My Girlish Whims Book Club #25

During the COVID-19 Corona virus forced quarantine I've been doing A LOT.

And by A LOT, I mean A LOT of the same few things:
-Sitting on my couch
-Sitting on my craft room chair
-Sitting on my rolling family room chair while working from home
-Sitting at the kitchen table shoving food in my face
-Sitting on a deck chair during a rare sunny and warm day (which have been few and far between)
-Walking/Running/Jogging on my treadmill in the basement (proud of this one, lol)

Luckily, all this sitting around at home has been quite conducive for my reading hobby, so I'm happy to be back to share a round up of the most recent books I've read since my last round up!

Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies, and now more then ever while stuck at home I'm excited to try some new authors, read some of my same favorites, and overall just keep on reading to keep my mind busy, my brain intrigued, and my heart happy.  Books are an instantaneously easy way to be transported into a different world.  If you need something light, pick up a quick and easy rom com.  If you need something distracting, pick up a classic mystery and get immersed in the characters and the clues. For this round up I had one easy favorite which you definitely need to add to your TBR (to-be-read) list, and feel free to click back through my archives of my past book review posts to find some other good ones to keep you busy during this time!

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The Guest List

By Lucy Foley. Synopsis from Amazon:

The bride - The plus one - The best man - The wedding planner - The bridesmaid - The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

 I got this book as an early release from the Book of the Month club and I LOVED it.  Favorite pick of all my reads this time for sure! The book alternates between relaying the story of the wedding day in the real time and going back into the past to tell the backstory leading up to the real time. I thought that was a really good way to build up suspense and draw out the story.  I also enjoyed how the story alternated the viewpoints of who was telling the story: it kept the book moving along well but wasn't confusing.  All the different characters kept me intrigued: the charming celebrity groom, the bridesmaid with a secret, the caring plus one, the best man struggling to fit in with the other boys, and the bride who was so beautiful and seemed to have the picture perfect life and relationship: but does she really? There were lots of developments that kept turning up in the book that kept surprising me and I was very excited to keep reading.  Good suspense, good storytelling, this was an eerie, fun read for me that I would definitely recommend!

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander Book 2)

By Diana Gabaldon. Synopsis from Amazon: 

For twenty years, Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to the mysteries of Scotland’s mist-shrouded Highlands.

Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as shocking as the events that gave it birth: the secret of an ancient circle of standing stones, the secret of a love that transcends centuries, and the truth of a man named Jamie Fraser—a Highland warrior whose gallantry once drew the young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.

Claire’s spellbinding journey continues through the intrigue-ridden French court and the menace of Jacobite plots, to the Highlands of Scotland, through war and death in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves.

I've been newly hooked on the Outlander series (review of the first book here) and if you read the first book, the second book is definitely worth a read as well! I just love, love, loveeeee the love story between Claire and Jamie.  The "modern time" in this book picks up wayyyy after the first time Claire went through the rocks and was transported back in time which was a surprising and interesting start to the book, but eventually when the story turns back to the 1700s it picks up not too far after the last book finishes.  I liked how there were a lot of new experiences in this book: we got to see Jamie and Claire living in an estate in France and entertaining with the French Court, we got to see Jamie returning to his homestead, preparing for battles, fighting and more.  Throughout all of the story there was still the same humor, great characters, and love story that makes this series so enchanting.  It's a long read but a good one for sure!

  The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

By Josie Silver. Synopsis from Amazon:

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them.

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade and Lydia thought their love was indestructible. But she was wrong. On Lydia’s twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants is to hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life—and perhaps even love—again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again through the doorway to her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

I wanted to read this book because my book club read One Day in December by the same author and I seemed to remember enjoying it.  Now that I re-read my review of it from a past round up, perhaps I was a little too harsh because I do remember liking that book more than this second book.  Neither of these books are bad: I do like the light, heartwarming and easy writing style that Silver has.  These are nice and easy modern reads with unique plot settings.  For me, the entire essence of this plot setting just wasn't thatttt that exciting though.  Lydia Bird loses her fiance at the very start of the novel and then the book goes through her mourning process in her current life, but then alternates that story between an alternate one.  In the alternate life Lydia can take a sleeping pill and magically be transported back into the life she had been living prior to her fiance's death, but Freddie is still alive and in her dreams she can continue to live out their life together.  Kind of interesting, but the alternating between both different story lines seemed to kind of drag out the plot longer than necessary and it just made me frustrated whenever Lydia went back to her "dreamworld" instead of coping in her own life.  Also - for a good portion of this novel, it's kind of sad and depressing! I mean, Lydia lost the love of her life and the book goes through allll of her grief.  It just made me a bit sad with her for a good portion of the novel and not that excited to pick it up and continue to read the sad parts.  Luckily, it's not all bad: ultimately the book does have a nice heartwarming "coming of age" theme to it which takes over in the end, but some parts dragged on for me before that.  

The Grace Year

By Kim Liggett. Synopsis from Amazon:

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.
With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

This was my book club's pick for our April meeting. It it technically a teen/young adult novel, but it was advertised as being a speculative thriller similar in style to The Handmaid's Tale which intrigued us enough to want to give it a read.  I do occasionally like to read young adult books still: I feel like they are a little more fresh and innocent in some subject matters than adult fiction is.  While Tierney may have started as an innocent 16 year old at the start of this book, she quickly had to grow up and learn to fight for her life when she is sent off for her Grace Year.  I read a review online saying this book was like a mix between The Handmaid's Tale and Lord of the Flies which is a VERY fitting description.  While Tierney had to fight to stay alive and well due to the society she is living in (one were women have no rights and there are poachers trying to kill & steal the grace year girls), she also had to fight to stay alive and on good terms with the other girls she is living with during her grace year where tensions run high as cliques form, leaders emerge, and some girls become dangerous as they "come into their magic." While the book sounds like a lot of hocus pocus, it really doesn't go overboard on that topic which I appreciated and more focus's on Tierney's journey to stay alive and hope that one day her culture and world can be changed.  Overall I liked, not LOVED this book, but I enjoyed the story, the struggle and the outcome and am glad I read it!

My in-person book club had to change plans from meeting in public at a restaurant like normal to meeting up via zoom call this month.  Even though we couldn't be together in person, it was still really fun to get together and chat and *virtually* raise a glass with each other.  I've already got out next book picked out for us to read in May - here's to hoping that by then the world is closer to getting back to normal!

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