Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous #psychologicalfiction Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid #literaryfiction #sagafiction

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Hello, and Happy Wednesday! I’m sharing two books today, but because the blurb for the second is especially long, I’m skipping blurbs and going straight to my reviews. These are both worthy pool/beach reads. Both also employ alternating timelines, a technique I never tire of reading. I’ve been fortunate to have hit so many engrossing stories lately. If you’re a fan of the board game “Clue,” I think you’ll find the first one especially interesting.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a twisty mystery that involves three different time periods, all of which converge for a spectacular finish. As a huge fan of the board game Clue, the present timeline immediately drew me.

Sadie is a bit actress looking for a break when she’s offered the chance to play “Miss Lamb” at an old mansion known as Raven Hall. Other guests also assume roles—Professor Owl, Colonel Otter, Miss Mouse, Lady Nightingale, and Mrs. Shrew. Each guest has been given individual cards about their characters’ actions and clothes in a single themed color. As Miss Lamb, Sadie dresses in white. Mrs. Shrew dresses in blue, etc. Sound familiar? I was in “Clue” heaven! The guests have been gathered to solve the murder of Lord Nightingale as a test-run for a new business that hosts murder mystery parties.

In the past, Beth, an orphan, is taken by her aunt to live at Raven Hall as a companion for Nina, the daughter of the owners. Both girls are fourteen. After some initial wariness, they form a close bond, going from friendship to the attachment of sisters.

The scenes in the past are every bit intriguing—if not more so—then those in the present. Beth is a likeable character, who just wants to feel part of a family. She constantly worries if she doesn’t do everything perfectly, she’ll be sent back to the orphanage.

But aside from Markus and Leonora (Nina’s parents) insisting Nina can never leave the property or go into town, Beth’s time at Raven Hall is filled with fun and the closeness she longs for—until she is talked into participating in a strange charade. One that will ultimately have far reaching consequences.

There is also a third timeline, not as in depth as the others. Told from the POV of young woman, it isn’t until the middle of the book that the reader discovers who is narrating those sections.

It may sound like there is a lot going on in this novel (and there is) but it isn’t difficult to follow. The chapters are fairly short, and the pacing is excellent. Mysteries build steadily in both the past and the present. I was impressed by the number of subtle clues the author plants that turn into timebombs at the end. The final chapters deliver staggering revelations, not one but several. Then when I thought there were no surprises left, and I could finally catch my breath, the author dropped a final twisty shock in the closing pages.

If you love a good mystery, this is one you don’t want to miss. A spectacular read and another candidate for my Favorites List this year!

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I have a weakness for stories that use parties as a central theme. Oodles of people thrown together, many faking a surface gloss while harboring resentments or grappling with hidden issues. Secrets pile up like kindling waiting for the match to result in a major conflagration. In this case the fire is real.

Nina Riva is holding a posh, highly anticipated house party in 1983. A model, and the daughter of legendary singer, Mick Riva, she and her three siblings attract attention merely by the association of their last name—despite the fact Mick hasn’t been part of their lives since they were small children.

Nina’s party, attended by actors, agents, models, sports pros, hanger-ons, wannabes, and Malibu’s elite begins on a summer night at 7PM. By 7AM the next morning, the house will be in flames. During the course of that twelve hours, secrets are spilled, relationships are made, others broken, lives altered—all during a night of luxury, drugs, excess, and revelations.

There are a lot of characters in this book but they’re surprisingly easy to keep track of—perhaps because of the author’s use of third person POV. Head hopping happens frequently, but is rarely distracting. That might be because the scenes are handled so skillfully or because the characters are fully fleshed out and unique. In addition to Nina, there is Jay, her brother and a champion surfer, Hud, another brother and professional photographer, and Kit, the youngest sister who is struggling to find her footing in life.

Chapters in the first half alternate between past and present with a look at Mick Riva, his rise from struggling singer to fame, and his relationship with June, the mother of Nina and her siblings.

This is a story of family dynamics. Of how people who love each other pull together, sacrifice for one another, and also sometimes hurt each other. How some obstacles can be overcome, and others are not so easily set aside. I found it intriguing from start to finish, the use of short chapters and the past/present story line well utilized to keep the plot moving forward. There are characters to admire, others to feel sorry for and still others to loathe. When it was all said and done, I thought the ending was perfect.

