My Girlish Whims Book Club #29

It's been AGES since my last set of book reviews and I've got only one thing to blame: OUTLANDER! Yup, I'm still slowly plugging away on the book series but they are all so looooong that it's making it hard to get any other reading done! I've recapped the four books I read outside of Outlander below, but let it be known that I also finished all 1,072 pages of Voyager by Diana Gabalon as well.  Whew! Luckily, the series is amazing and I'm still enjoying reading them, but I figured I would stop including them in these review round-ups.  Just let it be known: they are worth the read if you have patience and always appreciate reading the book before watching the movie/show. I've had to pace my watching of Outlander the show to not surpass my book reading - I'm about to cancel my membership to Starz until I make progress on book 4!

Outside of Outlander...I guess I haven't talked about it on the blog here yet, but my hubby and I bought a new house in September! We had been hunting for a few months and got out-bid on a few other homes before we found this home.  We are so, so happy it is ours! It's in such a lovely neighborhood and has lots of space to grow into. Moving is also a LOT of work though and I definitely kept busy packing, moving, unpacking, organizing, etc. and I feel like we STILL have so much to do.  We moved from a 2 bedroom town home to a 4 bedroom single family home and we still have lots to buy to fill it up and settle in, but we are feeling utterly blessed to have a new place to share together.  My favorite part? The nice, big deck and outdoor area. It is so relaxing out here!

 Plenty of books have been enjoyed out on this deck with a glass of wine already, and I'm sure there will be plenty more evenings to come like this when the weather warms back up again.  For now, I'm getting ready to hunker down in for winter, and here's the round up of the last 4 books I've read since my last book club post.

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Anxious People

By Fredrik Backman. Synopsis from Amazon:
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious times.

This was the first book I've read by Fredrik Backman but I can tell you already that it definitely will not be my last! I was drawn to this book and really enjoyed it for two specific reasons.  One: I really enjoyed Backman's writing style.  It's modern, fast-paced, funny and quirky enough to make you smile, gasp and giggle all at once.  I also enjoyed how he both told a story specific with the characters in the book and events that unfolded, but also at the same time spoke a bit generally about life and the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Yes, this was a book about a bank robbery and about the anxious hostages, but it also delved deeper into the real reasons the characters were anxious (outside of the bank robbery) which included many completely relatable scenarios. This book was funny and quirky but also thought-provoking and therapeutic.  I would recommend it to anyone and found it especially fitting to read in this crazy, anxious ridden year that 2020 has provided to be.

Happy And You Know It

By Laura Hankin. Synopsis from Amazon: 

After her former band shot to superstardom without her, Claire reluctantly agrees to a gig as a playgroup musician for wealthy infants on New York's Park Avenue. Claire is surprised to discover that she is smitten with her new employers, a welcoming clique of wellness addicts with impossibly shiny hair, who whirl from juice cleanse to overpriced miracle vitamins to spin class with limitless energy.
There is perfect hostess Whitney who is on the brink of social-media stardom and just needs to find a way to keep her flawless life from falling apart. Caustically funny, recent stay-at-home mom Amara who is struggling to embrace her new identity. And old money, veteran mom Gwen who never misses an opportunity to dole out parenting advice. But as Claire grows closer to the stylish women who pay her bills, she uncovers secrets and betrayals that no amount of activated charcoal can fix.
Filled with humor and shocking twists, Happy and You Know It is a brilliant take on motherhood – exposing it as yet another way for society to pass judgment on women – while also exploring the baffling magnetism of curated social-media lives that are designed to make us feel unworthy. But, ultimately, this dazzling novel celebrates the unlikely bonds that form, and the power that can be unlocked, when a group of very different women is thrown together when each is at her most vulnerable.

This was an enjoyable read for me.  I feel like the "hired help becomes semi-friends with New York socialites" has been done multiple times in the past, but that didn't stop me from still enjoying this version of it.  Claire was a relatable character, Amara was cool and fun and easily likeable, and Whitney seemed to be one of those perfect little robot bunnies that you want to keep on watching/reading to see if she will ever break.  I do think a certain element of this book was pretty easy to figure out early on that got drawn out too long, but conversely by the end of the story there were parts that I didn't see coming at all either.  This was an easy, enjoyable read for me - it's not an earth shattering novel but I liked the story of these moms and watching the story go down.


