Thursday, December 30, 2021

Audiobook Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, book cover and review
Good writing and character development are the standout features of Malibu Rising. Those features made it drag a bit for me, though.

The four Riva kids, Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit, each have their own problems as well as talents. And Malibu Rising is basically their story. Their father, Nick Riva, is a star recording artist who left the family--more than once. 

All the kids are well off, living in Malibu. It hasn't always been like that, though. They all surf and everyone knows who they are. And everyone knows the Rivas' annual party is tonight. The book takes place during the 24 hours the day of the party, but there are flashbacks about everyone's lives. A lot of flashbacks. Not only about the Rivas, but about their friends and lovers who are also going to attend the party.

Reid's writing keeps you interested, but at times I just wanted to get on with the story. A bit too much, especially about their father's and mother's past and how they met. The reader knows from the prologue that there is going to be a fire the night of the party, but that turns out to be not that significant. The events at the party made me cringe -- once it actually started, I thought the book's pace really picked up. I liked the surprises and how Reid changes the points of view at just the right times.

I highly recommend the audio version of Malibu Rising. Julia Whelan does an excellent job with distinctive voices that aren't so over the top that they distract. A hard mix, when there are so many main characters. I know I've listened to other books read by her, but I'm not sure what.

I was worried that the end would be tragic, and although there is some tragedy, I really liked how it all wrapped up. If you enjoy character-driven, dramatic family stories, Malibu Rising is recommended.

Published by Ballentine, June 1, 2021. Random House Audio
eBook obtained from my library (Cloud Library)
384 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Sunday, December 26, 2021

Book Review: Christmas at the Island Hotel, by Jenny Colgan

Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan book cover and review
I was just delighted by Christmas at the Island Hotel. I'm going to do something that I rarely do -- partly because I'm lazy today, and partly because it says most of what I wanted to say--I'm going to copy the Amazon description.

On the tiny, beautiful, and remote island of Mure, halfway between Scotland and Norway, a new hotel opening is a big event. New mother Flora MacKenzie and her brother Fintan are working themselves half to death to get it ready in time for Christmas. 

The new hotel’s impressive kitchens throw together two unlikely new friends: Isla Gregor is the hardworking young girl who has been a waitress in the island's cafe, dreaming of a bigger, better life now that she’s at a proper fancy hotel. Konstantin Pederson is working his way up in the hotel's kitchens too…but he is also, secretly, the only son of the Duke of Utsire. Konstantin has been sent to learn what it is to work hard for a living, before receiving his inheritance. Although he’s initially resentful, the place grows on him; he has never met anyone quite like Isla and her fellow Murians before. 

As the island’s residents and special VIP guests gather for the hotel’s grand opening gala, Christmas is in the air. But so are more than a few small-town secrets…

I really loved the characters and setting. It wasn't all about the romance, in fact, most of that happens towards the end. The drama of new motherhood, family secrets, forbidden love, jealousy, grief, and small-town life was just a perfect mix. My only complaint is that there were a lot of characters introduced pretty quickly at first. It took a while to keep them straight, especially Isla ann Iona!

I received this ARC before this book was released, and I just never got around to it. I'm so glad I finally did.  I also didn't realize this is book 4 of 5 in the Mure Island Series. I would definitely like to read some more about Mure Island, especially because there is at least one other that is a Christmas story. If you are looking for a heartwarming Christmas story, you should consider Christmas at the Island Hotel.

Published by Sphere, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Friday, December 17, 2021

Audio Book Review: The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews book cover and review
The Santa Suit is a cute, feel-good Christmas story that is more than sap.

Recently divorced Ivy Perkins has purchased an old farmhouse in a small town sight-unseen. When she arrives, she is met by her hunky realtor who hands her the keys. Ezra is too good to be true and begins to help Ivy in many ways as she realizes the house needs a lot more work than she had thought. So...we all see where that part of the story is going. But there's so much more.

