BOOK REVIEW: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

55404546Title: Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 5 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: August 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 4, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: 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 first listened to the audiobook when my baby was 1 month old during night time feedings and so didn’t have enough of a recollection to write a proper review (not because the book was bad, but because I was so damn tired all the time). Since I have also read 2 of Reid’s other books (Daisy Jones & the Six (see my review here) and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (see my review here)), I wanted to give a review of this book as well. This was a book that I did not mind reading twice.

As many women do, I unfortunately gained weight during my pregnancy which I have, to date, not been able to take off. Additionally, I have always had the goal of running longer distances, so I have recently decided to start working toward a 5k, something which I haven’t ever done. I am normally not much of a runner (I usually walk instead). This book was a fantastic listen during running, and kept my mind occupied the entire time.

The book centers on the Riva family, who live in Malibu. The story takes place from the 1950s through the 1980s.

The father, Mick Riva, is a famous singer. Interestingly, Mick Riva is one of Evelyn Hugo’s husbands! There is also mention in this book that Celia St. James attended one of the famous Riva parties. I love how the author connected the two books — it was very subtle and unless you had read Evelyn Hugo recently, you might not have picked up on it at all.

Mick is an all around dog, we cheats on his wife June multiple times. They are divorced, remarried and divorced again, all the while June holds a candle to him, always hoping he will come back. She becomes an alcoholic and is not capable of carrying for her children. Mick never sends money, birthday cards — he never comes to see the children. Basically, he’s a jerk.

The story mainly follows the lives of the children Nina, Jay and Kit (June’s kids) and Hud (their half-brother, who has taken in by June when his biological mother basically dropped him off at the Riva’s doorstep). Each character is developed fantastically and I really like how all the stories are interwoven together. The book alternates between “present day” (in the 1980s) and the past.

I read some other blogs reviews about this book and Read and Review It makes a point that I had not considered: “I also really appreciated how big a theme family was in Malibu Rising. There was a really big emphasis on the importance of it and looking out for each other, which was a really lovely message. I also really liked how despite making some mistakes they all really cared about each other and would do anything for each other – I loved how tightly knit the siblings were, especially after everything that they’d been through.”

Out of all the Rivas introduced in the book, Nina is the main one. At the beginning of the book we find out that her famous, tennis star husband has left her after only a year of marriage. With a deadbeat father and alcoholic mother, Nina has been the de facto parent for her 3 younger siblings since she can remember. One day Nina is discovered while surfing and she becomes an overnight modeling sensation — this is not what she would have wanted for herself, but she did it in order to pay the bills and support her family. Nina has always put everyone before herself — it is her one and only flaw. Will she finally be able to put herself first and start living the life she always wanted?

Sarah Collins Bookworm describes Nina as the “ultimate people pleaser.” She goes on to say that: “As a reader, you very quickly a sense that Nina is simply going through the motions, she’s unsatisfied but won’t allow herself to consider what she actually wants to do with her life. That’s what Malibu Rising is about, Nina figuring out who she is and learning to let go of the past.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I really love how the culmination of the book took place at a raucous party. The family dirt was spilled and reconciled in the backdrop of the most looked forward to celebrity party of the year. Stuff was said, secrets revealed, an unexpected reunion took place — meanwhile all hell was breaking loose at the party, eventually ending in Malibu burning. Celebrities were high, drunk, and were basically just going crazy — breaking stuff, having public sex / threesomes, etc.

For all the reasons above, I would definitely recommend this book.

BOOK REVIEW: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

32620332._SY475_Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 10 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, LGBT, Contemporary

Read Start Date: April 11, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 15, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My Review: This book was written back in 2017, but I guess has had a resurgence of readers due to being a “booktok” recommendation (?). It is also, as of the writing of this review, on the NY Times Bestseller’s list. Needless to say, I had high expectations. Although “booktok” got it right this time, I had a really hard time writing a review of this book.

What do you say about something, when you liked everything, for no express reason? From the very first moment, I was captivated by this story. It was interesting. There was mystery (why did Evelyn choose Monique to ghost write her biography?). There was love (all be it, not in all of Evelyn’s marriages). There was friendship, betrayal, a glimpse into the “rich and famous”…

At the center of it all, a formative woman with a secret — she was bisexual at a time when that was not permitted.

You loved Evelyn, but you also loved to hate her. She was caring, but also at times selfish. Monique was interesting in her own way, even though her story was typical i.e., woman has husband, woman has mixed feelings about divorcing said husband (did I do the right thing, etc etc), woman finds in the end that she deserves true love (which she didn’t have with her ex).

The characters were well developed and seemed true to real people i.e., I could imagine that this was a book about a real person, or at very least based upon a real person.

I don’t want to say too much else, otherwise I will give away essential plot points. This book is highly recommended.

BOOK REVIEW: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

reid_9781524798628_jkt_all_r1.inddTitle: Daisy Jones & The Six

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 3 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: November 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 14, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six: The band’s album Aurora came to define the rock ‘n’ roll era of the late seventies, and an entire generation of girls wanted to grow up to be Daisy. But no one knows the reason behind the group’s split on the night of their final concert at Chicago Stadium on July 12, 1979 . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ‘n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

My Review: I listened to this book during the long drive from Austria to the Netherlands. I borrowed this book from the library, not knowing what it was really about. At first I wasn’t sure whether it was fiction or based on a true story, and I actually had to google it when I stopped off at a rest stop. I have read in various places that it is very loosely based upon Fleetwood Mac. I don’t know anything about Fleetwood Mac, other than I like a few songs they wrote, so I cannot say whether that is true or not.

In any event, the book is about the rise and fall of The Six, one of the most famous bands in the 70’s. It is told by the members of the Six and Daisy Jones in the “present,” and each character reflects back on their golden age of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. The format of the book is in an interview style.

The audiobook version has 7 different actors reading for the characters. I found this to be more than a little distracting. Sometimes the author let the reader know who was speaking (whether by context or by announcing the name at the beginning), but sometimes it took several minutes before I could figure it out — some of the voices were really similar. Actually some of the cast members are pretty famous i.e., Benjamin Bratt and the lead singer of Korn. I didn’t realize this as I was listening, and to be honest I am not even sure which characters they played.

Despite the partial confusion, listening to the book felt like just listening to a conversation. It was easy going and the characters played off each other well.

The Reading Chick gave a great review of this book, and I agree that Daisy is a great character! In fact, she was probably one of my favorite characters of the book. She was so powerful and strong and had such a rockin’ voice and amazing talent, but at the same time she was just so raw and real and broken. Daisy was such a fantastic artist, but she was also a raging addict, which caused problems for her and the band.

Daisy’s hate / love relationship with Billy Dunne (the lead singer of The Six) was really well portrayed. Despite (or maybe because of) their competitiveness and outward dislike for each other, they really fed off each other artistically — the way the characters described the performances, you couldn’t help but to actually feel the sexual tension thinly masked with bitterness and anger, as though you were watching them onstage yourself.

I was definitely sucked into the story and was on the edge of my seat wondering whether Billy would give in to temptation (he was married with children).

On the other hand, if you are looking for a balanced review here, A Little Haze Book Blog also makes some fair points. I agree that the ending was super lame, and I honestly have to say I was really disappointed in it. I think I was making coffee at the time when the interviewer revealed who she was and I was like, are you serious right now?  I could have spit my coffee all over the counter.

That being said, with a few negative points aside, I enjoyed the book. If you’re in the market for a new book to read, I would give it a go.