Welcome to Quick Lit where I share books that I chose for my own reading enjoyment in a mini-review format. These are not books I received for review, but books that I’ve been wanting to read or that have caught my attention. Most of them have been talked about ad nauseam or have been on my to-read list for a long time so they don’t really need a full review. But, I’d still like to give them some space here on the blog, so instead, I’m offering mini-reviews of the books that won’t get full-page space here.
I’ll be linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and her monthly Quick Lit link-up. Be sure to head over to see others share their Quick Lit posts. This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read more about that.
I recently reviewed several books including SECRET IOWA about unique places to visit in Iowa and two middle-grade books DON’T TRUST THE CAT and THE APARTMENT HOUSE ON POPPY HILL, the first book in a new series. The post below includes books I read since mid-November through today. You’ll find fiction and nonfiction titles as well as historical fiction, mystery, memoir, middle-grade, and young adult.
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB
By: Richard Osman
Published: September 22, 2020
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Format: Paperback gift
My husband gave me this book for my birthday and I chose it for our book club. Unfortunately, I was the only one who enjoyed it. The other gals felt like there were too many characters and it took a long time to get to the meat of the story with too many details. I agreed with the numerous characters to keep straight and the heavily detailed storyline, but overall, I really enjoyed the book. The characters were well created and I enjoyed each of their quirks. There were a lot of miscues when coming around to who committed the murder so when it was finally revealed, it was almost a bit of a letdown because there was such a huge lead-up. I loved that the characters were all elderly yet portrayed as smart and witty. Investigating these murders gave them purpose and value. I am willing to try the next in the series and see if there is less character-building and buildup to the reveal in future books.
IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD ME
By: John Stamos
Narrated by: John Stamos
Published: October 24, 2023
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Format: Audiobook through Libby
First of all, can I just hang a copy of this book cover on my bedroom wall like I did as a teenager? “Have mercy!” John Stamos narrates his memoir sharing his journey to become an actor. It wasn’t an easy path and he really wasn’t interested in joining Full House, the show that made him a star. But, that show changed his life for the better. He also shares his years of struggling with addiction and how he has overcome it. He also chronicles his failed relationships that have finally led him to the love of his life and having a son. He shares his deep sadness over the loss of his dear friend, Bob Saget, and the emotion is felt through his narration.
“When you lose someone special, that final time together becomes mythic and magical. Every detail is a holy relic. I try to remember that feeling of closeness…Did we stay a little longer for coffee and dessert? I hope so. If you get a chance to sit for a spell with someone you love, don’t get up too quickly. Stay awhile. Linger. Indulge. Savor. Order the cake.”
SWIPE UP FOR MORE!
Inside the Unfiltered Lives of Influencers
By: Stephanie McNeal
Narrated by: Stephanie McNeal
Published: June 6, 2023
Format: Audiobook through Libby
I think I heard about this book on a podcast and was curious since I spend a lot of my own time on social media. McNeal interviews some of the biggest influencers on Instagram (Surprisingly I wasn’t following any of them) and details how they rose to fame amid the struggles of sharing a “real” life as an influencer.
“My fascination with influencers probably arose because of one rather embarrassing fact about myself. I am nosy. Come on. Don’t tell me you aren’t too. It’s one of the fundamental reasons the influencer industry exists. Isn’t there something amazing about getting an inside peak into someone else’s life? It’s enthralling to watch a person who is willing to cut their life open like a ripe fruit and then, hands outstretched, invite us all to consume it.”
Many of the influencers came to fame by being young moms and sharing tips or products that helped them be better moms, wives, and friends. I admit, I can easily get wrapped up in the lives of those I’m following. I voyeuristically look at their homes and wonder where their pile of mail is, if their sink is full of dishes, or did their child just sass back to them. I have to remind myself I’m only seeing what they choose to share. One influence learned a hard lesson about sharing her kids’ lives without their permission. Babies and toddlers can’t say whether they want to be on social media and one day they may look back and feel embarrassed about the cute pjs they were forced to wear. Legislation is being developed to handle this particular topic but it’s hard because it’s a fine line between kids showing products and being seen as working versus regular family life being shared.
The fact that people are so interested in you that they’re digging into your relationship, they’re digging into your personal life, you know, it hurts, she remembered them saying. But in a way, if you look at a football stadium, there’s the majority of people cheering for you and loving you and then there’s this crowd, this one section of the stadium where they don’t like you and despise you. And my friend is like, pay attention to all those people that are rooting for you and cheering you on.
