Messy Love, Revenge & Real World Monsters: Sadie by Courtney Summers

5 stars

Sadie

Normally, when I talk about my 4.5 and 5 star reads I tend to use words like ‘amazing’ or ‘fantastic’. But as that tends to conjure up images of me running over hills, singing about the sound of music, that vocab may need a bit of an overhaul here. Considering this book deals with poverty, drug addiction, neglect, loss, murder, and child sexual abuse, it’s pretty much the perfect example for which to break out a Ron Weasley classic: You’re going to suffer but you’re going to be happy about it. Or more aptly: you’re going to enjoy reading Sadie even though it’ll take your fragile heart, break it into little pieces and then set those pieces on fire.

I’m totally selling you on this one, aren’t I?

Why You Should Read this Book

A Realistic World

One of the things that really stands out about Sadie is how real everything feels. This is surprising because Sadie spends much of the book travelling around the US, meaning most of the places and people don’t get a lot of time to make an impression. However, there’s something about the way Summers writes that just makes everything jump off the page.  By dividing the book up into podcast transcripts and Sadie’s first person POV, we get both a textbook description of settings and characters as well as a more biased, personal perspective which really helps immerse you in the story. No matter where the book is taking place or who Sadie (& West) is interacting with, you’re very easily able to visualise it/them.

Fantastic Plotting, Pacing & Writing

Going into Sadie my biggest concern was that it would feel rushed. I mean, look at it, I don’t think there’s any chance of me ever trying to use it as a paperweight. It only took me a few pages to realise that this wouldn’t be a problem. I can imagine some people might even find it too slow or subtle, but for me, it was paced perfectly.

Podcasts

The choice to tell the story half as a podcast transcript was a great one, not only because it’s entirely believable that events like this could form the basis of a crime podcast, but because they provide balance and variety to the novel  These “transcripts” were very useful as they allowed Summers to flesh out characters that interact with Sadie and details of her life that wouldn’t come up organically in her own POV. They’re also great at gradually building the foundations for some of the heavier reveals later in the book.  As West is essentially playing catch up to Sadie, some parts of his journey will feel repetitive but there’s something very interesting about watching him try to piece things together from what Sadie’s left behind and what people will tell him.

Sadie’s Perspective

Sadie’s POV is tragically sad but beautifully written and I found myself lost inside her head. Both the internal and external components of her plot seem to have this sort of natural progression. Reading through Sadie’s memories and recollections is almost like putting a puzzle together. There’s a sense of direction in that you’re getting closer to understanding why she is the way she is and why she’s doing what she’s doing. Summer’s writing is wonderfully emotive and she transitions between memory and present so seamlessly. Similarly, in terms of reaching her goal, while most of Sadie’s leads don’t exactly pan out as expected, you somehow always feel as though she’s getting increasingly nearer to the end.

Dark Subject Matters

As I mentioned earlier, Sadie deals with some heavy topics and it does so in a brutally honest way. Better break out the chainmail, cause this is going to hurt. This book really does remind you that the world is not even close to a perfect or nice place and that sometimes real monsters are far worse than any creature you could find in a horror film.  Weirdly though, Sadie manages to be disturbing without ever being graphic or gory. Dark moments are always alluded to but never described in detail on the page. I have to give Summers points because she understands that what the human imagination can conjure is often a million times more awful than anything she could ever describe (I can definitely vouch for my own imagination, you bloody overactive nuisance). Sadie doesn’t shy away from the darkest corners of the world. It’s not always a comfortable read but it’s extremely difficult to drag yourself away from it.

Sadie as a Character

One of my favourite parts of the novel turned out to be Sadie, herself. There’s something so deeply broken and vulnerable about Sadie – she grew up with very little money, in a household in which her mother was a drug addict and neglected her, had to take responsibility for her sister, Mattie, at a young age, was sexually abused when she was only eleven years old, and to top it off she has a stutter. There’s just so much pain and darkness in her life and all you want to do is protect her from suffering any more harm. The fact that she’s nineteen and has such a bleak view of people and the world is consistently heartbreaking yet understandably justified. However, at the same time, she somehow also displays a great degree of courage and determination. There’s this immense underlying strength that pushes her towards her goal despite knowing it’s dangerous. Even with her sister gone, Sadie’s still fighting for her and while her path may be extremely self-destructive and often involve some not so great actions, I can’t help but admire her.

