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

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THIS BOOK!! Five stars will never be enough to rate such a masterpiece. This book is so overwhelmingly amazing and awe inspiring and simply spellbinding. I have rarely been engrossed by a book, rarely been moved to almost tears by books. The only times it happened were so far three other times, when I read Forest of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, and The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk.

This book is so gripping, rife with punch-in-the-gut events and circumstances where you want to choose sides, you want to judge decisions and choices made, you want to blame someone and say “I’d not have done that if I were in their place” and then stop because you’re not sure whether you’d do it or not.

Evelyn Hugo breaks your heart, and you’ll happily let it break your heart repeatedly. This is the kind of book where you get how ugly life and reality are, and yet you can’t hate them. Reality is the air we breathe in. It’s polluted, yet we need it.

This book reminded me of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender. It’s books like these that break you heart, crush your souls, and make your eyes sting with tears. And yet, and yet you let it because the pain is so beautiful, so poignant you can’t deny being a masochist to its painful blows at you. You rather put up your face at its fist to willingly be hurt. Because the pain such books inflict is goddamn beautiful and ugly at the same time.

The story is similar to the 2008 Bollywood film Fashion by Madhur Bhandarkar, where to become a supermodel, Meghna, the protagonist, sacrifices anything and everything including her conscience and love. Similarly was the case with the protagonist, Evelyn Hugo, who sacrificed and pawned everything she had; her body, her relationship, her name, her identity, the love of her life, even her sexuality.

If you are asked who you think is a strong female character, a lot of people would answer Lara Croft, Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior and Hermione Granger. Hey, I’m not saying they aren’t. Indeed they are.

But for me, personally, I’ve never read about a character so complicated and complex, so gray and shades of gray, so utterly confusing you can’t label her as one category of virtue and vice. She is the strongest character I’ve ever read about. Her story is so poignant and touching, it’ll grip and rip your heart.

As the story goes, a rookie journalist gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview Evelyn Hugo, one of the biggest legendary stars in Hollywood. Portrayed after Elizabeth Taylor, Evelyn Hugo began her life as a Cuban immigrant who escaped her shady life in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, after trading her virginity and accepting a marital life at the tender age of 15, just to go to Hollywood. Throughout the book, Evelyn married seven men, all of them for both valid and questionable reasons. Some out of love (be it romantic or platonic), some out of merely deals. The divorces were reasonable as well.

Despite all her questionable choices and decisions, you can’t stop both judging and showing empathy for Evelyn. Her struggles to juggle her personal life and everlasting love for co-star Celia St. James, and her desperation to prove her worth as a star made her always struggle, and sometimes lose, sometimes win, but never in a streak.

This book is also a slap on your face about how ugly and disgusting the limelight glamorous life of a movie star is. This book explores ambition and female sexuality daringly, and challenges you to challenge them. The abuse and amount of immorality of the characters are never one-sided and simply black and white. Everyone has their reasons, and often the reasons are ambiguous. Like in Ava Lavender, you can’t make judgements about the characters easily.

If you’ve enjoyed watching and feeling sad for Priyanka Chopra in Fashion (2008), if you enjoy truly morally gray characters, if you want to read a book with equal literary meaning as Ava Lavender, pick up this book. The whole book will entice you, bind you, engross you, and one by one, tear apart your heart until the tear ducts in your eyes can’t hold back the flow.

My Review of Ink, Iron, And Glass by Gwendolyn Clare

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

OMG, I love this book so much! It’s such a cool concept, the idea of writing an imaginary world where people mill about just the same. On top of that, the story is set at the turn of century. Also, also, there are so many cools gadgets (all fictional) and everything is steampunk, which I really love.

I’m super glad I got my hands on its ARC (thanks to Nobonita Chowdhury for her ARC circulation in Bangladesh and thus allowing Bangladeshi book bloggers a chance to read and review physical ARC as well), and now I’m extra happy of how the book turned out to be.

Now, without further ado, here’s my review breakdown:

01. Plot:

The plot was super intriguing and refreshing. Reading the back cover blurb, I imagined something like the story of the Inkheart movie, where you could summon fictional characters into the real world. But as soon as I read the first few chapters, I realized how wrong I was. The story is about Elsa, who isn’t an Earthling but from a textual world created by those they call a Scriptologist, who create textual worlds they can venture without any problems. Elsa and her mother, Jumi, were living happily in the textual world of Veldana, until some earthlings invaded her world and kidnapped her mother. To rescue Jumi, Elsa sets out into the real world, where with the help of a mentor, she makes new friends who help her in her pursuit. These friends are all quirky and unique like her, social outcasts for being pazzerellones which is Italian for madcap, aka mad scientists, they are.

Anyway, the plot is super intriguing and awesome for fans of Cassandra Clare’s steampunk books, Kerri Maniscalco’s “Stalking Jack The Ripper” series and Gail Carriger’s “The Finishing School” series.

02. Characters:

Some characters would receive a mixed feelings from me. Simply because they weren’t total cinnamon rolls, rather mixed with both good and bad traits.

Elsa:

As the protagonist, I really loved and related to her. She is also a brown skinned girl like me so she feels the disadvantage of being shoved to a white dominating society of 19th century Europe. Her tenacity and resilience make me adore her, and her cautious manner is super relatable. She’s a polymath, meaning talented in numerous pazzerellone skills.

Porzia:

I’m so glad to see girl friendship being featured in this book. More than the romance, the friendship and gangship was super adorable. At first, Porzia’s snoopy and bossy nature made me annoyed at her, but then her changed behavior toward Elsa changed my mind too. Their friendship was adoring and I really hope the next book will feature more such moments.

Leo:

I liked and hated this character a lot throughout the book. His POV I somehow could not relate to much, though there was plenty of causes to relate to. He is the love interest, and though he loved Elsa, his questionable manners threw him from my grace.

Faraz:

I simply loved him! He’s so amazing. An alchemist, he’s super cute and I often wished for him to be Elsa’s love interest, not Leo. His bromance with Leo was adoring as well.

03. Concept:

The book’s concept was super intriguing and cool. I really loved it. Set in a steampunk setting and exotic European places (yes, I’m Asian so Europe is exotic to me, okay!). On top of that, there were some really really unique and cool events and gadgets throughout the book that should interest you enough to pick it up. The concept of writing a world gone wrong, as well as book portals and all made me super happy and satisfied.

04. Some mistakes:

Yes, though this book was super interesting, there was some factual errors. For example, this story was set in 1891, a time long before the 1920s when the usage of “okay” began. Also, the word “muck” seemed rather out of place to me for a girl from the 19th century. Even though she was not from this earth, she was given earthly upbringing in her textual world. So therefore, perhaps the author should have done some research on the vocabulary of the late 19th century.

Overall, I really loved and adored this book. I’ll definitely pick up the sequel. Author Gwendolyn Clare is a fantastic writer.

Thank you, Nobonita Chowdhury, for running the ARC circulation in Bangladesh, and thus allowing me access to this super interesting book. Follow her reviews here.

Also, if you are a book blogger residing in Bangladesh and want to join this circulation, join our group.