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

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Last year, I read Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I loved it, but Evelyn Hugo had gotten so much hype that I was too scared to read it. Well, enter the Great Reading Slump of 2020 and I figured I didn’t have much to lose. Nothing was holding my interest anyway, so if I hated it, that would obviously be why.

Well, let me just say… this held my interest. Evelyn was an absolutely fascinating character, and I found her life story so interesting. I liked that she never claimed to be a good person and never tried to excuse the bad things she’d done. She fully owned every decision and every mistake and I aspire to someday be that self-assured.

As with Daisy Jones, Evelyn Hugo is told mostly through a series of interviews. I love this style of storytelling and Reid is so good at it. This book spanned several decades (and seven husbands) and I felt like I was right there with Evelyn through all of it.

And that twist at the end? I did not see that coming.

I’m not sure which of Reid’s other books I should read next, but I’m definitely not stopping here.


Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Faith by Julie Murphy

Faith by Julie Murphy
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

From Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’, comes the first in a two-book origin story of Faith, a groundbreaking, plus-sized superhero from the Valiant Entertainment comics.

Faith Herbert is a pretty regular teen. When she’s not hanging out with her two best friends, Matt and Ches, she’s volunteering at the local animal shelter or obsessing over the long-running teen drama The Grove.

So far, her senior year has been spent trying to sort out her feelings for her maybe-crush Johnny and making plans to stay close to Grandma Lou after graduation. Of course, there’s also that small matter of recently discovering she can fly….

When the fictional world of The Grove crashes into Faith’s reality as the show relocates to her town, she can’t believe it when TV heroine Dakota Ash takes a romantic interest in her.

But her fandom-fueled daydreams aren’t enough to distract Faith from the fact that first animals, then people, have begun to vanish from the town. Only Faith seems able to connect the dots to a new designer drug infiltrating her high school.

But when her investigation puts the people she loves in danger, she will have to confront her hidden past and use her newfound gifts—risking everything to save her friends and beloved town.

I was surprised that after all of the hype that Julie Murphy’s previous books had gotten, I really heard nothing about Faith until it showed up at my library. I’ll read anything this woman writes, so of course I immediately placed a hold on it and waited for my copy to come in.

Like always, Murphy’s writing is really engaging and accessible. I always enjoy reading her books because they’re so comforting to read. I always like her characters and nothing happens in her books that stresses me out too much. Faith was no different.

There was a lot about this book that I really enjoyed, but there were also things that didn’t sit quite right with me. It almost seemed like Faith was deliberately sabotaging her relationships because she was so intent on not telling anyone what was going on in her life. So much drama would have been avoided!

But overall, I did really like this book and I’m curious to learn where this series is going.


Have you read Faith? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump

Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
Source: Borrowed

In this revelatory, authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him, Mary L. Trump, a trained clinical psychologist and Donald’s only niece, shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.

Mary Trump spent much of her childhood in her grandparents’ large, imposing house in the heart of Queens, where Donald and his four siblings grew up. She describes a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships, and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse. She explains how specific events and general family patterns created the damaged man who currently occupies the Oval Office, including the strange and harmful relationship between Fred Trump and his two oldest sons, Fred Jr. and Donald.

A first-hand witness to countless holiday meals and family interactions, Mary brings an incisive wit and unexpected humor to sometimes grim, often confounding family events. She recounts in unsparing detail everything from her uncle Donald’s place in the family spotlight and Ivana’s penchant for re-gifting to her grandmother’s frequent injuries and illnesses and the appalling way Donald, Fred Trump’s favorite son, dismissed and derided him when he began to succumb to Alzheimer’s.

Numerous pundits, armchair psychologists, and journalists have sought to parse Donald J. Trump’s lethal flaws. Mary L. Trump has the education, insight, and intimate familiarity needed to reveal what makes Donald, and the rest of her clan, tick. She alone can recount this fascinating, unnerving saga, not just because of her insider’s perspective but also because she is the only Trump willing to tell the truth about one of the world’s most powerful and dysfunctional families.

One of these days, Donald Trump will learn that making a big fuss and trying to stop the publication of books about him only makes people want to read them more. Too Much and Never Enough would never have been on my radar if Trump hadn’t tried to block its publication, but I’m really glad that it got so much publicity and that I was miraculously able to get it from the library so quickly.

Donald today is much as he was at three years old: incapable of growing, learning, or evolving, unable to regulate his emotions, moderate his responses, or take in and synthesize information.

