Size Doesn’t Matter (179): The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo; The Fate of the Tearling

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (179): The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo; The Fate of the TearlingThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published by Atria on June 13, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Historical
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
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From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But 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.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.

For the past couple of years, I’ve seen friends of mine read and love Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books. Love to a flaily, mega-hype degree. I kept adding new books of hers to my massive to-read shelf on Goodreads, but I never took action. As per usual, I finally got around to reading her when I got an ARC of her latest at ALA. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo totally blew me away. Even with all the hype, I was completely unprepared for how good this book is.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an old Hollywood historical, which is totally a form of catnip for me. Generally they’re over-the-top, scandalicious, and melodramatic, and I just cannot help myself. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is that on the surface, but it’s so, so much more; it’s like no classic Hollywood novel I’ve ever read.

Former Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo requests bottom-of-the-rung magazine reporter Monique to write an article on her life to coincide with her auction of some of her most iconic dresses for charity. Only it turns out that Evelyn chose Monique not for a magazine article but to write her tell-all, unflinchingly honest biography.

Typically, stories with this sort of set up focus pretty evenly on the modern timeline and the past one. In this case, though, it’s about 80% Evelyn’s past, with just brief glimpses of Monique’s life. Somehow, though, the modern element manages to feel very essential and emotionally resonant. Though we don’t get to know Monique too well, it’s clear how much she’s changed by getting to know Eleanor. Hearing Eleanor’s story helps Monique’s career, her confidence, and her decision on what do about her split with her husband.

Reviewing this is tricky because so much of it is better as a surprise. However, I will say that it’s quite diverse, which I loved and which you really do not see in this sort of historical basically ever. Evelyn Hugo, the former starlet, is Cuban. Her biographer is Black. LGBT characters abound. There’s more, but those are treats I’m leaving in the book. Just trust me on this one.

Evelyn Hugo’s story is fascinating, dark, romantic, and tragic by turns.  And it’s absolutely one you do not want to miss. Because I really don’t want to give the plot away, I’m going to keep this one short, but just know that I could not put this down.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (179): The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo; The Fate of the TearlingThe Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #3
Published by Harper on November 29, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 478
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

Though I didn’t much like The Queen of the Tearling, I decided to give The Invasion of the Tearling a chance, and it was way better! Only I really should have listened to my instincts, because The Fate of the Tearling is a hot mess, and the time I’ve spent on this series was absolutely wasted. The series finale is incredibly boring and by far the worst of the trilogy.

There are a lot of systemic issues with this series, and they’re all highlighted by the series conclusion. Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest problems I have is that the characters aren’t well-drawn. Everyone has one or two qualities, and there’s nothing more to them. They’re not quite made of paper, but they don’t  remotely resemble real people either. I don’t care about anyone in this series, which means that the constant tension and death doesn’t make me feel a damn thing, which it’s obviously meant to. The only character you actually really get to know is Lily in book two, which is why that one worked so much better.

Throughout this series, Johansen has leaned heavy on lazy fantasy writing cliche #7, the prophetic dream. Sometimes these are actual dreams that warn the characters what to avoid. In books two and three, it’s mostly been Kelsea’s in-depth visions of another woman’s past. First it was Lily, and now in The Fate of the Tearling, it’s Katie.

Even when I enjoyed the flashbacks, I thought this was a messy and lazy way to plot. Now, in The Fate of the Tearling, it’s entirely awful. There’s a great moment where, now sapphireless, Kelsea has a vision and then wonders how she’s still having them, and it’s just handwaved, like yeah okay whatever she has visions deal with it. However, I’d forgive the lazy plotting if Katie weren’t the most boring and stupid character ever; she’s blander than oatmeal, and you have to spend ages in her boring head. It’s awful.

Aside from that, the rest of the plot is mostly stall tactics and it doesn’t really make a lot of sense if you think about it. This book might have been tolerable at half the length, but there’s so much filler. Shocking things are painfully foreshadowed, like when the little girl seer tells the Mace to go to Gin Reach, and he’s like “we totally shouldn’t listen to this seer” and then SHOCK OF SHOCKS Kelsea ends up in Gin Reach WHO COULD HAVE POSSIBLY SEEN THIS COMING.

Johansen’s writing has never been great, but sometimes it’s decent. Here, there are some really low moments. Basically all of Katie’s chapters is a low moment, because the writing is so simplistic and tell not show. There were some hilariously poorly constructed sentences that were hopefully edited out of the finished copy, like a comment about how Kelsea had “done murder” for example.

The final straw was the book’s resolution, in which View Spoiler »

Do not do it to yourself. This series makes itself thoroughly pointless, and it’s just plain not good fantasy. There’s way too much good fantasy in the world to suffer this shit. Go read Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles instead.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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