Starring Role

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the perfect summer beach read.

Evelyn Hugo is a famous actress, and this is the story of her life as told to her biographer Monique.  Monique isn’t sure why she is being offered exclusive rights to Evelyn’s life story, but Evelyn promises that all questions will be answered by the time she is done sharing.  Monique’s own life is interspersed throughout Evelyn’s story, and their stories  do connect in a surprising way.

Evelyn worked her way into Hollywood using her beauty and sexuality.  She speaks about her life marriage by marriage.  Each marriage offers its own unique story, and in most cases, the marriages were fabrications arranged for publicity or to cover up her true self.  The truth is that Evelyn was deeply in love with another film star, Celia St. James.  Same-sex relationships were taboo in the industry during the story’s time frame.

Monique discovers that one of Evelyn’s former husbands and closest friends was involved with her dad’s death, which played a large part as to why Evelyn chose to share her life with Monique.

Evelyn’s gritty, resilient character had me rooting for her success.  With some insightful truths about life, love and marriage scattered throughout, this was a fun read for anyone interested in a peek at the potential lives of past-Hollywood stars.

Speechless

Vox by Christina Dalcher made me wake up thinking about potential outcomes.  The story is about a futuristic U.S. in which the president and his cohorts are working to silence women.  Women are forced to wear word counter bracelets which allow them 100 words a day.  Anything over this allotment results in severe electric shock.

Jean (Gianna) Rossi is actually a doctor of neuroscience,  but under this regime she is a stay-at-home mom (along with all women).  She watches her oldest son being pulled/brainwashed into this new “Pure” ideology, while fearing for her youngest daughter’s desire to speak at all.  Girls’ schooling is now focused on home economics and accounting, and the girls are given incentives to speak as few words as possible during their day.  Those in power seem desperate to silence women and anyone against their agenda by any means.

Jean is suddenly pulled back into a special team to work on curing speech aphasia.  The team includes her former lover (this relationship gets complicated).  Her work team had just found a solution before everything changed. Now they are together again to cure the president’s brother.  But not all is as it seems.  Is the president’s brother even in need of this cure, or are they using them to impede speech for all women permanently?

Jean has frequent flashbacks of her feminist college roommate who wanted nothing more than for Jean to speak up.  Now she realizes that doing nothing empowers evil even more. She finds that she has what it takes to rebel.  Despite some medical terminology that was at times over my head, I couldn’t stop reading.  Readers will definitely be intrigued by this frightening future devoid of women’s voices.

Lots of Love

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh is a love story with some tragedy along the way.  Sarah and Eddie fall madly in love during a chance meeting while Sarah is visiting her parents’ in England.  She feels that this is the real deal, until Eddie ghosts her.  He won’t return any of her attempts to contact him, and he isn’t visible on social media at all.  It’s as if he’s just vanished.  Her friends try to reason with her that he changed his mind and that she needs to let him go.  But she can’t and doesn’t for the entirety of the book.

Meanwhile, we discover more about Sarah’s past.  SPOILERS AHEAD

Sarah frequently writes to a younger sister that she lost in a car accident.  In fact, she was visiting the accident site the day she met Eddie.  For a while, the author had me believing that Eddie was responsible for Sarah’s sister’s death which is why he cut himself off.  Instead it’s the opposite.  The terrible accident actually killed Eddie’s sister, not Sarah’s, and Sarah was partly responsible.  Sarah’s sister never forgave her for the accident, and has not spoken to her since.  The backstory is filled in as to why/how this happened.  This, of course, is the reason Eddie cut ties with Sarah.  Once he realized who she was, he couldn’t bear to be with her (right away anyway).

Sarah and Eddie eventually reunite and all ends well.  There are some good twists and writing, but the nonstop, obsessive love was too teenager-ish for me.  I would lose my mind having to hear about this guy a million times if I were Sarah’s friend.

 

 

Force of Nature

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was a slow, lazy ride through the marshlands of North Carolina… and I enjoyed every moment of it. Kya is the youngest of a large family living in a shack in the marsh.  Due to her abusive father, her mother and older siblings all leave one by one until Kya and her father are the only ones left.  Now, the abuse Kya faces is neglect.

