January 31, 2017

Quick Lit: January 2017

One of my worst blogging habits is my inability to write about what I've read in a timely manner. So, I'm trying something new: recapping what I read at the end of each month and linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy. I feel like "traditional" reviews have declined in popularity, although I'll still be writing some every month, so I'm hoping this will be a fun way to share what I'm reading. The exception will be review books that I can't discuss yet! 

In case you missed it, last week I reviewed my January pick for The Picky Pledge Reading ChallengeThe Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. And keep an eye out in the next week or so for my review of The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell, a February release that I couldn't put down!
To start off 2017, I decided to re-read Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. Inspired by "The Six Swans" fairy tale, this historical fantasy book is one of my all-time favorites. I first read it for the Fall Into Fantasy event that I co-hosted with Alexa from Alexa Loves Books, and I've been wanted to revisit it ever since. I listened to a little more than 60% on audio and accidentally finished it up on my Kindle because I became too engrossed in the story near the end. The narrator, Terry Donnelly, had a lovely speaking voice and brought a lot to the story. However, she did read quite slow so I would definitely recommend speeding up the narration a bit. Everything that I loved about the book previously was just heightened upon re-reading, though I did notice that Marillier can be overly descriptive at times. But honestly, returning to Sevenwaters was the perfect way to kick off the year!

So Quotable
“But you have been strong before, and you will be now. What is burned can be replaced; what is destroyed can be made again. In time you will win back your voice. In time—in time, you will find your path back home.”

Next, I decided to dive into an audiobook that I purchased on a whim last year. In the Country We Love is written by Diane Guerrero, an actress that you might recognize from Netflix's Orange is the New Black. But I know her as Lina on Jane the Virgin (one of the best shows you probably aren't watching). Her memoir was an Audible Daily Deal in 2016, and my fondness for the character she plays on TV made me interested in her book. Diane was just fourteen when her parents, undocumented immigrants, were taken into custody while she was in school. Their subsequent deportation changed her life forever. This book wasn't quite what I expected - it's a look at Diane's whole life rather specifically focusing on the immigration/citizenship aspect. But, of course, that affected almost every aspect of her life. The trauma from that day has far-reaching consequences, and she's incredibly open and honest about her struggles in the years following. 

The writing is very conversational, which felt natural as an audiobook since Diane was the narrator. But I think I would have had issues with the writing if I'd read a physical copy. There was a lot of slang and jokes, and I think I would have read it differently without her voice. I wasn't expecting the light and somewhat sarcastic tone, and I felt that it occasionally detracted from the gravity of the subject matter (which includes mental illness, self harm, and substance abuse.). The last chapter was so interesting and thought provoking - packed with statistics about our immigration system and the need for reform. It whet my appetite for more and left me wishing it wasn't just tacked on to the end. I felt like the book would have been much more impactful if it had been a less "celebrity memoir" and more of a personal discussion on immigration. 

So Quotable
“Emotional wellness is a First World luxury.”

I'm a huge fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid, and I adored One True Loves when I first read it last year. I'd then purchased it on audio after hearing a lot of praise for Julia Whelan's narration and decided I was in the mood to dive into it this month. As soon as I started listening, I was gripped again by Emma's story. She marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse, and has an incredible life with him until he goes missing in a helicopter accident over the Pacific. He's presumed dead, and it's a tragic end to their love story. Emma moves home, picks up the pieces, creates a different life for herself... and finds a new love. Then, she finds out Jessie is alive. Even though I knew what happened, I was still so invested in every aspect of the story. The emotion felt so palpable to me, and I loved reliving so many of my favorite moments and pondering the What if...?  of the situation long after I was done. Whelan's narration was enjoyable, though I wouldn't say it was a favorite for me. My one weird complaint is something that I never would have noticed if I wasn't listening to it read aloud: there are way too many uses of "he/she/I said." They totally interrupted the flow of the dialogue and were used way more than necessary. But overall, I still love this book and these characters!

So Quotable 
“I had predicated my life on the idea that I wanted to see everywhere extraordinary, but I’d come to realize that extraordinary is everywhere.”

