Posted in Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Sisters in a Coulee Reviews

The Sisters Recommend: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid #travelingsistersread

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Photo taken by Kristin

One of our first Traveling Sisters Group reads almost a year ago was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and it a favorite of ours.  Kristin and Christina just recently read it and along with us they highly recommend it.

Goodreads Summary

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.

img_6430Kristin’s review

Brilliant! If I could recommend only one book for 2018, THIS would be it!

THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO not only surpassed my already-lofty expectations but knocked my proverbial socks off as it shot straight into the open arms of my favorites-shelf.

The spirit of this story mirrors its leading lady, Evelyn Hugo, in that it feelsgigantic and larger~than~life. I wanted to devour this whole, yet savor it in tiny pieces so I could linger with these characters whom I grew to admire for their extraordinary strengths and unabashed weaknesses.

The exceptionally beautiful, world-renowned Evelyn Hugo spent most of her life doing whatever it took to not only become Hollywood’s most iconic female movie star, but to remain planted in the fickle grip of fame and fortune.

Evelyn’s now up there in years and wants to tell her story. Not the story the public knows—her real story—the one that’s flooded with glamor, betrayal, secrets and deceit, and one hell of a complicated love story so intensely authentic it dares to bare it all, even the ugly. And I was so desperately in love with this love story.

This tale is delivered through the heart and eyes of a woman who’s desperate to be seen beyond her celebrity, and it takes an unflinching look at what it means to “make it”: The pride that follows success, and the trail of guilt that lingers for all those who were trampled and used on the way to the top.

But beneath the guise of fame, Evelyn’s story transcends, and its pieces resonate with all of us, as we can all see a bit of ourselves in her struggles and triumphs; love and loss; pains and pleasures.

Evelyn Hugo isn’t just a brilliant fictional character, she is a bold representation of life’s extravagant journey being stripped down to its most basic components—i.e., the only things that actually matter in life.

The mystery entwined in this one is taut and sophisticated as it carries the plot full circle, opening our eyes to all that is harsh and all that is sacred. I laughed, I cried, I enjoyed—and my heart was overflowing with love for all of it.

Taylor Jenkins Reid masters the art of storytelling and epitomizes the value of honesty, the significance of life, and the beauty in love of all forms. Her writing is polished and engrossing, sophisticated and sharp, witty, fluid, and I can go on…but most importantly, it has a voice that carries its messages straight into the heart of the reader.

This story stole my breath from its first pages right up until its final line, which was perhaps my favorite line of the novel. To say I couldn’t put this down would be an unjust understatement because I don’t think I’ll ever truly be able to put this one down.

Web_L151-2_blonde_blue-eyesFrom Christina’s review

Evelyn Hugo. She’s a magnetic, luscious, complicated and layered character beyond all reason. How Reid was able to fit such a huge personality into only 386 pages is honestly beyond me. I didn’t just want to read about Evelyn, I wanted to know her. I want to bask in her greatness, revel in her strengths and ponder her weaknesses and lessons with her.

EVELYN FREAKIN’ HUGO. Her story resonated with me and spoke lessons to me I didn’t even realize I needed. Evelyn simply wants what most of us doshe wants to be seen. It is an ache within in her that transcends the words on the page and nestles itself into the heart of the reader.

While this is told from Monique’s POV, Evelyn is the one weaving the tale. When Monique learns that Evelyn is ready to give a tell-all interview to her and her alone we see many parallels between these two women. Monique has her own lessons to learn, her own battles to fight and Evelyn unknowingly turns into a guiding light in Monique’s life.

Interspersed with the narrative are tabloid articles that describe what the public sees as the going-ons in Evelyns up and coming career back in her hay-day. I really enjoyed this as I think it highlighted societies obsession with celebrity. It’s easy to forget that despite the wealth and fortune – these are real people, with real struggles.

It was truly effortless to love Evelyn and this cast of characters. At its heart, this is a love story, a tale of redemption and a saga of loss and heartbreak. It tackles an insane amount of timely topics with a deft and delicate hand. Reid has truly outdone herself. 

