Quick Lit: April 2019

May 15, 2019

I read 26 books in April, and I'm reviewing 17 of them in today's post. Of those not included, four books will be reviewed in an upcoming post about Book of the Month, four will be reviewed in my UK recap (next week, I hope!), and one is getting a full-length reviewed because I loved it too much to contain myself. My reviews today are a little longer than my typical Quick Lit posts, and I'm embarrassed to admit that's because I have way more to say when a book is fresher in my memory. As if I needed another reason I should never get six months behind on reviews again! As always, check out the linkup hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for more reviews and recommendations.

FIELD NOTES ON LOVE BY JENNIFER E. SMITH – When I got home from my trip to England, I was craving something short and light that I could finish quickly. This book is about two teens traveling across the country together by train, which seemed fitting after a vacation with so many train rides. The heroine is an aspiring filmmaker and uses the journey to interview other passengers about love. If that had been the focus of the book, I probably would have loved it. Or even if there had been more of a focus on the places they stop along the way. But instead, it's mostly just an instalove relationship that got too cheesy for me. Give me more development, please! I was never invested in the couple, so I didn't really believe the emotion of the story. There's a lot of backstory for both characters, but it felt mostly glossed over. I'm So Okay With It because it wasn't bad – if only I'd connected to it!

WHEN WE LEFT CUBA BY CHANEL CLEETON* – After loving Next Year in Havana, I couldn’t wait for this book! I enjoyed that the story took place almost entirely in the past because I typically prefer that over dual timeline. Plus, Beatriz was a dynamic character to follow! Although knowing history means you know how one aspect of her story will turn out, I still felt drawn into her fight to get revenge and reclaim her home. Plus, I learned so much about Cuban history — and how the US played a role (or didn’t) in some aspects of it. But ugh... this romance. I can’t say what didn’t work without spoiling it, but it’s basically trope I strongly dislike + me asking myself repeatedly, “Why do these people even like each other?” So, sadly, I do have mixed feelings about the book. I definitely So Liked It, but I’m bummed that I didn’t love it the way I hoped I would! 

DEFY ME BY TAHEREH MAFI – Y'all, this book was so BORING. And I'm a little sad that I eve have to type those words! I fell in love with the original trilogy years ago, and wrote what was (probably) my longest review ever for Ignite Me. When the new continuation trilogy was announced, I re-read them all, noticed that my feelings had changed somewhat, but was overall pleased with Restore Me. So, I was optimistic about this one – and that might have been my downfall. The entire book was info dumps, flashbacks, and crying. Sooooo much crying. I didn't mind the lack of world building in the series and love character-driven books, but there was almost zero plot in this one. The moments of excitement just couldn't outweigh the awkward dialogue and clunky writing. I'm So Okay With It, I guess, and will still read the last book. That's how I'll know whether this second trilogy even needed to exist at all... 

THE GIRL HE USED TO KNOW BY TRACEY GARVIS GRAVES* – I haven't read anything by Garvis Graves before, but I'd heard a lot of praise for this release on bookstagram. So I asked Alexa if I could borrow her ARC, and she kindly sent it my way. This short, engaging book follows two college sweethearts reconnecting after ten years apart. It moves back and forth in time – exploring how they met, why they fell apart, and what's happening in their lives now. I liked how the heroine's social anxiety and autism were portrayed, but I didn't care for the romance. Interested, yes, but not invested. The writing just didn't sell it for me. And the book takes a huge turn in the last third that felt out of sync with the rest of the story. Hello, emotional manipulation. I suspected something might play a role, bu it was done in such a forced way. I'm So Okay With It overall but wouldn't really recommend it.

ONCE UPON A RIVER BY DIANE SETTERFIELD – If you love books where the setting feels like a character, this one is for you. Leisurely paced and beautifully written, I loved how all the different branches of the story flowed back to the source by the end. This is a book of magic and myth, science and supernatural. It’s historical fiction, but it reads like a fairy tale. If you’ve read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, this book reminded me of it. And similarly, this story deals with some heavy human emotions — the love parents have for their children and the deep grief over a child lost. There’s also a sense that everything isn’t as it seems. Reading it felt like spending an afternoon floating down calm water, enjoying the view and feeling contemplative... only to find yourself rapidly approaching a waterfall by the end. I So Enjoyed It and recommend it to readers who enjoy this type of story.

ME BEFORE YOU AND AFTER YOU BY JOJO MOYES – Still Me is in this photo, but I didn't end up re-reading it in April. I'll get to it soon! I read Me Before You for review years ago and have re-read it several times . It never gets old to me, and I'm always so emotionally invested in it! I listened to the audio for this re-read and enjoyed that format. I am, unsurprisingly, still So Obsessed With ItAfter You, on the other hand, was the book that made me want to write off Jojo Moyes and Lou Clark. Thankfully, Still Me made me less angry about After You – and more interested in re-reading it. Well, now I have... and I still don't like it. But I don't hate it either, so that's progress! I can appreciate Lou's emotional journey so much more now and can more clearly see how and why she's at this place in her life. But a lot of the secondary storylines still frustrate me, which is why I'd have to say I'm only So Okay With It.

