5 star, adult

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel eBook: Reid, Taylor Jenkins:  Amazon.ca: Kindle Store

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.



I am not normally easily convinced by reading biographical type stories – but this one had me hooked in very few pages. This novel follows an aspiring journalist, Monique, who lands a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview a now-aged Hollywood icon, Evelyn Hugo. Famous for a plethora of scandals and of course, her seven husbands, what is it that finally makes Evelyn open up about her past? And what secrets has she been hiding all these years?

Wow, 5 Drink Me Potions. I really didn’t think I would have many books in my life I was confident to rate at the top level. But honestly, I was so enraptured by this book I flipped through it in one day and absolutely could not put it down. The character Evelyn Hugo, is just so perfectly imperfect, exactly the type of character I absolutely adore. And this was a whole biographical retelling of her life story. Evelyn was an absolutely stunning character, so well written and intricate. I found myself heavily admiring her, and wondering if I would have the courage and smarts to do all that she did to protect herself and her loved ones.

When I say they go through her life story I really do mean her life story. After all, how else do you get through seven husbands? But from her childhood all the way to old age, the roller coaster of events that life takes her through is an absolutely wild and riveting ride, and all facets of her character are truly shown off. While she makes very morally ambiguous choices, and stretches the grey zone further than most people ever do, I found that despite her “bad” actions, I just couldn’t blame her for anything. I understood her motivations, and despite that not being a justification for her actions, it was completely understandable. I reckon that if I had the courage to reach for my goals the same way she did, I would have done the same things.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is well-researched and written, as we span the decades of 20th century Hollywood through the eyes of Evelyn. This is also beautifully tied back to the journalist Monique, and her own journey as she learns about Evelyn’s. I really haven’t been this moved by a book in a long while! The complications and difficulties of real life situations are illustrated so well, and demonstrates the necessity of morally grey actions and truly highlights the complexities of life. This is story of a girl’s humble beginning through her rise to fame and all the sacrifices she had to make to attain her goals and looking back, just what was it all worth in the end?

Obviously, it is just a personal opinion that this book (and mainly, this character) spoke to me so much, but if you love that 20th century Hollywood setting, and honestly one of the most clever and powerful heroines I have ever met (or read about), then give this book a shot!

Overall Recommendations:

Obviously, with such a rating, I absolutely recommend this account of Evelyn Hugo’s life. This novel truly explores the theme of dreams, love, and sacrifice, and how far one can push to reach for the stars (or stardom, in this case). You are really taken through a journey (7 husbands, can you imagine?) and as more and more of Evelyn’s character comes to light, this idea of being perfectly imperfect could not be more clear. If you wanna see a female protagonist truly tear up the Hollywood scene and seriously outsmart the patriarchal society, Evelyn Hugo’s your girl. I was absolutely entranced by her story, and hopefully you will be too!

5 star, adult, buddy review

Buddy Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.



Welcome to our first buddy read at Down the Rabbit Hole! Fives and I are excited to start such a series with A.J. Finn’s explosive debut, The Woman in the Window. If you would like to see more of these kinds of reviews, please let us know in the comments below!

Breaking the book into a couple of important points, these are our individual and collective thoughts that came up as we read this book together.

Pacing and suspense build-up

Andge: While a thriller is typically typed as so by the level of intrigue and suspense the author aimed to put their audience through, not all are successful. The Woman in the Window was super slow for its first 30 or so chapters, let’s be honest. But its mundane, day-to-day details in Anna Fox’s life had a purpose that came back ten-fold, leaving me to revel at what came to be at the climax. Once details of the event Anna witnessed through her window unfolded, things just climb from there in a way that felt organic. Headings showing you the passage of time helped create a sense of urgency as we learn one new thing after the other. I would say the pacing couldn’t have been better.

Fives: I definitely agree with Andge’s sentiment here – the beginning was quite slow – although I personally don’t mind too much, I am all about that slow build suspense (the ‘just what is going on?!’ feeling). This all being said, the ramp up in tension and excitement was quick and relentless. I know for a fact that neither of us were able to put it down after the second half the book – it was painstaking for us to stop at our agreed landmarks for discussion! The short chapters were very well executed in providing this kind of steady rhythm that underlies the whole novel and provides a driving force for the suspense. Not every thriller I have read has this type of pacing, but I can say I definitely enjoyed this whole experience!

