Swoons all around

Guten tag, lieblings. I’ve been absent because I’ve been “writing” my “novel”…

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I’m so behind, guys. So so behind. I don’t think I’ll make the 50k minimum this year, but it’s my own fault. November 1st came and I had no idea what I wanted to work on, so I just picked a random story idea from my idea notebook and ran with it. It is not working.

So I’ve been reading, and for some reason, I am back on my historical romance bullshit, and I am LOVING IT, baby. This is the perfect time of year to cozy up with a romance novel populated with dukes and earls (and the odd marquis) and the ladies they love. This week, I’m reviewing one I’ve had on my digital TBR pile for some time: The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews., book 1 in the Parish Orphans of Devon series.

The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans of Devon #1)

Cover Talk

I like it. Very simple, and showing the back of the woman’s head avoids that pesky cover model vs. my imagination when it comes to character appearances. The other books in the series have the same style of cover.

The Summary Heist

She Wanted Sanctuary…

Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar’s Abbey isn’t the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill–though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome–is anything but a romantic hero.

He Needed Redemption…

Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household–and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.

Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena’s past threatens, will Justin’s burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?

Robyn Says

Loved. It.

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This book was exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time. A sweet (read: clean) historical, with just the right amount of angst and obstacles to true love, and the perfect happy ending, complete with a set-up for the next book’s couple. I loved the setting as well – early Victorian, which I thought was different enough from the usual Regency setting to make this one stand out.

Also, the tropes, MY GOD, the tropes. This one was marriage of convenience meets grumpy hero who is secretly a soft boi meets friends to lovers. Can you say cat nip???

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Exactly.

Verdict

Read it. It’s a perfect November read for when you need to escape reality for a few hours.

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Best Lines

I got nothing. It’s a romance novel, my dudes. Every line is fucking gold.

Fancasting couch

Helena – Bella Heathcote

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Justin – Richard Armitage

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You’re welcome.

Book Boyfriend material

This is always a no-brainer with romance novels, I guess. But like, come on…

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Rating

Eight out of 10 GRUMPY BUT SECRETLY OH SO SOFT MEN WITH THE SHOULDERS AND THE GLOWER KSKSKDKSKAJJSKSK

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ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

It has not escaped me that I myself am married to my platonic ideal of a romance hero (the glower, the shoulders, etc)… should I do a reddit ama? Fyi this is literally what happens every time me and G hold hands, it’s actually weird, I dunno man…

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Auf wiedersehen, bitches. See you when the writer’s block hits.

– xo, R

My boy

I was just going through some old blog drafts and found this picture from 2016 – my love, Titus Ignatius Andronicus, Book Cat, the best cat who ever lived. He even had a witty little quote for me.

As Ms. Austen said, "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."

As Ms. Austen said, “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

God, I miss him 💔

– xo, R

Nonfiction Benediction: Yas Queen

Ahoy hoy, gentlefolk, it is I, your friendly neighbourhood book-blogger, and I’m back once again with the words. Things are good, things are bad, things are meh – life is gumbo and I am merely eating what I’m served. That’s a horrible metaphor, but whatever, I’m so tired, let’s just go with it.

Today is your lucky day – it’s time for another edition of the NONFICTION BENEDICTION. This time, we’re talking about Cleopatra: A Lifeby Stacy Schiff, which I read concurrently with the subject of my previous post, A Pure Heart, by Rajia Hassib, which featured an Egyptian protagonist and was set partially in Egypt.

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Cover Talk

Nope, do not like it, nuh-uh. This skews so chick-lit it’s not even funny. Show me a biography of a male historical figure with a cover showing the nape of a male model’s neck. Oh yeah, when I read a biography of George Washington, the first thing I think of for suitable cover images is the NAPE OF HIS NECK. Nah, fam. That’s some patriarchal fuckery right thurr. Cleopatra would not approve, and NOR DO I.

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The Summary Heist

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.

Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.

Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and–after his murder–three more with his protégé. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since.

Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way, Cleopatra’s supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff ‘s is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life. 

Robyn Says

You know what… I liked this. I actually tried Schiff’s book on the Salem witch trials and dnf’d that thing one chapter in, so I’m pleasantly surprised. This book was a really well-done biography, informative but accessible, well-written, and actually quite narrative in style at certain points. The best thing, in my opinion, was Schiff’s determination to systematically dismantle the myths, often derogatory, surrounding Cleopatra’s life and rule, first by examining them in detail, then using specific evidence to illustrate just how inaccurate these myths were.

