The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

IMG_4920‘Do you understand what I’m telling you? When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give things, you take things. If you learn one thing from me, it should probably be that.’

In The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, a movie legend decides to tell her story to a relatively unknown reporter that she herself chose. What unfolds is a fascinating story of an incredible life, full of high highs and crushing lows, incredible success and painful loss. We learn about Evelyn’s successful career and the seven husbands along the way, while also uncovering a possible connection between the movie star and the reporter chosen for the interview. The result is a gripping tale of ambition and lessons learned along the way, combined with a touch of mystery as the reason for Evelyn’s choice of reporter is revealed.

“It would take me years to figure out that life doesn’t get easier simply because it gets more glamorous. But you couldn’t have told me that when I was fourteen.”

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Taylor Jenkins Reid is truly a talented writer, and that talent is evident in this newest release. While it is a departure from her previous novels, it still has all the components that make her books such compelling and addictive reads. The main one being the brilliant depth and complexity of character that comes across so effortlessly, pulling you into the story and allowing you to experience the range of emotions throughout. Evelyn is an incredibly compelling character and it is difficult to not get completely swept away in her story and way of narrating. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a spellbinding novel that leaves a lasting impression.

‘Oh, I know the world prefers a woman who doesn’t know her power, but I’m sick of all that.’

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

BLOG“The deeds of men, as footprints in the desert.
Nothing under the circling moons is fated to last.
Even the sun goes down.”

A fantasy novel that sets the stage for an epic journey, The Lions of Al-Rassan is the story of a land with a violent past and the individuals whose paths and destiny intersect during a vital time. Al-Rassan is home to three very different cultures and faiths, which has led to years of turmoil and accounted for the violence and brutality of endless battles. Three notable individuals of different faiths find themselves thrown together by circumstance, and their choices have life altering consequences for themselves and the very future of Al-Rassan.

“It’s one thing to make war for your country, your family, even in pursuit of glory. It’s another to believe that the people you fight are embodiments of evil and must be destroyed for that. I want this peninsula back. I want Esperana great again, but I will not pretend that if we smash Al-Rassan and all it has built we are doing the will of any god I know.”

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From the compelling characters to the beautiful writing, I was completely taken with this novel. It is a wonderful fantasy that looks at divided loyalties, the clash between religion and politics, and the price of war. These themes are tackled in a smart and thought-provoking way that really elevates the story. The true heart of this novel are the characters that you can’t help but fall in love with, and who will stay with me for a long time to come. It does take a little time to fall into the rhythm of the story in terms of learning all the characters and where they fit in the overall layout of this conflict, however this did not take away from the enjoyment. The Lions of Al-Rassan is a novel full of humour, wit, tragedy, and a lot of heart. Truly a fantasy worthy of your time.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

IMG_4769“There are monsters in the sea.”

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk feels most at home in the online world, specifically in the fandom of the popular webcomic she created, Monstrous Sea. The story is massively popular and has gained a following of millions; people that eagerly await the weekly publishing of new pages and chapters in the saga. When a new student at school turns out to be a Monstrous Sea fan, it leads to friendship that slowly takes Eliza more into the outside world and challenges her in new ways. But when her identity as the webcomic creator is revealed, her reality is turned upside down and affects her in a deep way.

“There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt.
The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster, though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.”

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Eliza and Her Monsters is a wonderfully compelling novel that charms while dealing with some important issues. Many moments made me smile and Eliza is an endearing protagonist who is very relatable, from her relationships with those around her to her escape into the online world. Her struggle with anxiety is portrayed in a realistic and easy to understand way, particularly when it comes to the pressures of creating and the expectations that come with online success. Eliza and Her Monsters had me eagerly turning the pages, which included screenshots and graphics from Eliza’s Monstrous Sea. A thoughtful and highly enjoyable novel.

God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo

IMG_4766“When I was twelve, a fortune teller told me that my one true love would die young and leave me all alone.
Everyone said she was a fraud, that she was just making it up.
I’d really like to know why the hell a person would make up a thing like that.”

These words mark the beginning of Beatrice’s story, one that is as heartfelt as it is heartbreaking. God-Shaped Hole takes us through the relationship between Beatrice and Jacob, two people whose meeting marks the start of a life-changing relationship. They are both broken and insecure in their own ways, having experienced hurt that has affected them as individuals. Their connection is undeniable and together they bond over their love of music, their dislike of Los Angeles, and the desire to start a new life elsewhere. In each other they find a sense of belonging and home, while battling their own insecurities.

“We’re all searching for something to fill up what I like to call that big, God-shaped hole in our souls. Some people use alcohol, or sex, or their children, or food, or money, or music, or heroin. A lot of people even use the concept of God itself. I could go on and on. I used to know a girl who used shoes. She had over two-hundred pairs. But it’s all the same thing, really. People, for some stupid reason, think they can escape their sorrows.”

