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THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by Abbi Waxman – double review!

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.


Title : The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Author : Abbi Waxman
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : women’s fiction, contemporary
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : July 9, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3 star review

As Neil Gaiman once memorably said, “books were safer than other people, anyway.”

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL has an adorable cover, a ridiculously appealing plot, and overall seemed to cater directly to my interests and needs. I mean, it’s about a bookish woman who likes being alone, has a cat, and works in a bookstore (to which I say #goals), so, I mean, this was ringing all my bells and checking all my boxes.

In public Nina was a quiet, reserved person; in private she was an all-singing, all-dancing cavalcade of light and motion. Unless she was a quivering ball of anxiety, because that was also a frequently selected option.

And for the first 50%, I was convinced this would be a strong, even high, four star read. Nina is quirky and organized, anxious and intelligent, sassy and shy, also a total snob (which I can’t say I loved but it felt authentic), and just.. relatable. I could see myself in her, the good and the bad, and yet it wasn’t the painful kind of self-reflection, or too campy and therefore cheesy or caricature-like. The narration was witty and fun and was constantly throwing random trivia and stream-of-consciousness tangents at you and I was having a great time.

It’s hard to be human sometimes, with the pressure to be civilized lying only very thinly over a brain of a nervous little mammal.

Nina had a maybe hate-crush on a member of an opposing trivia team, she voiced her cat, Phil’s, thoughts, and suddenly, after being a single-parent child her whole life, a lawyer pops out of nowhere and drops a dead dad on her. In the sense that she’s inherited a family and possibly something else, too, but she’ll need to go to the will reading to find out.

“Do you young people actually date anymore, or do you run algorithms to see if it’s going to work?”

And so begins this really strange and charming discovery of this huge extended family, people so like her and also different, and reconciling this found-yet-related mass of people into her world view after thirty-plus years of living and being on her own. Throw in a love interest and it’s all sorts of emotions.

Life can throw you major curveballs, but it’s rare you can do much more than duck.

Most of which were good and fun to work through. Even the confusing ones felt natural. I just think that eventually we did cross a line into a sorta campy OTT strange drama where warring businesses threw ice cream at each other in the streets and some of Nina’s charm kind of wore off and overall, with maybe one or two exceptions, I just wasn’t as fond of the second half as the rest of the book. Some of it felt cliche, after having otherwise felt very fresh and different, and the ending in particular just didn’t land for me. 

Do lesbians do this?”
Send dick pics? Only if we’re breaking up with someone and want to make sure they block our number forever.

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL has a lot of great moments — tons of one liners and hilarious observations and I highlighted many many a passage. This book will definitely hook you from the start. I just wish I had loved it the same amount by the end.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This book was full of appeal for any booklover and Nina was a relatable protagonist in terms of her love for books. Nina was quirky, nerdy, anxiety-ridden, something of a loner but she was actually much better with people than she perceived.

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL had depth and complexity but this was offset by humour, quips and banter. Nina’s inner monologue was insightful into her psyche but also pretty funny at times.

Nina tried to pull herself together. She’d been irritable all week. Either her period was coming or she had a brain tumor, and at that moment the tumor felt more appealing, which probably meant it was her period.

The story was overwhelmingly about finding family and for Nina this was a first. Her evolving relationships with Archie and Peter were my favourities but I also appreciated Millie and Lydia. The family were almost farciscal in their make up and they were rather fun to watch interact.

There is a lowish-level romance in this book with Tom from a rival quiz team, it made for cute reading but I really did want more from this aspect of the story. I felt somewhat disconnected from their own connection.

There were some pacing issues in this read for me, slow parts leading to more faster-moving scenes. I would have preferred a more active pace throughout the book.

Overall, this was a good read and I think this could be categorised as women’s fiction or romance but again, it was less on the romantic front for that genre.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thank you netgalley and the publisher.


THE FRIEND ZONE by Abby Jimenez – double review!

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen–especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.


Title : The Friend Zone
Author Abby Jimenez
Format : eARC
Page Count : 385
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : Forever
Release Date : June 11, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Phew.

I had been prepared (warned?) by mutuals that this story was a funny bit of fun but that it would be as equally heartbreaking as it was joyful. And I’m here to confirm that for you.

I am not drunk. I’m just talking in cursive.”

THE FRIEND ZONE starts off fairly lighthearted. A snarky first-meeting between our protagonists sets the tone for their association; Kristen is in a long-distance relationship with a deployed boyfriend and Josh is recently single, and recently relocated, and, despite his attraction, not all that bothered by her unavailable status as a result.

Nothing offended me except cauliflower and stupidity.

At least not at first.

There’s something you should know about me, Josh. I say what I think. I don’t have a coy bone in my body. Yes, you’re sexy. Enjoy the compliment because you won’t always like what I say to you, and I won’t care one way or the other if you do or don’t.

Their friendship, as it can only be friendship, was a delight. Kristen is unapologetically herself. She’s not to be messed with when it comes to food, she’s witty, she’s honest, she’s out to impress no one. And Josh was just game for everything. He was sweet, understanding, gave as good as he got, and they were just so fun together. And, having not read the blurb, I didn’t really know where things would go beyond what it seemed at first glance.

I already know how I’m going to die.”
How?”
Spider bite. Or being sarcastic at the wrong time.”

