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.


Once in a blue moon I read way outside of my comfort zone. I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six and liked them both. So I figured I’d give Malibu Rising a chance. My mother and I read it one after the other and then talked about it. She’s read Evelyn but not Daisy.

We had a good conversation about this book because I definitely missed some things she caught! It was definitely a very 80s book, and she made references to things that I didn’t get. Mick Riva = Mick Jagger/Steve Tyler for example. And Nina as Liv Tyler. That totally went over my head. The majority of the book took place in the 80s, but it also told the back story of the Riva children’s parents and how they met and fell apart. It added nuance to the book, and I enjoyed those sections just as much as the “present” sections that took place in the 80s.

I liked that the kids all had such distinct personalities. It added to the book and showed how each of them viewed the others. The book was very much about family and what you would do for them. And how a famous lifestyle can take a toll. Nina was a compelling character and my favorite out of them all. The book itself only spans about a day, but so much happens in it!

It really was an excellent book, I felt like I was there right along with these characters. Reid has always done an excellent job at setting a scene and evoking vivid feeling about it. It felt real and true. And the characters were the best part of the book. Their books are always character driven for the most part. They make the book and the plot move forward and you can’t help but enjoy reading about them.

It was a slow paced book, but it made up for it in other ways. Overall, this was a very enjoyable book, and I will be eagerly waiting to read another book by this author. This book is a perfect summer read – it is quick and fun.

I won’t say that there was a lot of plot though, it meandered a bit through several different things, but there wasn’t a drive per se. But still, it was a beautifully written book. It was enjoyable and was a breath for fresh air.

cover of the vanishing half

Title: The Vanishing Half
Series: N/A
Author: Brit Bennett
Genre:  adult, historical fiction
Publisher:  Riverhead Books
Release Date: June 2, 2020
Format: e-book
Page Count: 350
Source: Library loan
See On Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Review

This book was both intriguing and well written. It is very firmly a historical fiction book, which I did not realize when I started. But honestly, the book was so good! This book was overwhelmingly good. There was very little about this book that I had an issue with. In fact, it was a rather brilliant book. I wanted to talk about some parts of the book that really stood out to me and made the book shine; I will also do a brief overview of what parts of this book that did not work for me in the end. In any case, I highly recommend it for people who like historical fiction.

I absolutely loved the writing in this book. It was so smooth and well written. I got invested from the very first moment I started it. We had an outside perspective to start with, to introduce the plot of the book before we get into the POVs of the four woman. And those POVs were well done and well written because each were so distinct.

The one part of the book that I didn’t super love was I felt that there were some pacing issues with the book. I felt parts of it dipped into extraneous information that slowed down the pace of the book. But overall in the grand scheme of things this was so small that it didn’t detract from the book overall.

On the other hand the slow pacing of the book lent itself to the atmosphere of the book. This book was a slow burn all around. We also get a look at the characters of this book through that; we get to know these characters, we get to feel with them. As a reader we get to understand them and where they come from. There are a lot of reasons that this slow paced and slow burning worked for this book, because the content itself was quite heavy.

This book takes place really between the 1960s and the 1980s – and it incorporates all the issues that cropped up between those dates, and integrates them into the story to give the characters life. It also displays both the changes in the generations but all the ideas. But it also still gives lots of depth to the issues of those times. There were some heartrending moments in this book that really struck me.

This was a story of family, of racism and it all combined to make a story that is so rich. Honestly, there is much to rave about in this book. This book touches on topics such as racism, passing, trans people, and family relationships. It was all well done and so well written.

I honestly think that this book is still so relevant today, even if it takes place so long ago. These are issues that still happen today.

Overall, this was a fantastic book and really liked it!

TW/CW:

 lynching, death of parents, Alzheimer’s, racism, domestic violence/abuse, transphobia, sexual assault

the once and future witches book cover

Title: The Once and Future Witches
Series: N/A
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Genre:  adult, fantasy, historical fiction
Publisher:  Orbit
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Format: e-book
Page Count: 516
Source: Library loan
See On Goodreads


Goodreads Synopsis

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.


