***SMUT REPORT KLAXON****

Let’s talk about–

DAMMIT, SALT-N-PEPA, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU GORGEOUS QUEENS OF HIP-HOP, NOT NOW, FFS.

But also, yes, let’s do exactly that. Yes, you’re right, it’s time for the Smut Report, in which I, Grand Dame of this humble Blog, will inform you which smutty books are worth your time, you filthy bastards. Let’s do it. I mean, not it, jesus, get your minds out of the gutter, this is a family blog (no, it’s not).

A Court of Frost and Starlight – Sarah J. Maas

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Smut level:

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How Much I Remember About the Plot: 

Yo I’m not even gonna lie I skimmed this bish for the d, and joke’s on me cuz woo boy was I disappointed. Same old, same old. This isn’t even ao3 m-rated shiz ok? Get thee to a fanfiction site asap if crazy fae-f*cking is what ye desire.

Worth it? 

Nope.

Once Upon a Marquess and Her Every Wish – Courtney Milan (it’s a series ok?)

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Smut level:

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How Much I Remember About the Plot:

Put-upon but plucky heroine receives assistance from wealthy blue-blooded aristo, times two.

Worth it? 

I mean, maybe. It’s pretty clean, but there are also corsets, so not a total loss.

Beasting Beauty – Madison Faye

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Smut level:

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How Much I Remember About the Plot:

Beauty and the Beast remake… FROM HELL.

Worth it? 

On the misogynistic bones of Walt Disney himself, no.

The Beau and the Belle – R.S. Grey

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Smut level:

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How Much I Remember About the Plot:

Not a single gottdanged thing.

Worth it? 

Listen, I’m not one to forget smut, so if even I managed to block that out, you know there’s some nasty shit going down. So yeah, probably worth it.

Fierce – Rosalind James

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Smut level:

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How Much I Remember About the Plot:

New Zealand. Maori hero. NEED I SAY MORE.

Worth it? 

Aue! (OH YES in Maori fyi)

 

DILF– London Hale

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Smut level:

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How Much I Remember About the Plot:

Too much. Too f*cking much.

Worth it? 

No. Christ help us all, no.

And that’s all, folks.

Oh wait.

Uh, oh.

It’s–

 

 

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As Cicero said in Paulus, Qui tacet non utique fatetur, sed tamen verum est eum non negare. 

I… I don’t think I will look that up until I am mentally prepared to deal with the shade this cat is throwing my way. So… never.

Read on, you dirty bastards. And be a dear and let me know if you find a really filthy one, will you?

— xo, R

 

Less Than Sober Blogging: Witch please

So I’m here blogging on a Sunday afternoon because I am ever a second-choice. Saint’s blood in these fucking veins and to **some** people I come after video games and beer. In a fit of impotent rage I sucked back two vodka coolers and also a shot of vodka (#russian), which means… Less Than Sober Blogging !

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So fuck everyone and everything, let’s review a motherfucking book ya? And what a fitting book it is, about witches and the men who fail them: Circe by Madeline Miller.

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Cover Talk:

Meh. I dunno, I don’t like the face. It’s too cartoonish for a book by the same author who ripped my heart out over and over again in The Song of Achilles. I strongly prefer the British cover, which you can see here. Also I know I’m waaaaasted but does she kinda look like Barbie to you? Cartoon Barbie. There was a cartoon, right? I didn’t just imagine that. They were in Malibu. There were leg-warmers. It was the 90s, leg-warmers were very in.

The Summary Heist:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Robyn Says:

Okie dokie so maybe this is not the best book to review while slightly tipsy.

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It’s complicated, gonna have to turn on the old brain box.

NUMBER ONE have you read The Iliad? NUMBER TWO have you read The Odyssey (ugh). NUMBER THREE have you read The Song of Achilles? If you answered yes to the first two questions, whoop-dee fucken doo, good for you, you fucking nerd, proceed, collect $200 as you pass go, don’t trip over your own inflated ego (KIDDING I’M DRUNK REMEMBER). If you answered no to the third question though, what the actual fuck is wrong with you, sort yourself out, mate, in the words of the meme:

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Really you don’t need to know shit about anything to read this, Miller provides enough context to get you through the story, because she is an ace fucking writer who knows her shit goddammit and she is PRECIOUS. But real talk you will miss all the little jokes and cleverness if you don’t have at least a glancing familiarity with Greek mythology in general and the tales of the Trojan War in particular. It would be like watching Teen Mom without having seen 16 and Pregnant ya know?

