tell-all tech memoir is one of the year’s most talked-about titles. Of course, 2020’s still young. But a book this readable and smart is sure to hang onto its crown of acclaim, making countless “best of the year” lists come December.

When Uncanny Valley begins, Anna Wiener feels like she’s going nowhere. As an assistant at a literary agency, she lives on a meager income in New York City, and she’s just broken up with the guy who used to pass her freelance editing gigs. Needless to say, the situation is… suboptimal. So when she gets the chance to move on and join the legions of bright young things converging on Silicon Valley, what can she do but go for it? The ensuing adventure is, of course, more than she bargained for, equity stake or not, but it makes for a fascinating story. Wiener evokes the heady atmosphere of the last decade’s startup culture with a precision you might call uncanny.

7. When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald   

Narrated by a neurodivergent protagonist, this quirky contemporary novel is moving, sharp, and sweet. Twenty-one-year-old Zelda is a college student who lives with fetal alcohol syndrome. She can’t always count on the kindness of strangers, but she’s got a crew that always has her back: her boyfriend, Marxy; her stoic older brother; Gert; and his sometimes-girlfriend, AK47. She’s also sustained by her love for Vikings: those fierce, sword-wielding, Thor-worshipping warriors of old.

Zelda’s cozy world is shaken when she learns her brother might be in trouble—to support them both, he’s gotten mixed up with some dangerous people. Can she channel her inner Valkyrie and come to his rescue? When We Were Vikings introduces us to a beautifully characterized heroine with a truly unforgettable voice.

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