AN ANONYMOUS GIRL BY GREER HENDRICKS AND SARAH PEKKANEN – After finishing this duo's first thriller (review coming in another post), I immediately picked up this one! While I preferred the other book, this one was still such an enjoyable, twisty read. I don't read a lot of mysteries or thrillers, but I'm most drawn to ones described as psychological. And this one fits the bill! If you like stories where you don't know who to trust and question everyone's motives, this one is for you. It's more of a slow burn story with few truly shocking moments (for me, at least) but lots of smaller twists and turns. The tension builds in a really fantastic way, but the story dragged on just a little too long and lost steam near the end. I So Enjoyed It and how unsettled it made me feel while reading, but the story and characters weren't the most memorable for me. Still fun overall though!

SPRINGTIME AT HOPE COTTAGE BY ANNIE RAINS* – This was such a cute contemporary romance! I’ve never read anything by Rains before, but this was a fun introduction. As a fan of RaeAnne Thayne and small-town settings, I can see exactly why Estelle thought I’d enjoy it. It’s the second in a series, but I had no problem jumping right in. The setting was my favorite part, and I loved every minute Josie spent wandering around town and talking to the locals. It was sweet to watch Tucker and Josie fall for each other, and I appreciated that there wasn’t a lot of angst or drama. It felt like watching a Hallmark movie — a little predictable, sure, but still leaves you smiling. The seasonal aspect was perfect, and it was nice to pick up something light and breezy. Like the city-girl heroine, sometimes I just want my book to take me on a vacation. This did the trick, and I So Liked It!

MEET ME AT BEACHCOMBER BAY BY JILL MANSELL – This was one of the new-to-me books that I bought in England, and I was so excited to dive in once I was home! As soon as I started, I didn't want to put it down. There is a lot going on in this story, but the little seaside town and its inhabitants were just too cute. I was really hoping for more from the main romance, which has instalove vibes and very little development since the couple can't be together for almost the entire book. Even the secondary romances involved a lot of telling rather than showing. And that's okay, but it left me feeling like the book lacked depth. The dynamic between the step-sisters was frustrating, but they ended up being the most emotional part of the book in the end. I So Liked It and don't regret buying it, but I am passing my copy along to Kelly because I don't see myself re-reading it.

JANE OF LANTERN HILL BY L.M. MONTGOMERY – As much as I love L.M. Montgomery, there are a number of her books that I've never read. This was one of them! I listened on audio, and the narrator was fine, though unremarkable. But there were numerous times that sentences were repeated in the audio, as if producers forgot to edit when combining two recording sessions. As for the story itself, it was really sweet! Jane lives with her meek mother and overbearing grandmother in Toronto, where she's comfortably provided for but strictly controlled. She learns that her father is still alive and is sent off to spend a summer with him on Prince Edward Island. What follows next is a lovely little story about belonging, the joy of being useful, and finding confidence when surrounded by love and encouragement. I So Enjoyed It and believe fans of LMM will love the similarities to her other works.

KEEP HER SAFE BY K.A. TUCKER – After falling in love with The Simple Wild last year, I planned to explore Tucker's backlist. This one was available on Book Outlet at the time, so I started here. It's described as "romantic suspense," but honestly I was neither romantic nor suspenseful for me. The police corruption and procedural aspect could have been interesting, but there was nothing surprising about the way it unfolded. There are only so many suspects, and it seemed pretty obvious what had happened. The flashback chapters were distracting, and the pacing was off for the whole book. I think the book was about 100 pages too long and shortening it could have heightened the tension. Also, I liked Noah and Grace individually, but the romance seemed forced. I'm So Okay With It and am interested in more from Tucker, though maybe not in this particular genre.

84 CHARING CROSS ROAD AND THE DUCHESS OF BLOOMSBURY STREET BY HELENE HANFF – This was a UK purchase that I bought based on the charming premise and  Goodreads + bookstagram hype. This edition contains both books, which I didn't realize when I started. 84 Charing Cross is the correspondence between an American woman and British bookseller over the span of twenty years, and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is the American's travel journal when she finally visits England. They are non-fiction, though often compared to epistolary novels. Y'all, I'm here with a hot take: I hated both books. What other readers found charming, I read as rude and abrasive. Where some saw friendship, I just saw business. The huge jumps in time between letters made it feel disjointed, and the journal made Hanff sound like an awful travel companion. I'm So Over It.

TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS BY CHERYL STRAYED – I have no desire to read Wild, so I can't really explain why I bought this book. I weirdly enjoy advice columns, however, so I decided to take a chance on this collection of Dear Sugar columns when I found it at the thrift store. I started to sample it that night and ended up reading the whole thing. The letters were all written in a similar style, so I questioned how much stylistic editing they'd received (and whether they were even real letters). As for the advice, it was a mixed bag for me. There were specific passages I loved throughout, and a few replies in particular will stand out in my mind for a long time. But I really disliked how Strayed related everything to herself or her own life. It felt kind of narcissistic to me. I liked the tough love approach, though I sometimes wondered, "Does this actually help the person writing in?" I'm So Okay With It.

DECORATING A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN BY SUSAN HARLAN – With a recommendation from Go Fug Yourself, I knew I had to read this one! It’s a book of “conversations on interior design” with literary notables such as Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Havisham, Jane Eyre and more. It was so much fun! If you like classics and decorating, I think you’ll enjoy this adorable, satirical book. The illustrations throughout were a gorgeous bonus. Harlan takes the language of decorating sites like Apartment Therapy and applies it to homes from classic literature. She looks at these famous fictional residents and “interviews” their residents about their style, inspiration, favorite element, biggest embarrassment, best advice, and more. Harlan’s love and knowledge of the subject matter was so evident. I got the most out of the chapters where I’d read the book in question, and I So Enjoyed It overall.

CIRCE BY MADELINE MILLER – I've been on a Greek mythology kick the past month, which was perfect timing because this audio was recently on sale. I'd heard such good things about it last year, but it didn't really appeal to me at the time. Well, I'm glad it was still simmering on my mental radar because this was such an excellent read! I adored the narrator and didn't want to stop listening to her melodic voice. While the number of gods and figures referenced was a bit overwhelming at first, I was soon swept up in this story. Circe was such a dynamic figure at the center of the book, and I was so invested in her story. I loved the long passage of time, the lyrical writing, the character-driven story, and the way it explored women's roles in Greek mythology. And that ending? Perfection. I wasn't sure of my rating when I finished, but the more I've thought about it the more I'm So Obsessed With It.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

What have you been reading lately?

April 2019: Recap + On My Shelves

May 6, 2019

I started April by spending the day in Paris – how was the rest of the month ever going to top that experience? But while it wasn't strolling down the Champs-Élysées, I had some amazing adventures back home in Georgia, too.

1. Paris with Kelly – I may have included my trip in my March recap, but it had to have a spot in this post, too! I spent the first two days of April in Paris and London before heading home on the third, and it was an incredible way to start the month. I'd planned to go to Paris while studying abroad in college but was ditched by my friend instead... I'm glad now that my first experience with the city was with Kelly in celebration of my 30th birthday.

2. Petting Zoo in Our Neighborhood – Our neighborhood celebrated the start of spring with an Easter egg hunt, pony rides, and a petting zoo. I think you can imagine where our little animal lover ended up! The day was cold and rainy after weeks of great weather, but it worked in our favor because there wasn't a crowd. My son's favorite was the little black cow, but I was partial to the donkey. She got jealous when the other animals got more attention!

3. Botanical Gardens with My Boy – One lovely spring day, I decided I wanted to spend the morning outside. Since I didn't want to drive all the way to Atlanta, we went to a smaller branch of the Botanical Gardens and had such a blast! The small size was perfect for multiple laps to use up some toddler energy, plus there was a model train that my son loved watching. Add in a little arts and crafts time, and it was a perfect adventure.

4. Wild Animal Safari – One of Nick's friends told him about a drive-thru animal park in south Georgia that had been a huge hit with their family. With our son's birthday approaching, we decided to surprise him with a day at the safari as part of his gift. He was in heaven! We rented one of the park's vans, though you can drive your own car, and got to feed a huge assortment of animals out the windows. One favorite was this giraffe!

Read 26 Books | Favorites:
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane
Lovely War by Julie Berry
Circe by Madeline Miller

“Unbeknownst to me, I was a treasure trove of interesting things,
once someone turned up to be interested in them.”
Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

“Being 'in love' is a contented kind of bored with each other.
You're not going to find someone who sets you on fire and is also a good idea
and you know why? Because being on fire isn't a good idea. It's destructive.
When anyone describes love nowadays they usually mean lust.”
Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

“I love that every generation thinks they’ve invented it.
They think they’re the first ones to fall in love and get their hearts broken,
to feel loss and passion and pain. And in a way, they are. We’ve been there before, of course.
But for young people, that doesn’t matter. Everything is new.
Which I love, because it means everything is always beginning again.
It’s hopeful, I think. At least to me.”
Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

 “If I’m going to have regrets in this life, I’d rather them be for the chances I took
and not the opportunities I let slip away.”
When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

 “It was the dimples. Empires have swiveled on less.”
Lovely War by Julie Berry

“There are stories that may be told aloud, and stories that must be told in whispers,
and there are stories that are never told at all.”
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

“I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose.
We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours.
It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours,
as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”
Circe by Madeline Miller

April was a slower blogging month for me, but I'm not mad about it. Sometimes I just need to take a break from it all! But I've lots of ideas brewing, so let's hope that I can get some of those written in May. Though it wasn't my first post of the month, I've got to start with my March 2019 recap. I also shared Quick Lit review round-ups: February 2019 Part One and Part Two, and closed the month with March 2019.

