My Girlish Whims Book Club #32

Not a ton has gone on to update you guys on since my last set of reviews except that I was lucky enough to sneak off to Florida in February for a quick trip to paradise! We lucked out with the weather - it was literally PERFECT everyday we were away with temperatures in the high 70s and no clouds in the sky. It was a MUCH welcome change of scenery from PA and all of the snow we've gotten this winter.  It's finally starting to melt but for awhile there we had a LOT of snow on the ground!!!

We stayed at the Lido Beach Resort which was located on Lido Beach off of Sarasota.  This was a great resort with lots of outdoor amenities (two pools, hot tubs, and an outdoor tiki bar!) with a yummy restaurant on site as well.  We spent pretty much everyday outside laying by the beach and man oh man was it nice to have some time to read my books in the sunshine facing the ocean!

This was my first time visiting this specific spot in Florida and I totally would go back! I was able to finish one book and get another started while I was away, so without further ado: here is the round up of the last four books I've read!

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By Julia Quinn. Synopsis from Amazon: 

Can there be any greater challenge to London's Ambitious Mamas than an unmarried duke?—Lady Whistledown's Society Papers, April 1813

By all accounts, Simon Basset is on the verge of proposing to his best friend's sister—the lovely and almost-on-the-shelf—Daphne Bridgerton. But the two of them know the truth—it's all an elaborate ruse to keep Simon free from marriage-minded society mothers. And as for Daphne, surely she will attract some worthy suitors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable.

But as Daphne waltzes across ballroom after ballroom with Simon, it's hard to remember that their courtship is a sham. Maybe it's his devilish smile, certainly it's the way his eyes seem to burn every time he looks at her . . . but somehow Daphne is falling for the dashing duke . . . for real! And now she must do the impossible and convince the handsome rogue that their clever little scheme deserves a slight alteration, and that nothing makes quite as much sense as falling in love.

There is a pretty constant trend in my reading: if a book is turned into a show/movie that becomes popular, I just always HAVE to give the book a try first so I'm often reading books based on current TV/movie releases (two of the books this time around were picked based on this).  Unless you've been living under a rock in the beginning of 2021, you've probably heard of the steamy, 19th century based series "Bridgerton" that has been sweeping the ratings on Netflix.  Before diving into the show I picked up the book and for one of the very FEW times in my life I will say this: I actually enjoyed the show better than the book.  GASP!!! Hear me out: that does not mean I did not enjoy the book - I just enjoyed the show more and it's mainly for one single reason: this first book of the series was very, very focused on Daphne getting married, and then Daphne getting pregnant, and there was really not much drama outside of that.  Sure, there was some conflict thrown in from the Duke's past with his father, an "indecency" scare in the garden, a duel to be stopped (I have to say - I giggled a little bit about this scenario. Apparently in 1813 going to second base with someone you were not married to immediately condemned you to death by duel!!) but the overarching theme of the book was just based on Daphne getting married and starting a family and not quite as exciting as I hoped.  The show pulled in content from the future books in the series so you had a more diverse cast of characters and plots to follow along with while still having Daphne's relationship as the focus.  I'm not jumping at the prospect of picking up the second book to continue the story, but I WILL watch the second season of the show in a heartbeat!!!

The Four Winds

By Kristin Hannah. Synopsis from Amazon:

Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.

By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.

In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.

The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it—the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

  I was a huge fan of The Nightingale and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, so I knew I needed to pick up The Four Winds as soon as it came out.  I am so utterly glad that I did! I gobbled this book up - not because it was a happy story but because it was just so beautifully written and you kept on wanting to read more and more to hope that something would finally go right for Elsa.  This was such a heart breaking book but emotional and moving all at the same time.  I actually cried in the middle of the novel which, although I tend to think I'm a pretty emotional person, is still pretty rare for me to do from a book! Although I knew there was a depression in the 30's and I've heard of the dust storms and issues on the great plains, I had no idea just how bad things really were so this was a very educational read for me.  It was also pretty thought provoking: there are some political statements in this book.  One of my favorite books ever is Atlas Shrugged because it explains in a fictional way some of the political/economic ideas I was taught and have come to strongly believe. Without giving too much away, this book did give another very interesting side of the story and brought up a lot of socialist and even communist ideals that really made you pause and think.  Anyone with a half of a heart will read this story and empathize with Elsa and her family. It is not a happy novel but I still got immense joy watching Elsa continue to fight for her family, her basic human rights, and find her voice.  