I was surprised by all the hatred that the influencers received as well. People are brutal and I’m thankful I haven’t had to deal with much of that. I can’t imagine messaging or commenting on someone’s post criticizing their parenting, home decor, or clothing, but I know it happens. If you are interested in social media and the lives of influencers this might be an interesting read for you.
THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141st STREET
By: Karina Yan Glaser
Narrated by: Robin Miles
Published: October 3, 2017
Format: Audiobook through Libby
I’ve heard about this series a few times and how delightful it was so I added it to my Libby holds. Robin Miles is a favorite narrator so choosing the audio version was easy. I fell in love with the Vanderbeeker family and the other residents on 141st Street. I didn’t even know this was set during the weeks leading up to Christmas which was when I was listening. When the family is forced to move out by the end of December after living for years at this apartment, the kids take the matter into their own hands. The cranky landlord of course has a reason for not renewing their lease and even though I guessed the reason, it didn’t make the story any less enjoyable. I’m definitely curious about the rest of the series and will try to give them a listen as I have time. This would make a wonderful family or classroom read-aloud or a great listen on your next family road trip.
Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again
By: Rachel Held Evans
Published: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Our women’s group at church chose to read and study this book for the year. We read a chapter or two and discussed it monthly at our meetings. I have to admit, that at first, we struggled with understanding the format of Rachel’s writing. I know I felt really uneducated when it came to Rachel’s explanations but she made me think about things differently and reread passages of the Bible with a new lens.
A WOMAN IS NO MAN
By: Etaf Rum
Published: March 5, 2019
This multi-generational story of Palestinian women shares the story of a grandma, her daughter-in-law, and granddaughters. Fareeda immigrated to America after living in camps. Their son marries Isra, a Palestinian woman who comes to America for the first time. She then bears him four daughters, the oldest Deya who narrates her story. The book moves back and forth between the three women, sharing their struggles as Palestinian women. Even though they are in America, they still must abide by the rules of their culture.
Be aware of trigger warnings of abuse and mistreatment of the women by their husbands. I read this story while reading YELLOW WIFE, a story about slavery. I was surprised by how much these two stories mimicked each other. The wives were trapped, not allowed to leave their homes or question their husbands. The daughters were restricted to only attending private Palestinian schools and not allowed to talk to boys. The sacrifices the mothers made for their children were great and I couldn’t even imagine the choices they had to make to survive.
This type of life is so foreign to me and I found myself in disbelief as I read it, realizing this was set during mostly present day. Etaf Rum wrote this story for her daughters and the women of Palestine.
By: Sadeqa Johnson
Published: January 12, 2021
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: eBook purchase
In the span of a few weeks, I had two close friends tell me I needed to read this book. So, I used some Kindle credits and started reading it soon after. Pheby is a slave girl on a plantation but since she is the Master’s daughter, she is treated differently from other slave girls. She was educated and given piano lessons. But, when circumstances change, Pheby is suddenly thrown into true slavery and her life is forever changed.
Mama always said the way to keep peace with white folks was to be available and invisible at the same time.
This is a gripping, page-turner based on real places and people during the 1800s. Some of the situations were hard to stomach and I had to set my Kindle down a few times and take a break because the torture of the slaves was unbearable. Pheby suffers greatly to protect her children and as I mom, I grieved with her. Even though this isn’t a happy story it is an important one and one I will be thinking about for a very long time.
Whenever I started feeling as if I could endure this place, there was always a reminder that I could not.
TOOLS FOR LIFE
By: Dr. James Coyle
Published: January 19, 2018
I met the author at a wedding of mutual friends. He has family in the area where I live and we had a conversation that quickly turned to a love of books, my past work as a social worker, and my current job at school. We parted and before I knew it, he was handing me two of his books, this one and GPS: Your Guide through Personal Storms.
TOOLS FOR LIFE is set up as a devotional, with a paragraph or two to read each day. Coyle shares personal stories of tragedy and struggles as well as inspiring stories for people he has helped in his numerous careers. His advice is practical and often Biblically based. His book is a wonderful asset to those needing daily inspiration.
