Quick Lit: February 2021

Remember that time – back in February – when I celebrated staying consistent enough with blogging to never fall too behind on reviews? Hahaha! Oh y'all, those were famous last words. I took a little break from blogging in March, which is the reason I never wrote my February Quick Lit. And then, I read 32 books that month... putting me every further behind on reviews. Unfortunately, I haven't really gotten my blogging mojo back, so I've continued to procrastinate on a problem that just keeps growing. My "to be reviewed" stack is staring me down! Today's post is the first step towards putting a dent in it. I finished 16 books in February, and I'm reviewing all of them in today's post. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

THE WAR WIDOW BY TARA MOSS – On one of my many bookstore dates with my sister, I stole this book from her stack of things to sample and bought it for myself. I loved the cover, the description sounded right up my alley, and the author is Australian. Set in 1946 Sydney, The War Widow follows war correspondent Billie Walker as she reopens her late father's private investigation agency and searches for a missing young immigrant man. I love a good female detective, and Walker was so vividly drawn that I could just imagine her leaping from the page onto a big screen. She's bold, smart, and unconventional, and I was rooting for her every step of the way. The focus on life in postwar Sydney was really interesting, and the mystery kept me hooked. I So Enjoyed It – and I'm sure it helped that I read it in bed on my birthday, thanks to my mom babysitting my boys. Such a good memory!

SEND FOR ME BY LAUREN FOX – I was 20 pages in to this book when I knew that it would be a 2021 favorite. It was the first book I read this year that gave me that "this is a 5-star read" feeling, and I'm so thankful that it delivered all the way until the end. Moving between Germany on the eve of World War II and present-day Wisconsin, Fox's story is a tender and gorgeously written exploration of the relationship between mothers and daughters. The way it explored grief and trauma – and how those thing are passed down generationally – was so moving. I adored the characters and the writing, frequently finding myself stopping to re-read certain passages. Clocking in at only 272 pages, I was shocked that Fox could pack so much in. The open ending felt very literary, and I actually appreciated it (though other readers may feel differently). I'm So Obsessed With It and will certainly re-read this one in the future.

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES SERIES BY SARAH J. MAAS – I have read and re-read – and reviewed – these books so many times that I don't have anything new to say. And I probably wouldn't have included them in my post except they kept everything spaced out the way I wanted. It's always great to be back in this world, and I was excited to re-read in anticipation of the release of A Court of Silver Flames. As always, the first book is my least favorite, though I do love the portion under the mountain. The second, unsurprisingly, is my favorite – and not just because it came out the same day my first baby was born. I just adore Feyre's journey in it so much! The third is an epic conclusion, and I love it more with each re-read. Such a great end to this part of Feyre and Rhy's story! The novella isn't necessary, but I still love it in all its angst. This series is a favorite, and I'm clearly So Obsessed With It.

THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB BY RICHARD OSMAN – Since I'd been in a mystery mood, I couldn't resist this story of four friends in a retirement community who are trying to solve a murder. It all starts with the Thursday Murder Club, where the group meets to discuss cold cases. And then, the stakes are raised when someone they know is murdered! I wanted to love this one more than I did. The idea was fun, full of red herrings, and had a nice sense of humor. However, the diary entries were pointless, we never got to see the cold case club in action, and (kinda spoiler-y) there were way too many suicides. One of the old ladies was clearly in intelligence when she was younger, so she had all kinds of connections and favors to call in. And that annoyed me because it made some elements way too easy! I'm So Okay With It and might check out the second book, but only from the library.

THE FOUR WINDS BY KRISTIN HANNAH – Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. It's time for me to say goodbye to Kristin Hannah. I loved The Nightingale and then loathed The Great Alone. Because I was interested in the Great Depression and Dust Bowl setting, I decided to try The Four Winds. For the first 60%, things were going well! The book had a strong start – I was rooting for the heroine, learned a lot about the setting and time period, and was swept up in the story. Sadly, the tone shifted once the heroine moved to California and the story focused more on politics and workers' rights. It made the pacing stall out and felt like the same conversation over and over. And then. THE ENDING. What a joke! It's clearly a go-to for Hannah, based on the three I've read, and it doesn't work for me. I'll give the book a So Okay With It, based solely on the first half.

INFINITE COUNTRY BY PATRICIA ENGEL – This cover is gorgeous, and I was excited to try a new-to-me author that I'd heard praised. Unfortunately, Infinite Country didn't work for me. There isn't a lot of dialogue, and it read like all telling instead of showing. I wasn't invested in the story, and I partly blame that on the way it shifted between different characters and from 3rd and 1st person. It was a slim novel – only 191 pages – and it didn't feel long enough to encompass Engel's thoughts on Colombian mythology, immigration, citizenship, trauma, and more. I appreciated its intent more than its execution. The writing felt very labored, to me, and I was too aware of how hard it was trying. I'm So Okay With It, but I do seem to be in the minority based on other Goodreads reviews. This one has gotten a lot of raves from other readers, so check it out if the premise appeals to you.

