Quick Lit: March 2021

When I posted my February 2021 Quick Lit two weeks ago, I mentioned that my blogging break recently contributed to me falling behind on book reviews. And it didn't help that I read so many books in March that it felt overwhelming to catch up on! I take notes on everything I read, so it's not an impossible task – just one I kept procrastinating. In March, I read 32 books. One was a re-read, which I mention at the end of this post. One was my favorite of 2021 (so far) and is getting it's own full-length review in the next week or so. As for the other 30 books, you'll find 21 shorter-than-normal reviews in today's post, and I'll share my 9 favorite books from March later this week. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

AUSTEN YEARS BY RACHEL COHEN – A book that blends memoir, biography, and literary criticism into one. It was a great concept with an underwhelming execution. The more personal/memoir aspects were oddly written, trying too hard and lacking connection. But the parts that focused more on literary criticism of Austen's works and biographical details about her were better and made the book worth finishing for me. I'm So Okay With It but wouldn't likely recommend, primarily due to my frustration with the structure and writing style.

AN UNEXPECTED PERIL BY DEANNA RAYBOURN – Another fun installment to my favorite historical mystery series! I always look forward to seeing what Stoker and Veronica will get up to next, and this one didn't disappoint. The mystery was enjoyable and had a resolution I didn't predict. I loved the swoons, the banter, and the relational developments, though it's occasionally frustrating to see Veronica avoid vulnerability and emotional intimacy. I have such a soft spot for these books, especially on audio as narrated by Angele Masters, and I So Enjoyed It.

THE SCENT KEEPER BY ERICA BAUERMEISTER* – I'll admit that I set this one down the first time I picked it up, several years ago. I thought it was historical fiction – with maybe a touch of fantasy? – and it's not that at all. Once I got over my expectations, this was a delightful read. It feels like a fairy tale in the opening section, but it soon shifts and becomes the coming-of-age story of a young, sheltered girl who doesn't know her own story. I thought it was a clever concept with lovely writing, and I found the plot very moving. I So Enjoyed It.

LOST ROSES BY MARTHA HALL KELLY – I primarily picked up this book because it focused on an aspect of history that I didn't know much about – Russia during WWI. It follows three woman who have vastly different experiences during the war, and it was clearly well researched. However, one woman added very little to the story, one was absolutely horrible and irredeemable for me, and the last should have been the focus of the book. Because I was only invested in one storyline, I have to say I'm just So Okay With It. I liked the topic but not the multiple POVs. 

EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IN ITS TIME BY JENNA BUSH HAGER – Having enjoyed Sisters First, I was looking forward to more from Jenna Bush Hager. Her most recent book is a moving tribute to her family, particularly her grandparents. She writes with warmth and humor – a good storyteller despite being an average writer. I laughed, teared up, read parts aloud, and thought deeply about my own family and the seasons of life and loss I've experienced. I So Enjoyed It and it was the gentle, loving book that my heart needed at the time. 

THE LOST APOTHECARY BY SARAH PENNER – This book was getting a lot of buzz online, so I was thrilled when it was a Book of the Month pick. And then... I was just So Okay With It. It's a dual timeline novel, which sadly didn't work for me. I disliked the contemporary heroine and plot because it distracted from the more compelling historical story, which could have used those pages for more development. The past storyline had a better premise and was much more enjoyable, but I was still left wishing that there'd been a little more to it.

SNOW & ROSE BY EMILY WINFIELD MARTIN – I bought this for a few dollars at the used bookstore, mainly because I recognized the author and illustrator from two picture books that I love to read to my boys. This is a cute little fairy tale retelling, and it will mainly be memorable to me for Martin's gorgeous illustrations throughout. I'm not familiar with the inspiration material, so I can't speak to its success as a retelling. But I So Liked It overall, especially because it was a needed change of pace from what I typically read. Just a sweet story about two sisters!  

THE GLASS HOTEL BY EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL – I've only read St. John Mandel's Station Eleven (and loved it), so I wasn't sure what to expect from The Glass Hotel but was looking forward to it. The writing itself was lovely and the structure was very creative, but that's all I can say positively about this book. It read like a series of connected short stories with characters that I strongly disliked and a plot that felt like it was completely pointless. And that ending? UGH. Don't even get me started, y'all. It seems like this was a divisive read, and I'm in the So Over It camp.

AM I THERE YET? BY MARI ANDREWS – After loving My Inner Sky, I had to pick up Andrews' debut. It was interesting to compare the two. Both are similar thematically and grapple with all that comes with early adulthood – finding your way, falling in love, dealing with loss, and more. But this one is more illustration-heavy, which gave it a more cutesy and lighthearted vibe. The writing wasn't particularly memorable, which had been the strongest part of My Inner Sky for me. So, I So Liked It but was glad I'd just borrowed it from the library rather than bought it.

SMALL ADMISSIONS BY AMY POEPPEL – Despite a strong opening, this book landed firmly in So Okay With It. Poeppel did make me laugh a few times, and I enjoyed the parts of the story focused on prospective students, the antics of their entitled parents, and the admissions process. But the friend and family drama was dumb, and none of them felt like real, fleshed-out people. The way it shifted perspectives was occasionally confusing, too. If it had been more focused on the heroine, school setting, and admissions process, this might have worked better for me. 

