The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I’ve been sitting on this one since Boxing Day, thinking about how to review it. I was expecting to enjoy it when I first picked it up, I wasn’t expecting to finish it within 24 hours and to immediately add it to my ‘Top Ten Of 2017’. But there we go!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has a slightly deceptive title. Superficially, the story revolves around the classic actress, Evelyn Hugo, telling her life story- and all the secrets of her seven husbands- to an unknown journalist. Really, the plot goes much deeper and we lean how Evelyn has loved a woman her entire adult life and how, in the cut throat world of classic Hollywood, this was such a dangerous act.

I loved this book partly because the characters are all so beautifully flawed. Evelyn tells a tale of using men and her sexuality to get ahead in the film industry, while also maintaining she feels no regret for her actions. She’s real, and unflinching and unapologetic. But she’s also inherently likeable. We see her through a young journalist’s eyes and follow her journey from fascination to hatred to forgiveness. The men in Evelyn’s life range from abusive but charming, to generous but lecherous, to loyal and lifelong friends. Her relationship with Celia is at times fraught, but raw. Nothing comes easy, like in real life.

There’s also a great deal of diversity within the story. The two narrators are a young biracial journalist and an elderly bisexual Cuban star. We see queer identities hidden from the world in classic Hollywood, but finally given a voice by Evelyn.

This was definitely one of my top reads of 2017 and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves!

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Christmas Book Haul!

This is a tad delayed, but here’s a Christmas book haul!

Every Christmas I do the usual bookworm thing of asking almost exclusively for books. This year the vibe I got was that they’d rather get me other things too so I was a little more conservative with my Christmas list (I put four non-book items on it).

So I still did pretty well for books…

It helps that my brother also almost exclusively asks for books, which is how I ended up with The Buddha Of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi after my mum accidentally ordered two copies for him.

I’ve wanted Inua Ellams’ poetry collection, Six of The Fairy Negro Tales after I saw him speak at Bare Lit festival earlier in 2017. I have another anthology of his, #Afterhours, but never got round to buying this one off my wish list!

I also got One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, which has been on my list of planned reads for my Read the World project for Colombia for a while now!

These hardbacks of What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, Mirror In The Sky by Aditi Khorana and The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso are gorgeous and I can’t wait to read them! I’ve had my eye on What It Means… for ages and couldn’t find it in any of my local bookshops so I’m so glad I finally own a copy!

Finally, I saw a friend talk about Not A Drop To Drink by Mindy McGinnis on Instagram and you know how I can’t resist a good dystopian!

Did you get any books this Christmas?

One Way by SJ Morden

I received a copy of One Way from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

One Way is an exciting Mars-based thriller about a group of cons sentenced to life in prison who are offered the chance to commute their sentence to a life building and maintaining a colony on Mars. As building progresses, they start dying in mysterious circumstances but who is killing them off?

I’m still on a bit of a sci-fi kick so I was pretty excited to have my request for One Way approved! The book started off a little slow; there was a fair amount of preamble and training for the mission, but it soon picked up pace. The book has all the trappings of a decent sci-fi and murder mystery, which is a combination I’ve recently discovered I enjoy immensely. The narrative isn’t weakened by bringing together too genres; any weaknesses in the science become relevant to the story and, although I could guess at who the murderer was, their motivations and the actual ending really did catch me by surprise.

It was a clever take on a Mars-based sci-fi and if you like a bit of a thriller where you’re never too sure of the character you love it going to be suspiciously killed off then One Way may be for you!

2018 Reading and Blogging Goals

Every so often I decide that I’m going to reflect on the kinds of things I’m reading throughout the year. Looking back I didn’t do any ‘reading resolutions’ as such this time last year, at least not publicly, but the do this I did better with reading thoughtfully, critically and with a view to experiencing more diverse books and writers.

That being said I’m always looking to improve so I’ve been thinking about my reading and blogging goals for 2018.

Get my Netgalley feedback ratio above 80%. I’ve submitted about 60 reviews on Netgalley but my ration still isn’t as high as I’d like it to be. My aim is to go through some backlist ARCs and submit feedback, as well as be more conscious about the books I request.

Cross post reviews to Goodreads. This is something I’m really awful at. I mainly use Goodreads to keep track of what I’m reading and post ratings, but I figure those ratings aren’t helpful without explanation and it’s still the easiest way for a potential reader to find out about a book.

Read at least 30 books for Read the World Project. I haven’t been as enthusiastic about blogging in the early part of this year, and by extension my drive to talk about this project kind of went away too. I definitely want to get back on the bandwagon this year and I have plans to start up an online book club with a different country per month, maybe even with a readathon sometime towards the end of the year!

