This Brutal House (Niven Govinden)

This Brutal House is a novel by Niven Govinden.
Finished on: 21.6.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, transmisia, queermisia

Plot:
Teddy grew up with the Mothers, gay leaders of a voguing group who also took in the kids that came to walk with them and, more often than not, did not have a (safe) home – like Teddy. By now, Teddy is grown up and works for the city. That’s why he becomes the point person when the Mothers start a silent protest in front of city hall, camping there, holding a vigil, not saying a word – because their children have been going missing and nobody seems to care. Teddy has to navigate his conflicted loyalties, his own past and his childhood love for Sherry, one of the missing.

I will come right out and say it: I struggled with This Brutal House. It has beautiful prose, but I could not get into the style or the story.

The book cover showing a black and white photo of a group of people lying on the pavement in (a) protest.
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The Duchess War (Courtney Milan)

The Duchess War is the first novel in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 23.5.2021
[Here’s my review of the prequel novella.]

Plot:
Minnie has perfected the art of going unnoticed. Afer a scandal forced her to change her name, she had no other choice. Now all she needs is a husband to find some security in her life. Impoverished and with her secret, she doesn’t have much choice. That is why she really can’t have it that none other than the Duke of Clermont, Robert Blaisdell, seems to actually notice her. His curiosity about her is a threat, and Minnie is determined to uncover his secrets first to protect herself. This decision leads both of them down unexpected paths.

The Duchess War is a really sweet book with wonderful protagonists and a good plot that makes good use of the period it is set in. More importantly, it’s easy to root for Millie and Robert and to enjoy their falling in love.

The book cover showing a woman from behind, in a red dress with a huge skirt. She has flowers in her hair.
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The Story of a New Name (Elena Ferrante)

The Story of a New Name is the second of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read the German translation (Die Geschichte eines neuen Namens) by Karin Krieger.
Finished on: 4.4.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Content Note: rape, domestic violence, abuse

Plot:
With Lila’s marriage, she and Elena develop away from each other even more. But at the same time, they cannot let go of each other. Elena watches from a distance as Lila’s abusive marriage to Stefano turns ever more complicated by her husband’s business relations. Meanwhile Elena is dating Antonio more out of a sense of obligation, while still yearning for Nino who seems to be everything she aspires to. After Lila has a miscarriage, she asks Elena to accompany on a holiday to get her strength back. During that holiday, their paths cross with Nino and everything changes.

After reading My Brilliant Friend, I was reluctant but curious to continue, not quite sure what apparently millions of other people saw in the novel. The same thing is still true for The Story of a New Name. I read it, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either and I am still scratching my head as to why this series has gotten quite this big.

The book cover showing an illustration of a woman in a bridal gown standing on a balcony over the sea, her veil blowing in the wind together with petals from her bouquet.
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The Governess Affair (Courtney Milan)

The Governess Affair is a prequel novella of the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 28.3.2021

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Three months ago, Serena Barton was kicked out from her position as a governess in the Duke of Clermont’s household. But she is unwilling to let that dismissal stand. She seeks reparations from the Duke. The Duke asked is right-hand man Hugo Marshall, nicknamed the Wolf of Clermont for his bargaining techniques, to make sure that Serena goes away without a fuss. But Hugo finds that Serena is a tougher opponent than he suspected at first.

The Governess Affair is a sweet story that had me smiling, and also fanning myself. I really enjoyed it and would have liked it to be longer.

The book cover showing a woman in a yellow ball gown.
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Just One Damned Thing After Another (Jodi Taylor)

Just One Damned Thing After Another is the first novel in the Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor.
Finished on: 17.10.2019

Plot:
Madeleine Maxwell, called Max, is a historian who – at the suggestion of her teacher – applies to St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, an odd little institute with promising research. As usual in academia, the working conditions don’t exactly sound great. But it is only after Max actually gets the job that she realizes what it actually entails: actual time travel to observe events in real time.

A friend recommended this series to me as pulpy fun, but I have to admit that I couldn’t really get into it – I got hung up on the pulpy bits so much that I didn’t manage to get to the fun.

The book cover showing a burning antique city and a watchface that is not a circle but a spiral.
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Newt’s Emerald (Garth Nix)

Newt’s Emerald is a novel by Garth Nix.
Finished on: 30.5.2019

Content Note: misogyny

Plot:
When Lady Truthful Newtington, called Newt by everyone, turns 18, she is set to inherit the Newtington Emerald that gives magical powers to its owner. But in a conjured storm, the emerald is stolen and Newt decides that she has to set out herself to get it back. Only that isn’t easily accomplished as a woman traveling alone. So, instead she dresses up as a man. In her disguise, she meets Major Hartnett who offers to accompany her on her quest. Despite his rough manners, Newt accepts his help and the two set off.

Newt’s Emerald is a quick, fun read that proves that regency romances and fantasy are a really good combination (in case you needed proof of that). But I was a little unhappy with the love story.

The book cover showing the silhouette of a city as well as several items (a sword, a tophat, a glove, an emerald heart).
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The Help (Kathryn Stockett)

The Help is a novel by Kathryn Stockett. It was recently adapted into a film.

Plot:
1960  in Jackson, Mississippi: Aibileen is a maid who is currently working for the Leefolt family, where she especially loves taking care of Mae Mobley, the Leefolts’ little girl. Her best friend is Minny who – quite contrary to Aibileen – usually gets in trouble because she won’t hold her peace. Which is not the best course of action for a maid. But when the white Skeeter looks for a maid to talk about her life, so she can write a book about it, it’s Aibilieen who jumps at the chance.

It took me a bit to get into the book but when I did it was a really nice, flowing read with some great characters.

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