But this story is a lot more than snarky, sassy, when-will-they-can-they-ever times. This is hard hitting, emotional, devastating. It deals with loss, tragedy, and Jimenez’s story even skirts a certain line I am not usually on board for but, thankfully, never crosses it. Additionally, the emphasis on Kristen’s issues with fertility — which is of course emphasized as it’s a major point of conflict — was something I thought unique to the romance (women’s fiction?) world. Talk of periods, discomfort, tampons, fibrosis, IUDs.. nothing was off limits. This is not only a great bit of fun and sweetness, alongside some heartbreak, but also a book I think a lot of women will see themselves in. Feel represented by. I think that’s so fabulous.

You know, you seem too fearless to be afraid of spiders.”
A black widow killed my schnauzer when I was a kid. Embracing a lifelong debilitating fear of spiders is cheaper than therapy.”

What stops this from getting full marks is that.. I felt some things got dragged out. Same conversations, same hot and cold, same back and forth. It was a bit exhausting, too repetitive, and honestly I was pulled out of the story a bit because I just felt so bad for these fictional people. Both of them, really. It was kind of miserable for them for a while. And then of course a whole other kind of misery started but that was easier to lose myself in. No spoilers.

I hope you’re not planning on sending me flowers.”
What would you like me to send you then?”
Something practical that I’ll get use out of, like a dick pic.”

The ending was a bit of a surprise for me and I so loved it. I really did. Additionally the author’s note was an extra bit of wonderfulness and I definitely hope readers take a moment to experience that, too.

Overall, though, I’m blown away that this was a debut. It’s funny as all get out, it broke my heart, and I definitely want Jimenez to do it again. Lots of times. Will absolutely read whatever this author serves up next.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

This was a generally enjoyable read that took me from a friends-to-more romance into something of an emotional rollercoaster. I did have some insight into the context before reading but I had no idea where the story was going to go until I got into it.

THE FRIEND ZONE is the kind of read that drags you into its web very easily with characters that are something memorable. Kristen was just a woman I could get behind and identify with some of her characteristics. I loved her honesty (at times), her individuality and loyalty. I was then somewhat bemused to find myself reading a love triangle element, I did not see that coming with this character.

Josh, the main squeeze of this story was also a loyal hunk of fireman who simply fell for Kristen hook, line and sinker; there was no going back but there were so many immovable mountains in the way. This man had to show endurance.

The friendships in this book are crucial and something of a side-blinding storyline. I felt shocked when the twists came and then shocked again. It didn’t make me overtly emotional but it did affect me. Ive seen this book pitched as a romantic comedy but even in the earlier parts of the book, I didn’t find it comedic. It is no less of a book for this however.

Simply put, this is an impressive debut from Abby Jimenez and I will be looking out for whatever she writes next. I slipped into her words and believed the world she created.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the review copy.

THE GOOD MAYOR by Andrew Nicoll

‘A triumph of tone, very moving, completely convincing’ – ANDREW MARR

‘A Baltic Brief Encounter’ – INDEPENDENT

Every morning, Mayor Tibo Krovic stops off at the local café on his way to work. He drinks his Viennese coffee with extra figs, leaves a bag of sweets for the owner, and then continues on to his office. There he awaits the arrival of his secretary: the beautiful, married, but lonely, Agathe Stopak.

In the respectable town of Dot, there is nothing the good Mayor Tibo can do about his love for Mrs Stopak. Until one day Agathe accidentally drops her lunch into the fountain and a family tragedy is revealed. In that moment, everything changes.

The Good Mayor is a magical story of fate and chance, of loss and love.


Title : The Good Mayor
Author Andrew Nicoll
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 352
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Black & White Publishing
Release Date : 16 May 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

THE GOOD MAYOR is a compelling, morally grey tale depicting tangible lives in a historical European context. I couldn’t predict where the story was going, nor could I look away.

In the town of Dot, a fairly bustling town in the Baltic, resided the ‘Good Mayor’, Tibo Krovic. Everyone called him good and so he was. He admired from afar, through the office door, his secretary Agathe Stopak. This story took a winding, lovely build from a professional relationship into something more. The routine working day between these two, emerged into a desperate love, with thoughts, little said, occasional touches, many lunches and no action. The feelings were mutual and despite Agathe’s marital status, I was invested.

“Tibo couldn’t help being kind. They warmed each other with those little gifts – kindness and beauty. They are precious. They are always in short supply.”

I thought I knew where this story was going, I didn’t. There were plot twists, there was warm, fuzzy and beautiful love, tempered by pitiful heartache. There were side characters to like such as the coffee shop owners with their supernatural sight and those to hate such as the Stopaks. I couldn’t fathom Agathe or Tibo’s decision-making at times and felt frustration but continued to hang around for this unpredictable ride, rather helplessly.

As the book sprinted to the end there was a rather weird story direction that I still don’t quite comprehend and the wrap up was a little rushed but I feel an overall satisfaction in this read. It felt different to many of the books I’ve read of late and so, a unique and unusual story is always welcome. I don’t know if I would call this women’s fiction or historical fiction with a strong romantic theme, maybe both. THE GOOD MAYOR is worth giving a chance and I would definitely read this author again.

Thank you Black & White Publishing for this early copy. Details of other blog stops are below.