The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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

Publication information: June 17th, 2017 by Atria Books

Description (from Goodreads):

Ageing 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.


Two sentence review: Stupid Milka, you should have just believed the hype on this one! The fact that Evelyn Hugo is not a real person is astounding – she comes alive on the pages of the book is such a way that you cannot stop yourself from caring about her, despite her mistakes.


For me, Evelyn Hugo is such a perfectly written, realistically flawed character. Yes, she is a glamorous movie star with a lot of stories to tell, but underneath all that glitz and glam is a woman trying her best to simultaneously protect those she love and climb up the ladder in Hollywood. Unfortunately in a world morbidly curious about the lives of celebrities doing both of those things simultaneously is not as easy as it might first seem, as Evelyn learns that despite all her money and beauty there are just some things that the society of the time would not find acceptable.

I went into this book expecting a certain kind of love story and got something completely different. Something I did not even know that I needed. What is considered “acceptable” and “forbidden” in the world about which Evelyn tells Monique, a journalist she scouts to write her biography, blurs and while Taylor Jenkins Reid introduces us to the mores of the time of Evelyn’s youth, the way she writes about Evelyn’s so-called forbidden love is done in a way that it is easy for you to be on Evelyn’s side, to feel sad that she was in the limelight in a society that could not embrace Evelyn as she truly was, not just the bombshell Evelyn that men obsessed over and women were jealous of.

While Evelyn and her life are the highlight of this book, reading about Monique and the growth of her confidence as she spends more time with Evelyn was also extremely interesting and rewarding and as the story goes on, Evelyn and Monique’s lives start to intertwine in unexpected ways. Taylor Jenkins Reid uses hindsight in interesting ways, allowing Evelyn of the present day to reflect on her past and some of the more questionable decisions she had made. What was extremely memorable for me, though, was the fact that while Evelyn has made mistakes, she never really wallows in how things could have been. Rather, she admits the missteps and proudly accepts the ways in which her life has unfurled – there have been highest of highs and lowest of lows. But I guess that is what live is to everyone, whether you are a movie star or not.


STAR RATING

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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REVIEW: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callander

Publication information: May 5th, 2020 by Balzer + Bray

Description (from Goodreads):

From Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.


Two sentence review: A diverse, well-written and structured story about Felix, a transgender teen, trying to understand his identity amidst friendships, possible romances, and cyber bullying. Important, thought-provoking story with an interesting cast of characters.


It has been a while since I’ve read YA contemporary novels and very early on into Felix Ever After by Karen Callander I was reminded why I once used to read YA contemporary so much – at its best, books within that categorization can be heartwarming, thought provoking, and entertaining all in equal measure. Felix Ever After is all that. And as a bonus, I feel like I really learned something new.

Felix is Black, queer, and trans. While those are characteristics he himself likes and is proud of, he realizes that he lives in a shitty society in which those aspects of himself are seen as something to point out, something to examine, something to question, something to ridicule. When someone at his high school puts up a gallery featuring pictures of him before his transition and in the process deadnames his, Felix is justifiably upset. But he is also also determined to execute his revenge…

Since it has been a while from my last experience with a young adult novel it took me a while to get back to the mindset of teenagers. I will go right away and say that this book was not written for me and thus it is not my right to start to judge whether the characters act realistically or whether the things they do are logical or not. It has been a while since I was teenager, but I do remember the times during which things were felt so intensively and every word and action of someone you are already suspicious of is analyzed with care. Because of that, Felix’s determination about the guilt of one specific person that he is already suspicious of makes total sense; he feels like he has been hurt and judged by that person previously and it makes sense that this person would be willing to take the hurting to the next level.

Obviously, as we all know, things are not always what they seem and as Felix continues with his revenge plot he starts to learn new things about the people around him – things he might not have wanted to know as well as things that first take him by surprise, things that eventually lead to unexpected realizations.

There are things that I especially loved about Felix Ever After: (1) the flawed, sometimes messy, yet very realistic characters and relationships and (2) the process Felix himself goes through in order to define his identity more clearly. Felix Ever After‘s pages are inhabited by characters who are smart and accepting yet also tend to reach certain conclusions without giving them a second though. We all act like that sometimes, but especially as teenagers I feel like jumping into conclusions is quite common especially when it comes to issues related to budding relationships and ones status within the high school hierarchy. I communicate with young people through my job and I am continually amazed by how tolerant and capable of critical thinking many are and felt like that really also came through in this book – while reading this I kept thinking that we will be okay if people like Felix and some of his friends are given a voice and a power to make decisions in the future.