Review

The Once and Future Witches was a book I continually pondered picking up for months. I read some reviews that liked and disliked the book, and I felt that I might not like it. But the theme and the plot of the book kept calling to me, so I gave in and decided that I wanted to try the book after all. It was on top of my TBR pile for January 2021, and I was delighted my library had an e-book copy available for check out. That way I didn’t have to wait for a hold to come in and then bring it back if I didn’t like it.

Suffice to say, I was a little nervous about this book. I love slow and prose filled books. But I was remembering that sometimes I don’t click with the writing style. I was determined to at least give this book a shot.

I’m glad I did.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I feel that it was very slow at first, and that the writing style takes some time to get into. The way Harrow turns phrases and uses metaphors sometimes can feel like its filler, but I liked it. Once I got into the writing style and the pace, the book got a lot better. There was a lot of name related and background issues in the beginning before you get to the meat of the story, and at first they don’t make a lot of sense. This is because they come to have meaning later in the plot as more and more is revealed.

I won’t say I “flew through this” as I do a lot of books. This one took me a few days to read because I kept having to set it aside and digest it. This book was heavy in the way it is an alternative version of history, but believable enough that it feels like it could have actually happened. It touches on important topics such as feminism and racism. This book was hefty and intense. It is hard to describe this book somewhat, because so much of it could constitute a spoiler!

I also appreciated how Harrow riffed off real people in different ways, and also fairytales and all sorts of other various items. It was quite fun to spot those play on words or names, and know what they alluded to. I will admit I did have to look some up.

The three sisters and their relationship was definitely some of the best part of the book. And in the end, that is what the book was founded on. How the sisters go along – or didn’t – with each other, and their representation of how women were seen, maiden, mother, crone. I feel like having a background knowledge of the European and Salem witch trials would really help with this book. There is a lot of symbolism and references to things that historians have talked about for years. I suppose I really appreciated how everything got tied together.

We also get some expansion of relationships to romantic ones of various types – or not at all – and I love how that all played out.

I very much liked the book, and I think this will appeal to some people, but not to everyone. Stylistically it is beautiful, and the content is great, but I think this book is going to be very niche for some. If you can get through the pacing and the writing I think it is well worth a read.

Overall, don’t expect a plot so much as a book based on character driven actions, and character development, as that is the focus up until almost the very end.

CW/TW from author: child abuse, both physical and psychological; parental death; arrest and imprisonment; mind control; pregnancy and childbirth, including forced hospitalization; abortion; racism; sexism; homophobia, both external and internalized; threat of sexual assault, averted; torture (mostly off-the-page, but alluded to); execution (attempted); child abandonment; major character death

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Series: Kingdom of the Wicked #1
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Genre:  young adult, fantasy, historical fiction, paranormal
Publisher:  Jimmy Patterson Presents
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Format: e-arc
Page Count: 448
Source: Netgalley


Goodreads Synopsis

Emilia and her twin sister Victoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Victoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to discover who did this, and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, the outlier among the seven demon brethren, always choosing duty over pleasure. He’s been tasked by his master with investigating a series of women’s murders on the island. When Emilia and Wrath’s fates collide, it’s clear this disturbing mystery will take a bewitching turn…


Review

Thank you to NetGalley and Jimmy Patterson Presents for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

*insert screaming*

This was one of my most anticipated reads of the fall. Imagine this: me biting my fingernails anxiously waiting to see if I’d be approved and then SHRIEKING when I was! Happy days!

Was it as good as I thought it was going to be?

Well?

IT WAS BETTER. This was witches done right. This was demons done right. This was the whole package of evil goodness that I love and is my cup of tea. It was also…pretty much in my wheelhouse of everything I could ever want in a book? Like, this book was magnificent and I am obsessed with it now. I need ALL the merch and good stuff that comes along with it.

Emilia was such a great character and I loved every moment we spent with her. It was a journey from beginning to end – and I definitely did not want this book to end. In fact I was screaming when I got to the end of the book and going “I NEED THE SEQUEL” because HOLY COW was that book just…no words. I feel like I had brain dribbling out of my ears by the end of it.

