A slump.

I’m in one. It’s terrible. Approximately 1.6 billion books on my TBR and I still can’t find a book I want to read.

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I mean, I’m reading. The no twitter thing is working, of course. But my dudes, my heart just isn’t in the books I’ve got on the go – some science fiction, some literary fiction, a few smutty romances. You know, the usual. I’m just not feeling any of it.

I need a series. No, I need a fantasy series. Shit, I need a high fantasy series. Dragons makes everything better. Throw in a wizard and you got yourself a goddamn winner. But I feel like I’ve read everything that would fall into this category?? Unless…

Do I dare…

Has the time come…

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IT’S WITCHER TIME, BABY.

Aw yeah. Let’s do this.

– xo, R

Read. Cry. Repeat.

Howdy, y’all. I believe I promised an actual review, and since this week has been insane at work (program planning for 2020 is in full swing and I went into panic mode after reviewing 2019’s fourth quarter stats… #librarylife), I’m going to make good on my promise to review my three favourite books of 2019, starting with number 3.

It’s one I held out against for a very long time (and also the wait list for the hardcover is still like 5 million people long… okay, 501 as of today – and this book was published in 2017!)… Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Cover Talk

I gotta admit, part of the reason I wasn’t so eager to read this book despite all the hype, aside from the fact that I am suspicious of book hype in general, was the cover. I loathe it with a fiery passion. It doesn’t fit the book, in my opinion, and even if you overlook the generic design, the colours are hideous. It looks like those books you had to read in high school, the ones that came in sets of like 50 and that you’d never heard of and wouldn’t be able to name today, the ones that didn’t seem like real books at all but always had some bizarre twisted shit in the otherwise forgettable plots that low-key fucked you up for the rest of your life. Right?

The Summary Heist

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . the only way to survive is to open your heart.

Robyn Says

Holy. Fucking. Shiznit. This book. THIS. BOOK.

If I hadn’t had to work the day I started reading it, it would have been a one-day read. Fucking work, man. As it was, I read it on my breaks and on my lunch, when I got home, on the treadmill, during dinner, before bed… and I finished the next day, sobbing into my cereal.

This is a story… I don’t even know how to talk about this story. I can only speak for myself, but the most extraordinary thing was how this book captured how deeply trauma can damage a person, and how simple it is for a person to hide that damage quite well, in order to go about her day-to-day life. The slow reveal of Eleanor’s past is masterfully crafted. I really can’t say too much more about this novel. In my opinion, it’s best read without knowing much at all. I will say that there is a cat, and she is a life-saver, as most cats are.

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Verdict

Read it. There’s a reason half a million people have given this book 4.3 out of 5 stars… it’s because it’s FREAKING AMAZING.

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Best Lines

*Winifred Sanderson voice* GoodREEEEEEEADS!

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”

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“…in principle and reality, libraries are life-enhancing palaces of wonder”

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“Although it’s good to try new things and to keep an open mind, it’s also extremely important to stay true to who you really are.”

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Fancasting couch

Eleanor – Phoebe Waller-Bridge

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Raymond – pre-douchebag Chris Pratt

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Sammy – Jim Broadbent

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Polly – the prettiest google image result for “parrot plant”

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Glen – the Prince

c4kckfaweaaaoka

Book Boyfriend material

This is not a book boyfriend kind of book… but Raymond, I guess.

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Rating

Nine out of ten perfect little rescue cats who give you a will to carry on, even when everything is shit and life doesn’t seem worth it. DO IT FOR THE CAT, GIRL.

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ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

FYI it is much easier to trash a book you hate than it is to write even a single word about a book you love. There is probably a life lesson in there but it’s not even Tuesday and I’m so so tired.

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Next up, book #2 in my top 3 of 2019!

– xo, R

Now you’re on the Trolley! 2020 Reading Resolutions

Welcome to the 20s, old sports! Yes, I am going to be this insufferable until I get used to saying 20 freaking 20 (terrifying).

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So it’s that time of year again, this shiny, brand new year, when resolutions are made and goals are set. I, for one, love resolutions. Time is undoubtedly a construct, but hey, it’s out construct, and even if the first day of the first month of the first year of this new decade is an arbitrary designation, at least the illusion serves a function in representing a chance to change our ways and try to improve. Right? Right??

