The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

4 stars

I think I’m the last person on earth to read this book. I have seen it all over Bookstagram, the Twitter Reading Community, and my Goodreads feed. I am happy to report that it mostly lived up to the hype. 

A paperback copy of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Tara Jenkins Reid on a black slate background surrounded by pearls and gold earrings.

I knew from reading Malibu Rising a few months ago that Reid is an excellent storyteller. The pages of Evelyn Hugo ooze the same intoxicating readability as Malibu Rising. Again, I encountered characters who are flawed and complex and weirdly relatable given that I don’t have anything in common with their glamorous, star-powered lifestyles.

I liked the Old Hollywood setting of this novel. Reid succeeds in making the reader feel like an insider to the real story behind the lives of these (fictional) movie stars. Evelyn’s confidence and shrewdness combined with her vulnerability made her an interesting character. While there were moments in the book where I both loved and hated her, I was never bored by Evelyn.

In my opinion, Monique was an underrated character. She doesn’t get mentioned in the title and only a few of the chapters are told from her perspective but she’s more central to the plot than a couple of Evelyn’s husbands. Her life is also impacted more by Evelyn’s choices than are several of the other people in the novel. I loved how Monique grew through the small glimpses we got of her life.

A lot of readers and reviewers have commented positively on the gossip columns and news clips that were interspersed throughout the book. Personally, I didn’t feel like they added a lot of authenticity to the story since much of the plot already felt like it was ripped right out of a People magazine story.

Although I gave this book the same star rating as Malibu Rising, I’d give a slight edge to Evelyn Hugo. And, after reading and liking both, I’m looking forward to reading my third TJR book, Daisy Jones and the Six, which is waiting impatiently on my overflowing TBR shelf.

My review of Malibu Rising is linked here.

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Waiting for Saturday by Catherine Morrison

5 stars

Waiting for Saturday by Catherine Morrison

I picked up a digital copy of this book because I was intrigued by the title – in some ways, aren’t we all “Waiting for Saturday” to come around? 

Based on the crushed red lollipop on the cover, I was expecting this book to be either a lighthearted YA romance or a sinister thriller about a young villain. Instead, I found an unexpected gem of a story about a young woman slowly opening her eyes to the mistreatment she suffers and regaining trust in herself. 

On the surface, Abi seems to have it all – a beautiful 4-year-old daughter, a gorgeous house in an upscale neighborhood, and a husband who provides for her every need. One Saturday morning, she meets Henry and his son at the play center. A friendship develops that gives Abi a new perspective on what’s really happening in her life. 

I devoured this fast flowing 150 page story in one weekend morning, cheering for Abi with each page. Not everyone will be satisfied with how this books ends, but I appreciated some of the warnings and the hope Abi’s story offers.

After reading Waiting for Saturday, I definitely plan to check out more of Morrison’s work.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

5 out of 5 stars

On the emotional evening of her father’s funeral, Lily Bloom meets a handsome stranger on a rooftop, and the two strangers have some shocking conversation. Fast forward a few months, Lily runs into the enigmatic Ryle Kincaid again, and the two cautiously embark on an intense relationship. 

Soon after she starts dating Ryle, an important figure from Lily’s teenage years enters the picture. This chance encounter with Atlas Corrigan puts Lily on a path re-examining her past and coming to terms with how it has shaped her.

Lily is a strong central figure in this book. Once I got past the messy, chaotic events of the opening chapters, I began to understand Lily and root for her to find true happiness. 

It seems inadequate to describe this book as a romance book featuring a love triangle, when in reality the story is so much more complex. The story is about one woman realizing her worth, seeing her mother in a different light, and making a hard choice to protect her family. The bonds between women were an unexpected theme in this story that seemed on the surface to be about romantic relationships.

If you read this book, be sure to read the author’s notes at the end, where Hoover talks about why she wrote this deeply personal book the way she did.

So far, this is my favorite of the three CoHo books I’ve read. Like both Verity and Layla, It Ends With Us defies the conventions of the romance genre. It also adds something that both of those books were missing for me – a likable main character that you cared about in the end.

Are you a Colleen Hoover fan? Which book of hers should I read next?

Finding Grace by Janis Thomas

4 out of 5 stars

Cover of Finding Grace

Finding Grace tells the story of three women, Grace, Louise, and Melanie, whose lives intersect. A bartender living in New York, Louise is estranged from her unreliable mother, Grace, who has been in and out of her life since she was 6 years old. Melanie is a 12-year-old girl who has been shuffled to different foster homes for most of her life. Their paths cross when Grace has a premonition that a young girl is in trouble. 

One of the things I liked most about this book was how the story unfolded. The story alternates among the perspectives of each of the women and it also bounces back and forth between the past and the present day. While this had the potential to be confusing, it was woven together deftly and was very easy to follow. It also kept me guessing and wondering what would happen next.

I also appreciated the distinct voices of each of the characters. With her calm demeanor and a deep wish to be loved, you root for Melanie right from the start. Louise’s strength pulls you in and Grace is written with just enough tenderness that you want her to be okay, despite being a terrible mom to Louise. 

I liked that there were both predictable elements and unexpected turns in this story that explores the depth of the bond between mother and daughter.

