Title: The Seven & 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: September 18th, 2018
The Rules of Blackheath Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let’s begin…
The rules of Blackheath are simple. Every night, at 11PM, Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered. Aiden is trapped in the dilapidated manor until he solves the mystery, waking up in a different host every day. But not all of his hosts are helpful and the mystery is a bigger puzzle than he expected.
What I Liked:
Writing: The character descriptions were probably my favorite part of this book. They were hilarious and spot-on, describing every character and host perfectly throughout the novel. It also fit the mood and setting of the novel, matching the eerie, abandoned nature of Blackheath itself. The mystery developed and deepened with every page and you never knew what to expect. I loved the fact that every time I had an idea of the solution, I was proven wrong and another surprise lay in the next page.
Plot: This was different from any mystery novel I’ve ever read and the plot was truly unique to the genre. There were equal parts mystery and paranormality, which added an air of creepiness to the story and made it much more enjoyable. The idea of perishable hosts also added an element of danger and urgency, which had me rooting for Aiden the entire time.
What I Disliked:
Pace: While I loved the story and its premise, the pace was quite slow and I found myself getting bored a few times. Some of the hosts’ chapters didn’t really add anything to the story and just seemed to take up pages for no apparent reason. I felt as though the story could have been much shorter due to this, because there were so many needless parts.
Unanswered Questions: There were a few sub-arcs in the story, regarding certain characters, that were left unanswered, and that left me feeling rather unsatisfied. It was as if there were still loose ends by the end of the novel, and considering the previous point, I think that these loose ends could have been tied up rather easily instead of having chapters that didn’t serve much of a purpose other than giving us a deeper look at some of the more useless hosts.
Unreliable Narrator vs. Omniscient Narrator (this one might be considered nitpicking, but it really bothered me): The narrator is clearly meant to be an unreliable narrator, but every time he met a new character, he would guess their exact age, and I thought this was really annoying. There were also constant switches between said narrator and a detached omniscient narrator, which made the reading experience a little distracting.
This is more of a 3.5 stars, since I did enjoy the story overall, despite the things I disliked. So, if you’re in the mood for a mystery with a unique twist, then I would definitely recommend this book. It’ll be out at the end of this summer!
*Thank you to NetGalley & Sourcebooks Landmark for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
As a fan of historical fiction and young adult fiction, I was really excited to read this book, especially since the subject was a rather controversial figure in British royal history. Lady Mary is also known as “Bloody Mary,” due to her five-year stint as monarch, which was marred by the executions of over 300 men and women for religious reasons. She’s not the most popular person in history, let’s just say that. However, this book was disappointing on every front. I even made a rant review video of it on my new BookTube channel, because this book just enraged me on so many levels.
Lady Mary tells the story of the titular character, who was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. It follows her through her childhood, her parents’ scandalous divorce and her father’s subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, and well into her adulthood. It mentions her time in exile and the hardships she endured throughout her young life.
Writing: The writing itself in this book wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t all that good either. It was simple and easy to read, but it was rife with inconsistencies and contradictions. At times, it didn’t fit in with the language associated with this time period (16th Century England) and really distracted me from my reading experience.
Plot: There was no plot to speak of, really. Nothing happens in the book and Mary’s experiences are limited to her exile and whining about everything that is going on around her. However, 90% of the time, she doesn’t even know what’s happening. This frustrated me as a reader, because I was aware of her story (historically speaking) and I knew that she did, in fact, do many things throughout her life and eventually managed to take back her royal position and become queen. Now, her actions as queen were horrendous, but nonetheless, the lack of plot or action of any sort really made her seem like a useless imbecile, who couldn’t be bothered to do or say anything.
Characterization: Granted, this time period was one of great inequality between men and women, wherein women were treated like cattle and had little to no rights. The fact that this book was written about a female historical figure, who was surrounded by other famous females, made me assume that it would be somewhat empowering. However, that was not the case. All the women in this book were portrayed as frivolous, crazy, stupid, or useless, and there were many derogatory references to women throughout the novel. It was almost like a medieval version of slut-shaming, especially when it came to Anne Boleyn (who was also a victim of family oppression) and Henry’s other wives. This was one of the biggest flaws for me, personally.
