Hello, blog readers!
How has your reading 2019 been? Ours has been pretty varied, in terms of genres, appeal and authors. Throughout the year we have been enjoying your increasing support, which has definitely helped us to stay on track and review all 12 books (with one substitution) we had planned for the year. Nothing beats an accomplished resolution! Let’s take a closer look at the titles.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov – this is an all time favourite of Nelly, which I took on with some prejudice, as my experience with Russian classics hadn’t been that great – and was delighted to be proven completely wrong, as I thoroughly enjoyed the book!
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock – this is a book I keep recommending to a great many people, so it was only natural to challenge Nelly with it as well. Despite her reservations against fantasy literature, she took to it well, and considering some of her book picks later in the year, I’d like to think it has contributed to her trying out more books in this genre.
The Outsider by Stephen King – Nelly mostly enjoyed this story, despite its weak ending, whilst I have to admit I found this to be one of King’s most predictable and underwhelming novels.
Circe by Madeline Miller – definitely my favourite book of the year, one I would like to revisit soon; Nelly on the other hand found its rhythm too slow for her liking, amongst other things – this was the book of 2019 which polarised us the most.
Chamkoria by Milen Ruskov – a classic Bulgarian novel, and one of Nelly’s favourites, it was a challenge for me as it proved to be quite bitter and unsettling, still, I am very glad to have read it as I found it enriching and engaging.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – a mix of high-school drama with multiple complex overarching messages, this was an engaging and empowering story of Starr realising the power of her voice when put towards improving her society.
The Corset by Laura Purcell – Nelly added this book straight into her list of favourites, whilst I found it a little too similar to Purcell’s first novel, it was an overall gripping and compelling story full of mystery and intrigue.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – we found this book a bit difficult, both in its English original and Bulgarian translation, but it was a challenge we mostly enjoyed.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – both Nelly and myself agreed we wanted something more from this book, and the author admits to somewhat simplifying Lale’s story. Even if a little disappointing, it’s a good introduction to an incredibly complex and painful part of human history.
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny – one of my all time favourites, which I reread every year around the time of Halloween. Nelly found it intriguing and enjoyed guessing the characters of popular Victorian novels included, despite some gripes she had with certain plot points.
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami – this promising title fell short of its fame for both of us, though most notably for me. It seems the book is not representative of Murakami as a whole though, so I am keen to give him a second chance with another novel.
If they Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar – our only poetry title for the year, which proved to be a challenge for both myself and Nelly due to its openness and challenging topics. It touched something in both of us, as poetry is meant to do, though we agreed we would have enjoyed it further had we heard the poems as spoken word.
2020 is starting with a bang! Nelly will be visiting me in the UK, and together we will go to a live reading of the No Sleep Podcast! I have shivers running down my spine already… It will be the first time we have written a review of a live performance – it won’t be just the stories, the ambiance of the venue and the talent of the amazing No Sleep Podcast will also be under scrutiny. I reckon the hardest part would be to restrain ourselves from discussing our experiences until we write the review, so we don’t influence and alter our original experiences too much. This will definitely be a piece to look forward to, so roll on January!
Later in the year we will continue with our more traditional approach of challenging each other with a book we find enticing. We have included Dracul, which we didn’t manage to acquire in time to read it for 2019, but we have it now – and it has a beautiful cover with black rimmed pages. We also revisit some mutual favourites – Robert Holdstock with Lavondyss, his second novel in the world of Mythago Wood.
Another returning author is, unsurprisingly, Laura Purcell, with her third novel Bone China. We are on a bit of a run with her – in 2018 we reviewed her debut novel The Silent Companions: A Ghost Story, which became an instant favourite for both of us and in October this year we reviewed The Corset. We are both looking forward to reading more from her!
The rest of the books we have selected are all a first, and you won’t fail to notice we have selected a majority of Bulgarian authors. This was a result of many literary discussions, many of which resulted in the conclusion that neither of us knew much about contemporary Bulgarian literature. It was a much harder decision which books to feature than I anticipated, and many books which didn’t make it have been put on hold either for next year or to read in our personal time.
The ones which did make it take us into different historical times of the Bulgarian people. Tangra is book one of a huge 13 volumes series by Tokoraz Isto, taking us to the distant pagan tribes which populated the current Bulgarian lands, while The Monk of Hilendar by Dimitar Talev takes us to the 18th century when Bulgaria was under Ottoman slavery. With Teodora Dimova and her novel The Stricken, we will visit the lives of a few women in the first year of the Soviet occupation of Bulgaria in 1944. Clearly, Bulgaria has been through some turbulent times, and whilst we’ve studied our history in school, the 7 books from Bulgarian authors we have included take us on a literary exploration of our home country through the ages – one of feeling, rather than dry facts and dates.
Here is the full list of books we would like to review over the upcoming year:
- Petar Delchev – Transki stories
- The No Sleep Podcast – a surprise reading
- Dimitar Talev – The Monk of Hilendar
- Robert Holdstock – Lavondyss
- Yavor Tsanev – Kissed by God
- Teodora Dimova – The Stricken
- Dacre Stoker – Dracul
- Evgenia Dimitrova – Zara
- Blaga Dimitrova – to be confirmed
- Anne Glyn-Jones – Morse Code Wrens of Station X: Bletchley’s Outer Circle
- Tokoraz Isto – Tangra
- Laura Purcell – Bone China
We hope you will join us for another exciting year of literary adventures. In 2020 we hope to explore some titles both popular and less known to the wider world, and to inspire you to pick a title from outside your comfort zone, much like we will be doing ourselves. We also hope to publish some articles on themes from novels we have previously reviewed, or literary events we have visited. But more on that as 2020 progresses!
What’s on your reading list for 2020?