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Been a hell of a week, hasn't it?
It feels a little like most weeks are, indeed, hells of weeks, but this past week especially.
Hang in there. At the very least, I've got too good recs for you this time.
#75: THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Talk about a sleeper hit, my goodness.
This is not my genre, this is not my thing, this is not my rodeo, except apparently it is?? Because I loved it???
Again, this is a "I wish I knew how this ended up on my radar" book because I need to get more recs from them IMMEDIATELY. I read this book in a single day and I cried more than once. And not like, getting a little teary, not having one or two noble tears streak down my cheeks, I mean that I full on WEPT.
It's possible that some of this had to do with me having some weird mental health stuff going on right now, but also, there's absolutely something both about this story and the way Reid writes it that it burrowed its way into my skin and would not let me go.
The book's protagonist is Monique, a magazine writer who's chosen, quite out of the blue, to be the biographer for an aging Hollywood star, Evelyn Hugo. Most of the story is told in first person from Evelyn's point of view, as she dictates her life to Monique, but we also get to know Monique's story and struggles and the ways in which their lives and lessons overlap.
I was cautious when starting this, and it took me probably between 50 and 100 pages to really get invested. Like I said, not my genre, although now that I think about it, I have enjoyed several Hollywood-centric fanfics in the past (Performance In A Leading Role, anyone? Or, more recently, Slow Show?), and this was truly not all that different. However, once I hit the first 100 pages (my reading goal for the day) I found I couldn't put it down.
Evelyn herself is a masterwork of characterization, in my opinion - she's ruthless and headstrong and often very selfish, but in ways that are deeply understandable and human. The war between wanting security, and wanting to prove herself, but also deep down wanting a family, was endlessly fascinating to read, even as it was frequently devastating.
This is a very sad book in a lot of ways - or, perhaps, "bittersweet" is a better word. It deals with racism and sexism and, obviously, homophobia. I think what really got to me is that, despite the fact that the story is at times deeply heartbreaking, it's also filled with so much love and, at times, so much joy, and these I think contributed to why it had its claws so deep. I'm getting a little choked up just writing this.
I don't know if this will be everyone's cup of tea, but I would definitely recommend picking it up if it seems even slightly like it might be.
#76: CLOCKWORK BOYS by T. Kingfisher
Oh hell yes.
I've only read one thing by T Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon before, and while I really enjoyed that, it was her horror novel The Twisted Ones, so I had no idea how her writing would translate to any other genre.
Folks? I was not disappointed.
I'm almost tempted to describe the plot of this novel as a heist. While that's not technically true (the characters aren't trying to steal anything necessarily), the feel of the book and the characters feels way more like a heist than like a traditional quest narrative. Perhaps because the characters are mostly criminals?
Either way, it really worked for me, I liked all the characters, I liked how their relationships developed, and I was invested in seeing where their stories would go. While I was sort of vaguely interested in what they were trying to do (ie stop the dreaded Clockwork Boys that are ravaging towns), and thought there were a lot of cool world-building aspects, it was the characters that really sold this for me.
There's also some surprisingly poignant moments involving the plagues and other general issues that pervade the world these people live in, and I could understand how the characters got themselves to such a place of taking basically a suicide mission, somewhat against their own will. Anyway, I love these weirdos and I wish there was more than just one sequel.
NEXT WEEK'S AGENDA
#77: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
#78: Baker Thief by Claudie Arsenault