10 Books to Read to Educate Yourself on Racism

If you’ve been on the internet at all this week, you will have heard about George Floyd’s death. If you’re not up to date on the news, here’s a BBC article about what actually happened. It has sparked many conversations about racism, and part of that is how to be an ally. As a white person, I have realised that I need to educate myself further on how to combat racism and be actively anti racist. In order to do this, I have created a list of books I want to read to educate myself. Other things you can do include signing petition, donating money and simply speaking out.

  1. Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde- Over and over again, in the essays, speeches and poems collected in Your Silence Will Not Protect You, Lorde emphasises how important it is to speak up. To give witness: “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?”
  2. They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery – A deeply reported book that brings alive the quest for justice in the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray, offering both unparalleled insight into the reality of police violence in America and an intimate, moving portrait of those working to end it
  3. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward- In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five men in her life, to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth–and it took her breath away. 
  4. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge- Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.
  5. Freedom Is A Constant Struggle by Angela Davis – In these newly collected essays, interviews, and speeches, world-renowned activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis illuminates the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world.
  6. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi- In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.
  7. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt – From one of the world’s leading experts on unconscious racial bias, a personal examination of one of the central controversies and culturally powerful issues of our time, and its influence on contemporary race relations and criminal justice.
  8. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo – The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.
  9. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin – A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document.
  10. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo – In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape–from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide

This list is by no means a comprehensive list, more a starting point to launch off of. For more books to read, check out this list by the New York Times, this Anti-Racist Reading List from Ibram X. Kendi and this list from Vogue. I hope this was helpful or useful, and feel free to reach out to me below with suggestions, feedback or simply to say hello!

April 2020 Round-Up

Hello and welcome to my April 2020 round-up! I honestly cannot believe it’s the end of April already and we are all stuck inside watching the weather through our windows. This is not how I thought 2020 was going to go, but I’m trying to make the best of the situation. I’ve been writing daily for Camp NaNoWriMo and making pom-poms like there’s no tomorrow. There is something incredibly therapeutic about winding wool round and round and round, especially while watching one of my favourite movies like Burlesque. Back to the books, I’m struggling to read as much as I did before, but I try to read a little each day, even if it is only a couple of pages. I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed, so thanks for bearing with me while my blog posts are very sporadic. I will try to get some book reviews up soon!

Top 3 novels I read in April

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What I liked about it: the unique format, the drama, the way she writes about music

What I did not like about it: Nothing that I can think of.

My favourite character: Camila. What an amazing woman.

Position in series: 1/1

Genre: Historical fiction, music

Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

What I liked about it: sassy misfit crew, aliens, lots of sarcasm, the action and excitement

What I did not like about it: my heart exploding

My favourite character: Tyler or Zila. I didn’t realise how awesome I think Tyler is until I actually considered it.

Position in series: 1/3

Genre: young adult, science fiction, fantasy

Dust by Hugh Howey

What I liked about it: an incredible conclusion to the Wool trilogy, the worldbuilding, the unravelling of the plot

What I did not like about it: DEATHS.

My favourite character: Jules. I would die for that woman. Amazing.

Position in series: 3/3

Genre: science fiction, post-apocalyptic

Poetry of the month: Wild Embers by Nikita Gill

What I liked about it: emotional and empowering

What I did not like about it: that it wasn’t longer!

My favourite poem: For Her

Genre: poetry, feminism

Special mention: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Why: this book means more to me than I can put into words. It has saved lives and reminds you that at no point are you alone. You can get through than this. There is more to life than your mental illness.

Genre: nonfiction, mental health

And that, folks, is my April in books. For a full list of everything I read in April, check out my goodreads which I try my best to keep up to date! I hope you’re all well, even if you’re feeling unmotivated like I am. Wishing you and your families all the best, and if you ever want to talk you can reach me through my contact page here, Instagram here or twitter here.

A Book For Every Colour of the Rainbow

People all over the country have been putting pictures of rainbows up in their windows and outside their houses in order to cheer everyone up in these not-so-great times, so I thought I’d do my part and try and cheer you all up with a book for every colour of the rainbow! I’ve done both a paperback and a hardback rainbow, although I have to admit my paperback one is a lot better. Why do I own so many dark hardbacks?!

