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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REVIEW: HAPPY PEOPLE READ & DRINK COFFEE, BY AGNES MARTIN-LUGAND

 

Diane seems to have the perfect life. She is a wife, mother, and the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a cozy literary café in Paris. But when she suddenly loses her husband and daughter in a car accident, the world as she knows it disappears.

One year later, Diane moves to a small town on the Irish coast, determined to heal by rebuilding her life alone-until she meets Edward, a handsome and moody photographer, and falls into a surprising and tumultuous romance.

But will it last when Diane leaves Ireland for good? At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Diane’s story is deeply felt, reminding us that love remembered is love enduring.

My Thoughts: I loved the premise of the Paris bookshop/café, especially the name of it. I enjoyed the scenes with Diane’s best friend Felix…and how he helped prop her up after the death of her husband and daughter.

Moving to Ireland to escape the pain seemed like a good fix. But then we see her interacting with her grumpy neighbor Edward, and I knew that a tired trope of hate/love was on the horizon. A plot line that could easily turn boring.

The writing style of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee was a bit uninspiring, too. But I wanted to keep reading, to find out how it would all turn out. Would Diane’s time in Ireland bring her back to her real life, refreshed? Or would there be more sorrow ahead for her? Could she rebuild the life she once had? In the end, I did like how nothing was wrapped up and tied with a pretty bow. 3.5 stars.

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REVIEW: ALWAYS, BY SARAH JIO

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Enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiancé, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crain can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a journalist and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As she and Ryan leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

Flashing back to 1996, and then fast-forwarding to 2008, “Always” is a gripping and emotionally thrilling novel of first love, lost love, and the power of healing.

Set in a Seattle that vibrated with the music scene of the 1990s, Cade McAllister and Kailey Crain were in the heat of new love: they were full of dreams, plans, and the building of connections. They were soul mates.

But then something happened. Something inexplicable. During that summer of 1998, Cade disappeared. For ten years, Kailey would wonder, would grieve, and then finally move on with Ryan Winston.

What did Kailey discover during the winter of 2008, after finding Cade on that sidewalk? How does she finally uncover the events of that final summer together in 1998? Who was responsible for Cade’s injuries? Will she be able to put the pieces together in such a way that Cade can be restored to her and to his life?

I could not stop reading this story, feeling the strength of that first love, despite the obstacles and the loss, and rooting for Kailey and Cade…while still feeling a bit sad for Ryan. Yes, I could predict a lot of what would ultimately happen, but that did not make it a “predictable” read for me, as there were numerous questions along the way. Mysteries to solve. So this book was another winning tale by this author. 5 stars.

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My e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

BOOKISH THURSDAY #34: SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS

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Welcome to Thursday, a day that once seemed lost, with nothing exciting happening anywhere.  But then that changed, and today I am celebrating a couple of the bookish events around the blogosphere, like Lexxie’s Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts; and Christine’s Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts.

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Today’s featured book is one I just finished, and it had so many delightful food portions that it was hard to choose.  In the end, I picked an ordinary one that symbolized the reconnecting of our two lovers.  Family Tree, by Susan Wiggs (click for my review), is the story of dreams, love, past love, and all that life throws at two lovers.

 

 

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In this excerpt, Annie and Fletcher are finally together for a special weekend.  A weekend at his comfortable old home, the one they both fell in love with when they first met in high school.

 

After the old-fashioneds and the porch swing, she’d raided the mostly unfortunate supplies in his kitchen—boxed mac and cheese, white wine, a handful of cherry tomatoes and basil from his garden—and put together a dinner from his humble ingredients.  Afterward, they curled up in bed together with bowls of maple-walnut ice cream and listened to Serge Gainsbourg songs drifting from a hidden speaker.

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I love the sound of the maple-walnut ice cream!

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  • The week has been much cooler (80s, with the occasional 90), but it is even cooler in the mornings and in the evenings.
  • I’ve been restless, and took my reading with me to lunch on Monday at Marie Callender’s:

 

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  • On Tuesday, I participated in a bookish meme, sharing an excerpt from The American Girl.  I plan to read it next.

