Sunday, April 17, 2022

Birds of California by Katie Cotugno

Synopsis (via Goodreads):  Sparks fly and things get real in this sharply sexy and whip-smart romantic comedy set against the backdrop of a post #metoo Hollywood from New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno--page-turning escapist fun in the spirit of Beach Read, The Kiss Quotient, and Red, White and Royal Blue.

Former child actor Fiona St. James dropped out of the spotlight after a spectacularly public crash and burn. The tabloids called her crazy and self-destructive and said she'd lost her mind. Now in her late twenties, Fiona believes her humiliating past is firmly behind her. She's finally regained a modicum of privacy, and she won't let anything--or anyone--mess it up.

Unlike Fiona, Sam Fox, who played her older brother on the popular television show Birds of California, loves the perks that come with being a successful Hollywood actor: fame, women, parties, money. When his current show gets cancelled and his agent starts to avoid his calls, the desperate actor enthusiastically signs on for a Birds of California revival. But to make it happen, he needs Fiona St. James.

Against her better judgment, Fiona agrees to have lunch with Sam. What happens next takes them both by surprise. Sam is enthralled by Fiona's take-no-prisoners attitude, and Fiona discovers a lovable goofball behind Sam's close-up-ready face. Long drives to the beach, late nights at dive bars . . . theirs is the kind of kitschy romance Hollywood sells. But just like in the rom-coms Fiona despises, there's a twist that threatens her new love. Sam doesn't know the full story behind her breakdown. What happens when she reveals the truth?

I was so excited when I received an early copy of Katie Cotugno's Birds of California in the mail. Unfortunately, it ended up being a huge waste of my time. The story, the characters, the conflict . . . it all grated on my nerves. I kept reading (although I should know better by now) hoping it would get better, but the conclusion was just as disappointing. There was zero resolution. Nothing was really addressed or discussed, no epilogue to let us know how events unfolded, just flipping from one page to the next and discovering there wasn't anything left to read. From the synopsis we get a clue as to how the story will unfold, so it was obvious from the start what had happened in Fiona's past, if not the specific details. 

"...set against the backdrop of a post #metoo Hollywood..."

Additionally, the synopsis was VERY misleading. Birds of California was in no way like Beach Read, The Kiss Quotient, or Red, While and Royal Blue (all books I loved). Those were terrible comparisons for this story. It's also NOT a romantic comedy. 

I know this was a review copy, but there were a ridiculous number of spelling and grammar errors in this book. I started marking them as I went along, but decided to give up after about twenty or so sticky notes.

"Would you mind you trying it again?"
"...can almost feel he squish of it underneath..."

Also, Sam masturbates all the time. Bored? Jerks off. Hungry? Jerks off twice and then eats some baby carrots. He watches porn and acts like a total dude, but it was still weird that the author felt the need to mention how often he decided to get himself off throughout the book. He also mentions his mouth "tasting" like jockstraps after he's been drinking (pretty sure he made this reference more than once), and I just want to know how he knew what that would taste like . . . Personal experience? 

Don't even get me started on the sex. It was weird and not at all relatable. I almost wish the author had chosen to fade-to-black instead of making me read through the nonsense that was their "romance" in this book. They were talking and sort of insulting each other as foreplay, and then suddenly it was "happening for him." Seriously, her whispering something about lying in his ear shouldn't have made him blow his load like that. Especially with how frequently he gets himself off . . . 

Sam Fox was a coward. He let his agent walk all over him and claimed it was due to inexperience and a lack of understanding, but that was a cop out. He just didn't want to put forth the effort required to learn and do something about it. He also sought Fiona out for purely selfish reasons, was embarrassed by her outbursts, and didn't even ask her what her nightmare was about. Sam only cared about himself and what he could gain (or lose) from a situation. He was a garbage person that didn't deserve what little time she gave him. He was a terrible friend, an awful brother, and an even worse son. He's broke, can't pay his rent, but cares A LOT about how the public perceives him. Immature, shallow, obnoxious - the list goes on. He definitely wasn't a heartthrob or anything to swoon over.

When I turned the last page, my first thought was: "What the fuck was that?" I couldn't understand how it had ended without actually ending. Other problems I had . . . 

1) Why did Fiona's dad suddenly decide to be present? What triggered his need to be involved again after checking out for nearly a decade? It wasn't believable, nor was it explained.

2) Does Sam eventually dump Russ and get an agent that actually gives a shit? Why was his agent being cagey and condescending to begin with??

3) How did Estelle get Sam's number? 

4) It's worth mentioning again that the sex was weird and not romantic AT ALL. 

5) Knew where the story was going even though we got a lackluster explanation from Fiona when she FINALLY decided to talk to Sam about it. 

6) WHAT HAPPENED WITH JAMIE? Were there repercussions? 

7) What were Fiona's nightmares about? Why did she like True Crime so much? Why was it helpful??

8) It feels like we learn absolutely nothing about Sam and Fiona. What makes them tick? I wanted more background information to explain why they were the way they were. We're basically forced to accept them as is, and they were both horrible. 

I really, really wanted to like this one, but it was bad. I wish I could get those hours back . . .  (★★⋆☆☆)

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless