Last week I was supposed to start reading another fall new release novel. It’s even one I’m looking forward to, Ken Follett’s The Evening and the Morning, but the thought of 900 pages made my brain hurt. It’s a sad truth—my attention span lately has shrunk to an amount of time easily measured by counting on my fingers. Except I usually forget what number I’m at before I hit ten and have to start over.
Thankfully, the chance I took on these backlist beauties paid off.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Published by Atria Books
Publication date: March 10, 2020
Dannie and her boyfriend David are hard-charging 28-year-olds well on their way to professional success in Manhattan. This is a surprise to no-one as they are so in sync they’ve even got a five-year plan. When In Five Years begins, Dannie has an interview at the law firm she’s dreamt of working at since she was a little girl. Even better, she’s almost certain David is going to propose that night. When she aces the interview AND David proposes she knows she is on track to have the life she’s planned. Or is she?
When they get home from their romantic dinner Dannie falls asleep on the couch. She awakens in a different apartment, in a different life. She’s still a lawyer and still engaged, but to a stranger. The date is the same, but the year is 2025—five years in the future. After an intense interaction with this man, she falls asleep again, reawakening in her real life. She’s disturbed, but shrugs it off as stress and forgets about it, until 4 ½ years later when her best friend introduces her to her new boyfriend. The man is the one from her dream and Dannie is still engaged to David. Suddenly, her life plan is turned upside down like a snow globe from hell.
You may be jumping ahead to several different conclusions for In Five Years, but the odds are you’d be wrong. I know I was. I thought it was going to get all Somewhere in Time romance-y. Not the case. Author Rebecca Serle takes the premise and handles it with poise, striking a pose that’s more honest than filtered. She generates a cast of real characters, not caricatures, and makes you care about all of them. It all makes for great brain candy entertainment.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Published by Berkley Books
Publication date: July 9, 2019
I randomly grabbed The Bookish Life of Nina Hill off my local library’s electronic shelves. Because, you know, COVID, and my library isn’t open for browsing (or curling up with the latest issue of People, WAAAH!). It’s novel about a young woman in her late 20s whose life is missing some of the basics—she doesn’t know who her father is and her mother is an award-winning photographer who she seldom sees. But the life she’s created more than makes up for those holes—she works in a book store, belongs to a book club and a trivia team, and hosts multiple book clubs at the book store. A universe of bookish perfection until a random meteor throws all her planets out of alignment.
The meteor in question is the death of her father, a man she knows nothing about, but who apparently knew about her. She goes from being a happily solo introvert to having an expansive family, thanks to her father’s multiple marriages. Worse, they all live in and around L.A. where she lives. Add to this a highly competitive new trivia team moving in on her team’s turf and financial difficulties for the book store owner and Nina’s perfectly orchestrated life starts to feel frazzled.
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.
There’s a lot going on in The Bookish Life of Nina Hill that could feel forced, but author Abbi Waxman’s voice is so familiar to the one in my own head that it’s like catching up with an old friend. I appreciate Nina’s take on life and her absolute joy over anything having to do with books, even as she has to navigate a suddenly wide world of people and situations she never expected. When the quirky gets a bit much, it’s only a minor obstacle, with Waxman’s fresh, sharp writing moving things back on track.
Once again, the book universe delivered in a big way for me. I needed a book that would make me laugh out loud and with a protagonist who was relatable. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is the kind of warm-bath book you want to luxuriate in for hours. It left me relaxed and happy.
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