Why You Might Skip It

An Open Ending

If there was one singular thing that brought this book down for me, and only because of pure, unadulterated frustration, it would be the ending. I’m warning you now, if you’re someone who loves closure and explanation, the conclusion to Sadie will make you want to scream. The end of this book drove me crazy for ages because it’s open and there are so many unanswered questions. After all the pain in this book, you just want one small bit of happiness. Courtney Summers says NO. No catharsis for you.

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Sadie is a raw, dark and unflinchingly honest read. If you’re looking for a YA thriller that’ll make you feel some intense things, this is the one for you. If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here, hiding under the bed covers because the world is a scary and horrible place.

So, if I worked in quarter stars and wanted to be super petty by deducting points for the ending, this would be 4.75 Stars but because I don’t and I’m not, we’ll round it up to…

5 Stars

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Top 10 Tuesday: Backlist Books I Want to Read

I’mmmmm backkkk! It’s been about a month and here I am again, ready to get stuck into some Top Ten Tuesday fun.

Is it just me, or are there about a zillion and one amazing looking books released every few months? I go to cross one anticipated release off my TBR list only to find I have to add five more to it. For this reason, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in new releases and neglect the poor book babies which have been angrily screaming, ‘You promised to read me last month’ for about five years.

I also need to consider that every so often I find my reading tastes and interests change or expand a little. This tends to open my eyes up to a whole bunch of amazing books from years ago which I may not have been aware of before. For example, I only really started getting into YA contemporaries last year which means I have a lot of catching up to do in terms of the super popular books in that category.

Here are ten books published at least 2 years ago which I’d like to read at some point:

Image result for siege and stormSiege & Storm – Leigh Bardugo (2013)

I now own all three books, and having finally done my re-read of Shadow and Bone at the end of October, I’m planning to push on to Siege & Storm soon. I’m looking forward to finally getting a proper introduction to Nikolai, who people can’t seem to discuss without swooning. I didn’t mind book one but I wasn’t in love with it. Still, I’m willing to give the rest of the series a go because 1) Leigh is awesome and 2) I’d really like to read King of Scars when it comes out.

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Related imageFangirl – Rainbow Rowell (2013)

As I mentioned above, I only jumped on the YA contemporary bandwagon last year so I’m still working my way through the so called holy grail books of the genre. Fangirl seems to be one of them. Weirldy enough, I’ve already read Carry On which came after (and only because of) this book so it’ll be interesting reading the fan fiction sections. Hopefully I find it as cute and relatable as people (constanty) keep saying it is. I mean, I am a bit of a hermit and I have written fan fiction so the odds are in its favour.

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28165439The Long Walk – Richard Bachman aka. Stephen King (1979)

I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled across this one. I think I may have been googling lists of the best Stephen King books? (Totally normal bookworm behaviour, of course). This one peaked my interest. It’s about a race in which 100 boys have to keep walking above a certain speed for as long as possible. They have three warnings and if they exceed them, they get murdered. Winner gets whatever their heart desires. It sounds super dark but really compelling. It’s also a reasonable length, unlike some of King’s more famous pieces, but then again, he published this one under a pseudonum. I’m hoping it’s an interesting read.

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10576365The Darkest Minds – Alexandra Bracken (2012)

I’ve mentioned this one on some other lists recently so apologies for being an uncreative and repetitious dork. I was never super motivated to actually read TDM until the movie came out but everyone raves about these books so I think I need to find out what the fusss is about. Also POWERS. I LOVE POWERS! I’m hoping to find some loveable characters but I’m a little worried about the book just feeling like every other dystopian YA I’ve read. I also tend to get bored with over the top military/government organisation involvement in certain kinds of stories so fingers crossed it doesn’t happen with this one.

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16069030The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski (2014)

This series seems to come up a lot in YA fantasy/dystopian circles, especially when people are talking favourite ships. I’ll admit, the books look a little trashy – the covers give me some serious The Selection vibes (which my guilty pleasure lovin’ self had sooooo much fun with) and I’m worried there will be a heap of tropes, instalove and a lack of proper development. STILL my curious brain cannot be dissuaded. I have to do it. I’m hoping they end up being as enjoyable as everyone says. If so, they’re short reads and they’ll look gorgeous in my bookshelf, triple win!!

