reviews, women's fiction

Book of the Week: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

A really, really easy decision about what to pick for BotW this week, but I’m ashamed to say that my copy of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo had been sitting on my Kindle for more than 18 months before I finally got around to reading it.  It was one of those occasions where I requested something from NetGalley, with eyes too big for my reading time and it got lost in the backlog.  And the NetGalley backlog is huge.  One of my aims for the year is to solve that.  We’ll see if that happens, but certainly the attempt has turned up a real gem.

The cover of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Evelyn Hugo was a huge star in her day, but these days she’s pretty much a recluse.  So when Monique Grant is sent out to do an interview with her it’s a big deal.  A massive deal.  And Hugo would only talk to Monique – but why?  Monique is a virtual unknown – a junior reporter at a magazine – and she’s as clueless as everyone else about why Hugo has picked her.  And when Monique arrives to do the interview, Evelyn has a different proposal for her – she doesn’t want to give an interview, she wants Monique to write her biography – she wants to tell Monique the stories and secrets behind her career and her seven marriages.  Monique’s marriage has just broken up and she’s looking to rebuild, so she takes the job.  Soon she’s spending her days listening to Evelyn telling the story of her rise to stardom – from her childhood in poverty in New York to the top of the Hollywood tree.  It’s no holds barred – the domestic abuse, the Hollywood catfighting, backbiting and machinations – and the truth about who was the love of Evelyn’s life.  And Monique finds herself warming to Evelyn, even though the story she’s telling isn’t always pretty or nice and Evelyn doesn’t always come out of it in the best light.  But still she wonders, why was she picked to be the one to tell it.  But as Evelyn’s story goes on, it becomes clear that there’s a purpose to all of this – and somewhere Evelyn’s life is linked to Monique’s.

And I’m not prepared to say any more about the plot than that.  I’ve checked the blurb and I don’t think I’ve given away too much beyond what’s there.  And that’s because Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel is best discovered blind.  I hadn’t checked goodreads or read any reviews when I went in, so I didn’t know any of the twists and turns that were ahead of me and I think if I had, it would have been a real shame.  But that does mean it’s hard to explain how clever this novel is.  It is a totally page-turning book – the sort of thing you could sit and read on a sun-lounger all day without being bored (if you can read slow enough) but it’s also a very smart look at the world we live in.

Evelyn is a Cuban-America and as she rises up through the Hollywood machine you see the challenges that she faces as a woman and as a Latina and to be herself.  She’s constantly having to change, to tone-down or hide aspects of herself in order to be acceptable and accepted and successful.  But it’s so well written that it’s only afterwards you realise how much social commentary is in there. It’s good and it’s very, very clever. I’ve also gone down a few Google and Wikipedia rabbit holes since finishing this, trying to work out which bits of Evelyn’s story are based on which real life Hollywood stars. I can’t tell you my conclusions though because it’ll give too much away. Sorry, not sorry.

My copy came from Netgalley an age ago, which means this is out in paperback now as well as on Kindle and Kobo. I’m hoping it should be relatively easy to find in an actual bookshop too. Taylor Jenkins Reid has a new book out shortly – which I mentioned in my anticipated books post (my excitement about this has only increased after reading this!) on New Year’s Day – so keep an eye out for that too!

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, Series I love

Book of the Week: The Days of Anna Madrigal

Quite a short BotW post this week, for a multitude a real life reasons, so sorry about that.  Any way, this week’s pick is the final (for now at least) Tales of the City books.

Library copy of Days of Anna Madrigal
In case they’ve somehow passed you by, the nine Tales of the City Books tell the interconnected stories of the residents of a house in San Francisco, starting in the 1970s and going up until pretty much the present day. Written by Armistead Maupin, the books started off as a newspaper column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Most of the books are episodic and jump between the different characters’ points of view. 

