Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

I hate Evelyn, but I think I like her very much

Wow, I’ve literally just finished this book but I can already tell that it’s one that’s going to stay with me for a while. It doesn’t make for the most comfortable of reads. Much like main protagonist Evelyn Hugo it’s brutally honest, unapologetic and morally grey but it’s also incredibly powerful, moving and compelling. It may have started out a little slow and I wasn’t sure it would live up to expectations but by the end I was an emotional wreck.


THE BLURB

Reclusive Hollywood 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 to write her story, no one is more astounded than Monique herself.

Determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career, Monique listens in fascination. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s – and, of course, the seven husbands along the way – Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. But as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for creating “complex, likeable characters” (Real Simple), this is a mesmerizing journey through the splendour of Old Hollywood into the sobering realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means – and what it costs – to face the truth.


MY REVIEW

It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly

This is the story of a life, Hollywood screen legend Evelyn Hugo’s life (and loves) to be exact. She may be getting older and has been out of the public eye for some time but she has that special something that draws everyone to her. When Monique Grant, a relatively unknown magazine reporter, is invited to interview the elusive star no one knows why but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for her to find out the truth behind the scandals and the press stories, to discover the reasons why her marriages didn’t last and who the real love of Evelyn’s life was.

As Evelyn tells her story to Monique it becomes clear that she has picked Monique for a reason, that there is some connection between them. As Monique hears Evelyn’s story and discovers a shocking truth it makes her reevaluate her own life and beliefs.

I have to admit I found Evelyn’s story fascinating. It begins in the 1950’s when she’s in her teens, living in Hells Kitchen and follows her to the glamour of early Hollywood where, through sheer force of will and perseverance, she gets her big break in the movies. She trades on her looks and transforms herself into the person she needs to be to become someone in a world that doesn’t want her. She learns to play the game, she falls in love, discovers others aren’t always who they seem, has her heart broken, loses everything that matters and wins it back. It’s a truly compelling story of a wonderfully complex character.

From reading other reviews it does seem like a lot of people really don’t like Evelyn but I have to confess I admired her. Yes, she’s selfish and ruthless and does the wrong thing a lot of the time but she owns her actions which is something I love. She doesn’t apologize for them and she doesn’t regret them. She knows exactly who she is and what she’s willing to do.

So if we’re going by the metric that all’s well that end’s well, then I guess it’s safe to say that I’m not sorry.

When I was starting this book I did wonder if seven husbands was a bit much, if it would be too many characters and relationships for me to become invested in any particular one, or if I would even remember each husband but they’re so well crafted that they can’t help but be memorable and every one of them brought something to the story.

I will say that Harry Cameron, husband five and Evelyn’s best friend, was far and away my favourite. He’s not without his own demons but the relationship between them is truly something to be envied even if it isn’t necessarily romantic love. The others are a bit of a mixed bag. A couple seem like they could be the real thing, some of which become disappointments, there are marriages of convenience (usually Evelyn’s convenience) and there are unexpected true partnerships which redefine what love and family really means.

Interspersed among these stories of Evelyn is Monique in the present day. She isn’t necessarily the strongest character, she’s trying to get over the break up of her own marriage and lacking confidence, but she really grows throughout the story as she learns from Evelyn. So much so that by the end I was cheering her on and completely heartbroken when she finds out the truth about why Evelyn picked her to write her story.

I am so glad that I picked up this book. It isn’t my usual type of read but the writing is truly wonderful (I’ve highlighted a lot) and it has some very powerful messages throughout while remaining a compelling story. This was my first book by Reid but it definitely won’t be my last.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

What If It's Us
What If It’s Us
by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

I knew from the very first page I was going to love this book, and I did. It’s just so sweet and funny and wonderful and made me smile so hard (and I’m still smiling). I really hope Albertalli and Silvera team up for another book.


THE BLURB

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?


MY REVIEW

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe more 4.5 stars but what the hell, this book put the biggest smile on my face.

From the very first page I knew I was going to love this book. The pairing of Albertalli and Silvera is just perfect and while you can tell their writing apart, their styles complement each other perfectly.

