The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel: Reid, Taylor Jenkins:  9781501139239: Amazon.com: Books

Around ten pages into The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, it became my favorite book. 

I started this book after seeing it around everywhere, and so many people talking about it. Previously, I read another Taylor Jenkins Reid book—Daisy Jones & the Six, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. So, after finding out The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was another Taylor Jenkins Reid book, I took others’ advice and picked it up.

It wasn’t what I expected at all. In the best way possible. 

My initial thoughts prior to reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was that—it was just going to be another typical romance novel, with shallow characters and a plotline that I won’t be able to get myself into—even after seeing the book around so much. However, I was quickly proven wrong. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has a handful of tropes that I absolutely love reading about with drama or romance novels—found family, rivals-to-lovers, lavender marriages, and most importantly… The representation in this book was amazing. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has a unique way of telling its story—it’s a story within a story. The book is a biography written by one of the story’s main characters—Monique. She’s a writer, who was recently divorced and is going through a difficult period of her life. She wants to be writing pieces that mean something to her, yet, she’s stuck writing fluff pieces for a magazine she does not want to work for anymore. To much surprise, she’s picked by Evelyn Hugo, a famous actress who reached her peak in popularity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, to write her biography. She agrees to write it, and the story switches from present to past. 

The story focuses on Evelyn Hugo’s rise to fame, and her stories with all her seven husbands. But truly, the real love story here is her 50 year long relationship with a fellow actress, Celia St. James. 

I didn’t expect for her to have this relationship prior to reading this book, considering it was about… her seven husbands… but the moment I knew about Celia, I started loving this book. 

But even so, the book is so much more than just romance. It tells Evelyn’s struggles in her past, and the way she did almost anything to rise to fame and get out of her horrible community in New York. She made it to Hollywood by herself, and made a name for herself—she is a truly powerful and beautiful woman. In addition, the story also follows Harry Cameron, her best and truest friend. 

I absolutely adored the friendship between the two of them. At first, they started out as mere acquaintances—until it came to the point where they both realized that they would die for each other. Each of them kept each other’s secrets—that Harry was gay, and that Evelyn was in love with Celia. They were friends until the end, and the found family the two of them created was completely heartwarming as well as refreshing. Too often, I always read about male/female characters who almost always get into relationships, without the relationship making any sense whatsoever. It’s so important that platonic love gets introduced more and more into mainstream media, as well as the idea that people can be soulmates without it being romantic—which was definitely Harry and Evelyn’s case. 

Evelyn and Celia were also such a refreshing couple to follow. They started off as rivals, both starring in a movie where each of them wanted the main role. The two of them made a deal when they first met—Celia would teach Evelyn how to act, since Celia was better, and Evelyn would help Celia become more popular. Over a few years, the two of them got closer and closer, until they became a couple. 

Unfortunately, this was during the 50s/60s, and homophobia was definitely more rampant during this time than today. The two of them had to hide their relationship for over 50 years, and it was only when Monique published Evelyn’s biography that their relationship—as well as the fact that Evelyn was bisexual—was made known to the public. They were completely loving, caring, and supportive of one another. Although they argued, mostly over the fact that Celia wanted to love Evelyn in public, and that Evelyn wanted to stay a secret to not hurt Celia’s career, they were completely in love with each other. If you compare Evelyn’s love for Celia to all her other husbands, none of them come close. Celia St. James was her one true love, as Evelyn put it. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo became my favorite book so quickly, it caught me off guard. It was a wonderful blend of found family, finding yourself, and learning to love yourself and others. I felt like I grew with Evelyn, and I definitely was able to relate to her and Celia so many times throughout the book. Evelyn struggles with the same things I do, and it almost felt as if I was being seen by her. Whenever I feel like that when reading a book, I know it’s going to be one of my favorites. For The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, it became my absolute favorite book.

– Claire C.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library and can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Jessie Burton: The Miniaturist

Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.

The Miniaturist, written by Jessie Burton, begins with a conclusion, which sets the scene for some confusion, though is soon explained over time. Furthermore, although the prologue is written aside from the rest of the book, it is, nonetheless, significant. 

Burton writes The Miniaturist in present tense, which is suitable for the storyline. Plus, as most modern literature is written in past tense, this difference plays a major role in the enjoyment of the work. In hindsight, the tense chosen intensifies tension, depth, and pace. It feels as though you read “a movie,” with each scene similar to that of an act, a continuous moment of time. 

