My Girlish Whims Book Club #48

It has really started to feel like fall this week and it is giving me all the cozy reading vibes! Since this is our first fall as parents we are of course enjoying getting out to enjoy some festive fall activities like our annual apple picking trip.

The boys may not have been much help with the actual picking, but they sure were cute companions! 

They have also fully enjoyed eating all the apples we gathered - especially little Jack here. He is my smaller twin (two pounds lighter than Tyler!) but has a ferocious appetite for solids these days and has LOVED chowing down on these cooked apple slices :)

When we are not out and about though I'm always in the middle of a good book so I'm back to review the most recent four books I read since my last set of reviews. A few of these are leftover "summery reads" so it's about time I get to it!

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Every Summer After

By Carley Fortune. Synopsis from Amazon:

They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic story of love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

This book was a very popular new release this summer, and unfortunately it just didn't live up to the hype for me for as much buzz as it got.  There was nothing inherently wrong with the book, but I just got a bit bored with it.  It's a very familiar friends-to-lovers story with a second chance romance involved, but it read a bit more like a young adult book versus a modern and moving love story because the bulk of the story takes place when Percy and Sam are young teenagers.  The story does flip flop back and forth between present day and teenage years, but the present day story was pretty predictable and the meat of the story is about two 13-year-olds who fall in love at a lake house.  If that's your jam, give it a read - it was a quick and easy read for me - but personally I wasn't overly moved or impressed with it.

By Gabrielle Zevin. Synopsis from Amazon: 

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

I enjoyed this book, but my biggest qualm with it was that I think it was too long! I know it takes place over 30 years but unfortunately the last 1/3ish of the book just got old and pretty tiring to me and this would have been a much more positive review if it would have been wrapped up a bit earlier.  The characters in this book are extremely well written - Sam and Sadie were each damaged and quirky but extremely likable in their own individual ways.  I also really enjoyed Marx's character and Dov (even though he was a dick he was still pretty funny). The cast of characters was just wonderfully done and you really come to care about their lives.  This book is very much about video games - playing them, creating them, marketing them, etc. - but I still found it very enjoyable and easy to follow as someone who's gaming experience was just a few rounds of Mario Cart back in the day. There were very moving moments in this book - powerful and sad and even empowering, but I still hold the same thought that the book would have been a lot better wrapped up sooner.  I kind of grew tired of the back-and-forth in Sam and Sadie's relationship over dumb misunderstandings, and the entire "Pioneers" chapter felt completely out of place, long and drawn out.  Still a good book, lots of memorable moments and one I will remember positively (I'm just glad that I'm done it!)

The Lioness

By Chris Bohjalian. Synopsis from Amazon:

Tanzania, 1964. When Katie Barstow, A-list actress, and her new husband, David Hill, decide to bring their Hollywood friends to the Serengeti for their honeymoon, they envision giraffes gently eating leaves from the tall acacia trees, great swarms of wildebeests crossing the Mara River, and herds of zebras storming the sandy plains. Their glamorous guests—including Katie’s best friend, Carmen Tedesco, and Terrance Dutton, the celebrated Black actor who stars alongside Katie in the highly controversial film Tender Madness—will spend their days taking photos, and their evenings drinking chilled gin and tonics back at camp, as the local Tanzanian guides warm water for their baths. The wealthy Americans expect civilized adventure: fresh ice from the kerosene-powered ice maker, dinners of cooked gazelle meat, and plenty of stories to tell over lunch back on Rodeo Drive.

What Katie and her glittering entourage do not expect is this: a kidnapping gone wrong, their guides bleeding out in the dirt, and a team of Russian mercenaries herding their hostages into Land Rovers, guns to their heads. As the powerful sun gives way to night, the gunmen shove them into abandoned huts and Katie Barstow, Hollywood royalty, prays for a simple thing: to see the sun rise one more time. A blistering story of fame, race, love, and death set in a world on the cusp of great change, The Lioness is a vibrant masterpiece from one of our finest storytellers.

I'd like to call this a "fun read" because the setting in the savannah of Africa and action was so very different than any other book I've ever read before, but it's hard to label it as "fun" when there was so much death and a bit of horror involved! I did really enjoy this book but just a heads up - don't go into it expecting anything lighthearted and some parts are a tad gruesome.  Despite that, I thought the characters in this book were just excellent. I liked learning about each of their backgrounds in the flashbacks each chapter alternated with current events, how there were some cathartic moments in many of their stories, and how you grew to love some and hate some as well. I thought the story did a great job weaving in bits of African culture/history, safari and wild animal facts, racism and privilege issues, and old Hollywood stardom.  If you are up for reading about all of those things with some action and death on an African safari - this is a book for you!

The Lion's Den

By Katherine St. John. Synopsis from Amazon:

Belle likes to think herself immune to the dizzying effects of fabulous wealth. But when her best friend, Summer, invites her on a glamorous getaway to the Mediterranean aboard her billionaire boyfriend's yacht, the only sensible answer is yes. Belle hopes the trip will be a much-needed break from her stalled acting career and uniquely humiliating waitressing job, but once she's aboard the luxurious Lion's Den, it soon becomes clear this jet-setting holiday is not as advertised.

Belle's dream vacation quickly devolves into a nightmare as she and the handful of other girls Summer invited are treated more like prisoners than guests by their controlling host—and in one terrifying moment, Belle comes to see Summer for who she truly is: a vicious gold digger who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Belle realizes she's going to have to keep her wits about her—and her own big secret closely hidden—if she wants to make it off the yacht alive.

I was very prepared to write a very mediocre review about this book until I finished it.  I don't want to give too much away, but this book ended up having a lot more depth to it than I expected and it ended up surprising me! Granted, there is a good amount of fluff in this book - petty girl drama, over-the-top lavish gifts and settings, boyfriend stealing & pining after, friends stabbing other friends in the back...ok, ok, maybe this isn't all just fluff after all...but parts of the book did seem a bit superficial.  How many times can Belle let Summer walk all over her? How original is a young, beautiful girl going after an old sugar daddy who is likely going to turn out to be an evil, cheating business man?? All that withstanding, I liked this one. Some parts were unrealistic, you wanted to knock Summer over the head with her Louis Vuitton bag a zillion times during it, but you still were always routing for Belle to succeed and it was a quick, easy and enjoyable read for me.

I'm currently finishing my next in person book club novel, but after that I am ready for some spooky reading in preparation for Halloween! I like books that are a little creepy but not downright frightening - let me know if you have any favorites for this season I should give a read!

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