My most popular photo of the month was my book cart filled with faves, though I didn't think the photo was that great. And my favorite photo of the month, of Persuasion by Jane Austen, was my least popular... so I clearly don't understand Instagram! I could write a whole post about it, honestly. Anyway, this was my second fave photo – mostly because I love my library and had fun sharing bookish facts about myself in the caption. • @soobsessedblog

  Favorite Album #1: Moonlight by Johnnyswim
I was obsessed with Maren's previous album and had it on repeat the entire summer it came out.
This one feels a more pop-y, but I don't mind it. The songs are so catchy! "Good Bones" is my fave.

Favorite Album #2: The Hurting Kind by John Paul White
I never cared about The Jonas Brothers when they were popular, but dang if I don't love this song.
I can't stop listening to it! And y'all, I'm even more in love with the music video for it.

The Perfect Date (2019) starring Noah Centineo and Laura Marano – Oh man, I was so excited for this Netflix release (teen rom com! Peter Noah!), and then it was just... blah. It wasn't notably bad, but it sure wasn't good either. And honestly, I think Lana Condor must have brought out Noah's dreaminess because I wasn't feeling any chemistry here at all. Whomp whomp! Oh well, on to the next thing in my queue...

Game of Thrones, Season 1 – Nick and I tried this years ago and barely made it twenty minutes into it before we turned it off. With all the hoopla surrounding the final season, we decided to try it again. And while we did finish it, we still... didn't really like it. I know, I know! That's like sacrilege on the Internet. It was just so graphic, and I could barely focus on the story without zoning out. I've been told to give it a little longer to win me over, but we'll see. 

UK Trip (Pt. 2): Orgueil et préjugés by Jane Austen (1), The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay and This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell, The Rise & Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning, State of Sorrow and Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury, and Orgueil et préjugés by Jane Austen (2)

Book Depository: The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Book of the Month: Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

Thrift Store Finds #1: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner, You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott, What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan, The Perfect Couple and The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand, The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, The Doll People and The Runaway Dolls by Ann M. Martin, All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, Where Love Lies by Julie Cohen, Hot Mess by Emily Belden, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, On a Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond, King Arthur & His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green, and Troy by Adèle Geras

Thrift Store Finds #2: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, Swear on This Life by Renée Carlino, The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory, and The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

For Review: Westside by W.M. Akers and The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Audible: Circe by Madeline Miller

Kindle: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Edelweiss: The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams and Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Quick Lit: March 2019

Apr 30, 2019

After finally catching up on my backlog of Quick Lit posts, I told myself that I could never get that far behind again. I think it took me longer to get motivated to start than it did to actually write the reviews. With that said, let's talk about what I read in March (right before we enter May haha!). I finished 21 books, and I'm chatting about 15 of them in today's post. Four others are briefly mentioned at the end, and the other two will be included in April's Quick Lit. As always, check out the linkup hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for more reviews and recommendations.

GRAVE MERCY, DARK TRIUMPH AND MORTAL HEART BY ROBIN LAFEVERS – After spending the month of February re-reading, you'd think that I would be eager to get back to the brand-new books. I found myself still craving familiar reads, so I decided to listen to this series on audio. And since the first book in the new companion duology released in February, I knew a memory refresh was in order before I picked up that one. I read this series at the height of their popularity years ago and hadn't re-read them since. I loved them then, but I kept wondering if they'd hold up. Fake spoiler alert: all three were still AMAZING! Why didn't I re-read them sooner?

My favorite will always be Dark Triumph because Sybella + Beast = magic, but I was surprised to find that Mortal Heart was even better than I'd remembered. Possibly even stronger than Grave Mercy? Gasp, I know! If you want more thoughts on these assassin nuns, here's my original series review since my re-read reaction is basically just ALL THE FEELS. As for the audiobooks, all three have different narrators. The first and third were just okay, in my opinion, but much better on 3x speed. The second was really good, and I was excited to see she narrates Sybella's POV in the newest book, too. I'm happy to say I'm still So Obsessed With this series.

MARIANA BY SUSANNA KEARSLEY – I've heard Kelly rave about this book for years, and I kept meaning to read it after I thoroughly enjoyed The Winter Sea. It's only my second book by this author, but I can already see similarities between them! This book was really grounded in the setting, and I loved that it was so important to the story. I'm generally not a fan of two timelines in books (one present and one historical, in this case), but I could see how both timelines had to exist for the story Kearsley was telling. The story and atmosphere were so well done, though I wanted more from the characters and the romantic relationships. But I So Enjoyed It overall! 