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10626594The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater (2011)

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been in the bookstore, picked this one up, thought about buying it and then decided to hold off. The plot sounds really exciting (intense live-or-die race involving water horses? Um, Yes!) and I’ve heard a heap of good things about it (it’s slow but really atmospheric and poignant). Plus, it’s a standalone so no need to wait years for pesky sequels which may or may not live up to expectations. I may not always adore Maggie’s books but I have to admit that she always has interesting characters and concepts.

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943402Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist (2009)

I’ve been curious about this one ever since I saw the american adaptation years back. I’ve now seen both the Swedish and US versions so I’d really like to read the source material to see how it compares. After how romanticised vampires have become in literature over the years, it’ll be cool to read something with a darker, scarier, and more violent approach towards them. I’ve heard it’s quite intense and creepy so it should be a good change of pace.

 

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Image result for the name of the windThe Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss (2007)

I’ve been putting this one off for a very long time for three reasons. First, it’s not a small book  and 2018 Ashley seems to find that frightening. Second, I’ve heard it takes some time to really grab you. Third, it’s taking Rothfuss FOREVER to write the series, and who needs that pain and suffering in their life? However, pretty much everyone who loves fantasy has really enjoyed this series and I’m looking forward to seeing what all the hype is about. Please don’t end up being boring and disappointing.

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Image result for the well of ascensionThe Well of Ascension – Brandon Sanderson (2007)

I’ve had this book in my bookcase for a few years now and I keep putting it off because I know I’ll need to re-read The Final Empire before I read it. My memory is basically swiss cheese these days and I remember nothing about book one. Okay, nothing other than the fact that the magic system is super cool and that Sanderson actually surprised me by killing off a major character before the climax. This is another series everyone who loves the fantasy genre gushes about. I enjoyed the first book and it’ll be interesting to see where the series goes after how it ended. Sanderson is a really amazing writer so it’ll be nice to get some more exposure to him.

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Image result for since you've been goneSince You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson (2011)

Morgan Matson is another one of those YA contemporary authors that people seem to really enjoy. I read the blurb of this one and though it’d be a great choice for my first book of hers. The cover gives me such Summer vibes so don’t be surprised if this one shows up on a summer reads related post later on. I really love reading about well written female friendships in books and it seems ike Since You’ve Been Gone will have one at it’s core. Give me some cute moments and make me feel all the feelings, pretty please!


What are some of the backlist books sitting on your TBR at the moment? Why haven’t you gotten around to them yet? Perhaps you’re like me and keep getting distracted by shiny, pretty new releases! 

And That’s a Wrap: September Edition

Nine months of 2018 down, only three to go. Somebody pass me some chocolate stat, because I’m freaking out. Anybody got a timeturner? That’d be much appreciated too. No? Okay, well, I better get on with looking back at another month that went all too damn fast.

Books I Read

Other than my first read of the month, September was a bit of a bleh month with a lot middle of the road star ratings. I managed to get through almost all my sister’s TBR picks except for The Poppy War and added in Wildcard (which I was too keen to wait til October for). Overall, seven books isn’t bad and I’m satisfied with the effort for the month.

Sep reads

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★★| Review

Gosh, I loved this book. Definitely one of the best novels I’ve read all year. The plot is interesting, the characters are layered and feel real, it’s diverse, the structure is well done…just everything really. A perfect example of fantastic historical fiction!

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diane Wynn Jones ★★★.5

My tendency to like whichever medium I come across first holds true with this one – it turns out that I’m more a fan of the anime film, which is very different to the book. I liked the book, don’t get me wrong, it just felt a little young in style at times and I often found my thoughts wandering. The characters are endearing though and the creativity of the world building is still great.

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli ★★★.5

More proof that Becky knows how to write inclusive and sweet stories with relatable characters. The plot is slighly juvenile and it’s not the most compelling one I’ve ever read but with the characters the age they are, I can understand it. I really related to Molly and a lot of her thoughts were ones I’ve had, myself, in the past. The chemistry with her love interest, Reed, was also really adorable. However, the diversity was a little forced at times, a lot of the side characters felt kind of underdeveloped, and I really wish Molly had found her confidence without the help of a relationship.

My Oxford Year – Julia Whelan ★★★★

My sister & I  picked this one expecting it to be light, fluffy chick-lit but about half way through, the book completely changed tone with the reveal of a big secret about the male lead.  I quite liked both Ella, our American MC, and Jamie, her British romantic interest, and the chemistry between the two is great, but I have to say, this book broke my heart a little. The ending isn’t exactly break down in tears sad but it definitely leaves a hole in the chest. Still, I liked that the book encourages you to pursue your passions and make the most of important people and experiences in your life while you have them.

