Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives by Kristin Miller

The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives
by Kristin Miller
Published July 20th 2021 by Ballantine Books

Meet the trophy wives of Presidio Terrace, San Francisco's most exclusive--and most deadly--neighborhood in this shrewd, darkly compelling novel from the New York Times bestselling author of In Her Shadow.

Mystery writer Brooke Davies is the new wife on the block. Her tech-billionaire husband, Jack, twenty-two years her senior, whisked her to the Bay Area via private jet and purchased a modest mansion on the same day. He demands perfection, and before now, Brooke has had no problem playing the role of a doting housewife. But as she befriends other wives on the street and spends considerable time away from Jack, he worries if he doesn't control Brooke's every move, she will reveal the truth behind their "perfect" marriage.

Erin King, famed news anchor and chair of the community board, is no stranger to maintaining an image--though being married to a plastic surgeon helps. But the skyrocketing success of her career has worn her love life thin, and her professional ambitions have pushed Mason away. Quitting her job is a Hail Mary attempt at keeping him interested, to steer him away from finding a young trophy wife. But is it enough, and is Mason truly the man she thought he was?

Georgia St. Claire allegedly cashed in on the deaths of her first two husbands, earning her the nickname "Black Widow"--and the stares and whispers of her curious neighbors. Rumored to have murdered both men for their fortunes, she claims to have found true love in her third marriage, yet her mysterious, captivating allure keeps everyone guessing. Then a tragic accident forces the residents of Presidio Terrace to ask: Has Georgia struck again? And what is she really capable of doing to protect her secrets?

4 Stars

Brooke and her husband Jack are moving to the prestigious Presidio Terrace, a private neighborhood full of San Francisco's wealthy elite. The rules are strict, the security stricter, and the secrets darker than she could ever imagine. With the HOA president, Erin, across the street and the famed Black Widow, Georgia, next door, Brooke sets about making friends with the woman who might just inspire her to finish her next novel. She could never have expected just a week into the new neighborhood she'd be keeping secrets alongside the women as Georgia's fiancé, and upcoming third husband, goes missing.

The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives was just plain fun to read. It's like The Real Housewives franchise with a shot of thriller tossed back. With hilarious dialogue, campy extravagance, and just the kind of murder you'd expect from wealthy, beautiful people, Kristin Miller delivers an entertaining thriller that is, in my opinion, the perfect summer read. I absolutely loved the flashiness of Brooke, Erin, and Georgia's lives. They have the cars, the clothes, the homes, the parties, and the attitudes. The women joke about things no one else would dream of saying out loud and they have the money to get away with it, even when the cops are involved. Unlike your usual trophy wives, these women lead their husbands, dropping suggestions so the men think it's their idea, but its the wives with the reigns and the jobs. Miller jumps into the suspense and thrills right away, with every page turn it gets just a bit more twisted and the women show just how dark they think.

Far-fetched, intriguing, and over-the-top, you'll want a drink or popcorn to dive into The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives.

Shoulder Season by Christina Clancy

Shoulder Season
by Christina Clancy
Published July 6th 2021 by St. Martin's Press

A dazzling portrait of a young woman coming into her own, the youthful allure of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and what we lose—and gain—when we leave home.

The small town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is an unlikely location for a Playboy Resort, and nineteen-year old Sherri Taylor is an unlikely bunny. Growing up in neighboring East Troy, Sherri plays the organ at the local church and has never felt comfortable in her own skin. But when her parents die in quick succession, she leaves the only home she’s ever known for the chance to be part of a glamorous slice of history. In the winter of 1981, in a costume two sizes too small, her toes pinched by stilettos, Sherri joins the daughters of dairy farmers and factory workers for the defining experience of her life.

Living in the “bunny hutch”—Playboy’s version of a college dorm—Sherri gets her education in the joys of sisterhood, the thrill of financial independence, the magic of first love, and the heady effects of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But as spring gives way to summer, Sherri finds herself caught in a romantic triangle—and the tragedy that ensues will haunt her for the next forty years.

From the Midwestern prairie to the California desert, from Wisconsin lakes to the Pacific Ocean, this is a story of what happens when small town life is sprinkled with stardust, and what we lose—and gain—when we leave home. With a heroine to root for and a narrative to get lost in, Christina Clancy's Shoulder Season is a sexy, evocative tale, drenched in longing and desire, that captures a fleeting moment in American history with nostalgia and heart.