Lack of a fictional aspect: I don’t know about you, but when I read the word “fiction,” I expect some sort of fictional aspect to be included in a book. The only fictional thing about this book was the fact that it was a fictionalized account of Lady Mary’s life, and it wasn’t even done well.
Mary’s relationship with her father: Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but based on my previous readings and research, Mary did not have some sort of Electra Complex with regards to her father. Yet, in this book, somehow, she does. And it borders on incestuous and unhinged. Despite everything her father put her through (exile, torture, starvation, separation from her family, etc.), the author makes it seem like Mary is practically in love with him. This was truly jarring for me and made me hate almost all of the characters with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. It turned Mary from a potentially interesting character into a whiny, spoiled, ignorant, and delusional brat. This was compounded by the fact that King Henry VIII was infamous for his maltreatment and execution of most of his wives. There were six of them, two of whom were beheaded on accounts of “adultery” or “treason,”, but the real reason was their “inability” to produce a male heir. Spare me.
I liked the cover.
I felt as though I had wasted my time reading this book, as it didn’t teach me anything new about Lady Mary, other than the suggestion that she was a witless fool. Ultimately, I felt as if this book was pointless. So, in light of all of these issues, I am giving this book 1 star. I almost wish that I didn’t have to rate it, because, in all honesty, I would give it zero stars. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this book to anyone, and I did not enjoy it at all. Sorry for the rant, but this book was awful, in my personal opinion. I rant even more in my video :’D
*I was given an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.*
I’ve been dreaming of creating a BookTube channel for such a long time and now, I’m happy (and terrified) to say that IT’S FINALLY HERE!
Being a part of the Bookstagram community and meeting so many wonderful readers there has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It introduced me to countless new authors, genres, and books that I never would have discovered if it weren’t for Bookstagram, and on top of that, it introduced me to BookTube! After spending almost two years lurking in the shadows (I was even too scared to comment – don’t even ask why, I have no idea), I’ve decided:
Screw it! Why not share your passion with the world?! What’s so scary about it?
Other than the overwhelming fear of humiliation? Nothing! I always have so much to say about the books I read and I love discussing them with my friends. So, that is why I made this channel. I want to talk about books with you, rant about them, cherish them, talk about other bookish things, and have fun sharing my passion for literature with you all, because bookish friends are the best of friends.
So, if you’d like to know more about this channel and the kind of things I’ll be posting on there, feel free to check it out!
Publisher: HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction, The Borough Press
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Let the fact that I started and finished this book in one sitting be a testament to how amazing it was. That being said, this book was a real surprise for me. I had read the synopsis and thought, “Oh, this could be interesting, yay feminism!” but never thought that it would impact me the way it did. I’m going to discuss this book in terms of what it made me feel and think, and hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll want to read it, too. Also, this might be the most personal review I’ve ever written, but my goodness, this book wrecked me. But first…
Abortion has been declared illegal in the United States of America, and a law has been enacted that grants life, liberty, and property rights to all embryos upon conception. This law effectively makes any woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy (for whatever reason) a criminal. In-vitro fertilization is also banned and only married couples can adopt. The story follows five very different women as they navigate this new world, each one burdened by her own past, present, and future, but also by society’s expectations of her and who, what, and why she should be. We follow Ro, the biographer (and Eivør, the little known 19th century Faroese explorer who is the subject of her biography); Susan, the married mother; Mattie, the student; and Gin, the forest-dwelling homeopath, as they traverse the choppy waves of imposing legislation and societal pressures, leading each woman down a path she didn’t expect to take.
This past week, I had my own biological scare. I thought I had endometriosis and my partner and I discussed whether that would hinder our ability to have a child at some point in the (far, far, faaar) future, if we so choose. It was scary, because it made me ask myself a bunch of questions I never really cared enough to ask: Is that something I even want? If so, why do I want it? And what if I don’t want it? Does that mean I failed somehow? The beauty of this book was the fact that it made you ask yourself many questions and it made you contradict yourself, too. I felt myself agreeing with all of these women at various points in their stories, only to disagree with them in another, feeling as if they each had a point, a right, a reason for their choices, and ultimately, I ended up agreeing with all of them, because they all did.