Paperback Rainbow

From left to right:

  • A succulent
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon– I can’t wait for The Mask Falling to come out! I read the first three of this series a while ago, and I absolutely adored them. I’m definitely going to have fun rereading them in anticipation for The Mask Falling.
  • The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones- I read this with my mum as a child, and while I can’t actually remember what happens, I remember that it was awesome! Diana Wynne Jones is an incredible author, and I adore Howl’s Moving Castle.
  • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee- I read this quite recently, having had it sitting on my shelf for months. The gossip girl comparison is accurate and the ending left me furious, so as to whether I read the rest is a mystery.
  • This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada- The only one on this list I haven’t read, This Vicious Cure is the conclusion to a trilogy. I thought the previous books were great, so I have no doubts that this one will be too.
  • Shift by Hugh Howey- I am actually in the middle of this at the moment. It’s quite a change of pace from Wool, being a prequel, but it’s just as gripping. This is truly brilliant science fiction.
  • The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh- Another one I read a while ago, but I loved The Rose and the Dagger, it’s a complete whirlwind of magic and drama in the desert.
  • A Smuggler’s Path by I.L. Cruz- I was gifted this in return for review, and although it is chaotic at times, A Smuggler’s Path is never boring and I look forward ti reading the third book in the series
  • A succulent

Hardback Rainbow

From left to right:

  • A succulent
  • Bedlam by Derek Landy- when I read the first series of Skulduggery Pleasant, I was obsessed. I loved everything about Valkyrie and Skulduggery and their relationship and the various characters they knew. In the revival Valkyrie is very different, and I miss the old her, but Landy’s writing is brilliant as ever and I look forward to reading this one.
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon- this is currently my favourite book, and has been since I first read it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write a review, because a) it’s massive and b) I love it too much. A female-led fantasy epic with a slow-burn sapphic relationship and dragons? Just take my money.
  • Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch- you might have noticed that this rainbow has not one, but three Ben Aaronovitch books on. This is because I am completely obsessed with the Rivers of London series and I managed to get my mum hooked as well. Pure brilliance. A modern London detective series with magic and crime and humour that I will continue to recommend to everyone I meet.
  • False Value by Ben Aaronovitch- I will admit I have not read this one yet, because I cannot bear for it to end. It came out recently and my mum ordered it immediately but I just can’t bring myself to step into Peter Grant’s world because inevitably I’ll have to leave. Also the cover glows in the dark which I think is the coolest thing ever.
  • The Wicked King by Holly Black- the second book in a delicious trilogy filled with magic and faeries and betrayal. Holly Black is a brilliant writer and I had the privilege of meeting her last year. She has blue hair which I think automatically elevates her to awesome.
  • Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch- I honestly devoured this series. They’re so easy to dive into and I am emotionally attached to all of the characters and the books are the perfect mix between reality and magic.
  • Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman- I read this last week and it is pretty much the perfect YA sci-fi. A badass space crew, mysterious girl from the past, all the sass and the occasional battle? Just my cup of intergalactic tea.
  • A succulent

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and it at least made you smile a little bit. Keep going and stay home, save lives. Shoutout to the NHS for being absolute superheroes!

Why not make your own book rainbows and post them on instagram or twitter? Remember to tag me so I can see your favourite books!

Storm’s Herald Review

Storm’s Herald by J.W. Golan

Happy Easter everyone! Or just happy Sunday if you don’t celebrate Easter, I hope you have a great day with chocolate regardless. If you want to read these books, Storm’s Herald is free as an ebook on Amazon 10-12th April, and Storm’s Cloud 24-25th April.

I received both Storm’s herald and its sequel, Storm’s Clouds, in exchange for a review. All views expressed are honest and my own. I have a very terrible habit of writing notes while I’m reading a book, then writing the actual review quite a while afterwards. It means that sometimes my notes are very vague and incomprehensible, but not this time. I had so much fun rereading the notes I made, I think they are possibly some of the best notes I’ve ever made. And you can’t have good notes without an interesting book to make them on, so kudos to Storm’s herald. Here’s the synopsis:

A peasant girl who dreams of becoming a sorceress, a boy who imagines himself a knight – trailed by a ruthless mercenary armed with an ancient sword.

