Review// Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Series: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: May 27, 2021
Book Length: 384
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind. 

My Review:

I have always had reliable experiences with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s work, and this book solidified why. In pursuit of a perfect novel, the main thing I look for are quality characters, and TJR consistently delivers on that front.

That being said, it’s hard to rate this book when you compare it to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, or Daisy Jones and the Six, because while in my opinion it was amazing at face value, there was something missing here in comparison that I can’t quite put my finger on. With the other two, I felt like the barrier between fiction and reality blurred, and I almost found myself searching for the characters in real life because they felt so believable to me; I just needed more of them. In Malibu Rising, I still felt the barrier I usually feel when I’m reading a book but not quite a part of it. And while there is nothing wrong with that, and I think it’s quite normal, it’s just so hard to properly rate the book for what it is without unfairly comparing. Plainly speaking, is this my favourite book by this author? No. Is this an great book for what it is? Yes.

Nina was my favourite character by a landslide; she exudes first born daughter energy if I’ve ever seen it, and I can relate to that. Her character development by the end was something I didn’t really expect, but I enjoyed the direction it took. I really liked the other Riva siblings too, and I was so invested in each of their dramas and points of view. I also loved the back and forth timelines between their parents childhood’s to theirs, and each hour leading up to and during the party; it kind of gave me a sense of why each sibling turned out to be how they were in adulthood, and I liked how that built the characters from the ground up.

I really enjoyed this book; it made me feel like I was on the beach in 70s/80s Malibu. If you’re looking for the perfect summer beach read, add this to your list!

– Catherine

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Review// House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy & Mystery/ Thriller
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Book Length: 304
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Review: 5/5

My Review:

One of the most hauntingly beautiful books I’ve ever read.

On one New Year’s Eve ten years ago, three young sisters – Grey, Vivi, and Iris – were on a walk in Edinburgh, with their parents trailing behind them. For a split second, their parents turned to each other to share a midnight kiss, and when they looked up ahead, their children were gone. A month later, the children were found standing on that same road, naked, each with matching half moon scars at their throats, their dark hair turned white, and none of them remembering how they got there. Except, maybe one of the sisters does remember, and now that a masked man is starting to appear everywhere, seemingly after them all, continuing to live the lie means the difference between life and death. 

What initially drew me in was the cover – I mean, just look at it. As I started reading though, I realized that what’s inside is even more awe inspiring. The characters!! The setting!! The mystery!! The unraveling of secrets!! It was all so good. The book gave me witchy, fairytale vibes, and I loved it. There were a few parts that were pretty gorey, and actually spooked me out, but it was nothing too intense. It was creepy but beautiful at the same time, and I’m so impressed with how the two opposites were portrayed so well together.  

I think it ended perfectly because it could be good as a standalone, but also has a perfect segue into a second book if the author chooses. I could definitely go for a House of Hollow sequel, so I’m going to hold out the hope that there’s another book because I couldn’t get enough of this!

– Catherine

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Review// A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

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Author: Holly Jackson
Series: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder #1
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller
Release Date: May 2, 2019
Book Length: 433
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Review: 5/5

My Review:

This book is the poster child for the phrase, “just one more chapter” – I could not put it down. It was like Pretty Little Liars, with all the drama and secrets, meets the narrative style of Sadie, with interviews woven in between chapters, and I loved its mixed-media style.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is about a high school student named Pippa who chooses for her senior Capstone project to be about the media’s influence on criminal investigations. Turns out, this topic is inspired by a murder investigation that happened in her small town 5 years prior of a girl named Andie Bell who attended the same high school. Andie’s case is closed, as the police believe they had enough evidence to convict Andie’s boyfriend, Sal, who had killed himself shortly after the investigation opened. But Pippa isn’t so sure that Sal killed Andie, and she’s going to use her project to prove it.

I can honestly say that this thriller was thrilling . Even though the answers were kind of right under my nose, I still was not 100% sure of anything until the end when things were revealed. I think what most impressed me is that even when the reader has the ‘aha moment’ of what happened, there is still a huge twist attached to it that makes you want to find out more!

Pippa as the main character was amazing; I absolutely adored her. I also loved Ravi, Sal’s brother, and them two as a duo, trying to solve the mystery together. From the beginning, I liked that they were always a bit flirty, but their attraction to each other never overpowered the story. I hate when books try to steer away from the main plot with a love story, and I’m so glad that didn’t happen here.