This book left my heart breaking and mending at the same moment, my breath was unceasingly caught in my throat with the turn of each page. I am awestruck by Reid’s storytelling and her ability to craft such a layered, complex narrative while delivering stunning prose and lessons woven so seamlessly that you don’t even realize you’re learning about yourself until after it’s done.

This book. Who am I now? What do I do with my life in this new stage of After Evelyn. This is easily the newest member of my favorites shelf and my new go-to recommendation for other readers. This book isn’t hyped, it’s properly praised for the literary masterpiece it is. I’m now facing one of the worst book hangovers of my life because I’m not ready to say goodbye to Evelyn and her story. Reid crafted Evelyn’s character in a way that those around her could never get enough and she did so in such a spectacularly efficient way that readers won’t be able to either.

Evelyn always leaves you hoping you’ll get just a little bit more. And she always denies you

 

img_6384-1  From our Traveling Sisters Group Read Review

Taylor Jenkins Reid does a fantastic job creating and bringing together realistic, rich, diverse and well-developed characters to life that we all quickly loved and adored. Even some of the not well-loved characters brought some kind of lesson, insight, and wisdom into the story through all of the topics and situations that incurred throughout Evelyn’s life.

Taylor Jenkins Reid uniquely leads us through Evelyn’s life as she relays her life story to writer Monique which is told to us in husband sections. Through Evelyn’s telling we learn about Evelyn’s life that she shared with her seven husbands and we could see and feel her struggles, and how calculated yet graceful she was to keep herself in the limelight. We admired her determination and strength. Taylor Jenkins Reid does a great job weaving in so many different scenarios and topics within the storyline. We loved how we could see how vulnerable she was and how she refused to let that stop her to get what she wanted.

We all really enjoyed all the stories and each section of the husbands and their title and found them fitting to each husband. It was a very clever and unique way to introduce us to each husband.  We could really see how much Evelyn grows and learns something about herself through each of her husband’s and the relationship she had with them.

Taylor Jenkins Reid does a brilliant job of making Evelyn so real by deriving insight from her, giving her many words of wisdom. Throughout our discussion, we really enjoyed sharing her words of wisdom that we thought highlighted her story even more as we were reading.

The ending left a few of us teary-eyed and caught us all off guard as we never saw it coming. At times it felt a little over the top but it really worked for us and in the end, it left us wondering how many relationships, similar scenarios, and cover-ups really do happen in Hollywood.
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Have you read this one?  Want to read this one? Drop us a comment!  We would love to hear from you!

Posted in Traveling Sisters in a Coulee Reviews

Traveling Sister in a Coulee with our Traveling Friends Binge Reading Detective Josie Quinn Series by Lisa Regan #travelingsistersread

The Traveling Friends have started binge reading the Detective Josie Quinn series by Lisa Regan and have finished reading the first in the series

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Review by Christina

More reviews from Norma and Christina to come.  The Traveling Friend group review to come after completing the series.  After reading this one, our Friends are ready to start the second with Norma.

Vanishing Girls by Lisa Regan

Detective Josie Quinn doesn’t take lip from anyone. Policing the small town of Denton, Pennsylvania may seem like a sleepy job for an officer but there’s more to this town than meets the eye. Quinn has been suspended from her job for a past incident when a young girl, Isabelle Coleman shows up missing. At first, this seems like a pretty regular missing person’s case – but Josie, unable to let go of the job or her lingering feeling that something more sinister has occurred embarks on an unsanctioned investigation all on her own.

People didn’t vanish into thin air, and beautiful teenage girls who were abducted were rarely returned alive and unharmed.

Aye girl, you’re not wrong there. As Josie becomes more entrenched in the mystery surrounding this missing teenage girl we learn more about our leading lady and her own personal demons. She’s struggling with her alcohol consumption, her failed marriage to high-school sweetheart Ray, her inability to be anything other than a cop and a sordid familial history. Things are not going well for our girl Jo.

Three weeks earlier she had been a respected police detective in Denton, a town she loved, with a beautiful new house, and an exciting new relationship. Now she was suspended, broke, and quite possibly in mortal danger.

As she digs deeper into the case of Isabelle, she uncovers that this isn’t a one-off crime but that multiple girls have gone missing over the past few years. Vanished without a trace, some found and some not. When one of these girls, who has been missing for a year turns up during a shake-down, all but catatonic, the story really takes off. Unable to let sleeping dogs lie, Josie digs further and further into a case where she’s unwanted and things quickly turn ugly.

