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.
“Sacred Mounds” is a historical fantasy and magical realism tale full of prose and a dual timeline with its main characters living 400 years apart. What connects Lewis and Skyfisher? Not much, and that’s the point. Skyfisher is on a quest to save his people, and the world, through strengthening the connection his people have to these sacred mounds. In order to do that, he must inhabit the body of someone in the future in order to bring those memories, appreciation, and understanding of these mounds and Natchez people to a place where they are otherwise almost forgotten. But while Skyfisher is in the future, inhabiting Lewis’ body, Lewis’ consciousness is placed into Skyfisher. Now Lewis is in the body of a blind man, with a wife he can’t communicate to, on a mission he knows nothing about, but he has to complete it if he ever wants to return to his rightful time and body.
“The Lane Betrayal” is a cat and mouse race through the past as Mark Lane transports his family—his wife, two daughters and two sons—to 1865, just as the American Civil War is ending in order to hide from the billion-dollar corporation Mark has betrayed. Except it’s not really a betrayal, Mark discovered the nefarious plot of the CEO and in order to prevent that man from going into the past and changing key pieces of history in evil ways, Mark absconds with the devices first. The Lane’s have planned this escape for months, and so they leave for 1865 with a plan and the materials they need to blend into their new era, and for the most part they succeed! Which made this story relatively tension free until the last 30% of the novel.
This book is beautifully painful, and often painfully beautiful, and no, that’s not the same thing. This is my first foray into Schwab, which might be weird considering that I own pretty much all her books, but they stare at me in open judgement as I slowly, ever so slowly, whittle down my TBR, and then sometimes throw that out the window with books like this. All this to say, I didn’t entirely know what to expect from this author, or this book, just that I admire Schwab and her candor, and therefore auto-buy her books. So I can’t say if this is always Schwab’s voice, but my goodness, the PAIN that she manages to stuff into her main characters cut me deeply. This is such a millennial book, and I mean that in a good way. It often feels that millennials, more than other generations, suffer from this panic and anxiety driven desire to be enough, to do enough, to leave a mark, to be remembered, and then you bundle that up with the very uniquely human drive to avoid death, where we are never ready for the end… This book spoke to me on a level where I felt seen and heard, even though Schwab was doing all the talking.
I am a big fan of ancient historical fiction. Some of my favorite historical fiction books are the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell mainly because it helps me feel like I am learning about a time long forgotten and being supremely entertained at the same time—don’t yell at me, I know historical fiction is Fiction with that capital “F” and lots of liberties are being taken, but a good historical fiction will inspire you, me, and maybe your mom too, to go out and then learn more about that time, or at least Google it for the next two days. That’s what “The Silver Horn Echoes: A Song of Roland” did for me. You see, I was 0% familiar with “La Chanson de Roland”, the epic poem/story this novel is based on. It’s the story of the most honorable of knights in the Christian Frank Kingdom as he protects his king and country from the Emir of Saragossa. Who is Roland’s king that he becomes the champion for? That he’ll stand against countless waves of enemies for, and uncover murder plots for? Oh, just the guy who later becomes known as Charlemagne, maybe you’ve heard of him?
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