 

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  • I’ve written a post about Cherishing My Interior World:  Balance? ;  I also reexamine the books I continue to add to my stacks.
  • Last week, I was planning to visit my stylist (my daughter), but at the last minute, we rescheduled.  Tomorrow is the day!

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So…that’s my week so far.  What are you sharing today?

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FALLING, BY JANE GREEN

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Emma Montague may be British upper crust, with a boarding school and university education, and she may have done well in the banking world, both in London and later in Manhattan.

But what Emma truly wants and hopes to find in her new life in Westport, Connecticut, is something completely different. A homey and lovely life, with gorgeous interior designs. She starts out designing for local women, and creates a show place of her own in the little cottage she has rented. The cottage next door to her landlord, Dominic Di Franco, a bartender at the Fat Hen, and a sometime carpenter. And the father of six-year-old Jesse.

They become friends fairly quickly, and although Emma insists to her friends, like Sophie, who lives nearby, that he is not her type, something begins to happen between them.

Learning Dominic’s story, about how Jesse’s mother Stacy left them when Jesse was a tiny baby, Emma is drawn into this little family. Yes, there are times that Jesse is jealous and possessive, not wanting to share his father. But he clearly loves and adores Emma.

Falling is a beautifully rendered tale of unexpected love, the way life changes to accommodate that love, and how the past connections sometimes interfere and create conflict.

I loved the author’s descriptions of the developing love and family feeling between Emma, Dominic, and Jesse. I also enjoyed visualizing the before and after creations Emma brought to life. The settings made me feel as though I was visiting the lovely community, almost as if I were a part of it.

The unexpectedly dramatic and sad culmination left me in tears, but I also rejoiced at the way life brought the characters to a place of true discovery. A place of finding what they needed. Not necessarily what they wanted, but just what would feel like home for them. 5 stars.

HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: “ONE TRUE LOVES”

Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

In the past year, I have read three books by an author who was new to me, and she is now one of my new favorites.  On June 7, 2016, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s newest book, One True Loves will be released.

 

 

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Synopsis:  From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick and a “Best Book of the Summer” by Glamour and USA TODAY—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

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What do you think?  Does this story tug at your heartstrings?  Does it make you want to read?

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REVIEW: WHO DO YOU LOVE, BY JENNIFER WEINER

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They met in a hospital ER at the age of eight. In this moment out of time, they talked and kept each other company. Rachel Blum (she tells him it is pronounced “bloom” and not like “plum.”) She begins to tell her new friend Andy Landis the tale of Hansel and Gretel.

Even though Rachel is in for another problem with her heart, for which she has had numerous surgeries since birth, and Andy is in for just a broken arm, he seems the most pathetic and in need. She is used to hospitals and has had lots of parental hovering in her life. Andy’s mother has not even shown up…and won’t for several hours.

Then they are separated.

Over the years, they meet again and again, often in unlikely places. They do write to each other in between meetings. Their most notable connecting would be as teenagers when they are volunteering for Home Free, prepping the homes for the construction workers. Their relationship changes into something more…a romantic connection.

Rachel lives in Florida and Andy, in Philadelphia, but as they go off to college, she is in Virginia attending Beaumont and he is in Oregon. He is a track star, aiming for the Olympics.

Their get-togethers are not always good…misunderstandings and their very real differences assert themselves, leading to long periods of no contact.

What keeps pulling them together when they are so different? Her family’s comfortable circumstances and his single mom’s struggles accentuate the financial differences, and her love of reading and his obsession with running…well, what could they possibly find to share?

But they do keep going…and then something big separates them for years.

Who Do You Love is an engaging story that made me feel a lot of emotions. Luckily, there were plenty of funny moments, too, showing Weiner’s signature self-deprecating charms through the characters. Alternate chapters were narrated in first person by Rachel and third person from Andy. The passage of time is shown by dates on each chapter.

I loved the story once I got into it. The opening chapters, in the childhood years, were less interesting to me, but as the characters entered their teens and adulthood, I was there, rooting for each of them, even when they made typical relationship mistakes. Sometimes I cried along with them, hoping they would find their happiness. And I loved the paper clip heart that Andy made for Rachel in their early college years. It came to symbolize the uniqueness of their connection. An emotional journey, I give this one 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: THE HYPNOTIST’S LOVE STORY, BY LIANE MORIARTY

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Ellen O’Farrell enjoyed her professional life as a hypnotherapist, and she loved her house which was left to her by her grandparents. Even its retro charm made her happy, and she didn’t want to update it because it reminded her of her grandparents. With the beach right outside her door, one could say she had it all.