True to my no-spoilers policy, there’s not a lot about the plot of this that I can tell you, except that we rejoin the redoubtable Anna Madrigal, now in her 90s and some of her former tenants as she prepares for a road trip that will see her revisit her past and try to resolve some unfinished business. If you haven’t read the other books in the series, please don’t start here, go back to the start and read Tales of the City and follow them through. It’s taken me three years to do the whole series, and it’s been so worth it.

This isn’t my favourite of the nine, perhaps because I knew it was the last one and I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters, but it’s still a wonderful trip with old friends, who you feel like you know inside out because you know them so well. A bittersweet end to the journey.

My copy of The Days of Anna Madrigal came from the library, but you should be able to find it in all good bookshops. 

Happy Reading!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Book bargains

A few bargain books for today’s Recommendsday post – some of which you’ll have heard me mention before.  With the May Bank Holiday nearly upon us, here’s a chance to pick up a few books to enjoy over the long weekend.

Firstly, Duncan MacMaster’s Hack is FREE on Kindle today.  You may remember that I loved it when I read it a month or so back now.  You can read my review here or my interview with Duncan. If you haven’t given any of Fahrenheit Press’s books a go yet (and goodness knows I’ve raved about enough of them that you must have heard me mention them before) now is your chance to give one a go for nothing!

Next,there’s a few of Laurie Graham’s books at the bargain price of 99p in book this week.  Grand Duchess of Nowhere (Kindle/Kobo) was the first book I ever reviewed for Novelicious and tells the story of Ducky, one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters who fights back against the ageing monarch’s dynastic manoevreings.  At Sea (Kindle/Kobo)  and Life According to Lubka (Kindle/Kobo) are some of her modern-set novels, while Perfect Meringues (Kindle/Kobo) is one of her earlier ones.  Here’s my love letter to Graham’s Gone with the Windsors from the other week (now on Kindle too!) in case you missed it.  All of them, be they historical or contemporary are witty and fun and bittersweet.  Her next book, The Early Birds, (a sequel to Future Home Makers of America) is out three weeks today and I’m very excited. That’s available to pre-order – on Kindle, Kobo and in hardcover*)

Meanwhile, the first book in Sarah Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series is 99p at te moment. Sleepless in Manhattan (Kindle/Kobo) is 99p at the moment as well.  If you’ve been about for a while you’ll be aware of how much I like Sarah Morgan.  I’ve reviewed a couple of the others in the series, but not this one.  This is a brother’s best friend story with a healthy dose of competency porn as heroine Paige puts her life back together after being made redundent with the help of her teen crush Jake.  Morgan’s next book Holiday in the Hamptons (the 5th in the series) is out in June and available for pre-order on Kindle, Kobo and in paperback.

And finally over on Audible, today’s Daily Deal is Alan Moore’s Jerusalem.  It’s £2.99 for over 60 hours of audio.  I’m a Northampton girl and I’ve been eyeing up this mammoth novel about my home town for a while – but couldn’t justify the hardback and thought the paperback would be too huge for me to carry around too.  So when I spotted this this morning it seemed perfect.  I’ve treated myself to it – and give it a go as I jog around the Racecourse.  I’ll let you know how I get on…

Happy Reading.

*My print book links this week are all to the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green.  They’re lovely and need the sales more than the major retailers do.  I was in there after work on Monday and treated myself to another Angela Thirkell and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.  Postage is free and they can usually post books out to you the next day.

Book previews, books

Autumn New Release Preview

Why hello there.  It’s September.  The schools are going back and the nice weather won’t last.  So to ease your pain, I thought I’d tell you about some upcoming books I’m looking forward to or have been fortunate enough to have already enjoyed.  But if that’s not your bag, here’s my books about schools post from two years ago if you feel the need to start the academic year with a boarding school book or two! So, in no particular order (well not by date anyway) here we go:

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson (22 September)

Recognise the name?  Yes, it’s that Mara Wilson – who played Matilda and was in Mrs Doubtfire – now all grown up, she’s written a collection of essays and it’s getting a lot of buzz.  It’s hard to find out what it’s about – from what I can work out it’s part memoir, part life lessons – but I’ve seen lots of good buzz about it – and the early reviews on Goodreads are really positive.  Plus I’ve always wanted to know what she did after she left films.  I’m hoping this will answer some of my questions.  Pre-order on Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Waterstones, Foyles.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (6 October)

