THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#2): The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Audiobook) / Don’t Let Go / The Night Mark


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. It turned out to be so much more than I was expecting. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO tells the amazing, wild, and often heartbreaking life story of the title character. Beginning in the 1950s when she arrived in Hollywood, the book covers Evelyn Hugo’s rise to fame as an A-list actress, and her many loves and losses along the way. She chooses a young journalist named Monique Grant to write her biography, and Monique is perplexed as to why Evelyn wants to spill her long-guarded secrets to her. What, if any, is their connection? I listened to the audiobook which was a wonderful experience and quite emotional too. I’m sure the neighbors wondered why I was sobbing as I was mowing the lawn. Definitely one of my favorite books of 2017.


Don't Let Go
Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second book by Harlan Coben I’ve read, and second book by Harlan Coben I’ve really enjoyed! In DON’T LET GO, Detective Nap Dumas finally gets a lead in the disappearance case of his high school girlfriend — well, it’s his own case as no one else is looking. Maura went missing 15 years ago on the same night his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were killed, supposedly hit by a train. Nap’s always wondered if there was more to the story, and of course, if Maura’s disappearance was somehow related. Now a clue from a crime scene in another town sets his investigation in motion again. DON’T LET GO is page-turning suspense with a complex mystery and relatable characters. I especially loved Nap’s sarcastic wit.


The Night Mark
The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. THE NIGHT MARK is a unique time-travel romance set on the gorgeous coast of South Carolina. In present day, Faye Barlow feels lost, still grieving the death of her husband four years prior. During her latest photography job, she discovers an abandoned lighthouse at a place called Bride Island. She feels an inexplicable connection to the lighthouse, and in a strange twist of fate, she’s sent back to 1921 where the keeper is very much alive and very familiar. I thought the writing was beautiful, and the descriptions of the lighthouse and island were magical. While I loved the premise, ultimately I had a hard time connecting with Faye and feeling the chemistry in her new time-travel relationship. Their set up was a bit too odd for me. The character who stood out to me most was the priest — honestly I’d love to read his life story.


“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” ― Vera Nazarian

PLATINUM DOLL by Anne Girard

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Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★¾


Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, novelist Anne Girard tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.

It’s the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She’s chasing a dream—to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights.

In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want—a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends—except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition—to be an actress on the silver screen. With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she’s thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth—that fame comes at a price, if only she’s willing to pay it.

Amid a glittering cast of ingenues and Hollywood titans—Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes—Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.


PLATINUM DOLL is a novel based on actress Jean Harlow’s rise to fame during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In the late 1920s, she goes to California as a teenage bride from the Midwest. The book follows her turbulent marriage to Chuck McGrew, and the struggles she had with her ruthless mother who pushed and pushed an acting career, not always having her best interest at heart.

I enjoy reading about this era, and this book presents an intriguing and well-researched “slice of life” of a promising Golden Age starlet. I liked the author’s portrayal of Jean Harlow – part blonde bombshell, part book nerd – though I wish she would’ve had more of a backbone when it came to her mother. It was fun watching the clips referenced in the book, especially the Laurel & Hardy short “Double Whoopee.” The pacing was slow in spots, but overall it was a “swell” read, as Jean would say.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS by Deanna Raybourn

SpearGrass
Series: A Spear of Summer Grass, #1
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Released: April 30, 2013
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★¼


Paris, 1923

The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides.

Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.

Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.

Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.


A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS was such an enjoyable story. It’s told from the first person point-of-view of Delilah Drummond, a worldly flapper who’s caused embarrassment to her family one too many times. She’s banished to her stepfather’s ramshackle estate in Colonial Kenya until her latest scandal in Paris blows over. Her journey to this majestic and dangerous place changes her in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

At first Delilah’s character is arrogant, selfish, and shallow, but she’s compelling nonetheless. Her experiences in Africa bring out the complex, yet flawed, person she is below the surface. Delilah forms a precarious relationship with Ryder White, a man just as broken as she is. Ryder was so different from the men Delilah used and tossed aside. He challenged her, which was exactly what she needed.