Stormdancer – Jay Kristoff ★★★.5

Normally I’m a big fan of Jay’s books but this one was lacking in a lot of areas for me. I was even tempted to DNF after the first fifty or so pages. The world building is quite complicated and there’s a lot of mish-mashing of different asian inspirations which left me feeling lost. It also takes ages for the story to finally get interesting. After a while though, things did pick up and I ended up having a fairly enjoyable time. The best part is definitely the relationship between the lead, Yukikio, and Buruu, the legendary Arashitora (Thunder Tiger) which gave me major Eragon vibes.

Wildcard – Marie Lu ★★★| Review

I had high hopes for this one after really enjoying Warcross earlier this year. The plot is quite focused, complex and deals with some big ethical questions. Some elements, such as the resolution of the kidnapping storyline, were well done, while others ended up feeling messy and unbelievable. I was let down by Emika’s role, which is largely passive for most of the book, and the ending itself, which felt almost rushed and failed to attribute appropriate consequences to actions/events. The climax of the book managed to recapture some of the magic from book one but overall I was a bit disappointed with this installment. Darn, high expectations! Get yourselves under control!

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi ★★★.5 or ★★★★ (Depending on End)

Okay, so technically I’m not finished this one yet but I will be by tonight! This book was HUGELY hyped but unfortunately, I just don’t think I’m as on board as everyone else. It’s certainly good in parts and the fact that the world is African-inspired is fantastic, but there’s just a few things that have bothered me. The book starts off really strong but after a while I started to get frustrated with the fact that the characters seem to change attitudes/ideas in the blink of eye – it’s giving me whiplash. I also don’t get why everyone in the core group of characters has to be in a romance with one another. The plot itself also seems to just hit points of being well…kind of boring. I keep varying between feeling like ‘eh’ and then perking up when something engaging, such as the gladitorial-boat sequence or prison break out, happens. Guess I’ll see how this ending goes – apparently there’s a twist.


Books I Bought

September Purchases

This month’s purchase total is a reasonably healthy figure of 6 (+ 2 comics). I’m not feeling too bad about this because I read two of them straight after purchasing and the rest are short YA contemporaries (okay, I’ll Give you the Sun is a little chunkier) so they shouldn’t take very long. I’ve got a few popular ones here and I’m looking forward to seeing what the fuss is all about.

Have you read any of these? Thoughts?


Blog Posts

Another light month. I’ve been low on time and focus.

Top 10 Tuesday

Books by my Favourite Authors, and Authors with the Potential to Become Favourites, that I Still Haven’t Read

Binge-Worthy TV Shows

Discussions

Picking Books to Review

Other Book Reviews

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Miscellaneous

WWW Wednesday | 19.09.18


Hiatus

As you may have seen in last month’s wrap up, I’ve been thinking about taking a hiatus for a little while now and have decided to take it now going into October. Work is quite busy at the moment and it’s been messing up my schedule so finding time to write and edit my posts has been challenging.

A hiatus will also be a nice break for me to think about looking at some of the writing ideas that have come to mind in the last few months which I haven’t had time to do anything with yet. I’m still unsure if I want to tackle NaNoWriMo again this year so this is the perfect time to figure that out. Plus, I think I’d like the chance to do a few other R&R activities for a bit to rest and recharge. I’ll definitely still be around the blogsphere though, reading your wonderful posts!

So until next month…maybe…

Ash

Prepare Yourself for a Headache and Some Heartache: Wildcard by Marie Lu

3 starswildcard

After reading Warcross back in March, I had high hopes and major excitement going into Wildcard. I mean, after that ending, how could I not? But the big question is, did Marie Lu’s latest sequel manage to live up to expectations?

Unfortunately not.

Focus & Direction

I found Wildcard to be a big change of pace to Warcross in terms of its approach to plot. In book one, while the story centred around Emika hunting down the mysterious hacker, it was also filled with other elements such as the fun Warcross matches, memories to develop Emika’s backstory, and lightweight interactions to create friendship or romantic links between characters. Wildcard is different in that every scene feels focused and purposeful. There isn’t a lot of extraneous material and if you do get it, it’s often because the scene was also necessary for the main plot. That is, until the end sequence, in which character details about the Phoenix Riders are thrown at the reader in succession a bit like a tennis ball machine.

