Double double: A FUN SIZE REVIEW

A very spoooooooky hello to you, my perfect little pumpkin pies. How has the month of Halloween been treating you so far? I hope you wake up and blast this festive carol every morning to get you in the spirit of the season:

Today I bring you yet another fun-size review (find the other three here, here, and here, because I am too lazy to tag these posts). You know the drill: a teeny tiny review of 100 words or less, not including gifs, because I am all-powerful and lazy. Today I am reviewing the last book I read, and the only book I’ve liked since the summer (curse you, book slump). It’s A Double Life by Flynn Berry.

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ROBYN’S FUN-SIZE REVIEW OF A Double Life BY FLYNN BERRY:

This book was an unexpected delight, and has a lot of my bookish catnips – dark, moody atmosphere, English setting, an unsolved grisly crime, a protagonist with an obsessive thirst to uncover the truth, and unresolved father issues. Oh yeah, baby. And the pacing is terrific. By using the first-person point of view and splitting the narrative into present and past through the use of very strategically employed flashbacks, Berry makes this book impossible to put down. It’s the book equivalent of a bag of mini-marshmallows… utterly impossible to leave uneaten. This is one book you will want to keep eating.

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Now I’m hungry. Time to bust into the Halloween candy. Here I come, mini pack of peanut m&ms…

– xo, R

Fix Youuuuuuuuuuu

Ignore that title, you are all perfect.

How is life, mes petits mignons? Is that correct? I have no idea, my French lessons are a nightmare, the teacher is an absolute turnip (I am teaching myself).

Life is good and God is great and every moment is a blessing, and I hope all things are as right in your world as they are in mine, my gorgeous internet friends. In case you missed it (in which case, scroll down and check out that rock boiiiiii), my broad-shouldered dragon-slayer and I got engaged (on Hobbit Day fyi) (I know) and I really can’t focus on much else. This just goes to show you, guys, the best way to find your soul mate is to end up working 15 feet away from him in a public library, and spend 6 months creeping on him from behind your computer at the reference desk while he mans the circulation desk in an indescribably swoony display of competence porn and also ignores you pretty much entirely until your last week on the job.

ANYWAYS. I’m so happy all I say is…

On to the review!

Today, in the spirit of everything being pretty flippin’ awesome, I bring you a pretty flippin’ awesome book: it’s The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature by Viv Groskop.

Cover Talk

ZOMGGGG GORGEOUSSSSSSSSSSSS красиво *heart-eyes*

The Summary Heist

Viv Groskop has discovered the meaning of life in Russian literature. As she knows from personal experience, everything that has ever happened in life has already happened in these novels: from not being sure what to do with your life (Anna Karenina) to being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back enough (A Month in the Country by Turgenev) or being socially anxious about your appearance (all of Chekhov’s work). This is a literary self-help memoir, with examples from the author’s own life that reflect the lessons of literature, only in a much less poetic way than Tolstoy probably intended, and with an emphasis on being excessively paranoid about having an emerging moustache on your upper lip, just like Natasha in War and Peace.

Robyn Says

This book was awesome and I plan on recommending it to everyone. Basically, it’s a self-help book via the Russian literary canon. And if that isn’t the very definition of book crack to you then I don’t know how to help you.

But seriously, it’s genius. Because if you haven’t read any Russian literature, this is an amazing, very charming introduction to some of the major works that strips away the layers of inaccessibility and makes them far less intimidating than they seem (although let’s be honest, they will always be a little intimidating – they’re the Russians, after all). And then, on the other hand, if you have read the Russian classics, you’re obviously already a fan and dying to read a fellow fan fawn over them. (Unless you hate them, and then yeah, you won’t even be reading this blog post, let alone the book – there’s no middle ground, either, you love the Russians or you hate them, it’s all or nothing over here, golubchik).

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So Groskop very cleverly ascribes a life lesson to each major work. I am pretty satisfied with her selections, both of literary works and life lessons. Her writing is very charming, and I really enjoyed her anecdotes about her own experience falling in love with Russian culture and literature as an expat in the Soviet Union. I kinda wish this book had been longer, actually – I was genuinely sad to reach the last page. I also loved being introduced to the Hedgehox/Fox philosophy, which I’d never heard of before. According to Groskop and wikipedia, it’s based on an essay  written by philosopher Isaiah Berlin in 1953.

Berlin “divide[s] writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (examples given include PlatoLucretiusDante AlighieriBlaise PascalGeorg Wilhelm Friedrich HegelFyodor DostoyevskyFriedrich NietzscheHenrik IbsenMarcel Proust and Fernand Braudel), and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea (examples given include HerodotusAristotleDesiderius ErasmusWilliam ShakespeareMichel de MontaigneMolièreJohann Wolfgang GoetheAleksandr PushkinHonoré de BalzacJames Joyce and Philip Warren Anderson).” (Thanks, wikipedia, I love you.)

