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Quick Lit: January 2020 (Part 2)


Welcome back to my mini review round-up! Yesterday, in Part 1, I talked about nine of the 17 books I read in January. Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on six more of those books! At the end of this post, I briefly mentioned the two re-reads I did on audio. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.


A PERFECT HERITAGE BY PENNY VINCENZI – I read Vincenzi's Spoils of Time trilogy back in college and adored it, and I've always meant to read more from her. Because of that series, I was expecting this to be a historical novel and was surprised when I realized it was contemporary (with a small historical component). Maybe it's because I love makeup, but I thought it was so fun to fall into this book about a businesswoman trying to revitalize a dying British cosmetics company. As I would expect from Vincenzi, there was a ton of drama, more than one affair, and lots of characters to follow. But the shifting POVs worked for me, and I found myself racing through this one. The characters were so engaging, even when they weren't likable. I'm just a sucker for fast-paced saga! I So Enjoyed It.

BEHOLDING AND BECOMING BY RUTH CHOU SIMONS – I haven't read Simons' previous books, but I am familiar with her work from Instagram. When I saw this at the bookstore while on vacation, I couldn't stop admiring the gorgeous artwork. My mom bought me a copy, and I finally sat down to read it (instead of just looking at the art) in January. The writing was lovely, but I do think Simon's art is what makes this book special. Such lovely imagery throughout! I liked the overall theme of everyday worship and how she wrote about it, but I didn't feel like anything was explored in much depth. However, I do recognize this was more of a devotional / coffee table style book than anything else. I So Enjoyed It for what it was, even if I wanted just a bit more from the writing itself.

ATOMIC HABITS BY JAMES CLEAR – With goals and habits on my mind lately, I decided to give this popular non-fiction book a try. Y'all, I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did! Clear has a straightforward, effective writing style. I finished reading it really quickly, but I can tell it's the type of book I'd like to own so that I can re-read, highlight, and take notes. Clear builds on others' research, but in a way that felt very practical. I appreciated that he focused on how to actually implement strategies to "build good habits and break bad ones" rather than spend tons of time on research and theory. And he did provide plenty of examples, charts, and additional references for further exploration. I So Loved It and can't wait to put it into practice in my own life.


THE STORY GIRL BY L.M. MONTGOMERY – As a huge fan of Montgomery, I'm slowly but surely reading my way through her backlist. The Story Girl has an interesting structure – an adult male narrator looking back at his childhood, which I don't think I've seen Montgomery do before. Sadly, I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters. The summary and title sound like Sara Stanley (known as The Story Girl) will be at its center, but she lacked dimension for me. How many times and ways can I be told that she's a gift storyteller?! This felt like a collection of short stories – every chapter had some type of group adventure/conversation + Sara telling everyone a story. Not my favorite Montgomery, by far. I was only So Okay With It but decided to read the sequel, too. 

THE GOLDEN ROAD BY L.M. MONTGOMERY – Even though I wasn't a fan of the first book, I still wanted to give this a try. I already owned a copy, Montgomery is one of my favorite authors, and it was short enough that I knew I wasn't committing a lot of time to it. Well, I'm sad to say this one was equally boring to me. I cannot overstate how annoying it was to be repeatedly told that Sara was an amazing storyteller. WE GET IT ALREADY! It didn't help that the scenes meant to illustrate this fact just sounded mediocre to me. And it still read like a short story collection, which just doesn't really appeal to me personally. I can't say for sure if I would have enjoyed this more as a child, but I don't think so. I was So Okay With It and don't plan to ever re-read it, even as a read aloud to my kids.

LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI BY ABIGAIL HING WEN – After reading a lot of historical fiction in January, this seemed like a light, fun way to end the month. This story follows Ever Wong after her parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan for the summer to study at Chien Tan, a cultural program to (primarily) help her learn Mandarin. I loved learning more about a new-to-me city and culture. I thought the heroine's struggle with her identity + her parents expectations was really well done, too. That being said, I did feel like a lot of stuff was packed into this story in a way that often felt dramatic but without a lot of depth. At 432 pages, I had issues with the pace. And the romance was too complicated (and rushed) for me. But overall, I So Liked It and would be curious to see what Wen writes next.


In January, I also re-read two books via audio. The first was My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman. This was my first Backman, all the way back in 2015, and I have a special place in my heart for it. Listening to it was a treat – I'd forgotten a ton of what happened! I think it might have been hard to follow in this format for a first read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as a re-read. I'm still So Obsessed With It. The other book I re-read was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I was a lot less emotionally invested in it this time around than I was on my first read. It just felt like something was lacking! It's a great premise and Moriarty executes it well, but something was a little off for me. I think I'd still give it a So Enjoyed It overall, but I'm not sure I'd recommend this format (the narrator wasn't my favorite) or suggest it as something to re-read. Still fun, just fell a bit flat.

What have you been reading lately?

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