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My Girlish Whims Book Club #54

Summertime is the best time :) We've only been away on one mini trip as a family so far this summer to the Jersey shore but even a few days at the beach is enough to make my heart happy! 

Summer is still my favorite season back at home: we've been enjoying taking the boys to our gym pool a few evenings and afternoons on the weekend when the weather cooperates and of course when the sun is shining you don't have to drag me very far to get out and enjoy it! I'll fill up our kiddy pool and water table on the deck and let the boys splash around so I can sneak in 5 minutes of reading before someone tries to climb up and join me ;) 

Despite the five minute chunks, I'm chugging right along with my summertime reading! Here's what I've read and my thought on each since my last set of reviews

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Happy Place

By Emily Henry. Synopsis from Amazon:

Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.

They broke up five months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.

Which is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blissful week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week…in front of those who know you best?

This book was SUCH a letdown for me!!! I loved Henry's debut novel "Beach Read" (reviewed here) and also really enjoyed "Book Lovers" (reviewed here) but this one was just a BAD read for me.  I thought the story was slow, the characters were nothing noteworthy/not super likable, and the drama between the main characters was essentially a misunderstanding blown out of proportion and not worth writing an entire novel about.  Despite the "crazy chemistry and sex life" Harriet and Wyn supposedly had while dating it didn't translate well into their present day relationship that you SHOULD be rooting for. I just kind of felt overall indifferent towards them and really didn't care one way or the other if they ended up back together.  One of my my favorite parts of Henry's writing is her fast paced dialogue and witty banter between characters, and even that couldn't help salvage this book for me. I still love this author but would not recommend this one. Iwish I would have skipped it!

The Good Sister

By Sally Hepworth. Synopsis from Amazon: 

"There's only been one time that Rose couldn't stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life."

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be...dangerous.

When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

Fern's mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich and shocking story of what families keep hidden.

This was the very first book from Sally Hepworth I have read and it IMMEDIATELY became a favorite! I absolutely adored this book. Fern was such a great character: she has sensory issues and operates a little differently than most adults, but she is also the most loyal and kind, smart but straightforward, and entertaining and eclectic main character you fully support and cheer for.  I loved the fact that she was a librarian, I loved her crazy outfits, I loved the journey of her relationships with her co-workers, and I loved every part of her budding relationship with Wally (the date with the headphones and goggles? Sweetest thing ever). I also really enjoyed the underlying mystery/sister drama/twists that went on in the book - down to the very last lingering chapter. I would recommend this to anyone to read - 10/10!

The Soulmate

By Sally Hepworth. Synopsis from Amazon:

Picture a lovely cottage on a cliff, with sloping lawns, walking paths, and beautiful flowers. It’s Gabe and Pippa Gerard’s dream home in a sleepy coastal town. But their perfect house hides something sinister. The tall cliffs have become a popular spot for people to end their lives. Over the past several months, Gabe comes to their rescue, literally talking them off the ledge.

Until one day, he doesn’t. When Pippa discovers Gabe knew the victim, the questions spiral. . . .Did the victim jump? Was she pushed? And would Gabe, the love of Pippa’s life, her soulmate . . . lie? As the perfect fa├žade of their marriage begins to crack, the deepest and darkest secrets begin to unravel. Because sometimes, the most convincing lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

Since I loved The Good Sister so much I decided to keep the Sally Hepworth trend going by reading her newest release that I got in one of my book of the month deliveries this summer.  I still enjoyed reading this one, I just didn't love it quite as much as I loved The Good Sister  which seems to go along with the consensus of other reviews I've read. Since this was only my second Hepworth novel though I still really enjoyed a twisty plot that had a lot of surprises thrown in along the way. To be honest I am writing this review very belatedly (I think I've read about 6/7 novels since this one, whoops!) so I don't have anything knit-picking bad I remember to point out, it just wasn't quite as memorable of a read for me. I would still recommend it - the location of this novel by the cliff, relationship dynamics between Pippa and Gabe, and all of the surprises built into the story all really worked for me and kept me entertained for sure!

