Quick Lit: July 2019

My reading pace slowed down just a tiny bit in July, but thankfully I had more wins this month than the one prior. By the end of the month, I could tell that I was about to fully enter a "nothing appeals to me" reading mood. But I'll discuss that more in my August post! I finished 16 books and am chatting about 14 of them today (plus the three Harry Potters I read in June). I'll briefly mention the other two books I read at the bottom of this post! For more Quick Lit posts from other readers, be sure to check out Modern Mrs. Darcy.

SUMMER OF '69 BY ELIN HILDERBRAND – When I saw that Hilderbrand had a historical fiction book coming out this year, I was excited to give it a try. I just read her for the first time last year! Unfortunately, this release didn't really work for me. Hilderbrand knows how to write the kind of drama that keeps you turning the pages, but sometimes that comes at the cost of the characters. No one ever feels fully fleshed out, and I rarely seem to connect to anyone. And personally, it can be a struggle to read about characters that I just don't like. Everything that happened in this book felt so superficial and contrived, and there's nothing really interesting about the way it was resolved. And while numerous historical events are referenced, it still seemed so modern. Overall, I'm So Okay With It.

RECURSION BY BLAKE CROUCH – I read and enjoyed Crouch's Dark Matter a few years ago, so I was excited to pick up this new release. I think Crouch's stories are creative and compelling, and I definitely didn't want to put this one down once I'd started it. And although the science went over my head, I loved the relational aspects of the story. Exactly what I said about his previous book! However, I won't lie – this felt like almost the exact same story as Dark Matter. The science and concept were different, but it's still about someone trying to change the outcome of an event over the course of many timelines. And in this book, in particular, it got so repetitive. The first half of the story felt so tightly plotted, but my interest waned in the second half. By the end, I was just So Okay With It.

NEVER HAVE I EVER BY JOSHILYN JACKSON* – I've had a rocky reading relationship with Jackson in the past but adored her 2017 release, The Almost Sisters. I was nervous because this is a new genre for Jackson, but I shouldn't have been surprised that she tackled it with ease. She excels at giving her stories the right tone, and the complexity of her characters never fails to impress me. Every single time that I thought I knew what was going to happen next, Jackson threw me for a loop. My unexpected favorite element? The descriptions of scuba diving! That part was fascinating. Domestic thrillers can be hit or miss, but this one was exactly what I needed. I So Loved It! There's one aspect of the story that I found hard to read, but it didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the book. 

THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE BY KATHERINE CENTER* – I didn't know it at the time, but this book was just what I needed! I flew through the story, loving every minute of it. The heroine is emotionally closed off, but I enjoyed her growth over the course of the book. The theme of forgiveness and how choosing to love is courageous was very moving, and it's a big reason this one earned a So Loved It. The writing occasionally felt clunky (like the heroine thinking something that was already spoken aloud), and there may have been a few too many "topics" packed in here – but I didn't really feel that while I was reading. The ending brought it all together for me, despite its predictability, and left me with the happiest grin on my face. (But Happiness for Beginners is still my favorite!)

THE WEDDING PARTY BY JASMINE GUILLORY* – After enjoying the first two books in this series, I was excited to step back into this world and friend group. And Guillory didn't disappoint! I loved the cameos from past couples and was glad I'd read the previous books. I've mentioned before that I don't think Guillory is the strongest writer, which is still true. But as soon as I start one of her books, I don't want to put them down. So I can't complain too much! This is a hate-to-love romance, and it was fun to see this couple navigate their growing attraction to one another. Bless their hearts for trying to keep it a secret, however. That aspect was a dumb, but I didn't care very much. This was fun, light read and I So Enjoyed It! It was steamier than I prefer, but I easily skipped those parts.

SAY YOU STILL LOVE ME BY K.A. TUCKER* – This is a second-chance romance, which is one of my least favorite tropes. Plus it's dual timeline, and flashbacks usually don't work for me. So, I was already off to a bad start with this story. In the past, we see the hero and heroine meet at summer camp as teens and fall in love, only to be parted after a mysterious tragedy before meeting again years later. I did not like how quickly the romance developed and how detailed it got in the past. I don't want to read steamy scenes between teenagers!! Add to that the fact that I didn't like the characters, felt like I was reading two separate books, think the mystery was problematic, and just dragged my way through this boring plot until I got to the end. I'm sad to say that I was So Over It.

HOW TO BREAK UP WITH YOUR PHONE BY CATHERINE PRICE – Christine from Buckling Bookshelves and I were chatting about feeling burnt out on social media and trying to find more balance, and she mentioned this book. I borrowed it from the library on her recommendation and finished it within a few hours. I didn't complete the author's 30-day challenge but still felt like I got some good advice and action items from it. I immediately turned off all app notifications (and have kept them off), starting tracking the time I spent on my phone, and created a scheduled Downtime reminder. While my progress hasn't been perfect, I have seen a decrease in my phone usage – and have felt motivated to continue to set healthy boundaries with screens. I So Liked It and am glad I read it!