Today Will Be Different follows a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, who knows she’s a mess but wants to tackle the little things to try and get back on track.  Unfortunately today is the day that life is going to get in the way.  I’m a little trepidatious (is that a real word or one that I got from Buffy/Clueless?) about this one.  Will this be Good Semple or Bad Semple?  I loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but I detested This One Is Mine to the point that if I hadn’t enjoyed …Bernadette so much I would have DNF’d it.  I like the plot summary and several of the book podcasts I listen to are excited about it, so I’m hoping for the best and going to give it a go. Pre-order on Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Waterstones, Foyles.

How to Party with an Infant by Kuai Hart Hemmings (8 September)

Single mum Mele is trying to get over her obsession with the father of her daughter by writing an entry for a cookbook writing contest.  Except she’s doing it a little differently and going into “elaborate and shocking detail”. This is a recent addition to the list (and coming out really soon) after I saw it on Book Riot’s What We Read In August list where the contributor said “This made me laugh the way Where’d You Go, Bernadette? did.” and then I had to have it.  Maybe I’ll save it until after I’ve read Today Will be Different in case that’s a disappointment and I need a pick me up! Pre-order on Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Foyles.

The Wangs vs The World by Jade Chang (3 November)

Charles Wang has lost the fortune he made after he arrived in the US.  Now he’s taking his family on a cross country journey from their foreclosed Bel-Air mansion to New York to pick up his other daughter. But will the journey bring them all back together or will it split them even further apart.  And will they all even make it as far as the other coast, faced with temptations en route?  I just keep hearing about this book.  Everywhere.  So I want to read it.   Pre-order on AmazonWaterstones, Foyles.

Queen Bees by Siân Evans (8 September)

I’ve actually already read this – after lucking into a preview copy a month or so back.  This is a collective biography of six famous society hostesses in the UK between the wars. It is not the most massively in depth look at any of them – I wanted a little more detail on some of them – but you get a really good sense of the personalities of the women and the rivalries between them.  If you’ve read anything about society in this era (perhaps some of the Mrs Simpson saga, or some of the many timeslip novels set in the 1920s and 30s which feature real people as well fictional ones), you’ll have heard of some or all of these women – Lady Astor (first woman to take up her seat as an MP) and Emerald Cunard are probably the two most well known – but it’s also peppered with other people of the period – like the aforementioned Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII and then Winston Churchill, The Mitfords and the Mosleys.  This is a period I love reading about (and have read quite a lot about) and I enjoyed Queen Bees and felt I learnt stuff from it.  I’ve lent it out already – and will go and find a proper copy in the shop when it comes out so I can check out the bibliography and references – which were missing from my version – to get some more reading ideas.   Pre-order on Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Waterstones, Foyles.

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch (3 November)

This is the sixth book in the Rivers of London series and if you’ve been reading my book based ramblings for any length of time, you’ll know how I feel about PC Peter Grant (see here, here and here ) – and be unsurprised that I’m hopping around with excitement at the prospect of the next book.  I’m trying to take my time reading the latest comics so I’ll be bang up to date for this one, which apparently sees Peter, Nightingale and the crew from the Folly trying to solve a bloody, magical problem in mansions of the super-rich in Mayfair.  I can’t wait.  If you’re not already on this bandwagon, do yourself a favour at start at the beginning. Pre-order on Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Waterstones.

And there you have it.  Five books I’m looking forward to reading and one I’ve already read as a bonus. It may have got a touch long, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it.  Hopefully none of these will end up on the 50-pages and out pile and I can report back in positive terms in a couple of months time.  Please do recommend any more upcoming releases you think I might like in the comments – you know how much I love making the to-read pile bigger – and let me know if you’ve already read any of these and have Thoughts.