Cool, right? I am obviously a fox (in love with a hedgehog).

Yup. Me and G, to a tee.

Verdict

READ IT. And then go read (or reread) all of the books discussed in this one. Winter is coming, what else are you going to do, right?

Best Lines

“This is the definition of a good person: he makes someone else feel that it was fine for them to be very drunk.” (About Chekhov, course – my darling foxy Chekhov)

Fancasting couch

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Leo Tolstoy

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Boris Pasternak

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Anna Akhmatova

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Ivan Turgenev

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Alexander Pushkin

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Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Anton Chekhov, bae

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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Mikhail Bulgakov

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Nikolai Gogol

Book Boyfriend material

Chekhov. I mean

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godDAMN, Tony!

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Rating

10 out of 10 fearless Russian writers, literally risking their lives to disobey a genocidal autocrat and bear witness to the horrors of the Stalin regime (*cough* Akhmatova, my queen)

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

Listen, you’re all busy people, so I’ll just leave you with this:

I am made slightly uneasy by how many of these appear in my own fiction… AND MY OWN LIFE. “Pushkin reference.”

-xo, R

Radiance: the RiRi’d Review

Welcome to our very first RiRi’d Review. Today’s book is Radiance by Grace Draven.

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THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined. 

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE 

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light. 

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

Robyn Says

Oh yes, I like this one VERY much. It’s fantasy romance at its best: swoon + smut + some first-class world-building. It’s also the first book in the Wraith Kings series and lord knows there’s nothing fantasy readers like better than a series.

RiRi Says

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The RxR Rating

8 out of 10 uber-ripped alpha-male wraith-king heroes. Oh yeeeeeeeah.

– xo, R

 

Introducing… the Riri’d Review

***NEW BLOG FEATURE KLAXON***

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It’s a New Thing! Introducing… the RiRi’d Review.

I reread books. A lot. Like, I think I reread as many old books as I read new ones. Someone one asked me why bother to read a book again if you’ve already read it. That person disappeared one foggy night on the Yorkshire moors, never to be seen again by man nor beast. Jk I told him he was an idiot and then threw my glass in his face.

Anyway, the word reread always make me think of my hero, name-sister, and role model in all things, the goddess living among us known as Robyn Rihanna Fenty First of Her Name. Aka RiRi. AND THUS THE RIRI’D REVIEW WAS BORN. Wherein I, your humble bookslinger, rereads a book and reviews with a single Rihanna gif.

Why, you ask? Because I fucken want to, cowboy, that’s why.

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– xo, R

Mmmmmoidah

Sup bitches. My dragon-slayer is back from vacation which means I am a fully-functioning human again (or at least as good as I get). I spent two weeks moping around the house, too morose to do anything at all – even read (*GASP*). But in the 36 hours since he’s been back, I’ve managed to read one and a half books. Which just goes to show you that there isn’t much you can do with half your heart sunning itself on a California beach and the other half cooped up in a teeny tiny library in East York.

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But he’s back, and the reading is once again underway.

Today’s book: Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone.

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Cover Talk

Yeah, not too shabby. I like the colour scheme, and the design of the split face is fitting, if a little too on the nose. Still, would definitely work on the ‘gram, so it gets my seal of approval.

The Summary Heist

A double life with a single purpose: revenge.

Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.

But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.

Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.

Just as he did to her.

Robyn Says

Okay, this book is getting a lot of praise, and while I liked it, I did have a few reservations.

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Let’s start with the good. Points for featuring a classic anti-heroine that was, despite the sociopathy, quite likable, I thought. Jane was so unapologetically horrible and so hellbent on having her (admittedly) righteous vengeance that I couldn’t help but root for her. Of course, considering the targets of her revenge were so loathsome, this wasn’t exactly a stretch. I thought the book was, overall, fresh, funny, and smart, and had a few fade-to-black sexy-times that satisfied my more salacious tastes.

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HOWEVER. There were some downsides. A lot of reviews mention how easily they sped through this book, but for me, it was exactly the opposite. I had to force myself to get through the first chapters, and while I know the background was necessary to set up the whole revenge plot, I think it could have been accomplished in a more compelling way.

I also thought Steve (and his father) were too cartoonish in terms of how awful they were. Repeat after me: a good villain is a complex villain, a good villain is a COMPLEX VILLAIN. (That’s a rule you learn reeeeeeeeeeal quick in the fanfic world lemme tell ya).

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And call me crazy (heh) but I thought the ending was a cop-out. Spoiler… not enough blood. Lex talionis, people. You know me, though. Code of Hammurabi or bust.