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Anyway. So here are my goals and resolutions and what have you.

  1. Read at least 125 books this year (or roughly 2.5 books a week). I hit 155 in 2019, so I think that’s a pretty reasonable goal.
  2. Finish reading all of the books I’ve marked “Currently Reading” (lies) on Goodreads. I use that feature to earmark books I want to read in the near future, but it’s gotten way out of hand. I think improving my usage of Goodreads overall is something I need to work on.
  3. Make a dent in the TBR pile by reading at least one book a week that I already own. I get distracted by all of the new library books I get every day, and the books I actually own usually get put off. The one downside to working at the library – books everywhere.
  4. Buy fewer books, both print and digital. I mean, we all know that’s not going to happen (sorry, G) but like, at least I can say I tried.
  5. Use OverDrive for e-audiobooks. I hate audiobooks with a fiery burning passion, but I think I might be able to get into them for nonfiction reads. We shall see.
  6. When the urge to scroll through social media hits, reach for a book instead. NO. MORE. SCROLLING. Trying to cap my phone time at an hour a day, because phones are evil and I miss the days when I was forbidden to own one. I got so much more reading done (and writing, but let’s not talk about that mmmmmkay).
  7. Read EVERYWHERE – waiting in line, during solo meals, on work breaks. Which brings me to the next point…
  8. Resurrect the ingenious EMERGENCY BOOK strategy of my youth – basically, never ever EVER be without a book. Bring one with you everywhere you go, all the time. Insert jaws-boat.gif – we’re gonna need a bigger bag.
  9. Improve my reading space. Since moving in with my husband, I haven’t really had a chance to build a comfy little nook. So the goal is to move into our new house and design the perfect cozy reading space -that means a bright light, tons of massive blankets, and a big-bellied cat.
  10. Read things that I enjoy, and in the same vein, stop reading things I don’t enjoy. I started doing this last year, and I think that’s the main reason I was able to read more books than I have since I was in high school and shirking all homework to tear through the western canon and also all of Anne Rice’s collected works. Life is too short to read books you don’t like. Yolo. Read what you want.

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Exactly.

That’s all for today, folks. Here’s to a bright new year, filled with books galore.

– xo, R

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WRAP IT UP

Oi oi, it’s page 364 of the year, so I guess that means it’s time for the annual ROBYN’S YEAR IN READING WRAP-UP EXTRAVAGANZAAAAA post.

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2019 was a motherfucking BANNER year for books, kiddos. I was actually hesitant to do a wrap-up because, let’s be honest, there are still like 30 hours left of this year, I can finish 2 more books AT LEAST. But at this moment, I am sitting pretty at 155 books read this year, the most, I think, since I started tracking numbers. According to my trusty book-stats bitch, Goodreads, that means I read 48,859 pages, and I rated my read books an average of 3 out of 5 stars (a solid meh, which is pretty on point).

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Today, though, I wanna recap my 4 and 5 star reads, because frankly, I can’t remember what the hell I read last week, let alone last January.

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January

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A solid start to the year. Also, hey, King of Scars, miss you, babe 😘

February

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Faeries, haunted corsets, and bleak Soviet history – I am nothing if not predictable.

March

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MURDER! BOOKS! BEYONCE! WEDDING PLANNING!!!

April

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I see a trend, and I am not upset about it.

May

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YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS Vasya x Morozko = tru luv 4eva

June

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The honeymoon reads – Chernobyl, pure horror, librarian literary fic, and good ole’ alien-lovin’ Cottonwood smut.

July

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Domestic witchery and professional head-bitchery.

August

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Two of my top reads of the year – Someone Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I am crying just thinking about them.

September

Nada! It was an insane month, and though I read quite a few books, none of them cracked 4 stars.

October

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Sobbing. Just sobbing.

November

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The most 4 & 5 star reads in one month, and I think the most books read in one month, which also happened to be NaNoWriMo month – coincidence? No, no it was not.

December

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Last month, and the best book I read this year – Elif Shafak, TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.

