My Girlish Whims Book Club #17

I'm back to round up my most recent books from my last book review post!

Before I get to the books, I wanted to just briefly document the BEST trip that I brought one of these books along with to read recently. Whenever I travel I always fit in extra time to read on the plane and waiting at the airport and this April I was able to take another quick trip to Nashville and fit in plenty of reading during my travels there!

This was my third trip to Nashville and I am COMPLETELY obsessed with the town now.  I detailed my very first trip here: My Girlish Whims Does Nashville but wanted to update here with some new favorites we have found in Nashville since then. I once again piggy backed on a work trip that bae had that brought him to Nashville Wednesday-Friday so his work covered his flights and hotel for part of the stay.  I flew out Thursday night to meet him and we stayed into the weekend and it was SUCH a fun time again!

One of my favorite parts of this trip was that we definitely took advantage of the nice weather and hung out on a lot of roof top bars on Broadway. I think the roof tops can sometimes be a little less crazy than the bars that are dark and packed full of people around a band.  The nicest roof top we visited was at Blake Shelton's bar Ole Red the first night of my trip.  There are such gorgeous views of the city up there - especially in the dark when everything is all lit up! It's also a little classier place - you can actually order a prosecco and get it served in a real glass as opposed to the plastic that most bars on Broadway serve with.  If you want to avoid some rowdy crowds but still be able to experience Broadway and get some great views this is definitely worth a visit.

Friday after bae was done work we also tried some more roof tops down on Broadway: we went back to Acme Feed and Seed which everyone seems to be obsessed with when I asked for recommendations for Nashville but we really didn't like it our first time there.  Our second time back it was a little better, I think the best part about it was that we met a bachelorette party there that we became friends with and hung out the rest of the day with, lol.  Overall though our FAVORITE place on all of Broadway would have to be Jason Aldean's bar. They have an indoor bar/restaurant but they also have an upstairs bar/stage/roof top combo which is where we spent a ton of time.  They have live music in the indoor section from awesome musicians, and the roof top section is BIG with plenty of couches and tables and chairs to just relax on and enjoy the sunshine, some drinks, and company from new friends around you!

As much as we love Broadway, it's definitely worth getting OFF of the main strip and seeing the rest of Nashville as well. For the rest of the weekend we stayed at an AirBnB right in the 12 South neighborhood which is SO cute and has a ton of things to see/do/eat all that were within walking distance from our AirBnb.  We grubbed out on some good BBQ at Edley's BBQ, I dropped $200 while shopping at Draper James which is a cute boutique owned by Reese Witherspoon (read: cute but EXPENSIVE!) and there are a bunch of murals around the neighborhood that are perfect for photo opps. 

The one thing we didn't do on our last trip to Nashville but we had on our first trip was take about a 40 minute uber ride outside of the city to visit Arrington Vineyard.  We made the time to go back this year and I'm SO glad we did! Before we headed to the winery we had brunch at Whiskey Kitchen (you know I'm always down for a mimosa on vacation) and then walked around the Gultch neighborhood a bit before grabbing our uber outside the city.

Don't get me wrong: the wine is great at Arrington and the tasting experience is always informative and a good time - but personally what I love best about coming out here are the views and just relaxing on the property! The vineyard is tucked away in the gorgeous rolling hills of Tennessee and you just cannot beat the views: there is no better spot to buy a bottle of wine and sip and relax near Nashville than right here.  As an added bonus - it's normally pretty packed with other people doing tastings and it's easy to find some friends to talk to.  This time around we made friends with some girls who had brought their corgi to the tasting and oh my word.  What a cutie he was.  Wine, puppies and relaxation.  Can't beat it!

On our last day in Nashville we spent some more time walking around 12 South Neighborhood before our flight home and I visited the spot I will now and forevermore ALWAYS visit when I go to Nashville: Five Daughters Bakery. I don't even LIKE donuts normally but they make these 1,000 layer croissant donuts that are just TO DIE FOR and after having one on my last trip - I knew we needed to come back.  They come in all different flavors but I enjoyed just the basic Vanilla Cream and let me tell you.  NO DIET is worth not eating one of those donuts on a trip to Nashville.  I'm salivating now just THINKING about how good it was.

Anyway - after a whirlwind weekend it was time to hop back on a plane to fly home to Pennsylvania...and start a new book on the trip back ;) Here is the full round up of books I read this time around!

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The Summer Wives

By Beatriz Williams. Synopsis from Amazon:

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast . . .

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a na├»ve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island.