Now, onto its plot. Nella (our main character) is an outsider. Johannes, her husband, doesn’t seem to have much interest in her. Marin, his sister, is distinct and stern, a woman in charge rather than complicit. Their servants (Cornelia and Otto), too, are more open and harsh than the average servants/maids. Though only when Johannes gives her a replica of their home does she somewhat feel accepted. However, even then Nella confronts trouble, for as soon as she takes interest in ‘the miniaturist’ (a craftsman who creates miniatures), an unknown woman begins to watch her, as though she weren’t there. 

Later, when Johannes comes to the decision to take Nella to a feast at the Guild of the Silversmiths, Nella must confront her vulnerabilities, together with the tension and competition aroused by other traders. In addition, a notable confrontation occurs in this scene; Nella meets the Meermans, who have tasked Johannes with the storage and sale of their sugar. As the Meermans have a supercilious nature (which is soon shown in their behavior, dialogue, etc), further questions emerge, those which at first have no answers. 

I must take note of the major twists that happen throughout the book, some of which might seem uncomfortable to some readers. Therefore, make sure you’re fine with topics such as marriage, race, servitude, illicit romance, etc. They’re important to the storyline and atmosphere! 

That takes me to a theme I’d like to go into. A portion of the book is dedicated to what it means to be a wife, as Nella finds a hard time fitting into her role (I won’t explain – it’d be a spoiler!). In the process, she questions the necessity of childbirth and the hidden potentials she has as a woman; talents and opportunities she’s missed because of the church’s (and society’s) view of women. Though this is a common theme, it’s a nice refresher to have every now and again, notably because parts of it are quite prevalent to modern times. 

One aspect I admire is its ability to make us examine. For example, the suspense and distrust between newer and older characters is never rushed, off-kilter, or unreasonable. In fact, its stable pace makes room for realism, characters that behave and act as we might, even if the era and context varies from our own. It’s a rare and difficult element to integrate, but one that, at length, drives this work to be a (possible) classic. 

In short, The Miniaturist warns to handle misfortune with caution, as it might lead to continuous trouble … 

-Emilia D.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

Book Review: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I recently finished the book Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid and fell in love with Reid’s writing. The book tells the story of first, a band called The Six and a girl by the name of Daisy Jones. Living separate lives trying to make it on the music scene in Hollywood during the 60s, the two groups collide to create a joint band.

The story is told in the format of an interview that takes place long after the band has split due to circumstances you find out as you continue reading. As you read the book, you get to hear about the beginning, middle, and end of the band from their own perspective. The story dives into issues of the 60s and how they impacted the band on their way to success. 

Reid is very good at putting you into the book. She is able to create a space where readers can become one with the band and the way they write, and oftentimes why they write the music in the novel. One of my favorite parts is the end of the book, after the last chapter and epilogue, shares the lyrics for a multitude of the songs that are sung by the band on tours. 

Reid also writes the characters very real. They’re not written like many books or TV shows where the characters are perfect and can do no wrong. In Daisy Jones & The Six, the characters make mistakes and own up to them. This was one of my favorite aspects of the book. I recommend this book to anyone who loves music, or wants to dive into an entirely different world. The interview format that this book takes allows people to feel almost like they’re watching a documentary about these fictional characters. Reid with Daisy Jones & The Six is able to create a beautiful story about the struggles of making it in the music industry when you don’t always take the easy path.

-Danielle B.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Film Review: Grave of the Fireflies

Studio Ghibli is a film franchise globally known for its popular movies, such as Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. Compared to other animation studios like Disney or Pixar, Studio Ghibli creates memorable movies with plots that surpass the typical hero’s journey or romance trope. With a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, Grave of the Fireflies isn’t an average film. It leaves viewers with a long-lasting emotional experience; one cannot even fathom its beauty, especially since its drawn entirely by hand. The movie is terribly sad and ends with a bittersweet ending, albeit its simple story moves viewers to tears and reveals nothing but the tragic, cruel truth of war.

