Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (ARC Review)

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Page Count
: 384
Release Date: June 1, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: alcoholism, parental abandonment, loss of a loved one, adultification, mention of drug use, cheating

Many of my friends would probably gasp at the statement, but Malibu Rising was my first full length novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I had always meant to check out her books, had made plans so many times before, especially because I had enjoyed her novella Evidence of the Affair a whole lot, but apparently never followed through. I’m so very glad I remedied that now.

As we follow the Riva family through the decades, it is somehow easy to fall in love with all these characters. They felt real and flawed and relatable. With so many mentions of people that actually exist(ed), you were almost tempted to look up if their story was based on someone’s actual life.

As you alternate between the siblings Nina, Jay, Hub and Kit as grown-ups in the 80s and their parents June and Mick falling in love in the 50s, it becomes clear early on how these people shaped each other. While I first worried that some of the characters would get lost, there was a great balance between all of them and it felt astonishingly easy to follow their tale. Character traits as well as relationships to others but also money make a lot of sense when you consider the decisions made by those who came before you. It is all interwoven and shows how you can become the person you want to be because of or despite of your upbringing. My heart broke for these characters over and over and over again. I really just wanted to hold them and was proud of how they continued to trust in people and gave their love so freely even after the hardships they endured.

I have to say, as much as the book had me in the first half, it kind of lost me at times in the second one. I was so invested in the fate of the siblings, in their life story, I didn’t even really care if there was a bigger plot to it all. Just following their struggles and growth, seeing them get through it together, was enough for me. However, as much as I had forgotten the big life-changing party was going to take place later on in the book, it still came barreling in in the second half.
While I thought it was already bordering on too many POVs when we just had the siblings as well as their parents, Taylor Jenkins Reid doubled down and introduced many one-off POVs to show just how crowded and wild the party was getting. I understood that some of the fleeting perspectives added to the atmosphere, but overall, they weren’t necessary to further the story in my opinion. It all just became a bit too much and too disjointed for me.

Still, I cannot help but feel touched by all of it! Family and all its intricacies is one of my favorite topics to read about and Taylor Jenkins Reid managed to really bring that home. Each of the siblings was unique in their own way, but it was easy to find part of myself in each of them. The style of writing is engaging and manages to capture the flair of the setting and time period perfectly. I could picture everything in my mind as if I was watching a movie from back in the day. It’s rare that I read about a bunch of siblings who all love to surf with all their heart (something I know nothing about) and still feel so very connected to them. Definitely a read I will continue to cherish!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Very strong start with a bit of a jumbled second half, but still SO MUCH heart!


Do you plan on reading Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel? What is your favorite one by her you’ve read so far? Let’s talk!

Save the Date by Morgan Matson (Book Review)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children Books
Page Count
: 417

I can’t believe this is the first book review this month, but at least it is a good one! I read Save the Date as part of a buddy read with Marie @Drizzle and Hurricane Books. We always have a great time reading books together and it was no different time time around. Keep an eye out for a review on her blog as well!

There is something about Morgan Matson books that just always works for me. She somehow manages to give her books a similar, summery vibe with adorable and relatable characters, while also giving each story its own spin and different focus. This time she added little comic strips between the main parts of the book and they didn’t just add a really fun element, but also are way more crucial to the plot than you might think. Despite the setting of a wedding, I was very happy to see that Save the Date was barely about romance but far more about family. I will never get tired of reading about messy sibling-dynamics, inside jokes and complicated family relationships. Add a dog to that (and Morgan Matson did) and you’ve captured my heart as a reader.

Charlie is the youngest of the bunch and I feel it shows in some of her reactions, while she was simultaneously mature and great at helping out whenever things went south during the wedding. I am not sure I would have stayed as cool as her or found a solution as quickly. Hands down, that family would have been screwed without her and Bill intervening at every bad turn. While I didn’t always agree with her behaviour, I could relate to her a lot. She adores her family and thinks that they have something special, which I think is great. Nobody is perfect and maybe she had a bit of a hard time seeing that when it came to her family, but she still loves them and cherishes their bond. I know that families can be complicated and tricky, but I really loved reading about a family that makes it work despite the struggles.

The only reason I am not giving this a full 5 stars is that I felt like a couple conflicts were resolved too easily. The fighting parties made good points, at least some of them, and it was barely addressed afterwards. I know that sibling fights can be blown out of proportion when they happen and then everyone just acts like nothing happened afterwards, but this was something that had gone on for longer and I felt like it deserved more time.

Overall Save the Date was a really fun read! It never had a dull moment, even if I could predict a lot of the developments. I liked this family and wouldn’t mind hearing more about them in future books, just like there were a couple references to The Unexpected Everything here. There are few things I love more than seemingly unconnected books being connected.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Morgan Matson just proved once more that she doesn’t disappoint.