Remarkably Bright Creatures

By Shelby Van Pelt. Synopsis from Amazon:

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors—until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late. 

Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.

This was our book club selection in June and oh my heart! I just loved this one so much. The premise of the story seems kind of silly by just reading the description of the book - like how is an octopus going to be a main character in fictional novel without it coming off as corny or even fantasy like??? It seems silly but somehow it just worked SO well and the short chapters written from Marcellus the Octopus' viewpoint were seriously my favorite.  There's a little bit of mystery in this book but one that the reader can catch onto pretty quick and then you just have to wait in anticipation for the characters of the book to figure it out as well.  The characters in this book were amazing - I wanted to give Tova a big hug, chat with Ethan at grocery store checkout, and have a cup of coffee while catching up with the Knit Wit ladies. This book is a bit heartbreaking but mostly astoundingly heartwarming and it will be one of my favorites that I have read this year!

Four more reviews checked off ☑️ and now to catch up on reviewing the five books I've read since this before I head off on a girls trip to Florida next week! Since I will actually be childless for a few days (gasp!!!) I should be able to sneak in some beach and pool reading in longer chunks than 5 minutes and I'm excited for some more summer novels to tackle!

My Girlish Whims Book Club #53

Alright friends: it's just about here - can you smell it? Can you feel it? Can you taste it? SUMMER READING SEASON is right around the corner!!! Even though the season's don't make much of a difference in my schedule these days except lots more time playing, walking, and hanging out outside as a SAHM of toddlers, I still love summer time and the promise of at least a few of beach trips to plop my butt on the beach and read a few pages of a good book.  I think there will be considerably less plopping this year (toddlers), but I'm excited none-the-less! Per normal, I am extremely far behind on updating you on my most recent books I've read since my last set of reviews so let's get down to it so I can start working on writing the reviews for the four books I've read since these five! 

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My Girlish Whims Book Club #52

It's book review time! This time I just HAVE to share some pictures of where I got my reading done for a few of these books. I recently went on a trip to the Bahamas on a Bachelorette party for a wedding I am in next month.  This was my first big trip since having kids and of course came with a huge mix of emotions.  I was very excited for a tropical vacation, but obviously very worried about leaving Jack and Tyler (especially because they both got sick right before I left, OF COURSE) and how my husband would handle me being away from Thursday - Monday. Luckily we are blessed with great support from our families so my husband had help everyday which made leaving easier. I was worried all the way up until I walked out the door Thursday morning...but then I had to realize that my husband is extremely competent, he encouraged me to go on this trip, and after I was gone worrying would do nothing for me...so I truly embraced vacation mode!!

Thursday was a travel day but we still had time to hit up the beach, explore our resort, and go to a nice steakhouse dinner. Friday morning was quite possibly one of the most blissful moments I've experienced in the last 15 months though. I woke up early (as is normal for me - even on vacation, sigh) and went and found some coffee and breakfast while my roommates were still sleeping.  I contemplated hitting up the gym at the resort but as I enjoyed the sunshine looking out over the beautiful water from the balcony in our room and saw that there was literally NO ONE on the beach yet, I cancelled any plans for the gym and immediately changed into my suit, packed a book and a mimosa to go, and went to the beach!

We stayed at "One Particular Harbor" which is part of the Margaritaville resort in Nassau.  There was a private beach just for our resort and I had the whole place to myself for a solid hour. I had the most peaceful and relaxing time reading, enjoying the sunshine and views, and the very large mimosa in my tumbler pictured below, lol.

We had lots of other activities as a group during the afternoons and evenings: having fun at the water park at Margaritaville, fancy dinners out, visiting some of the local casino resorts,  boating and fishing adventures, and time spent spoiling and celebrating the bride-to-be! I enjoyed all of our activities and celebrations but this morning right here was my picture perfect idea for my ideal morning away on vacation and I am SO glad I was able to enjoy it with a good book :)

If only I could have these kind of views for the books I'm reading now back home!!! Since I've already finished two more books since these four, it is due time to round up my current books since my last set of reviews!

