Reading Recap: Blanca & Roja, The Wicked King, Mary Renault

The words 'reading recap' in a white brush script over a blue patterned background, with the words 'at twist in the taile' and an illustration of an open book below.

Hi everyone! I haven’t written a books-related post in like…A Good Time. (By which I mean a very long time.) Perhaps because recently I have read more non-fiction books for school which don’t lend themselves as well to blogging. However, I’ve been on a very  good streak for books in the last month, so I wanted to share a few mini-reviews and a small TBR with you!

Cover of Blanca & Roja. Abstract illustration of a swan turning into petals and the title in fairy-tale font.

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

This book has affirmed yet again that McLemore writes some of the most breathtaking YA fiction I have read in recent years. I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner. The writing is so poetic and beautiful, and I fell in love with all four of the characters — the book features two Latinx sisters Blanca and Roja, who fear the family curse that one of each sister will be turned into a swan, and two other characters from the town, Yearling and Page. (I don’t want to reveal too much! ‘Tis so hard!) Personally, it was just so incredibly wonderful for me to read a story with a trans character who uses both he/him and she/her pronouns. Basically, I adored the cast, the relationships, the writing — it was just THAT GOOD.

Cover of The Wicked King. A side view of a crown splashing down and sinking into the water. The title is half-submerged in water.

The Wicked King by Holly Black

I’m not going to lie, I had a pretty limited memory of what happened in the previous book when I picked this up. But it was all good! Although I very much enjoy all the political intrigue, I’m more than happy to let it just pull me along without trying to figure out what’s going on, who’s behind this particular event. I also give it to Holly Black: she is very good at writing this hate/love relationship dynamic. I don’t want to spoil too much (again) but, like, I NEED the next book.

Cover of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. A person wearing red lipstick, red nailpolish and a green shirt with a low neckline poses. Her eyes and the rest of her face cannot be seen.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I am SO glad I finally got to read this book! It came on sale on the UK Kindle store so i was finally able to get hold of it. And like…WOW. I loved the form of it — how it used present day narration from a journalist, Monique, looking to interview the famous movie star Evelyn Hugo, as well as Evelyn’s own words to Monique and newspaper headlines from the events Evelyn was describing. I was drawn in so completely to Evelyn’s story. I really needed this book at a time when I needed an escape from everything in my life. . I’m definitely interested in Jenkin Reid’s new book, Daisy Jones and the Six, which sounds like it further develops the form used in Evelyn Hugo. Also, just to say, it was way better than The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Cover of Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault. Gold and black geometric patterns with illustrations of men on horses at the side.

Fire From Heaven & The Persian Boy by Mary Renault

These are the first two books in Renault’s series about the life of Alexander the Great, covering up to his death at the end of The Persian Boy. I’m talking about them together because they are technically part of the same series, but in truth they felt more like standalone novels that just happen to follow on chronologically. The first book is written in a 3rd person narrative that switches from person to person — sometimes a little jarringly during a passage, though that could be my eBook format — whereas the 2nd is in the 1st person, exclusively from the point of view of Bagoas.

But, anyway, even if they are somewhat fictionalised, I found them both to be a very interesting and immersive introduction to Alexander the Great (and this period of Ancient History in general because I didn’t know much about Ancient Greece or Persia!). Also, I think Renault gives a good take on Alexander’s potential romantic relationships that isn’t just ‘these 2 bros are VERY close friends’ whilst also not transposing modern ideas of sexuality too much? (I mean, it’s hard for me to say. But I’ve read some books with extremely bad takes, so, it wasn’t that.)

on my tbr

There are several books that I’m looking forward to reading at the moment: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, which I FINALLY managed to buy as an eBook, I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver (non-binary main character!!! by a non-binary author!!), and Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault which I picked up from the Gay’s the Word bookshop in London. Also so many more books! But these are the fiction ones that I’m planning to pick up in the very near future.

have you read any of these? do you have any recs for me? i’d love to hear!

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Middlemarch: the Webseries and Novel

Hey everyone! I hope you’re doing well. Exams are really taking it out of me at the moment, to be honest, so I decided to do something fun which is just going to be lots of talking about a thing I’m into recently! And that’s the webseries (and also novel) Middlemarch.

I don’t normally read classic books, particularly ones that were written before the 20th century. In fact, the only other ones I can remember reading are a few Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I can name a few more books that might be considered ‘modern classics’ but in general I do stick to YA and comics.

My love for Les Miserables and Middlemarch have one a lot in common — and one big thing is that I was inspired to read both of them after become a fan of an adaptation. For Les Mis, as you might have guessed, this was the musical adaptation. I love musicals, and I love that musical a lot, but the book was a pretty different experience! In a good way. I don’t think I’d ever have had the motivation to continue reading through these (frankly rather long) books if I wasn’t already invested in seeing more of the characters. I usually fall in love with things for the characters, and that was no exception here.

I decided to read Middlemarch because I had begun watching the wonderful webseries adaptation, Middlemarch: The Series. It’s a super queer modern adaptation set in college which is told through vlogs. You can absolutely watch it without reading the book (as I did for about the first half) and I’d highly recommend it! It gives me SO MANY FEELINGS and it’s now complete if you don’t want to wait around for updates. You can find it here and watch the trailer below.

Having previous knowledge of an adaptation also helps me to get a better understanding of the overall plot and characters. It allows me to pick up on more subtle characterisations which I might have missed or to go ‘ohh, I see which bit this is!’ when I realise what it corresponds to in the adaptation. It makes it just SO for me to connect with the characters I’m reading about.

To be honest, I found the novel rather slow and difficult at the beginning. I missed the queer characters from the webseries and I found the language hard to understand. However, I think a big reason I started enjoying it more is that I put more into the reading. I’m a pretty bad skim reader and especially during books with small writing I find myself turning page after page only to realise I’ve been absorbing absolutely nothing. THIS DOES NOT WORK FOR ME WITH BOOKS LIKE THIS.

Once I made myself read more slowly, take stuff in, and actually think about how that section resonated with me, it worked a lot better, and by the end I was invested and feeling for the characters all over again.

Reading classics is a very different experience for me from reading YA. (Well, I’m sure it is for many people haha.) Some people try to give the sense that you’re only a “proper reader” if you read classics or whatever but that is TOTALLY INCORRECT and you should read whatever you want! Or even not read at all! Personally, I don’t see myself reading lots more classics in the future, but I found reading Middlemarch to be a rewarding and different experience to my normal reading fare. Now I’m back to catching up on the webseries. 😀

As I said, mock exams have been pretty tough for me, so please forgive me for posting with less frequency than usual. I send you good vibes from this rainy day where I am. ❤

do you enjoy classics? what do you think of modern adaptations? have you watched any webseries?