I am an absolute sucker for YA romances set in New York so there was always a fair chance I was going to love this. It is however the sweetest and funniest romance I’ve read since Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares. I loved the meet-cute at the start, I loved watching Ben and Arthur trying to find each other again and I loved the way their relationship developed. I thought it was wonderful how realistic their relationship was. They have this epic, incredibly romantic start but it’s not all smooth sailing. They each have their own issues and insecurities, they both make mistakes and everything seems to go wrong for them. It keeps you wondering whether they can make it work or if they’re just too different.

Character wise I loved both Ben and Arthur but have to confess of the two it was Arthur who made me the happiest. He’s just so earnest and enthusiastic and gosh darn likeable. I feel like I really need an Arthur in my life, he’s just a little ball of sunshine, but possibly not as the office intern. Ben was a little harder to love, he’s quite negative and closed off, but once he starts to open up he’s kind of adorable too. They really are a great match and I was totally rooting for them to make it.

The secondary characters are also wonderful. Dylan in particular, pretty much stole the book, as he had me laughing in pretty much every scene he was in. (Can he be my best friend?) I also loved the diversity in the characters – Ben is part Puerto Rican, Arthur is Jewish and takes medication for ADHD and Dylan has a heart condition – it’s fantastic to see so much representation in such a natural way.

The writing is as brilliant as you would expect, the pacing is spot on and the story is packed full of feels. I was supposed to be packing to move house and instead I binge read this in a day, I just didn’t want to put it down.

Overall, if you haven’t figured it out, I loved this book and would recommend to anyone looking for a feel good contemporary romance.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. All views are my own.

Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
by Emily M. Danforth

A wonderfully written coming of age story that I wanted so badly to love but couldn’t quite connect with.


THE BLURB

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone, and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship, one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self-even if she’s not quite sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.


MY REVIEW

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm I am really struggling to know what to say about this book. Have you ever read the blurb on a book and thought this sounds like just the sort of story I’ll love. You check out the reviews and everyone you know is raving over how brilliant it is, how it’s one of the best books they’ve read and you think yep I need to read this as soon as possible.

You manage to get a copy and dive right in only to realise pretty early on that it’s not really working for you. There’s nothing obviously wrong with it but it just doesn’t make you feel anything. That was exactly what happened to me with this book. I could see it’s good (possibly even great) but that’s not how it felt.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a classic coming of age story. Set in a small (and pretty religious) town in Montana, Cameron is 12 years old when her parents die in a car accident leaving her to live with her aunt Ruth and her Grandmother. Cameron struggles with her grief but more importantly is struggling with guilt over the fact that when her parents died she was shoplifting and kissing a girl.

The story follows Cammie over the next 4 or 5 years as she deals with the loss of her parents while trying to keep the fact that she’s more attracted to girls than boys a secret, particularly from her Aunt, whose religious views it goes against. Needless to say it doesn’t remain a secret.

I thought the author did an absolutely wonderful job in setting the scene for this story. She is originally from Miles City where the story is set so I’m assuming it’s based on her own memories and experiences but she conveys it so well. Movies are referenced a lot in this story but there’s something very film like in the description of both place and people too. It’s very easy to imagine yourself there, the sights, sounds and even the feel of the place.

The characters are similarly well fleshed out. Each and every one of them and the actions between them feeling very real and natural. Cameron in particular was very intriguing and with the story taking place over several years it was fascinating to watch her grow and develop.

This focus on Cameron and the development of her through her teens is however where it probably went a little bit wrong for me as while her story interested me I didn’t feel particularly connected to her. Consequently I was never emotionally invested in it which in this type of story is really necessary in my opinion.

There were a couple of emotional moments in the beginning but other than that it was more I’m kinda curious where this is going rather than I can’t put this down as I need to know what happens next. I can’t put my finger on what caused this, it was maybe a lack of things in common with Cammie or it could have been the way she tells the story, often reflecting back from some time in the future, which makes her seem a little detached from it rather than in the moment.

Pace wise this is a slow read and I have to confess to being tempted to DNF more than once. There are some pretty long sections where it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. There was probably something I was missing in these parts, some symbolism or deeper meaning but I mostly just wanted it to move on.

