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// A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Author: Fredrik Backman
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Book Length: 339 pages 
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

My Review:

This book!!! It has had me on the verge of tears 98% of the time, my heart was being broken and mended about a thousand times over from beginning to end, and I had to put the book down and gather my thoughts more times than I have with any other book. I loved this – and if there was a word more powerful than love, that would be how I felt about it.

The book is about a grumpy old man, or at least, that’s the impression you get at the beginning. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Ove back then, but slowly he grew on me. Ove had a lot of traumatic things happen to him in his life, and a lot of sad loss, and when I understood his past, I sympathized a lot more with him.

Six months prior to the start of the book, Ove’s wife passed away, and as you go through the story, you realize she is the most important person in the world to him, and the only person he really has a soft spot for. At the beginning of the book, Ove has a plan to kill himself because he wants to be back with his wife, but then he meets his new neighbors – Parvaneh and Patrick, along with their two young daughters – who, day-by-day unbeknownst to them, and among other strangers he befriends, keep giving him reasons to live.

This is about friends turning to family and how to cope with the grief that comes from loss. It is honestly one of the most touching books I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend it.

– Catherine

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Review// Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

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Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Book Length: 229 pages 
Publisher: Grove Press
Review: 4/5

My Review:

This is definitely one of the more interesting books I’ve read this year, and not only did I enjoy it in general, but I learned a lot while doing so.

Freshwater is about a girl named Ada born in Nigeria. In Igbo traditional belief, Ada is an ogbanje – a spirit child who dies and reincarnates over and over to the same parents, often causing them a lot of grief and trouble.

However, Ada does not die as a child, but makes it through to adulthood, though it is not without behaviour – self destructive or otherwise – which allows her to flirt with death: turbulent, mentally and physically abusive relationships; self harm; suicide attempts; an eating disorder; and binge drinking to name a few.

The trauma Ada faces awakens an ogbanje which she names Asughara. Asughara takes over most of the narration after Ada finds out she is being sexually assaulted by her boyfriend in her sleep. Though at times, Asughara insists that they are protecting Ada, they are also the driving force for many future self-destructive decisions Ada makes. Another spirit within Ada, Saint Vincent, encourages her to date women and explore her non-binary identity. It is very difficult for Ada to focus in on which ogbanje she should listen to, because they are often swaying her in different directions.

This was a great book about self discovery; it was very well written and thought provoking, and I can not recommend it enough.

– Catherine

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Review// You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

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Author: Sarah Hogle
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Book Length: 368 pages 
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.

My Review:

What can I say, I’m a sucker for contemporary romance, and this is the perfect book version of a romantic comedy. Also, that cover? Gorgeous! 😍

I loved the tension and playfulness between Naomi and Nicholas and all the silly little games they would play to get on each other’s nerves. It was done in such a way that I didn’t dislike either character, but rather was actually rooting for them to remember why they fell in love in the midst of all their shenanigans. The last quarter of the book was adorable and left me with such a happy feeling when I finished.

If you enjoyed The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, you’ll likely enjoy this too. I can’t wait to read more from Sarah Hogle and to find more contemporary romances like this in general! Lovers to enemies to lovers is definitely my thing 🙌

– Catherine

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Review// Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

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Author: David Mitchell
Series: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: July 14, 2020
Book Length: 608 pages 
Publisher: Sceptre
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.

David Mitchell’s new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means ‘nowhere’ but could a shinier world be within grasp, if only we had a map?

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book overall; give me a historical fiction about music and I’m always going to be eager to read it.

The author really made me feel as though Dean, Elf, Griff, and Jasper were actual icons in the 60s, and along with all the real celebrity cameos it set the scenes well. However, sometimes, I have to admit that it didn’t seem believable that they would run into that many big names so casually. I don’t know what the music scene was like back then from my own knowledge, so I could be wrong, but the cameos felt a bit too in your face at times. I think the book got off to a really strong and promising start; I especially liked the way the author wrote all the flashbacks, and as the backstories of the main characters were revealed, I began to enjoy the book more and more.

Despite that though, there were a few things I didn’t particularly enjoy. For starters, Jasper’s backstory with the Knock Knock felt too long winded – I began to get a bit annoyed by it, and I didn’t like the magical direction it took because I didn’t think it suited the book at all. I wish Griff got more of a backstory too, because after 600 pages, I still feel like I barely know his character, despite him being one of the main ones. The biggest disappointment for me though was that I really did not enjoy how the book ended. I could tell that so much thought and work went in to writing the beginning and middle parts, but the ending felt unsatisfactory and kind of like a cop out. I do appreciate that it wasn’t predictable, but I don’t think it had a satisfying ending, and it did not leave me longing for the characters and story long after I put it down.

Even though I personally wasn’t a fan of how it ended, I would still recommend this book if you like historical fiction about music and bands. It was well written overall and kept me engaged and eager to see where the story was going to go.

– Catherine

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