April 2020 Novel Ideas – 23 Quick Lit Reviews
I’ve finally gotten my reading groove back. I started the month only able to read light romances and fantasy novels. I ended the month with a historical fiction novel about hunting Nazis, a book set in 1970 about the rape and its impact on a small oil town, and a contemporary novel about abortion. It’s sort of bittersweet that I am able to return to my reading patterns in the “new normal.” Jackie is having a harder time making that adjustment since her husband is a doctor fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic. Still, together we’ve read 23 books this month and we have quick reviews of all of them in this April 2020 Novel Ideas post.
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Kirsten’s Stack – 12 Books
Summer Longing by Jamie Brenner
Jamie is my go-to when I want a good beach read. She relocates each summer to immerse herself in the area she’s planning to write about and it shows. This story was set in Provincetown and I was totally transported to the locations she describes. Ruth, Olivia, Elise, and the rest of the cast felt like friends by the time this story was over. I laughed, I cried, I was sad to get to the last page. It had a little bit of everything – a wonderful read for the summer season. 4 stars.
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
Want a funny romance? You Deserve Each Other totally fits the bill. This hilarious tale of an engaged couple hit the spot for me this weekend. They don’t love each other anymore, but neither Naomi or Nick wants to be the one to call off their engagement. Whoever does, foots the bill for the whole shebang. Shenanigans ensue as they attempt to get each other to end the relationship. I was giggling so often that my kids started getting angry. It was cute, light-hearted, and utterly predictable. 3 stars.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Ponzi schemes, ghosts, cargo ships, weird-sibling dynamics. Sounds the game I play with my kids where I ask them to name a few random things I turn them into a story. Except this story is way better (and makes way more sense) than any story I could come up with. This tale had me captivated. It’s a dark, honest look at human nature. This was my first experience with Emily St. John Mandel, but now I want to go read Station 11. 4 stars.
The Honey Don’t List by Christina Lauren
Want a quick, cute read? This one is for all you Chip and Joanna Gaines fans. Imagine if behind-the-scenes a beloved TV decorating couple actually hated each other’s guts. Then imagine that they have decided to put out a book about their marriage and are heading out on tour. How to keep the trouble in paradise under wraps? Bring along a longtime female assistant and new handsome quasi-assistant to monitor the situation. Let’s just hope the assistants can stay out of each other’s pants long enough to keep their bosses out of trouble. Utterly predictable, but still charming. Not my favorite book by this duo, (still thinking about Twice in a Blue Moon ❤️) but it had me engrossed enough to keep my thoughts off of quarantine. 3 stars.
The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood
I had no idea that a woman was so instrumental in the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Emily Warren Roebling is the focus of this historical fiction novel. I loved learning about New York at the time of the bridge-building and just how hard Emily had to fight for her right to be part of the building. It’s also humbling to understand the dangers of building back in the 1860s. Men risked their lives for the betterment of society. On the lighter side, all the scenes with P.T. Barnum made me smile. I used to work for the circus afterall! 3.5 stars.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
My first Read with Jenna book did not disappoint! I don’t want to say I loved this book, because the subject matter is gritty and dark, and yet I found myself enjoying it deeply. I loved the unconventional friendships and the stark look at racist double standards in equal measure. When 14-year-old, Hispanic, Gloria is raped by an older white man, the town of Odessa reacts strongly. Many people take one side, few take the other. This story is dark but filled with hope. I connected to many of the characters and their struggles. I also wanted to punch quite a few people as well. It’s set in 1976, but quite honestly it reads very true today. I can’t recommend this one enough. Definitely a best book of 2020 pick for me. The audiobook version is wonderful. 5 stars.
Hunted by Meagan Spooner
I read this as research for our Books to Read if you Love A Court of Thorns and Roses post. It’s another beauty and the beast retelling, except this Beauty is more like Katniss Everdeen. No ballgowns or talking tea-pots, just a female huntress out to avenge her father’s death and free the beast from his prison. Light on the romance, heavy on the hunting descriptions. Yet there was a charm in this tale set in the wilds of Russia that I found as captivating as the magical firebird in the story. 3 stars.
Storm and Fury by Jennifer L. Armentrout
I loved the Disney cartoon Gargoyles when I was a little girl, so when I saw a YA Fantasy book about the creatures, I knew I needed it. I read this to help ease me out of my House of Earth and Blood book hangover and it was a perfect read. It’s actually a spin-off of one of Armentrout’s other series, which I didn’t know until after I read the story. I didn’t feel like I missed anything having read this first. Gargoyles are Wardens out to fight demons and protect humans, and one special human in particular. It’s more romance than fantasy. – 3 stars.
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
I started this at the beginning of the pandemic, couldn’t concentrate, had no idea what was going on and I walked away. After Jackie and I decided to buddy read it, I picked it back up and by page 69 I was ravenous for more. Jackie and I continued to stay in sync until I got to chapter 57 at which point I read the remaining 300+ pages in one sitting. I sobbed multiple times. Like legit ugly crying.