Diversify the speculative fiction I’m reading. I got back in to SFF towards the end of the year and, as a poor result, the ratio of white male writers I was reading went up. I have books by POC SFF writers, and queer writers and female writers and a-combination-of-all-three writers so there’s no excuse.

Link to more Ownvoices reviews and posts in my own reviews. I’ve been trying to do this more regularly, so really I want to continue!

More women and marginalised writers. This is always a goal of mine. More queer authors, more diaspora authors, more black authors, more authors from outside of the UK and US, more mental health rep, just to read more than just the status quo.

Read three short stories a week. I have so many anthologies and this seems like a good way of getting through them rather than sitting there staring at them on my bookcase thinking ‘I’ll get to those’.

… and a bonus goal.

I’ve been thinking for a while about how I’d love to get back in to writing. I’m not cut out for a novel, I don’t have the attention span, but iv always loved short stories and I’d love to write some in the coming year.

So, that’s it! A mismatch of reading, blogging and writing goals for the coming year!

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

Continuing along my current sci-fi kick and SapphicAThon, The Real-Town Murders was yet another book I picked up thanks to a review in a lit mag. The story introduces us to a near future Britain where technology as developed to give people an in-built Feed, most people live out their days in an evolved virtual reality internet known as The Shine, and hackers are working on a gene-based level. Alma’s partner has found this out the hard way; having been infected with a gene-hacked lipid cancer that needs treatment every four hours or else she will die. Alma is the only person who can give treatment, which puts some limitations on her job as a Private Detective. When she tries to solve a seemingly impossible murder, she’s drawn in to a political coup and must fight to get back to Marguerite.

The Real-Town Murders feels a bit like a cross between 70s sci-fi and a cheesy cop show, but in a good way. Some of the plot becomes downright ridiculous towards the end, but with the way this version of Britain is set up it isn’t jarring. You feel for Alma, who just wants to be left alone to care for her beloved, while also wanting to know how the bloody body got in the boot.

My one resounding criticism is I was uncomfortable with the way Marguerite’s size was described. It wasn’t negative, as such, and her character is never treated with any less respect… it was just very male. It’s implied that her increasing size is as a result in of her condition and the lipids invading her brain but when he laugh was described as ‘Huttlaugh’ that, to me, indicates a writer who has prioritised immersing themselves in the genre over writing sensitively.

Overall The Real-Town Murders is a fun, quirky take on a crime noir, with a sci-fi twist. It’s worth a read of either of those genres are you thing!

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

I received a copy of The Feed from Netgalley in return for an honest review. I requested based on a slightly vague description; it sounded like a sort of horror… and turned out to be a sci-fi dystopia and therefore right up my street!

The Feed introduces us to a world where everyone is linked by a Feed- a far conclusion to the internet- and has every conceivable piece of information readily available. Messages from friends are instantaneous, thoughts run freely unless a person specifically blocks them. The main characters, a married couple called Kate and Tom, find the idea of switching off their Feeds quaint, until people begin to be hacked and world leaders assassinated. Six years later the Feed is still switched off, people are still learning the skills and knowledge that the Feed previously provided and regaining memories that they never had to think about before- their every experience being previously replayable. People are still being hacked- or Taken- when they sleep and the world has descended in to chaos. When Kate and Tom’s young daughter goes missing they have to face life outside of their camp.

The story reminds me of Black Mirror, a show I absolutely adore, except following the themes to their worst conclusion. Not only does The Feed broach the subject of how humanity would cope without modern communication and amenities, it ties it in to the characters very humanity and shows us just how far we could go towards destroying the world in the name of convenience.

Some parts of the story don’t match pace-wise; the beginning is a lot slower than the last third or so, but it’s still an exciting read and for a debut it’s pretty impressive. I’m possibly biased because it does combine two of my favourite genres, but it’s a twisty, sometimes violent take on the end of the world.

Beauty, Glory, Thrift by Alison Tam

Beauty, Glory, Thrift was a last minute addition to my SapphicAThon TBR after I read a review of it in Strange Horizons. I was immediately drawn to this short, sci-fi space adventure about a thief that discovers a digital goddess- Thrift- in a temple and downloads her to her brain, believing her to be mere software.

It’s a very quick read- I read my copy from The Book Smugglers in under an hour- but it packs an emotional punch. We see the world through Thrift’s new experiences; she sees everything through Pak the thief’s eyes, but with her own astonished take. The two start off at odds with one another, there isn’t much room in one person’s head, but there is a reason I read it for the SapphicAThon!

I have some thoughts about sci-fi in general that I think I’ll reserve for a separate post, but Beauty, Glory, Thrift has definitely been a nice segue back in to science fiction proper!