REVIEW: THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL, BY ABBI WAXMAN

 

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

My Thoughts: Nina Hill is one of the quirkiest and most adorable characters I have met in a while. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill opens with some bookstore scenes, and we are soon thoroughly immersed in her daily life. From the books she loves and her precise schedule of daily plans, we learn how her single life comforts her, even though she occasionally thinks about dating and/or being in a relationship.

What she hadn’t counted on, though, was discovering the existence of her unknown father and the numerous siblings, aunts, brothers, nieces, and nephews. How could someone like Nina adapt to this new normal?

Watching her do just that kept me thoroughly absorbed throughout, and by the end, with all the unexpected detours her life has taken, we are happily a part of her world, too. And just when Nina has reconciled herself to her bookish and somewhat loner existence, she discovers spontaneity and love for her life. 5 stars.

***
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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is an ARC that will be released on August 13:  Things You Save in a Fire, by Katherine Center.

***

Book Beginnings:  The night I became the youngest person—and the only female ever—to win the Austin Fire Department’s Valor Award, I got propositioned by my partner.

Propositioned.

At the ceremony.  In the ballroom.  During dinner.

***

Friday 56:  But I bore it anyway.  That’s what we do, isn’t it?  That’s the thing I always love best about the human race:  how we pick ourselves back up over and over and just keep on going.

***

Synopsis: Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s a total pro at other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew—even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the infatuation-inspiring rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because love is girly, and it’s not her thing. And don’t forget the advice her old captain gave her: Never date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…and it means risking it all—the only job she’s ever loved, and the hero she’s worked like hell to become.

***

I love this author’s books, so I’m eager to wrap myself up in this one.  What do you think?

***

REVIEW: WE ARE ALL GOOD PEOPLE HERE, BY SUSAN REBECCA WHITE

 

Eve Whalen, privileged child of an old-money Atlanta family, meets Daniella Gold in the fall of 1962, on their first day at Belmont College. Paired as roommates, the two become fast friends. Daniella, raised in Georgetown by a Jewish father and a Methodist mother, has always felt caught between two worlds. But at Belmont, her bond with Eve allows her to finally experience a sense of belonging. That is, until the girls’ expanding awareness of the South’s systematic injustice forces them to question everything they thought they knew about the world and their places in it.

Eve veers toward radicalism—a choice pragmatic Daniella cannot fathom. After a tragedy, Eve returns to Daniella for help in beginning anew, hoping to shed her past. But the past isn’t so easily buried, as Daniella and Eve discover when their daughters are endangered by secrets meant to stay hidden.

Spanning more than thirty years of American history, from the twilight of Kennedy’s Camelot to the beginning of Bill Clinton’s presidency, We Are All Good People Here is “a captivating…meaningful, resonant story” (Emily Giffin, author of All We Ever Wanted) about two flawed but well-meaning women clinging to a lifelong friendship that is tested by the rushing waters of history and their own good intentions.

 

 

My Thoughts: We Are All Good People Here begins in a college setting in the early 1960s. Two girls from very different families meet there; join in the activities, including sorority rushes; and gradually form the values that will carry them forward in their lives. The changes in their lives come from what is happening in the world around them.

Daniella was the steadier of the two, in my opinion, while Eve flipped from her entitled upbringing to the radical causes she would follow for years, long after the college days had ended.

Civil rights, Vietnam war protesting, and sometimes outrageous behavior would characterize Eve’s life, although Daniella did take time to help the voter registration cause in Mississippi one summer.

Our tale spans decades, taking us along to their adult relationships and experiences, including the rearing of their daughters. Seeing how the mothers’ values impacted their daughters was interesting to me.

Touching on historical moments for the country revealed what these characters were experiencing over the years. An intriguing journey that earned 4.5 stars from me.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE ESCAPE ROOM”

 

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a NetGalley ARC to be released on August 6:  The Escape Room, by Megan Goldin.

***

Book Beginning:  (Prologue)

It was Miguel who called 911 at 4:07 a.m. on an icy Sunday morning. 