This approach wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I did miss some of the more light-hearted parts of Warcross, especially considering how dark sections of Wildcard became. However, if there’s one thing I can say it’s that after a slower start, the rest of the book maintains a constant, and good degree, of momentum.

No Warcross

I’ll be blunt: There are no book-one type Warcross matches in Wildcard. We get a one on one match between Emika and Zero and then a slightly Warcross-esque section at the end of the book, but neither fully reaches the excitement of the book one matches. Admittedly, these wouldn’t really fit into the plot of Wildcard, but my whiny, irrational brain just can’t help but feel sad about it.

Emika, Where Are You?

I really enjoyed Emika as a protagonist in Warcross. She was bold, curious, quick thinking, and given a good degree of emotional backstory. In Wildcard, however, I feel as though she wasn’t used to her full potential. Emika spends most of this book either being shuffled around by other big players or simply trying to find the answer to the next question in what seems like a never-ending line of questions. She’s not sure who to trust or what to do which leaves her in a largely passive position until late in the game.

My other problem is that Wildcard adds almost nothing to Emika’s character and backstory except for her starting to rely more on others. We get a few mentions of her father but the only new info we’re given is one fragmented memory sequence. The memory is one Emika considers to be her worst, but it’s never explained why and the context surrounding it is almost non-existent. Because of this, I found its inclusion out of place and confusing.

I won’t even talk about just how problematic the whole Emika-Hideo relationship is in this book. Good lord. Essentially Emika: Hideo, you created a mind control algorithm with the potential to kill people or turn them into mindless slaves, but I love you and keep dreaming about you, so let’s just forget all that. 

Complicated & Heavy (My Head Hurts)

Wildcard is a lot more complex than its predecessor and full of big moral dilemmas regarding technology. I admired Marie’s ability to take on these massive ethical questions and look at different sides of them, to the point where even I wasn’t sure where I stood at times. Although in order to deal with some of these ideas, the book does require you to suspend a degree of belief. For example, only 2% of the world’s population doesn’t use Hideo’s new contact lenses, the villain of the story can physically do what they’re supposed to have done to Zero, Hideo’s algorithm does have the power to turn people into walking zombies, etc. Because of this, I reached a stage late in the book where it started to verge into almost silly for me. To my relief, Marie managed to course correct this with her action-packed climax.

On the smaller scale, there are a lot of layers of mystery in this book. Each answered question led to another and another, causing me to jump back and forward between confusion, immense engagement, and just plain frustration. But, I can’t deny, I still powered through, determined to finally see the bigger picture (if only to stop my brain hurting in the attempts to force everything to make sense).

My Heart Hurts

For me, the Zero/Sasuke storyline was both the best and worst part of Wildcard. The more grounded and human moments of this plot, such as Emika watching records detailing the years after Sasuke’s kidnapping, are extremely heartbreaking and beautifully written. The conclusion of this storyline was also so well done that I found myself almost on the verge of tears reading it – it’s just that good. However, where this story connects into other elements of the novel is where the book started to lose me a little.

Climax & Ending

Following a turn in the Zero plotline, Wildcard delves into an action-packed, although too drawn out, almost-Warcross like sequence involving Hideo, Emika and the Phoenix Riders. This section was well done in that it managed to showcase the magic between the characters we saw in Warcross and some of the excitement of the original book, just with higher stakes.

Without giving much away, there were components of the ending that I thought worked very well and others, far less so. I liked the positive idea the book expressed regarding our relationship with technology, the sense of duality between the ending and Warcross’s beginning, and the resolution of the Zero story. BUT, the end also felt slightly rushed, as if certain complications were tied up too neatly and other elements weren’t given a proper degree of consequence at all – I’m looking at you, Hideo.

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While Wildcard may excel beyond Warcross with regards to its bold subject matter and high emotional impact, it’s let down by an at times messy and unbelievable plot, lack of lighter moments, and a weakened protagonist. There are certainly a number of things to like about the second instalment in this duology but at the same time, I can’t help wishing certain things had been different. Overall, mildly entertaining but largely disappointing.