Plot elements

Andge: Any good mystery or thriller places a good amount of attention to the mundane details. They may just be there to set the scene, or in actuality, help tie together loose pieces at the end. A.J. Finn did this beautifully! I honestly flipped through pages back and forth in later scenes referencing earlier ones with exclamations of “oh wow I totally missed this!”. Red herrings are also a thing I look out for but the level of craftsmanship in this piece of writing made it hard for me to narrow down what mattered or what was there to throw us off. This detail-oriented planning was perfect for such a book.

Fives: Having more thrillers under my belt than perhaps an average reader, I have come to expect many kinds of seemingly mundane plot points or bedazzled red herrings. That being said, A.J. Finn did a fantastic job slipping in all the inconspicuous little details mixed in with the heavy hints – this did a really good job of mixing us up! Andge and I had long discussions over the many details inserted into the plot, and what they could possibly mean in the whole scheme of the novel. I believe one of the best approaches to thrillers is the hiding of important facts in plain sight, and I can say that the author did the most fantastic job of this – only when you really stop to scrutinize the details can you really even begin to pick out some possibilities. That being said, you won’t be able to stop turning the page to think!

Characters

Andge: In my experience with mysteries, sometimes the whodunnit individual was some random character who appeared for five seconds on a singular page in chapter 10, or something. So of course I had no idea they did it! Unlike my frustrations in those stories, I loved that we got to really know a handful of main characters in this book. The Russells made up of Alistair, Jane and Ethan held an air of mystery that slowly unravelled little by little as Anna interacted with them in her limited capacity. Add in Anna’s estranged family, daughter Olivia and husband Ed, plus her handsome live-in tenant David, there were a lot of people to consider when trying to piece the bits of information Finn slowly released to us at interesting times. Were any of these people involved in something, and why?

Fives: The characters are one of the standout points in this thriller. We get so many details into each of the main characters, and there are very few throwaway characters. Everyone was there for a reason, and as you delve deeper into all the characters that show up in the book, each one leaves you wondering about their motive and secrets – the mark of a truly skilled author. The plot follows only Anna, an agoraphobe who is stuck in her house, as she looks beyond into other houses. After reading the book, I am reminded that windows are two-way – does ‘The Woman in the Window’ refer to Anna looking out through the window, or someone else being looked at?

Ending

Andge: I would never want to ruin a book such as a thriller to you. But to sum up my feelings for The Woman in the Window, I have to at least address the ending. We came up with many hypotheses over our discussions for how this story was to end, and I do mean many. What I will say is that I wasn’t disappointed which is a HUGE win in my books, and it felt like the right kind of ending to give Anna and her story.

Fives: So in the end, what happens is – – just kidding. But trust me, despite being able to predict a few things here and there (none of which we were sure still, by the way), the whole ramp up all the way to the climax and resolution was just honestly enthralling, and I don’t think there was any other way I would have wanted it. The transformation of Anna from the beginning to the end was also a marked delight, and you must go see (or rather, read) for yourself! What are you waiting for?


We hope you liked reading this buddy review! We are super excited for any subsequent releases by A.J. Finn. But most importantly, we are stoked for the upcoming Netflix adaptation of this book this year. Stay tuned for a blog post comparing our thoughts on the book with the movie 🙂

5 star, YA

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Series: Shadow of the Fox #1

shadow of the fox -julie kagawaOnce Every Thousand Years…

Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near…and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret.

Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune shapeshifting powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has…and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

A wish will be granted and a new age will dawn.


5 Drink Me Potions


**Shadow of the Fox comes out October 2, 2018**

Thank you to Indigo Books & Music and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Finally, another masterpiece by Julie Kagawa. I haven’t felt such admiration for her work since the first book of The Iron Fey series came out a decade ago.