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Real talk it’s a good book. It’s not, like, rip-out-my-still-beating-heart-from-my-chest good, like Miller’s debut, The Song of Achilles (please read it you will not regret it). Like her previous book, Miller does a great job of retelling a classic myth, adding just enough to make it fresh without turning it into a “re-imagining.” The story is… leisurely. I won’t call it slow, because this isn’t about action. This is a purely character-driven novel. And speaking of characters, as you can imagine, Circe gets the most attention. The story is told from her point of view, and it’s a satisfyingly feminist vindication for a woman villainized by Homer. We get a fully-rounded, complex, interesting woman, the first witch according to this story, with hopes and fears and anger and desire, separate from crafty Odysseus and his story. Of course, the two cross paths eventually, and we get a nice realistic image of the King of Ithaca.

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I didn’t like the swiftness or the manner of the finale, truthfully – I think it was a bit of a narrative laziness, but hey, what the fuck do I know, I’m drunk-blogging on a Sunday afternoon with a grumpy old cat at my side and maudlin Drake songs blaring from my dollar-store speakers.

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Verdict:

Read it. It will make you learn shit while it entertains you and who the fuck are you to turn your nose up at a two-for-one deal like that, richie? And then read The Song of Achilles and prepare to WEEP as you have never wept before.

Best lines:

Miller’s good with the words, man.

“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

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“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.” 

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“The thought was this: that all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.” 

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Fancasting couch:

TOO DRUNK TO GOOGLE SORRY NOT SORRY.

Book Boyfriend material:

The Minotaur cuz I bet he wouldn’t pick beer and video games over a human woman eh.  EH.

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At least he’s got abs.

Rating:

7 out of 10 stupid idiot hard-headed know-it-all men who think they’re so fucking clever, just fucking off outta Troy without leaving a sacrifice for Athena thinking that’s not gonna come back to bite them in the fucking ass *cough* ten more fucking years traversing the fucking seas, and then oh, they are LUCKY enough to land a NICE WITCH who ACTUALLY CARES about them but noooooooooooooooo–

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ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT:

I don’t even know, you know?

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– xoxo, R

History is a nightmare, discuss.

Guys. GUYS. I have some News. But I can’t share it juuuuuuuust yet. It is Very Good News, though. AHHHHH I CAN’T WAIT TO TELL YOU!!!

Ok fuck it, here is a very unsubtle hint:

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EeeeeEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Shushing left and right, back where I belong!

Anyway. On to the review. This blog is turning out to be a read your way around the world, and I for one CANNOT BE HAPPIER. Huzzah for literary globalism!

Today, we’re in Turkey, that most liminal of lands, with Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of IstanbulYou might recall the author from my most recent nonverbal referral. As soon as I finished The Three Daughters of Eve I had to put every other Shafak book on hold, just to see if they were all so good only a Young Pope gif could express my feelings for them.

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Cover Talk:

This is a cover made from the ‘gram. Those muted pastels, the floral print, the perfect symmetry of the design… can you say a e s t h e t i c. Granted, not original, and not at all evocative of the novel’s plot, themes, or general mood. Still… it will look good as the centerpiece of my seemingly haphazard but meticulously crafted instagram still-life, surrounded by dried flowers and a candle I never burn and probably a pen, just to show you how Academic I am.

The Summary Heist:

From one of Turkey’s most acclaimed and outspoken writers, a novel about the tangled histories of two families.

In her second novel written in English, Elif Shafak confronts her country’s violent past in a vivid and colorful tale set in both Turkey and the United States. At its center is the “bastard” of the title, Asya, a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazanci family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehila, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlor and is Asya’s mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazanci sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres. Full of vigorous, unforgettable female characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is a bold, powerful tale that will confirm Shafak as a rising star of international fiction.