SOME THOUGHTS

I really liked taking a look back at this year’s reads. I read (and re-read) some really amazing books this year. I definitely read more nonfiction this year, especially about Chernobyl, which I was desperate to know more about after watching the HBO series. Fantasy and horror are always my top genres (with a bit of science fiction thrown in there as well). I read fewer romances this year, maybe because I’m busy living my own romance novel these days (hey G Smiling Face With Hearts on Apple iOS 13.3).

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My most pleasurable reading experience was tearing through the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden. I’m kicking myself for not reading these sooner (hello, Russian historical fantasy, WHY DID YOU DENY YOURSELF THIS, PAST ROBYN??) but in a way, it was nice to experience that rare feeling of racing through a completed series, knowing the ending is right there in your hands rather than two years away.

My top 3 reads were:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman,

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory

2. Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, and

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

1. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak.

To my own surprise, shame, and feckless-book-reviewer’s-horror, I didn’t actually review any of these books on the blog. I will remedy that, but for now, listen to me when I say that you must GET THESE BOOKS FROM YOUR CLOSEST LIBRARY / INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE AS SOON AS MOTHER-FLIPPIN POSSIBLE AND READ THEM AND KNOW THAT THERE IS HOPE YET FOR THIS BLEAK AND BROKEN AND BURNING WORLD, FOR SUCH BOOKS AS THESE EXIST, FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN FOR YOU, DEAR READER, TO READ AND TO BE CHANGED BY, IN BEAUTIFUL, INDESCRIBABLE WAYS.

Anyway. That was 2019. It was a big year for me, personally and professionally and bookishly. Thank you sticking around these blogosphere parts if you did, so long bish if you didn’t… and if you’re new to these parts, welcome, prepare for chaos, hope you’re ready for some bookish bullshit, shenanigans and general hooliganry.

2020, let’s do this.

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– xo, R

P.S. THERE’S STILL LIKE 29 HOURS LEFT, GO READ A BOOK!

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Happy Crimus: A RiRi’d Review

It’s that time of year again, time to burn the Yule goat and catch the Red Man in his flying troika! And also read, because every holiday includes reading when you’re me.

This year, I reread my all-time favourite Christmas book: Landline by Rainbow Rowell. (And if you need a refresher on the ingenious concept that is the RiRi’d Review, go to here).

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Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Robyn says…

My whole heart is full of CHRISTMAS EMOTION. Also, this entire book can be summarized (as so many great pieces of literature can be) in a single gif from The Office:

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RiRi says…

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This is exactly how this book makes me feel, too, Rihanna. In like, a Christmas-y way.

The RxR Rating…

10 our of 10, best Christmas book ever. Will reread every year on December 17th-25th. Magic. Fucking. Phone.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, blessed solstice – whatever you’re celebrating, I hope it’s a wonderful end to this crazy year.

Back soon with my 2019 reading wrap-up.

– xo, R

NaNoWriMo? More like NaNoWriLess (groan)

So it’s November 26th and the end of NaNoWriMo fast approaches, and my word count is currently sitting at… 13k words.

Yep.

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I dunno, guys. I think I might be over Nano. I still really love the idea of a national novel writing challenge, but I saw a really interesting twitter thread that articulated some reservations I’ve had with the choice of November for the month chosen for the whole thing. It’s such a terrible month for it. If you over look the alliteration (haha november novel geddit *rolls eyes*), it makes no sense. November is busy for everyone, with the pre-holiday season in full swing, Americans have their Thanksgiving, Canadians have the American’s Black Friday sales, and everyone is reeling from the time change coupled with the shortened days and the cold bite of winter’s first breath. It is the WORST month to try to write a whole motherfucking novel, man. THE. WORST. Why not May? There is literally nothing important in May. Or even February. Fuck, January is resolution time, why not ride that wave?

Am I disappointed that I won’t “win” this year? No, fuck that noise. I’m amazing. Plus, I have 13k more words than I had on October 31, so I’m counting this my own win.

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So yeah, that’s my Thought for today. Thumbs up for setting a daily writing goal and for making a commitment to actually finish a writing project, but fuck November, man.

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– xo, R

 

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.

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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