Posted in adult fiction, lgbt, review, romance

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Sometimes reality comes crashing down on you. Other times reality simply waits, patiently, for you to run out of the energy it takes to deny it.”

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Blurb: “Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?”

Trigger warning: brief homophobia and slurs, emotional and physical abuse.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo is a book that I’ve heard a lot about. Towards the end of 2018, it popped up on everyone’s favourite lists for the year, and I’ve not seen a single bad thing about it. Sadly, that’s one of the reasons why I’ve avoided it: I don’t tend to have good experiences with hyped books. It wasn’t until fellow blogger Sofia kept badgering me to read it whenever I mentioned my next audiobook listen that I finally cracked.

The story is centered around Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo who has decided to come out of hiding to write a book about her life with the help of Monique, a magazine reporter. Evelyn is famous of her many film roles but also the absurd number of husbands she’s garnered along her journey. Monique, on the other hand, is the epitome of the writer stuck in a dead-end job looking for that something to give her life purpose.

I fell in love with this book instantly. The glamour and mystery around famed Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo reminded me so much of The Great Gatsby in the sense that everyone knows Evelyn Hugo, but know one really knows her. The story starts with Monique being informed by her boss that Evelyn Hugo has requested her specifically to write a brief article on her life; when she accepts the offer that story becomes a memoir. The book has multiple narratives: Monique’s, a gossip columnist, and Evelyn Hugo. I went with the audiobook (on several recommendations) and every single narrator – Alma Cuvero, Julia Whelan and Robin Miles- for this book is utterly brilliant. I was completely immersed in every part of the plot, in every single character, and when it came to Evelyn talking about her life, and her many husbands, I often found myself stopping what I was doing just to take it all in. There were many instances where I just forgot that Evelyn Hugo isn’t a real person and that I wasn’t actually listening to an autobiography. I’ve come out of the reading experience feeling like I have learned so much about this incredible woman who lived such a mesmerizing, complicated life only to be faced with the cold reality that she never existed.

Monique fades into the background a lot but always pops up at the right moments to ask Evelyn the questions that I, and probably many other readers, wanted answers to. She is the other side of the coin. Here you have a rich and famous actress spending hours in the same room talking to a magazine reporter who can barely make ends meet, and yet they were able to realise the similarities in their lives; that despite their different classes, ultimately they are both human.

A big surprise in this book is that Evelyn Hugo is bisexual. I say that because none of the marketing that I have seen for the book has mentioned this aspect at all – which is something that would have made me pick up this book a lot sooner. It has gay men, lesbians and bisexuals littered throughout and I feel like this is something that should be shouted about from the rooftops.

It’s been a long time since I finished reading a book and felt such a sense of happiness but also loss that led to me wanting to starting reading that same story again right away, but The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo did that for me. I will be thinking about it for a very long time.

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month | The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo is a book that I’ve heard a lot about. Towards the end of 2018, it popped up on everyone’s favourite lists for the year, and I’ve not seen a single bad thing about it. Sadly, that’s one of the reasons why I’ve avoided it: hyped books have a tendency of letting me down. It wasn’t until fellow blogger Sofia kept insisting that I give it a go that I finally cracked.

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The story is centered around Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo who has decided to come out of hiding to write a book about her life with the help of Monique, a magazine reporter. Evelyn is famous of her many film roles but also the absurd number of husbands she’s garnered along her journey. Monique, on the other hand, is the epitome of the writer stuck in a dead-end job looking for something to put her on the map and this proposition seems like it could do just that. The book is split into three narratives: Monique’s which covers her life, the events at work (where they currently believe Evelyn will be doing a cover shoot with them – however this is not the case), the “autobiographical” chapters of Evelyn’s stories that act as part of the book she’s working on, and then the gossip columns that follow alongside the past and present of Evelyn’s life.

Quite simply, I am in love with this book. The whole world view of Evelyn reminds me so much of The Great Gatsby and all the rumours that circulate about the mysterious Jay Gatsby. The audiobook has multiple narrators who are all quite simply fantastic. It’s so easy to drop into this world and feel like I’m listening to real people talking about their lives. The narrator for Evelyn has me completely hooked to the point where I actually forget that I’m not listening to a non-fiction book. I’m completely invested in learning about the history of the character.

