I’m so glad to report that I managed to get through a bigger stack of books this last month. I’ve been trying really hard to not spend time scrolling through my phone and looking at social media, and instead delving into my books, and I think it’s been working. October’s reading stack has been a pretty good one as you’ll soon read, so let’s get cracking!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid (Simon & Schuster, 2017) ★★★★★
From the Back:
“Reclusive Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she choses unknown magazine reporter, Monique Grant, to write her story, no one is more astounded than Monique herself.
From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to leaving show business in the ‘80s, and of course, the seven husbands along the way…Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship and a great unforbidden love. But as Evelyn’s story nears its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.”
TW: Domestic abuse, suicide
In all honesty, I think that The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has to be one of my (if not THE) favourite reads of 2021. It’s got everything – Hollywood glamour, drama, romance, plot twists, you name it.
I loved how the book paints this colourful picture of both the glamorous and the dark sides of Hollywood, showing both sides of the title character, actress Evelyn Hugo. We see the vibrant, glamorous side of her fame, as well as the darker events happening behind the scenes. There’s some beautiful imagery created in the book, from the meticulous detail of the film sets Evelyn appears in to the designer gowns she wears on the red carpet.
The narrative switches between Monique – the journalist that Evelyn picks to tell her story – and Evelyn herself, which keeps the whole story fresh and engaging throughout. I especially loved the easy to read structure of the book, with it being split into “sections” for each husband, and among them are short and sweet chapters.
Not only is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo incredibly gripping, it’s also heartbreaking in places, especially towards the end. Looking back though, throughout the book there are little moments that foreshadow events that occur later on, and I thought these were a fantastic touch. My only criticism? I would have liked to read more about Monique as a character – you hear snippets of her life in between her interviews with Evelyn, but I felt there was so much more to her.
Overall, I think that, hands down, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one of my favourite reads so far this year. Not only is it packed with Hollywood glitz and glamour, but it addresses deeper issues such as race and sexuality too. The bottom line? Read it. You won’t regret it.
The Last Charm – Ella Allbright (One More Chapter, HarperCollins, 2020) ★★★★
From the Back:
“Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope. This is the story of her…and the story of Jake.
When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.
So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…”
TW: Domestic abuse, pregnancy loss
We all know I’m a fan of the sickly sweet romance novels, and that’s exactly why The Last Charm appealed to me. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s been one of my favourites of this year, but it was still sweet and charming nonetheless. It reminded me a lot of the Nicholas Sparks style books, so if that’s not your style, this perhaps isn’t one to read.
The Last Charm is a classic will-they-won’t-they style romance that tells the story of Jake and Leila, with each charm on her bracelet telling a story.
At first, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Leila as a character – she’s childish and self absorbed – however, from the events of her past, it becomes clear very quickly why she acts that way. Jake on the other hand, is a much more likeable character, always putting others first, Leila especially.
While the book was a little overly descriptive in places (I get setting the scene and all that, but I usually prefer books to get to the point), I loved the idea that each charm on Leila’s bracelet represented part of her and Jake’s story. The ending itself becomes pretty predictable quite quickly, but that doesn’t take away the fact that it features some really clever instances of foreshadowing, which only become apparent when you reach the end of the book. In hindsight, the different narrative styles of Jake and Lelia automatically give a pretty strong indication of the ending, but at first you don’t even realise it.
Overall I would recommend The Last Charm to anyone who’s a fan of the modern-day romance genre – it’s a sweet concept and the will-they-won’t-they storyline will have you hooked.
Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You – Adam Kay (Editor) (Trapeze, 2020) ★★★
From the Back:
“The NHS is our single greatest achievement as a country. No matter who you are, no matter your health needs, and no matter how much money you have, the NHS is there for you. In Dear NHS, over one hundred well-known people come together to share their stories of how the National Health Service has been there for them.
Curated and edited by Adam Kay, author of the multi-million best-seller This is Going to Hurt, Dear NHS is a unique collection of personal stories – from contributors including Paul McCartney, Emilia Clarke, Peter Kay, Emma Watson, Stephen Fry, Dawn French, Sir Trevor McDonald, Ed Sheeran, Malala Yousafzai, Graham Norton, Jamie Oliver, Sir Michael Palin, Namie Harris, Ricky Gervais, Sir David Jason, Dame Emma Thompson, Louis Theroux, Joanna Lumley, and many, many more.
By turns hopeful, heartfelt and hilarious, these stories combine to form a love letter to the NHS and the 1.5 million people who go beyond the call of duty every single day – selflessly, generously, putting others before themselves, and never more so than now.
This book is our way of saying thank you.”
TW: Suicidal intention, drugs, upsetting/emotional stories
A bit late to the party reading this one but when I got it for my birthday this year I was determined to tick it off my TBR list. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting, but I think it’s still quite an important read, especially after the events of last year.
Let’s start with the negatives – while the book is packed with some amazing stories that illustrate how incredibly lucky we are to have the NHS, there’s a handful of inputs that just feel a bit pointless. I’m talking about the “I don’t have an NHS story but yay NHS” pieces – they don’t really add anything and feel as though they’re in there purely for filler.