A piece of art steeped in Japanese folklore and legends, Shadow of the Fox was a delicious, sometimes even creepy, romp into a Japanese-centric world of samurai, honour, and a refreshing heroine who doesn’t have the answers to everything right off the bat.

Initially, I will admit, the Japanese words and terms can get a little bit confusing, but eventually they become a part of your vocab like you naturally use them. Fans of Japanese animes and mangas may be a little more accustomed to how individuals refer to each other, or the words for demons, ghosts, and other supernatural beings that are a part of Japanese legends. Our protagonist, Yumeko, is a kitsune. A type of fox demon. Regardless of the negative connotation that the word demon normally brings out, this girl was raised in a temple by monks. Yes. Monks. You would think that those wouldn’t go together, right?

If you thought she made for an unlikely heroine, meet our other protagonist. Kage Tatsumi, an infamous member of the Shadow Clan with a dark burden he carries in the form of a sword, is otherwise known as the demonslayer.

Half fox demon and a demonslayer. Unlikely allies. My book senses are already tingling.

But wait! That’s not it at all.

These individuals meet due to strange circumstances. A time is drawing near where the possibility of great evil may emerge. And the only one to stop it from destroying everything they know of this world? A half-kitsune fulfilling a vow she made. Yumeko embarks on an adventure she never asked for, bringing along Tatsumi as they search for a piece of a scroll that could NOT fall into the hands of evil.

For a book this length, there were surprisingly few names that we meet. Yet it works well for this kind of story. A good portion of the book was just the alternating POVs of Yumeko and Tatsumi as they venture towards their next destination in their quest. Other individuals come along, both good and bad, and their company may even grow as they continue. But at the heart of it, this novel really spends a good amount of time developing our 2 protagonists and the main supporting characters. At the end of the day, I felt like I knew this company of unlikely allies and friends. They may each come from different backgrounds, and different secrets or motives may abound between them, yet there is loyalty and might I say, even friendship, that ties them so strongly together.

Romance wasn’t an important part of the book, although those of you who enjoy some elements of it should still be pleased with the little moments between Tatsumi and Yumeko. I personally enjoyed the individual growth each displayed. Yumeko was a naive girl who never knew what the world outside the temple was like. From fighting demons (oni) and ghosts (yurei) and other awful evils intent on preventing them from fulfilling their mission, she learned more of what she could do as part kitsune but never let any of this evil change the caring and trusting heart that she had. Tatsumi is your mysterious, emotionless guy that is quite typical in YA writings. But he’s not as simple as that statement sounds. Throughout the events that unfold, there’s this anticipation building as we watch him balance this fine line of controlling the inner demon inside of him (quite literally).

The depth of world building was by far my favourite. Japanese folklore brought to life, Kagawa really described this land and the magical, mystical creatures that are just a part of Japanese culture. It’s not just your simple samurai (whoop-dee-doo) either. One may be tempted to make comparisons with Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist series, but I personally think this book goes into it a lot more. The protagonists aren’t your honourable samurai warriors, but rather a ragtag group of people who are normally on the outskirts of this kind of Japanese society. Kitsune, shinobi, ronin.

While the plot was a mere adventure towards the first stop in fulfilling the mission and completing the Dragon scroll everyone is searching for, it sets the foundation for a lot more excitement. The climax of the story answered a few things, although many more questions were opened up. I wouldn’t say it was a cliffhanger but there are definitely teasers hooking me in for more of what’s to come in book 2.

Shadow of the Fox is the book I’ve been waiting for from Julie Kagawa since I read her debut novel. This is the piece of work that I feel describes Julie maybe even more than The Iron Fey books did. And I cannot wait for whatever is to come from what was set in motion here.

Overall Recommendation:
Shadow of the Fox is a remarkable adventure through Japanese legends of spirits, gods, demons and other supernatural entities. Julie Kagawa has drawn us into this Japanese-centric world with unique characters on a mission for pieces of a scroll that hold the key to great wonders or evil. Following unlikely allies Yumeko and Tatsumi on their quest, secrets abound, dangers unfold and more questions open up about who to trust in this world of samurai and oni. I would recommend this book to anyone in search of a book that piques a sense of adventure and amazing world building.