Things I really liked in the book were Maniscalco’s writing. I loved it in SJTR series, and it was just as good here. I became immediately invested in the book and was over the mood with how everything was written. The pacing was fantastic too, I just kept tearing through the book because I could not stop reading it. It definitely had me on the edge of my seat.

One thing that I enjoyed was the familial relationships in this book. I enjoyed reading about how Emilia interacted with her family and her world and how they came together. I especially loved her relationship with her grandmother. It felt so warm and happy, and it brought about good feelings. It just also, worked.

I also am still laughing about her and Wrath and that relationship. I don’t even know if I’d call it enemies to lovers or enemies to friends or enemies to enemies? All I know is that I enjoyed watching how their relationship progressed and changed and how they went about doing things. Suffice to say, I am invested to see what happens next. Maniscalco has always been good at crafting romantic relationships, and this one feels like it is going to be a slow burn all the way through. I think it is a curious one as well.

What else did I love? Pretty much everything. I loved EVERYTHING. I am so…unable to form a coherent thought about this book because I just loved it so much. It was atmospheric, it was well written, it was beautiful and enchanting, and I love Emilia as a character SO SO much and I am just so excited for the next book in the series.

Things I am excited for: hopefully expansion on the magic system? I definitely want more of it, and I am insanely curious about it. Also more about the princes? Yes please. More more more more is pretty much the one continuous thought I have at the moment.

I am just over the moon happy with this book and I cannot wait to reread it!

Title: A Rogue of One’s Own
Series: A League of Extraordinary Women #2
Author: Evie Dumore
Genre: adult, romance, historical fiction
Publisher:  Berkley
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Format: e-ARC
Page Count: 448
Source: Netgalley


Goodreads Synopsis

Lady Lucie is fuming. She and her band of Oxford suffragists have finally scraped together enough capital to control one of London’s major publishing houses, with one purpose: to use it in a coup against Parliament. But who could have predicted that the one person standing between her and success is her old nemesis, Lord Ballentine? Or that he would be willing to hand over the reins for an outrageous price—a night in her bed.

Lucie tempts Tristan like no other woman, burning him up with her fierceness and determination every time they clash. But as their battle of wills and words fans the flames of long-smouldering devotion, the silver-tongued seducer runs the risk of becoming caught in his own snare.

As Lucie tries to out-manoeuvre Tristan in the boardroom and the bedchamber, she soon discovers there’s truth in what the poets say: all is fair in love and war… 


Review

Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I read this book in one day. I have no regrets because it was absolutely fan-freaking-tastic.

One of the worst things about getting an ARC is the wait for the next book in the series. I mean, I loved Bringing Down the Duke when I read it, and I was so thrilled when I was approved for an ARC for this book, and it was a joy to come back into this amazing world Dunmore has created. Based in history, Dunmore crafts a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat but also laughing and cheering the characters on. There is something to be said for books like this – that bring entertainment and good cheer to your day.

This is a book that is so delightful and wonderfully written. It is so easy to fall into reading, there is a cadence to the writing that draws you in and leaves you wanting more. I sat down to read it in the morning, then had to go to work, so I was anxiously waiting for lunch so that I could finish the last few chapters. I was on pins and needles wanting to see what happened to Tristan and Lucie.

I love a good enemies to lovers romance, and Dunmore has slaked my appetite for it, as it is done so beautifully in this book. So fabulously done that it was a seamless transition from one to the next, and I didn’t feel that it was jarring at all.

Another thing I really loved is this book still revolved around the central theme of the suffragist movement, and Lucie’s part in that. We have previous characters making appearances as well, but this story is very much focused on Lucie and her life. There is so little I can say because this book left me breathless and wanting to read it again it was so good. Like I said, I will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series as WOW Dunmore stuns.

While the plot itself is fairly simplistic, it is done in a way that you can’t help but appreciate. You may know what is going to happen but it doesn’t make it any less exciting or breathtaking to read the story and see how small things unfold.