Made in 1988 by film director Isao Takahata, the movie depicts a story of two Japanese siblings, Setsuko (age 4) and Seita (age 14), living in the midst of World War II. After surviving a U.S. bombing in Kobe, Japan, and becoming orphans, they move into their aunt’s house. With a staggering family relationship, the siblings decide to leave the house and find their own place. Unfortunately, living progressively becomes more difficult; as food grows scarce and less people are willing to help them, the struggle for survival grows stronger and their will to live diminishes. The movie is based on the novel titled Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka, conveying a recollection of the author’s own experiences before, during, and after the firebombing of Kobe in 1945.

To begin with, the art style is extremely detailed; every drawing depicts something new, with different emotions drawn out from each event. Viewers are able to understand the characters’ thoughts and feelings simply through facial features. Each background drawn has clear details that bring life and realism. The plot and method of storytelling is well-thought out, intertwining artistic and literary beauty. To elaborate more would spoil some of the movie, but the plot often shifts between its beginning and conclusion, reaching a midpoint at the movie’s end. Even though the characters don’t explain much and the plot can seem drawn out at times, every small event builds up to one meaningful, heart-throbbing ending.

What I most enjoy about this movie is its message; the perspective of watching two children suffering is difficult enough to bear, but it teaches the audience about war’s negative impacts, of how many innocent lives are harmed by another group’s disagreements. In reality, the movie was not made to entertain–it was made to inform, to warn others about the consequences of violence. As a result, there’s no honor or glory; those who truly suffer are the ones who were never part of the conflict.

The personal impact of this story is often too difficult to put into words. In a mix of both horrid and beautiful scenes, each holding its own meaningful touch to the story, Grave of the Fireflies is a movie that’s been underrated and forgotten for years. And yet, once you watch it, even if it’s just once, it’s difficult to forget.

– Natisha P.

Grave of the Fireflies is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi

Crispin: The Cross of Lead is a Newberry award-winning novel by Avi. The story is set in medieval England.  The main character is an unnamed peasant boy.  His mother Asta is his only relation, so he is known simply as “Asta’s son.”  Life is difficult for him, especially under the command of John Aycliffe.  Aycliffe is a steward watching over Stromford Village while Lord Furnival is away.  Aycliffe is cruel and ruthless.  He accuses Asta’s son of a theft that he did not commit.  Forced to flee for his life, Asta’s son must escape the village.  Before the boy embarks on his journey, a priest finally reveals to him his name: Crispin.

I enjoyed this book. I found it to be fast-paced and enthralling.  I especially liked a character Crispin meets in his travels, named “Bear.”  Bear is a large, portly juggler who compels Crispin to become his assistant.  I liked how Crispin’s trust and friendship with Bear grew as they were pursued by Crispin’s assailants.  Crispin trying to avoid the people who accused him of theft was very exciting.  As a fugitive, he must keep moving to new places, which gave the book an adventurous and exhilarating feel.

I have also read the sequel to Crispin, and I look forward to reading the third book in the series.  The Newberry award seems well-deserved. The characters are well-developed and the story is quite gripping. Crispin is a fugitive throughout the book and his life is in constant danger.  I was excited to learn about Crispin’s true identity. I would definitely recommend this book.

-Oliver H.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins is a phenomenal book depicting the harsh life of 60s Hollywood Superstar, Evelyn Hugo. It’s a beautiful historical fiction, perfect for fans of old Hollywood icons. It’s plotline of scandals and fame are similar to those such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and even Anna Nicole Smith. If you recognize any of those names, this book will probably be your new ride or die.

Retired and tucked away from the public, Evelyn Hugo offers a once in a lifetime opportunity: A personal interview after decades of silence. This decision especially sends shockwaves when Evelyn chooses none other than Monique Grant for the job. Even though Monique is an underqualified small writer working at Vivant, Evelyn will accept only her. Monique accepts thinking this might be a huge break in her career and a distraction from her ongoing divorce.

Meeting Evelyn Hugo, one of Hollywood’s most treasured stars, is intimidating. She is a woman of beauty and charm. Known for her eye catching figure, gorgeous blonde hair, and killer eye brows. She was the 60’s IT girl. But time has taken it’s toll and Evelyn means business. Evelyn announces to Monique two things. First, this interview is actually for Monique to write a tell-all memoir about Evelyn’s life. No secrets, no lies, and any money made from the book will be Monique’s. Secondly, only Monique can know about it and it can only be released after Evelyn’s death. Unsure, Monique warily agrees and the story of Evelyn Hugo finally unravels.