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The Writing Retreat

By Julia Bartz. Synopsis from Amazon:

Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.

But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she must discover the truth—or suffer the same fate. 

A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of female relationships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.

I was pretty excited for this book, but unfortunately it really did not live up to my expectations.  I liked the beginning of the book, but just enjoyed it less and less as it went on. I didn't get the hype and obsession with crazy author Roza, I didn't expect all the love triangles or a sex scene with a demon while tripping on LSD (yeah....) and when things spiraled out of control as the retreat went on it and the drama increased it still became less and less enjoyable to read for me.  There is also a bit of a "book within a book" here with the novel Alex (who couldn't write a word for a year before this retreat, but now somehow manages to crank out 3,000 words everyday??) is writing for the retreat, and I found that entire novel super cringey and the writing style just super forced - trying to be overly descriptive and in no way some up-and-coming best selling novel like Roza is coaching Alex to believe it could be. I've read oodles of books that involve getting trapped in a big house during a snow storm where people end up dead/missing and much drama ensues and this was probably the worst one I've read with that set up.  If that's a setting you enjoy - pick up Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeny or One by One by Ruth Ware.  So much better than this one in my opinion! 

By JoJo Moyes. Synopsis from Amazon: 

Nisha Cantor lives the globetrotting life of the seriously wealthy, until her husband announces a divorce and cuts her off. Nisha is determined to hang onto her glamorous life. But in the meantime, she must scramble to cope--she doesn’t even have the shoes she was, until a moment ago, standing in.

That’s because Sam Kemp – in the bleakest point of her life – has accidentally taken Nisha’s gym bag. But Sam hardly has time to worry about a lost gym bag--she’s struggling to keep herself and her family afloat. When she tries on Nisha’s six-inch high Christian Louboutin red crocodile shoes, the resulting jolt of confidence that makes her realize something must change—and that thing is herself.

Full of Jojo Moyes’ signature humor, brilliant storytelling, and warmth, Someone Else’s Shoes is a story about how just one little thing can suddenly change everything.

I really enjoyed reading this book!  The synopsis almost had me thinking this was going to be a "freaky Friday" situation where the two protagonists magically switch lives when they switch gym bags, but luckily the shoe swap really just is a swap of shoes (not bodies!) and it bode very well for this cute storyline. Female friendships and empowerment were at the forefront of this novel and I loved cheering for each of the characters.  Even though Nisha comes off as rude, cold and stuck up at the start of the novel, you truly get to watch her reach her lowest of lows and see her fight to reclaim what she deserves and find out what real happiness and friendship looks like. I wanted to pound my head against the wall in frustration right along with Sam watching her deal with her depressed husband and despicable boss and thought her struggles were very relatable.  The supporting characters of Andrea and Jasmine gave great humor and really made this book shine. I absolutely loved "You Before Me" by JoJo Moyes and while that one left a bigger impact on me, this was still an enjoyable feel good read by a great author!

The IT Girl

By Ruth Ware. Synopsis from Amazon:

April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.

I liked reading this book, just did not love it quite as much as some of Ruth Ware's other novels. I really enjoyed the friendship between April and Hannah and how April came off as such a happy-go-lucky party girl, but also had a lot more depth to her even when she was not always the nicest person. I liked seeing the plot explained by alternating from the past and present and how determined Hannah was to find out the truth about April's murder.  Parts of her relationship with Will really irked me, but I still really overall enjoyed the mystery and was very invested in finding out the truth, and enjoyed all the drama and build up to the end and was surprised and satisfied by the ending!

