Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Summer Reading List: Hilderbrand and Cline

The Beach Club by Elin Hilderbrand was a re-read but, let's be real, her books never get old and they always make me want to be in Nantucket.  I love them and I've never reviewed this one so let's go!

In The Beach Club, we meet Mack Peterson, an Iowa farm boy who lost his parents in a car wreck 12 years previously.  He ends up in Nantucket and lucks into a job with Bill Elliot at, you guessed it, The Beach Club.  Mack is just one of several characters in the story and he's stuck with various predictaments.  Does he stay in Nantucket or go back to Iowa to run his family farm?  He's also in love with two women, one of them being his live-in girlfriend of six years.  Bill Elliot is facing problems of his own.  His health is declining and he wants nothing more than to turn the hotel over to his daughter, Cecily.  Cecily, though, is only 18 and the last thing she wants is the family business.   We also meet several other characters throughout the story.  Love is the front desk attendant who came to Nantucket to get pregnant.  Vance is the brooding and grouchy bellman who hates Mack.  Therese Elliot is Bill's wife and a woman who already lost one child and fears losing another.  There's Jem, a recent college graduate working on Nantucket for the summer and trying to find the courage to tell his parents his real plans for the future.

There are a lot of characters in the story.  I'm leaving out more than just a couple in the above description.  Books with a lot of different characters can be hard to follow but I think this is one of Hilderbrand's strong suits.  She's very good at making the characters all multi-dimensional and with some qualities you love, some you hate. 

I really enjoyed this book.  Both the first time I read it and last week when I got into it again.  It's an engaging story, the characters are (mostly) likeable, it makes you want to go back in time and forgo college so you can work in the hospitality industry on Nantucket in the summer then spend your winter in Thailand.  Wait, what?!?  Maybe that's just me.  That said.  There were some things a little grating with this novel.  For instance, Jem's sister, Gwennie, is bulimic.  And every time - EVERY SINGLE TIME - she's mentioned it's "Jem's sister, Gwennie, the bulimic."  Like . . . we get it after the first eight times it's mentioned.  We get it.  Then there's the issue of the Elliot's wanting to hand over their hotel to their 18-year-old daughter Cecily.  She is EIGHTEEN.  Yeah, they expect her to go to college and everything first but even at 22, most people are not prepared to fully take the reins of a huge family business.  It felt a little far-fetched.  Also, while I liked the character of Maribel (Mack's girlfriend), I felt like she spent the whole book just settling.  I wanted to see more from her.  I know Mack is mentioned in the book The Blue Bistro (which I will re-read sometime in the next few weeks!) but I wish we could have a follow up on Maribel and where life actually took her.

All in all, this is definitely a book worth picking up.  I know I'm a total Hilderbrand fangirl and there are other books that are probably more engaging but I still loved this one.

After something light and breezy enough, I switched gears and read The Girls by Emma Cline.

(Shoulda stuck with light and breezy!)

The Girls tells us about Evie Boyd, a 14-year-old girl who finds herself lonely and emotionally adrift.  It's the late 60's in northern California and she happens upon a group of girls that she's automatically drawn to.  She wants what they have.  And, slowly but surely, she becomes accepted, a part of their group, something that leads to a tragic conclusion.

Look.  I wasn't even thought of in 1969 when the Manson family terrorized the nation.  Heck, at that point, my own parents were the same age my oldest son is now.  I don't know a lot about the Manson cult.  But I know enough to know this book was a cheap knock off, a borrowed story.  The back jacket of the book actually carries the quote, "this book will . . .  blow your mind."  And I couldn't roll my eyes hard enough . . . until I realized that it was attributed to Lena Dunham.

The Girls had the potential to be something really amazing.  Most people find cults interesting, a source of "how does a person get to that point?" But The Girls was SO overwritten and so try-hard.  I read somewhere the author got a two million dollar advance and that alone would make you think the work was going to be amazing.  Not full of phrases like, "the years leading you down a corridor to the room where your inevitable self waited - embryotic, ready to be revealed."  That's actually one of the tamer lines (I just opened the book and found something stuffy enough.)  But the whole damn book was like that - and worse - making it so hard to read.

I wanted to like this book.  I REALLY wanted to like this book.  But I just didn't, I couldn't.  I'd skip this one if I were you.

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