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
© So Obsessed With • Theme by Maira G.