Quick Lit: October 2020 (Part 1)

After staying on top of reviews this year, I dropped the ball a little bit in November. I never posted my October mini reviews! So, it's time to catch up before the end of the year. I read 15 books in October, and I'm reviewing six of them in today's post (Part 1) and nine in tomorrow's (Part 2). I had a great reading month – four books are strong contenders for my top ten of 2020! If you enjoy mini reviews, check out this feature at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

ANXIOUS PEOPLE BY FREDRIK BACKMAN* – I love Backman's writing, and his latest release is no exception. His storytelling is so unique. If I were given a sample of his writing without his name attached, I think I'd be able to attribute it to him. As with all of his novels, the characters in this one were so vibrant and memorable. When reading Backman, you know that every single person has a story, no matter how long they spend on the page. He's so attuned to humanity, in all its beauty and brokenness. This one took me a few chapters to get into, but I was soon hooked and couldn't put it down. I loved all the foreshadowing and subtle references to the twists and turns to come. It felt like a puzzle slowly falling into place, and I'm So Obsessed With It.

THE BRUTAL TELLING BY LOUISE PENNY – After reading the previous book, I was pretty convinced this series wasn't for me. If I hadn't bought them all, I probably would have quit. I took them off my TBR on Goodreads but kept the books on my shelf. Then, I got the urge to pick up this one in October. I borrowed the audio from the library, and it was love at first listen. I've always enjoyed Penny's writing and Inspector Gamache himself, but I don't love many of the other characters. While that hasn't totally changed, listening to this book made me more invested in Gamache and his detectives! The mystery was intriguing, and it made me want to continue the series. I don't know if it was lowered expectations, the audio, the timing or a mix of all three things, but I So Enjoyed It.

THE EXILES BY CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE – I had good memories of Kline's Orphan Train and was so intrigued by this cover + summary that I started The Exiles with high hopes. It gets off to an interesting start, and I appreciated that it focused on an aspect of history that was unfamiliar to me. Unfortunately, however, it was a disappointing read overall. It completely lacked in character development! I wasn't invested in anyone and felt like I was just watching the characters move from scene to scene with no real purpose. The way it switched between characters was disjointed, and I had some issues with the way Mathinna's story was handled. For me, this was the type of historical fiction that was clearly well researched but boring and lacking emotional nuance. I was So Okay With It.

BETTY BY TIFFANY MCDANIEL – What a heartbreaking, gorgeous story that I'll be thinking about for a long time. This will definitely be on my Best of 2020 list! Based on the author's mother's childhood, Betty has a strong voice and unforgettable heroine. With the kind of writing you want to savor, I found myself marveling at the vivid storytelling and imagery. It's a heavy read due to the trauma that occurs within this family, but there's love and hope in there, too. I appreciated my sister's review and her warning to me about some of the content. It was an emotional gut punch! Set in the foothills of Appalachia, this is the kind of book where the setting feels like its own character. I loved pretty much everything about it, and I'm So Obsessed With It.

MISS AUSTEN BY GILL HORNBY – I can't resist anything associated with Jane Austen. I go into these types of books with both high expectations (because you better deliver if you're going to reference my favorite author) and low (because I've read so many mediocre books invoking Austen in some way). I am happy to report that this one delighted me! It's the type of Austen-inspired fiction that I love – original, warm and witty, and feeling true to the time period. It helped that it was from Cassandra's perspective, something that I don't think I've encountered before. I loved how Hornby wove historical fact in with her fictional story, and I was impressed with the version of the past she'd imagined. Listening to it on audio, with narrator Juliet Stevenson, solidified its So Loved It status.

THE RURAL DIARIES BY HILARIE BURTON MORGAN –  I didn't watch One Tree Hill and don't have strong feelings for Hilarie Burton or her husband, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. But there was something about the idea of buying a farm in upstate New York that intrigued me, so I decided to read this book. While it was interesting for a celebrity memoir, it lacked a strong narrative and ended abruptly. I enjoyed the small town community and farm setting, but the writing needed better editing. The way the recipes and things were inserted disrupted the flow of the book. And honestly, I just couldn't get past the fact that this isn't really a representation of rural life. It's more rich people buying land and a candy store. I was So Okay With It. (And Jeffrey Dean Morgan seems like a piece of work...)

Check back for Part 2 tomorrow!

*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.

1 comment

  1. I really was surprised (in a good way) by Anxious People! Definitely agree with you on Backman's writing being very easy to recognize, and I liked how he wove this story together.


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