It does pick up a little in the second half when the truth comes out and Ruth takes drastic action to set Cammie back on God’s path but I don’t think it was enough. The ending when it finally came was also a bit of a let down. I felt like it was just getting interesting and then it was over. I can understand what the author was trying to do but it really frustrated me.

I have to say I am glad to have read it, it opened my eyes to a lot of things and presented such a wonderfully vivid picture of small town America, but it’s not one I’m ever likely to pick up again.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.

Review: The Last Romeo by Justin Myers

The Last Romeo by Justin MyersThe Last Romeo by Justin Myers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderful writing and a scarily accurate portrayal of the dating scene make this a very readable and addictive story. It left me with very mixed feelings but that can only be a good thing can’t it?


THE BLURB

James is 34 and fed up. His six-year relationship with Adam has imploded, he hates his job making up celebrity gossip, and his best friend Bella has just announced she’s moving to Russia.

Adrift and single in loved-up London, James needs to break out of his lonely, drunken comfort zone. Encouraged by Bella, he throws himself headlong into online dating, blogging each encounter anonymously as the mysterious Romeo.

After meeting a succession of hot/weird/gross men, James has fans and the validation he’s always craved. But when his wild night with a closeted Olympian goes viral and sends his Twitter-fame through the roof, James realises maybe, in the search for happy-ever-after, some things are better left un-shared. Seriously, wherefore art thou Romeo . . .


MY REVIEW

When I finished this, very early one Saturday morning, I felt so mixed up about it. Did I enjoy it? I’m honestly not sure. I think it was so completely different from what I was expecting it confused me.

There is certainly a lot to really like about it. The writing is excellent and there’s a lot more depth and realness to it than I was expecting. It’s wonderful to finally come across a book with a gay main character who’s looking for love that gives such an accurate portrayal of the dating scene.

As a main character, James (or Jim) is very genuine. He’s far from perfect, he’s insecure, doesn’t seem to really like or value himself but he is someone I’d want as a friend and there was so much I could relate to. I didn’t particularly agree with everything he did (a lot frustrated or worried me) but I could certainly understand it. Similarly his experience of dating, while uncomfortable and awkward a lot of the time was very believable and true to life.

I really loved the other characters and the way the relationships between them were portrayed. I think the author really captured modern friendships and how your circle of friends can become in fact your family. I also loved the commentary on celebrity and social media and found it so relevant. Myers has a very successful blog (I hadn’t read it before picking up the book but have now and it’s brilliant) and works as a freelance writer and columnist for several major publications so his knowledge and experiences really shine through.

Unfortunately however I think it was the realness and the depth that stopped me from loving this. For some reason I was expecting a bit of a light and fluffy romance and the fact that it was so completely not this threw me off. It has some funny moments but at times it goes a little bit dark making it more uncomfortable rather than enjoyable to read.

Overall, I’m not sure my feelings on this will ever be clear. The more I think about it the more I think yes that bit was brilliant or I’m really not sure I liked that bit. It definitely challenged me so I think I’ll just suggest that you read this for yourself and make your own mind up.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Book Review: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Not as good as I was expecting.

I think this book is probably a victim of too much hype as far as I’m concerned. It’s a book that’s been on my want to read list pretty much since the second it was released and my need to read grew with every fantastic review I saw of it. It’s safe to say then that my hopes were excessively high. Possibly so high that there wasn’t a hope that this book could live up to it and unfortunately it didn’t.

It’s an enjoyable read and there is a lot to like about it. It’s quite sweet, funny, sad in places and very well thought out. It was just missing that spark for me that would have taken it from a good book to a great book.

The main problem for me was probably the characters. They were likeable enough but there just wasn’t anyone I could really relate to or get invested in. Simon I found to be a little bit on the annoying and whingey side which is never a good thing. I know he was going through a bit of a rough time but it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who has so many great friends and a very supportive family.

The highlight of the book was probably the emails between Simon and Blue but even then they felt a little on the light side.

Overall it’s a good read but I’ve read other similar books that do it better.


Synopsis (from GoodReads)

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.