71 thoughts on “Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous #psychologicalfiction Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid #literaryfiction #sagafiction

    • Hi, Sharlene. I’ve been really fortunate with hitting on some great reads lately. The Perfect Guests was fantastic. If you like psychological suspense, it’s an awesome read—especially with the Clue-like theme tossed in. Thanks for visiting!

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    • HI, Miriam. You have a good memory! The Garden Party was also about a party with a lot of characters. In that case many didn’t feel developed, but those in Malibu Rising are each fleshed out. And if you like Clue, The Perfect Guests is definitely an intriguing read. Thanks for visiting today!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was so funny, Mae. The last time I played Clue (in May) with my daughter and her hubby, we all guessed the mystery cards correctly. We’ve developed a good strategy, I think. The three of us are very competitive.

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    • Hi, Jill. I positively love Clue. I was an addict about it when I was younger, and still enjoy playing it today. I was thrilled to find that theme woven into The Perfect Guests. It made for such an engaging plot!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Clue was one of my favorite games as a child. The Perfect Guests sounds excellent. I admit, I was nervous with the mention of the multiple timelines and a lot going on. I love when authors can pull that off with an easy to follow book. Excellent reviews, Mae. I’ll keep both of these in mind. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Mischenko. I loved playing Clue as a kid and still enjoy it today. It’s such a fun game. I also have a passion for books with multiple time lines (both as a reader and writer), so I happily dove into both of these. The multiple time lines are handled well in both novels. In The Perfect Guests the third time line (which is rather sparse compared to the other two) had me uncertain who the narrator was until the middle of the book, but then it all fell into place.

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  2. I’m kind of Clue-obsessed, so that first book sounds perfect for me. Both sound like winners, though. I’m glad you’re finding so many good reads this year. You’re on a roll. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s interesting how many of love Clue, Gwen. The great thing about that game is it never gets old no matter how old we may get, LOL.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the reviews!

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  3. Oooo…both of these look wonderful. I love a good Clue-type of mystery and I have had my eye on Malibu Rising for awhile now – how could I not with that cover, right? Great to know what’s under that eye-catching cover is superb! Great reviews, Mae ❤️

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    • I think you’d enjoy both of these, Tessa. The first is a wonderful mystery, and the second is a thoroughly engrossing family saga. I didn’t read Daisy Jones and the Six but had my eye on it. After reading Malibu Rising, I think that one will likely end up on my TBR, too!

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  4. You’ve sold me, Mae. “Secrets pile up like kindling waiting for the match to result in a major conflagration.”–what a line. I like summer sort of reading, that’s quick, not ‘important’ literature, and fun. Thanks for sharing.

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    • I’m so glad you’re intrigued, Jacqui. These are both definitely beach type reads. The pace of Malibu Rising is excellent, with quick short chapters and so many people carting around emotional baggage that eventually has to explode. I enjoyed the book so much, I will probably pick up Daisy Jones and the Six, one of her other novels have had on my reading radar.

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  5. You know how much I love the game Clue and the spoof movie they made of it. That’s why I did the anthology loosely based on it:) And your story was a perfect fit. This mystery sounds wonderful. You sold me on it, so now it’s on my Kindle in my growing TBR list.

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    • Woohoo! I thought of the anthology while I was reading The Perfect Guests, Judi. I had so much fun writing my story and being part of Murder They Wrote with it’s hidden Clue-like theme. I can’t wait to hear what you think of this book. Happy reading!

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  6. The Perfect Guest sounds wonderfully original and extra intriguing for fans of Clue. Your review is a great hook, Mae. I like multiple timelines and the third one with the unknown woman has my interest piqued. The cover did nothing for me, but your review was a clincher. Thanks for the review of Malibu Rising too. 🙂

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    • Yet another fan of Clue. Yay! I loved that element of The Perfect Guests, Denise. I’m such a fan of that game. And I have been really fortunate with having so many 5-star reads lately. Fingers crossed the pattern keeps up!

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    • LOL! I’ve really been lucky, Balroop. I picked The Perfect Guests up in my local bookstore while browsing the psychological fiction section, and Malibu Rising is one that has been showing up on several of my email reading lists lately–plus it was featured in Book Page, a free magazine my local library and bookstore have available every month.

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    • I would love to hear those stories, Michele. I know that Staci is a huge Clue fan, too. We all have that in common. I can’t get enough of that game! 🙂

      So glad both reviews intrigued you. I really enjoyed spending time with these stories.

      Liked by 1 person

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