Yeah so I’m not always Au Fait of what’s going on in the bookblogging world, as I’m mostly doing my own thing. So today I found out it’s the start of Pondathon II (created by The Quiet Pond, a great blog with lots of great content!) and decided to join.
You also get to create your own Pond animal character for the Pondathon, and create your own character card!
If you’d like, create a blog post, bookstagram post, booktube video, Twitter thread, or whatever medium you wish, with ‘#PondathonII’ in the title or your tweet. Share the character you have created and your character card!
We get to use this shiny sheet to track extra quests and bonuses! and with that also comes a shiny (for now empty) garden, in which you can plant all your rewards from reading books!
Now, let me just say this – I’m not the best at keeping track of things. This Readathon requires to send in a form for books you read and I’m already filling my reading journal AND The Storygraph, so there’s a good chance I’ll drop the ball on this, or not submit forms in time, etc. etc. But the concept was so neat and the design so shiny, I just have to try my hand at filling my own terrarium with shiny plants earned from reading!
I’d had this book recommended to me a few times as a great historical sapphic romance. I had been keeping an eye on it, and by total chance I won the author’s Halloween giveaway. Given a choice of ebook or audio, I of course took the audiobook – and binged it over one weekend! So thank you Rose Lerner for the amazing audiobook! I read it very quickly in November but sadly got behind on writing the review…
Goldengrove’s towers and twisted chimneys rose at the very edge of the peaceful Weald, a stone’s throw from the poisonous marshes and merciless waters of Rye Bay. Young Tabby Palethorp had been running wild there, ever since her mother grew too ill to leave her room.
I was the perfect choice to give Tabby a good English education: thoroughly respectable and far too plain to tempt her lonely father, Sir Kit, to indiscretion.
I knew better than to trust my new employer with the truth about my past. But knowing better couldn’t stop me from yearning for impossible things: to be Tabby’s mother, Sir Kit’s companion, Goldengrove’s new mistress.
All that belonged to poor Lady Palethorp. Most of all, I burned to finally catch a glimpse of her.
Surely she could tell me who had viciously defaced the exquisite guitar in the music room, why all the doors in the house were locked after dark, and whose footsteps I heard in the night…
I have been thinking over the last couple weeks on how to set up my “bullet” journal (it’s lined so it’s not really a bujo but I use it similarly) and so it has allowed me to reflect on what I achieved and what I want to do next year in a lot more detail, as I’m combining regular planner and reading journal. Thought I’d talk a bit about it here!
One of my goals for next year is to read more nonfiction. I enjoy it when I do, but I don’t normally go toward it.
I looked into a few existing bingos and challenges, and I wasn’t super happy with the prompts, which covered too many topics I am in fact not interested to read. So I decided to make my own, and because sharing is caring, here it is:
Now, these topics are catered towards subjects I’m interested in personally, like non-white, non-Western history, queer stuff, mental health, feminism, and space. That said, I’m hoping some people do find it to their liking and want to join in!
I’ve been intrigued by this book for a while without actually knowing what it was really about, except that it had queer themes (and 7 husbands). It went off Scribd before I could get to it, but it’s back now so I jumped right on it the moment I noticed it.
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.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I don’t know what I expected from this book. First off, I’ve been hearing about it for so long I don’t even think I remembered the time period it was set in, and I thought it was a gothic novel of some kind? It’s not. But I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Evelyn is not a likeable character, in a lot of ways, but she knows her flaws and you do root for her. It’s at the same time an exploration of the commodification of women’s bodies and the things you have to do for success (especially in the 50s and 60s) when you’re only seen as “a nice pair of tits”. And at the same time it’s also a love story between Evelyn and [redacted] that I really cared about.
It also delves into AIDS and Stonewall a little bit, and other political matters for queer people at the time. It was good to see, albeit in fiction, how the events could have felt like for the people not directly involved.
I also loved the whole story-in-a-story business, and Monique’s character especially. I think it gave Evelyn’s narrative the context and distance it needed by asking her some tough questions, and showing her compassion where she had none for herself.
This was going to be a 4-star book, I think – not a true reason for the missing star, it just didn’t hit THAT place for me. And then the last twist or two happened and it just really blew my mind. And the very ending, which I sort of expected, made me tear up and that sealed it for me.
I just wanted to say a few words about why the blog’s been so quiet lately. I did not want to go on an official hiatus, as I kept really wanting and meaning to write and post reviews, but for those of you who don’t follow me on twitter – I’ve been struggling with extreme fatigue and other health shit that’s taking all of my energy (on top of having a full time job, and all that).