SHARE YOUR STUFF. I'LL GO FIRST. BY LAURA TREMAINE –  A mix of memoir and self help, this book's subtitle is "10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level." I'm not sure that's really what it does, even though I did enjoy reading it. It skews more memoir than self help, and it's definitely lacking on the guidebook element the subtitle implies. There's almost no discussion or practical advice about deepening friendships. Instead, each chapter involves Tremaine sharing a thought-provoking question and answering it herself. I loved the questions and often found Tremaine's answers sparked my own memories, though our lives are very different. It felt more like journal prompts than conversation starters, but I guess they can be used either way. I'm not sure Tremaine's life thus far warranted a memoir or that I'd click with her in real life, but I still So Liked It overall.

THE NEXT RIGHT THING BY EMILY P. FREEMAN – The first time I picked up this book, I read a few chapters and decided not to finish it. But after enjoying some of Freeman's podcast episodes, I decided to give it another shot. I don't know if it was my mood or timing, but I loved it the second time around. If I had one complaint, it's that it sometimes felt a little "woo woo" with the talk of looking within yourself and such. There are some theological areas where I think I disagree with her. However, I did glean enough solid advice that I So Loved It overall. I liked how Freeman walked though making decisions and focusing on the next right thing. Every tip wasn't equally helpful for me, but plenty were things I can see myself returning to when I'm faced with a difficult decision (like making a most important list). It's worth noting that it's very focused on the soulful and spiritual side of decision making.

A COURT OF SILVER FLAMES BY SARAH J. MAAS – I read 16 books in February, but there are only 15 books pictured... and that's because I read this one twice! After finishing this behemoth, I bought the audio and started it all over again. When you finish your most-anticipated 20201release in a day, sometimes you just need to go back and re-live the feels. It was everything I wanted! I adored Nesta's personal growth, her amazing female friendships, and her romance with Cassian. SWOON. The house was one of my favorite elements, and it was so interesting to see the Inner Circle through an outsider's eyes – something I didn't even know that I needed! I love the hints of what's to come in future books, and I spent hours theorizing with Kelly about it all. I'm clearly So Obsessed With It, though I could have done without one particular storyline and all the sex. I kinda miss Maas' YA days... Haha!

DINNER: A LOVE STORY BY JENNY ROSENSTRACH – One of my February goals was to read a cookbook from start to finish, and I couldn't have chosen a better to book to cross off this goal! I loved Rosenstrach's emphasis on family dinners and making it a priority to sit at the table together every night. It brought back so many memories of my childhood and reinforced how important this is to me now that I'm a parent. There are very few photos in this one and a lot of text. That's part of what made it a great choice for this goal! I enjoyed Rosenstrach's writing, appreciated that most meals had fresh, simple ingredients with very little prep/cook time. You can tell she and her husband are working parents who need dinner on the table fast once home! I didn't agree with all her advice, but I still found much of it helpful and thought provoking. I So Enjoyed It. (And bookmarked a lot of recipes, too!)

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE BY EVIE DUNMORE – Kelly recommended this book to me a while ago, so it felt like kismet when I found a copy at the used bookstore. This was a delightful historical romance, and I was so invested in the heroine, the duke who falls for her, and the friends she makes along the way. Was it a little instalove-y and very dramatic? Yes, but I was still totally here for it. I personally didn't mind the combination of a light-hearted romance and the more serious subject matter at its heart, the struggles of women in Victorian England. For me, it added depth to a genre I sometimes find a bit too fluffy but still retained the fun, feel-good vibes that lead me to pick up a romance. I thought the stakes at the heart of the conflict were very realistic, and I So Enjoyed It overall. This hero wasn't a favorite for me, but I finished the book eagerly anticipating the next installment. 

ONE TO WATCH BY KATE STAYMAN-LONDON – I wasn't interested in this book, but Kelly kept pushing it on me. Well, I'll be the first to say that I should have listened to her sooner! This was utterly delightful, and I So Loved It. The format was so clever and worked perfectly for this story by adding in things like texts, tweets, transcripts and more. I thought it explored the heroine's weight and body image in a thoughtful way. I can be a little way of that topic in books, but I really appreciated the way it was done here. But the real reason I loved this book is the way it delivered on all the drama! It was everything I love from a great season of The Bachelor with none of the stuff I'd want to fast forward. The premise was fun, the suitors all had distinct personalities, and Stayman-London kept me guessing the whole time about how it would end. I love when a romance keeps me on my toes! 

What have you been reading lately?

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