Firefly Lane

By Kristen Hannah. Synopsis from Amazon:
In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the "coolest girl in the world" moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer's end they've become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah's magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn't know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she'll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she'll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they've survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone's Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it's the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It's about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you---and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you'll never forget . . . one you'll want to pass on to your best friend.
 After reading The Four Winds, I was totally on a Kristen Hannah high and with the knowledge that Netflix had just come out with a new TV series for her book FireFly Lane, It was a natural transition for me to dive into that one next! Overall: I liked the book.  In the past I have really NOT enjoyed books that span a long period of time typically adolescence into adulthood ( (like Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner - review here) but this book really WORKED for that narrative.  You felt for both Tully and Kate during their awkward pre-teen years, and you were still extremely interested watching them become adults.  As a reader, I grew EXTREMELY frustrating seeing how much of a b*tch Tully became during the book, and also grew mad a Kate for being an enabler and letting it happen. the end of the day that's what keeps us reading these stories, right? I was pissed at Kate for letting Tully walk all over her but I do ultimately think their friendship worked. I remember being an awkward pre-teen in-between friends who just needed someone to be there for there.  I didn't have a "Tully" walk into my life right then, but I did have a friend and that was a friendship I took with me for a very, very long time because it came when I needed it most.  (Is this a book review, or a journal entry - lol!) I'm basically saying was I got mad at the relationship in the book at times but I stilled loved the story because it was RELATABLE and I wanted to keep reading to see if Kate would find herself, to see how far Tully's fame would take her, to see if she would finally shape up to be less selfish.

I'm currently watching the show and have not finished yet but I'm still really enjoying it.  I'm definitely mad at some of the differences: (SPOILERS ALERT!) I don't think we really see how stressed out/lost Kate became as a mother without the twins and only showing her relationship with Marah.  I think the show (so far) is making Tully a little more lovable: there are some really cute moments with her and Kate/Marah that just seem a little more enhanced in the show than they were in the book. I think the show is doing a better job of showing her insecurities in her relationships with men though which frustrates you as the viewer - you really just want her to be happy and let her "boy toy" (who was not in the book!) into her life.  Lastly, I'm pissed that Kate and Johnny are currently not together and in the middle of a divorce with where I am in the show.  Their relationship in their marriage in the book was always so beautiful but also always kept you holding your breath just a littllllle bit because Kate still held onto some lingering jealousy/self-doubt when it came to Johnny's feelings about Tully.  I think that is what made it so much more interesting to read how they grew up together with their family and in their relationship and made it so, so beautiful how much Johnny cared for Kate at the end of the book.  Sigh.  We will see how the show ends but so far I would recommend reading AND watching this series - it's an enjoyable one!!!  
By Riley Sager. Synopsis from Amazon:

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew's sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.
This was my first book by Riley Sager. I somewhat enjoyed reading it, but wasn't blown away by it.  I was a little worried to pick it up thinking it would be a bit too creepy based on a lot of hype this author has gotten, but the writing wasn't anything scary enough to keep you up at night.  I enjoyed the history of the Bartholomew and setting in New York, but I did think some things were a bit unrealistic.  Maybe I've just been super lucky to be blessed with so much, but I did find it a bit insane how destitute Jules was - almost no money and really only one friend in the world.  And really you know what they say about if something seems to good to be is!!! I think Jules was way too naive about the apartment sitting gig from the start and after a few startling warning signs she was still a bit dense and slow to remove herself from danger.  I did enjoy the twist - I don't want to give too much away but it did make that portion of the plot way more creepier and realistic than what you thought was going on at one point.  I did feel like the ending tied things up just way too easily and cutesy as well.  Overall I still think I will try another one of Sager's novels, but I'm hoping this one is not as telling for what I should expect from the rest. enjoyable one!!!

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