The book immediately switches narratives to Evelyn and we see a the young thirteen year old, Evelyn Herrera. She is a gorgeous brunette Cuban girl living in a poor area of New York. Evelyn is also plagued with the burden of a dead mother and a deadbeat father. Spending years unhappy, she craves to escape and live out her dreams of being an actress. By age fifteen, Evelyn meets Ernie Diaz, a young man moving to California for work. Using her body and wits to her advantage, Evelyn manipulates poor Ernie Diaz into marrying her.

Everyday, Evelyn would sit at a popular café, while Ernie worked. Celebrities were known to eat there and eventually she was spotted by famous producer, Harry Cameron. From there here life rapidly changes. After manipulating numerous wealthy men and rebuilding her image. A gorgeous blonde, Evelyn Hugo is introduced to the world.

She beings to learn the industry overtime and chase her dreams. But sadly, it comes with a price. With Evelyn remarrying and divorcing for countless reasons. As while as struggling to find her own happiness through fame and the public eye. She becomes one of the most complex and human character, I have ever read. Even though, Evelyn isn’t written to be likeable or heroic with the book even stating, that she realizes she is a horrible person. I can’t help but relate to her vulnerability and bond with the beautiful writing. Her journey and the people she meets are so well written, that I was brought to tears.

Evelyn, even after her seven marriages, chases after her greatest love. A love which is forbidden, as this book tells of societal standards and sexualities. It teaches you, the meaning of love and it’s many forms. Your greatest love. Your purest love. Your motherly love. This book was an absolute heartbreaker. Grab your tissues and be prepared to stay up well past 3 am, because this is just a glimpse into the glamourous life of Evelyn Hugo. (Recommended 16+)

– Ashley Y.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library and can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

My Brother Sam Is Dead by Christopher CollierJames Lincoln Collier |  Scholastic
This is the cover of the book My Brother Sam is Dead

My Brother Sam is Dead is a historical fiction novel that takes place from 1775 to 1779. This book is all about the Revolutionary War and how it impacted the daily lives of those living in the Colonies. The story revolves around a young boy named Tim Meeker, and his brother Sam. Sam believes in the Patriots and longs for freedom from England, while Tim, being the ripe age of 12, is not quite so sure.

As the story progresses, It becomes painstakingly clear how difficult war makes life for the innocent. With the growing gap between Tim’s father and brother and Tim’s growing curiosity, this gorgeous tale evolves into something deeper than just a book. As the economy falls and hardship after hardship is forced upon the Meeker family, Collier and Collier make it apparent as to how they feel about war.

This story touched me deeply. After I finished, my whole perspective on the war changed, which is what I think the authors wanted. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a short but deep read. It is truly astonishing how much a book can impact us.

– Apoorvi S:)

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

Girl in The Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

I can truly say that there are only some books in this world that simply makes the reader sit in shock once they’ve finished the novel. I can also truly say that Girl in The Blue Coat is one of those books. Written by Monica Hesse, who won the Edgar Award for the best young adult mystery novel, Girl in The Blue Coat takes place during the 1940s, where a Dutch girl named Hanneke manages to survive World War II off of delivering black-market goods to customers. Still recovering from the death of her boyfriend, one of her clients, Mrs. Janssen, begs Hanneke to find a missing Jewish girl the client’s been hiding. Hanneke soon gets pulled into a web of mysteries that slowly unfolds as the novel progresses.

This book is well-crafted down to the finest details, creating a novel that shocks readers in the way every mystery novel should. All of the characters felt so realistic; they had flaws of their own, some aspects that make readers question what they value. Yet that’s what makes them human. The novel revolves mostly about how people often make mistakes in their lives which lead to regret, but also about courage and friendship. These real human values are what largely connects readers to the story. Through these characters actions, both good and bad, many understand and share their own emotions. Hesse beautifully portrays how humans often make mistakes, how they regret those mistakes, and how they learn to let go of those regrets.

As for the book’s plot, it’s honestly rare to find a book as addicting and unique to read. Monica Hesse manages to cleverly put twists and turns throughout the story to keep readers entertained. In the ending, rather than a perfect resolution, the author even leaves some issues unresolved for the readers to analyze themselves. The layers of plots that overlap each other were never overwhelming, and actually turned the novel into an emotional rollercoaster of events. The chaos of the war along with the character’s own problems that intertwine together makes the novel even more worthy for a read.