The Senator's Wife

By Liv Constantine. Synopsis from Amazon:

After a tragic chain of events led to the deaths of their spouses two years ago, D.C. philanthropist Sloane Chase and Senator Whit Montgomery are finally starting to move on. The horrifying ordeal drew them together, and now they’re ready to settle down again—with each other.
As Sloane returns to the world of White House dinners and political small talk, this time with her new husband, she’s also preparing for an upcoming hip replacement—the latest reminder of the lupus she’s managed since her twenties. With their hectic schedules, they decide that hiring a home health aide will give Sloane the support and independence she needs postsurgery. And they find the perfect fit in Athena Karras.

Seemingly a godsend, Athena tends to Sloane and even helps her run her charitable foundation. But Sloane slowly begins to deteriorate—a complication, Athena explains, of Sloane’s lupus. As weeks go by, Sloane becomes sicker, and her uncertainty quickly turns to paranoia as she begins to suspect the worst. Why is Athena asking her so many probing questions about her foundation—as well as about her past? And could Sloane be imagining the sultry looks between Athena and her new husband?

Riveting, fast-paced, and full of unbelievable twists, The Senator’s Wife is a psychological thriller that upends the private lives of those who walk the halls of power. Because when you have it all, you have everything to lose.

I was very excited to read this book because I read and LOVED "The Last Mrs. Parrish" by this same author back in 2018 (book review here!) so I was pumped to read something new by this author duo. I received an ARC of this book which will be released in May of this year courtesy of Net Galley.  Unfortunately I was NOT impressed with this one and did not enjoy it at all! The dialogue was the WORST: it was so drab and forced and almost flat out embarrassing.  Parts of the book were a bit predictable, but I did get duped by one major plot point.  Even with the twist, it was still a miserable read because all of the conversations were just so downright awkward and the characters seemed pretty one dimensional. What a waste of time! 

Two of these books were misses for me, but I know I already have three great reviews coming up in my next review post so stay tuned for some more positives soon :)

My Girlish Whims Book Club #51

Well it's almost March but I am finally here to review the first four books I finished reading in 2023. It's been a fun year so far! We got to celebrate our twins turning one in January and have been enjoying lots of family time together with them.  It's been a bit unseasonably warm around here lately with no snow at all and I personally have not minded one bit! It's been so nice getting outside for some fresh air and to let the boys crawl around and explore.

Life has been pretty normal with our steady routine these days.  I've been prioritizing getting my workouts in daily, getting out for stroller walks with the boys when it's not freezing, and we've even started taking swimming lessons as a family! I've enjoyed hosting some playdates with other moms with kiddos in the area, getting together with my in person book club, going out with my hubby for a Valentine's Day date, and getting to spend some time at my craft room desk creating some new jewelry pieces during the boy's afternoon nap.

Of course I am still reading during any extra down time I have (which is still limited, hah, and hence why my book review posts are coming a little slower these days!) Here's what I've read since my last set of reviews from last year!!

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By Julia May Jonas. Synopsis from Amazon:

“When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me.”

And so we are introduced to our deliciously incisive narrator: a popular English professor whose charismatic husband at the same small liberal arts college is under investigation for his inappropriate relationships with his former students. The couple have long had a mutual understanding when it comes to their extra-marital pursuits, but with these new allegations, life has become far less comfortable for them both. And when our narrator becomes increasingly infatuated with Vladimir, a celebrated, married young novelist who’s just arrived on campus, their tinder box world comes dangerously close to exploding.
With this bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured debut, author Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the boundaries of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart. Propulsive, darkly funny, and wildly entertaining, Vladimir perfectly captures the personal and political minefield of our current moment, exposing the nuances and the grey area between power and desire.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It really surprised me as well - based on the cover art you'd think it was going to be a steamy romance novel, but it was so much deeper and complex than I was expecting. I thought the main character was great - very intellectual, confident in some ways and yet overly conscious in other ways (namely getting older, her waning metabolism, cellulite, etc. etc. which I thought gave her a  very likable human crutch.) There are some polarizing topics in the book - open marriages, sexual assault and the "me too" movement, and while those moved the plot along it still wasn't the full focus of the novel. In fact, most of the novel takes place in our protagonist's head - her obsession with Vladimir, her disdain at her lack of a writing career, her persistent insecurity over how old does she actually look? My favorite part was the writing - deeply descriptive, intellectual and blunt.  (I still cackle at a passage that described John stretching and farting before he left the bathroom). But also loved: 
"I wanted to take substances into my body like an immoral and immoderate businessman traveling on a company credit card.  I wanted everything that passed my lips to be decadent, full of sulfites or iron, with mouth-screwing flavor, to taste rich and deep"

