My Girlish Whims Book Club #19

As I sit here to write up my 19th book review, I thought it was finally time to give you guys a little insight into how I became such a book worm.  I often get asked how I got into/reading how I make time for it: and the simple answer was I was FORCED to like reading! I grew up in a family full of readers, and so when I was learning to read, it just wasn't a question of whether or not I would "like" to read - I was just expected to!

I remember once when I was probably about 7 years old my parents would make me read a book to them every night before bed.  (I'm sorry mother now for the amount of times I forced you to read The Green Pocketbook) and me - being a typical 7 year old - started whining and complaining about how I didn't want to and I didn't like reading.  My mother looked me in the eyes and told me: "Rebecca: everyone in this family likes to read and YOU are going to like it too."

Well, that was the end of that question! Hah, in all honesty though, I was pretty easy enough for me to fall in love with reading, and I fell hard and fast.  I remember in my prime reading days back in 5th grade if I tried hard enough, I could finish one Nancy Drew novel a day! My summer baby-sitter would give book limits to all of the other kids when we went to the library (so they only checked out enough books that they had time to read over the 2 week time frame) but she always told me 'Oh - that doesn't apply to you" since she knew I could read more, lol.  Later in life, my Dad actually he told me he became slightly embarrassed to take me to the library because I would leave with such a HUGE towering stack of books.  Hah - that's what you get for forcing me into liking reading Dad :)

 The Grafton clan - united in our love for reading :) And you know, blood and family ties and all that other stuff

I'm so grateful now that my family slightly forced me to get into reading: it is one of my favorite hobbies now and I can't imagine life where I wasn't always in the middle of a book, or where my perfect idea of relaxing didn't include sitting on my butt on the beach for a few hours to catch up on my latest novel.  That is my plan for next week when I go away on vacation - I'll share more about that trip and the books I read there on my next post! Anyway, without further ado, here are my latest four books I've read since my last book review!

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City of Girls

By Elizabeth Gilbert. Synopsis from Amazon:

Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves - and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now eighty-nine years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life - and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. "At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time," she muses. "After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is." Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

I was intrigued to read this book since it was written by the same author who wrote Eat Pray Love which I really enjoyed reading – but this was a fiction story versus non-fiction.  The style of writing reminded me a bit of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo which I reviewed in a prior blog post and really LOVED.  Overall, I enjoyed reading this book too.  The setting was in 1940s New York for most of the book and it was a fun era to be set in.  I enjoyed getting to know some of the quirky characters and following along the story of the little-old-theatre-that could.  I enjoyed the book the most during the portion where Vivian describes her first summer in New York: it was fun, upbeat, and exciting to follow along on Vivian’s coming of age story.  The book does follow Vivian all the way into her later years of life though, and at some points I felt it to be a little drug out.  I didn’t love this one as much as I loved Eat Pray Love, but if you want to read along to one girl’s scandalous summer and watch her character grow into herself throughout of the rest of the novel with some fun theatre, war, and New York storylines, this would still be a recommendation from me! 

The Kiss Quotient

By Helen Hoang. Synopsis from Amazon: 

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he's making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

This was our book club pick for July, and it was NOT what I was expecting.  Someone recommended it to me on my Instagram account and then it received a ton of good reviews on Amazon, so I thought this would be a for sure fun, winner of a book.  Boy, was I WRONG.  What was this crap of a novel???  Maybe I’m being too harsh because I went into it thinking it was a standard chick-lit style novel, which it was definitely NOT.  This was a pure romance novel, with maybe a tad more plot thrown in than most.  At the basics of the book though it was just a plain romance novel, and it wasn’t even good! Honestly, parts of it made me gaggy.  I’m not a prude AT ALL, but this was just not an enjoyable read for me.  I literally stopped the book at one point and double checked who the author was because I couldn’t believe that an actual female would write sex scenes that way.  I get it: there are only so many “synonyms” you can use for certain body parts but…ugh.  I just literally wanted to laugh out loud from some of the descriptions used during the “hot and heavy scenes.” Definitely not the point of a romance novel.  I also just couldn’t connect that well to either of the main characters. Michael just annoyed me – constantly feeling like he was a failure from his family history, and I couldn’t find myself really rooting for Stella either.  It was just…awkward all around and I wish I would never have picked this one up.

  I Owe You One

By Sophie Kinsella. Synopsis from Amazon:

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” And since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will?
It’s simply not in Fixie’s nature to say no to people. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, she not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, an investment manager, scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

But then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life, and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. As always, she wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. No sooner has Seb agreed than the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?

I’ve been a longtime fan of Sophie Kinsella.  Her shopaholic series was one of my favorites and her books always make me laugh.  I started this book by accident: I actually thought I had started reading The Kiss Quotient and when I was only about 6% of the way through the book in my kindle I double checked and realized it was the wrong book! At that point though just from the start of the book I had already laughed out loud and enjoyed the characters so I didn’t want to stop reading it! I decided to power through it so I could finish this one AND my book club read in time for book club, and I’m glad I did.  It was an easy read for sure, but definitely enjoyable.  Kinsella has such an amazing ability to describe so many hilarious scenes where everything that could go wrong, DOES go wrong and I always love the little predicaments her characters find themselves in throughout the novel.  This was a heartwarming “coming of age” book and I really enjoyed following along the love story and getting to know all of the characters.  If you’ve loved Kinsella before, you will enjoy this one – and if you’ve never tried her, this is a great one to start with!

Summer of 69

By Elin Hilderbrand. Synopsis from Amazon:

Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. It's 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother's historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha's Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, each of them hiding a troubling secret. As the summer heats up, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man flies to the moon, and Jessie and her family experience their own dramatic upheavals along with the rest of the country.

In her first historical novel, rich with the details of an era that shaped both a nation and an island thirty miles out to sea, Elin Hilderbrand once again earns her title as queen of the summer novel.

One of my favorite authors does it again! Going into this book, I wasn’t exactly sure how much I would enjoy it since it doesn’t take place in the modern time.  It also focuses on a lot of historical events during the Summer of 1969 that were (quite frankly) way before my time that I don’t have a ton of knowledge/excessive interest in.  However, I should have known that Elin could not disappoint, because this was still SUCH an enjoyable read for me.  What makes this book, and ALL Of Elin’s books so enjoyable is that she truly develops each of her characters and their individual storylines SO WELL.  We get to follow multiple different family member’s perspectives from the same summer during this novel, and all of them were a joy to follow.  Even the main character who was only 13 was so fun to follow along with.  While the book was set in the past, the struggles each of the character go through are still very largely relatable to today (interracial couples still struggle against bias today just as Kirby does in the book), and some of the differences in the times were funny to read along with (I couldn’t get over every mention of Blair the oldest and pregnant sister often drinking alcohol!) Overall while not one of my top favorites, of Elin’s, I really enjoyed the read and would recommend giving it a go!

Even though we didn't love the book we picked for our July in person book club...we still had a great time meet up as always. This time around we met at a Bahama Breeze restaurant and enjoyed some summer cocktails and Island inspired meals while we chatted about our plans for the summer and some of the other books we had been reading.  I can't believe it but next month is going to be our TWO year anniversary of meeting! I'm so glad that I started this little book club two years ago - these girls have truly turned into friends and I value their friendships, book chats, and all the fun we have together when we meet up each month!

1 comment

  1. I was the same when I was younger. My mom would by lots of book but I wouldn't read it even though I knew how to read. It was not until I was in school that I learned to love books.