My Girlish Whims Book Club #24

I'm back to share my latest reads with you including the book I just read while traveling to and from Nashville for a fun little trip! I've posted about some past trips to Nashville here and even gave a mini trip round up on a past book review post as well.  Nashville and The Finger Lakes in New York are two of my favorite long weekend trips to go on, and I had a great time on my most recent trip per usual!

This was my fourth trip to Nashville but my first time getting to stay at the Gaylord Opryland Resort.  My husband had a conference there for work, so I flew in late Friday night to meet up with him.  He had to work on Saturday but I had a great time exploring the resort by myself.  If you are ever in Nashville and have a chance to stay here even just one night, it is so worth it! The resort is HUGE and it has tons of beautiful botanical gardens that you can walk through inside the hotel including beautiful waterfalls. There are tons of restaurants and bars in the resort and lots of shops too - I had a fun time wandering around the gardens and then doing some shopping Saturday morning before hitting up the hotel gym to get my workout on. 

There is also an indoor water park at the resort! I didn't really feel like floating down the lazy river by myself, but I did find that they have an adults only infinity pool in the upper portion of the resort which turned out to be such a fun spot to hang out at.  There was a pool bar where I grabbed a fruity pineapple drink at (yes, I bought that drink just for that cup so I could take a picture with it - lol) and even though it was kind of chilly outside, the infinity pool was inside a solarium so I enjoyed relaxing and soaking up the sunshine and catching up on some reading (sneak peak at one of the books I read recently!)

After my husband was done his work conference Saturday I managed to pull myself away from the pool and we moved to an Air BnB in 12 South neighborhood for the rest of our stay.  This was our second time staying in this area and I really think it's the perfect area to stay in Nashville! It's only about a 10-15 minute uber ride to downtown, but 12 South itself is very walkable with lots to do as well.  It's a more quiet residential area but it still has cute coffee shops, the most amazing 1,000 layer donuts from 5 Daughters Bakery, and lots of bars, restaurants and shops as well. 

The rest of our trip was spent doing the things we love in Nashville: heading downtown to listen to good country music and to grab some drinks at the honky tonks and roof top bars, eating hot chicken and mac and cheese, and venturing out into the country for an afternoon at Arrington Vineyard.  Lots of fun packed into a long weekend and officially one book started on the flight down, and finished on the flight back!

Here's what I've been reading since my last round up:

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An Unwanted Guest

By Shari Lapena. Synopsis from Amazon:
A weekend retreat at a cozy mountain lodge is supposed to be the perfect getaway . . . but when the storm hits, no one is getting away

It's winter in the Catskills and Mitchell's Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing--maybe even romantic--weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge woodburning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity--and all contact with the outside world--the guests settle in and try to make the best of it.

Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead--it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.

Within the snowed-in paradise, something--or someone--is picking off the guests one by one. And there's nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm--and one another.

 I was excited to see another book out from Shari Lapena because I really loooooved The Couple Next Door  and also enjoyed A Stranger in the House so I was pumped to read another thriller by this author.  I also was excited about it because the story-line is essentially very similar to Agatha Christie's classic murder mystery And Then There Were None. While I enjoyed this book, I think anytime you go into it expecting a mystery of the likes of Agatha Freaking Christie, you will be slightly disappointed.  The thing that bugged me with this book was that it was very hard for you as the reader to figure out who done it. I don't think there were enough clues for us to logistically have been able to decipher who the murderer was which was slightly frustrating to me.  Regardless, I still liked the eerie setting, the cast of characters, and following the storyline from multiple points of view because it really kept the book moving quickly.  I started this book on Sunday morning and finished it Friday night all while working full time, working out daily for an hour plus, commuting 1.5 hours daily, and keeping a small social life ;) so it was overall still a quick and enjoyable read for me, and probably my favorite of the books that I read during this roundup. However, if you haven't: reading the original And Then There Were None is still a necessity before you ever consider picking this one up!

The Holdout

By Graham Moore. Synopsis from Amazon: 

It’s the most sensational case of the decade. Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar real estate fortune, vanishes on her way home from school, and her teacher, Bobby Nock, a twenty-five-year-old African American man, is the prime suspect. The subsequent trial taps straight into America’s most pressing preoccupations: race, class, sex, law enforcement, and the lurid sins of the rich and famous. It’s an open-and-shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed—until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, convinced of Nock’s innocence, persuades the rest of the jurors to return the verdict of not guilty, a controversial decision that will change all their lives forever.

