Top Ten Tuesday: The Backlog

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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.

This week’s topic is a freebie, but there’s a lot of awesome topics coming up in the next couple weeks, about favorite reads of 2019, or most anticipated reads of 2020, so I decided to take a look at the backlog.  About 60% of my reading comes from new-to-me authors- so here are a few of the ones I enjoyed this year and would like to read more of.

Kameron Hurley: God’s War (Bel Dame Apocrypha #1) and The Light Brigade – I know The Mirror Empire was a miss for a few of my blogging buddies, and I do understand, but ultimately I enjoyed it enough that I’d like to read more of Hurley.  The Light Brigade is her highest rated book on GoodReads, and God’s War came recommended by a frequent buddy reader.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sylvain Neuvel: Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) – Neuvel’s novella The Test was one of my favorites this year.  While I wait for him to write something else wonderful and so perfectly relevant, I plan to give Sleeping Giants (and hopefully the rest of the trilogy) a try.

Wool by Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey: The Wool Omnibus – I flew through Howey’s Half Way Home earlier this year.  It was perfect for me, quick pacing, straightforward writing, and plenty of suspense.  Wool comes highly recommended, and I can’t wait to check it out!

Adrian Tchaikovsky: Children of Time, Redemption’s Blade and The Expert System’s Brother – As prolific as Tchaikovsky is, it’s kind of hard to believe I’ve only ever read Walking to Aldebaran, but it’s true.  I did start Children of Time once, and through no fault of the book (reading slump!) never finished.  I’m looking forward to jumping back into that and checking out a few of these others!

The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel: The Singer’s Gun – I didn’t review it, but I listened to Station Eleven a few months ago and adored it.  It was a very surface level post-apocalyptic / sci-fi story, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  While looking at what else of her’s I might want to check out, I found the Captain’s review of The Singer’s Gun and immediately added it to my TBR.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde:  The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1) – I first heard about the Eyre Affair a few years ago, when I started becoming more active on GoodReads.  I put it off for a long time because while the blurb was very amusing, it wasn’t obviously my kind of humor right away.  Early Riser was a book club read for me earlier this year, and it made me laugh quite a bit, so I’m feeling ready to finally tackle this.

David Wellington: Chimera (Jim Chapel #1) and Monster Island – Wellington wrote The Last Astronaut, which I read over the summer and mostly enjoyed.  Until I started writing this post I actually didn’t even realize he had older titles!  Both of these sound like one of my favorite genre mashups: sci-fi meets horror!

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys: Out of the Easy – It seems like everything Sepetys writes turns into a best seller, which is why I was surprised to find this hiding on her booklist.  I got as far as “It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets” before I added this to my list.  Knowing what she’s capable of after having read The Fountains of Silence, I might not even wait until next year.

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa: Revenge – I had never heard of Yoko Ogawa until I read The Memory Police earlier this year.  It was surreal and dreamlike and admittedly weird, but somehow I couldn’t put it down.  So of course I had to look up which other works have been translated, and I knew right from the title I had to read this.  It’s a collection of short fiction revenge stories- and who doesn’t like those?

Stephen Graham Jones:  All the things.  I meant to read Mapping the Interior in November for Native American Heritage Month, and it sort of slipped through my fingers amidst some clunkers and the too many buddy reads I’d committed to.  I did finally sit down and read it yesterday, and fell in love with Jones’s voice.  The ending is super disturbing, but I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be in a horror novel, right?  Anyway.  I want to read all of his stuff, but here are a few of the titles that jumped out at me: After the People Lights Have Gone Off, Demon Theory, The Last Final Girl, and The Least of my Scars (whose one stars reviewers have admitted to giving it one star because it’s that disturbing).

Have you discovered any favorite new-to-you authors this year?  Who were they?

Book Review: The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

Rating:  ★★★★

Sylvain Neuvel is one of those authors I’ve had on my TBR for way too long.  His work sounds interesting.  I only ever see glowing reviews from my bookish friends.  But I’ve had a hard time simply committing.  I think it’s because Themis Files is a trilogy?  I did the same thing with Ann Leckie and Jeff VanderMeer.  I waited for them to release a standalone before I went back and read their trilogies, so I guess this is a common issue for me.

When I saw the description for The Test, which I’ve very purposefully left out here, I knew this was something I needed to read.  Here’s all the blurb I’m including because to spoil anything about The Test is wrong: Idir is from Iran and he takes the British citizenship test.

I realize that doesn’t sound exciting, but what attracted me to it was the possibility for discussion of immigration and all the things that are wrong with modern immigration laws.  While the book is set in England, I felt it was a theme that I could relate easily to the U.S. (you know, minus discussions of The Wall, sigh).

I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint and started very much how I expected.  Idir is asked a lot of questions that the average British citizen doesn’t know.

Question 4: King Richard III of the House of York was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field in what year?…I have a feeling only the people taking this test know the answer to that question. What could anyone possibly do with that information?

But Neuvel takes it one step further, and discusses the racism, the prejudice Idir experiences as a Muslim and Iranian.  How people can look at the color of a person’s skin and just assume they know everything about them.

We have been asked why we hate freedom, told to go back to the desert many times—I tell them I hear Dasht-e Kavir is breathtaking but I have never been. It is true—but not once has anyone asked me about famous battles of the fifteenth century. Maybe I should bring it up.

Idir’s resilience is admirable, and his character is immediately endeared to the reader because despite the fact that he takes it all in stride, even has a sense of humor about it, the truth is he shouldn’t have to put up with it at all.

From the very first chapter, you care what happens to him.  This is a short book, only 112 pages, and can be read in about two hours.  You want to see him succeed. So it’s saying a lot that you wanted to see him win after only one chapter.

Anyway, the book was very well written and the premise sucks you in right away with several unexpected turns, and I had a hard time putting the book down.  If it had not been a work day, I’d have read it all in one sitting.  Every chapter brought in some new element that had me on the edge of my seat.  The stakes are high, and the consequences far reaching.

I only deducted a star because of the ending.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s the ending that fit.  It’s the ending it should have, objectively speaking.  Subjectively, it isn’t the ending I wanted.  Everything else about this is a 5 star read and I’d encourage everyone to take a couple hours out of their day and read it.

There is a lesson to be learned here. We are all more alike than we think.

 

There is some potential trigger content here, so if you’d like to know what it is, please mention it in the comments below.  I wanted to avoid spoilers but I don’t want anyone to be caused unnecessary hurt by picking up the book either.

The Test can be found on GoodReads here, or purchased on Amazon here.