All Lynette wanted was to leave her boring village life – to attend the Fae Academy and become a Druid priestess like her teacher before her. Her clumsy attempts at magic are a reminder of how much she has yet to learn. But if they would only accept her, if the Fae Kingdom – closed to human visitors for centuries now – would only just open its doors, she is certain she could become a master of the magical arts.

Yet her journey puts her on a collision course with a reawakened evil – offering a king’s ransom for the recovery of a long-lost relic. Treasure hunters of every variety – werewolves, mercenaries, common thieves and undead alike – are soon locked in pursuit of its promised riches. Together with Baxter, a young squire who fled his own kingdom, and Eirlon, a gnome who trades in rare antiquities, Lynette is drawn unwillingly into the hunt for the elusive relic.

Hounded by goblins, ogres – and darker things – Baxter carries his own burdens: secrets that have made him the enemy of the crown. And then there is Garth, the mysterious mercenary who both frightens and intrigues Lynette: the weapons-master armed with an ancient blade – snatched from the hand of a long-vanished fae prince.

Willingly or not, Lynette, Baxter and Eirlon must together solve the riddles behind the relic – and stay one step ahead of the ruthless killers that pursue them.

Like many a fantasy, and lots of books now I think about it, Storm’s Herald begins with introductions to various different viewpoints over the first few chapters. Quite quickly I understood the basic worldbuilding and the traditional type of fantasy I was reading. Slightly uncommonly, new points of view were introduced throughout the book, sometimes only for one chapter. These were usually to show what was happening somewhere else in the world, but sometimes I found the switching too frequent, so it took me longer than usual to properly get to know the characters. Slowly all of the various characters crossed each other’s paths, and for once there was none of the hiding information from these people are clearly on your side. I was very thankful for that, because nothing irritates me more than a character being unnecessarily reticent as a plot device. The storytelling is not very complicated, but the story was good, and it was fun and easy reading.

Let’s move onto the characters. There were four main viewpoints I could identify, with several minor ones who would appear once or twice like Kalden. The main viewpoints were Lynette, Elise, Eirlon and Baxter. I don’t know if I have a favourite, but I like them all in different ways and by the end of the book I was very interested in seeing what happened next. The story begins with Lynette, a normal girl with magic her half-fae teacher is teaching her to control. After some *events* Lynette sets off to the Fae-gate from which she can enter the fae lands and join the magic school. Lynette is the typical beautiful, magical peasant in many ways and she does get attached to a very dodgy guy, but when he first meets her in the forest and is very creepy (in my opinion), she doesn’t put up with it which I applaud.

Baxter is apprenticed to a knight and is very accepting of his master being a horrible person because of his nobility but apart from that he’s quite a nice guy. He’s just a regular, hardworking human who predictably ends up with a crush on Lynette, but the focus on the romance is very minor. Eirlon the gnome is pretty cool. A chill guy, albeit with a minorly annoying habit to keep things to himself. Elise is the fairy princess, heir to the fae throne. She doesn’t take any rubbish from anyone and despite her insecurities she pretty much does what she thinks is right. I’m down with that. The other character mentioned in the synopsis, Garth, I have a LOT of opinions on but that would be spoilers so that will be going in my next review. The fae are what you would expect of fae in a traditional fantasy, with longer life spans, few children, attuned with nature and big fans of trees.

This is not a particularly descriptive book in terms of physical descriptions of people/settings, but personally I actually tend to pretty much read those and forget them anyway unless they’re long and lyrical, so I didn’t mind. The one thing that threw me in this book was the passing of time. From one chapter to the next 9 months could have passed and there would only be a brief mention of it which was a bit wild, but once I got used to it, I just rolled with it.

When I got to the end of the book, I was very thankful to have the sequel next to me because I really wanted to know what happened next. I was left like what?!?! But ready to read the next one. Would I survive? I think I would, if I stayed out of the way of goblins.

