What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable.

What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable.

Welcome to Quick Lit, where I share short and sweet reviews of what I’ve been reading lately, and invite you to do the same.

I’ve been balancing my reading time between new releases and books I’ve been meaning to read for a while now. Here are 6 recent noteworthy titles.

Lost Lake

Lost Lake

I've been catching up on old Allen titles (and summer is a great time to do that—there's a reason I included Garden Spells in this year's Summer Reading Guide). This novel, her fifth, is set at a quirky Southern resort, and Allen's trademark magic is woven through the lake, the town, and the people. It's essentially a story about finding home. At the time I read this, I didn't realize it was only just published in 2014; it didn't feel as well-crafted to me as some of her older work, when I expected the opposite. Not bad, but not her best. More info →
A Paris Apartment

A Paris Apartment

Author:
This novel is based on an amazing true story: when a 91-year-old woman died in 2010, her family discovered she owned a Parisian apartment that hadn't been touched in 72 years, and was packed to the ceiling with priceless treasures. Antiques dealers said it was like stumbling into Sleeping Beauty's castle. Among the finds was a long-lost Boldini portrait of Marthe de Florian; Gable's novel provides a fictionalized account of her life. She switches back and forth in time from Marthe's story to the present day, when a modern day arts dealer is called in to assist with cataloging the finds, and finds inspiration in Marthe's story to deal with her own personal crises. This is a great concept, but I found it disappointingly uneven—although the glimpse into the world of high-end auction houses and estate sales was riveting. More info →
Case Histories

Case Histories

Author:
In this first installment in Atkinson's detective series, Brodie investigates three cold cases that seem to be strangely related. This was an excellent detective novel, with good writing and strong characterization, and reminded me very much of Tana French. But like Tana French, some of the content was seriously disturbing. Recommended, with caution. More info →
Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris

This was one of my airplane reads en route to NYC. When the author moved from California to Paris, she was surprised at how many French characteristics were jarring to her American sensibilities. Here, she shares what the French do differently (and sometimes better) than their American counterparts, in categories such as diet and exercise, style and beauty, and living well. This is a quick, easy read, and I expect you'll have a half-dozen or more Aha! moments that will prompt you to change your own routines. (I shared some of my favorite tips from the style and beauty section in this post about the ten item wardrobe.) More info →
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

This one has been on my reading list for ages. I'm thrilled to cross it off the list but wish I'd read it sooner. This is the true story of the University of Washington men's crew team that won the Olympic gold medal in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. I was fascinated by the personal stories of the dirt-poor boys who comprised the squad, the details of the Depression era in America, the history of crew in America and abroad, and the hard look at Hitler's well-orchestrated plan to fool the West into thinking all was well in Germany in '36. Don't worry if you don't know anything about rowing: I didn't, and I thoroughly enjoyed this. (The audio version is great.) More info →
The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop

Author:
This German novel was first published in 2013, and the English translation is forthcoming on June 23. I loved the concept: Frenchman Jean Perdu owns a floating bookstore, on a barge in the Seine, and from there he prescribes exactly the right book for every customer. But an earthshaking discovery launches Perdu on a quest with his friends: a bestselling author with writer's block and a lovesick Italian chef. The plot reminded me of the Jack Nicholson movie As Good as It Gets, but the story dragged and it felt like much was lost in translation. I decided to include this in Quick Lit not because I loved it, but because I mentioned in a recent "what's on my nightstand" post that I was reading this, and many of you expressed interest. I didn't want you to remember this as a title I recommended. More info →

What have YOU been reading lately?

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54 comments

  1. Stacey says:

    I’m so glad that you created Twitterature and then Quick Lit. I have been participating for fun of course but also as a way to track my reading and it has become a really important part of my month. This time I learned why I have been feeling so off all month! I knew I had been busy but imagine my shock when I realized I only had one book to log for this month’s installment of Quick Lit. No wonder I haven’t felt like myself!

    I keep picking up Boys in the Boat and I can’t get in to it. My mom told me it took her 200 pages but it was worth. With her rec and yours, I think I will try again. And so glad that you wrote about The Little Paris Bookshop. My favorite librarian gave me her ARC last week but perhaps I will not read it…

    Thanks as always for all the work you do here!

  2. Moira says:

    I’ve been thinking about Boys in the Boat for a long time, but keep putting it off. Thanks for mentioning the audio-sounds like that might be the way to go now that I’m tearing through audiobooks on my commute!

    • Sheila says:

      Don’t put it off – it was one of my favorite books the year I read it, and I feel like I’ve been telling everyone about it ever since finishing it. So good! (Actually, all three of Daniel James Brown’s books are really good, his other two are just really hard to read at times because of the subject matter.)

