Book Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hilly by Abbi Waxman

🌺🌺🌺.5/5 (3.5)

Nina Hill is just fine with life, thankyouverymuch. She works in a bookstore, has a cat, reads a lot, and has a tightly packed schedule. She lives alone, but she’s not alone. And she becomes even less alone than she thought when her unknown father dies and leaves her with a complicated extended family. And she meets a cute but obnoxious guy at her local trivia night. It looks like Nina’s life is about to get a lot more complicated.

Welp, this didn’t cure my reading slump. While it was cute, it felt about 100 pages too long and dragged in places.

I loved Nina. She’s very introverted, socially awkward, highly intelligent, suffers from anxiety and very much knows her self. However, despite her introversion and constant statements that she is alone and likes it, she very much is not alone. She has a full life, swirling with different activities and people and community—very much what I expect from a bookseller working to keep their business relevant (libraries are the same way). But I did like that despite this bustle she is still introverted, and it’s made clear that although she can “turn it in” in some circumstances, in others she’s a little lost and she gets her energy recharged by being alone.

This was the first book where I felt really seen with my introversion and anxiety (although mine is very, very mild compared to hers) and love of reading—and talking to cats. It was also one of the first books where the characters liked contemporary books that weren’t just all Harry Potter (although there are many Harry Potter references). There are so many references to recent children’s books and adult books and it just made me so happy, because frankly I’m exhausted by contemporary romance bookworms who only read the classics. Give me a SFF reader, dammit!

I also loved much of the supporting cast. While I felt there were far too many characters (something I rarely feel), I did like all of them. Most of them. Some, like Lili and Clare, just served as a vessel to get Nina into a wedding to have another run-in with Tom, and others, like some members of Nina’s new family or members of her suddenly-forgotten trivia friends (and Lisa), felt underdeveloped or just names on a page or forgotten after their objectives were met. This large group was necessary, but I struggled to keep track who everyone was and where they connected, and this hardly ever happens so it was especially irritating. I do wish Moltres had more page time, because he was adorable.

However, the book shines with its precocious little bookworms. Millie, Clare, Annabel and the other little girls who love reading are just precious. And all of the bookworms are precious. This entire book is an homage to readers, and the care and attention and love shown to them (and the various ways books are enjoyed, savored and devoured) was probably the highlight of the entire book (and that’s saying something because Lydia’s superpower is fucking awesome).

Anywho, despite all this I was underwhelmed.

I think it was because I really didn’t give a fig newton about the LI, Tom. He was bland, kinda had no personality, and whenever we jumped into his head it was all about how sexy Nina was because she was small but strong, not pretty but hot as fuck, a red-head, and had a voice that was low and sultry. So basically constant objectifications about her. I didn’t feel like they had any connection or much chemistry beyond sex and trivia (and even the trivia was marginal), and didn’t feel like Tom was developed enough to be plausible as Nina’s LI. I think most of this was that Tom learns and is interested about everything Nina does, and Nina only cares that he’s not much of a reader and is hot and that she doesn’t make a total fool of herself. She makes very little effort in getting to know him (see below: not knowing his job until the end of the book).

I also got really tired over the many subplots and dragging plot points. While there are a lot of highs in the book (heh), there were times I just didn’t want to pick this up and finish it. I should have read it in a day or two, and instead read it in four. Maybe it’s the slump, or maybe it was that I was uncomfortable with some of the ablest language (there are lots of references to mental illness as making people crazy, insane, etc). Although the cliched public declaration of love(why is this a thing) was one of the cutest I’d seen in a while (along with the twist of Tom’s job).

As for the plots—Nina finds her new family and gets to know them in the two weeks leading up before the reading of the will, also slowly learns that her boss has been having issues paying rent for the past couple months, competes in a trivia championship with a biased emcee (this is a point that is mildly dropped, making the final scene a little ehhhh), and the falling in love aspect (slooooow burn).

However, there are many messages that being introverted is normal and okay, that living alone and needing your space is okay, and that reading lots and lots of books and being nerdy and a little awkward is also okay. And that family is both blood and who you find—and that people can surprise you.

Overall, this was a pretty funny (seriously, this is funny and also tear-jerky) book, even if it dragged at times.

Recommended for: bookworms, introverts, trivia nerds, contemporary romance lovers and people who work with books

Not recommended for: honestly I have no clue—I guess if you need explosions in your stories? Because spoiler: there are no explosions. But there is one hell of an artisanal ice cream fight.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

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