4 Stars

I'll admit something most people never would, when I was young I dreamed of being a bunny. Not like the bunnies of the 2000s we all saw on TV, but the old classic bunnies. I'd been a bit too young, but had heard all about the resorts and had seen the photos. It was glamorous, old fashioned, something I loved as a kid and a teen. I never did go that route, but I so loved taking an adventure into the past and into that world in Shoulder Season. Christina Clancy brings the desires of youth and glamour to life with this historical-fiction based in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

2019 Sherrie has received a call to return home, a place she ran from in the 80's. She's built a steady life in Palm Springs, CA and she's a far cry from the Bunny she was at the resort. Sherrie never felt like she fit in, but when she leaves East Troy behind for the resort in 1981 she finds a place she belongs. With an entirely realistic plot and setting, Clancy takes readers on a coming-of-age journey filled with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Sherrie never turns a good time down and it's in those fast-paced moments that she finds herself, loses herself, and finds herself once again. She learns about love, loss, and life, taking lessons from the school of hard knocks.

Shoulder Season is a slower-paced women's fiction that I absolutely loved reading. When I caught myself skimming, I set it down, it's a book best not read in one go in my opinion, but I enjoyed every page when I returned to it. I was a big fan of how the story was told, with Clancy beginning in the future and taking us into the past, giving readers a glimpse into what Sherrie saw and felt in her youth and how her perspective was shaped by it and how it changed with time. In Shoulder Season, insecurity wreaks havoc on young Sherrie, but shapes her into an independent, smart woman.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan

Lady Sunshine
by Amy Mason Doan
Expected publication: June 29th 2021 by Graydon House

For Jackie Pierce, everything changed the summer of 1979, when she spent three months of infinite freedom at her bohemian uncle’s sprawling estate on the California coast. As musicians, artists, and free spirits gathered at The Sandcastle for the season in pursuit of inspiration and communal living, Jackie and her cousin Willa fell into a fast friendship, testing their limits along the rocky beach and in the wild woods... until the summer abruptly ended in tragedy, and Willa silently slipped away into the night.

Twenty years later, Jackie unexpectedly inherits The Sandcastle and returns to the iconic estate for a short visit to ready it for sale. But she reluctantly extends her stay when she learns that, before her death, her estranged aunt had promised an up-and-coming producer he could record a tribute album to her late uncle at the property’s studio. As her musical guests bring the place to life again with their sun-drenched beach days and late-night bonfires, Jackie begins to notice startling parallels to that summer long ago. And when a piece of the past resurfaces and sparks new questions about Willa’s disappearance, Jackie must discover if the dark secret she’s kept ever since is even the truth at all.

5 Stars

Lady Sunshine was a whim pickup for me. I loved the cover, the blurb sounded fantastic, and well, I can't ignore anything with folk music. A young adult girlhood dream to live with the land, to see a musician at work, to live alongside the ocean. The seventeen-year Jackie of 1979 doesn't yet know this will be the summer that shapes her, that changes her forever, but soon she will. The hardened Jackie of 1999 knows what those three-months did to her, to her family, but she still finds she can't deny the pull of Graham Kingston's music, her memories of Willow, and a sundrenched summer. The summer of '79 ended in heartbreak, the summer of '99 appears to be starting that way, but the musicians who are bringing Sandcastle back to life again may hold answers that Jackie didn't even know she was searching for.

I admit, I did not expect to get pulled into this story the way that I did, it was quite impossible to put down. Amy Mason Doan does such an incredible job of taking you into the past, into a musical world, and into the thoughts of a 17-year-old girl and a 37-year-old woman. Filled with nostalgia and evocative descriptions, Lady Sunshine is the summer read you didn't know you needed. I was completely captivated by Jackie and Willa, the two cousins whos lives couldn't be any more different, but who found a bond that summer as they grew into themselves, as they faced the truth of fame and family secrets. Even better, Jackie's voice grows with her and I loved seeing the summer of '79 from her adult perspective, I love how Doan wrote about the hold it had on her, how the magic of the 400 acres never faded.

If you love historical fiction about the more recent past, folk music, and books like Daisy Jones, Lady Sunshine is a must pick up. A beautiful, dual-timeline tale that takes place in sunny California during the huge folk wave of the seventies.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published June 1st 2021 by Ballantine Books

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 for him 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.