Happy Reading

Uncategorized

Book of the Week: Naked in Death

A somewhat brief and atypical BotW this week as it was a bit of a strange week in reading – a holiday where I didn’t read as much as usual, and where a fair bit of what I read exasperated me.  I would have chosen Vienna Waltz by Teresa Grant, but it’s only a few weeks since I picked Beneath a Silent Moon which is the same series and which I enjoyed more – not least because I’m used to Malcolm and Suzanne being called Charles and Mélanie and it really confused me – for the backstory, see my previous post.

So by default almost, Naked in Death is the BotW.  I haven’t read a lot of Nora Roberts – although she writes these as J R Robb (authors writing under different names clearly a theme this week) – and many people on the various romance sites I frequent have raved about her and suggested her.  I read her latest romantic suspense last year (The Liar, which I reviewed for Novelicious) and quite enjoyed it, so I thought her long running detective-centric romantic suspense series might be a good choice as I’m not a huge straight contemporary romance reader.

And I quite enjoyed it – it certainly kept me turning the pages – right up until I finished it just as the plane arrived on the stand at Gatwick on the way home.  It’s a little too gritty for me and Roarke is a little too close to the controlling manipulative billionaire trope that I hate, but I was intrigued to see what happened next and who was responsible for the crime.  Eve gets points for being a strong woman who is good at her job (if you can discount sleeping with a suspect, which you kinda can, mostly, but the paragraph I wrote explaining why spoils the plot, although I’m sure you can work it out) and I quite liked the futuristic world she lives in – contrary to all my expectations when I realised it wasn’t set in the here and now.

But I’m not rushing out to glom on the rest of the series – if a few come my way, then I’m sure I’ll read them, but there’s enough really good stuff on the pile already (and waiting for me in bookshops!) that it can wait.  And I won’t be devastated if I don’t read them in order – or really at all.  So that’s why I say this is a bit of an unusual book of the week.  There was nothing I read that I wanted to rave about, and having written this, I’m not expecting you to rush out to by Naked in Death on the strength of my review.  But hey, I’ve been lucky to get this far without having a week like this.  If I could have got another book in to rave about I would have done – I tried, but the romance I was hoping was going to fix the problem turned out not to be the solution and I ran out of time.  Here’s hoping normal service will be resumed next week…

Book of the Week, books, crime, detective, fiction, reviews, Thriller

Book of the Week: The Murder Quadrille

This week’s BotW is Fidelis Morgan’s The Murder Quadrille – which is another Fahrenheit Press crime novel (that subscription I purchased is turning out to be a good move so far).  Honorable mention goes to The Little Shop of Happily Ever After by Jenny Colgan – but that got a mini-review in my Half Term Reads post, so it’s not entirely left out!

This is really hard to summarise without giving the plot away, but I’m going to try.  The Murder Quadrille opens at a dinner party being given by a businessman to impress his bank manager.  His (really quite annoyed) wife is doing the food.  Also invited is their lawyer and his trophy girlfriend and an American crime writer.  Talk around the table turns to the dead body that’s turned up on the Common, but is that a good idea?

I liked this so much.  It’s dark and funny and clever and you never quite know what’s happening.  The narrative moves around from dinner guest to dinner guest – often jumping at just the point when you think you’ve worked out what’s happened, only to reveal another twist that you didn’t see coming.  Brilliant.

This is so difficult to categorise – it’s not a detective story, but if you like cozy crime it’s not really very bloody or graphic – although it is blooming creepy – and really quite thrilling.  I can’t really think of anything that’s really similar, although in the initial stages Suzette A Hill’s Francis Oughterard series came to mind – but it got much more complicated than that very quickly!

Get your copy of The Murder Quadrille from Amazon Kindle or investigate the possibility of a Fahrenheit Books Subscription here.  I’ve had three books through the subscription (which I bought for myself, on the recommendation of a friend) and read two of them so far and really enjoyed both.  The price has gone up since I purchased – but so has the number of books they’re publishing this year, so it’s still a saving.