A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS is intriguing historical fiction with romance, mystery, adventure, and an absolutely breathtaking setting. The author’s engaging writing style and rich descriptions of the people, politics, and landscape of Colonial Kenya drew me in. I’m hoping for a sequel!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: BITTER SPIRITS by Jenn Bennett

BitterSpirits
Series: Roaring Twenties, #1
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Released: January 7, 2014
Source: Borrowed from the Library

It’s the roaring twenties, and San Francisco is a hotbed of illegal boozing, raw lust, and black magic. The fog-covered Bay Area can be an intoxicating scene, particularly when you specialize in spirits…

Aida Palmer performs a spirit medium show onstage at Chinatown’s illustrious Gris-Gris speakeasy. However, her ability to summon (and expel) the dead is more than just an act.

Winter Magnusson is a notorious bootlegger who’s more comfortable with guns than ghosts—unfortunately for him, he’s the recent target of a malevolent hex that renders him a magnet for hauntings. After Aida’s supernatural assistance is enlisted to banish the ghosts, her spirit-chilled aura heats up as the charming bootlegger casts a different sort of spell on her.

On the hunt for the curseworker responsible for the hex, Aida and Winter become drunk on passion. And the closer they become, the more they realize they have ghosts of their own to exorcise…

———

I haven’t read a paranormal romance in a long time, mainly because I was so burned-out on vampires, shifters, demons, and such. Luckily, BITTER SPIRITS was a nice change from all that, because it featured my favorite paranormal beings – ghosts! Aida Palmer is a “modern” Roaring Twenties gal who values her independence. She supports herself by working as a medium, and yep, she’s the real deal. Not only can she channel spirits of the deceased, she can also banish the troublesome ones haunting this plane.

Aida gets wrapped up with a ruggedly handsome and brooding bootlegger named Winter Magnusson. Someone’s been dabbling in black magic and put a curse on poor Winter. Pesky ghosts are haunting him, and he needs Aida’s help to get rid of them. Winter and Aida have a fiery chemistry between them, even if it does take Winter a while to break down her walls. They’re both bringing some heavy emotional baggage into this relationship, and on top of that they’re trying to figure out the who and why of Winter’s hex.

I enjoyed this fast paced tale of restless spirits, dark magic, and bootlegging in 1920s San Francisco. Aida and Winter had an intriguing mystery to solve, and it all concluded with a nail-biting ending. Great romance, fun read!

Rating: 4 Stars

Book Review: THE OTHER TYPIST by Suzanne Rindell

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Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Released: May 7 2013
Source: Borrowed from the library

New York City, 1924: the height of Prohibition and the whole city swims in bathtub gin.

Rose Baker is an orphaned young woman working for her bread as a typist in a police precinct on the lower East Side. Every day Rose transcribes the confessions of the gangsters and murderers that pass through the precinct. While she may disapprove of the details, she prides herself on typing up the goriest of crimes without batting an eyelid.

But when the captivating Odalie begins work at the precinct Rose finds herself falling under the new typist’s spell. As do her bosses, the buttoned up Lieutenant Detective and the fatherly Sergeant. As the two girls’ friendship blossoms and they flit between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the precinct by day, it is not long before Rose’s fascination for her new colleague turns to obsession.

But just who is the real Odalie, and how far will Rose go to find out?

———

THE OTHER TYPIST was a most curious book. I finished it a week ago, and I’m still trying to process everything. The story is told by Rose, a typist in a New York City police precinct in 1924. On the surface, there’s nothing remarkable about Rose. She lives in a boarding house and works hard at her job. Then she starts telling us about a new typist named Odalie that starts work at her precinct. Where Rose is average, Odalie is extraordinary.  Sophisticated, worldly, beautiful, exciting. Rose feels like the chosen one when Odalie befriends her.

As the story progressed, I got the sense that something was “off” about Rose. Her friendship with Odalie morphs into an obsession. We learn unsettling things about both Rose’s and Odalie’s past. There was more to Odalie than what she seemed, but was Rose telling the truth about what really happened between them? It was hard to tell. Underneath the laughs, booze, and parties, there was an ominous tone giving me the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

The ending of this book was… Surprising? Confusing? Both? Most of the ending I thought was good. I liked the twist, and finally finding out what was really going on. Oh, very devious… However, the last sentence baffled me! I was like, “Wait. What???” I felt like either I missed something, or the characters were simply screwing with us poor readers.

I suspect this review doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s kind of the feeling I took away from this book! Maybe that was the point. Aside from that, I thought the writing was good. I loved taking a step back into the 1920s, and the author did a fine job bringing that decade to life. I’d recommend THE OTHER TYPIST to fans of this time period, as long as you don’t mind a story with an open-ended conclusion.

Rating: 3½ Stars