So at this time, I’ve about 4 posts lined up, with just the title written… and nothing more. I’m hoping that the little holidays I’ve got will allow me to write them, and if I do they’ll be on a 1/week schedule so I’ve a bit of room space. I also have 1-2 ARCs to read that should have reviews of course.
I do enjoy writing this blog and the interactions I get from it – and I’m looking into making it a bit more graphic and maybe revamping the theme. But yeah, posting will really depend on my energy. Ultimately, what I enjoy doing most is reading, so I’m keeping the most energy just for that (and ensuring my rent is paid and cats fed), and seeing what’s left for other stuff.
Anyways, I wanted to thank you all for sticking around with this little blog. And I hope you can all have a refreshing and restful end of year, and start 2022 on a good footing. Cheers!
Bringing you something a little different today, celebrating the relaunch of Tessa’s novel, Devil’s Deal, with a brand new cover! And I’ve had a sneak peek at the others in the series, they’re gorgeous!
Read the whole post for some extra goodies and a chance at a free ebook!
When two angels break their deal with the Devil, he comes for the one they’re trying to protect.
16-year-old Eleonora Santos works through the summer break so she can visit her family in Italy when she graduates. With the new school year around the corner, her focus is back on homework and enjoying life with her tight group of friends. But on their first day back, she finds them fawning over two new guys in their class—Ben and Danny.
Not a day goes by before Nora’s life is turned upside down. Her best friend now hates her, and the boys seem eager to get to know her. Despite their charming efforts, she’d rather have her best friend, not a boyfriend.
When Nora discovers Ben and Danny are not who they claim to be, and their nefarious deal goes wrong, Nora is caught in the middle.
To fix their mistakes, she must face the Devil and betray herself—or pay with her life.
Devil’s Deal is a YA romance novel with a paranormal twist set in the fictional Dutch city Lakeside.
The Infernal Contracts trilogy is perfect for fans of the Twilight Saga, The Vampire Diaries, and Fallen.
Welcome to the Devil’s Deal Scavenger Hunt! To celebrate the new cover and the new edition, we’ve got a few digital goodies for you featuring the beautiful art from the cover made by Ravven. And as a thank-you, you will be able to download Devil’s Deal for free until the end of the year if you complete the scavenger hunt!
All blogs taking part in the cover reveal today have a clue that you need to decipher the password to access the rewards. So visit every blog, write down the answer, and go to the page on Narratess to unlock all the goodies! All of the answers can be found in the blurb of the book.
November has been a very weird month for me. I had to take time off sick due to complete exhaustion at the beginning of the month, which paradoxically means I had time to be bored and read more stuff, especially audiobooks.
I did find it hard to stick with my challenge of reading all/most of the Hugo nominated works, but I did enjoy what I read. Because this post about the Lodestar YA nominations covers a lot of what I read, I’m not gonna go too much into it here.
I will just add though that I now have a Bookshop.org page, and if you buy through it I will get a small %, which is nice considering this month was tough. But no obligations of course!
Other memorable non-Hugo books I’ve read:
The Wife in the Attic, by Rose Lerner, a sapphic, Jewish retelling of Jane Eyre which I’d been looking forward to for a while now! I won an audiobook in the author’s halloween giveaway and got to it very quick. I read it through in one weekend (one has to sleep sometimes, unfortunately) and I loved it! I’ll likely write a longer review soon.
Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark, cemented my idea that there’s nothing of them I can dislike. Alternative history, post-Civil War New Orleans in a short novella that just made me want more of the main characters’ adventures!
Claudette Colvin, Twice towards Justice, by Phillip Hoose, a nonfiction for teens centering Claudette Colvin as a figure of the Montgomery bus boycott. It’s based on and includes large extracts of interviews with her
A Killing Frost, by Seanan McGuire. Can’t believe how strong this series is still going, what, 14 books in? I need to get my hands on the last one. This still sparks so much joy!
I’ve also started Soulstar in audiobook, and The Galaxy and the Ground Within in paper, which I’m hoping maybe I can finish before the month is fully over. (at least one would be nice)
I’ve enjoyed reading Heartfield’s short story in Monstrous Little Voices a few years ago. It was the highlight of that anthology (it was a bit of a letdown, as a whole, but it looks like the authors weren’t aware of the others’ work although it was all linked together somehow… which led to some unfortunate things. But that’s a story for another day. Point is, Heartfield’s story was brilliant). Looked up what else she was up to, and at the time, Armed in her Fashion wasn’t out yet.