Ivy finds a Santa suit among all the junk left in the house. Turns out the previous owner played Santa in the area for years. In the pocket, she finds a letter written by a little girl who asks for one thing for Christmas. She wants her dad to come home from Vietnam. Ivy decides to try to find this little girl and see what happened to her.

That leads her to an elderly gentleman who was the little girl's grandfather. Turns out her father was killed in the war, and her mother moved away and they have lost touch. He gives Ivy some locally made candy which leads her to begin a business relationship by developing a marketing campaign for the candy shop.

Ivy also makes a new friend, who also happens to be very handy and helpful. But, she's got her own secrets and issues. And Ivy gets involved.

So while the predicted romance develops, a lot of other things happen. Good thing, because the romance was my least favorite part. It didn't seem to develop very naturally. Ivy continually insists she isn't interested in a romance, but very quickly and without much soul searching falls into bed with him. It was a bit weird.

But I liked the rest of the story and was even surprised by the end. The book is very Christmasey because of the Santa Suit and the festivities. I feel like some "Christmas" books are more like "oh, by the way, it's Christmas. Look at the decorations." The Santa Suit was all about the magic of Christmas.

Yes, the plot was a bit simple, the characters a bit shallow, and the book is short. But I liked the story, and everyone lived happily ever after. Which is all that I expected.

Published by St. Martin's Press, September 28, 2021
Audiobook purchased from
224 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Thursday, December 16, 2021

Book Review: The Librarian of Auschwitz, by Antonio Iturbe

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe book cover and review
The Librarian of Auschwitz is a very popular book, so I probably don't need to tell you much about it. It was a very difficult book to read.

I've only recently returned to war books after suffering some burnout, and The Librarian of Auschwitz is the first concentration camp experience book I have read in a long time.

Dita is definitely a hero. Her resilience is what impressed me most. I don't think we can really know how we would react after being treated so brutally- being worked to the bone and starved. Witnessing horrible atrocities and constantly worrying that you are the next victim. I tend to think I would have given up. I hope I never have to find out.

I found myself reading faster and faster, just wanting to get through it. I know these books are "good for me," but they really tear me up and affect me long after I've finished reading. I know that is supposed to happen. But I'll definitely wait a while before I read another tale of such inhumane experiences. 

Yes, The Librarian of Auschwitz is fiction, but Dita is a real person and is still alive! These experiences are true, even if some of the people are fictional. The endnotes were probably my favorite parts of the book because Iturbe talks about writing the book, meeting Dita, and life since the publication of the book.

The book was translated by Lilit Thwaites. The Librarian of Auschwitz is a book that everyone should read, but prepare yourself before you do.

Published by Henry Holt & Co. BYR, 2017
eBook purchased
432 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Book Review: Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber book cover and review
Macomber's books always put me in a good mood, and Mrs. Miracle added some Christmas spirit.

Seth is still suffering from the loss of his wife. And recently his twin boys have come to live with him after spending a long time with their grandparents. The boys are a handful, and Seth can't find a housekeeper that can handle them.

Reba is hurting and estranged from her sister after a huge betrayal that Reba cannot forgive.

Magically, a housekeeper appears on Seth's doorstep -- Mrs. Merkle -- and she is truly an angel. The boys begin to call her Mrs. Miracle. 

Mrs. Miracle gives Seth the courage to approach Reba -- they have both been eyeing each other from afar. Now that Reba is in charge of the Christmas program that the twins are participating in, Seth has an "in."

So, I'm sure you see where this is going. But that's okay. We are in this for the "happily ever after." A couple side stories add to the interest. Seth's inlaws are floundering since the twins left and contemplating divorce. Harriett Foster is the church's busybody. She keeps track of perceived transgressions and dutifully reports them to the pastor. Mrs. Miracle will tackle all these issues.

If you are in the mood to start your Christmas reading, this is a good one. There's even a Hallmark movie, so you can follow up with that. And this is part of the Miracle Series, so there are three other books.

Published by HarperCollins, 1996
Copy owned -- not sure where I got it
337 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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