3 Stars

Top 10 Tuesday: Books by my Favourite Authors, and Authors with the Potential to Become Favourites, that I Still Haven’t Read

After thinking about this week’s TTT topic for some time, I came to the rather bizarre conclusion that unlike my teenage self, adult me does not have that many favourite authors. *jaw drop* Why, you ask? Well, while I do read a lot of books, I’ve noticed that they seem to come from a much wider array of different authors than they used to. In other words, I don’t read enough books from particular authors for them to BECOME favourites. You can see why this would be problematic for a list like this.  Then there’s the other issue that for some of my favourite authors I don’t actually have any books (already released, that is) still to read.

SO.

To make up the numbers I’ve decided to extend this list to also include authors that I’ve read something from and would like to see more of. In other words, books I’m keen to read by authors with the potential to become favourites. Let’s get stuck in.


One

Image result for sleeping beauties uk

Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King

I’ve read a few of King’s novels now and largely enjoyed them. I bought this brick of a book (typical SK) shortly after it came out but I still haven’t tackled it. I’m expecting it won’t happen until I hit a holiday period but I’m definitely still determined to get there. There have been some mixed reviews on this one but the blurb continues to suck me in.


TwoImage result for the storyteller jodi picoult

The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult

During my high school years I consumed Jodi Picoult novels like a machine but I haven’t read one for some time (not for any particular reason though). They’re always emotionally crushing but I just love how well done her characters are. Plus I respect her willingness to tackle some really heavy issues through her writing. This one relates to WWII German history and with an average goodreads rating of 4.27 I’m expecting it to be a great one to get me back on board with her books.


Three

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The Archived – Victoria Schwab

Schwaby. How I adore you. I’ve had this one on my GR to-read shelf for what feels like FOREVER and I still haven’t got there. With the recent release of both The Archived books in one release, The Dark Vault, I’ve been reminded of just how much I want to read this one. I mean, it’s set in a library, that should be enough alone.


Four

Image result for one true loves taylor jenkins reid

One True Loves – Taylor Jenkins Reid

I completely fell in love with Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo last month and I’m now determined to read some of her other novels. One True Loves is considered to be one of Reid’s best novels so I’m hoping lightning strikes twice. It’s a completely different story from Evelyn Hugo but I’m expecting to find more beautifully done characters and great writing. A woman whose husband dies in a helicopter crash and turns up alive years later after she’s already remarried? I’m ready for ALL the emotions!


Five

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The Song Rising (The Bone Season 3#) – Samantha Shannon

Here’s another one that’s been on my shelf for ages. I really want to read it but I’m being held up by the fact that I need to do a re-read of The Mime Order first to ensure I know what the hell is going on. At this rate Sam’s enormous tome The Priory of the Orange Tree (which also looks great) will be released before I finally read The Song Rising. Get cracking, Ashley!


Six

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Legend – Marie Lu

At this point I’ve only read Marie’s Warcross duology but after these two, I’m very keen to see more. Her Legend series seems to be extremely popular and has quite a high average GR rating, so I’m thinking this will be the one I tackle. However I am a little bit worried about it including a too quickly developed romance.


Seven

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I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella

Sophie is another author that I used to read a lot of back in the day but haven’t for some time. Her books are light contemporaries which are always a bit of fun. They make me laugh and are great pick me ups when you’re feeling down. Sure, some of it gets repetitive from time to time but this one sounds cute anyway. The concept here is that the MC, Poppy, finds a lost phone which happens to belong to the ex-PA of cute businessman, Sam. Poppy starts trying to manage Sam’s life using the phone and as you can imagine, hijinks ensue.  Cue romance.


EightImage result for unwind neal shusterman

Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Picking up Scythe by Mr Shusterman earlier this year was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in 2018 and the sequel, Thunderhead, was pretty damn awesome as well. NS’s worldbuilding skils are amazing and by the looks of the synopsis for Unwind, Scythe wasn’t just a fluke. The plot of this one sounds fascinatingly creepy and I’m extremely intrigued. The idea that teens between the ages of 13 and 18 can be simply killed and their organs shuffled on to other people without their consent sounds terrifying. Bring it on.


Nine

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Renegades – Marissa Meyer

I could just as easily have put Winter here but I’ve gone with Renegades. I’ve read the first three books in Marissa’s The Lunar Chronicles series and have had a great time with them. I think she’s great at balancing more dramatic writing against humour and her ideas are wonderfully creative. For this reason I’m really looking forward to reading more from her, especially since this one sounds epic.


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Iron Gold (Red Rising 4#) – Pierce Brown

Yes, I know, I know. I keep bringing this one up because I still haven’t gone back and finished it. The bloody thing has been sitting on my bedside table with a bookmark in it at about page 200 since April. APRIL for crying out loud. I love this series and Pierce’s writing is amazing so I know I’ll get there eventually but when, that’s always the question.