The characters were likeable to a great extent. You felt for Lucie and you felt for Tristan. And you felt for their individual struggles and how their struggles made it hard for them to know each other. Then you have some fantastic moments of build up and ire between them. All in all, I loved the chaotic nature of their relationship. It made it wonderful to read.

Of course then you have parts of the book where you want to grind your teeth because the “bad guys” are doing bad guy things. And it’s very much a “NOOOO” moment in the book, but you KNOW they’re going to get their happily ever afters…anyways my heart was pounding in this book, and it left such a sweet aftertaste that I’m still sighing thinking about this lovely book.

Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Adult, Gothic horror, historical, mystery
Publisher:  Del Rey
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 301
Source: Library Borrow


Goodreads Synopsis

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a novel set in glamorous 1950s Mexico.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.


Review

First off, I have heard nothing but good things about this book. And I was really excited to read it despite not loving The Beautiful Ones. I loved the writing in that book, and I felt that this book would give me everything I could want. Suffice to say, this book should be on everyone’s lists who likes scary stories, gothic horror, or just a good paranormal mystery. There is so much to love about this book, and from the first few pages I was enthralled with it. There was nothing else except this book when I was reading. I finished it late in the night because it was so good that I could not put it down.

Our fearless heroine (who is absolutely delightful) finds herself in a creepy house with creepy people and it doesn’t get much better from there. She went to rescue her cousin, Catalina, but nothing is as it seems, and something is off…and this book was the perfect book to ring in spooky season with. It wasn’t a gory (or descriptive gory) book, so I was glad, because that I do not do totally well with. This book however was full of suspense, partially because we were very much learning as Noemí does.

Noemí, as I said, is a delightful character. She is very stubborn, and very true to herself. She is also determined to do right, and is aware that something is not right. This story really was a complicated one, and as you read there are little pieces of the past doled out and you’re trying to figure out what is going on, and how it all connects. It was very much my type of book. The plot of it was stupendous and I cannot speak about it without wanting to shove it at everyone. It had such a great impact, and kept me turning pages.

And that’s the thing – the pacing was amazing. You were almost wary as you turned pages, unsure of what was going to happen next…never quite sure what to believe, and you are held captive by this book and the story that is being woven.

Other things I loved was how atmospheric it was. It would send shivers down my spine, and it was creepy. And that’s in part thanks to the characters themselves. The characters were chilling. You never knew who was good and who was bad, who was real and who was not.

I am so thrilled with this book, because the writing is just so fantastic, and the book was absolutely amazing. I cannot speak well enough about it. This is one of those books that I would purchase for myself and recommend to friends that it left such an impact on me.

A great gothic horror story set in 1950’s Mexico – it had everything it needed to succeed. What a great book!

 

  Author:     Kerri Maniscalco
   Genre:    YA/historical fiction
   Pages:    337
   Format:   E-Book
   Rating:     4 star
    
 
Description:
Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

 

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

Continue reading “Stalking Jack the Ripper”

 

  Author:     Bella Ellis
   Genre:    Mystery/Historical Fiction
   Pages:    293
   Format:   hardcover
   Rating:    
  
 
Description:
Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery…

 

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…

Continue reading “The Vanished Bride”

Author:

Kiersten White

Genre:

Young Adult/fantasy/historical fiction

Pages:

498

Format:

E-Book

Rating:

   Description:

Lada is a princess — but she is strong and fierce. When she and her brother Radu are given as hostages to the Ottoman Empire, Lada is determined to do whatever it takes to get vengeance. But as time passes, both Lada and Radu must make choices that will change the fate of their country.

Continue reading “And I Darken — Book Review”

Author:     Helen Hollick   
Genre:    Historical Fiction   
Pages:    592   
Format:   E-book   
Rating:

Description: Harold Godwinesson will be the last Saxon King of England. This is his story, from England in a time of turmoil before 1066 and the Norman Conquest up until the last fight to keep the Saxon rulers in power. This book delves into the political upheaval caused by an ineffectual king’s ability to choose an heir to England.

Continue reading “I Am the Chosen King”