I didn’t know that this book was gay. It’s several hours into the audiobook before it’s even hinted that Evelyn has an interest in women; and subsequently comes out as bisexual to Monique in their conversation. It’s a shame this hasn’t been pushed more in the promotion or hinted on the blurb because I know a few readers who also weren’t aware of this prior to reading the book.

At the time of writing this post, I am 45& into the audiobook and I just can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? What did you think?

What audiobooks are you listening to at the moment?

Posted in lgbt, Non-Fiction, review

The Bi-Ble – Edited by Lauren Nickodemus & Ellen Desmond

“We have always been there – lost in either side of history, almost always hidden away as straight or gay – but we were there and we are here now, even if you don’t see us.”

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Blurb: “Bisexuals inhabit a liminal space between cultures, often misunderstood or dismissed by the straight and LGBTQ+ communities alike. We are the sexual identity most likely to be closeted, most at risk of mental illness, domestic abuse, and even heart disease — but also the least visible. Now, a selection of intersectional bi voices has come together to share stories, helping our voices be heard and our identities seen. It’s time to stand up and spread the word.”

Trigger Warnings: sexual assault, rape, self-harm and suicide.

The Bi-ble does exactly what it says on the tin: it is a collection of essays from various people who have/still do identify as bisexual and their stories. I entered a giveaway for this book and was incredibly excited when I won. Upon reading every single word it had to offer, I feel elated; I have never felt so validated in my life.

While I seem very happy and open about my sexuality now, it has been a long road to get to this point. I’ve gathered my own fair share of stories from: being accused of being exclusionary for only being attracted to men and women, to being asked if I’m now straight because my long-term partner is the opposite sex, asked for threesomes, being told I’m more likely to cheat. Frankly, if you think of the stereotypes associated with bisexuality, I’ve been subject to most of them. And with the LGBT+ community often spewing some of the hatred, it took a long time for me to even go to a pride event for fear that I would be kicked out for not belonging there.

The contributors in this book share their own stories from knowingly using the bisexual label as a stepping stone to coming out as gay, to how sexual assault is not viewed the same when the aggressor and victim are both women, to trans bisexuals. It is a truly amazing collection of people and yet the editors involved are humble enough to state that this book is not reflective of everyone’s experiences.

As I mentioned at the start, it’s been a long journey to the confident bisexual woman I am now, but this collection reminded me that I am not alone, and that everything I have felt and currently do feel are completely valid. That it is okay to feel like this and that it is not me at fault but the greater society. While horrible to see so many negative experiences (as well as a lot of positive ones) I felt like a weight had been lifted to know that I haven’t gone through it alone.

Another amazing thing about The Bi-ble is that it’s crowdfunded. Meaning that people believed in its worth enough to make it a reality and that is its own form of magic.

If you’re bisexual yourself, or just looking to learn more from others’ lives, this is a great place to start.

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Posted in contemporary, lgbt, review, young adult

Leah On The OffBeat – Becky Albertalli

“I should have told him a year ago. I don’t think it would have been a big deal then, but now it feels insurmountable. It’s like I missed a beat somewhere, and now the whole song’s tempo.”

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Blurb: “When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.”

Becky Albertalli has cemented herself as one of my favourite authors. For someone who keeps saying she doesn’t like contemporaries (but still seems to read them anyway), I will happily devour anything she releases.

Do you need to read Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda before reading Leah On The Offbeat? Absolutely. From the get-go this book is riddled with spoilers as, after all, it is a sequel.

Leah very much appears to be the outsider of the group at times. She is often the one looking on while everyone has their in-depth discussions and she rarely adds her own input until she’s with certain individuals such as Simon. It’s senior year and, as to be expected, conversations and plot are peppered with college worries, the concept of friendships ending and prom. Leah, just like possibly everyone who’s ever been a teenager, is worrying about everything.

She is also having her own internal battle with her sexuality. She is bisexual and only out to her mum. As a fat bisexual girl myself, I was able to relate to Leah in the way that she is quite comfortable with her sexuality but feels like she missed the window in which to declare it to the world; as the title implies, she’s offbeat. She doesn’t quite understand why she is unable to tell people, especially her best friend Simon who is out as gay. However, there is one particular scene that really does not sit right with me (for the sake of preserving the experience I have changed the name to Kelly). During a heart-to-heart with Leah, Kelly comes out as “low-key bi” and in response, Leah completely shuts her down, invalidates the sexuality of someone who is questioning and proceeds to storm off in a huff. In a time where LGBT books are reaching the mainstream in YA, it seems a very odd and harmful thing to include in a book. Normally I’m fine with problematic things as long as it’s called out within context and it isn’t. Leah never apologises and the scene just becomes a footnote in the overall plot. If I had read this book when I was questioning, it probably would’ve had a negative impact and I hate the idea of a questioning teen reading this book and feeling the same. It just seemed a very odd choice for Albertalli to make and I’m not sure how it slipped past editors.