The young security guard spoke in an unsteady voice, fear disguised by cocky nonchalance. 

Miguel had been an aspiring bodybuilder until he injured his back lifting boxes in a warehouse job and had to take night-shift work guarding a luxury office tower in the final stages of construction.  He had a muscular physique, dark hair, ad a cleft in his chin.

***

Friday 56:  “Lucy always arranged things in alphabetical order when she was stressed.  Something was going on with her.  I just know it. None of this makes sense.”

***

Synopsis:  Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: KEEPING LUCY, BY T. GREENWOOD

 

Dover, Massachusetts, 1969. Ginny Richardson’s heart was torn open when her baby girl, Lucy, born with Down Syndrome, was taken from her. Under pressure from his powerful family, her husband, Ab, sent Lucy away to Willowridge, a special school for the “feeble-minded.” Ab tried to convince Ginny it was for the best. That they should grieve for their daughter as though she were dead. That they should try to move on.

But two years later, when Ginny’s best friend, Marsha, shows her a series of articles exposing Willowridge as a hell-on-earth–its squalid hallways filled with neglected children–she knows she can’t leave her daughter there. With Ginny’s six-year-old son in tow, Ginny and Marsha drive to the school to see Lucy for themselves. What they find sets their course on a heart-racing journey across state lines—turning Ginny into a fugitive.

For the first time, Ginny must test her own strength and face the world head-on as she fights Ab and his domineering father for the right to keep Lucy. Racing from Massachusetts to the beaches of Atlantic City, through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to a roadside mermaid show in Florida, Keeping Lucy is a searing portrait of just how far a mother’s love can take her.

My Thoughts: Set in the 1960s and 70s, in a time when attitudes toward special needs were uninformed and harsh, a young mother suffers a great loss at the hands of her own husband and father-in-law.

Striving to accept the loss of her daughter, Ginny tries to cope. But the news of the scandalous neglect at the supposedly “best place” for her daughter took her on a journey to discover the truth and take a stand with the powerful men in her family.

Throughout Keeping Lucy, I rooted for Ginny and Lucy, and wanted to shout for joy at each step forward that she took. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE BETTER SISTER, BY ALAFAIR BURKE

 

Though Chloe was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be the one in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicky—always restless and more than a little reckless—was the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man and stayed close to home in Cleveland.

For a while, it seemed that both sisters had found happiness. Chloe earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicky married promising young attorney Adam Macintosh and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ethan. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.

Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different—and Chloe is married to Adam. When he’s murdered by an intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Chloe reluctantly allows her teenage stepson’s biological mother—her estranged sister, Nicky—back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past.

 

My Thoughts: I was caught up in the family story of The Better Sister, wondering what secrets would be unveiled after Adam’s murder. Was Ethan guilty, or was some other family member or friend responsible for the murder?
I liked how the author portrayed the court room scenes, and also how we slowly began to see the deceptions that kept the sisters apart, not trusting each other. When the sisters began to come together in their efforts to protect Ethan, we finally learned the hidden truths. A page turner that earned 4.5 stars.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature:  A Good Enough Mother, by Bev Thomas.

***

Beginning:  On paper, Dan Griffin was nothing out of the ordinary.  He was anxious, he was urgent, he was like any other patient we see at the Trauma Unit.  “Unremarkable” was how I described him to the police.  When they looked for answers in those early therapy sessions, they read about the bruise on his face, the terror in his voice, and the flashbacks that were so visceral they took his breath away, but there was nothing to hint at his capacity for violence.

***

Friday 56:  I smiled.  “That sounds very interesting,” I said tightly.  “The thing is—while books can be really helpful, I’m his mother.  And, well, you really don’t know what it’s like until you’ve had your own child.”

***

Synopsis:  Ruth Hartland is a psychotherapist with years of experience. But professional skill is no guard against private grief. The mother of grown twins, she is haunted by the fact that her beautiful, difficult, fragile son Tom, a boy who never “fit in,” disappeared a year and a half earlier. She cannot give up hope of finding him, but feels she is living a kind of half-life, waiting for him to return.