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But overall, it was a pretty okay read. I’d recommend this to any romance reader looking for something darker, or any mystery/thriller/suspense reader craving a book a little outside their usual hardened-detective fare.

Verdict

Maybe? This is really the epitome of YMMV here, so I dunno. Read it. Don’t read it. Follow your heart, flip a coin, you, my internet friends, are the architects of your own destinies.

Best Lines

“Maybe I should get a cat. The thought invades my head fully formed and utterly obvious. A cat. Another little sociopath to curl up beside me at night and keep me warm.”

Yes, hard agree.

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Fancasting couch

Jane – Rachel Weisz

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Yaaaaaaaaaas.

Steven – Human Dirtbago

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Ugh. Kill him, Rachel.

Luke – Ditchwater.

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As in, he’s as dull as…

Book Boyfriend material

No one. Yes, no one, not even Luke – can’t love a doormat, sorry.

Rating

6 out of 10 sociopathic cats.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

Sometimes I wonder, as we all do, of course, if I’m a sociopath, but then I see an old man standing in bewilderment in the milk aisle of the A&P and I know I actually do have a heart because IT’S FUCKING BREAKING, SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MILK TO THESE OLD GENTLEMEN PLEASE.

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-xo, R

QUEEN OF THE BOOKS

Yooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo guys guess what??

I – ME, Robyn, your (un)friendly local book-slinger – am in charge of my branch’s book club. HOW AWESOME IS THAT!!!!! I am kind of drunk with power tbh. The mood is very Galadriel being offered the One ring if you know what I mean…

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So I spent my #SaturdayLibrarian shift planning out the books for the coming year (we run September to May, ending before summer reading club takes over my life). I chose all of these books except for the first one, which my boss “suggested” (*cough* demanded) I pick… I’m pretty proud of my selection, though, and I thought you nerds might be interested. I’ll be blogging about the book and the book club’s first meeting, so at least now you’ll know what you’re in for.

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TA-DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA:

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SEPTEMBER: The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy (Classic)

One of the most enthralling novels of historical adventure ever written, featuring the mysterious figure known as the Scarlet Pimpernel, sworn to rescue helpless men, women, and children from their doom. A suspenseful tale that ranges from the squalid slums of Paris to the aristocratic salons of London, from intrigue on a great English country estate to the final denouement on the cliffs of the French coast. There have been many imitations of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but none has ever equaled its superb sense of color and drama and its irresistible gift of wonderfully romantic escape.

Image result for the witches dahl blurb OCTOBER: The Witches – Roald Dahl (Childrens)

This is not a fairy-tale. This is about real witches. Real witches don’t ride around on broomsticks. They don’t even wear black cloaks and hats. They are vile, cunning, detestable creatures who disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies. So how can you tell when you’re face to face with one? Well, if you don’t know yet you’d better find out quickly-because there’s nothing a witch loathes quite as much as children and she’ll wield all kinds of terrifying powers to get rid of them.

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 NOVEMBER: Rules of Civility – Amor Towles (Fiction)

Towles’ debut novel presents the story of a young woman whose life is on the brink of transformation. On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.

 Image result for the moonstone collinsDECEMBER: The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins (Mystery)

The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel’s household is above suspicion. Hailed by T. S. Eliot as ‘the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels’, The Moonstone is a marvellously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear.

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JANUARY: The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield (Fiction)

The Studious biographer Margaret Lea is shocked when she receives a letter from renowned novelist, Vida Winter. The inimitable Winter is aging and ill, and she beseeches Margaret to come to her home and hear her story. It is the unforgettable tale of the doomed and beautiful Angelfield family, and Lea is immediately as captivated by the account as she is by her extraordinary storyteller. But she is also skeptical, and becomes determined to discover how much of this tragic story is real. As Margaret gets closer to ascertaining the truth, she must also reconcile her own hidden family secrets. Beautifully atmospheric and haunting, this inspired first novel is reminiscent of classic works such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and is certain to take its place among them as a timeless masterpiece.

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FEBRUARY: The Hating Game – Sally Thorne (Fiction)

A hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love. Lucy and Joshua hate each other, and they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

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MARCH: The Sixth Extinction – Elizabeth Kolbert (Nonfiction)

Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before and provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

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APRIL: The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marra (Stories)

This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.

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MAY: Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell (Teen)

Two misfits. One extraordinary love. Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough… Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises… Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

And that, my friends, is that. Amazing, right? This actually took a super long time to finalize. It wasn’t easy finding books that represented a range of genres, were generally well-received, and “fit” the  season of the year (which actually plays an important role in MY enjoyment of a book)… and we also had to have enough circulating copies in the system to make a full book club set. Yay me.

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Pretty much. Get thee to a library and check out these awesome books (ha ha)

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– xo, R