There is also an instance of racism towards Abby which Leah is quick to step up and shut down and while it was lovely to see and appreciate, once it had been solved and Abby expressed this, Leah continued to hold a grunge.

But, moving on. I liked seeing Leah and Abby getting to know each other better outside of their friendship group obligations and it was nice to see some references to The Upside of Unrequited. I did struggle getting into this book at first as I reread Simon for the film and a few characters in the book are not present in the film, so once I found my feet again the book started to flow better.

Another thing that bugged me was the formatting of the Ebook. A few conversations take place through text messages and there were no bold or italic sentences to make it clear what was part of the message and what made up the narrative.

This was one of my most anticipated reads for the year, and sadly, it missed the beat.

 
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Posted in discussion, lgbt

My Sexuality In Fiction

While it may be hard for many to believe, I didn’t hear the term “bisexual” until I was fifteen. Up to that point I was very aware of my attraction to men and women so I didn’t fit into the gay or lesbian categories. It was the introduction of a character in the TV show One Tree Hill who later announced their bisexuality that helped me realise a big part of my identity. That label has stuck with me ever since and after facing several years of feeling like it’s a part of myself that was “not relevant to discuss” I’ve started to become more open about it.

After seeing the film trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones I decided to buy the book as I always like reading the source material prior to watching an adaptation. This was the first time that I saw a bisexual character in fiction. Of course there are probably hundreds of books featuring bisexual characters that were released prior to City of Bones but this just happened to be the first book I came across. It had a monumental impact on me. In the pages of this vast urban fantasy world, there was a character openly declaring their bisexuality and that was that. It wasn’t made a big deal of and it was through following Magnus Bane in this world Cassandra Clare has created that I started to think that maybe my own sexuality didn’t need to be a big deal either.

I had the opportunity to meet Cassandra Clare on the UK book tour for The Iron Trial in 2014 and thank her but I completely bottled it and got into such a starstruck state that I asked her about something else instead and completely forgot to even say hello to Holly Black. Thankfully, another opportunity came around last year when Cassandra Clare did a UK book tour for Lady Midnight; Another book featuring a bisexual character.

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The picture above shows the exact moment when I started to share part of my story with an author who has made me feel validated. Looking back on this snapshot of time and seeing how happy Cassandra looks just made it matter even more to me. She went on to explain why she felt it was so important to include bisexual characters in her books and listed all of the ones she’s included. While they are all male characters, I was so overwhelmed at what she’d said and just how many are included in the Shadowhunter world that it was only until later that I started to question why most of the bisexual characters I had come across, in other media forms including books, seemed to mainly be men.

While the LGBT genre in Young Adult boasts about the diversity it holds, there isn’t much outside of the discovering-your-identity gay and lesbian stories. (Note: I want to make the point that I am no way discrediting or saying there should be less of one type of representation to make way for another.) Earlier this year I picked up the new release from Becky Albertalli called The Upside of Unrequited and it was brilliant as expected but came with quite a shock.

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The protagonist has two mothers in the book but it is late revealed that one of them is bisexual. I broke down crying. This wasn’t just a character close to my age mentioning her bisexuality. This a grown married woman with children stating the fact. It showed that, despite what people try to tell me, my sexual identity is not a phase and it is possible to be wife and a mother as well as being bisexual. I will champion this book for the rest of my days.

Another book I experienced this year was a debut called Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green. While a book about a boy discovering he’s gay, it encouraged me to make a video over on my booktube channel talking about coming out and how important the treatment of bisexuality is to me. Simon actually watched this video too.
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Naturally, this response made me cry too but also has been a big motivator for me. I never really thought that what I was starting to do constitutes as “brave.” As I mentioned, I’ve become more vocal about my sexuality and the representation of it on books and not been afraid to call out bad representation when I come across it, regardless of how popular the book and author are. It’s also encouraged me to “write the change I want to see” and I have plans for a bisexuality driven YA book which I hope makes it out into the world one day.

I can only hope that slowly there is more of an inclusion of bisexuality in books.

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