It’s an urban fantasy – which is new to me. So there were skyscrapers, cellphones, and video surveillance, but also fairies, werewolves, angels, demons, and witches with history and power. It was a wild ride. My initial turn off of too many names/places/tribes/species types was quickly overcome by the insane world-building. I cannot wait for the next book to come out. 5 stars
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
I was really worried to read this story because the subject matter is so divisive. A shooting at an abortion clinic has the reader exploring the pro-life/pro-choice battle from all sides. It did not feel preachy. It presented the rational and irrational points from both sides in a way that was engaging. Since it was told backward, the suspense of the shooting was dampened which I greatly appreciated. This book would make for an excellent book club discussion, as long as your members can keep an open mind.3 stars.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
I’m not usually a Jojo Moyes reader, but this story about a mobile library was one that caught my eye. I’m so glad I ended up reading it because it was wonderful! I had no idea that women used to travel by horseback to deliver books in the Appalachian mountains. These librarians were utterly badass as they thumbed their noses at societal norms for the betterment of their community. Each woman’s story was woven together in a tapestry of love, friendship, and sisterhood. I couldn’t put it down. 4 stars.
The writing was lovely, the story was interesting, and I was compelled to finish it this story of a Nazi and the people hunting her. But, it was also incredibly slow-paced, it was too long (530 pages!) and some of the descriptions were just too much. You never want to be reading and think “is it done yet?” and yet I found myself thinking that numerous times. It just needed to be viciously edited down. Easily 150 pages could have been ripped out, the flashbacks could have been summed up and not shown…. and yet… I’m still giving it 3 stars because Kate Quinn is talented as a writer and I loved the overall plot. 3 stars.
Jackie’s Stack -11 Books
The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry
I really like how this entire book is written in the form of letters from Roxy to her ex-boyfriend. Roxy is funny and relatable and grows throughout the book. Roxy is dealing with the fact that her ex-boyfriend has moved into her house as a roommate. Clearly, this is not the best idea. I thought that parts of the book were a little drawn out but, overall, it was an enjoyable read. 3 stars
The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
I am still having a really hard time reading during this “stay-at-home and homeschool three children while working” pandemic. Recently, I’ve changed up my genres a bit and I’ve been indulging in feel-good reads and Fantasy. This book was a definite feel-good book with the most fun little twist. Every chapter has a song to go with it. It’s the perfect song to go with the mood of the chapter.
I loved this book so much that I immediately read the first book in this series. Even though I read them out of order, I didn’t affect the readability for me.
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
She also knows that this “gift” will stand in the way of having a successful relationship because she cannot stop blurting out truths whether she wants to or not. When Vanessa’s aunt offers to bring her to Paris to hone in on her skills and get her life in order, Vanessa goes. As she finally gets to experience Paris, she wonders if she can change her destiny as well.Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s future in tea leaves and spent her entire life fighting it.
This was a fun quick YA read about Dana Hathaway: a half-human, half-Faerie 16 year old. She leaves her alcoholic mother to go to Avalon and meet her father for the first time. Avalon is the gateway to the fairy realm and she will soon question who she should trust when she discovers she is a Faeriewalker. The book was a quick read and enjoyable but nothing compelling me to read the next books in the series. 2.5 stars
The Dilemma by B.A. Paris
I started this book and loved the beginning. I was gripped from the first page. Unlike Paris’s other books, which are thrillers, this book is more of a suspense/ drama. It is an in-depth look at a 24-hour period leading up to Livia’s 40th birthday party. Livia and Adam are a couple who married young and her birthday party is in Lieu of the big wedding that she had always dreamed of having. I do not want to give any spoilers in the book but, the story is centered on the secrets that they are keeping from each other. The book had a lot going for it but there were a few issues that kept me from loving it like I did previous books by Paris. Thank you to NetGalley for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own. Overall, I liked the book but not as much as her other books and not as much as I loved the beginning. 3 stars
Once I got into this is a sci-fi thriller, I could not put down. The story takes place in the United States when a fundamentalist has become the president. Slowly, he has removed all rights from women, included the right to speech. Every woman is given 100 words a day and a bracelet with a counter to ensure to compliance. This book was so well written and creepy. I loved it although I have to say that it was a little close to how I feel these days. 4 stars
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
This book started so strong for me, I was completely enraptured with this world but as the story continued, I found myself losing interest. The story started moving more slowly and the characters seemed stagnant. I was left feeling disappointed but, I think I am in the minority in my feelings. Overall, it was a three-star read.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim
I had this book in my TBR pile since last year. I don’t know why I did not get around to reading this book sooner but, I am so glad that I waited. After reading Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop, I immediately picked this up. There should be a warning included- do not read this book while you are hungry! There are so many things about this book that I loved. The relationships between friends and family are warm and wonderful. This book left me with a happy feeling. 4 stars
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
This is the first book by Abby Jimenez however, I read it after I read Happy Ever After Playlist. I loved looking at the relationships develop in characters that I already knew. Even though this book is characterized as a women’s fiction/ romance, there is more to it than meets the eye. It delves into the issue of infertility in a very real way. I love the characters in the book and enjoyed every minute. 3.5 stars
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
In this romance, Laurie is completely blind-sided when her partner of 18 years leaves her without warning. When her ex’s new girlfriend becomes pregnant within months of the breakup, Laurie is devastated. When Laurie gets stuck in an elevator with Jamie (the office ladies’ man), they devise a plan. Laurie can get back at her ex and Jamie can get a promotion by showing he has a respectable girlfriend. But, as time goes by, it is harder to draw the line between fake and real. 3.5 stars
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
This book is a whopping 800 pages and worth every word. I had a difficult time in the beginning as Kirsten and I read it together. We had to encourage each other to keep going, initially. But, as soon as we got to page 100, we sailed through. Be warned that you will need to read the last 250 pages or so in one sitting- that is where Kirsten lost me. lol. This urban fantasy is one of the best I have read and I cannot wait for the rest of the series 5 stars