Quick Lit: January 2020 (Part 1)

Happy February! I set my Goodreads goal to 100 books this year, which I would typically surpass. However, based on my reading the year my oldest was born, it might be more of a stretch with a new baby. Because of that, I wanted to start the year off strong and try to get ahead on the goal! I'm excited to say that I finished 17 books in January, and I'm reviewing nine of them in today's post. the rest will be in Part 2 tomorrow! Also, I wrote two individual reviews in January for books I read last year: Lovely War by Julie Berry and My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

HEADLINERS BY LUCY PARKER* – The perfect first book of the year and decade! Parker does hate-to-love so well. I always believe the animosity but can see the attraction underneath it all. Sabrina and Nick are rival TV news anchors who are forced to work together to revive a sinking morning show... or else. With their careers on the line, the stakes were raised. It added the perfect amount of tension to the story! I thought the newsroom was a fun shift in setting from previous books in the series, and the suspicious events added a nice hint of mystery (and comedy!). Parker consistently writes amazing romances with well-developed characters and just enough drama. I'm So Obsessed With It! PS: I'm a sucker for cameos of previous couples and am happy to report you'll find some here.

THE REAL JANE AUSTEN BY PAULA BYRNE – As a huge Jane Austen lover, I can never resist buying anything associated with her. Whether it's non-fiction about her life or fiction loosely related to her works, I'm sold. I've had this particular book on my shelves since 2013, and I put off reading it because I honestly expected it to be boring. I was so wrong – this was fascinating! I loved how Byrne used objects as a jumping off point for exploring key themes in Austen's life. I learned so much! It will enrich the novels for me on future re-reads. Additionally, I was able to borrow it from the library on audiobook and highly recommend that format. The narration was excellent, and I found that I genuinely looked forward to listening and didn't want to turn it off. As you might guess, I So Loved It.

MEG & JO BY VIRGINIA KANTRA – When I first saw this book, I was intrigued by the idea of a contemporary Little Women retelling. But why only two sisters in the title? That's because a sequel, Beth & Amy, is coming! The first book, however, does focus on the two oldest March sisters. It's a dual POV, which I enjoyed. Aside from the opening scene when the girls are younger, everyone is an adult in this story. And I actually thought that was a great decision on the author's part! It was a modern, fun take on a beloved classic. By focusing on their lives as adults rather than their childhood, Kantra was able capture the spirit of the source without doing a scene-by-scene re-creation. It felt more inspired by rather than a strict retelling, and that's a win in my book. I So Enjoyed It!

PARENTING BY PAUL DAVID TRIPP – Tripp is the author of one of my favorite devotionals, and I'd heard equally wonderful things about this book. I haven't read many parenting books at this point, but this one intrigued me since it focused on "14 gospel principles that can radically change your family." Rather than a list of tips and tricks for raising children, Tripp focuses on giving you a biblical perspective of parenting. He focuses on the big picture, and I didn't realize how much I needed to hear what he had to say. It occasionally got repetitive and did give me moments of, "Okay, this sounds great – but how do I actually live this out?" in a practical sense. But overall, I So Enjoyed It. I highlighted so much and will return to it when I need to be reminded of this wisdom.

THE GIVER OF STARS BY JOJO MOYES – Moyes and I have had a roller coaster relationship. She's written some of my all-time favorite books, and she's written a few that I've DNFed. So, I wasn't sure what to think when her latest release was announced. The setting and storyline – Depression-era Kentucky + horseback-riding librarians – was totally up my alley. It felt like such an unexpected choice for Moyes, but it didn't take me long to fall in love with this story. The time period, setting, and the female friendships worked so perfectly. I was caught up in the drama, so invested in the various characters, and couldn't wait to see how Moyes would wrap it all up in the end. It got off to a bit of a slow start, but then I was racing to finish by the end. I So Loved It and am thrilled that was the case!

ROSS POLDARK BY WINSTON GRAHAM – I bought this audiobook on sale a few years ago and hesitated on listening because I wasn't ready to commit to such a long series. But after watching the last season of the TV adaptation this month, I figured it was time to give it a try! Overall, I liked this story and the setting. It was fun to mentally compare it to the first season of the show, too. However, I struggled with the way time passed in the story and wanted more character development. The mining aspect didn't interest me, and it sometimes focused too much on secondary characters who didn't have a clear purpose. I loved the narration, but the book itself was a So Liked It. It felt like a book worth the time I spent reading it, but not a series that I needed to commit to further.

THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE BY RUTA SEPETYS – From the moment I picked it up, I was swept up in this story. I loved the Spanish setting and the time period because I learned so much that I didn't know. The short chapters and multiple POVs kept the book moving quickly, and I didn't feel any confusion as it jumped around. I did, however, end up skimming over all the quotes/excerpts added throughout. I appreciate the research Sepetys did and can see they were meant to add context, but they seemed largely unnecessary to me. But with all that worked for me, I can only give it a So Okay With It. Why? There was a time jump near the end that I absolutely hated. For me, it took away any climactic tension and left me feeling like the book just fizzled out at the end. Such a bummer!

SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS BY J. COURTNEY SULLIVAN – After loving Sullivan's The Engagements, I had high hopes for this one. And it started off really strong for me! I liked the hook presented in the 2009 storyline and then the jump back in time to explore how these sisters got to that place. As the book progressed, I found almost every single character so frustrating – but was still engaged in the story and in Sullivan's writing. And then. Ugh! The last quarter of this book just tanked it for me. Open endings are hard to pull off, and this one wasn't satisfying at all. I found myself wondering "What was the point?!" and that's never a good sign. I've debated the rating endlessly! It's not quite a full So Disliked It (2) but I'm not really So Okay With It (3) either. So, there you go...

DANGEROUS ALLIANCE BY JENNIEKE COHEN – When I saw this book described as An Austentatious Romance, I was intrigued. Unfortunately, this was a situation where invoking Austen's name did the book a disservice. The Regency heroine is obsessed with Austen's fiction, but the novel itself isn't a retelling of those works. However, referencing Austen in the subtitle made this book's faults all the more glaring. There was barely any chemistry in the romance, and the characters needed more development. Most disappointingly, there was nothing clever in the writing! The plot itself resembled one of Ann Radcliffe's Gothic novels more than anything you'd ever find in Austen. I'm barely So Okay With It, and that's me being generous because I felt more critical due to the Austen angle.

*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'm glad you mentioned Meg & Jo as I haven't heard of it at all! I love Little Women so I'll be adding this to my list. I've been wanting to read Ruta Sepetys' books since they all sound incredible!

    1. Oh yay! I'm so glad I got to introduce you to it. I hope you enjoy it, too! I thought it was a clever interpretation of the story -- a nice nod to the inspiration without feeling like it just copied LITTLE WOMEN.

  2. I adored Headliners! It was such a fun addition to that series, and it's my personal favorite. I also was so surprised by how much I enjoyed Meg & Jo, and I'm actually quite tempted to read Beth & Amy when it's out too!


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