I’m starting to get behind so I’m going with the group review format. I didn’t know how to do this until now so I’m hoping this saves my season when my laziness/procrastination (fine, its mostly because of Elden Ring) prevents me from getting my reviews written. These are three books that are very different in genre, but all quite good and recommended.
Malibu catches fire.
It is simply what Malibu does from time to time. Tornadoes take the flatlands of the Midwest. Floods rise in the American South. Hurricanes rage against the Gulf of Mexico.
And California burns. – First lines from Malibu Rising
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid was the most surprising of the bunch. I loved Daisy Jones & the Six so I was looking forward to Malibu Rising. But I was turned off by the description when I read about the famous Riva family of surfers and their trials and tribulations in 1983 Malibu. It sounded like a trashy family drama about rich assholes and I have to admit I was very wrong. Reid takes a well worn story and makes it vibrant and compelling through her well-drawn characters. Malibu Rising IS about a family of famous models and surfers, but that is not who the Rivas are. What Reid seems to be saying here is what you build up in your mind as reality about someone is only your impression, it’s not real. It may never be real.
As the book unfolds over the course of twenty-four hours we are taken into their lives and their secrets, seeing the face they present to the world and the one they present to each other. The book unfolds slowly through flashbacks to fill in the history of the characters which keeps the reader constantly re-evaluating who they think these people are. Malibu Rising gets darker and more complex as it goes on, with lines of dialogue that draw blood as easily as a knife. The first page tells us this day will end in an inferno and as the story keeps building the big question is would a fire be a good thing or a bad thing to happen to the Riva family? 5/5
Haunted. Neverland is haunted. The lagoon is full of skeletons in a place where nothing is supposed to die, and her daughter is out there somewhere. – From Wendy, Darling.
Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise is a sequel and reimagining of Peter Pan that examines what an endless childhood looks like from an adult perspective. It has been 27 years since Wendy, Michael, and John Darling returned from Neverland. Their parents died soon after onboard the Titanic, and Wendy refused to let go of Neverland to the consternation of her brothers. Michael fought in WW I and returned injured. John commits Wendy to an institution where she spends several years learning to hide her knowledge of Neverland, but never forgets it. She marries, has a daughter – Jane – and one night Peter Pan arrives at Jane’s window and takes her to Neverland. Having no choice, Wendy goes after her and arrives in a Neverland that has changed. Captain Hook is gone, the mermaids are dead, and the endless games of Peter are taking on darker tones. Wendy has to remember what she has forgotten about Neverland to have any hope of saving her daughter.
If you have a fondness for the story of Peter Pan I don’t recommend this one. I never particularly liked it so I enjoyed this much darker re-contextualizing of the story. In Wendy, Darling Peter is the villain. A monster in the shape of a boy who is so terrified of growing up that he refuses to accept it and bullies the Lost Boys, and Jane, because he can. He’s not sympathetic in the least and the book doesn’t try to humanize him, because he is not human we come to find out. There is more than a little political allegory here as well as feminism and the importance of growing up and not letting monsters win because then they “get a taste for it and cannot tolerate losing.” (Huh, who does that sound like?).
The question of what is Neverland, where all those lost boys came from, and the horror of never growing up, is front and center. On Wendy’s first visit to Neverland, Peter told her his greatest secret, then stole it from her mind when she recoiled in horror. Most of the book has Wendy trying to remember the secret, knowing it’s the key to stopping Peter once and for all. The book also focuses on Jane and her approach to becoming the new “mother” of Peter and the Lost Boys. She is much less tolerant than her mother and puts in motion various plans to escape as Peter’s games become more sadistic. The sequel to Wendy, Darling is coming Summer of 2022 called Hooked. It will (naturally) focus on where Hook went and how his path crosses Wendy’s after the events of Wendy, Darling. I’m looking forward to it greatly. 4/5
Moran’s first impression of Nolen Tyner: He looked like a high risk, the kind of guy who falls asleep smoking in bed. No luggage except for a six-pack of beer on the counter and the Miami Herald folded under his arm. – First lines from Cat Chaser
Cat Chaser by Elmore Leonard is pure Leonard goodness. If you have not read his novels before they are a pleasure. Justified was such a good show because not only did it have the characters to pull from, it embraced the Elmore Leonard style. The good guys and the bad guys all freely mix, they even like and respect each other in some cases. That is until the guns come out and someone stands in the way of a score and has to be put down. Cat Chaser finds George Moran, Florida motel owner, getting wrapped up in a scheme to rob a deposed Dominican ex-general. How and why is too complicated to go into, but George is having an affair with the ex-general’s wife, Mary, so he has a vested interest in trying to keep her safe. Moran is forced to mingle with criminals of varying professionalism and expertise while trying to keep a few steps ahead of them all. Mary is just trying to get out of her marriage but once she catches wind of the plot is torn between any vestige of loyalty to her husband and to her lover, Moran. This is a very fun caper and highly recommended. 4/5