In a world where the United States of America has a president who (most probably) confuses the word “pap smear” with “pepperoni”, something like this is entirely plausible, and that thought terrifies me. I grew up in the States, but also in Lebanon, two very different countries with very different legislation, perspectives, and implementations regarding women’s rights (or lack thereof), and this book made them all collide. In and of itself, reading this book felt like an act of defiance against those who would try to control our bodies and our lives under the guise of making the world better through archaic or straight-up ridiculous legislation. The writing was resplendent. I don’t even have anything more than that to say about it, but the characters and the stories were even better, and I just loved the very concept of this book and how hard it made you think about these women and their lives.
One of the things that impacted me the most in this book was the idea that children of single mothers were somehow “worse” than those who were lucky enough to be raised in a “normal” two-parent household. I am the child of a single mother, and I can promise you that I wouldn’t trade all the bustling, jostling “normal” families in the known universe for my mother, because she managed to put up with my shit for eighteen years and I turned out okay. The author illustrated the societal and political oppression forced upon women under the heel of patriarchal systems so perfectly, that it left me both in awe and in fury. The fact that all of the women in this book were cornered by society into a certain frame of mind or situation is something that I believe every woman has experienced in her lifetime. The biographer yearns to have a child of her own, but she does not wish to marry and she panics as the clock ticks on her only chance. The student looks forward to college and a career, unburdened by thoughts of diapers and baby formulas. The mother aches for a few hours of solitude and free time away from her husband and children, but feels guilty for wanting her personal space. The homeopath wants to help people, regardless of what society labels her, but is considered a weird forest-hobo by her community and is ostracized. The explorer wants to learn about something she is fiercely passionate about and share her knowledge with the world, but can’t, because she’s a woman.
But aren’t we all labeled as something? Mother, daughter, wife, sister, student, teacher, girl, woman, good, bad… And as I devoured this book, I realized that even I label myself. When my own mother brings up the topic of grandchildren, suddenly, I want to discuss sock preferences or that one soup recipe she made once like, ten years ago. Is having children something we are programmed to want or is it something we want because we truly desire it? What if you don’t want to have children? Why is it that a single woman who is past “a certain age” (I don’t even know what this particular age is, as I can’t locate an expiration date on my forehead) is considered a spinster, while a man at that same age is called a bachelor? Who makes these rules? And more importantly, who has the right to make these rules?
The answer I gathered from this book is that every woman has the right to make those rules for herself, and I could not agree more. This book also left me with a million questions that I have never asked myself and a million more that I have asked too many times. The answers are different for me, just as they are different for you and every other woman in the world.
Are you even a woman if you don’t have a child? YES. Are you a woman if you choose your self, your career, your life, your dreams, your anything over having a child? YES. Is it okay to not know? YES. Is it okay to be uncertain? YES. Are you a woman if…? And there is no if.
This book is so important and I’m so glad I read it, because it was captivating and thought-provoking in the very best of ways. All of the uncertainties we tend to feel as women when we dare to reach outside that limited box of roles that society has given us come crashing down like little waves in this book, and I love it. There shouldn’t be a box of roles or outfits or jobs. There shouldn’t be an expectation or an expiry date. This book is a searing reminder that, no matter what you choose, it is your choice, and nobody has the right to take it from you. I strongly urge everyone to read this book, as it is a beautiful and meaningful look into what it means to be a woman and how our choices shape us. Your purpose does not come attached to your gender, and that is something that, sadly, always bears reminding in this jaded and unequal world of ours. So, please read this book, and tell your mothers, sisters, friends, crochet club, etc. to read this book. As always, happy reading!