Which books by your favourite authors are you yet to read? And which authors are you eager to see more from?

Fame, Money and What it Costs to Keep it: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

5 stars

Evelyn Hugo

There are some books that you just know, after only a few pages, are going to be magical. For me, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of these books. Like any bookworm, I read a lot of novels that I describe as being great, enjoyable, well-written, or exciting. The word ‘love’, however, I reserve only for a select few.

I loved this book.

Who, What, Where?

In 2017 NYC, journalist Monique Grant is surprised to learn that she has been specifically requested by legendary actress, Evelyn Hugo, to conduct the star’s first interview in several years. Monique just hopes to get a few personal details beyond the upcoming charity auction. Instead, she’s shocked to find that Evelyn has called her there to begin work on a tell-all biography in which she plans to finally put everything on the table – her rise to fame, efforts to stay in the limelight, all seven husbands, and the true love of her life.

Rich & Real Characters

Evelyn Hugo is a very people-centric story and its success is due in large part to Reid’s fabulously written characters. As you’d expect, Evelyn, herself, is the heart of this novel. In creating Evelyn and her story, Reid has incorporated characteristics of many famous starlets – Marilyn Monroe’s sex symbol status, Elizabeth Taylor’s marriages and friendship with Monty Clift, Rita Hayworth’s immigrant roots, and Ava Gardiner’s desire to write a tell-all biography. She is a fantastic representation of women in the film industry – the struggles they experience to stay relevant and be taken seriously. Yet, at the same time, Evelyn is so clearly her own person.

“I’m cynical and I’m bossy, and most people would consider me vaguely immoral.” 

Evelyn is vain, not particularly kind, and often selfish in her relentless pursuit of fame and acclaim, but at the same time she’s a very complex, strong and, dare I say it, feminist character. She knows what she wants in life and despite numerous setbacks, refuses to let others stop her from achieving it. You can’t help but love her and watching Evelyn evolve over the course of the book is one of its most compelling components.

While Monique may start off TSHOEH, once the ball gets rolling, she mostly fades into the background and doesn’t return as a strong presence until the climax. Despite this, Reid still manages to make her relatable and give her a good degree of depth, making the most of her limited page time.

Aside from our two leads, Evelyn’s world is filled with an array of interesting and diverse characters. With seven husbands, there was always the risk of these men blending together but each manages to feel distinct from one another, particularly with regards to the roles they play in Evelyn’s life and the effect they have on her character.

Sexual Diversity & Representation

TSHOEH features not one, not two, but three non-heterosexual major characters, as well as several others in smaller roles. The love and care given to these individuals is evident from start to finish and it’s truly wonderful to see queer individuals as dramatic and romantic leads. Evelyn, herself, is bisexual. Living in the public eye as she does, and during the decades she has, this plays a huge part in the trajectory of her story. Despite the time difference, many of the issues Evelyn experiences connected to her sexuality are still faced by bisexuals in today’s world – how she can possibly be attracted to both genders, the jealousy and insecurity of romantic partners regarding her bisexuality, and of course, the fear of being completely misunderstood.

“Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box. Don’t do that.”

Romance

Evelyn’s romantic relationship with her great love, actress Celia St James, is another wonderful addition to the novel. This relationship is far from easy but it’s also sweet, bitter, intimate, and beautifully crafted. Their story is a rollercoaster of emotion and it’s simply impossible to look away. Yet, the fact that so many of their troubles stem from a need to hide who they are, and their love for one another, is what makes it truly heartbreaking.

“I love you more than anything else in the entire world.”

“It’s not wrong,” Celia said. “It shouldn’t be wrong, to love you. How can it be wrong?”

“It’s not wrong, sweetheart. It’s not,” I said. “They’re wrong.”

Old Hollywood Glamour

“You should know this about the rich: they always want to get richer. It is never boring, getting your hands on more money.”

Despite the rampant sexism, racism, homophobia and a whole host of other issues, there’s always been something glamorous about old-school Hollywood. The beauty, romance, youth, freedom – we can’t help being dazzled by it, but at the same time, we’re very aware of Tinseltown’s darker, seedier and more twisted undertones. TSHOEH embraces this contrast completely and Reid handles it wonderfully. The decision to start Evelyn’s story in the 1940s and progress right through to the 80s suited the themes and natural progression of the book perfectly, and I was hooked from the start right til the very end.