“You can’t always be all roses and sweetness,” she had always told Josie. “That don’t get shit done.”

The first half of this novel was a bit slow for me. It took some time to really get into the swing of the story, Regan’s writing and character development. Josie is a tough, hard and no-nonsense MC and this is told solely from her POV. She’s unlikable at times, but what I enjoyed so much about her is that she isn’t written in a way where she wants to be likable. Josie has a one track mind – she is a detective, she solves crime and she is good at it. This created an incredibly strong female lead that’s a nice break from some of the tropes female characters fall into in these sorts of novels.

One of my least favorite things in mysteries is when the reader is given all of the information in the final few chapters. Where the “twists” come out of left field and have me asking more of “wait, what?” rather than all of the pieces clicking into place and shocking me with their end result. Regan pulled the latter off seamlessly. In the last quarter of this read bread crumbs that we’ve been previously given are quickly and efficiently snapping into place and they are perfectly paced and placed right where they belong.

While the prose didn’t blow me away and it took a bit for me to get into the swing of this read I’m very much looking forward to the second novel. Regan created a cast of likable and/or admirable characters that I think any reader could get behind. Not to mention that this book had as close to a happy ending as a thriller can and it was a lovely way to end a difficult at times read. I’d definitely suggest this for anyone who loves well paced mysteries, suspense or thrillers with strong female leads.

I completed this as a Traveling Friends read and it was incredibly wonderful to discuss all the ins and outs of this one with others. This is an excellent book club, group or buddy read given all the little pieces Regan delves out as the story progresses.

Our reviews

Have you read this one?  Want to read this one?  Drop us a comment!  We would love to hear from you.

Posted in Traveling Sisters in a Coulee Reviews

Traveling Sisters in a Coulee with our Traveling Friends: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld #travelingfriendsread

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The Child Finder was a Traveling Friends Group read with three of our Traveling Sisters joining in on this read.  Norma and Lindsay read this one quite a while back and then Kaceey and I read it together.  We all loved it, and so did The Traveling Friends group.

On to their reviews…..

From’s Jan review

This is a beautiful, atmospheric, and haunting story. The remote Skookum National Forest in Oregon provides a chilling backdrop and is a character in itself. The author’s knowledge of sexual predators, her work as an investigator, and her role as a foster parent adds to the authenticity of the story.

I like my investigators to be complicated and flawed, and Naomi Cottle, aka The Child Finder, is all that and more. Because of a past trauma, she keeps people at a distance as a self-protective mechanism. I have to add that Naomi’s foster mother is depicted as warm, kind, and nurturing, which I found refreshing.

Naomi’s mission in life is to find missing children, and she has an impressive success rate. As Naomi works the case in this story, bits and pieces of her past and current life are slowly revealed. It’s fascinating to me to explore how the human mind works to protect itself from painful memories.

Madison, the Snow Child, is the missing child in this story and the book alternates perspectives between Naomi and Madison. Madison is being kept by Mr.B and she has a self-protective mechanism of her own. It’s innocent and touching how she interprets what is happening to her in the only way she knows how. I appreciate how the author doesn’t give too many details but filters it through Madison’s childlike fantasy world. The story is a disturbing and heartbreaking one but the subject matter is dealt with sensitively, without explicit details.

I am usually not a fan of flowery writing or fairy tales, and while it detracted from my enjoyment a bit, it was fitting for the story, so it gets a solid 4 stars. I was glad to see this is a series featuring Naomi and I’m looking forward to #2.

From Rose’s review  

Rose recently joined the Traveling Sister and the sister can write reviews.

This book is relatively short, but it’s jam-packed with all the things that’ll make your spine tingle and your breath catch in your throat. Naomi Cottle is a private investigator who specializes in finding missing children, and this passion grew out of her own experiences. When she was younger, she was kidnapped and held captive. Afterward, she forgot who she was and lived with a foster mother, Mrs. Cottle, and a foster brother, Jerome.

f you couldn’t tell, Rene Denfeld can craft some seriously exquisite sentences. The narrative is supposed to be reminiscent of a fairy tale, so it’s no wonder everything’s illustrated in such a mystical and supernatural way. I’m impressed with the way Denfeld manages to maintain the suspense despite having to mix such a tragic story with an almost-magical realism. This creates an atmosphere that is at once innocent and sinister, like holding a mirror to a little girl and her captor.