If I had one criticism of this story, it would be that as I was reading, I sometimes thought that a few things that led Pippa forward in her investigation were a bit coincidental, but when I really thought about it, if things were not a little bit coincidental sometimes, mystery books would simply not exist, and I’m so glad this one does.

Please pick this book up if you are into the mystery/thriller genre; it may just be the best one from it I’ve ever read. 

– Catherine

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Review// The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Series: The Shadow of the Wind 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: May 1, 2001
Book Length: 506
Publisher: Penguin Group
Review: 4/5

My Review:

This book is a labyrinth – it is mainly one story (with a few side stories in between) of an author told from various viewpoints after a boy discovers one of their books in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books – where threatened texts are protected – and embarks on a quest to find out more about its mysterious author

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this book was well thought out and well written. I really enjoyed following Daniel on his journey to find out more about Julian Carax, the author of a book he found in his father’s shop, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The beginning was amazing, and I was so into all the eerie things that were happening to Daniel which mirrored the main character in the book he was so fascinated by as a boy.

Maybe it’s the element of wonder that got me hooked, but I think I actually preferred the beginning of the book more, when Daniel didn’t know that much about Julian and was kind of just living his life, instead of playing detective trying to find the people Julian was close with to get more answers about his books, and why there were so few of them left after they’d been burned by an unknown person throughout the years. Every time Daniel got in touch with a person that knew Julian, there would be entire long chapters dedicated to that person’s narrative, so it was kind of like you were there with Daniel hearing their side of the story. However, I felt that sometimes these chapters dragged on too much. As I said before, this book is a labyrinth, and while I loved getting lost in its pages, at times the twists and turns made me dizzy. There was a lot going on at one point, and I found it difficult to keep up with who was who, and who said what, because each person Daniel “interviewed” went on for quite some time about their version of it.

I wanted more of Daniel and Fermin, but especially Fermin, a fellow worker of he and his father’s at the bookstore. Fermin was by far my favourite character – his dialogue was hilarious, and I loved his personality. I want a book entirely dedicated to him!

I will never be disinterested in a fictional book about books, and I can honestly say that despite any of my criticisms, this one was unique and worth the read. I almost can’t believe this is a series, because the book tied off so well at the end with no real loopholes that I can think of!

– Catherine

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Review// Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Shadow & Bone Trilogy #2
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Book Length: 448
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review: 3/5

Warning: This review may contain spoilers.

I’m going to be honest here, I felt a little disappointed with this! It just didn’t feel like that much happened, and what did happen, I wasn’t super excited about.

First, the good:

Nikolai was a very fun addition to this book; without him in it, I think I would have to knock my rating down a star – he was that impactful. His character has the perfect amount of charm and sarcasm, I love it. Other then him, it’s really hard to think of something else I loved. I guess I liked that the world building got better, but it was in such a subtle way in my opinion that I don’t know if it warrants making it to my ‘good’ list.

Now, the not so good:

Okay the plot… what even happened in this book – I don’t know if I can name 5 interesting things? The beginning was exciting, and the ending was a whirlwind, but the middle consisted of a whole lot of nothing.

Oh wait, it did consist of something: Mal being jealous and possessive of Alina. I’m trying to like Mal so badly, but their relationship doesn’t make sense to me! I find it so random because Alina apparently liked him for years, but now he is noticing her all of a sudden and is being really possessive over their relationship. Wasn’t she also described as ‘plain’ in the beginning? So tell me why Mal likes her now if he’s known her most of their lives? Not to mention, after all his whining about how he thinks he’s going to lose her to the Darkling, he goes and kisses Zoya? Facepalm, honestly. How am I supposed to root for a guy like that?! I would actually prefer if Mal got with Zoya instead, because then I wouldn’t have to hear him being so possessive about Alina anymore.

Speaking of the Darkling though, he was barely in this book. I’m sure that was done for a reason, but he’s part of the reason I liked the last book so much, so him not being in this one too much made it meh for me. Genya also barely made it into this book, and that’s another thing I liked about the last.

Notice how I’m mentioning side characters before I mention Alina? That’s because I feel like she is such a boring main character! I don’t dislike her, but I also don’t feel anything for her, she’s just sort of there. I think if I felt more strongly about her, it wouldn’t have mattered if all the missing characters were there more or not. I don’t know, I just feel like she’s replaceable, and it’s not how I prefer to view the main character of a book I want to love.

We’ll see what happens in the next book – here’s to hoping this one was on the more boring side because it’s supposed to set the stage for an amazing finale.

-Catherine