Enter a new patient, Dan–unstable and traumatized–who looks exactly like her missing son. She is determined to help him, but soon, her own complicated feelings, about how she has failed her own boy, cloud her professional judgement. And before long, the unthinkable becomes a shattering reality….

***

I’m intrigued.  What do you think?

***

REVIEW: STONE MOTHERS, BY ERIN KELLY

 

You can’t keep the secret.
You can’t tell the truth.
You can’t escape the past…Marianne was seventeen when she fled her home in Nusstead—leaving behind her family, her boyfriend, Jesse, and the body they buried. Now, thirty years later, forced to return to in order to help care for her sick mother, she can feel the past closing around her. And Jesse, who never for-gave her for leaving in the first place, is finally threatening to expose the truth.

Marianne will do anything to protect the life she’s built, the husband and daughter who must never know what happened all those years ago. Even if it means turning to her worst enemy for help… But Marianne may not know the whole story—and she isn’t the only one with secrets they’d kill to keep.

My Thoughts: Stone Mothers begins with present day Marianne, who is struggling to overcome her fears of past events, along with the dark secrets she has hidden for many years.

Her husband Sam has just bought a second home in the worst place possible. A place that has kept her nightmares alive over the years.

How will the people and places of that time stay hidden? What will she do to outrun the darkness?

Our story flashes back to the beginning and reveals how it all unfolded. We learn what happened between Jesse, Marianne, and Helen…and then we are offered a peek into Helen’s history, which changes how we see her.

Issues of mental health treatment and how the antiquated systems derailed the lives of many kept me glued to the pages. 4.5 stars.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “AFTER THE END”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a NetGalley ARC I’m enjoying:  After the End, by Claire Mackintosh. (Release Date: 6/25).

Beginning:  (Prologue):  Leila looks around the courtroom.  Only the handful of press given permission to attend are moving, their pens making swift marks in shorthand, recording every word the judge speaks.  Everyone else is quite still—watching, waiting—and Leila has the strange sensation of being frozen in time, that they might all wake, a year from now, and they will still be here in this courtroom, waiting for the ruling that will change so many lives.

***

Friday 56:  (After) You cannot feel grief without first feeling love, and now my heart is filled with both.  For my son, for my husband, for my marriage.  Max turns to face me, lines around his eyes that weren’t there a month ago.

***

Synopsis:  Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.
 
What if they could have both?
 
A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.

***

I am glued to the pages of this book.  What are you sharing today?

***

REVIEW: EMILY, GONE, BY BETTE LEE CROSBY

 

 

1971:  When a music festival rolls through the sleepy town of Hesterville, Georgia, the Dixon family’s lives are forever changed. On the final night, a storm muffles the sound of the blaring music, and Rachel tucks her baby into bed before falling into a deep sleep. So deep, she doesn’t hear the kitchen door opening. When she and her husband wake up in the morning, the crib is empty. Emily is gone.

Vicki Robart is one of the thousands at the festival, but she’s not feeling the music. She’s feeling the emptiness over the loss of her own baby several months before. When she leaves the festival and is faced with an opportunity to fill that void, she is driven to an act of desperation that will forever bind the lives of three women.

When the truth of what actually happened that fateful night is finally exposed, shattering the lives they’ve built, will they be able to pick up the pieces to put their families back together again?

My Thoughts: Emily, Gone, was a gripping tale of loss that kept this reader on the edge of my seat. We follow the lives of the parents whose child has been kidnapped alongside the alternating narrative of the broken characters whose actions have brought such tragedy, and we come to feel compassion for each of them.

The story is one that could conclude any number of ways, but until the very end, you’re not sure what will happen to the characters. Could there be a satisfying ending, or will the pain be continuous?

I did like how the intricate pathways almost crossed several times along the way, and then in a somewhat serendipitous coming together of events, everything falls into place. 5 stars.

***