"The Bookish Life of Nina Hill" Book Discussion and Salted Peanut Butter Cupcakes With Chocolate Frosting Recipe
Nina Hill was raised unconventionally by her nanny, since her mother's wanderlust and stoicism kept her absent and traveling most of Nina's life. Nina never met or even knew the name of her father, and working at a bookstore, weekly trivia nights with her friends, and a slew of hobbies had always been enough for the young adult woman. Then a lawyer appears at the bookstore with some news: her wealthy father has left her something in his will, along with a strange combination of half-siblings, grandnieces and grandnephews, and other relatives she'll be meeting at the reading of the will, all just a few miles away from her in the vast city of LA.
Nina doesn’t have time or a desire to become swallowed by all this new family drama (Thursdays are for reading only!), and she especially does not have time to become romantically involved with the warring quiz team “jock-trivia” expert Tom, no matter how handsome he looks or how many ways he finds to cleverly flatter her.
Perfect for fans of
- Romantic comedies
- Romantic dramas
- Introvert stories
- Socially awkward comedy
- Contemporary fiction
- Strange families
- Trivia Nights
How could a woman say about Pride and Prejudice “I guess if you’ve got a boring life, other people’s boring lives are reassuring”? Have you ever known anyone who read the entire book to find it boring? What’s your opinion of it?
What were some of the social rules Nina liked to observe with other people, for example, when two moms met at the bookstore during time, and their kids were both friends or in the same activities, and one mom was already sitting while the other was standing? Can you understand how some social rules like this might be exhausting for Nina, or anyone, really?
What funny decisions did she watch people make when they were at the store, found a guilty pleasure book they desired, and a person they knew came in? Have you ever been in that situation, and if so, what did or would you do?
Since Nina’s mother Candice had no patience for drama, or overblown feelings of any kind, how did that make her sometimes frustrating and even superficial?
Which of the following of Nina’s book clubs would you most like to be part of and why: 1st Wednesday- Book Bitches (contemporary fiction); 2nd Wed- Sneaky Spinsters (Golden Age mysteries); 3rd- District Zero (young adult fiction); 4th- Electric Sheep Grazing Club (science fiction)? If there’s a genre you prefer not listed, what would you name that book group?
Why are women kind considerate of the feelings of men even when they “visually assault” us with unsolicited pictures? Should there be a different approach once that happens? What makes men think that is acceptable behavior (and what comical explanation did Vanessa give about an “aura or something around it”)?
As a kid, Nina “felt alone a lot, but also really enjoyed being alone, so it was fine.” How was she raised differently from Archie, or Millie? How might her life have been different with siblings? How did having (or the lack of) siblings affect your childhood?
Nina’s “anxiety had gotten better...once she’d started to use a planner and keep a schedule and basically try to control every aspect of her life” but what was the problem with that approach? What are some other things that can help to manage it?
Nina’s Room 101, for the Orwell fans, “would simply contain a couple of people whose names she couldn’t remember.” What do you think Tom’s or Peter’s would have, or Archie’s, or Liz’s, or Nina’s mom Candice? What would be in yours?
Some of the trivia team names were: Book ‘Em Danno, Menace to Sobriety, You’re a Quizzard, Harry, and Olivia Neutron Bomb. Which name do you think is the most clever? Can you think of any original names you’d like for your team?
On Thursdays, Nina was fiercely defensive of her “nothing” in her schedule. Why is scheduling “nothing” important for an introvert like her? Why happens if life gets cluttered with too much something? How much “nothing” is enough for you to recharge, if you’re also introverted? For whom did Nina give up her Thursday nights and why?
Nina’s five perfect things in the world were: reading, cats, dogs, Honeycrisp apples, and coffee. Polly’s were movies, steak frites, Jude Law in his thirties, clean sheets at night, and indoor plumbing. What do you think Tom’s would be? What are yours, if you could only pick five?
Why do you think Nina’s favorite saying was “You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts”?
What was Peter’s system for a “standard weekly wake up time” versus a weekend one, and why? Do you have one, if you think about it?
For their vows, Richard and Emily decided to recite the words to their favorite song to each other. What song was it? Was that a good choice, keeping with the unusual theme of the wedding? What other unusual elements did you enjoy? If you and your spouse had to recite the lyrics to your favorite song to each other, what song would it be?
For whom did Nina give up her Thursday nights and why?
Nina had lots of favorite books based on moods. Do you think this was because she liked to read books from so many different genres? Do you have any types of books you prefer based on certain moods, and if so, why?
What did Nina inherit from her father? Why do you think he chose that for her?
One of the notes for groceries Nina made to herself included hot cocoa.
At Nina’s meeting with Peter, she grabbed them two lattes and two chocolate eclairs. Peter said that “There is nothing that is not improved by laying a thick piece of chocolate frosting on top.”
At the wedding, in the baskets of snacks, one of the items was boxes of Pocky, “little biscuit [cookie] sticks with chocolate on them.”