FLOAT PLAN BY TRISH DOLLER – I've read two of Doller's YA books, so I was excited to learn she was venturing in to adult contemporary romance. This was a really enjoyable story, and it tackled some tough topics for some added depth. I loved the sailing and travel aspect, especially the descriptions of the various places they stopped along their journey. The pacing was just right, too. Personally, I wish the romance was a little more developed and the conflict/climax was less rushed. My head was spinning a bit at the end! But overall, I So Enjoyed It.

THAT SOUNDS FUN BY ANNIE F. DOWNS – Sadly, this book did not live up to its adorable cover. It was such a frustrating read. Some chapters were more interesting than others, but overall this had a weak premise and did nothing to develop the central idea presented at the beginning. I wish it had been marketed as an essay collection rather self help / Christian living because it's just personal stories and random anecdotes. There's no "exploring some research" or anything that "shows you how to find, experience, and multiply your fun." I'm So Over It

THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES BY KERRI MAHER – If I wasn't already a fan of Grace Kelly, I think I would have found this book boring. It was quite long and often slow, even though parts of Kelly's life are glamorous and dramatic. It's very repetitive – Kelly's ambition and desire for love repeatedly at odds with her insecurity and longing for her father's approval. Maher had clearly done her research, and overall I appreciated her fictionalization. I So Liked It because the topic was up my alley, but it didn't have much of a point beyond dramatizing the story of Kelly's life. 

ADMISSION BY JULIE BUXBAUM – Admission fictionalizes the college admissions scandal that dominated the news in 2019. With Lori Loughlin in mind as I read, I liked how this book humanized everyone involved without letting anyone off the hook. The family dynamics and discussions about privilege were great and made this a thought-provoking read. I liked the Then / Now structure, which kept the pace moving for me. I was invested in whether or not the heroine and her mom could experience growth and like where Buxbaum left things. I So Enjoyed It.

JO & LAURIE BY MARGARET STOHL & MELISSA DE LA CRUZ – Everyone losing their minds over how this book ignores Alcott's intentions and undoes the point she made with Jo's story clearly hasn't read a page of it. How do I know? Because Stohl and de la Cruz don't change what happened in Little Women. Instead, this retelling pretends Jo was a real person who wrote Little Women and gives the "real" Jo a romance with Laurie without changing the plot of the book she writes. Personally, I thought it was sweet and creative (if a little slow at times). I So Enjoyed It.  

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA BY TJ KLUNE – Were my expectations too high going into this bookstagram-beloved book? Possibly. I'd seen nothing but rave reviews, so I went in ready to be wowed. It started cute, and I was quickly hooked. In some ways, it was just what I expected – misfit kids, quirky writing, and a theme of found family. Those parts worked for me and made it a fun read! But the lessons at its heart felt so heavy handed and repetitive that I found myself annoyed by the end. This worked better for other readers, but I'm So Okay With It.

THE ROAD TRIP BY BETH O'LEARY* – Oh man, I'm so bummed about this book. I adored The Flatshare and thought The Switch was cute but cheesy. But this was an infuriating read. Switching back and forth in time, I was invested enough in finding out what happened in the past that I didn't DNF. But I probably should have because I disliked everyone in this book. The romance was instant and absolutely not worth a second chance, highlighting why I often hate that trope! I found a big element of the plot to be intensely problematic, so I'm sad to say I'm So Over It.

PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND OTHER FLAVORS BY SONALI DEV – This was a gender-swapped, loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice that totally surprised me. It only lightly follows the source material, which allowed Dev to surprise me and look forward to seeing how she'd update certain aspects of the plot or characters. It hit on the major plot points but changed enough to keep me guessing! It's not a light read and doesn't focus as much on the romance as it does the heroine's personal journey, but that worked for me. I So Enjoyed It and the food descriptions were a bonus.

A GREAT RECKONING BY LOUISE PENNY – As I started reading the twelfth installment of this series, I couldn't help thinking about how interesting it was to see Gamache in a totally new role as the head of the Sûreté Academy. In many ways, it's a natural fit for this thoughtful leader. I liked one of the personal connections in this one, and it was sad to revisit a severed friendship between two men who took very different paths in life. I cared more about the relationships in this one than the mystery itself, but I'd still say I So Enjoyed It overall.

THE TROUBLE WITH HATING YOU BY SAJNI PATEL – This was such an enjoyable contemporary romance, even though it did tackle some heavy, sad topics. I loved the prickly heroine, especially once I learned more of her story. It helped me understand her so much more! The hero was adorable, and I was rooting for him to win her over. I sometimes found the dialogue a little clunky/cheesy, but it didn't affect my overall enjoyment. I was invested in the romance and the friendship, and now I'm looking forward to the next book. Overall, I So Enjoyed It

GLASS HOUSES BY LOUISE PENNY – Whew, this was a really intense addition to the Gamache series because it focused on cartels and the world of drug trafficking. If you've been following this series from the beginning, it's interesting to note how Penny has laid the groundwork for this particular story. I liked that we got to see Gamache in a tricky situation, and it made me spend a long time thinking about conscience. I was totally hooked and So Enjoyed It, but I'll confess that I still don't understand how the police's actions had the effect they supposedly did.

• • • •

In March, I re-read A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, one of my 2020 favorites, before picking up the newly released sequel. Everything I wrote about this one still stands – it's addicting, well-written, and populated with characters that I loved. If you like mysteries or thrillers, don't miss out on this one! I So Loved It.

What have you been reading lately?

*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.

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