28th January, 2023

Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (Berkley Books)

Do you know those books that wrap themselves around you like a warm and cosy blanket? Waxman's novel is one of those: the perfect read for any bookworm. I reread this book recently in preparation for my upcoming trip to Los Angeles and I still loved it. :-)

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.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is afun story which perfectly manages to capture the intricacies of the life of a bookworm. It is full of witty references to literature and popular culture and abounds with nerdy characters. It is an extremely gratifying read because it is so easy to relate to Nina and her anxieties as Waxman knows how to make her protagonist both a bit strange and highly likable. In parts this novel reminded me a bit of the Bridget Jones books, especially when Nina is stressing about her plans and other people.

What I also loved was the setting: Knight's sounds like the perfect bookshop in an equally perfect neighbourhood. It was almost like you could feel the vibe of this quirky community through the pages (I lived in a similar neighbourhood in California for a while so I felt this was highly relatable to me). Nina's family do tend to get a bit much at times, and in the beginning I found the sheer number of family members extremely confusing, but I guess that's a desired effect as it makes you sympathise with Nina and the situation she finds herself in.

Essentially, this book is a gigantic love letter to all the bookworms in the world. Just take this passage, for instance:

"Reading isn't the only thing in the world, Nina."
"It's one of the only five perfect things in the world."
"And the other four are?"
"Cats, dogs, Honeycrisp apples and coffee."

Best. Dialogue. Ever. ;-) So, if you love books, if you are a bit of a nerd, if you enjoy quirky characters and are looking for a comfort read, this is the book for you. I feel like I need to substract one star because sometimes it got a tiny bit too fluffy for me, but this didn't really take away any of the reading fun.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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