FREDERICA BY GEORGETTE HEYER – I've only read one book by Heyer, The Grand Sophy, and it was eight years ago. But I gave it five stars, so she's been on my bookish radar ever since! Heyer is considered the queen of Regency romance, and I couldn't wait to start this one. While I loved the family dynamics and humorous scenes, the story seemed to drag on forever. And the romance was the weakest part of the book to me! I wasn't invested in the couple at all, and I was bummed because I'd expected so much more. I'll probably try at least one more book from Heyer in the future, but this one didn't really work for me. I was So Okay With It.

CODE NAME VERITY BY ELIZABETH WEIN – The first time I read this book, I loved it. And I noted that I thought it was the type of book that "only gets better every time you revisit it." But that was six years ago, and I'd never re-read it since then. All I could remember was that it was slow and hard to get into at first, and I forgot what I loved. But I owned the audiobook, so I figured I'd give it a try. OH MY GOODNESS. Past Me was an idiot – this book is perfection, and my memory was the problem. Listening to it made the writing come to life in a new way, and I highly recommend that format. This book is meant to be read by such talented narrators! I'm So Obsessed With It.

PERSUASION BY JANE AUSTEN – Is there a more romantic moment in Austen’s novels than Wentworth’s letter to Anne at the end of of this one? And what is there to say about Persuasion that hasn’t been said before? I adore all of Austen’s novels, but this is probably my second favorite after Pride and Prejudice. It all works for me: the characters, the emotion, the uncertainty, the ending. I could go on! It’s a slower, quieter story, but I love how Austen gives us such an introspective heroine. And this book is probably why I’ll always have a soft spot for second chance romances! I listened to it on audio, and Juliet Stevenson did a lovely job narrating it. I'm So Obsessed With It.

COURTING DARKNESS BY ROBIN LAFEVERS – After re-reading the His Fair Assassin series, I couldn't wait to dive in to the first book is the new companion duology! Following Sybella (from the original trilogy) and another novitiate that we'd heard of but never met, I'm thrilled that LaFevers is continuing to explore this world! There's so much political intrigue and personal drama in this one, and I loved everything about it. I do think that it's best if you've read the other series first because you need all the background to appreciate the relationships and overall plot. It ends on a cliffhanger, but I'm eagerly anticipating the sequel. I'm So Obsessed With It!

A DANGEROUS COLLABORATION BY DEANNA RAYBOURN* – Veronica is an outspoken, adventurous heroine with a penchant for getting herself into trouble and a talent for solving mysteries. Her sidekick, Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, is slightly exasperated by her antics... but he's secretly swooning, too. The slow burn between them is my favorite, and each mystery has been fun and fascinating. This particular book takes Veronica and Stoker to a small island off the coast, which I loved! The isolated setting, atmospheric description of it, and the small circle of suspects added to the suspense. It gave the book a gothic vibe, and I'm So Obsessed With It. (Books 1, 2, and 3)

PETER PAN BY J.M. BARRIE – When I was scrolling through my Audible library, I noticed Peter Pan, narrated by Jim Dale. I can't even find the edition for sale now, but I know I've owned it for years. I've intended to read ever since it was chosen for my Consider This Classic feature. At five hours long, I finished it in one evening and loved Dale's narration. He was the highlight for me! I loved many of Barrie's turns of phrase, and there were endearing moments in the story. But, on the whole, it was much darker than I'd realized. It reminded me of Lord of the Flies – not exactly what I'd expected! I So Liked It, but it's not a classic I see myself revisiting.

HEART'S BLOOD BY JULIET MARILLIER – This historical fantasy is set in Ireland and loosely based on Beauty and the Beast. Marillier kept the familiar elements of the fairy tale — a castle, a curse, a flower, a beastly man, and beautiful girl — but fleshed it out in a way that was entirely her own. I loved noticing all the nods to the inspiration while still feeling as though I was reading something entirely new. Though I found the mystery incredibly obvious, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of this story. I loved the descriptive writing, the memorable secondary characters, and the subtle romance. And oh my, it was so atmospheric! The pace is on the slower side, but I still So Loved It.

EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN BY CHRIS CLEAVE – Quite honestly, this is my least favorite read of the year so far and one I should have quit. Stilted dialogue, awful characters, tedious story. I started it on audio and made it almost halfway through before picking up the book so I could just skim to the end. I thought it might redeem itself, but it just kept getting worse. And while I understand it’s historically accurate, the repeated use of racial slurs and opinions felt gratuitous and problematic. The black characters only existed as character development for the white heroine, and it was done so offensively. I could rant about this in more detail, but the gist is I So Disliked It.