I promptly got it at Dublin Worldcon 2 years ago, got it signed… and then kept putting it off because the concept was so wild and amazing I was afraid to be disappointed.
In 1328, Bruges is under siege by the Chatelaine of Hell and her army of chimeras — humans mixed with animals or armour, forged in the deep fires of the Hellbeast. At night, revenants crawl over the walls and bring plague and grief to this city of widows.
Margriet de Vos learns she’s a widow herself when her good-for-nothing husband comes home dead from the war. He didn’t come back for her. The revenant who was her husband pulls a secret treasure of coins and weapons from under his floorboards and goes back through the mouth of the beast called Hell.
Margriet killed her first soldier when she was 11. She’s buried six of her seven children. She’ll do anything for her daughter, even if it means raiding Hell itself to get her inheritance back.
Margriet’s daughter is haunted by a dead husband of her own, and blessed, or cursed, with an enchanted distaff that allows her to control the revenants and see the future. Together with a transgender man-at-arms who has unfinished business with the Chatelaine, a traumatized widow with a giant waterpowered forgehammer at her disposal, and a wealthy alderman’s wife who escapes Bruges with her children, Margriet and Beatrix forge a raiding party like Hell has never seen.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Trigger warnings: period-accurate sexism and transphobia, misgendering, violence, murder, body horror.
I think I described the book on twitter as “the Wife of Bath meets a Bosch painting, and also says ‘trans rights!'” and that is basically it. It’s a sff and medieval nerd’s dream come true. We follow Margriet, who’s not necessarily a nice character but is very much like the wife of Bath – she knows what she wants, she hates her husband, and she takes no shit. She and her little band navigate a world full of demons and half human monsters that I’d swear were lifted right off a Bosch paining, and for a story set in Bruges it makes a lot of sense!
The story itself is about claiming what’s yours, as a widow, and for your daughter, from a dead husband who was a liar and a thief but is still technically bound to you because medieval laws tend to say “fuck women”. So while I didn’t like Margriet, I could certainly see her point of view and why she was doing all of that.
The “side” characters, who did have their own point of view chapters, were almost more interesting to me, from Beatrix who is developing some interesting magical abilities and tries to get her own way in a shitty world despite her stubborn mother, to Claude, the trans man-at-arm who’s given shit by everyone around him for who he is but has a job to do and damned if he’s not gonna do it!
I especially liked Claude because I was not expecting a trans character (I don’t fully read the summary sometimes, and I’ve had this book for ages) and I thought it was done well. Just be aware, the other characters misgender him continuously in their POV chapters. I’d have really liked if by the end, a few of them “got it” and gendered him correctly, but I was happy enough with the ending he got, considering the period setting.
I also enjoyed that it pitted one woman – Margriet – against another – the Chatelaine – but they were all in a way fighting the same patriarchal bullshit. Now, the Chatelaine may be truly evil, but she’s taken over Hell from her own good-for-nothing husband, and she’s fighting for the King of France to give her what he promised – her own lands to govern – despite Salic laws and all that other shit. It was clearly not all black and white, and I like that in a villain too!
It’s a bit of a medievalist daydream and I highly recommend it!
Sadly it seems to be out of stock in most places, due to uh, issues with the publisher. I can’t even find an ebook link 🙁 but here’s hoping the author finds a new home for it! I’ll update and link back if I find a place that has them.
Part 3 of the hugo series, after novellas and short stories: the Lodestar’s not technically a Hugo but the ballot is the same.
As an aside, I’ve decided I’m not going to review the Novels because I’ve not read about half of them. Harrow the Ninth requires me to reread Gideon because I forgot the important details, and Relentless Moon is a book 3 where I read only book 1. I don’t particularly like Susanna Clarke, and I found Black Sun actually underwhelming. That’s it, that’s the review. I’m currently reading The City We Became, and enjoying it, as I enjoyed Network Effect a few months back. I’ll probably vote but I don’t really have clear enough Opinions on most of these to give you the rundown like I did for the others.
So, the Lodestar. The best of fantasy YA for this year.
They’re all so good! They’re basically all 5 stars or very close to it.
Let me go through them in the order that I read them:
Hi, I’m Aurélie. I spend most of my time reading books and talking about it on the internet, or procrastinating. When I’m not with my head in a book, I can be found working a sales job to feed my two cats, or studying psychology. I’m based in Ireland, and I love travelling (when it’s safe to do so). I also offer proofreading services, check my Services page to learn more!