What did you think of my review? Have you read the book? Do you want to? Also, I haven’t read much this month, but I did read a couple comics, how would you feel about a mini-review post for them? Any interest in that?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Book Review)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Page Count
: 352

CW: death, graphic sex scenes, suicide, animal cruelty

I was so looking forward to this book. The premise, as strange and gloomy as it may sound, really captivated me and I was ready to dive into it immediately. I quite enjoy family-centric books that focus on the bonds that are built, strained and possibly destroyed over time, which made the whole aspect of the story spanning over several decades even more endearing. After actually reading the book though, I was rather torn. I debated whether I could actually find the words to write this review, but here we are and I am trying.

“She’d tell herself that what she really wanted was not to live forever, but to stop worrying.”

I both liked and very much disliked this book. Don’t get me wrong, there were many powerful and enchanting moments in the Immortalists but something about the execution irked me. I was prepared for sadness and difficult scenes, after all, this book is about death. However, the read stayed kind of illusive to me until the end and therefore made some of the more hard-hitting moments difficult to grasp. I was confused by several passages, never quite sure if it could be classified as magical or if this was supposed to just be reality. I understand that there isn’t always a need to explain everything, but if you are indicating there was e.g. a mental illness at play and you make it look like magic instead, I will definitely be confused. Also, even though the topic of the book is supposedly about fate vs. self-fulfilling prophecies, I don’t actually know where it stands on that subject by the end of it. Maybe it’s good to question that. Maybe it was designed that way to make the reader think, but I would have liked to explore the intricacies of that concept a little more.

“Character is fate—that’s what he said. They’re bound up, those two, like brothers and sisters. You wanna know the future?” She points at Varya with her free hand. “Look in the mirror.”

Overall, the Immortalists reads a lot like historical fiction. Since we start in the late 60s and go all the way to the mid 2000s, they cover a lot of ground and events during that time. That was also the reason why I let them get away with language I would not have liked to read in a book set in contemporary times.

“She knows that stories have the power to change things: the past and the future, even the present.”

Lastly, I don’t need my characters to be likable. We aren’t all likable humans, but these four siblings really didn’t make it easy to root for them sometimes. And the way some of their bodily changes were described just felt unnecessary to me. Do you really have to introduce a 13 year-old in the second sentence of a book by mentioning her pubic hair? I am not trying to say there’s anything wrong about pubic hair, but what was the point of that description?

This may be an odd way to end the review, but this was also an odd read for me. From what I understand, a lot of people really enjoyed this book and therefore it could just be a me-problem here. I cannot put into words what it was lacking for me, but there definitely was something missing that could have elevated The Immortalists by a couple stars.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! While it had some great moments, it ultimately wasn’t the kind of book I wanted it to be.

Have you read The Immortalists? Is it a story you can see yourself enjoying? Let’s talk about it!

#CurrentlyWatching: Dynasty

I am on a roll, because this week has a theme as well! It’s all about family business, which usually means a lot of drama, backstabbing and generally business equating or overshadowing what one might call regular family life. Today’s show is a perfect example for that and it’s Dynasty!

Dynasty is another remake, because that’s just the kind of time we are living in. My mum still remembers watching the original show, but I can’t say that I do (admittedly, that show aired before my time). You can watch it on the CW or Netflix. I’ve stayed away from promoting shows on the #CurrentlyWatching feature that don’t even have one season out yet, because when I did that last year, some of them got cancelled and I was devastated (RIP No Tomorrow, Emerald City, Sweet/Vicious and Class). But then again, shows are always in danger of getting cancelled no matter what season they are in.

Dynasty follows one of the wealthiest families of America, the Carringtons, as they battle family drama and business scandals alike.

I wasn’t too impressed when I first started the show, which could have something to do with a certain person dying that I would have liked to see on the show for longer, but whatever. It fulfilled about every cliché I could possibly think of for this kind of show and I figured I would soon be bored. But for some reason I stuck with it nonetheless and that was a good decision. If you are looking for something with a lot of over the top drama that gradually escalates over time, then Dynasty is the show for you.

My favourite character so far is probably Fallon Carrington and despite her being far, far from likable, I do have my reasons. First, I love having Elizabeth Gillies on my screen whether it be on Victorious, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll or now this show, she is always highly enigmatic and worth watching. And second, Fallon is ruthless and ambitious – she is my new Blair Waldorf, who, to this day, is one of my all time favourite characters (despite inconsistencies and Gossip Girl being far from perfect). Both of these women were incredibly strong but with deeply rooted insecurities that surface in a certain mean girl attitude. Where Blair was focused on approval from everyone and her love life, Fallon is all business. I adore that about her, she just wants to make it on her own merits and won’t let anyone or anything get in her way of success. That doesn’t mean she has no love interest, in fact she has two. At first I wasn’t sure who’s side I was on, then it became more clear, but in the end I will just always be Team Fallon.

There’s a couple of things the Carringtons have to deal with, most of them having to do with murder and otherwise illegal activities. One of their biggest opponents through all of this is the Colby family. There is clear history concerning the parents, but we only slowly find out what the kids are up to. There is so much duplicity going on and I am mad about some developments, yet I am not completely against them. Before I make the judgment, I would like to have all the info, because usually there is some reason for vendettas.