Successful Structure & Style

POV:  The novel is technically written from Monique’s perspective, however, the majority of it consists of what Evelyn is verbally describing, largely uninterrupted, to Monique about her life. Except for the brief segments in which Monique voices a question or the two women stop for the day (and we spend some time in Monique’s head), the story feels like Evelyn’s POV. It makes sense from a narrative standpoint but also ensures an intimate connection with both women.

Parts: Evelyn’s story is broken up into seven parts, each named after one of her many husbands. It’s a choice that works very well as each man represents the start and end of a particular stage in Evelyn’s life. The descriptors for each husband in the section titles also act as a fun teaser for what’s to come next.

Style: Along with the traditional narrative, Reid also incorporates numerous “news articles” in between chapters to showcase public perceptions of Evelyn and her loved ones, and to mark big moments in her life. These were great inclusions as they served to enhance elements of the story but also really drove home one of the ideas of the novel which is that what the public sees of people in the limelight is rarely ever the true or full picture.

“But of course, they got it wrong. They never did care about getting it right. The media are going to tell whatever story they want to tell. They always have. They always will.”

Twist Ending with Emotional Impact

I won’t say too much because of spoilers but using a dramatic twist, Reid is able to link Monique and Evelyn’s stories in an emotional and engaging way. Beyond this twist, there isn’t much of a happy ending but it feels exactly right for the story told and I can’t imagine the novel finishing any other way.

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Summing up the absolute brilliance of this novel seems impossible. So, I’ll simply say, that if you enjoy historical fiction with raw and real characters, fantastic writing, and intense emotion, pick this one up. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

I’ll just be over here recommending this new favourite to pretty much everyone I know.

5 Stars

WWW Wednesday | 19.09.18

It’s time for another  WWW Wednesday or as it should be titled, ‘Ashley has yet to upload anything to her blog this week and this is an easy, last minute post’. Successful blogger, that is clearly (not) me. This meme, hosted by Taking on a World of Words, requires you to answer three simple questions: 1) What did you just finish? 2) What are you currently reading? and 3) What will you read next?

Recently Finished

35820405My Oxford Year – Julia Whelan | Goodreads

I picked this one expecting it to be some light, fluffy chick-lit featuring a romantic Oxford setting and a sexy literature professor as the love interest. Tick to the setting and double tick to the hot professor but NOOOOOOO to the light and fluffy. About half way through, the book flips in tone with the reveal of a big secret about the male lead.  I quite liked both Ella, our American protagonist, and Jamie, her British romantic interest, and the chemistry between the two is great. BUT man, this book broke my heart a little. The ending isn’t exactly sad in and of itself but thinking about what will happen after it definitely leaves a bit of a hole in the chest. Still, I liked that the book encourages you to pursue your passions, and reinforced the idea that while not all things last forever, it’s important to make the most of them while you can.

Currently Reading

30653853The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli | Goodreads

Yep, after putting it off for ages, I’m finally doing it. After missing out on my light and fluffy with My Oxford Year, I definitely needed it going into this one. As in Becky’s other books, the characters feel realistic and there’s a lot of diversity but I’m not as in love with them as I was with those in Simon. There are a few things about the plot that are bugging me but a lot of it I can narrow down to teenagers thinking and acting like teenagers – things that seem so important at that age, really aren’t in the overall scheme of things. I definitely relate to Molly a lot though and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in a lot of the self-confidence issues I have. Even some of her thoughts feel like somebody secretly copied and pasted them straight from my head. I’m almost finished, should be done tonight. Here’s hoping for a cute ending.

Up Next

29386918Wildcard (Warcross 2#) – Marie Lu | Goodreads

Yes, yes, I know I’m supposed to be following my sister’s TBR list for this month and I promise I’ll go back to it but I just can’t resist reading this book. It’s FINALLY out! YAYYYYYYYYY! I’m a little excited, can you tell? I almost jumped for joy when I found it a few days earlier than expected at the book store. I’ve seen some mixed reviews from those with ARCs so far, so I’m slighty concerned but hopefully it’s for nothing. I really enjoyed Warcross when I read it earlier this year so fingers crossed this one lives up to it. It’ll be good to spend some more time with my gal Emika again. Looking forward to seeing her kick some more virtual ass.

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What’s your current read & what’s up next?

Ash