And when Tom and Nina went out for ice cream, Nina chose a scoop of salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks.
To combine all the chocolate elements and the ice cream, I created a recipe for
Salted Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
Salted Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
For the cupcakes:
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick ) salted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the frosting:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp strong black coffee, at room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp heavy cream (or whole milk)
- In the bowl of a mixer on medium speed with the paddle attachment, combine half a stick (1/4 cup) salted butter at room temperature with the granulated sugar. Whip together for two minutes. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. To the butter/sugar, add the peanut butter and mix for one more minute, until fully combined. Then, add the milk or heavy cream, and the sour cream or Greek yogurt. Stop the mixer to scrape down the insides of the bowl, or the liquid and PB won’t combine properly. Mix for one more minute.
- Then drop the mixer speed to the lowest setting, and add half the flour mixture, very slowly. Then add vanilla extract, followed by the rest of the flour. When those are fully combined, add eggs, one at a time, making sure that the first yolk disappears before adding the second egg. Mix on medium-low just until combined, about 1-2 minutes. Scoop into a paper-lined cupcake tin and bake at 325° for 17-19 minutes.
- For the frosting, in the bowl of a mixer on low speed with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining stick (1/2 cup) salted butter with the cocoa powder and coffee for one-two minutes. When those appear combined (it’s all right if it looks a bit grainy), add half the powdered sugar, slowly. When that is all mixed in, add the cream or whole milk, and the rest of the powdered sugar. Whip on low for one minute until the powder disappears, then increase the speed to medium for one minute so that everything whips together nicely. Pipe onto cupcakes that have cooled at least tern-fifteen minutes. I piped the frosting using an XL star tip to look like ice cream swirls. Makes 1 dozen well-frosted cupcakes.
Salted Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
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Other books by Abbi Waxman are The Garden of Small Beginnings and Other People’s Houses.
Books mentioned within this one include: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Pride and Prejudice, A Mango-Shaped Space, Bedtime for Frances, Junie B. Jones, Flowers for Algernon, Citizen Kane, The Portrait of a Lady, The Hunger Games, Scout’s Halloween costume in To Kill a Mockingbird, The Mysterious Benedict Society, A Wrinkle in Time, the Harry Potter series, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Prophet, The Human Comedy, The Candymakers, Calpurnia Tate, Penderwicks, Snow Crash, Bridgette Jones, Rebecca.
Authors mentioned are Dickens, Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut, Truman Capote, Kahlil Gibran, William Gibson, S.J. Perelman, Mary Stewart.
For more contemporary fiction about socially awkward, introverted bookish-types, read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Lost for Words Bookshop, The Bookshop on the Corner, or How to Find Love in a Bookshop.
For more bookish reads, try The Last Book Party, The Little Paris Bookshop, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, The Distant Hours, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, or The Printed Letter Bookshop.
“It is like all good independent bookstores should be, owned and staffed by people who love books, read them, think about them, and sell them to other people who feel the same way.”
“Nina worried she liked being alone too much; it was the only time she ever fully relaxed. People were exhausting.”
“...it’s hard to be human sometimes, with the pressure to be civilized lying only very thinly over the brain of a nervous little mammal.”
“Life will throw you major curveballs, but it’s rare you can do much more than duck.”
“A moment is actually a medieval term for a minute and a half.”
“Tomorrow would be better. At the very least, tomorrow would be different.”
“Only Angelenos get to see LA as she’s waking up and going to bed, and like many beautiful women, she looks best with her makeup off.”
“...She thought of books as medication and sanctuary and the source of all good things.”
“Honestly, you couldn’t turn your back on the internet for one minute.”
“You know, you can’t always be ready. Life tends toward chaos.”
“You do realize that it isn’t mandatory to live your life online, right? For thousands of years we managed to be miserable or joyful in private. You can still do it.”
“I don’t think his cheating was actually anything to do with his wives, or how he felt about them. I think he liked other women and was selfish about it.”
“I feel like I don’t have a deep well of calm. I feel like I was lightly misted with calm, and it doesn’t take a lot for it to evaporate.”
“Reading is one of only five perfect things in the world. The other four are cats, dogs, Honeycrisp apples, and coffee.”
“It didn’t matter what hit the fan; as long as there were unread books in the world, she would be fine. Being surrounded by books was the closest she’d ever gotten to feeling like the member of a gang.”
“He liked the concept of fatherhood, you know, the job description. He just didn’t want to do the actual work...he was a bit of a narcissist.”
“It takes a lot to join a family that’s broken, but sometimes it turns out you’re exactly the glue it needs.”
“We’d rather try hard and fall on our faces than not try.”
“People who are going to kiss do it with their eyes first.”
“Silly is a highly underrated quality.”
“It takes a lot of energy to be with other people. It’s easier to be myself when there’s no one else there.”
“I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy being alone; there’s a lot to be said for it. But if you’re choosing to be alone, because you’re scared of other people, resist that fear.”
© 2019 Amanda Leitch