This book was not what I was expecting, but found that I was very pleasantly surprised by it.  I would recommend picking this one up this winter season still - while I enjoyed it immensely I would say it is better suited for cold, dark nights at home vs. sunny beach day reading!

My Girlish Whims Book Club #50 & Favorite Reads of 2022

How fitting that my 50th book review post (!!!) will include a round up of my favorite books I read in 2022! I read 35 books this past year and considering the year started with welcoming preemie twin boys into the world, I think that is quite an accomplishment! 2022 was certainly an amazing year - dare I say my best one yet :)

I have three final books that I read in December to review in this post first, but keep scrolling after these are done for my top books I read this year. Here's what I finished up the year reading:

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A Merry Little Meet Cute

By Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone. Synopsis from Amazon:

Bee Hobbes (aka Bianca Von Honey) has a successful career as a plus-size adult film star. With a huge following and two supportive moms, Bee couldn’t ask for more. But when Bee’s favorite producer casts her to star in a Christmas movie he’s making for the squeaky-clean Hope Channel, Bee’s career is about to take a more family-friendly direction.

Forced to keep her work as Bianca under wraps, Bee quickly learns this is a task a lot easier said than done. Though it all becomes worthwhilewhen she discovers her co-star is none other than childhood crush Nolan Shaw, an ex-boy band member in desperate need of career rehab. Nolan’s promised his bulldog manager to keep it zipped up on set, and he will if it means he’ll be able to provide a more stable living situation for his sister and mom.

But things heat up quickly in Christmas Notch, Vermont, when Nolan recognizes his new co-star from her ClosedDoors account (oh yeah, he’s a member). Now Bee and Nolan are sneaking off for quickies on set, keeping their new relationship a secret from the Hope Channel’s execs. Things only get trickier when the reporter who torpedoed Nolan’s singing career comes snooping around—and takes an instant interest in mysterious newcomer Bee.

And if Bee and Nolan can’t keep their off-camera romance behind the scenes, then this merry little meet cute might end up on the cutting room floor.

Well this was a cutesy holiday Rom-Com like no other I have read before! If you are looking for a Hallmark style Christmas novel with (there is really no other way to put this) a side of porn - this is the book for you. Whew! I picked four different Christmas themed Rom-Com to put up for a vote for my December book club holiday party and this steamy novel was the winner.  You have to know going into the book that there will be some heat involved since the main character is literally an adult film star, but just beware that it really doesn't shy away from any of the details.  Steam/sex/etc aside, I did think this was a pretty cute and funny book.  The original conflict in the story begins with a last minute accident at a festival which takes out most of the "regular" movie production team and the producer of the film (who is also an adult film star producer, unbeknownst to the squeaky clean Hope Channel team) has to fill in the cast with Bee as the lead star and some of the crew with his adult film crew.  Since no one is supposed to know about the X rated side gig most of the team is involved with, it leads to a lot of amusing interactions between the wardrobe manager who is used to dressing a cast in much less clothing, a lighting tech crew used to lighting a lot more flesh and a lot less horseback riding scenes, etc.  I enjoyed the female empowerment portion of this book and that the lead character was unashamedly plus size and how that was celebrated in the novel. Plot wise it delivered on a typical Rom-Com storyline - nothing earth shattering but enough to give you some fuzzy feel good vibes and some laughs along the way.