Flash forward ten years. A true-crime docuseries reassembles the jury, with particular focus on Maya, now a defense attorney herself. When one of the jurors is found dead in Maya’s hotel room, all evidence points to her as the killer. Now, she must prove her own innocence—by getting to the bottom of a case that is far from closed.

As the present-day murder investigation weaves together with the story of what really happened during their deliberation, told by each of the jurors in turn, the secrets they have all been keeping threaten to come out—with drastic consequences for all involved.

This was the first book I picked out from the Book of the Month club which I decided to try out for a few months. The book was good, although I think I've been slightly tainted by the amazing legal thrillers that John Grisham writes, so I couldn't love this one just quite as much.  I think the premise of story was very interesting, but the play out of the story was not very thrilling.  I got a bit bored in the middle and the most crazy, exciting part of the book happened literally at the very last chapter. It wasn't all bad, there were a few surprises throughout that I enjoyed and I did like the main character and how hard she stuck to her guns, fought for what she believed in, and refused to lie in court to try and clear her name.  An ok read, but I'm hoping for something a little more entertaining for my next book of the month. 

  Long Bright River

By Liz Moore. Synopsis from Amazon:

In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don't speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey's district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit--and her sister--before it's too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters' childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.

This was our book club pick for our most recent meeting and it was met with mixed reviews.  We all agreed that we enjoyed the fact that it took place in the city of Philadelphia which is where we are all from, and we all appreciated the subject matter: I really have not read up much on the opioid crisis and it was pretty eye opening to get such an in-depth look at the true problem going on in the city.  I liked this book, I just didn't LOVE it.  I was interested in what what happening, I just never found myself saying "Oh! I can't wait to sit down and read another chapter!" I think part of the problem was the Mickey was a little bit of a vanilla character without much backbone.  I wanted to love her and root for her: she was a good person at heart but just didn't find myself 100% drawn to her.  The first time she stood up for herself to Gee I wanted to jump up and give her a standing ovation and yell "FINALLY!!!"  There were a few twists in the book: one of the first major ones I did NOT see coming at all so that kept me interested for a bit.  Some of the drama towards the end was just...a bit anti-climactic though.  I would not call this a thriller at all - more of a police style book with a family story intertwined into it.  It was good but not great, but I'm still glad I read it for knowledge on the subject matter. 

Fix Her Up

By Tessa Bailey. Synopsis from Amazon:

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World... whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)
Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)
Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)
 Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite.
Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there's Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her...

I think I'm done.  OFFICIALLY FOREVER DONE WITH ROMANCE NOVELS! Ugh, I just can't stand them anymore! I decided to read this one because a popular "bookstagram" account I follow on Instagram has posted about this book multiple times about how much she loved it.  We are going to have to agree to disagree because I just did NOT like this book.  I think it may be partly the romance genre as a whole - I'm just always looking for so much more plot than what you typically find in a romance book. I think that the "steamy scenes" are supposed to make up for that, but half the time I don't even think that the steamy scenes are that good.  They just feel over the top and make me roll my eyes rather than feel any extra heat, lol.  That was especially true for this book.  The steamy scenes were mediocre and I found Georgie's character to be way too forced and unrealistic.  She is 23 years old, owns a home, and literally makes her living as a clown?!? She works like twice a week - that's not enough to make a living.  The author tries to add drama to the book by giving some lame reason for why Georgie and Travis can't be together, but it's just some pathetic excuse to keep the book going longer when its obvious that Georgie and Travis are attracted to each other and are both grown adults and there is no real reason they have to be "pretend dating." The final straw for me was when Georgie and two of her girlfriends start this "girl empowerment club" and rumor gets out about it so suddenly the next day all of a sudden there are like 50 women who randomly show up for the meeting at 10AM on a Tuesday and start drinking mimosas.  There is no way that all those women don't have jobs and can just show up for some random meeting with less than 12 hours notice on a Tuesday morning.  Am I getting into the nitty gritty here? Yes, but obviously this book just irked me, lol.  If anyone has read a romance novel that actually has good plot, please let me know and I might reconsider, but for now I am swearing them off entirely!!!

My in person book club had a fun dinner out at Founding Farmers right before I left on my trip to Nashville.  I'm very proud - we did actually have a decent amount of book discussion during our meeting, it wasn't all just cocktails and life chats, lol.  We've already got our next book picked and our meeting location set for April.  I guess I better hurry up and finish the other two books I'm currently in the middle of reading so I'm ready to start that one!

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