Specifically, I suppose, thees are three of my most anticipated releases of June that also all happened to release on June 1st. So this post is late even though I had actually finished each book by June 1st. But sometimes life gets in the way. So, my apologies, but let’s talk about Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston, and Neon Gods by Katee Robert! I really enjoyed all three of these and I’m delighted to be able to tell you about these three books today. Shout out to Netgalley for the early access to all three books as well as the respective publishers, Ballantine, St. Martin’s Griffin, and Sourcebooks!
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
It is no secret that I love Taylor Jenkins Reid and I have been so excited about Malibu Rising since it was announced! There are a couple of tiny Easter Eggs if you’re as big of a fan of Daisy Jones or Evelyn Hugoas I am that will give you tiny bits of joy. Example: “When, in 1979, Warren Rhodes and Lisa Crowne got naked in the pool.” But ultimately, this book really does stand very much on its own. For me, I enjoyed it more than Evelyn Hugo, but not as much Daisy Jones. Anyway, let’s talk about what this book actually is.
Malibu Rising follows four siblings and tells the story of the relationship between Mick Riva and June Riva, the parents of the four siblings. As usual, TJR is brilliant at making characters feel real. I love Nina, so much. Like… SO MUCH. She is the oldest sibling and had to take on entirely too much responsibility from a fairly young age. She also is an intense people pleaser. “It made Hud sad. The way Nina lost herself in always putting others first.” The sibling relationships are top notch and so complex in ways I really loved. Jay is the next oldest and he’s so interesting. He’s a professional surfer and has this interesting personality where he’s sort of rakish, I guess? I don’t know how to explain him without spoiling things and I do not want to do that. Then there’s Hud, who is technically a half-sibling and honestly, one of the best things in this book is the relationship between Hud and Jay. Hud is a little more introspective than Jay and I both liked him and wanted to scream at him. And then there’s Kit, the youngest, and I really wish she got more page time. I really liked her. I just wanted a little more from her.
I think, honestly, that is my one complaint about this book is that because there’s so much packed in so tightly, there were things I wanted to see, fall out I wanted to watch the characters experience, that you don’t really get to see. But if you’re here for the way TJR does character work and the complexity of relationships, this book is honestly perfect for that. I don’t actually have the words to describe the book, but I will say that if you’ve historically liked TJR, I see no reason why you wouldn’t like this one!
CWs (please note some of these could be considered spoilers): alcoholism, drug use, medical concerns related to the heart, pregnancy, infidelity, alcohol use, fire, absent parents, death of parent
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
I really love time slip romances, but this one has to be one of the most unique takes on a time slip I’ve ever seen. I’m not even 100% it fits the definition of a time slip, but somebody in the book calls it that so I’m rolling with it. I don’t really know where to start in reviewing this book, but let’s start with what many people are likely asking: Did this book live up to Red, White, & Royal Blue?
My answer to that question is that in a lot of ways One Last Stop is incredibly different from McQuiston’s brilliant debut, but in some of the core things, the books are similar. If you loved the community and the inclusion that McQuiston seemed to effortlessly weave into RWRB, that is absolutely still at play here. In fact, in my opinion, the community present in One Last Stop is even better than in RWRB. There’s a core group of roommates, of which our main character, August, is one, who become such good friends but in very unique to one another ways. And with August starting off so isolated, it was just really, really lovely to see. Then there’s the extended community, which includes Isaiah/Annie (the accountant by day and occasional star drag queen by night) who lives across the hall and the people August works with at Billy’s.
There is also still a through line in both of McQuiston’s works of Gen Z/millennial humor, although, in general I do think RWRB is funnier.
I think in some ways Alex and August aren’t so different from one another too, but at the same time, August is very unique and entirely herself. And, in fact, the stories are so widely disparate, but if the question boils down to if I liked one will I like the other, I think the answer is yes.
What makes August different and special to me is that she is deeply lonely and isolated, but she isn’t hard. She likes to think that she is harder than she actually is, I think. I loved her bisexual panic and the way she really wound up leaning on her friends as she tried to work out her relationship with Jane. I liked seeing her MAKE friends because when she starts out in NYC, she really doesn’t have anyone besides her mother who is not so good at being a mom. I loved watching her convince herself over and over again that Jane wasn’t interested even though it was so obvious that OF COURSE Jane was interested. I loved seeing August make the choices she does throughout the book because you can really see her growth as a character. I loved that she obsessively wrote things into notebooks.
But probably the real star of the show is Jane, for all that she doesn’t come with her own POV. Jane is trapped on the Q Line from the 1970s and her life, as she tells it to August, is so fascinating. I loved learning more about her, but honestly, would have LOVED to just have a whole book of Jane. Just Jane. She’s so cool.
All this, though, to say that I would definitely recommend this book to virtually anyone, but especially if you already know you liked McQuiston’s writing style.
Neon Gods by Katee Robert
As a person who read Lothaire on the middle seat of a plane, I thought I was pretty immune to embarrassment of reading a sexy book in a public space like that, but WOW, did Neon Gods test that theory. If you’ve been looking for a sexy af Hades x Persephone retelling, look no further than Neon Gods.
Persephone thinks Hades is a myth at the beginning of this book, which makes it sort of shocking when she runs away from Zeus’s goons and runs right into Hades’ arms. Hades’ arms that keep picking her up and throwing her over his shoulder because she isn’t taking care of herself. It turns out this book worked for me on basically every level as far as the romance is concerned, but here’s some things for you to keep in mind about it:
– Hades is a dominant
– Persephone is a bit of a brat
– The two of them are fire together
– Hades is honestly such a cinnamon roll despite his reputation
– There IS public sex for reasons, but oh my God, the ROMANCE in this one section. I died.
The thing that didn’t work for me is the world building. Y’all. I am still SO confused. And like, honestly, I don’t care if I don’t really understand how a world works because I figure I’ll eventually figure it out. Only… I read this entire book and still do not understand the 13 or whatever. I don’t get Olympus. I don’t get how this is a contemporary but there’s some sort of wall thing between Olympus and the Lower City. Honestly, just baffled all around regarding world building. But if you, like me, are mostly good at putting that to the side if the romance is good enough, I think this book is definitely worth a shot! You must be okay with explicit content though. That is definitely a must.
Oh! Also, bonus fact, there are puppies!!
Have you read any of these books yet? If so, what did you think? Otherwise, are you going to pick any of these up? Let me know!