By Raven Leilani. Synopsis from Amazon:

No one wants what no one wants.
And how do we even know what we want? How do we know we’re ready to take it?

Edie is stumbling her way through her twentiessharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She is also haltingly, fitfully giving heat and air to the art that simmers inside her. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriagewith rules.

As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and invited into Eric’s home—though not by Eric. She becomes a hesitant ally to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie may be the only Black woman young Akila knows.

Irresistibly unruly and strikingly beautiful, razor-sharp and slyly comic, sexually charged and utterly absorbing, Raven Leilani’s Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life—her hunger, her anger—in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent, and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.

I really did not like this book and frankly don't understand the hype it received.  First off, I'm no prude and don't mind sexual content in books.  However, I didn't find this book to be sexy at all - frankly I found it embarrassing! And not embarrassing like "oh hide the chapters when I'm out in public so no one sees me blushing" but more so just embarrassed for the main character.  She's a hot mess, which I understand is partly what the book is based upon, but it makes it hard to find her likeable as a protagonist. I also just couldn't get into this author's writing style.  Everything flowed into itself but made the plot seem immensely choppy all at the same time and I just couldn't get into how she tried to piece different parts of the story together.  The only validating part of this book was Edie's relationship with Akila, but even that is overshadowed by the extremely odd situation this book puts Edie in - basically living in the home of her "lover" with the rest of his family.  In the end I felt Edie's character to be unlikable, the writing to be not my style at all, and I was very glad when it was over.  Not a win for me, even though one of my favorite author's, Elin Hilderbrand, recommended it.

28 Summers

By Elin Hilderbrand. Synopsis from Amazon:

When Mallory Blessing's son, Link, receives deathbed instructions from his mother to call a number on a slip of paper in her desk drawer, he's not sure what to expect. But he certainly does not expect Jake McCloud to answer. It's the late spring of 2020 and Jake's wife, Ursula DeGournsey, is the frontrunner in the upcoming Presidential election.

There must be a mistake, Link thinks. How do Mallory and Jake know each other?

Flash back to the sweet summer of 1993: Mallory has just inherited a beachfront cottage on Nantucket from her aunt, and she agrees to host her brother's bachelor party. Cooper's friend from college, Jake McCloud, attends, and Jake and Mallory form a bond that will persevere—through marriage, children, and Ursula's stratospheric political rise—until Mallory learns she's dying.

Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives, and the lives of the people they love.

And speaking of Elin Hilderbrand, I of course had to read her most recent summer book (man I've been getting delayed in getting this post up considering it is now December!!!)  I posted this review already on my instagram, but here it is again for the blog.  I feel this review might be a little against the grain so no one hate me but. Yes: I liked this book. I just didn’t LOVE it. First and foremost: building a book based off of an “affair” romance is always going to pose a few problems. I feel like Elin has built a following over her summer beach reads that are happy and fun and this one just left me feeling...happy but confused?! This is the only book I can remember Elin taking a step back and literally telling us in the third person that “Mallory was our girl” but then if Mallory is our protagonist then why, even if we like her so well, do we still hate/but not hate/ Ursula and why does Mallory fold so easily at Usula’s last request & whyyyyy does she take the easy literature route out and {MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD} basically kill Mallory off from cancer instead of her and Jake having an actual come to Jesus moment of “yes we’ve been having an affair for the last XX summers & this is kind of a major moral issue" but! We can’t feel bad about it! Cause we are “our girl” & “our guy” and oh my gosh Elin Hilderbrand will never meet me for a signature again!!! I still liked the book I just felt a bit unfulfilled and frustrated by it. I feel like Elin was trying to portray Mallory as a strong and independent woman but she came off more like a pushover to me: someone who has been holding out on starting any other relationships because no one could ever “be as good as Jake” but realistically Mallory was never just enough for Jake so she really wasn’t necessarily strong & independent, just an anti-realist holding out for a future that would never be hers. Sigh. I love Elin books & she can do no wrong in my eyes but while I enjoyed this read, it’s not the favorite story for the summer of 2020 for me.

It may not be warm enough to be down at our family beach house sitting outside, sipping in a skirt and reading, but I will still be back with my next book review soon: we FINALLY got a couch delivered to our new house after about 3 months of waiting for it to come.  We've been doing a great job of making up for lost time being couch potatoes on it and I'll share my next reads from my couch time soon!