To be honest, I had a sea of emotions once I finished the book. This remarkable story truly speaks to its readers in the most realistic way possible. For any fans of historical fiction or even mystery novels, Girl in The Blue Coat will never disappoint.

– Natisha P.

Girl in The Blue Coat by Monica Hesse is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Angels & Demons: A Novel (Hardcover) | Tattered Cover Book Store

When CERN director Maximilian Kohler discovers the dead body of his top physicist, Leonardo Vetra, in his secure lab, branded with the dreadful Illuminati ambigram symbol, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon’s world is turned upside down. Traveling to Switzerland, Langdon realizes that the Illuminati, a secret society long thought disbanded, is actually alive and well, and have only one assignment to fulfill – the complete annihilation of the Catholic Church and Vatican City.

Together, Langdon and Vetra’s adopted daughter Vittoria must race to locate a deadly sample of antimatter taken from the late Vetra’s lab. To make matters worse, unless Langdon and Vittoria successfully track down the stolen antimatter, and Vetra’s killer, before the clock strikes midnight, not only will Vatican City explode, due to the recent death of the Pope, every major figure of the Catholic Church will perish along with the Vatican.

On a race against time, Langdon and Vittoria must follow the path laid by the ancient Illuminati members centuries ago, in the hopes of saving lives as they do it. However, the closer the two get to the final showdown, the higher the stakes are raised, and the more danger they find themselves embroiled in.

Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons is a definite read for fans of real historical facts interwoven with heart-racing action scenes and mystery theme elements. Fans of The Da Vinci Code will certainly enjoy the first chronicle of Langdon’s adventures.

-Mahak M.

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is an educating, eye-opening novel about two sisters, Pearl and May, whose unbreakable bond is put to the test as they leave their war-torn home of Shanghai, China, and immigrate to the United States.

In 1937 Shanghai, which Pearl refers to as the Paris of Asia, the sisters are accustomed to a luxurious life of wealth and extravagance. Pearl and May even pose as ‘beautiful girls’ for calendars and magazine advertisements, defying what it means to be a traditional Chinese young woman, much to their mother’s dismay. One night, as Pearl and May are getting ready for an evening of fun and partying, they receive terrible news from their parents: their father has gambled away their wealth.

Consequently, their father sells the girls as brides to a man by the name of Mr. Louie, who is journeying with his wife and two sons to America to find opportunity. Pearl and May do everything they can to avoid leaving with Mr. Louie and his sons, Sam and Vern, and even miss the boat they are supposed to be traveling on. The girls realize this was the wrong decision, however, as more bombs fall on Shanghai and the second Sino-Japanese war continues to ensue. Pearl, May, and their mother flee Shanghai to Hong Kong in hopes they can catch a ship to San Francisco. Unfortunately, before they are able to board the ship, their mother dies, and Pearl and May are forced to be strong enough to endure the long journey by themselves.

When Pearl and May finally arrive in America, they encounter Angel Island, an immigration station, where they are interviewed vigorously by government officials to see if they are spies. Pearl and May stay at Angel Island for a significant amount of time, and eventually, Pearl realizes May has been answering the questions in her interviews incorrectly. When Pearl asks her why she has been doing this, May tells her she is pregnant. This news shocks Pearl and she knows she must protect her sister and stall their time on Angel Island so she can have her baby in America. Pearl and May decide that Pearl should take the baby, Joy, as her own child. Once they leave Angel Island, Pearl and May head to Chinatown to find their new family. Almost immediately upon their arrival, Pearl and May begin to work at Mr. Louie’s shops and formulate a plan to earn enough money so that they can run away and start their own, independent life. These plans change quickly, though, when Pearl and May discover that Sam is a paper son, and the only legitimate son of Mr. Louie is Vern.

After hearing this news, Pearl and May decide not to run away and realize their new family is trying their best to build a new, successful life in Los Angeles, and they need all the help they can get. As Joy continues to grow, the conflict between Pearl and May starts to form. This conflict only deepens when Pearl gets pregnant and loses her baby, realizing she will never be able to have children. The United States’ suspicion of the Communist movement in China also adds to this familial controversy, and as Joy grows older, she begins to fall in love with communist ideals. Joy’s suspicious activities result in the government finding out her father is a paper son, and she flees the country out of guilt. Pearl plans to follow after her, and the book ends with her plan to go save her daughter. 

-Adriana A.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.