Robyn Says:

I’m kind of at a loss as to how to discuss this book. Yes okay I know this is a book blog but sometimes… sometimes there are books that don’t fit into traditional book reviews. I feel like this a common trait in Shafak’s books (those that I’ve read, anyway). The Bastard of Istanbul is epic in a few different ways. From the large cast of rich characters and the dual settings of Istanbul and Arizona to the numerous themes that somehow complement rather than diminish one another, this book is just A LOT.

The characters are utterly delightful. I loved all of them, even – no, especially – the flawed ones. Auntie Banu especially was a surprise favourite, with her mid-life rebirth as a clairvoyant aided by two “shoulder djinn” visible only to her, Mr. Bitter and Mrs. Sweet. Her whole subplot has made me desperate for Shafak to tackle magical realism (if she hasn’t already?) – please give me backstories for the shoulder djinn, Elif!!!

The parallel exploration of how both individuals and groups deal with trauma is sensitive yet unflinching. If you haven’t had an opportunity to learn about the Armenian genocide (1914-1923), I suggest doing a bit of research before reading this book (and also for your own general knowledge obviously). The complex intertwining of an Armenian family and a Turkish one illustrates the assigning black-and-white judgements. Life is too intricate, people are too complicated… Byzantine, one might even say…

Oh, Robyn, you fucking nerd.

Verdict:

Read it. It will engross you from start to finish – this might even be one of those rare single-sitting books (they do exist!). It will make you think and consider and wonder, and that is the mark of a Very Good Book.

Best lines:

SO MANY. Shafak is a true word-smith. Here are some of my stand-outs:

Article Five: If you have no reason or ability to accomplish anything, then practice the art of becoming.
If you have no reason or ability to practice the art of becoming, then just be.
If you don’t have any reason or ability to just be, then endure.

Either grant me the bliss of the ignorant or give me the strength to bear the knowledge.

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“The Iron Rule of prudence for an Istanbulite Woman: If you are as fragile as a tea glass, either find a way to never encounter burning water and hope to marry an ideal husband or get yourself laid and broken as soon as possible. Alternatively, stop being a tea-glass woman!” 

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Imagination was a dangerously captivating magic for those compelled to be realistic in life, and words could be poisonous for those destined always to be silenced.

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That was the one thing about the rain that likened it to sorrow: You did your best to remain untouched, safe and dry, but if and when you failed, there came a point in which you started seeing the problem less in terms of drops than as an incessant gush, and thereby you decide you might as well get drenched.

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Fancasting couch:

I know literally nothing about Turkish actresses, so I’m skipping the fan-casting this week. Guess I’m just gonna have to make some time to watch all those Turkish series on Netflix to find some fitting doppelgangers for Zehila, Banu, Asya, and Armanoush/Amy.

Book Boyfriend material:

I am very happy to tell you that this a book that is pretty female-dominated, with nary a book boyfriend in sight. Unless you count Auntie Banu’s shoulder djinn, Mr. Bitter, which I most definitely do.

Sure, why not.

Rating:

8 1/2 out of 10 little djinns who sit on your shoulders and whisper the secrets of the universe into your ears and also probably tell you whether the broad-shouldered dragon-slayer actually like likes you because really you have no idea, men are a fucking mystery ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT:

You know, some people reading this might think, nah, no real families have secrets like these, that’s just not realistic.

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Sweet innocent lamb, you have clearly never met my family. More secrets than you can throw a rattlesnake at.

And now, my cat:

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The usage of Byzanine as a synonym for something overly and unnecessarily complex as to be beyond understanding is a fairly recent coinage, only dating to 1937 per the OED.

THE MORE YOU KNOW.

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– xoxo, R

Allora

Ciao i miei piccoli polli! Come va? I myself am simmering in a fine broth of rage and despair, as per usual. Così è la vita! But you didn’t come here to hear me whine, let’s talk books, the only things in life that won’t let you down amiriiiiite.

Today’s book is The Italian Party by Christina Lynch, hence the Italian, sorry not sorry (scusa non mi dispiace?). Andiamo!