*Thank you so much to HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction, The Borough Press for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review*
Rough Animals tells the story of Wyatt and Lucy Smith, twins hewed from the stubborn earth of their family ranch in Box Elder County, Utah. Having scraped by for years since their father’s untimely death, their ranch is threatened anew when a wild-eyed and mysterious girl appears with a gun in hand and death in her wake. Seeking restitution for the cattle she killed, Wyatt embarks on a long and treacherous journey through the unforgiving desert, one that will challenge not only his body, but his soul as well. In a gripping and breathtaking epic that is sure to have you clutching your seat from beginning to end, Rough Animals manages to steal your heart, your soul, and your breath in one fell swoop.
You know when you start a new book and you just know that it’s going to be a favorite for years to come? The kind of book that grips you by the hackles from the first line and never lets go? The kind that you have to ration your reading of because you don’t want it to end? This was one of those books. That being said, I’m going to try my best to be coherent, because, as you can already tell, I am in love with this book. So, bear with me.
Writing: Rae Delbianco’s debut novel doesn’t read like a debut novel. It reads like a masterpiece from a veteran of the written word. This young and talented wordsmith has been compared to Cormac McCarthy and Denis Johnson, but I won’t talk about that comparison here, because Delbianco’s style is unlike anything I’ve ever read. While it does combine McCarthy’s subtle yet harsh realism and Johnson’s engaging lyricism, it is a style that is wholly hers. It is rare to come across an author whose writing style can invoke a literary case of Stendahl syndrome, leaving her reader both in shock and in awe. I found myself highlighting sentences and passages for their sheer beauty and rereading pages upon pages simply to relive the emotions they invoked. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful and raw and brutal and perfect the words contained in this book are, at least not in any form that wouldn’t be laced with expletives and heartface emojis.
Plot: While I am aware that westerns, thrillers, and literary fiction might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I truly believe that a great book defies classification of genre. The plot and the premise of this book are intense and fast-paced, leaving you breathless and nervous in the very best way. Yet the writing is almost symphonic in its beauty, juxtaposed with the cruel and arduous setting of the merciless desert and the pulse-quickening events that take place there and beyond. Wyatt’s trek across the desert following the death of his cattle (and by consequence, the potential death of his ranch) is a terrifying and brutal journey, accentuated by the harsh realities of survival and those of human morality. His journey home is reminiscent of Odysseus, hindered by obstacles, threats, and truths that are as ruthless in their undeniability as the scorching heat of the desert itself. The fact that this story is propelled forward by the sudden arrival of a crazed and deadly child is a testament to the power of the characters themselves. That little girl scared the shit out of me and I loved every second of it.
Characters: Wyatt is quite possibly one of my favorite examples of a character who is, at once, highly moralistic and extremely conflicted. It is such a literary delicacy to see internal conflict take place within a character in such a brilliant way as to make you, the reader, feel that same level of conflict. It is both his humanness and his pure, unadulterated devotion to that unbending, unruly, and callous land that make you root for him throughout this novel. Lucy, his twin sister, is the mirror in which we see the parts of Wyatt that he does not show us himself, their symbiotic relationship blurring the edges of what light and darkness truly mean. Their relationship is one of the fiercest and most profound I have ever seen, with a closeness and devotion that breaks your heart and mends it over and over again. The girl with the gun, the wild-eyed child with a TEC-9 and his cattle’s blood on her hands, is a character that will be ingrained my mind forever. She is unapologetic, lionhearted, and formidable. I don’t even know what to write about her, because she is beyond explaining, in the sense that her character is portrayed so perfectly that she is a real person, just like Wyatt and Lucy, and how do you explain a real person? They just are who they are and there are adjectives you can use, but not nearly enough of them.
If someone ever asked me to rate Ulysses, I’d say there weren’t enough stars in our galaxy to do that. I feel the same way about this book. There wasn’t a single page I didn’t love, a single word I felt was out of place, or a single moment where I wasn’t moved or scared or fascinated or amazed. I truly believe that this book will be considered a classic one day, and its author a legend. For anyone looking for an incredibly well written and heart-thumping story, for a gritty and fast-paced thriller, or for a book that will simply blow your mind, then I wholeheartedly recommend this novel. As I said, not enough stars in the galaxy, but I’ll settle for five out of five (just imagine they’re made out of millions of tiny stars).
As always, happy reading!
*Thank you to the author for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*