Elin Hilderbrand Winter Series – Book Club

Elin Hilderbrand Winter Series


What better time to read the Elin Hilderbrand Winter series of books than winter. In what was supposed to be a trilogy including Winter Street, Winter Stroll and Winter Storms, book club committed to read any one of the three for our last meeting. As it turned out, there was a fourth book, Winter Solstice. At least two of us in the club read all four. Unlike our last pick, The Boys in the Boat, the Elin Hilderbrand Winter series were super easy reads. Perfect distractions during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Elin Hilderbrand Winter Series

Known as the “Queen of Summer,” author Elin Hilderbrand tackled this winter set of stories like a pro. The beauty of Hilderbrand’s books is that they are quick and lightweight. How else could I have gotten through four novels since book club’s last gathering?

Like all of Hilderbrand’s books, the entire Winter series is set on Nantucket where Hilderbrand and her family reside. It follows the Quinn family through a litany of family drama, romance, joy and sorrow.  I likened each book in the series to a soap opera. I found myself sucked into the storylines despite their hokey nature. Wisely, Hilderbrand ended each of the first three books with a cliff hanger that left me wanting answers and so onto the next book I would go.

Part of what I enjoyed about these books was Hilderbrand’s reference to actual places on Nantucket as well as Boston. It lent a certain authenticity to the novels, but I must admit there were times the mentions seemed like product placements. I wondered if the businesses named were sponsoring their spot on her pages. It was curious to me, but not off-putting.

Interested in a Synopsis?

Check out each book in the Elin Hilderband Winter Series at Goodreads.

The Fourth Book

At the close of the third book, Winter Storms, Hilderbrand had pretty much wrapped up all of the Quinn family drama and dysfunction with a neat little bow, so I was surprised that a fourth book followed. Interestingly, in the book jacket, Hilderbrand explained that her publisher had requested the fourth book when another book in their anticipated list had fallen through. She managed to squeak out Winter Solstice in four weeks. Wow! It’s no wonder she’s such a prolific author…#lifegoals!

But let me be clear, if you are a reader who enjoys some heft in your prose, Elin Hilderbrand may not be your kind of author. For me, however, her casual kind of storytelling and her Winter series were easy and enjoyable.

Next Up

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. Looking forward to that one!

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The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown-Book Club

Wow! What a week. Power was out for two days and no internet or TV for three. I was forced to unplug and, in a way, it was a nice break. But alas, we are up and running and back online as usual. This week on the blog, book club was back in business. And by business I’m talking more about wine and cheese than the book, but if you are interested in the book here’s what I can tell you.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is a best seller and came highly recommended, yet book club gave it a unanimous thumbs down. To be honest, no one actually read it in its entirety. Most didn’t read it at all and I skimmed the majority just to get to the end.

The Synposis (a brief excerpt from Goodreads)

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The Review

We simply were not the right club for this book. As I see it, if you are passionate about the sport of rowing, you may like this book. If you are a history buff, you may enjoy this book. If you’re curious about Seattle, WA, this book may be for you.

Otherwise, like me, you may struggle to get into it. Deep, deep within the pages of excruciating and often unnecessary detail, that didn’t move the story forward, there was a decent story. I didn’t come to appreciate this until chapter twelve.

To me, this felt like a case of indulgent writing where the author couldn’t help but include every bit of minutia uncovered in the book’s creation.

There was so much backstory to every account that it struck me as all over the place. It jumped from the teamwork of a rowing crew to Nazi Germany to boxing, filmmaking, lumberjacking, boat making and more. Not to mention the compelling family dynamic of the main character which was lost among everything else.

I’m all for descriptive, colorful, even flowery writing, but I’m afraid this just went way overboard – no pun intended.

If you truly enjoyed this book, please forgive my lack of appreciation. I don’t discount it for the massive research that must have gone into its making. There were also occasions of truly deft writing, however just much too much of all of it.

Despite my struggle to reach the end of this book, I’m glad I got there. That’s the challenge of book club – to push through stories that aren’t to my taste, but have value none-the-less.

If not for this book, I may not have been inspired to check out the Head of the Charles for the first time. So much fun!


Head of the Charles

crew boat in Charles river


If not for our book club meeting, I wouldn’t have had the chance to cozy up to this lovely lady. Isn’t she sweet?


Lily and her friends


Did you read The Boys in the Boat? What did you think?

Next Up

Since bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand is visiting our area in December, book club has decided to give her Winter series a read. Options include Winter Street, Winter Stroll or Winter Storms. I can probably get through all three quicker than I did The Boys in the Boat.

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A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman-Book Club

A man called Ove and reading glasses

Another great book club meeting, but this time with mixed reviews for our latest read; A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman.

This book came highly recommended, but no members of book club gave it an all-star rating. We all felt similarly that there were aspects of it we didn’t like. In the end, however, we agreed that it was emotionally compelling.  Yes, we all cried. Some of us, a lot.