It’s no secret that I have some criticisms of our current president, and I’ve read many, many books about his presidency. Where Mary Trump’s book differs from the rest is both her background in clinical psychology and her knowledge of him in a personal context over the years.

I hope this book will end the practice of referring to Donald’s “strategies” or “agendas,” as if he operates according to any organizing principles. He doesn’t. Donald’s ego has been and is a fragile and inadequate barrier between him and the real world, which, thanks to his father’s money and power, he never had to negotiate by himself. Donald has always needed to perpetuate the fiction my grandfather started that he is strong, smart, and otherwise extraordinary, because facing the truth—that he is none of those things—is too terrifying for him to contemplate.

There are a lot of interesting little facts in this book about the dysfunction that is the Trump family. I was not at all surprised to learn what a toxic environment Fred Trump created. I almost felt bad at times, but then I remembered that a lot of people grow up in toxic families and don’t go on to become racist, misogynistic leaders of the “free” world.

The fact is, Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests that he’ll never sit for. At this point, we can’t evaluate his day-to-day functioning because he is, in the West Wing, essentially institutionalized. Donald has been institutionalized for most of his adult life, so there is no way to know how he would thrive, or even survive, on his own in the real world.

Honestly, this book was incredible. I don’t have a lot to say about it other than I’d highly recommend it if you’re interested in more background in the life and childhood of the president of the United States.


Have you read Too Much and Never Enough? Is it on your TBR?
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Mini-Reviews: On a Sunbeam, Goldie Vance Vol. 1, & The Tea Dragon Society

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.

As I’ve come to expect with Tillie Walden, the art in On a Sunbeam is absolutely stunning. She has such a way with color palettes and using color to highlight emotion. Unfortunately, the art really stole the show, because the plot and characters left a lot to be desired.

The book really felt like 544 pages of really beautiful art with some words added in as an afterthought. Maybe that’s not a completely fair assessment, but I really felt like something was missing from this story. This was still a nice book, but at almost 550 pages, it’s pretty large to be missing a strong story.


Goldie Vance, Vol. 1 by Hope Larson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Source: Borrowed

GOLDIE VANCE IS ON THE CASE

Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance has an insatiable curiosity. She lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place, and it’s her dream to one day be the hotel’s in-house detective. When Walter, the current detective, encounters a case he can’t crack, together they utilize her smarts, skills, and connections to solve the mystery…even if it means getting into a drag race, solving puzzles, or chasing a helicopter to do it!
 

Goldie Vance was the super cute detective story that I never knew I needed! I picked this one up from Hoopla on a whim and I’m so glad I did. Everything from the setting to the characters to the art was really well-done. My only criticism would be that everything that happened felt really convenient.

I’ve already borrowed the next volume and I’m hoping to read it soon!


The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Source: Borrowed

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

I’d heard a lot about how cute The Tea Dragon Society was, and I have to say, it lived up to the hype. It was just so… nice. It’s very cute and full of casual diversity and characters who accept others just the way they are. And the dragons! These are the cutest little dragons I’ve ever seen in my life and I want one so badly.

This book was great, I just wish that it had been longer and more developed.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
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ALC Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Source: ALC via Netgalley

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

I finished Girl, Serpent, Thorn almost a week ago and I’m still not entirely sure what I think. The premise was good. It was interesting, engaging, and just dark enough to keep me reading but not make me overwhelmed. The writing is also good. Bashardoust clearly knows her way around words, and the writing was never clunky and the dialogue was never forced.

The problem I had with this book mainly boils down to one thing. This book did not work for me as a standalone. Let’s get one thing straight: there is a lot going on in this book, and it’s only 336 pages. There was not nearly enough room for Bashardoust to develop both the characters and the plot, so events seem to jump around pretty quickly (and often conveniently), and aside from Soraya, very few of the characters feel like real people.

Another issue I had with this book was the romance. This was hyped up to be a great f/f romance, and while, yes, I suppose there is technically a f/f romance to be found here, it’s so minimal that you could blink and miss it. I loved the chemistry between Soraya and her female love interest and just wish it would have been fleshed out a little more. While it’s nice to finally have a YA fantasy novel that doesn’t prioritize romance over action, this romance was such a tiny part of the book that I almost wondered why it was included at all.

As for the audio, I thought the narrator did a great job. I did, as usual, have to listen on 1.75x speed to not fall asleep, but that probably says more about me than about the book.

In the end, if you’re really into YA fantasy and retellings, you might enjoy this.


Have you read Girl, Serpent, Thorn? Is it on your TBR?
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