Review: California Summer by Anita Hughes

I love a good starting-over story. In California Summer, Rosie doesn’t have much of a choice. Her Hollywood life fell apart and she ended up in Montecito – uncertain of her future. But, a mother figure/ butler friend/ bff/ neighborhood guy later, and Rosie’s on her way back up. Question is, does she want to go back to the fast lane, or does she want to settle in to Montecito life with the ones she loves?

I loved every fish taco, every Estelle dinner party, and every rose garden chat. Anita Hughes rocked the luxuriousness, as usual, and threw in some pop stars and surfers for good measure. The plot twist was perfect – completely believable and not overdone – and endeared me to Rosie’s boyfriend even more.

The only shortcomings of this novel were that Rosie had two very annoying habits: 1- wearing the same red, full length cocktail dress randomly and to every gathering under the sun, whether it was appropriate or not, and 2- Rosie ran and hid like a toddler from any uncomfortable situation. I just wanted her to get a new dress and grow a set!

Apart from those two things, I liked all the characters, even spoiled Angelica and Hollywood agent Ryan. Hughes did a great job rounding out character development and writing someone for every reader to identify with. My favorite parts were meeting Esmerelda through Rosie’s eyes, and watching Rosie finally grow up.



Review: In Search of Us by Ava Dellaira

Within the first few pages of this book, I knew it was going to be a keeper. And then a bit deeper in, I knew that it was going to break my heart.

The story opens with Angie at age 17. She’s thinking of her dad. All she has to hold on to are a few old pictures. No memories because he died before she was born. Or at least that’s what she’s been told by her mom, Marilyn. So Angie is off to find out the truth, whatever that may be.

Marilyn, 18 years earlier…also age 17. She and HER mom are at a crossroads of sorts. Marilyn’s going to be the next big thing in Hollywood, according to her mom. So what if they have to struggle for a bit? And at the moment, that struggle includes moving in with not-so-dear Uncle Woody. The only thing that saves Marilyn is their new neighbor, James. Neither of them is looking for a serious relationship, but what they want doesn’t really matter.

These two perspectives are fleshed out over the remainder of the story until they finally converge at the very end in a dramatic conclusion that you maybe saw coming but not exactly. Both are lost souls searching for something. Both find what they’re looking for in very different yet similar ways.

Ava Dellaira writes one heck of a story. She makes you care about the characters, and her words stay in your soul long after you turn the last pages of the book. Another outstanding tale!


Buy It Now: In Search Of

Review: The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst

Unsophisticated journalist Thomas gets nudged into the world of Hollywood by a well-meaning acquaintance. When Thomas catches a glance at the sheltered, Bel-Air-raised Matilda, he’s compelled to get to know her… and then to take things further. He doesn’t realize that two different worlds colliding can cause something more dangerous than just a spark.  

This novel is definitely quirky! From Thomas’ newsroom friends to his social awkwardness at Hollywood parties, from Matilda’s refined upbringing to her life full of secrets,  from film producers’ power to the corrupt indebtedness in the industry, The Gilded Life offers the reader a panorama of the lifestyles of wealthy LA elite. 

The quieter yet more powerful backbone of The Gilded Life is an illustration of how our environment shapes us. We see how being overprotective only protects someone as long as we control their environment. The moment they step into real life, our overprotectiveness proves to be the real danger — they have no instincts, no judgement skills, no confidence of their own.  Thomas doesn’t get it until it’s too late. And Matilda doesn’t get it until reality has changed her irreversibly. 

This was a fun, unique read that was part literary fiction, part adventure, and part romance. Four solid stars!



Review: Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

20140728-154355-56635463.jpg There’s nothing quite like having a sister to help you through life. In Lucky Us, the expectation is that Iris will take care of her little sister Eva after their loved ones abandon them. But it is Eva who holds together the relationship, with dim hope and quiet strength. The sisters embark on an adventure like no other, opening their eyes and their lives to worldliness and shallow sophistication. They try – but fail – to piece together a family. They try again. And again.

Lucky Us is about losing a family and finding a family. It’s about the damage that a mother and father can do and undo. It’s about making a life out of nothing but the kindness of strangers, and then recognizing that kindness as the only love you’ll ever know.

This book is historical fiction, set during the 1940s, referencing the war and its horrors, and illustrating the stunning commonalities among Jews, Germans, and Japanese. I don’t even like historical fiction, but I was taken in by the human facet of the decade. It read so much like contemporary fiction that I forgot what decade I was in. The crafting of this book is exceptional, the format perfect for the story, and the writing is tight, with every substantial paragraph meaning more than you think.

Lucky Us is hopeful. Eva shows how a young woman can endure much – maybe not with joy but with grace – and find acceptance for the life she has.

I found Eva so impressive, gracious, and strong. The grand finale in Eva’s life is the return of two loved ones. Adding them to the one who never left is Eva’s happily-ever-after finally coming to fruition. Lucky, indeed.


Note: Amy Bloom will give a free talk about LUCKY US on Friday, August 1, at 7p.m. at RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut.


Review: You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age

18114061A little change in direction from my “normal”, for lack of a better word, reading habits occurred over the last week. I know, the shock! However, once in a while is quite refreshing.
I was browsing NetGalley (that site is more addicting than social media!) and I came across a memoir of sorts from Hollywood actor Robert Wagner. Now, I can’t really say that I’m a particular fan of Wagner – there’s nothing wrong with him, but he’s just never really been on my radar. However, his memoir promised to be filled with fascinating anecdotes, scandalous secrets, a comprehensive history of the old Hollywood system and an “opportunity for readers to live vicariously through one of its most beloved leading men”.
I’m happy to say that this book did live up to its promises. It provides a really interesting history of Los Angeles, Hollywood, and the surrounding areas. Although it gets tedious on occasion, the historical aspect to this memoir does help to create context and insight into the lives and attitudes of the early actors and studio heads. To read about the slow, but steady, building of the Los Angeles area and its early players, taught me quite a bit.
Wagner doesn’t just give us a history lesson though; Famous actors including Cary Grant, Norma Shearer (arguably the biggest diva and brat of the 20’s and 30’s), are profiled through several stories and fun tidbits. Hearing about how certain actors would buy up whole floors of hotels for their extramarital affairs, was quite entertaining! We get to hear the parties (and they would give today’s parties a run for their money) he went to, personal stories from his friendships with certain stars, and a lot of stories that were told to him.
This is a tell-all memoir, but one with history, and a little class. Wagner never sensationalizes, but gives you enough juicy gossip to keep reading. If you’re looking for something light and different, or have an interest in classic Hollywood, then I really recommend that you give this one a try.
*ARC provided by NetGally in exchange for an honest review*
You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age

Until next time.