Two Dark Reigns Review

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Darks Reigns is the third book in the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake, a Fantasy YA series with four books plus novellas told in the present tense. I read Three Dark Crowns a couple of years ago now, along with the sequel, so as usual I decided not to read a summary of the previous books and jumped straight into the third book in the series. How badly could it go?

Synopsis:

Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to wear the crown. But now that she finally has it, the murmurs of dissent grow louder by the day. There’s also the alarming issue of whether or not her sisters are actually dead—or if they’re waiting in the wings to usurp the throne.

Mirabella and Arsinoe are alive, but in hiding on the mainland and dealing with a nightmare of their own: being visited repeatedly by a specter they think might be the fabled Blue Queen. Though she says nothing, her rotting, bony finger pointing out to sea is clear enough: return to Fennbirn.

Jules, too, is in a strange place—in disguise. And her only confidants, a war-gifted girl named Emilia and her oracle friend Mathilde, are urging her to take on a role she can’t imagine filling: a legion-cursed queen who will lead a rebel army to Katharine’s doorstep.

This is an uprising that the mysterious Blue Queen may have more to do with than anyone could have guessed—or expected.

This story definitely feels like a YA, but that’s what it’s meant to be, and I enjoyed it. At times it felt a bit slow and meandering, especially nearer the start, yet as I got more into the story, I found myself really wanting to know what all the mysterious dreams and signs meant. Through Arsinoe’s dreams we are shown the events of the life of someone in the past who I grew to quite like.  I’m a big fan of the story being focused on three sisters and their relationships with each other as well as the overarching plot, which I’ll be honest I did not see coming. From the first book I did not expect to end up here, yet I was equally interested in all the viewpoints and there was the occasional cliff-hanger which I’m almost always down for.

The main characters of the story are the three sisters, Queen Katherine, Princess Mirabella and Princess Arsinoe (both supposed to be dead, along with Jules who grew up with Arsinoe with the naturalists. My favourite character was Braddock. If you’ve read the previous books, you know who I’m talking about. I stand by my choice. Also, while I wasn’t such a fan of Jules in the previous books I grew to like her a lot more in this one. I’m also very into the setting, because while the ‘magic island hidden from the mainland’ trope is a common in fantasy, I liked the way Kendare Blake decided on its relations with the mainland and the way it is set up.

In conclusion while I am not as obsessed with the series now as I was when I read the first book, this is still an interesting series and I will definitely be reading the final book to find out what happens to all the characters and see how the author chooses to resolve the plot. Would I survive? Yeah, probably. I think I’d be a naturalist or poisoner.

To Kill a Kingdom Review

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I absolutely LOVED To Kill A Kingdom. I’m a huge fan of retellings done well, and this bewitching dark retelling of the little mermaid was both brilliant and felt different to the original. The main thing to take away from this review was I had great fun reading this book. It was the first time I’ve read a book in one sitting in a while, I just couldn’t put it down!

The Synopsis:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Like a lot of fantasy stories, the first chapter or so had a bit of explanation but the way it was weaved into the story was not at all boring. We get introduced to the two main viewpoints, Elian and Lira pretty early in the story so we get lots of time seeing their individual sides of the story. Alexandra Christo balances the fairytale feel to the story perfectly with and edge of cruelty which stops the story being to sickly. There’s plot twists, marriage alliances, disguises, sirens pirates and a magic quest for a crystal. What more could you ask for in a fairy-tale fantasy? The enemies to lovers trope is a common one but I thought it was done really well here, slowly enough that it didn’t feel like two characters being shoved together and then you get partway through the book and they’re in love and I’m in love and there’s so much romantic tension. It made me very happy, I smiled most of the way through this book.