DEVIL'S DAUGHTER BY LISA KLEYPAS – I have loved West as a secondary character in the previous books and was so looking forward to seeing him find love. His story didn't disappoint! Phoebe was delightful, though I wanted to shake her a few times. Their banter and chemistry made them a fun couple. The children from her previous marriage were lovely additions to the story, and it was cute to see West win them over with his boyish antics. But the real MVP was Phoebe's dad – Sebastian St. Vincent, who readers originally met in the Wallflowers series. Bless his meddling ways! This might be my favorite of the series, and I So Loved It.

WHAT MATTERS IN JANE AUSTEN? BY JOHN MULLAN – It's almost impossible for me to resist books about or inspired by Jane Austen. This particular one has been on my shelves for years, and I'm so glad I finally read it. A few essays in here were so insightful that they will affect how I re-read Austen in the future (in a good way). The introduction and last two chapters, in particular, were excellent. Those were worth the price of the book, for me! But many others dragged and got repetitive. I’d recommend it to fellow Austen lovers — with the caveat that you may skim a bit. The writing isn't too scholarly, which I appreciated, too. I So Liked It

ENCHANTÉE BY GITA TRELEASE – Hello, gorgeous cover. Did I pre-order this based on its beauty and summary alone? Yes, I did. It's set in Paris during the French Revolution, but there's something special about Trelease's version of the world – it's got magic! I can't resist real events that have a creative twist, and it was done in such a believable way in this book. Trelease's writing was lovely, and I enjoyed how the heroine's personal struggles weren't overshadowed by the country's upheaval. However, I would have loved more development from the characters and the romance because I was never deeply invested in either. I So Liked It overall though! 

There were a few books that I won't be reviewing but wanted to mention. Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean was a fun start to a new series, though it did feel long and overly dramatic at times. The romance was great, however, and I So Enjoyed It. I had similar feelings about Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas – nice romance and trope (devilish hero reformed by unconventional woman) but also felt it dragged on and got ridiculous. I'm a little torn on the rating but would probably say I So Enjoyed It. And finally, I read Just Like Heaven and A Night Like This by Julia Quinn, the first two books in the Smythe-Smith Quartet. I didn't particularly enjoy either one – mostly forgettable and boring with a few moments of cuteness. I'm So Okay With It but won't be continuing the series. 

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

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March 2019: Recap + On My Shelves

Apr 11, 2019

March felt like it was a fever dream. How has it already come and gone? I spent so much time preparing for my trip to England with Kelly, and then it passed in a blur. But I'm still so thankful and have so much to share about it!

1. Family Trip to the Zoo – For my son's birthday last year, we got a membership to Zoo Atlanta. He loves animals, and it paid for itself in two trips. I realized it was expiring soon, and we'd only been once. Oops! We made it a priority to go in March, and my son couldn't stop talking about it. We made great memories!

2. Gorgeous Days Outside – Hello, spring! I've missed you, beautiful days and warm weather. Georgia has mild winters, but I still eagerly anticipate the return of afternoons outside and light late into the evening. We spent lots of time in the backyard, the neighborhood playground, and our screened-in porch.

3. Traveling with Kelly – For the last few days of March (and first few of April), I was in England with Kelly. I could have devoted this entire "What I Loved" section to that trip, but I'll contain myself to two. My favorite thing about the trip was being with Kelly! We have the best time together, and she's the best travel partner. 

4. Exploring England – Aside from a week with my bestie, I loved every minute in England. We stayed in London but took day trips out of the city, and it was amazing to see so many different places. From the Cotswolds countryside to the Rye coast, I wouldn't change a thing about the trip. I've got a recap of it coming soon!

Read 21 Books | Favorites:
Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

“The past can teach us, nurture us, but it cannot sustain us.
The essence of life is change, and we must move ever forward or the soul will wither and die.”
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

 “Your love cannot change a man – or a god. All it can do is open a door,
create a new path for him to choose. One that has not been open to him before.
That is what the power of your loved can offer him – all of that, and no more.”
Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

“A long time ago I learned not to explain things to people.
It misleads them into thinking they're entitled to know everything I do.”
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

“You are the fool, Tiberius, because you still do not understand.
I do not love her enough to kill for her... I love her enough to die for her.”
A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

 “But what good is it to teach a child to count, if you don't show him that he counts for something?”
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

“From time to time, I may adjust a situation to achieve a desired outcome
for the benefit of my children, but that's not meddling.”
“What do you call it, then?”
“Parenting,” he said smugly, and kissed her before she could reply.
Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas

“Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

“If midnight is witching hour, two a.m. is dwelling hour.”
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

I found my blogging mojo in March and worked on posts that I'd been putting off for months! I was most proud of myself for finally catching up on my months-long review backlog, but I'll get there in a second. I started the month with my February 2019 recap. I came out of full-length review retirement to rave about Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I shared eight things I've been loving lately in my So Obsessed With: Mini Edition #6 post. And I resurrected a series review feature that I hadn't done in years when I did a Series Speed Date: Round #10 for The Winner's Trilogy. And I shared 15 audiobooks recommendations for a Top Ten Tuesday topic.

