Quick Lit: April 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?


  1. Jill Mansell's books are so charming, I've read a bunch of them. I refuse to read After You and Still Me!

    1. Do you have a favorite from Jill Mansell? She has so many that I don't know what to read next!

      And haha, I can totally understand that decision! I loved Still Me, though not as much as Me Before You. But MBY really is perfect as a standalone!

  2. I loved Circe too!! I have Jane of Lantern Hill (that exact copy!) out from the library right now to read at some point, but I might try the audio instead. I've never read it and I am a huge LMM fan so I'm excited to dive in!

    1. Ah, I'm so happy to see another Circe fan! It really wasn't the kind of book that I'd typically pick up, but I'm so glad that I did. Such a gorgeous story!

      And yay! I hope you enjoy Jane of Lantern Hill -- such a sweet story! I'd love to hear what you think when you're done!

  3. Yay for Circe! I finally read it, and I really enjoyed it (particularly because I was reminded of all the different Greek mythology characters I was familiar with after obsessively rereading those myths as a kid). And I'm sad you didn't love Field Notes on Love more, but I definitely understand!

    I'm still intrigued by Once Upon a River, and not just because of the beautiful cover. The story interests me, and seeing your thoughts on it has made me even more eager to pick it up one day!


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