Cover Talk:

Nice, good, yes, VERY GOOD, more of this please, I like. Heavy overtones of Roman Holiday, with a dash of The Talented Mr. Ripley thrown in. (Ah, The Talented Mr. Ripley. That was peak Jude Law hotness, my friends. I’ve never been into blonds but if Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf showed up and started singing Renato Carosone songs, I wouldn’t say no.)

The Summary Heist:

A delicious and sharply funny page-turner about “innocent” Americans abroad in 1950s Siena, Italy. Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany’s famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.

When Scottie’s Italian teacher–a teenager with secrets of his own–disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth.

Half glamorous fun, half an examination of America’s role in the world, and filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, prosecco, charming spies and horse racing, The Italian Party is a smart pleasure.

Robyn Says:

I’m actually surprised by how much I liked this book – it’s not my usual thing, nary a dragon, wizard, or elf in sight. It’s really well-written, though, and I think that the prose felt… quick. I mean, I started this on a Saturday morning and, thanks in part to a non-existent social life, a boyfriend who works more than Hercules on speed, and a general distaste for any activity requiring me to leave my house, finished it in a single day. Not only was it well-written, it was funnier than I expected. Not a laugh-out-loud, I-Love-Lucy-audience-reaction kind of funny, but clever, and kind of dark, too. Despite the noir Roman Holiday cover, I got heavy Mad Men overtones, and that included the humour, too.

“What is Regina?” Lmaooooooooooooo Roger you silver fox.

The shining star of this book is obviously its setting – Italy in the 50s, hello – but I thought Lynch was great at conveying the reality of post-war day-to-day life. The conflict between the American-supported Catholic political candidate and the more locally-popular Communist was interesting, too. And, of course, it was very relevant to see American meddling – and the subsequent and inevitable American bungling of the aforementioned meddling.

You all know I’m a character girl, though. This book was filled with a pack of well-rounded liars (same tbh… I do love reading about my own kind). I appreciated the dual perspectives as well. I’m a fan of multiple points of view, but it was especially effective in this novel because of all the LIES. Good God, the lies. Absolute whoppers. Ballsy fuckers. It was great knowing what Scottie and Michael weren’t telling each other, both of them so certain they were the only one with secrets.

The story itself was compelling, suspenseful, and just as labyrinthine as you’d want from a story about CIA operatives doing their sketchy thing. I really enjoyed the evolution of both Scottie and Michael, the former gaining both confidence and agency and the latter becoming more accepting of himself and of others by the novel’s conclusion.

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There was also a subplot highlighting the extreme machinations that are often necessary to obtain a dog, so you know this book is a banger.

Verdict:

Read it. Will make you want to learn Italian asap and then book a one-way flight to Rome to live la dolce vita. Maybe you’ll open a little gelateria, and live over the shop, and spend your days making gelato and your nights strolling the streets Caesar once walked. The locals will turn up their noses at your sub-par gelato, but they will admire your tenacity and your ability to walk on cobblestones in three inch stilettos. A mafioso with coal-black eyes and a heart of gold will fall in love you. You won’t love him back, but you will wear the diamonds he gives you. You’ll be happy, mostly.

Best lines:

“Don’t you wish,” the wife said, tracing her finger along the edge of the car window, “that when you met someone, you could see the story of his or her life? Fast, like a quick little movie, you know?” 

Jeezus,can you imagine? No no no no no, do not want.

Absofuckinglutely not. Full-body shudder. Also, you know that was the only line I wrote down, I was too engrossed/lazy to take notes as always. Yes, I am flawed. Shocking, I know. Allora.

Fancasting couch:

Scottie

Michael

Ecco

Book Boyfriend material:

The dog, obviously.

Rating:

7 out of 10 stracciatella gelatos (listen, I just really want some fucking gelato right now ok can I  l i v e?)

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT:

…Allora.

Oh, here is Titus. Listen to him be grumpy.

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You would never make it in the gelato world. You lack the patience and the attention to detail required of culinary greatness. Remember what happened when you made lemon squares for your dragon-slayer? Even your lover refuses to let you suffer delusions of confectionery grandeur. Stick to the words, Librarian. You’re only half-bad at those.

I should rename his furry ass Rihanna. Fucking savage, T.

Off to Rome, guys (not really)!!

– xoxo, R