For Christmas 2015, Betty from Book Rock Betty gave me a historical romance novel called A Perfect Rake. Honestly, I was a little skeptical because I assumed the genre wasn't something I'd enjoy. But I trusted Betty and heard from both Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and Kelly from Belle of the Literati that I needed to give it a try. So, I dove in last year... and found myself pleasantly surprised! It was sweet, funny and swoony without being too sexy (which is what I personally wanted to avoid). Prudence was such an admirable heroine, especially with her love and care for her younger sisters. And Gideon was a devilish rake who is so charmed by Prue that it was adorable to see them interact! I finished it with a smile on my face and realized that I wanted to continue the series! Unfortunately, I never got around to reviewing it but figured I'd just rope it into this post because...

Kelly swooped in and sent me the second book, The Perfect Waltz, for Christmas this past year. She mentioned that it was her favorite in the series, and I totally know why - there's definitely a Beauty and the Beast vibe going on between this couple. Hope Merridew was the beautiful and charming heroine, and Sebastian Reyne was the handsome and gruff man desperately in need of a wife to help him care for his two younger sisters. I found myself totally caught up in their romance - and in a secondary love story that I didn't see coming at first! My biggest complaint about the book was that the only real obstacle between the characters would have gone away if they'd just had one conversation about a certain aspect of the Merridew history. But, overall, it was a pretty minor issue. Both of these books were so much fun, though I have to give the first one a slight edge because I enjoyed the snark and sass of the main characters.

So Quotable
“All people, but especially young girls, need to belong, need to feel wanted and loved.” - The Perfect Waltz

Where do I even start with this delightful tale? I read one of Deanna Raybourn's standalone novels, City of Jasmine, a few years ago, enjoyed it and have been meaning to read something else by her ever since! I found out she was coming to Atlanta for a book signing and was so excited when I remembered that I had A Curious Beginning, the first book in her new historical mystery series, on audiobook. It was perfect timing! Almost as soon as Veronica Speedwell, the heroine, was introduced, I knew I was in for a treat. She's a smart, sassy and fiercely independent woman who is ready to resume her world travels as a butterfly hunter after the death of her spinster aunt. But there is danger afoot, which Veronica learns when someone attempts to abduct her. With the help of the stern and reclusive Mr. Stoker, she must go on the run and uncover the truth of who is out to get her - and why.

If you're a fan of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, you need to take note of this book. And even if you're not, here's what I'm hoping will convince you to pick up this book: an intrepid heroine who knows her own mind, the slightly serious and exasperated (but thoroughly handsome) man trailing around after her, the perfect amount of banter and sexual tension, a hint of danger around every corner and a completely enjoyable mystery. Here's one of my favorite exchanges:
"That is enough," he growled. "I swear to the devil, Veronica, if you vex me further, I will not be responsible for my actions." 
"Oh, come now, Mr. Stoker. You will have to do better than that if you mean to make me afraid of you. I have been menaced more effectively by poodles."  
"God, you have a vicious tongue," he retorted. "But I am no more afraid of you than you are of me. I have little doubt your bark is worse than your bite."  
"How do you know, Mr. Stoker? I haven't bitten you yet."
This was such a charming read on its own, but I can't speak highly enough of the audiobook experience! Angele Masters narrated it, and she elevated a "so enjoyed it" story into a "so loved it" rating. I loved her pacing and voices for all the characters! And you better believe I'll be joining Veronica on another adventure soon since the sequel, A Perilous Undertaking, was just released.

So Quotable
"A thoroughly unladylike observation," he retorted.
"Yes, well, being a lady is a crashing bore, or hadn't you noticed?"
He shrugged. "You seem to enjoy it."
"As you pointed out, I am not exactly a lady."

What was the best book you read this month?
Have I put any books on your radar?

3 comments:

  1. I love this idea, Hannah! It's so fun to take a look at what you've been reading in such quick, informational bites like this. Also, A Curious Beginning sounds right up my alley and I neeeeeeed it.

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  2. Quick Lit is such a great idea for a linky! I'm going to have to think about joining! :)

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  3. I've decided to do the same thing this year! Last year, I wrote individual reviews, but this year I'm doing monthly recaps. I'm definitely adding A Curious Beginning to my TBR, and the best book I read in January was The Trees by Ali Shaw. So creepy and wonderful in the best way.

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