WORLD WITHOUT END BY KEN FOLLETT – I adored Pillars of the Earth when I read it back in 2012, but I never got around to continuing the series. This sequel is set two centuries after the events of the first book, and it honestly felt like a watered-down version of that story! I finished all 1,000 pages in three days, so it was compulsively readable. But I kept asking myself, "Do I even like this book or these characters?" And the answer is... no, not really. Follett excels at bringing his settings to life, and that's the main reason I kept reading. The world was so rich and interesting! The plot was packed with action and intrigue, but it felt very formulaic. It was constantly building to one bad thing after another, and the resolution wasn't rewarding to me. Unfortunately, I was just So Okay With It.

HOT MESS BY EMILY BELDEN – I randomly spotted this at my local used bookstore, read the back, and sat down to sample it. Next thing I knew, I'd read almost 40 pages. How was I supposed to say no to it?! The Goodreads reviews made me nervous, and I can now see why this book didn't work for a lot of readers. I love books set in the culinary world, and this one focused on creating and running a restaurant. It was fascinating! The heroine really was a hot mess, and I judged a lot of her choices early on – but I was still rooting for her to succeed. Waiting for a certain relationship to self destruct took too long, but the growth afterward was so worth it. It's not the light, romantic comedy you might expect from the cover and summary, but I So Enjoyed It. So glad I gave it a shot!

SOMEONE TO HONOR BY MARY BALOGH* – I binged a lot of Balogh last year, including the first five books in the Westcott series. Of all the historical romance I've read, Balogh's typically feel the most authentic (and least modern) to me. She writes slightly slower, less steamy books – and that's exactly what I want and love. The Westcott family is so large that it always takes me a few chapters to re-familiarize myself with the characters, but I'm always hooked after that point. I loved how both the hero and heroine in this had to overcome baggage regarding their illegitimacy. And although there is a custody battle in the book, Balogh doesn't turn to any flashy twists or tricks. Instead, she just gives us a quiet story of two people finding love when they least expect it, and I So Liked It.

THE GOLDEN HOUR BY BEATRIZ WILLIAMS* – I loved my #BestieBeatrizBinge in 2017 but hated The Summer Wives last year, so that made me nervous for this recent release! While it wasn't a favorite, it still felt like a return to what I expect from Williams. This dual timeline novel follows two women and slowly pieces together the connection between them. I loved Williams' voice and was so caught up in the two settings. The romances were too instant for me, but that's typical for Williams' books. The stories in both timelines (as well as a surprise near the near) are the reason I So Liked It instead of raving about it. It got bogged down in too many details, the summary seemed to promise a different sort of book, and a lot of the action didn't involve the heroine (just existed around her). 

THE HARRY POTTER SERIES BY J.K. ROWLING – I didn't read the Harry Potter series for the first time until I was out of college, about eight years ago. And aside from re-reading the first when the illustrated edition came out, I'd never revisited this series. I planned to re-read one a month starting last November, but that didn't happen. I made it through the first but got no further. We own all of them on audio, however, since my husband loves them – so I figured that might be the key to finally get me to re-read. And it was! I listened to second, third and fourth in June and then wrapped up the fifth, sixth and seventh in July. And I have a confession: I've given all of these books five stars because they're so creative and well executed... but... I'm not actually so obsessed with them. They're really good, but I just don't care about them as much as everyone else. I'm invested in the stories while I'm listening, but then I'm kinda done with them when the books are over. It's hard to imagine myself re-reading them again anytime soon, unless it's with my kids. When I look at other fantasy series that I've read and loved as an adult, these books just don't compare. Is that blasphemy? I'm sorry, y'all! And I'm not reviewing them all individually since there isn't any reason to – everyone knows about Harry, even if you haven't read him, and I don't have anything new or insightful to add. My favorite is Goblet of Fire because I love the tournament and getting a wider look at the wizarding world. My least favorite is probably Order of the Phoenix because Umbridge + Harry's emotional state + Dumbledore being shady made that book feel like it lasted for-ev-er. I'd give them a So Loved It overall. 

In July, I also read two new adult romance. The first was The Deal by Elle Kennedy – one of Kelly's favorites and a book she'd been pushing me to read. Although it was definitely too steamy for me, I still found myself engaged in the overall story and rooting for the characters. I almost quit a few pages in because I hated the hero's narration (even if it was realistic for an athlete), but it got much better over time. I So Enjoyed It, especially the couple's hilarious banter. Caged in Winter by Brighton Walsh was the other book I read in July, and it was much more of the stereotypical story that I'd expect from this genre. It was a relatively quick and easy read, but the heroine's prickly and closed-off demeanor really frustrated me. I skipped past the sex scenes and was only So Okay With It overall, though I loved that the hero was a culinary student. That was the best part for me, by far!

*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. I totally agree that the blurb for The Golden Hour didn't seem to describe the book very well - I wanted more action and more Windsors. I'm totally impressed that you read World Without End in three days! I want to read it but the length is intimidating. I want to like Elin Hilderbrand's books, but her characters are always the worst, I never feel like I can root for any of them.

  2. I say this as a big Harry Potter fan - it's totally not blasphemy to feel the way you do! I generally love the series for very personal reasons, but I also get it when other people enjoy it but don't share the same level of obsession ;) I am pleased that we have the same favorite book though! Goblet of Fire has always been my favorite for the same reasons. It really feels like a turning point for the series, which is always exciting to me (even though it leads to the harder stuff that Harry and friends have to deal with)!


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