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// 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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Shadow & Bone Trilogy | Character Mood Boards

I just recently finished the Shadow & Bone trilogy in anticipation for the upcoming Netflix series based on the books, so I thought it’d be fun commemorate that by creating some character mood boards from the books!

I did this before for Simon vs. The Homosapien’s Agenda as well, which you can find here if you’d like to check that out. 🙂

Alina Starkov:

Alina, otherwise known as Sankta (Saint) Alina, is the protagonist of this series. At the beginning, she is described as a quiet, odd, and pale girl – almost sickly. Once she realizes she has magical Grisha powers, the colour returns to her face as she’s no longer suppressing the power she was born to exhibit, and she really grows into a strong character who sees her worth.

The Darkling:

As the name suggests, The Darkling is the antagonist of the series. I thought he really had potential in the first book to be that evil character that I couldn’t get enough of, but as time went on, he got worse and worse, to the point where I didn’t really like him anymore. He and Alina had that like, one steamy scene in Shadow & Bone, but in the other two books that kind of faded. Part of me wishes that continued though because I found it so thrilling.

Mal Oretzev:

Mal is a childhood friend of Alina’s as they grew up in an orphanage together, and later, he is her love interest. He is also a tracker and Soldier of the First Army. Personally, I didn’t like Mal that much because I found him to be really boring, and at times, possessive. I feel like if they had better communication skills, so many problems in these books could have been avoided!

Overall, I enjoyed the series, though if I am being honest, I think book twitter really hyped it up a lot so I think my expectations were much higher. However, I’m excited for it to become a T.V. show – I’m curious as to what the similarities and differences will be!

Have you read the Shadow & Bone trilogy? Did you enjoy it? I’d love to know your thoughts!

– Catherine

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Review// Those Who Leave & Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

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Author: Elena Ferrante
Series: My Brilliant Friend #3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Book Length: 418 
Publisher: Europa Editions
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this third Neapolitan novel, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom readers first met in My Brilliant Friend, have become women. Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her abusive husband and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which have opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women have pushed against the walls of a prison that would have seen them living a life of misery, ignorance, and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies. Yet they are still very much bound to each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.

My Review:

“A community that finds it natural to suffocate with the care of home and children so many women’s intellectual energies is its own enemy and doesn’t realize it.”

Okay yes, I know the cover to these books are really ugly, but I promise you, what’s inside is golden.

However, for the first time in the series, I’m a bit torn about how I feel about this book, mainly because the one juicy part of the whole thing consists of something that I hate: insta-love / a love subplot that comes randomly out of nowhere. On the one hand, I like that it happened because it gave me something to to keep turning the pages for, but on the other, I hate that it happened because it felt so out of place.

This book takes place in the 60s and 70s, mentioning a lot about the university and worker strikes that happened during that time in Italy, which was really interesting. I love all the historical aspects of the book and how they always tie together so well with the characters’ lives. Not only do I feel like I’ve learned something through the historical events, but it also drives the plot along, which is nice. People’s ideas of the role of women in society also begin to change in this book and I thought it was fascinating to read the progression.

The girls are in their 20s and 30s now, and Lila is as stubborn as ever, but Lenu surprised me. At the end, it felt like she became an entirely different person, and it kind of bothered me because her actions were so out of character. Though they are all grown up, it’s evident that their lives in the neighborhood have shaped – and continue to shape – who they are, even if they’ve both moved away from it.

If I could change one thing about this book, it would be how obsessed everyone is with Nino. There is no one that I know who still fantasizes about their elementary school crush, and honestly, I think Lenu needs to grow up and get over it. It kind of annoyed me that she constantly tried to find ways to bring him up and how she’s still bitter about things that happened in their childhood between him and Lila. These girls are constantly comparing each other and trying to one-up the other, and while it makes for an interesting story, sometimes it just gets so childish.

But anyway, now that I’m down to the last one, I can’t wait to see where the plot takes these characters as Ferrante always ends her books on a cliff-hanger and this one was no different!

– Catherine

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Joy of Christmas Book Tag 🎅❄️

I found this tag over at Jennzah and Erin’s blog, but it was originally created by Samantha on her booktube @ Novels & Nonsense.

1) Anticipation: The Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?

Admittedly, I haven’t done much research into all the new releases coming out soon and in to 2021, but I do have my eye out for Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle. I loved her debut novel, You Deserve Each Other, so I’m really excited for this one set to come out April 6, 2021.

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2) Christmas Songs & Carols: What book or author can you not help but sing it’s praises?

Taylor Jenkins Reid – I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her so far.

3) Gingerbread Houses: What book or series has wonderful world building?

I only read the first book of the series, but The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss has excellent world building!

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4) A Christmas Carol: Favorite classic or one that you want to read

A classic that I really want to read soon is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I’ve had it on my TBR forever, but I’m going to use this post as a promise to myself to get to it next year. 🤞

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5) Christmas Sweets: What book would you love to receive for Christmas?

To be honest, I would be happy to get any book for Christmas that someone thought I might like!

6) Candles in the Window: What book gives you that warm fuzzy feeling?

Even just the thought of City of Girls gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. It was one of the best books I read in 2020.

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7) Christmas Trees & Decorations: What are some of your favorite book covers?

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8) Christmas Joy: What are some of your favorite things about Christmas And/Or some of your favorite Christmas memories?

I love the time with my family; the baking; watching the snow fall; Christmas movies; egg nog; and hot chocolate!

I’m not going to actually tag anyone to do this, but if you’d like to participate in the tag, feel free to go for it!

– Catherine

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