June 2020 Roundup

Here we are again, another monthly roundup! I have literally just written the May 2020 Roundup, so it feels a little strange to be writing June’s directly after. However, I’m on a blog post writing roll and have a scheduled post for the first time in a couple of months so I’m just going for it. I didn’t have many choices for favourites in June, mainly because I haven’t read much. I’ve only read 9 books, although in my defence I did a lot of writing so I could get my current project finished before the July camp NaNoWriMo began.

Book 1: Islander by Patrick Barkham

Genre: nonfiction, travel writing

What I liked: the islands chosen, the unique mixture of personal experience on the islands and history/ culture of the islands, the nature and setting descriptions

What I didn’t like: I would have loved a sequel, or more islands included because I absolutely loved the style of writing

Who I would recommend it to: Anyone interested in learning more about the islands of Britain, or anyone who just likes hearing about cool, isolated places

Book 2: May Day by Josie Jaffrey

Genre: vampires, fantasy, contemporary

What I liked: the humour, all the characters especially the bisexual, badass main character, the setting of Oxford

What I didn’t like: that there’s no sequel yet. I devoured this book in one sitting and I was 100% primed for another one.

Who I would recommend it to: fans of urban fantasy, vampires and awesome, humorous writing

Book 3: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Genre: sci-fi

What I liked: Really cool, fresh concept and the world-building was good. I liked the main character and the plot twists. Also: amazing ending.

What I didn’t like: I would have enjoyed more emotional depth to the story. I felt like I was missing a connection.

Who I would recommend it to: science fiction fans, people looking to try something new

Book 4: The Peace of Wild Things and Other Poems by Wendell Berry

Genre: poetry

What I liked: there are not enough words to describe how much I adored this poetry collection. Its writing is so evocative and peaceful, I just want to move to the countryside and live in a cottage and tend to my orchard

What I didn’t like: Nothing.

Who I would recommend it to: poetry-lovers, people who don’t like poetry, anyone who asks me for a poetry recommendation, people who love nature and want to reconnect with it

Book 5: The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones

Genre: middle grade, fantasy

What I liked: the magic, the seemingly unconnected plot strands which pulled together, the richly developed characters

What I didn’t like: I don’t really have any complaints. This is not a book written for adults but I really enjoyed it.

Who I would recommend it to: People who want a good book which is a bit easier to read, kids, people who want a book to read with their family

I might not have read many books this month, but I am happy to say I have definitely read quality books. I loved every single book on this list, and I took the time to really engage with each book so maybe reading 9 books in a month isn’t so bad. There’s also the fact I keep starting books and not finishing them, which means despite reading my total books doesn’t actually go up because I don’t finish them before starting something new! Do you stick to one book at a time or have bookmarks here, there and everywhere? I’d love to hear, so comment down below or click on one of the links to check out my social media!

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

Letting Go Short Review

Letting Go by Cat Clarke

When I ordered this book from the library, I was expecting a full-length book. It turned out to be a novella, which was a surprise but it did make a nice short read. From the blurb I just really wanted to know how Agnes got herself into her situation.

Letting Go follows Agnes as she goes hiking up a mountain with her ex-girlfriend and the ex’s new boyfriend. You can tell it’s going to be awkward, and it is very, but it’s much more than that. It was a lot deeper than I thought it was going to be, and it definitely took a turn. I felt bad for Agnes throughout the story and Cat Clarke managed to set up the characters and their backstories quickly and with enough detail that I cared what happened.  If I say much more, I’ll give away the twist, but I would recommend reading this. It’s a quick, good teen read about relationships and mountain climbing.

I was pleased with the ending. Overall, a satisfactory experience. Would I survive this book? Yes. Although I’m really not sure how I would get myself into that situation.

Proud Review

Proud compiled by Juno Dawson

Proud is an awesome collection of unapologetically queer short stories and poems accompanied by artwork. There is a badass and powerful introduction from Juno Dawson herself then several intros from various publishing people. The collection is joyful and sweet and a celebration of pride. I’m going to give a mini review on each piece, some of them very short indeed because I don’t want to spoil anything.

We start with Dive bar, an evocative poem.

Then comes penguins, about Cameron, who is trying to come out and the gay penguins at the local zoo. I felt so bad for Cameron this is the nightmare coming out scenario since he kept getting interrupted, but also it was quite funny. So so cute

On the run follows a gay couple who are on the run after winning the lottery. It made me happy, strange but sweet

The phoenix’s fault is more fantasy based, where the emperor is looking for a wife and any woman over the age of 16 with a phoenix can apply. My thoughts were: BEST FRIENDS GAY PHOENIX DRAGON AMAZING. You want anymore and you’ll have to read it.

As the Philadelphia queer youth choir sings Katy Perry’s ‘firework’… was the thoughts of various members of the choir, quite funny.

Almost certain is about an anxious girl who loves music.  Orla is relatable, her room is her sanctuary and her parents are amazed when she goes out on a Friday night. Coming out anxiety is very relatable. So cute and sad

The other team is about a football team with a trans guy. I love the sense of camaraderie and team spirit and acceptance.

I hate Darcy Pemberley is a gay, modern Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie is absolutely savage, and I need a movie like this.

The courage of dragons is the story of a non binary person coming out at school. Dungeons and dragons themed with nicknames for their queer gang and a legendary quest involving prom.

The instructor was a girl getting driving lessons to impress the girl she has a crush on from an eccentric driving instructor. So so so so so cute.

Love poems to the city is a girl who writes love poems campaigning for gay marriage rights in Ireland. It was pretty cool.

How to come out as gay was a poem. Beautiful.

I really enjoyed this collection. It made me smile and I felt at home. There are so many books only with heterosexual characters, it’s nice to have one with mostly queer characters.