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This is a wonderfully written novel that definitely makes an impression. From the intriguing first paragraph, I was completely immersed in the story, which is told from Beatrice’s perspective. The characters are flawed and compelling, but mostly they just feel real. Both struggle with issues from their past as well as the feeling that they don’t exactly belong, which the author relates so incredibly well.

“I always felt like that myself, that I didn’t marry into the landscape of the human world like others did, that I was on the outside looking in. I imagine it’s much easier not to take things so seriously, to just blend, but I’d long ago given up trying to live in vain and I knew I had to suffer for it.”

Throughout the novel we experience the relationship between Beatrice and Jacob, most of which is intense, emotional, and raw. What stands out the most for me, is the author’s writing style that brought to life these characters and made it such a compelling and engrossing story.  

“I like to say I don’t believe in mystics. I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe in destiny or kismet. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in anything. But I believe in the possibility of everything.”

The Little French Bistro by Nina George

BLOG‘Learn to love what you do, whatever it is, and you won’t have any problems. You’ll suffer, but then you’ll feel, and when you feel, you’re alive. You need troubles to be alive.’

Marianne has been in a terribly unhappy marriage for over forty years. During a trip to Paris, she decides she has had enough, which leads to a terrifying event on the Seine. Soon after, the discovery of a lovely town in the Brittany region calls to her and she sets out on an unexpected journey. Upon her arrival she is charmed by her surroundings, meets a cast of interesting characters and slowly finds a life that she never knew.

This is a new release from the author of The Little Paris Bookshop, which once again takes us to beautiful regions of France, this time to lovely Brittany. It is a book about finding your happiness and how it is never too late to change your destiny and set off on a new path. The setting and the descriptions of towns and places is quite appealing, but I struggled to connect to the characters, particularly Marianne who comes across as one-dimensional and lacking real depth. There are a few subplots and without compelling characters it does feel like a bit much. In this case, I was just not the right reader for this novel. It is a book that will appeal to many readers, and if you enjoyed The Little Paris Bookshop, this story may work for you as well.

*ARC provided by NetGalley. Publication date: June 13, 2017.

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

BLOG“People must be terrified of losing all mystery. No one wants the complete picture, the whole story. It would leave no room for the fictions we need to tell ourselves about ourselves.”

Ava Antipova has always wanted to run away, and after a deep betrayal she finally sets off for Paris where she makes her home and creates a new life. However, the news of her twin sister Zelda’s death leaves her in shock, bringing her back to her childhood home and reuniting her with her troubled and fractured family. Ava feels things are not quite right and she cannot shake off her suspicions. She soon begins to receive letters and messages from Zelda herself that are clues to her whereabouts, leading Ava on a scavenger hunt to find her sister and the truth.

“I realize that I’m again filling in the chinks with fantasies, stuffing the cracks of absence with stories.”

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Dead Letters is a page-turning mystery that captured my attention from the first paragraph right up to the last page. The novel starts off with Ava telling the story of her and her sister, Zelda’s birth and how they received their names, which provides a great introduction to these two characters. The family in the story is deeply troubled and dysfunctional and it is not one of those books where you necessarily like the characters, but instead it is about being drawn into their chaotic world and anticipating as to how it will all unfold. I very much enjoyed the writing in this novel and the tone the author sets, which is a perfect balance of introspective and sarcastic. Overall, a compelling mystery that ponders our relationships with others and our relationship with ourselves.

“We sit quietly and I’m unsure of what else to say. We are in dangerous territory; we could reminisce, savouring the memories of when it was good. Get lost in what it was like to be young and stupid in love. But that would overwrite how things became, and how we left them.”

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

BLOGEric Thorn (@EricThorn) followed you”

Follow Me Back is a young adult mystery novel that tells the story of a girl struggling with agoraphobia, a famous pop star, and a connection that develops over Twitter. Tessa’s agoraphobia has confined her to her room, the one place she truly feels safe. She finds escape and solace in the fandom of pop star, Eric Thorn, and has developed a sizeable following on Twitter (@TessaHeartsEric), which she has dedicated to her love of the singer. Eric Thorn feels trapped by his fame and general lack of freedom, especially after the murder of a fellow pop star by a crazed fan, he is frustrated with the intense online fan world. His impulsive decision to troll Tessa’s Twitter account one evening leads to an unexpected connection of mutual understanding. However, their plan to finally meet in person takes a dangerous turn with a night neither expected.

This was an addictive little read. The book takes turns telling the story from Tessa and Eric’s perspectives, and interspersed throughout are police transcripts of the night in question, along with tweets and direct messages. All of this builds the suspense as to what happened and works well with the overall story. I did find that at times the timeline jumped forward too much, and with those jumps we miss what would have been great opportunities to really develop and relay the connection between Tessa and Eric. Also, the introduction of a particular character about sixty percent into the novel was a bit of a head-scratcher. With that said, this is one enjoyable, suspenseful, and fun read. It looks like Follow Me Back will be a part of a two book series, and with that ending I am hooked and ready for the next one.

*ARC provided by NetGalley. Publication date: June 6, 2017.