I thought I knew a lot about Cleopatra and the era in which she lived. Turns out, I was right, I do know a lot about Cleopatra and late-Republic Rome lol, but I also learned a lot, too. So I’m pretty satisfied. Good job, Stacy Schiff. And you know what, good job me, you fucking nerd. I know a whole lotta useless shit, and I love me for it.

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Side note, know what you’re good at and celebrate yourself for your awesomeness. It’s what Cleopatra would have done.

Verdict

Read it. If you have any curiosity about one of the most famous female figures in history, this will be exactly the book for you. And if you’re not curious about that, well, what’s wrong with you??

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Best Lines

So many good ones!

“As always, an educated woman was a dangerous woman.” 

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“As incandescent as was her personality, Cleopatra was every bit Caesar’s equal as a coolheaded, clear-eyed pragmatist, though what passed on his part as strategy would be remembered on hers as manipulation.” 

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“[Cleopatra’s] power has been made to derive from her sexuality, for obvious reason; as one of Caesar’s murderers had noted, ‘How much more attention people pay to their fears than to their memories!’ It has always been preferable to attribute a woman’s success to her beauty rather than to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life.” 

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BONUS CICERO QUOTE –

“The vanity extended most of all to his library, arguably the real love of Cicero’s life. It is difficult to name anything in which he took more pleasure, aside possibly evasion of the sumptuary laws. Cicero liked to believe himself wealthy. He prided himself on his books. He needed no further reason to dislike Cleopatra: intelligent women who had better libraries than he did offended him on three counts.” 

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Fancasting couch

Cleopatra

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Julius Caesar

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Marc Antony

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Octavian (Augustus Caesar)y

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Book Boyfriend material

Cleopatra, obviously. She was a BAMF, man.

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Rating

Seven out of ten weak-hearted Roman generals who will promise to stand at your side as you dominate the known world, but then just let you down. #men

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

I was in a great mood when I started writing this blog. Then stuff happened and now all I want to do is put on some Lizzo, chug some rum, and spend a lot of money online shopping for shit I don’t need.

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– xo, R

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So, as alluded to in my previous post, it has been a minute, and yes, it is my fault, because I am the only person responsible for this fathomless void of bookish rambling and amusing gifs, yes, I am undeservedly proud of this trash-blog, it is AMAZING. But lately I have gained some DEMANDING readers – okay, reader (singular), and that is my husband, a.k.a. The Dragon Slayer (hey bae), who seems to think this period of silence is some symptom of ennui, when in fact, it is merely a stage in the endless cycle of reading. Sometimes we glom, sometimes we slump, but we are always thinking about books… just not, er, actually blogging about them. UNTIL NOW. Slump’s over, boys, books are back on the menu.

So today’s review is about a book on my second honeymoon (#basic), and lemme tell you it was a weird book to read on your second honeymoon, because it is fucking EMOTIONAL. I cried  a c t u a l  tears (that never happens), and also went into a tangential Egyptian history nonfiction spiral (more on that next time). The book is A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib. Let’s do this.

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Cover Talk

I like the background image, but I hate the Aladdin VHS cover font. Yes, this book is set partially in Egypt, but please give me a better font than Word 98’s Matura Script Capitals, jeeSOS.

Colours are good though, loving those moody pastels. Very instagrammable.

The Summary Heist

A powerful novel about two Egyptian sisters–their divergent fates and the secrets of one family

Sisters Rose and Gameela Gubran could not have been more different. Rose, an Egyptologist, married an American journalist and immigrated to New York City, where she works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gameela, a devout Muslim since her teenage years, stayed in Cairo. During the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution, Gameela is killed in a suicide bombing. When Rose returns to Egypt after the bombing, she sifts through the artifacts Gameela left behind, desperate to understand how her sister came to die, and who she truly was. Soon, Rose realizes that Gameela has left many questions unanswered. Why had she quit her job just a few months before her death and not told her family? Who was she romantically involved with? And how did the religious Gameela manage to keep so many secrets?