This book was on my “to be read” list for a while, and I was so excited when my turn came up to rent it for free on overdrive.  I really enjoyed the book.  From the start of the novel you know that some type of tragedy occurred when Miranda was last on the island 18 years prior – you just don’t know WHAT it was.  The book then jumps back to the first summer that Miranda visited the island.  It was full of the vacationing elite and hardworking locals – the island almost gave me similar vibes to Nantucket and all the books I have enjoyed reading that took place there.  The book followed a few different narratives and a few different time frames: I will admit at times I was a bit confused when the book flashed back to feature other characters in the past and then described them again in the present.  It did eventually click for me though as to who each character was now versus then and it really did add a lot to the story line and drama and love triangles the book featured.  If you can get through the confusion I really think the book is worth the read. I loved following Miranda’s story line on the island as a young girl, but I also loved how the book picked her story back up again in the modern time and continued to finalize the mystery and story which ultimately ended in with a good amount of drama and suspense that kept me reading and reading until it was done!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman. Synopsis from Amazon: 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .

This was our book club read for April this month and I LOVED it! It was not the book that I thought would be chosen this month (I kind of threw it on our book club group poll at the end) but I am SO glad it was picked and I just thought it was overall such a heartwarming and fun read.  Eleanor was such a quirky but likeable character that you couldn’t help falling in love with: you cringed with embarrassment when she did something extremely socially awkward, you cheered for her when she started growing and trying hard to make self-improvements, and you cried and felt immense sympathy for her as you learned more about her background and upbringing that caused her to be the way she is.  It was an easy read but never boring and I just couldn’t get enough of it! I loved the mystery behind Eleanor’s “Mummy” and watching Eleanor learn how to break out of her shell and become a new person.  If you want an easy but interesting and cathartic read, definitely add this one to your list!

  An Anonymous Girl

By Greeg Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Synopsis from Amazon:

Looking to earn some easy cash, Jessica Farris agrees to be a test subject in a psychological study about ethics and morality. But as the study moves from the exam room to the real world, the line between what is real and what is one of Dr. Shields’s experiments blurs.

Dr. Shields seems to know what Jess is thinking… and what she’s hiding.
Jessica’s behavior will not only be monitored, but manipulated.
Caught in a web of attraction, deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, An Anonymous Girl will keep you riveted through the last shocking twist.

I wanted to read this book because we read The Wife Between Us for one of our prior book club meeting's last year and I really enjoyed it, so I was excited to read a new book by the same author.  I liked the main character Jessica: she was a little bit bad ass, very strong and independent, and overall a very likeable character.  The plot was interesting: a good amount of mystery, kept me guessing throughout most of the book, but nothing that completely blew me away.  I did enjoy reading the story from both Jessica's view AND Dr. Sheild's view - it added a good bit of mystery and depth to the story. The overall morality questions of this book were pretty interesting too - it was interesting to read along some of the "challenges" that Jessica faced during the study which were thought provoking even for the reader as to what was completely right or wrong.  Overall I liked the book: it didn't blow me away but I'm still glad I read it. 

The Great Alone

By Kristin Hannah. Synopsis from Amazon:

Alaska, 1974. Ernt Allbright came home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes the impulsive decision to move his wife and daughter north where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Cora will do anything for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown. Thirteen-year-old Leni, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, has little choice but to go along, daring to hope this new land promises her family a better future.

In a wild, remote corner of Alaska, the Allbrights find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the newcomers’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own.

Even though I liked An Anonymous Girl, after reading it I felt like I needed to read a book that I could really dig into: one that felt more like a novel than just another modern psychological mystery. This book DEFINITELY fit that bill and I absolutely loved the book. I'm the furthest thing from a wilderness lover and don't think I actually EVER have any desire to actually go visit Alaska, but this was a great read for me regardless.  It was a bit longer than any of the other books I read this time and I didn't mind at all because the story was just so good.  You go into the book thinking that it's only about a family who is trying to survive Alaska: but they are also trying to survive from themselves.  There is drama between their relationships in the home, drama with others in the community, and of course drama from the entire environment around them. As quoted in the book:"in Alaska you can make one mistake. One. The second one will kill you.” The book contained heartache and coming of age but it also contained love stories and laughs: my favorite line of the entire book was "You know what they say about finding a man in Alaska—the odds are good, but the goods are odd." Hah! This book was an overall joy for me to read: not because the plot was always joyous but because I emoted and connected with the characters and story line so well and just completely enjoyed the experience of reading it.

Another great set of reads! I'm so happy that I enjoyed every single one of these books and didn't struggle to finish any of them. My in person book club met at Bar Taco this time around to discuss Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and there was a pretty good consensus that everyone else enjoyed it as well! Funny enough - there is actually a Bar Taco in the 12 South Neighborhood of Nashville that I visited on my first trip to Nashville and a location JUST opened by me in PA in King of Prussia.  I knew I had to bring my book club girls here to try it out since the food is so yummy.  Since I was no longer on vacation in Nashville though...I opted for some healthier options by using lettuce wraps for my tacos to make room for some sangria too ;)

Shout out to Bar Taco for having nutritional info online AND healthy swaps available - this was a great spot to host my group this time. Now: I'm officially OFF to start my next read for book club!!!


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