While the plot itself is intriguing, I’ll admit that a lot of what drove my 4-star rating was the fact that the writing was so freaking beautiful. However, it might have been a little too beautiful. Denfeld made each paragraph so acrobatic that I could hardly take a breath between lofty allegories and heightened prose.

From Bern’s review

We have read a few Traveling Friends reads with Bern but she just recently joined the Traveling Sisters.

The story unfolds from various perspectives giving us different insight at various points in the story as it switches from the past to the present. We get a first-hand account of Madison’s captivity and it was heartbreaking. It literally broke my heart to read those parts. Denfeld wrote with sensitivity, her words almost poetic in their blending of Madison’s nightmarish reality with her magical fairytale like fantasies. Yet there was no mistaking the imagery – the moments were still dark, terrifying and horrible. She endured horrors no child should ever have to endure.

It feels almost impossible to explain how a book seeped with such darkness and sorrow was also full of love, hope and bravery. Yet it was. I look forward to reading more from Rene Denfeld and seeing what happens with Naomi in the future.

Norma and Lindsay’s thoughts

Have you read this one?  Want to read this one?  Drop us a comment!  We loved to hear from you!

Posted in Reviews, Traveling Friends Reads Reviews, Traveling Sisters in a Coulee Reviews

Traveling Sister in a Coulee: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara #travelingfriendsread

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
by Michelle McNamara

Review by Christina

Read in The Traveling Friends Goodreads Reading Group

🎶Everyday I’m feeling fine,
Drinking wine,
Forever reading true crime🎶

This starts with an introduction by juggernaut thriller author Gillian Flynn and ends with a heartbreaking and beautiful epilogue by McNamara’s husband and esteemed actor Patton Oswalt. What happens in-between was pure, unadulterated journalistic *magic*.

“Writing this now, I’m struck by two incompatible truths that pain me. No one would have taken more joy from this book than my mother. And I probably wouldn’t have felt the freedom to write it until she was gone.”

While on its surface, this is a story about an elusive burglar, rapist, and murderer dubbed the Golden State Killer – at its heart, it’s really a look inside the life and mind of its author: Michelle McNamara. We’re given intimate details about the crimes committed by GSK (whom we now know is Joseph DeAngelo) and are walked chronologically through the escalation and the atrocities he reaped upon the Sacramento area over a decade-long crime-spree.

Spliced in between these horrendous retellings we’re given insight into McNamara. Who she is as a person, where her obsessive nature comes from, how it was ultimately refined to true-crime. Her passion for the work she does is evident throughout the entirety of this read and it’s impossible not to be swept up into the sheer magnitude of research and dedication she put into this masterpiece.

“The victims recede from view. Their rhythm is off, their confidence drained. They’re laden with phobias and made tentative by memory. Divorce and drugs beset them. Statutes of limitations expire. Evidence kits are tossed for lack of room. What happened to them is buried, bright and unmoving, a coin at the bottom of a pool. They do their best to carry on.”

What really struck me here was the accessibility of McNamara’s voice. When you’re dealing in such raw, gruesome and heart-rending facts it’s easy to get lost in the sensationalism of it all. So much of true-crime is this in-your-face, all about ratings, how many jaws can we get to drop type of business that the humanity of those affected is lost. McNamara did not falter in this regard even once. She dealt in pure facts and maintained a clear and deep respect for the victims, the police officers, and the communities this criminal terrorized.

“I don’t care if I’m the one who captures him. I just want bracelets on his wrists and a cell door slamming behind him.”

It is certainly very interesting having read this book after DeAngelo has now been caught and knowing how easy it would’ve been for him to just slip through the cracks and live the rest of his life a free man. I think it shows who McNamara was as a person that despite her deep obsession with this case she simply wanted him caught. She didn’t need fame or fortune or to be involved -in the end, she just wanted justice. It leaves a sad aura around me knowing that she will not get to see the praise and reception she has received and that we’ve lost such a truly talented voice in investigative journalism.