Overall, the storytelling and writing were memorable enough for me to want to read another book by this best-selling author.

Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing a free e-ARC. I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Finding Grace will be available in April 2022 and can be pre-ordered now anywhere books are sold.

Shaken No More by Jacqui Morrison

3 stars

This women’s fiction/romance novel is about one woman’s fight to overcome several past traumas and find love, success, and happiness. 

Shaken No More

After leaving her abusive husband, Meredith Golden meets Paul and the two begin a romantic relationship. Things seem to be going well for Meredith in her career and in her love life until the past resurfaces.

Although Meredith’s experiences are the book’s main focus, Paul has some trauma of his own to work through. The fact that both people have emotional baggage makes their dating life relatable.

While I didn’t personally connect with every aspect of the author’s writing style, the overall story and message are meaningful. It was clear from the writing that Meredith’s story holds special significance to the author and I always appreciate when an author’s passion for a story comes through in the writing.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in stories about healing and women’s empowerment. Readers who enjoy stories featuring a strong, resilient woman as the main character should also consider this book.

I received a free e-review copy of Shaken No More from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Shaken No More is available in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon.

Eighteen by Jenny Jaeckel

4 stars 

In this novel, 18-year-old Talia leaves her small town of Ukiah, California, and heads off to university in Washington state. The story starts off as shy and awkward as freshman year, and – like many college experiences – keeps getting better from there.

Eighteen

Told from Talia’s point of view, the reader follows this young woman as she makes friends, has her first sexual experience, and falls in love during the first few years of college. Set in the late 80s/early 90s, the story is sprinkled with a few references to HIV and what was known about sexual health at the time.

The book is a fast read – I was able to finish it in a few hours. I was invested in Talia’s dating life, particularly in what would happen with George.

I also really appreciated the book’s observations about the thin line between everything going well in a person’s life and complete disaster.

The part of this book that didn’t work as well for me is that Talia’s story felt a bit unfinished. While she was a relatable protagonist who demonstrated some growth, I would have liked for it to cover a longer time span of Talia’s life, or flesh out her back story as someone who spent part of her childhood living in a commune. By giving readers more than a 2-year glimpse into her college life, we would have had the chance to see her growth as a young woman more clearly.

Overall, it was an entertaining read that I would recommend, especially to those who enjoy stories about the joy, disappointment, desire, and heartbreak surrounding first loves.

My review would not be complete without mentioning the striking cover artwork which was created by Jaeckel. With is contrasting colors, graceful lines, and evocative expressions, this is one case where it is justified to judge the book by its cover.

Thank you to the author and Black Rose Writing for providing a free e-ARC of this book. Receiving a free review copy did not influence my opinion of this book.

Eighteen can be purchased through the publisher’s site.

For the Love of Many by Vivian Dunn

5 stars

“…why should anyone ever have to hold in their happiness?”

Vivian Dunn, For the Love of Many

For the Love of Many is a period romance book based on the life of Joan Crawford (“Billie”).

Billie is a showgirl from Kansas City who fights her way from Detroit to a Broadway chorus in the mid-1920s. She meets a more experienced dancer, Nadine, and the two chorines are immediately drawn to each other. 

One of the most masterfully written books I’ve read to date, Dunn’s descriptions effectively capture the heady buzz of working in show business in New York City and the tumult of new emotions Billie feels. 

The relationship that develops between the two women forms the heart of the book. Dunn vividly captures the explosive feelings that develop and expertly expresses how each woman views herself in relation to the other.

Themes of sexual abuse, trauma, addiction, abortion, and even dealings with the mob are skillfully and subtly woven into this intense love story.

The book rhythmically moves along, paced like a musical with chaotic scenes balanced by slower ballads. There were a few times when the book felt a bit repetitive but this was a minor issue in the context of the story as a whole.

This book will appeal to readers interested in a glimpse of what it is like to be a young woman trying to make it in show biz in New York City in the roaring 20s.

Thank you the author and Booktasters for providing a free e-ARC of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

The book is available in multiple formats on Amazon.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

3 out of 5 stars

“Sometimes your life changes so slowly and imperceptibly that you don’t notice it at all until one day you wake up and think, ‘How did I get here?’ But other times, life changes in an instant with a lightning stroke of good or bad luck with glorious or tragic consequences.”

Liane Moriarty, Nine Perfect Strangers

As a Big Little Lies fan, I was expecting a lot from this book. When I got a notice from my library that Nine Perfect Strangers was available for download just in time for a vacation, I was so excited.

In this book, nine strangers gradually arrive to begin their 10-day stay at a wellness retreat, Tranquillum House. Whether it be to heal their marriage, lose weight, detox, or reconnect as a family, each person has come to this remote retreat seeking something different from their stay. 

The book was okay — not terrible, but not great either.  It has eleven characters (including the retreat leaders) and is told through different viewpoints. However, it doesn’t focus equally on each of the characters, which made some of them feel extraneous to the story and weighed the story down.

Frances, a fifty-something former best-selling romance novelist, seemed to be one of the main characters, and I did enjoy her storyline. She had a good arc and had some of the funniest lines in the book.

Overall, this book was a bit of a letdown compared to the other Liane Moriarty books I’ve read.