Monday, 23 September 2019

#CBR11 Book 67: "The Bookish Life of Nina Hill" by Abbi Waxman

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

From Goodreads, because it's been over a month since I finished this:

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 realise 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.

This book is what I hoped, based on the description and many rave advance reviews, that Evvie Drake Starts Over was going to be. It was a perfectly fine book, and a decent romance, but it never really gave me the thrill that a really satisfying reading experience should. Now this book, on the other hand, I liked so many things about this book - the introverted heroine and her overwhelming love of books, obviously. Nina's trivia quiz hobby - I love a good trivia quiz and used to take part in a weekly one along with my brother and his friends (sometimes my husband would also take part). I really miss having a regular trivia quiz team.

I liked the weird and wonderful way that Nina's newly revealed family tree hung together. Her new relatives, even the rather antagonistic ones, were great supporting characters. I love that the author takes the time to give us an idea of who Nina's friends are, and that Tom, Nina's initial quiz nemesis, but whom she clearly really fancies, has his own distinct friend group and supportive family members too. A good supporting cast is a lot more important to the quality of a book than a lot of people think. It makes the world seem more real and while Nina is most certainly an introvert, it doesn't mean she doesn't have people in her life who help draw her out of her shell occasionally.

The one thing that keeps this book from being a full five star read for me is that the romance could have been more developed. The family and friend stuff is all excellent and amused me greatly, but Tom is clearly a really great guy and pretty much perfect for Nina, so I missed having more scenes of just the two of them, developing their relationship (there were a little too many complications, and not enough actual couple time). A stronger romance plot would have made this book pretty much perfect for me.

Judging a book by its cover: I've mentioned the trend of cutesy, cartoony covers for romances that the publishers seem to want to market to a wider, more mainstream audience, but this one, I don't actually mind. I like the warm, happy colours of it, and I love that the glasses double as the Os in bookish. If I hadn't already heard a lot about this book on various book review sites I follow, this cover would guarantee that I would notice the book in a store and pick it up to see what it was about.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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