I completed this as a Traveling Friends read and it is incredible how many people have their own stories of seemingly normal people we later find out have committed heinous crimes. This makes a fantastic group read as there are endless opportunities to discuss. However, if I can give future readers one piece of advice: don’t read this alone, at night or you’ll be gone in the dark too.

Cheers to Michelle McNamara and a true work of art.

Have you read this title? Drop us a comment!

Posted in Reviews, Reviews by Lindsay, Traveling Sisters in a Coulee Reviews

The Unforgotten by Laura Powell: Review by Lindsay

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Lindsay’s review

Mysterious, dark and haunting stars!

This story revolves around fifteen-year-old Betty Broadhurst. It is 1956 and she and her highly unstable mother manage Hotel Eden which is filled with reporters who have traveled to the small seaside Cornish town to investigate a recent string of murders. Most days Betty handles the hotel responsibilities to cover for her erratic and undependable mother, all the while coddling and excusing her mothers’ lack of responsibility. Betty’s love and adoration of her mother are palpable – her unrelenting forgiveness and care for her mother is heart-wrenching. John Gallagher is one of the reporters staying at the hotel. He takes an interest in young Betty as she is able to provide him insight into the locals. They develop a relationship that neither of them understands or can explain.

The characters are hauntingly real. The author, Laura Powell, does a fantastic job creating unforgettable and deeply affecting characters. I’m amazed that this is a debut novel – I was completely drawn into these characters lives.

This book was very different than what I had expected – it had a very chilling tone and was deeply disturbing at times. Regardless, I found myself glued to the pages especially in the second half, hanging on every word. The pace flowed perfectly, seamlessly shifting from each timeline, the pieces of the puzzle fitting together along the way leaving me in shock and surprise. The mystery was highly intriguing and solving it unfolded in a flawless manner.

A big thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada and Laura Powell for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!!

The Unforgotten is available now!

Have you read The Unforgotten?  Drop us a comment!!!

Posted in Reviews, Traveling Sisters in a Coulee Reviews

Traveling Sister in a Coulee Reading Little Big Love by Katy Regan

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Little Big Love by Katy Regan

Review by Jan

3.5 stars

Sweet and heartwarming! I enjoyed this book very much.
This was a Traveling Sister read, and, as always, it made the experience even more enjoyable.

The story is told from the POV of 10-year-old Zac, his mother Juliet, and his grandfather Mick. I enjoyed all three perspectives. Zac has never met his father, who “did a runner” before he was born. Zac decides he will undertake a super-secret ‘Find Dad Mission’, and he recruits his best friend Teagan to help him. The plan, of course, is not just to find his father, but to reunite his parents.

Zac…what a sweet boy with a big heart. Although Zac’s insights seemed particularly astute given his age, I fell in love with him and my heart broke over the bullying he endured over his weight. His hope and optimism were endearing. I loved how he collected facts, and they were quoted at the beginning of chapters. I really loved his best friend Teagan too….what a great friend she was.

Juliet is a single mom whose heart was broken when Zac’s dad abandoned them, but she is doing the best she can. I was a little frustrated with her at times but I also thought she was portrayed realistically. Her love for her son knew no bounds, something that as a mom I can relate to. Juliet’s own mother is still grieving the death of her son, Juliet’s brother, who died 10 years ago, and their relationship is somewhat strained.

Mick, the grandfather, is holding onto an explosive secret that he’d rather not reveal. Juliet and Mick both love Zac deeply but each of them has kept secrets from each other and from Zac. Secrets that, if revealed, have the potential to cause a lot of damage.

The overriding themes were love and forgiveness. But the sheer number of issues threaten to overwhelm the story. These include bullying, weight and body image, grief, family secrets, alcoholism/addiction, asthma, and unhealthy living conditions. This makes the book sound rather grim, but there is enough humor and sweetness to offset the seriousness. The story has some unexpected twists and ended on a hopeful note. This is the type of book that demands that type of ending and I was satisfied. I admit that at one point my eyes welled up.

Recommended for fans of heartwarming and sweet family stories. It was a perfect read for me in between some heavier reads.

*Many thanks to Elisha at Berkley Publishing for a copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own