“You weren’t happy and now you are and that is all that matters.”

The relationship between Felix and his father is an interesting one and develops throughout the book subtly but powerfully. As Felix becomes more comfortable with himself I feel like he is able to more clearly voice what he needs from his father. While Felix starts the book with wanting to be in love, the process of him finding himself and learning how to love himself is the absolute highlight of this book.


STAR RATING

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Beach Read by Emily Henry

REVIEW: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Publication information: May 19th, 2020 by Berkley

Description (from Goodreads):

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.


Two sentence review: A surprisingly touching, oh so romantic novel perfect for the upcoming summer days. If you are looking for sparking chemistry and fully developed characters, this unputdownable gem is a stellar choice!


January and Augustus are polar opposites. Or so it at least seems on paper. January is a romance writer and for most of her life has believed in soul mates, meet cutes, and all that jazz. Augustus, on the other hand, is one of those brooding literary fiction types who likes to write about the darker side of life. They knew each other in college and since they both became published authors January has, in her mind, placed Augustus into the position of a rival. When their paths cross, their facades start to unravel and they come to realize that maybe they are not that different, after all.

While the premise of Emily Henry’s adult debut is nothing new, Beach Read was like a refreshing breath of air that managed to drag me out of my months long reading slump. January and Augustus feel like real people with real struggles and as I read more about them I became convinced that having either them as a friend would be freaking awesome. I love reading about characters like them – they are multidimensional, extremely well developed, and capable to making mistakes. January is more than just the eternally optimistic romantic kind or the woman whose only mission in life is to find love while Augustus is more than just a broody hero hiding his feelings deep down. Both are vulnerable as a result of surprising events in their personal lives, but both are also open for something new, even if they don’t perhaps admit to it for themselves.

I read Emily Henry’s young adult debut, The Love That Split the World, years ago but still remember the beautiful way in which she describes the characters she writes about and the mastery with which she slowly, sometimes even agonizingly, builds the kind of slow-burn relationships we all love so much. Another thing I also fell in love with while reading her debut, and which repeats here, is the way Henry writes about families and familial relationships. Yes, Beach Read is a love story between January and Augustus, but in addition to that it is a story about a woman forced to encounter family secrets that drastically change the way in which she remembers her childhood and about a man dealing with trauma from his past and realizing how that influences the ways in which he approaches relationships and trust in the present.


STAR RATING

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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(note: review copy from Netgalley)


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Welcome to A Voracious Reader

Dear reader,

Welcome to A Voracious Reader. This blog has been on the drawing board for a long time and it is finally time to reveal it to the world.

I have been a passionate reader since I can remember and this is not my first time tipping my toe to the world of book blogging. For years, I ran a blog called Read Read Read on blogger – maybe some of you may even remember me from those days. That blog has been inactive for a while now as I have moved from the world of blogging to bookstagram.

While I do adore bookstagram (you can find me from @avoraciousreader), for a long time I have felt like the platform does not really give me a chance to share book reviews in a way I would like to. After all, Instagram is all about pictures and often the captions themselves might drown into the sea of beautiful bookish photos.

That is why I decided to make my comeback to the book blogging world.

When I started Read Read Read over 10 years ago I didn’t really have the funds to pay for a domain name nor the knowledge of things really worked in the blogging world. For this new beginning, I decided to make the investment of buying a domain name that matches with my Instagram handle. That investment wasn’t big in monetary terms, but just making the investment alone makes me take this more seriously.

The moment this post went live I hid Read Read Read from the world. It has not been garnering much attention anyway, but now that I have a new platform to use there is no reason to keep it visible to others.

But….

As you can probably imagine, in over 10 years I managed to write numerous reviews that could still be valuable resources to some. Because of that, I have decided to go through my old reviews and pick out the ones I am most proud of. So once in a while you will see reviews that I have written years ago, reviews that I still feel like are worth sharing with the world. Through these reviews I also hope to bring into your radar backlist titles (books that have been on sale for more than a year) you might not even have heard of before if you mostly consume new releases…might be that you have missed out some real gems.

I am so excited to be back in the world of blogging and look forward to sharing my love for books with you both here on this blog as well as on my other social media channels. You can find the links for where to find me from below.