Rich in depth and feeling, A Pure Heart is a brilliant portrait of two Muslim women in the twenty-first century, and the decisions they make in work and love that determine their destinies. As Rose is struggling to reconcile her identities as an Egyptian and as a new American, she investigates Gameela’s devotion to her religion and her country. The more Rose uncovers about her sister’s life, the more she must reconcile their two fates, their inextricable bond as sisters, and who should and should not be held responsible for Gameela’s death. Rajia Hassib’s A Pure Heart is a stirring and deeply textured novel that asks what it means to forgive, and considers how faith, family, and love can unite and divide us.

Robyn Says

OMG, THE EMOTIONS.

Seriously, though. This was a exceptionally well-crafted story, balancing multiple narrators, time jumps, and themes with incredible artistry. I’m so glad I read this – I found it online, featured in a list of recent releases by female MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) authors. It’s not exactly my usual type of read (cough dragons cough), but hey, what do I always say, right? Get out of your reading comfort zone and find some unexpected gems.

I thought the characters were incredibly written, realistic, deep, and profoundly human. Each one of them has their own struggles, and it was really cool to see the same event from multiple characters’ perspectives (for example, disagreements between the sisters, Rose and Gameela). It really illustrates that we can’t ever completely know what the people around us are struggling with, and that every person, even the happiest, cheeriest, sunniest of us, has their own problems to deal with. Honestly, sometimes I forgot I was reading fiction – the characters especially are so vivid, and that, coupled with Hassib’s skill at setting a scene and capturing all the tiny details, made this feel like I was reading a biography.

Hassib also did an exceptional job in capturing the struggle, faced by so many first- and second-generation immigrants, to merge two vastly disparate cultures into a single lived experience. Rose is the most obvious example of this, emigrating from Egypt and assimilating, or attempting to, into both the American academic culture and her husband’s Midwestern Christian family, but even Gameela and Mark display this yearning to merge the East and the West (or the old and the new, the familiar and the foreign). I really identified with this on a personal level. I find it difficult to even articulate this cultural challenge and how it has affected my own life, so to read a book that really captures the nuances and complexities of what often feels like an impossible task… I mean, it’s just really stunning. And the writing itself is just *chef’s kiss* BEAUTIFUL.

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And then, also, I cried. I cried a lot. I cried SO. MUCH.

Not gonna lie, folks, this book will get you right in the feels, but at least it let’s you know right up front that the ending isn’t exactly a happy one. No spoilers or anything. Hence the dazzling title of this blog post.

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Verdict

Read it. Yes, tears, sobbing, broken herart, etc., but so so worth it.

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Best Lines

Fuckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk I forgot again. Goodreads, hit me.

“Every time she reaches for something and finds it in its place, she is momentarily disoriented, unsure where she is or what year it is, the familiarity of her childhood home constantly jarred by the fact that, except for short, sporadic visits, she has been away from this home for six years. When she discovers that things have moved in her absence-the sugar is not where it used to be-she feels cut off. Foreign.”

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It me. *sobs*

Fancasting couch

Gonna use some Egyptian actresses because #representation

Rose – Yasmine Sabri

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Pretty.

Gameela – Tara Emad

Also pretty.

Mark

Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE

Book Boyfriend material

You know what, Imma go with the husband on this one. And not just because I was envisioning post-FNL Taylor Kitsch when I pictured his character. But eff me, guys, Riggens can get it.

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Rating

Eight out of 10 incredibly hot and supportive husbands, both fictional and nonficitonal, who stand by their culturally confused wives as they navigate the perilous journey of reconciling contrasting world views, honouring the traditional heritage of their ancestors, and surviving the overwhelming smorgasbord of modern Western society.

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ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

That’s it, we back on the blogging bullshit. Next time… it’s the return of the NONFICITON BENEDICTION.

P.S. See, G, I blogged. Good?

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– xo, R

YAY ME!!!!!!!!!!

Hey bookish babies, been a hot minute, hasn’t it? MY FAULT, no excuses, life is an unending wheel, time is a flat circle, and marriage involves so much cooking, I AM ONLY ONE WOMAN. Neverthless, although the blogs are not being blogged, the books are still being read, and since last we spoke, I have not only dipped my aristocratic toes into the Pacific Ocean for the first time, celebrated 100 days of marriage to the dragons-slayer, and turned 33, the most magical number (and hence, year, it must follow) of all… I also completed my 2019 Goodreads challenge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now that’s something to celebrate.

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Fyi, as of last count, I’m actually sitting pretty at 118 out of 105 books…

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That is all.