CALMING THE CREATIVE CHAOS
Quotes for Everyday Life
By: Karla K. Gavin
Published: January 13, 2022
Publisher: Dorrance Publishing
My mom gave me this book for my birthday. The author is a friend of hers from a small town near where she lives. The book is a collection of quotes divided into themes for each month. The book is small and is perfect for a nightstand or desktop. There are only the quotes on the pages, one for each day of the year. No explanations or stories, just the quotes. If you like quotes like I do, you may appreciate this collection.
GO AS A RIVER
By: Shelley Read
Published: February 28, 2023
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
I had noticed a few people raving about this book and when I saw it on a Kindle Deal, I snagged it. I’m so glad I did. This will easily be a favorite if not THE favorite of 2024. As soon as I finished, I wanted to start back over and read it again. It was so beautifully written and I’ve been recommending it to literally everyone I know. In fact, our book club chose it for next month’s read so I can’t wait to discuss it with them.
It’s a coming-of-age story. A story of forbidden love. A story of resilience. A story of love, loss, betrayal, and heartbreak. I absolutely loved it.
I wondered, why return? When we, the meadow and I, had finished with each other we had no more business between us. Just as I had relearned on the edge of Iola that very day, what I suppose Will must have known too, sometimes we simply cannot go back.
Whatever you’re still not telling me, that’s your choice. Let me say two things. One, I know it is so tough saving your trees and running this farm and working so hard and wandering about and every other damn thing you do by yourself, but carrying your sorrows all alone isn’t strength V, it’s punishment, plain and simple. Whatever happened to you, you’ve got to stop blaming yourself.
But, sometimes saying sorry is as absurd as hoping a lone star can explain the universe.
CLAP WHEN YOU LAND
By: Elizabeth Acevedo
Narrated by: Elizabeth Acevedo and Melania-Luisa Marte
Published: May 5, 2020
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Young Adult Fiction
Format: Audiobook through Libby
This had been on my radar and when I saw it was available on audio on Libby, I started listening since I didn’t have any other holds that had come in. When an airplane crashes two young women have suddenly lost their father. The problem is, that their father had a huge secret that connects these two teens, one in the Dominican Republic and one in New York.
Is this what sisterhood is? A negotiation of the things you make possible out of impossible requests?
This story is told from each girl’s perspective as they mourn a father they thought they knew with the father he has been revealed to be. They mourn lost dreams and question a life of lies. I really enjoyed this one, including the dual narration by the author and narrator to give the two girls a different voice. I breezed through this one and would highly recommend it for teens and adults.
The author’s note at the end was especially moving. Acevedo wrote this story to encourage her readers to consider who matters and who deserves attention in the media. She also wanted to give a more intimate portrayal of what it means to discover secrets, family, and the depths of your own character when faced with great loss and pain. (paraphrased from the audio).
THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD
By: Melanie Benjamin
Published: January 12, 2021
Format: Hardcover from Library
This fictional story of the real Children’s Blizzard of January 12, 1888, was so heartbreaking. This was our book club choice for December, but due to my dad’s illness and death, we had to reschedule for this month. Since I never had a chance to read it in December, I was reading it this week…on January 12 actually, while a real blizzard was raging outside my window. It made the story even more powerful knowing this was based on real events and while a blizzard was raging outside.
Benjamin does a great job of putting you in the cold barren prairies of South Dakota and Nebraska, the sheer poverty of some of the families, and the bitter cold that neither the children nor any of the families were prepared for. January 12, 1888, started sunny and unseasonably warm after a cold spell and many of the children walked to school with light jackets, happy to air out their heavy woolen coats. But, just as the children were being let out for the day the snowflakes began falling and the wind started blowing becoming a blizzard like they’d never seen. Many lives were lost that day and Benjamin shares the horror of that day from multiple viewpoints.
She wasn’t sure about this; she’d been so caught up in her own drama that she’d never really gotten a good read on the land. Her father would be disappointed in her; he had always told her that you get the lay of the land first, then worry about the landscape of emotions. The land was the most cruel, he’d always said.
What good things have you been reading? I’ve also read books that I reviewed for publishers. Check them out, HERE.
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Posted Under audiobook, Book Review, Christian, Dr. James Coyle, Elizabeth Acevedo, Etaf Rum, fiction, historical fiction, John Stamos, Karina Yan Glaser, Karla K Gavin, kindle, Melanie Benjamin, memoir, middle-grade, mystery, non-fiction, Rachel Held Evans, Richard Osman, Robin Miles, Sadeqa Johnson, Shelley Read, Stephanie McNeal, YA