She is forced to school for one day, but she can’t tolerate the bullying.  It’s not even worth the free, hot meal.  She learns to take care of herself with nothing but seabirds, and her love of nature, as her comforts.  The townspeople begin referring to her as the Marsh Girl.  Her solitude changes when a boy a few years older than her, Tate, begins leaving her little gifts.  Eventually, they develop a relationship in which he teaches her to read and they share their love of marsh life (and each other).

Tate goes to college, and Kya is abandoned again.  This time a popular, handsome young man from town begins to get close to Kya (Chase, I think?).  She thinks this time will be lasting and true, until she discovers that he is engaged.  He has been using her as a mistress the whole time.  She breaks off her relationship with him.

Eventually Tate tries to reconnect with Kya, who at this point is much more guarded.  Chase also tries to reconnect.  He aggressively confronts and attempts to rape her.  When Chase is found dead, Kya is arrested and tried for murder.  I won’t give away any more.  And there is SO much more, including some information about Kya’s mom and siblings.  Of course there is also the verdict and what becomes of Kya.

This is a story of steadfastness and finding beauty in unexpected places/people.  The author captures the living, breathing importance of one’s environment, and how people and our land can shape us.

Ten-Year Mystery

The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz brings readers into the fuzzy, forgotten memories of main character Lindsay’s past.  Her close friend Edie died while alone in her apartment during a drunken night ten years earlier.  The case is considered a suicide, but Lindsay is determined to figure out what really happened.

She begins investigating the case.  Lindsay starts reaching out to their group of friends from that time.  They haven’t been in touch since Edie’s death.  Doing so opens a wide cast of possible suspects, including Edie’s own mother.  Lindsay also confides in her current friends for help.  As she starts to unveil certain moments from that night, she can’t help but wonder if she may have had something to do with Edie’s death.

Finding out more about Lindsay’s psyche makes her seem a likely suspect to the reader as well.  There are some surprising twists along the way.  Eventually we find out the truth about Edie’s death while almost encountering another murder along the way.

 

Couple of the Year

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing is an extreme take on adding some spice into marriage.  Narrator husband and his wife Millicent decide that targeting and killing women sparks passion into their marriage.  The story opens as they are planning their fourth murder.

Husband (can’t remember or find his name!) pretends to be a deaf man named Tobias to get close to their prospects.  When their third victim’s body turns up, Millicent plans to resurrect the presence of a notorious serial killer named Owen in order to thwart the police and press.  Meanwhile, they go through with claiming their fourth victim, the whole while trying to pin it on Owen.

Owen’s “presence” begins to have a domino effect on the people in their lives, both friends and family.  Through it all we get the backstory of their marriage, including how they met, their children and how they became killers.

Everything falls apart when Owen’s sister comes forward to prove that he already died and therefore couldn’t have possibly murdered these women.  The investigation goes into full effect.  Eventually, we discover that Millicent had ulterior motives behind their fourth victim.  All signs begin pointing to “Tobias.” I won’t give any other spoilers; read to find out if he is caught and if “justice” is served.

This is a great story with seriously disturbed characters and a very twisted marriage.

Sail Away

Seven Dead Pirates by Linda Bailey is not your typical coming of age story.  Sixth grader Lewis Dearborn is socially awkward and painfully shy, but that all changes once he  befriends the seven pirate ghosts that live in his great-grandfather’s home.

Lewis’s great-grandfather passes away shortly after turning 101 years old.  He leaves his grand old home on the Atlantic coast, named Shornoway, to Lewis and his parents.  Lewis immediately feels drawn to his new tower room overlooking the ocean.  But, things change when he realizes that pirate ghosts are sharing the room with him.  Lewis’s great-grandfather promised them that Lewis would be the one to bring them to their pirate ship, the Maria Louisa, which is an exhibit in a nearby museum.   Their ultimate dream is to reach the pirate paradise, Libertalia.

Lewis reads them pirate stories, buys them second-hand clothes and prepares a plan to bring them back to their ship.  His growing friendship with the pirates emboldens him in other areas of his life (namely at school).

Ultimately, the pirates rediscover their ship and manage to get revenge on the band of pirates who caused their deaths.  The message of being bold enough to take a chance for change relates to multiple characters.  There is action, humor and unlikely friendships, all combining to make this a jolly good read 😉