But my proudest accomplishment was all the reviews I wrote! I'd gotten so behind on Quick Lit posts that I wondered if I'd ever catch up. But I finally did! I posted Quick Lit review round-ups for November 2018, December 2018, and January 2019 Part One and Part Two. The rest of the Quick Lits I wrote posted in April, so I'll share those in next month's recap. Now I've just got to promise myself that I'll never get that behind again...

Am I finding my bookstagram footing when it comes to posting more regularly? I hope so! I still struggle with replying to comments and interacting with all the posts in my feed, but I'm working on it. There were a few other photos I loved in March, but this one was my favorite. I just snapped it on a whim when I noticed that my shirt, flowers and books all had hints of pink, and I loved the end result! It feels like Spring to me. • @soobsessedblog

  Favorite Album: GIRL by Maren Morris
I was obsessed with Maren's previous album and had it on repeat the entire summer it came out.
This one feels a more pop-y, but I don't mind it. The songs are so catchy! "Good Bones" is my fave.

Favorite Song: Sucker by The Jonas Brothers
I never cared about The Jonas Brothers when they were popular, but dang if I don't love this song.
I can't stop listening to it! And y'all, I'm even more in love with the music video for it.

Queer Eye, Season 3, starring Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, & Jonathan Van Ness – I've loved every season of this Netflix show, and there are always a few episodes each season that make me cry. While I think this one might be my least fave of the three, I still find the stories so moving and the group dynamic so fun to watch. I'm probably biased, but I do think it was better when they were in Georgia. Haha! 

I didn't watch any new-to-me movies in March, but Kelly and I spent the month watching movies + reading books set in England and France to get hyped for our trip. I re-watched eight movies and thought I'd briefly mention them:

Belle (2013) starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid – I adore this movie and have raved about it before. If you haven't seen it, you're missing out! It's a fave and always makes me curious about the story that inspired it.

What a Girl Wants (2003) starring Amanda Bynes and Colin Firth – I needed a little comedy to break up the costume dramas, so I reached for this classic from my youth. While I eye-rolled a lot, Colin Firth was worth it.

Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) starring Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts – This movie is just so gorgeous! The heroine is a total pill, in my opinion, but I'm here for the dreamy hero and fantastic cinematography. 

Marie Antoinette (2006) starring Kirsten Dunst – I don't love Dunst in general, but I think she's so wonderful in this role. I love the entire feel of this movie and its music. It's worth watching for the costumes + sets alone! 

Persuasion (2007) starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones – I know of two Persuasion movie adaptations and honestly don't love either of them. I mostly watched this one because I re-read the book in March!

My Week with Marilyn (2011) starring Michelle Williams and Eddie Redmayne – I've only seen this one other time, and Eddie Redmayne is the real draw for me. Hello, handsome. I like this movie, but I probably won't re-watch again.

Becoming Jane (2007) starring Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy – Will I ever get sick of this movie? NOPE. It's not really historically accurate, but I don't care at all. It's so romantic! Ahhh, the power of meaningful eye contact.

The Young Victoria (2009) starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend – Another favorite, even though I've mentally separated it from the reality of Victoria and Albert. Emily Blunt is fantastic in the role, and the romance makes me swoon.

New Books: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn, Lovely War by Julie Berry and Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Goldsboro Edition)

Goodwill: Shadow of Night and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness and Faithful by Alice Hoffman (not pictured)

UK Trip (Pt. 1): Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane, The Skylark's War by Hilary McKay, A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (3 editions), and 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

From Alexa: The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves and Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

NetGalley: The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker, Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker

For Review (Not Pictured): Springtime at Hope Cottage by Annie Rains, A Rogue by Night by Kelly Bowen, This Book is Not Yet Rated by Peter Bognanni

Audible: Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers, Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn, and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Quick Lit: February 2019 (Part 2)

Apr 3, 2019

Thanks for joining me for the continuation of my thoughts on what I read in February! If you missed it, here's Part One. Just to refresh your memory, Kelly and I spent last month re-reading, and we loved every minute it. The reviews below have my thoughts after re-reading, but you can click the title of the book for my original review. As always, check out the Quick Lit linkup that's hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy for reviews and recs from other readers.

FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK, FROI OF THE EXILES AND QUINTANA OF CHARYN BY MELINA MARCHETTA – There was no doubt in my mind that I’d be reaching for The Lumatere Chronicles as my first choice for #FebruaREREAD. Want to talk about an underrated series? This one right here! I read these for the first time in 2013, but I’ve never revisited them. I always meant to though — and even pushed them on Kelly last year! I ended up being so glad these kicked off our little re-reading project, and they ended up being my favorite books of the month.

