On the surface, “The Little French Bistro” has all the makings of a Hallmark-like romance. You have a 60-year-old woman rediscovering her life and passion after an event has her running away from her loveless, controlling husband, and making a new life for herself in Brittany. It sounds super idyllic and charming, except that the synopsis is misleading. Especially about what that “event” is, which inspires her to run away, but I’ll get into that in a second. This story is populated with a ton of people all like our main character, Marianne, too. All of them are floundering in their romantic relationships in some capacity and need something—or someone—to help push them toward living their lives full of love and passion. Again, another concept that I love and was super here for, except there were too many characters and they all sort of ended up blending together by the end of the book.
Starting at the young age of fourteen and ending when she’s seventy-nine (when we first meet Evelyn), Evelyn Hugo has gone from bombshell, to sexpot, to Oscar winner, to civil rights supporter. Evelyn knew what she wanted from an early age—to get out of Hell’s Kitchen and away from her abusive father, and to be the biggest star anyone has ever heard of. And she accomplished that! Partially because of her talent, partially because she knows her worth and is unafraid to get dirty in order to achieve her goals, and partially because there is no one better at using the press and scandals to serve their own interests. Evelyn is both a force to be reckoned with, but also a deeply flawed and lonely. Shown through the perspective of Evelyn as she dictates her memoir to Monique, the reader is taken back to the early days of Hollywood to watch Evelyn’s rise, and her stumbles, to and through stardom. For a story about a Hollywood starlet, this book is LAYERED, and I don’t think I was expecting the level of depth it had, even though many reviews warned me to expect the unexpected with this story.
“Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun” is a perfect blend of fluffy YA contemporary romance, mixed with the heartbreaking reality of what it can be like for gay teens to come out when they have a toxic parent who is forever full of criticisms. Jules is a sweet, young man who longs to live authentically, but is rightly afraid of what his father may do if he were to know the truth. Jules believes the freedom he so craves to live openly exists only in going to college in Los Angeles, far away from his father in Texas. But when Jules accidentally comes out on Twitter while drunk during a house party with his best friends (they’re all seniors in HS), Jules realizes that he didn’t always have to hide—well, not from everyone.
“The Trapped Girl” is the fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series, and while most of the books in this series focus on one case to be solved, so you don’t necessarily have to read them in order, I always recommend that you do. Dugoni doesn’t overly explain or refamiliarize the reader with certain characters, so you’ll miss some of those nuances if you don’t read these books in order. That being said, much like the rest of Tracy’s books, this one is full of twists and turns, some of which I saw coming, some of which I didn’t. We start by finding a woman in a crab pot. Her identification is hard to decern given the state of the body, and made even more complicated by the fact that the woman has had extensive surgery to hide what she looks like. The mystery starts off complex, and only gets more so as the case unravels. Who is this woman? Why was she running, and from who? And is the person she was running from her murderer? The thing I always enjoy about Dugoni’s crime and mystery books is that it feels like reading an actual police case. As someone who loves true crime, I find that format best for stories like these, but it can read a bit dry, a bit too bland, for some people.
The thing with “The Hate U Give” is that it’s supposed to be fictional, but this story is not fiction in the slightest. The things Starr experiences, what happened to Khalil, are real, they do happen, they are still happening. Which makes this book so hard to both read and review because it becomes really difficult to separate fiction from reality. Which is probably the point. Starr witnesses not one, but two of her friend’s violent murders. Even though the focus is primarily on Khalil, Starr grew up no stranger to violence. The opening chapter is her at a party that she has to flee because of shots being fired. This is Starr’s reality; she is torn between the community she grew up in and being “black enough” to fit in to these types of parties, and then the preppy, very white private school she attends where she can’t be “too black”. Even though Starr is not a real person, her situation is not fictional. Neither is Khalil’s where, no matter what, he should never have been murdered by a cop. Which is why I do think that this book is very important to read, I just don’t think it’s all that appropriate for younger YA readers.
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