Add to Goodreads | Amazon

5 Stars

 I already want to read/listen to this again. It's just that good. 1980's California is a dream, but the Riva family's past isn't. With the party of the year happening that night, the Riva siblings grapple with the past and figuring out who they really are under their father's stardom and the fading memories of their mother. Taylor Jenkins Reid takes us into the past, into the love story of Mick Riva and innocent June. We meet the four Riva siblings as they are brought into the world and with each present day chapter we catch up on where they are and the decision they have to make as the party draws near. Everyone who is anyone comes to the party, but the Riva siblings have lost control of it as it grows like wildfire.

Let's be real, I read anything TJR writes, but I wasn't sure Malibu Rising would hit the same as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo did and I couldn't imagine celebrity characters without thinking of Daisy Jones and the Six. It's a more present history, but the story is just as impactful, the characters so well developed, and it remains just as relevant as the previous two novels did. TJR writes about history that captures the momentous moments (ha) that have created ripples and waves of change today. Malibu Rising may be about the Riva family, their secrets, their anguish, their bond, but it is also about the changing tides of the 1950's to the 1980's, about feminism and liberalism. These characters are divorced, have multiple partners, are raising children who aren't their own, and are female business owners.

Like other readers, I loved Nina's story arc the most, she's roughly my age and her desire to be respected for more than her body is so painful, but so true for most women. I also related to her role in the household, she grew up before she should have and in growing up she lost the ability to think for just her. Watching her discover that, with the rowdy party raging around her, is a really powerful few chapters. Then there's Kit, oh Kit, and Hud, and Jay, and the sibling love they have for one another even when none of it makes sense. Malibu Rising is somehow both complex and lighthearted. A beach read with a bit more to it. It's the sort of read I can return to, but also one that is influential in many ways. It more than lived up to the hype for me.

Monday, June 14, 2021

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop
by Casey McQuiston
Published June 1st 2021 by St. Martin's Griffin

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that will stop readers in their tracks...

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

Add to Goodreads | Amazon

5 Stars

Hi, my name is Carlene and I have a big, fat crush on Jane and I think, though I hesitate to say it, that I liked (loved) this book more than Red, White, and Royal Blue. Casey McQuiston saw the sophomore novel challenge and said, let me just show you what I can do. She delivered a perfect coming-of-age, time travel, queer romance novel that was absolutely impossible to put down. I mean, I literally woke up and picked up my phone to keep reading. This is just one of the books of 2021 that I will never stop recommending. It's perfect. Forgive me now for saying perfect so much.

"The hottest girl August has ever seen just took one look at her and said, 'Yikes.' That's it. Today is the day August will finally cry."

August and her band of merry friends are quintessential New Yorkers, from different places and perspectives with their bonds formed through the unique-to-New-York struggle to survive. The world building in this novel is perfection, taking us into modern day subway tunnels and the diners that never seem to change. Then there's Jane, the gorgeous punk girl who gives off 70's vibes, only she really is from the 70's and stuck in time. This would have usually turned me off from the read, but my word I could not put this book down if I tried. August's affections for Jane literally made me the cute watery eye emoji. Their journey to discover just what happened to Jane and what can be done to help is what turns August from a secondary character in her own life into the heroine.

"She kisses her like she's making a reputation."

With the novel's unofficial playlist on and my brain on pause from it's usual "I would never read this type of novel" turned off, I sat down to read One Last Stop and just did not stop. August is awkward, relatable, and totally stumped on answering the question "who are you and who do you want to be when you grow up?". She is just learning, trying to find her place, and New York seems like the place to do that, it's just big enough to get lost in. Except, her roommates become her chosen family and Jane, the Q train, and everyone at Billy's become essential parts of her world. She may not know her career path, but she knows the feeling of magic now. I just loved August, my word she was so relatable. She's a pessimist full of witty batter and I just could not stop highlighting her thoughts. My word can Casey McQuiston write a heroine. Plus, her bisexual, introverted, self-defined friendless, communication failure self is just...honest. She isn't this perfect character who has a perfect move and a perfect love story, but my word does that make this story...that's right, perfect. Jane is, on the other hand, not truly a full main character, but the story ebbs and flows around her, dependent upon her being on the train, on her finding her memories. She's this 70's punk feminist beauty and her desire to give is just gah.

I could probably go on forever, honestly. One Last Step is a longer novel, with a slow start, but the world building had to be there to make this novel work. August, Jane, Myla, Niko, Wes, Isiah, and the entire staff at Billy's are unforgettable. This is the sort of book that you can reread, the romance combined with the unique time travel storyline making it feel like a special sort of home. If you're looking for a romance read, specifically a witty, brilliant queer one, One Last Stop is the book to pick up.

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