The Synopsis (available at GoodReads)

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

The Review

I described A Man Called Ove this way – I disliked the beginning, but I liked the book.  All club members agreed that the beginning of the book, about the first six chapters, dwelled too heavily on the main character’s grumpy disposition. By chapter three I wanted to scream, OK I’ve got it, he’s a grouch, move on already.

I also found the premise of the story to be generally off-putting. I won’t give it away, but Ove’s mission throughout the novel was disturbing.

On a positive note, I enjoyed the writing. The way Backman struck so many emotionally chords was well done to say the least.  Personally, I connected with Ove’s struggle to rediscover purpose in his life.  I feel I am in the same boat with regard to my work and future.

I thought certain lines were beautifully written. For example:

“When she giggles she sounded the way Ove imagined champagne bubbles would have sounded if they were capable of laughter.”

“She stood…with his flowers…in that red cardigan of hers, making the rest of the world look as if it were made in grayscale.”

“He was a man of black and white. And she was of color. All the color he had.”

And this one made me laugh:

“The man behind the Plexiglas asks if he can “check out the card.” Ove looks at him as if they just met in a dark alley and he’s asked to “check out” Ove’s private parts.”

I am glad I read A Man Called Ove. I would recommend it with one caveat – it’s not for everyone. While it was clever at times, there were also some very predictable outcomes that I anticipated well before they happened.

So, I’ll say it was not bad, but not great.

Next up in March…

I am actually looking forward to reading a type of book I never have… a celebrity tell-all!

Leah Remini’s – Troublemaker – Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah-Book Club


Book Club treats and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


I’m so happy to be part of a book club. I can say with 100 percent certainty that I would not have picked up a book this fall had it not been for book club.  I know there’s no pressure for anyone in my group to actually read the book – my book club crew is very low-key. And no one would be bothered if I showed up just for wine and snacks, but I’m a rule follower. I must do what is expected and what I set out to do.

So I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. If I’m being totally honest, I cram read this novel a week prior to our set meeting time. This was not entirely easy seeing it was a 440 page book of World War II historical fiction. But it was very well-written and held my interest from beginning to end.

The Synoposis (available at Goodreads)

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

The Review

Book club unanimously rated The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah a great read. We concurred that Hannah weaved a beautiful tale of family and romantic drama.  Set at a time when picture perfect Paris was overrun with Nazis and atrocities, Hannah managed to balance the ugly and difficult images of war with tender, personal moments of emotion, truth and reality.

If you are looking for a truly authentic depiction of WWII Germany and France, this interpretation may have some holes. If you are like me, however, someone who doesn’t typically read the historical fiction genre, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah tells a compelling story. One that is told from a Parisian perspective and paints a picture about the struggle of life outside of concentration camps. The complexities of family, friendship and love were highlighted revealing how each was cherished and compromised in the face of danger and duress.

I particularly liked Hannah’s imagery throughout the book.  She was adequately and eloquently descriptive without being overdone. When it came to the violent images we’ve come to expect from a WWII novel, she gave just enough to make it real, but shielded the reader from too much excruciating detail which, personally, I would have had trouble reading.

If you’re a reader like me who leans to lighter content, The Nightingale is a nice step toward more substantive reading without being overladen with historical specifics.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah now makes two for two good, club-worthy books – the first being Diane Chamberlain’s The Silent Sister.

Next up in January…

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman.

Read along and share your thoughts!

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Book Club – The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain for book club


As a writer, I find I read so much of my own work that I no longer make time for leisure reading. Yet, whenever I find the time, I always wish I’d read more. I finally decided to do something about it and organized my first book club. Accountability is everything, so knowing there’d be an expectation to actually read the book; I knew this would the best way to buckle down and read away.

Following a “host’s choice” format, I selected the first book and held the first gathering. As I hear many book club’s go, we sipped on wine and chatted less about the book and more about typical GNO (girl’s night out) topics. However, when the wine glass clinked, it was time to get down to business.

The club concurred that our first pick, “The Silent Sister,” by Diane Chamberlain, was a good read.

Synopsis from Good Reads

In The Silent Sister, Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. Now, over twenty years later, her father has passed away and she’s in New Bern, North Carolina cleaning out his house when she finds evidence to the contrary. Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why exactly was she on the run all those years ago, and what secrets are being kept now? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her newfound reality.

The Review

Let me begin by saying that I couldn’t put The Silent Sister down.  That’s always a good sign because I get bored pretty quickly. But the writing here was very compelling and moved the story along at a good pace and with adequate detail. The twists and turns were captivating, if not a little contrived at times.

There were at least a few times when some drama was revealed that I thought, oh really, they’re going there? And then there were other times when I felt the outcome was a bit predictable.  In great part because the foreshadowing at certain points was so blatant that I felt the end was given away a touch early.

To this point, everyone in the club agreed that many of the book’s loose ends were wrapped up too soon.  With still a good bit of the book to read, we felt we had all of our answers.

That said; it didn’t prevent any of us from getting to the end and declaring The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain a club-worthy book.

Next up in November…

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  I’ll report back with the club’s opinion.

Read along and share your thoughts.

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