There are two points of view in To Kill a Kingdom, and if you asked me to choose one I would have a very hard time. I liked the narrative voice of the siren Princess Lira, her development from cruelty throughout the book, but Elian’s crew completely stole my heart. Elian is a prince who adores the open sea and killing sirens, and to begin with their POVs are completely contrasting with the darker Lira and more noble Elian. That being said they are both bloodthirsty from the beginning. What better to bond over than violence and murder? There is some great banter, lots of romantic tension and a pirate crew I would die for. If Alexandra Christo would like to write a book solely on that crew, I would definitely buy it. The setting comprises of several different kingdoms, each with fairy-tale aspects that match their name in some way. For example, Prince Elian is from Midas, a kingdom of gold. The kingdoms are wonderful, nothing too complicated but described succinctly to perfectly capture the mood of the place.

In conclusion this is a brilliant standalone fairy-tale retelling with what I thought was a pretty perfect ending. Would I survive this book? I reckon I could live in Midas or one of the other kingdoms without too much trouble. Not the sea though. As I have previously mentioned, I get seasick.

The Middle Ages Unlocked Review

The Middle Ages Unlocked by Gillian Polack and Katrin Kania

I have a habit of picking up very solid historical information books about the middle ages and reading them from cover to cover. It is a slightly questionable technique, especially since some of them are VERY information dense, but I have great fun doing it. As you can see in the image above I used a lot of sticky notes.

The Middle Ages Unlocked was awesome, really informative and jam packed with every type of information you could possibly need about medieval England 1050-1300. The time period you choose for a medieval nonfiction book is very important because there are huge changes that happened over what is quite a large period. This was the first one I’ve read where it considered both Jewish and Christian communities as well as slavery in the middle ages, two things I have never seen much info about. There is even information about measuring things! In conclusion, The Middle Ages Unlocked was very readable, sorted into handy sections and filled with information. If you want information on this time period, this is the book for you.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this without it getting repetitive, so instead I’m going to throw some facts at you from different sections that you can surprise your family with (if you so wish.)

Rich and Poor, High and Low

Rich and well-born people were supposed to be happy and look happy, regardless of their state, as happiness was considered attractive.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

From Cradle to Grave

Pain was often considered an essential part of Christian death because it was thought to be the deserved punishment for sins.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Death and Taxes You Cannot Avoid

Outlawry meant that the person was considered outside the law and thus had no legal protection from others.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Crossroads of the Mind

The vast majority of magic practices were considered part of daily life or religious belief and were not regarded as sorcerous.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Babies were ideally bathed one to three times a day.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Written and Spoken Words

Dragons were generally considered to be oversized snakes, with wings, a tail, feet and sharp talons.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

The Chalk Pit Review

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

I cannot believe that this is the ninth book in the Ruth Galloway series I have read! It feels like just yesterday that Ruth was a happily single woman just focused on archaeology at the university. Oh, how times have changed. And yet some things stay the same, and these books have a kind of comfortable rhythm in them so I simultaneously have no idea what is going to happen but feel safe enough with this world that I can slip right back in every time I read a new book. This is one of my favourite series and I am always excited to return.

The Blurb:

Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they are recent – the boiling not the medieval curiosity she thought – DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard of a vast network of old chalk-mining tunnels under King’s Lynn, home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

As I was expecting the book started off slowly, but with a few murders to keep you on your toes. With some books a slow start means boring but it never is with Elly Griffiths, it just means it’s intriguing and laying the foundations for the fast paced tension ahead. When the connections begin between all the different, seemingly unrelated areas of the plot I get a little thrill, link after link being revealed yet not coming together to produce a coherent picture then the story picks up and the crimes become more frequent until BAM you reach the climax and I’m so tense I am physically attached to the book.

With subtle humour and more plot twists than I can count I am slowly absorbed into the lives of the characters, yet the domesticity slips away and I end up on the edge of my seat every time. Brilliant. Elly Griffiths truly manages to cover everything in her books, from racism and religion to childcare and Alice in Wonderland. The recurring but not main characters get developed over the years without too much focus taken away from main story, and Griffiths knows the exact moment to switch to the other point of view to keep me on edge and desperate to know what happens in both situations.