Where each chapter is written by someone different, the book has quite an eclectic mix of writing styles. On one hand this could be seen as a good thing, because it keeps things fresh, but on the other hand, there are a few stories that are incredibly difficult to read because of it.
However, Dear NHS has plenty of good points. As you’ll read above, it’s packed with stories from famous faces we all know and love, and I personally loved how it features quite a lot of comedians – Jimmy Carr and Nish Kumar were two of my favourites. It’s nice and easy to dip in and out of with short and sweet chapters, and, given that each one is a stand-alone story, you don’t even necessarily have to read it in sequence.
The main takeaway from the book is a simple one – the NHS is there for us no matter what. No matter who you are, how much money you have or where you’re from, it’s there. Many of us are quick to shoot it down because of long waits and god knows what else, but we don’t realise how lucky we are to have it. Alongside celebrating and thanking those in the NHS who work tirelessly to look after us, the book also highlights exactly why we need to be looking after it.
The Places I’ve Cried in Public – Holly Bourne (Usbourne, 2019) ★★★★
From the Back:
“It looked like love.
It felt like love.
But this isn’t a love story.
Amelie fell hard for Reese. And she thought he loved her too. But she’s starting to realize that real love isn’t supposed to hurt like this.
So now, she’s retracing their story, revisiting all the places he made her cry. Because if she works out what went wrong, perhaps she can finally learn how to get over him.”
TW: Sexual assault, controlling behaviour
I thought at my age, YA novels weren’t really for me anymore, but a friend of mine convinced me otherwise when she saw me looking at this one, and I’m glad she did. The Places I’ve Cried in Public is incredibly raw, and at times, quite a tough read, but it’s an important one at that. It had similar sort of vibes to Thirteen Reasons Why, especially when it came to the flashbacks and switching of tenses. Some may find the switching of tenses a little confusing at times, and in places it can make it difficult to keep up with the storyline, however, it helps that the book clearly indicates the past and the present events by using a different font styling.
Character wise, Amelie is your typical “angsty teen,” but overall, she’s relatively likeable. Reese, on the other hand, is absolutely vile, but I guess that’s the point. As a reader, you can instantly see past his supposed charm and charisma, so it’s frustrating to see Amelie falling for it, when he’s actually a manipulative, self-absorbed prick.
For the most part, the book sticks to keeping things age-appropriate for its readers and doesn’t go into great detail when it comes to the sensitive subject areas. However, the details it does share still make for a pretty difficult read at times, and one part is particularly shocking, so if this is a sensitive topic for you, proceed with caution.
Despite the difficult subject matter, the thing I liked the most about The Places I’ve Cried in Public is that it does such a good job of illustrating that abuse in relationships can take on multiple forms. A key theme is that Amelie doesn’t believe her relationship with Reese is abusive, because he’s not been physically violent towards her, and that could be something that a lot of young people still believe, so it’s good to see that books like this highlight the issue.
You Deserve Each Other – Sarah Hogle (Piatkus, 2021) ★★★★
From the Back:
“Meet Naomi and Nicholas: the perfect couple.
Their glorious, lavish wedding is coming up in three short months…and they are utterly, miserably sick of each other.
Unfortunately, whoever backs out first will end up bearing the brunt of the wedding bill. When Naomi finds out that Nicholas has been feigning contentment too, they go head-to-head in a battle of sabotage, pranks and all-out emotional warfare to see who can annoy the other into surrendering first.
Now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves. In fact, they’re having so much fun getting on each other’s nerves that it starts to feel like something else entirely…”
You Deserve Each Other is your classic rom-com, with a pretty entertaining concept – although it reminds me a lot of The Break Up (the movie with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan). It’s an easy, lighthearted read about two people who are essentially as bad as each other – they’re both sick of one another, but neither wants to be the first to bail on their lavish AF wedding that’s coming up.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure if this was the book for me. It took a while to get into it and I wasn’t overly sure where it was going. However, I’m glad that I stuck with it, because it certainly got better as it went on.
While Naomi was not a very likeable character, the more of the book I read, the more I started to relate to her and realised that she’s actually a lot like me – she’s incredibly stubborn and passive aggressive, for starters! Given that her fiancé, Nicholas is exactly the same, it’s no surprise that when they go head to head in their battle of pranks and psychological warfare, there’s hilarious consequences.
The book has everything you’d expect from a rom-com – it’s lighthearted, has plenty of laughs, a LOT of sexual tension, and, let’s face it, a pretty predictable ending. However, don’t let that put you off – I think if you’re looking for a lighthearted read, sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a predictable ending. Overall, while this wasn’t one of my favourite reads of the year, despite the slow start, it got better as it progressed, and there were certainly a few bits that made me laugh. It was definitely a nice change from some of the heavier stuff I’ve been reading lately!
Have you read any of the above? Let me know what you thought – along with any recommendations – in the comments!