My Girlish Whims Book Club #39

One week left until Halloween! Are you ready?? My prep for the holiday this year has included decorating our front porch for the season (I'm much more into general fall decor verses spooky/scary Halloween specific items) and buying a bulk size bag of Halloween candy that I may or may not have already opened and slowly have been picking all of the Hershey's Cookies and Cream mini chocolate bars out of for myself. Hey, what the trick or treaters don't know won't hurt them ;)

We've enjoyed doing some general fall activities in between nesting projects this year like going apple picking and I just baked my first apple crisp of the season last night using our harvest.  I follow a super simple recipe from my great grand-mom that lacks many words or instructions but somehow turns out insanely delicious each time my family makes it. 

Besides that, my only real Halloween prep has been picking a Halloween themed read as one of my recent books which ended up being pretty cute and very seasonal so I'm glad I did! Here's what I've been reading since my last set of reviews!

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By Erin Sterling. Synopsis from Amazon: 
Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.
I liked this book, but it's hard to say exactly why.  The book was very fluffy, but being in the romance category that is to be expected.  I will say for a romance book - a genre that typically makes me want to claw my eyeballs out - I had very few eye clawing urges during this book.  There is the over arching story of the spell Vivi cast on Rhys which causes problems for fixing the magic in their town when he comes back to visit 9 years later and Vivi and Rhys have to fight together to save the town and one of their lives.  While it sounds robust, the storyline really wasn't a huge focus and things get tidied up almost too quickly when it's time to wrap things up.  Most of the book focuses on Vivi and Rhys and their super hot love affair they had 9 years ago, and how it could never happen again now that they are older and wiser but yet they both still obviously have feelings for each of course you know it's going to happen again.  The book had a bit of steam, but definitely not nearly as much as most romance novels. I think the use of phrases that included "tits," "dickbag," and the F bomb trying to be funny/hip was excessive and came off as gaudy and forced rather than how it was intended, but the family camaraderie between Vivi, Elaine and Gwyn was heart warming. the magic concept was done tastefully, and it was a fun, quick and easy little seasonally appropriate novel if you are in the mood for something light to get you ready for Halloween.

The Neighbor's Secret

 By L. Alison Heller. Synopsis from Amazon:
With its sprawling yards and excellent schools, Cottonwood Estates is the perfect place to raise children. The Cottonwood Book Club serves as the subdivision’s eyes and ears, meeting once a month for discussion, gossip, and cocktails. If their selections trend toward twisty thrillers and salacious murder mysteries, it’s only because the members feel secure that such evil has no place in their own cul-de-sacs.

Or does it?

What happened to Lena’s family fifteen years ago was a tragic accident, and she will never admit otherwise. Devoted wife and mother Annie refuses to acknowledge—even to herself—the weight of a past shame. And new resident Jen wants friends, but as always, worry about her troubled son gets in the way.

When late-night acts of vandalism target the women of the book club in increasingly violent and personal ways, they will be forced to decide how far to go to keep their secrets. At least they all agree on what’s most important: protecting their children at any cost—even if it means someone has to die.

 This book was only ok for me.  I picked it up because it was about a group of suburban mom's and their book club - obviously very fitting for a book lover and book club host like me! It took a bit for me to get into the story - the cast of characters and all their daughters threw a bunch of female character names at you all at once which took me a bit to catch onto.  I enjoyed the book club meeting portions of the book but some of the character's storylines just really dragged on. We know with pretty much certainty that the story will culminate with a murder from the narrative at the start of the book and continuous updates sprinkled throughout from this unnamed narrator, but that was the majority of the excitement this book held besides a bit of a vague mystery around Lena & Annie's past.  The neighborhood vandal was a minimal part of the plot and most of the book revolved around the characters wrapped up in their own lives and regular worries around parenting and childrearing...just nothing all the earth shattering.  The book finally picked up in the last few chapters (which of course I got sucked into reading past bedtime to finally see what happened) but even when the action picked up I was still frustrated with some of the lack of clarity on what actual events transpired and the thought that so many of these characters could be above the law for other moral reasons.  I finished the book but would not jump at picking it up again!

The Paper Palace

By Miranda Cowley Heller. Synopsis from Amazon:
It is a perfect July morning, and Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at “The Paper Palace”—the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside. Now, over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives. As Heller colors in the experiences that have led Elle to this day, we arrive at her ultimate decision with all its complexity. Tender yet devastating, The Paper Palace considers the tensions between desire and dignity, the legacies of abuse, and the crimes and misdemeanors of families.
I had heard about this book from Reese Witherspoon's book club and a few instagram followers recommended it to me as well. The title never stuck out to me and I had no real interest in reading it or idea what it was about until I actually sat down and finally read the synopsis and was very intrigued.  The book hit on some heavy topics and was a lot to digest, but I actually really enjoyed reading it.  There is some sensitive subject matter around sexual abuse which I didn't know going into it, FYI. Even with a story that touched on some tragedies, the story had a lot of depth to it. I really enjoyed following the back story of Elle's childhood - how complicated her grandmother's and mother's relationships impacted her life and family relations, the wit and banter of Peter and Wallace, and the literary description and imagery of the Paper Palace and all of life's lessons that were taught there. I like how the book lead with such a shocking and huge part of the plot: Elle and Jonas finally consummating an ages old love obsession with each other...AFTER they are both married to others - and how the story backtracks up to that moment.  I wasn't quite ready for the ending and while I really didn't empathize with Elle or her predicament at all (I personally felt that the youthful Jonas love affair story wasn't fully fleshed out, and Peter was continually portrayed as nothing but a doting, loving husband and family man and I could only be upset with Elle for wanting to rock that dynamic) but I was still very invested in her family, her story and her decision for her future. I really enjoyed reading this one and it has stuck with me even after finishing a few books since.

56 Days

By Catherine Ryan Howard. Synopsis from Amazon:

No one even knew they were together. Now one of them is dead.
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin and start dating the same week COVID-19 reaches Irish shores.
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests they move in together. Ciara sees a unique opportunity for a relationship to flourish without the scrutiny of family and friends. Oliver sees a chance to hide who—and what—he really is.
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.
Can they determine what really happened, or has lockdown created an opportunity for someone to commit the perfect crime?

This was first book I've read that was set during COVID times.  While we are out of the major shutdown phase, we are still living daily with this pandemic so I actually enjoyed reading a book that was prevalent for the times. This was a pretty quick read for me and I really did enjoy it!  I didn't know quite what to expect going into it - besides the dead body you aren't given much background into what the actual story was about but it actually worked out well that way.  I liked getting to know each of the characters, and then getting to know their secrets and motives as well. There were parts I did not see coming which I appreciated as I can always enjoy getting tricked as a reader.  I don't think this was a mind blowing thriller, but it kept me very entertained and curious to find out what happened next - for a quickie read I would recommend picking it up! 

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