  3. Jane says:

    Love this post as always. Do you think the Madame Chic books need to be read in order? It’s just the “home” one appeals to me more than the “style” one ?

    • Anne says:

      I was surprised at the contents of the “home” book—it wasn’t at all what I expected. They don’t need to be read in order, but I did think the first book was much better than the second. (There’s a third coming out this fall, and I’ll still check it out.) I would check out the respective tables of contents and choose based on that.

      • Jane says:

        Thank you Anne! I am almost finished with the first one and it wasn’t what I expected in terms of content! In a good way. It touches on more than just style – I am going to read the home book next – even though you liked the first better, the fact that you want to read the third is a good sign. Thanks for taking the time to reply ? – have a great weekend!

  4. Susan in TX says:

    So glad you enjoyed Boys in the Boat – my husband listened to the audio and I read the book (simultaneously) and we both loved it. He highly recommended the audio, read by Edward Hermann, and said it made him want to seek out more books read by Hermann since he had such a natural story-telling voice.

  5. Sara K. says:

    I recently finished the first three books in the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet and Cress). I enjoyed them, but I felt like maybe Cress was longer than it needed to be. There were several areas I thought could have been shortened without losing story quality. I still plan to continue with Winter sometime soon, but I am taking a break to read other things.

    I also just finished Ballet Shoes. I had never heard of it until I saw You’ve Got Mail years ago!

    I just started reading Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer. It’s an enjoyable read overall (some of the more political essays go over my head, but that’s ok). I love the format – a collection of essays. It’s much easier to pick it up, read one or two essays, and put it down to do something else. Reminds me of reading Shauna Niequist in that way 🙂

    I’m glad to hear you recommended the audio version of The Boys in the Boat. I have two audible credits just waiting to be used, but its been hard to find books I want to read that also have good narration!

  6. Christine says:

    I’m disappointed to see your take on A Paris Apartment. The cover looks so lovely that I feel like I will have to read it no matter. I dunno, Boys on the Boat was actually NOT on my TBR but now I guess I’ll switch the two…

  7. Sarah M says:

    I just started Gretchen Rubin’s “Happiness At Home” and am about 1/3 of the way through. I’m also reading “The Story of Science” by Susan Wise Bauer. I just finished YA novel “Wonder” about a young boy with a disfigured face. It was a sweet story, but not as great as some of the other YA novels I’ve read this year. Boys on the Boat has been on my list for two years as well!
    Sarah M

  8. Heather says:

    I read Boys in the Boat as part of our county’s reading program. I was resistant at first but I really enjoyed the book immensely. It really is an incredible story.

  9. Annie says:

    Great minds…just started Garden Spells this am. Just a few pages in but as someone who gardens, adoring it. Just finished Madame Chic at home quick easy read.

  10. Katia says:

    I’m planning to read A Paris Apartment and Madame Chic. Currently, I’m reading Warrior Pose by Brad Willis. It’s an interesting memoir of a man who was injured while working as a war correspondent, and his journey to healing himself — emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

  11. Sarah says:

    I just finished Lost Lake and definitely agree with you. I’ve been devouring her books since reading Garden Spells on your recommendation, and Lost Lake, while still having her trademark evocative sense of place, lacked the emotional depth of the other books I’ve read so far. It was a nice beach read, though. Thanks for the recommendation; it’s helped me overcome my fear of modern fiction.

  12. liz n. says:

    “The Boys in the Boat” is third in my stack of TBR’s, so I’ll probably get to it in about a month….

    To everyone who liked this one, I highly recommend “Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed The World,” by Davis Maraniss. Excellent telling of the socio-political shifts that affected the Games, along with insights from the athletes themselves.

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  14. Cassie says:

    I just finished Lost Lake over the weekend and I would have to agree. I like Garden Spells and First Frost much better. It is enjoyable nonetheless.

    I have been meaning to read Boys in Boats for some time now, this may spurn me forward!

  15. Liesl says:

    I found Case Histories at the used bookstore a month ago, and started reading this weekend – so far, it’s good! I love love loved Life After Life so I’m curious to see how this compares!

  16. Lindsay Lea says:

    I LOVED Boys in the Boat! Although it probably helped that I went to UW and loved reading the local history. But my husband tore through it as well and now we’ve recommended it to all of our family and friends.

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  18. Alisa says:

    Thought Boys in the Boat was brilliant and so moving. I read on a friend’s recommendation, so glad I did because I might never have picked up a book about rowing (of course it was so much more).
    Loved Case Histories, and I’ve read the entire series. Kate Atkinson is a genius. I’ve got her latest, God in Ruins, on deck. Just finished the newest Elin Hildebrand, The Rumor. So-so. And Dark Places by Gillian Flynn which was just that…very dark and disturbing.

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