When I first read them, I wasn’t yet in love with fantasy. And I’ve always wondered if I’d love them more now than I did then. Spoiler alert: I did! I enjoyed them on my first read, but I’m so obsessed with them after this re-read. They have everything I love in books: complex characters, quotable writing, slow-burn romances, a detailed setting, a compelling conflict, and EMOTIONAL TORTURE. The main characters are technically young adults, but these books read like adult fiction to me (partly due to some of the subject matter). While the stories are often heartbreaking, they’re still so hopeful. “Because today, I think I’m leaning on the side of wonder.” 

If I had to choose just one specific thing to praise, it’s how Marchetta depicts the various relationships that are so crucial in this story: an oath between friends, the love of a parent for their child, the loyalty of siblings, the bond between a captain and his men, the trust subjects put in their ruler, and the promise between lovers. And honestly, those are just the positive examples. There’s also the heartbreak and devastation of trust broken, people betrayed, and lives lost because of pure evil. So, you can expect a whole range of emotions while you’re reading. These books are definitely character driven and have a slower pace, but that works for me as a reader. In case you can’t tell, I So Obsessed With It and look forward to many more re-reads in the future.

AFTER I DO BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID – This has been one of my favorite books since I first read it in 2014. I read it twice in that year alone, but hadn't revisited it since then. WHAT?! This is a story about when love seems to have faded from a marriage — what happens next? This couple spends a year apart to see if they can find their way back to one another. And though I wouldn’t make the exact same choices they did, I loved the truths they learn in the process and how they answer the question, “What are you willing to fight for?” I listened to this one on audio and never liked the narrator in the sample, but I had no issue with her at 3x speed. Still not a favorite narrator for me, but better than I expected. Of all of Reid's book, this one means the most to me me. I'm So Obsessed With It.

COME AWAY WITH ME BY KARMA BROWN – This book is such an emotional read! Tegan’s entire life is changed in the wake of a terrible car accident. In her grief, she decides to travel to Thailand, Italy, and Hawaii with her husband to try to heal and find peace. On my first read in 2015, I didn’t expect Brown to take the story where she did. I loved re-reading and being able to see that she’d laid the foundation from the very beginning for some of the things that had originally surprised me. The travel aspect is the real draw for me. If this story was solely set in Chicago, I don't think I would have re-read it. But it was worth re-reading just to re-examine a few aspects of the story. The audiobook performance was fine, though not noteworthy. As for the book itself, I So Enjoyed It. 

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY BY BETHANY CHASE – This book is about a woman who thinks she’s got her life figured out — until an old flame comes back into town and throws everything into question. I first read this is in 2015 and immediately loved Chase’s writing. She made me so invested in a storyline that normally wouldn’t work for me! There’s so much that I enjoy about this book: the Austin setting, the heroine’s passion for her career as an architect, and an emotional secondary storyline. While I still don't love everything about the romance, I would still say it's a well-written relationship. Not my favorite trope, but Chase does it better than most. This was probably my favorite narrator of the three books pictured, though I listened to this one at 3x speed, too. I So Enjoyed It.

THE PERFECT RAKE, HIS CAPTIVE LADY AND THE WINTER BRIDE BY ANNE GRACIE – As you may be able to tell from the books featured in this post, Kelly and I tried to re-read across a variety of genres throughout the month. We made a list at the beginning of the month and then filled it our choices as we went. For the historical romance category, I thought about reading one book from each of my favorite authors. And then I thought, "Why don't I just re-read my favorite Anne Gracie books?" All three are from different series, but it was a fun mix of books.

Gracie was my introduction to this genre, and I've always wondered how I would feel about The Perfect Rake compared to everything I've read since. Thankfully, I found it just as delightful the second time around! I don't love the beginning or the melodrama near the end, but the relationship between Pru and Gabriel is fantastic. So much banter! Their first meeting is probably one of my favorite scenes in all the romances I've read. Once again, I So Enjoyed It. It's probably my least favorite of the three I re-read, but still so fun.

Next up was His Captive Lady, which I read for the first time last year. The Devil Riders are such a fun group of friends! I remembered this book as the most emotional of the five in the series, and my memory is correct. I loved the romance – and both characters' backstories. Gracie could have easily upped the drama by making one character keep a secret from the other, but I absolutely loved that she didn't. The characters honesty and forthrightness is my favorite! While there's a plot point near the end that make me eyeroll, I So Loved It overall.

And finally, The Winter Bride. This is my favorite of all three – and, dare I say it, possibly even my favorite historical romance? I don't even know why I love it so much, but it just works so perfectly for me! I love both characters individually, but they're even better together. And the scene where the heroine defends the hero? Someone pass the smelling salts because I definitely just swooned. I appreciated the internal and external conflicts in this one, and I love that it never gets too over the top. I'm clearly So Obsessed With It, in case you can't tell.

What have you been reading lately?
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