Another character who grew on me immensely with time, but definitely not from the beginning, is Sammy Jo. He is Cristal’s nephew and starts living with the Carringtons after having tried to con Steven, Fallon’s brother. He develops such an interesting dynamic with both Carrington siblings, I feel like he has become an invaluable part of the family. Also, he brings all the snark and his banter with the head of the household, Anders, is just hilarious.

As you may have been able to guess by the characters I spotlighted, I don’t care too much for the “grown-ups” aka the life of Blake and Cristal and the likes. There’s still loads of drama there, but often I don’t understand their reasons behind their actions as well as I do with the younger generation, which in turn makes it even harder to relate to them (taking aside the fact that they are super rich and therefore have problems the average person wouldn’t particularly relate to to begin with).

In the end, I think this is either going to be an addictive kind of guilty pleasure for viewers or they will hate it. At least the opinions I have seen so far have been very polarising. I, for one, quite enjoy it and am looking forward to the upcoming episodes.

Are you watching Dynasty? What’s your take on the show?

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (Book Review)

Publisher: Dutton Books
Page Count
: 240

This is my third Nina LaCour book and by now she definitely qualifies as an auto-buy author for me. I realise that some of her books are pretty hit or miss for a couple of people, but so far she hasn’t failed to capture my heart with her stories. We Are Okay is a really low-key tale about relationships, grief and forgiveness. You definitely cannot call it a plot-driven story, because barely anything happens. Instead Marin takes you on a journey through the past year of her life and how everything got turned upside down.  I tried to figure out what happened for quite a while, but I think I blew the whole thing up in my head. The reveal was way simpler than that, but it didn’t make the betrayal sting any less.

Something I really appreciated about Marin and Mabel’s relationship was how simple and complicated their love for each other was. Throughout life, they were friends, lovers and sisters – the lines were blurred, but it did not diminish their feelings for each other. Even as their relationship towards each other changed, they wanted nothing but the best. They worried and cared, even when it did not always seem that way. I just love when there is no malice between girls, they get pitched against each other or show signs of toxic friendships way too often in books for my taste. So here’s an example of just how beautiful and full of good will a relationship can be:

I look at her. I wish her everything good. A friendly cab driver and short lines through security. A flight with no turbulence and an empty seat next to her. A beautiful Christmas. I wish her more happiness than can fit in a person. I wish her the kind of happiness that spills over.

I always have troubles expressing myself when I loved a book, because I want to say more than what you can clearly see – that I enjoyed it. This book was not just about romantic relationships, in fact, that was the smallest and most insignificant part of it. Much more it dealt with family, knowing where you come from and who the people really are who are by your side all the way. It was about grief, and how everyone deals with it differently. And finally there’s the forgiveness and learning how to move on, which wraps it all up in so much hope. I loved all of those parts, the quiet, simple and real way it was told, which is why there were tears rolling down my cheeks by the end of it all.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! A slow and extremely moving story about grief.

Have you read We Are Okay? Have you read other books by LaCour?

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West (Book Review)

ps

Publisher: Point
Page Count
: 330

For all of you who don’t know, P.S. I Like You was included in the August OwlCrate box. You can find my full unboxing post here. A couple years back, regular contemporaries were all I ever seemed to pick up, but nowadays Fantasy mostly rules my shelves This in no way should mean that I don’t still enjoy the genre. In fact, I like reading it very much, I just don’t seem to buy them as often. However, after my massive reading slump the past weeks, this was the PERFECT book to read.

P.S. I Like You is pretty much what you would expect it to be: fluff-galore, laugh-out-loud-funny, relatable and super fast-paced. This was my first Kasie West book, but I regret absolutely nothing. At first the anonymous-note-writing reminded me a little of Simon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda, but it definitely is a story all of its own. In the beginning you try to figure out who Lily, the main character, is exchanging letters with and I think it’s not that difficult to figure out. At least I wasn’t surprised, because it is never the person the main character wants it to be … that’s like a universal law to not make it that easy.

Generally I really liked Lily, even though she could have a tendency to get annoying when she doubted herself to much. Quite frankly I thought what she called “awkwardness” was a brilliant sense of humour … but then again I am also more on the awkward-spectrum of human beings. I sort of expected there to be more conflict between her and her best friend at some point, but then again I am also very glad that wasn’t the case. I feel like there are often very toxic friendships in books, where things never get talked through and it slowly sours the relationship, which is probably why I expected some sort of explosion at one point or another here. As I said, they are super cute though and it never happened, which is a nice change.

Lastly, I enjoyed how much of a focus there was on family. As we have all discussed numerous times in the past, there is a real lack of involved parents in YA, but not here. The parents were present, annoying and did not let their children do whatever they pleased at whatever time of night they wanted – which seems realistic to me. There was also the opposite spectrum of parenting. So, I liked how they showed all kinds of relationships a kid could have with their parents and siblings and other relatives.

So, the plot might have been a tad predictable, but it was still done in such an enjoyable way. The characters were very likable and fun to be on the journey with.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! It was exactly what I needed when I needed it, so no complaints from me.

5starsI am really happy that all my OwlCrate-books were 5-star-reads so far! Keep it up! Did you read this one as well? Do you have a favourite Kasie West book?