Recently Read Books | Hollywood, romances, and ghosts

Before we get to the end of this month, here are some mini reviews of four books that I’ve read recently! Three of these I read as ARCs, though two of those three have now been released as of May 26th.

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Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Content warnings: sexual harassment

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When former child actress and now big-name showrunner Jo Jones is photographed making her assistant, Emma, laugh on the red carpet, rumors spread that the two are a couple. They try to ignore the gossip, only to realize as they grow closer that it might not be as inaccurate as they thought.

I’ve realized, between this, Everything Leads to You, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, that sapphic Hollywood stories are very much in my wheelhouse. This hit all the tropes that I love: characters struggling with fame, slowburn romance, fun banter, sibling relationships. I love it all!

There was also a storyline about sexual harassment in Hollywood which felt very timely. I liked how it was dealt with; not everything is as simple as reporting a predator and watching the problem go away. Even though I’m sure in real life it’s even more complex, I think this book did a good job of showing that the issue isn’t always black and white.

As a debut book, there were some issues of pacing that pulled me out of the story at times, and a little too much of the plot relied on miscommunication for my preference, but otherwise this was a well-written, sweet romance that I thoroughly enjoyed.

*ARC PROVIDED BY EDELWEISS IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. QUOTES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.*

4

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Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

“In the end, the courage of women can’t be stamped out. And stories – the big ones, the true ones – can be caught but never killed.”

Content warnings: rape & sexual assault, abuse, gaslighting

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This nonfiction true crime book follows journalist Ronan Farrow’s investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein — as well as countless other powerful men — and the many forces attempting to cover up the truth. I listened to the audiobook, which I highly recommend, as it’s read by the author.

I still haven’t figured out how to review nonfiction. I enjoyed this because it was really well written and researched and I learned a lot?? But it’s also hard to say that I enjoyed it because it’s such a horrifying topic??

Not going to lie — this is a hard read. There were several times that I had to stop listening and switch over to something lighter because I couldn’t take any more. Still, it’s an incredibly important topic, and I would rather be upset learning about it than live in blissful ignorance.

Even though I spent a lot of this book confused by all the various names and players in this story (my fault, not the author’s), I still got a lot out of this. It’s awful to read about the systemic silencing of women and victims that exists at the highest levels of government and media, but at the same time the fact that there are people brave enough to speak out and report the real news is inspiring. This is certainly a case of “the truth is stranger than fiction,” because you would not believe some of the things that are uncovered in this book. But if you decide to read/listen to this, be sure to take care of yourself!

4

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Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 2020

“Growth isn’t a deviation from what we’ve done before, but a natural progression to honor all those who make this community strong.”

Content warnings: transphobia, misgendering

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Determined to prove himself as a brujo to his family, Yadriel attempts a ritual and accidentally summons the ghost of a boy named Julian who he goes to school with. The two reluctantly team up to figure out how Julian died, among other strange happenings.

We are HERE for ownvoices Latinx trans stories! I think that was my favorite aspect of this book, since it was clear how close to the author’s heart that storyline was. Yadriel’s resolve to show his traditionalist family that he is a true brujo is, in my opinion, the biggest emotional core of the story and what kept me the most invested.

This book also made me hungry! All the descriptions of food — as well as the various other preparations for Dia de Muertos — were lush and beautiful, and gave me a strong sense of the richness of the various cultures that Yadriel’s family is a part of.

My main problems with the book are in the writing and the pacing, because in many places it came off feeling like a debut. Which it is, but still. For some reason, we had to see every single moment of Yadriel’s day — there was no skipping ahead over unnecessary bits like going to school or having mundane conversations. It slowed the story down and made the pacing feel uneven. Still, I have high hopes for this author and will definitely be checking out whatever they write next.

*ARC PROVIDED BY EDELWEISS IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. QUOTES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.*

3.5

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Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev (The Rajes #2)

“What an abhorrent thing to tell someone — that your love isn’t where your interest lie, or that your parents know what’s best for you better than you do.”

Content warnings: rape, mentions of suicide, parental neglect, panic attacks

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Based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion and sequel to Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, this book follows a chef named Ashna Raje who reluctantly joins a celebrity cooking show to save her struggling restaurant. To her surprise, she’s partnered with Rico Silva, a famous soccer player whose heart she broke when they were teenagers.

You may recall that I wrote a Persuasion retelling last year for NaNoWriMo, so it was cool to see another author’s take on the same story. (Weird how we both decided to make the Wentworth character a soccer player???) Even though the story went in some different directions from the original, I’m happy that Persuasion is getting its due appreciation and I enjoyed what the author did with it.

What I loved most was Ashna’s character. She might be somewhat different to the Anne Elliot of the original story, but she’s actually one of my new favorite romance protagonists because she was incredibly well rounded and realistic. This book is definitely on the darker side for a romance novel, but it feels appropriate given the story that’s being told. As with the first book in this series, Sonali Dev takes the hard-hitting topics seriously and does them justice.

At the same time, it felt like there was a little too much focus on the subplot with Ashna’s mom; while it was important to Ashna’s character growth, I felt that it could have been significantly cut down and still have the same impact. And though the writing is sometimes so poignant that I have to take a moment and fully appreciate it, there are also moments that felt clunky or awkwardly phrased. But I definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a great Jane Austen retelling or a more hard-hitting romance!

*ARC PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER. QUOTES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.*

4

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Have you read any of these books, or plan to? What have you read recently?

x Margaret

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12 thoughts on “Recently Read Books | Hollywood, romances, and ghosts

  1. I read Catch and Kill recently and although it was hard to read at times I now just want to give it to everyone to read as I also felt it was so important and like it was pulling the curtain back on so much that’s been overlooked. Have you listened to the podcast that goes along side it? I thought it was a great addition. I hadn’t heard of Something to Talk About but I’m also really enjoying that kind of era in books at the moment so I’ll check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Catch and Kill caught my eye. I want to read it but I’m also nervous about what I’m going to find inside… still, I really think I need to read it. Thanks for the reviews, I might not have found it otherwise! Sending good vibes your way Margaret! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed Catch and Kill – though, yes, that’s definitely not the right word – because it was such a valuable experience. I feel you on reviewing nonfiction! It’s so hard, because what am I supposed to talk about if I can’t discuss the characters or the plot? 😭 All I can say is that “yep, worth reading, so well-researched and presented” and then move on. I own and can’t wait to read Something To Talk About, so I’m happy to see that you enjoyed it!! Great reviews! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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