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.

***

REVIEW: GOODNIGHT JUNE, BY SARAH JIO

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A story that contains many of my favorite ingredients, Goodnight June: A Novel takes the reader to the 1940s through letters between Margaret Wise Brown and a woman named Ruby Crain, a bookstore owner in Seattle.

We first connect with June Andersen, a financial whiz working for a bank in New York. She is great at her job, but is beginning to suffer from high blood pressure and other evidence of stress.

And then, serendipitously, she inherits her Aunt Ruby’s bookstore, Bluebird Books, and goes to Seattle to settle the estate. Initially, she plans to sell the store, but it takes very little time before the memories of childhood moments in the shop with Aunt Ruby sweep over her and she is suddenly immersed in book love again. But then June discovers that the bank is about to foreclose on the store and she must pull out all the stops if she wants to save it.

Her discoveries of the letters between her aunt and Margaret Wise Brown are like a wonderful bonus, and become part of a literary scavenger hunt. Could the letters help save the store? And will the hunky restaurant owner Gavin help her make the decision about what to do next? How will a five-year breach between June and her younger sister Amy affect the choices she makes?

The secrets, the hidden treasures, and the wonderful settings of one of my favorite cities swept me up into the story, while all the unexpected surprises and moments kept me reading. The obstacles were like real frustrations in my own life, and I was rooting for June as if my own future happiness depended on it. Keeping bookstores alive in the future is a theme that many book lovers can relate to. There were sad moments, losses, and sister reunions. This story will go down as another favorite read. 5.0 stars.