She even had the perfect home office with great windows where she met with her clients.

But Ellen’s love life has left much to be desired. She thinks sadly of all the past relationships and what went wrong. So when she meets Patrick Scott, a handsome man with an eight-year-old son named Jack, she is sure that it will just be a matter of time before everything goes wrong.

So when Patrick says “I have to tell you something,” and then disappears from their table for what seems like forever, she knows that it’s all over.

What she learns, however, is that Patrick’s ex-girlfriend Saskia has been stalking him for the past three years.

From this point, The Hypnotist’s Love Story: A Novel becomes a fascinating journey, in which we alternately see the perspectives of Ellen and Saskia, and watch their lives descend into a train wreck of madness. But at the end of the journey, will there be an epiphany for Ellen? For Patrick? And what will Saskia take away from these events? Set in Sydney, Australia, the story brought a great sense of place with it, making me feel as if I were there with them all.

I literally could not stop reading this story. I have loved everything I’ve read by this author, and to pick favorites seems unfair, but I felt so connected to the characters. I was frustrated by the actions of each character at one point or another. Patrick seemed clueless. Why had he allowed everything to go on so long? And he seemingly failed to see Ellen’s frustration at how he destroyed her orderly life when he moved in with her and left packing boxes in her hallway for weeks and seemed to ignore her feelings. I wanted to yell at him.

Saskia was the least likeable of the characters, and while there seemed to be no redemption for her, the drastic events of that one night made change possible. I liked seeing how that could happen, but I mostly enjoyed the thought of Ellen and Patrick being free of her. I will think of these events and these characters for a long time. 5 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS FRIDAY: BOOK BEGINNINGS/FRIDAY 56 – “THE IDEA OF LOVE”

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Welcome to some bookish fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we 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!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!

What better way to spend a Friday?

Today’s spotlight is shining on an ARC from Patti Callahan Henry:  The Idea of Love.

 

 

 

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Beginning:  In his mind, he was already writing her—the woman who stood at the patio table with her eyes closed and her face lifted to the sky.  She was only a subject, or more precisely, an object.  Her slumped shoulders folded inward and her beautiful mouth turned down.

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56:  Ella felt the panic of loneliness well up behind her chest, but she smiled anyway, because that’s what she’d always been taught to do.  “You are so sweet to invite me in and let me tell you my crazy story but I need to get on home.  I just wanted to…meet you.”

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Blurb:  As we like to say in the south,

“Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Ella’s life has been completely upended. She’s young, beautiful, and deeply in love–until her husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her. Or so she’ll have everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, but crippling writers’ block and a serious lack of motivation are getting him nowhere. He’s on the look-out for a love story. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to.
When Hunter and Ella meet in Watersend, South Carolina it feels like the perfect match, something close to fate. In Ella, Hunter finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It’s the stuff of epic films. In Hunter, Ella finds possibility. It’s an opportunity to live out a fantasy – the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides. what’s a little white lie between strangers?

But one lie leads to another, and soon Hunter and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right?

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I am eager to dive into this one.  This author is one of my new favorites, and I can’t wait.  I also love the cover.  What do you think?

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HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: WAITING ON “THE LOOK OF LOVE”

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Waiting on Wednesdays is a weekly bookish event in which we share the eagerly anticipated upcoming releases we have on our lists.  Click on over to Breaking the Spine to see what everyone is sharing.

I didn’t have anything on my list…and then, while scrolling through Library Thing, I found it, SERENDIPITOUSLY!  Sarah Jio is one of my favorite authors these days, and she has a new one coming out on November 25, 2014.  Yay!  The Look of Love is the story of one woman’s gift:  the ability to see true love.

 

 

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Blurb:  Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed. Inspired by the classic song, The Look of Love is utterly enchanting.

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This cover is quite different from those of Jio’s other books…I don’t know how much I like it, except that I adore the colors.  The brightness stands out and seems like a celebration of some kind.

What are you sharing today?  I hope you’ll stop by and share….

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