– xo, R

 

Nonverbal Referral: An Elderly Lady is a BAMF

Hello fellow grannies and granny-wannabes, I hope that your needlecraft projects are progressing nicely and that your cats are in good health. I myself am carving out a joyless existence sans embroidery AND feline companionship, what even is life.

Today I’m nonverbally reviewing An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten, yay for elderly ladies sticking it to the man.

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The Summary Heist:

Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends, and…no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home.

Ever since her darling father’s untimely death when she was only eighteen, Maud has lived in the family’s spacious apartment in downtown Gothenburg rent-free, thanks to a minor clause in a hastily negotiated contract. That was how Maud learned that good things can come from tragedy. Now in her late eighties, Maud contents herself with traveling the world and surfing the net from the comfort of her father’s ancient armchair. It’s a solitary existence, but she likes it that way.

Over the course of her adventures—or misadventures—this little bold lady will handle a crisis with a local celebrity who has her eyes on Maud’s apartment, foil the engagement of her long-ago lover, and dispose of some pesky neighbors. But when the local authorities are called to investigate a murder in her apartment complex, will Maud be able to avoid suspicion, or will Detective Inspector Irene Huss see through her charade?

(That cover tho *heart-eyes*)

The Nonverbal Referral:

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Yes! More of this please! And also take that, TBR, you are one book shorter!

– xo, R

Antisocial creature

Did absolutely no TBR reading this weekend, due to the indescribable agonies suffered by 50% of the human race. Biology is a bitch.

I did watch a lot of Netflix, though. So there’s that.

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So I’m talking about a book from July that I read, and to my surprise, actually enjoyed quite a bit. It’s Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton. Let’s do this.

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Cover Talk

Like it. Gives me Black Swan vibes, or that movie from the 2000s with Josh Hartnett with the banger soundtrack and that line, “love makes you do crazy things”… come on, what was that movie? *quick break to google* WICKER PARK. Thank you, imdb.

The Summary Heist

A dark, propulsive and addictive debut thriller, splashed with all the glitz and glitter of New York City.

They go through both bottles of champagne right there on the High Line, with nothing but the stars over them… They drink and Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together, when they finish their stories, when they are both great writers-to Paris and to Rome and to Trieste…

Lavinia will never go. She is going to die soon.

Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.

Robyn Says

I really liked this one, guys. I finished it fairly quickly – it was about a 2 day read for me. Very vividly written, suspenseful, good pacing, delightfully terrible characters, and some dark twists and turns. I was surprised that other readers really did not like this book – seems like an even split, actually, so you either like it or REALLY hate it. Interestinggggggggg.

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The only thing that kind of irked me was that pieces of this novel felt almost like they could have been set in the 1920s or 30s, not the present. Tweed-wearing academics, parties where people trade literary quotes and argue about great writers, bright young things-style antics that just felt out of place.

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That doesn’t actually happen, does it? If it does, I’m going to the wrong parties, my dudes.

Anyway. I can’t say too much else without giving anything away, but this book is billed as a modern day Talented Mr. Ripley and you know what, it’s not that far off. I liked the ending, thought it fit the story and the character. Would have liked more violence, but that’s just me.

So yeah. Pretty good instagram-era psycho-horror. Give it a whirl.

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Yeah, pretty much.

Verdict

Read it. If anything, it will teach you to never trust social media influencers or their flunkies. A valuable lesson, my friends.

Best Lines

“There are things it is better for a person not to know. The day and the manner of your own death, that’s one, or whether or not you’re going to fuck your mother and kill your father. What people say behind your back. The names somebody you love has called somebody else. There’s a reason people are able to function, in this world, as social creatures, and a good part of that reason is that there are a lot of questions intelligent people don’t ask.”

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Fancasting couch

Louise

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Lavinia

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I’d love to see Kiki be a villain for once.

Book Boyfriend material

No over, every one was horrible, I loved it.

Rating

Eight out of ten vapid, generic white-girl-goes-on-a-yoga-retreat-and-has-to-document-every-minute instagram captions peppered with emojis, random capitalizations, and of course, enough misspelled words to remind you that all is well and good in the world.

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ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

Kinda wish that heavy black eyeshadow look would stop being just for crazy girls about to black swan their rivals and maybe go mainstream enough for me to wear it once and a while, you know?

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– xo, R