If you can’t tell from this review, I love the Ruth Galloway series and I will be reading the next one as soon as I can get my hands on it. Would I survive? In the story I would as long as I was careful, although if I get one more dramatic twist in real life my heart may give out.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Review

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I ordered The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo from the library after seeing a recommendation on twitter for F/F February. I didn’t read the synopsis, just went and ordered it, so when it arrived I was a little apprehensive as it isn’t the kind of thing I normally read. However, my expectations were blown out of the park. I adored The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and would highly recommend it. Here’s the synopsis:

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means–and what it costs–to face the truth.

The novel is written in first person, switching from Monique to Evelyn when Evelyn begins to tell her life story, and switching back to Monique at various intervals. The intervals are done by husband, that is to say Evelyn goes through her life husband by husband and pauses after each one while other things go on in Monique’s life. I was hooked by the time I had got 43 pages in (weirdly specific, I know) and to be perfectly honest I was hooked well before that. In the sections where Evelyn narrated, I was spellbound and temporarily forgot that any other plot was going on apart from the telling of Evelyn’s life story. There are also newspaper articles scattered throughout, showing the world’s reaction to what was happening inside Evelyn and Monique’s intense little bubble.

The world of Hollywood that’s portrayed is vivid, glamorous and glorious and exciting and absolutely fascinating. There was not a single moment without drama in the life of Evelyn Hugo and I was gripped, genuinely caring about what happened and desperate for everything to turn out okay even as hints were dropped that something was off. Evelyn’s tumultuous relationships with her seven husbands reveal many secrets, the mistakes Evelyn made and the lessons she learned which she tries to impart to Monique as Monique asks the biggest question on her mind: which husband was Evelyn Hugo’s true love?  Now, I have no idea what one of the notes I made means and I’ve already taken it back to the library, so if anyone decides to pick up the book after reading this review (YOU SHOULD) please explain what this means: ‘Sudden plot twist without actually being a plot twist in the middle’. Enigmatic.

And in the last moments, where it is revealed why Evelyn Hugo chose Monique for her story? Incredible. What an ending. I was happy, then I was sad. Oh my gosh. What a book. Read it. Go for it. I didn’t think t would be my thing either, yet here I am raving about it. This book has love and drama and a strong willed woman living her life the best she can. Would I survive this book? It’s set on earth so I suppose if I’m still alive to write this review then I’d do just fine.

The Mercies Review

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Mercies Review

Even starting this review, my emotions were tumultuous. I LOVED The Mercies and putting that love into words was not easy. I’m trying to cobble something together from the notes I made, even though most of them are just me going ‘it’s so beautiful. Incredible. Amazing. Beautiful.’ Not especially helpful, but if you want some escapism during quarantine into a standalone fantasy with a historical element, this is the book for you!

The synopsis:

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardo is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves, the menfolk of Vardo wiped out in an instant.

Now the women must fend for themselves.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardo to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardo, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty and terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardo storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

The Mercies is told in present tense from two viewpoints, Ursa and Maren. I found that I liked both viewpoints equally, possibly with a slight leaning towards Maren. Such tension was built between them from the very first time Maren set eyes upon Ursa, and each worried the other would look down on them for their ways. All the characters in The Mercies are fascinating, the way they group and then break apart, swirling like the currents of the ever-present tide. I was completely drawn up into Ursa and Maren’s relationship, the way they felt and thought about everything so intensely illustrated.

The Mercies would not be what it is without its incredible setting of Vardo, Finnmark. It is so isolated, far from what some would consider civilisation. Kiran Millwood Hargrave beautifully evokes the freedom and fear and danger of the sea, surrounding this community who rely upon one another closely. The little details of the scenery are woven in seamlessly amongst the sea, cliffs, heather, houses and sky immersing the reader in this enchanting tale.

The Mercies is elegantly and lyrically written, emotive and full of desperation, reaching a feverish intensity as the cracks in the community widen and the line between religion and superstition is drawn by the arrival of a man. I forgot everything briefly as I was completely absorbed by the danger brewing on Vardo, thrilled by the atmosphere right from its intense beginning. I adored the ending and it is the perfect atmospheric standalone novel. Absolutely spellbinding.

Would I survive? Absolutely not. I get very, very seasick.

Herself, lost inside his name.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave, The Mercies