What I’m reading: the new and the notable.

Welcome to Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately.

This month I’ve been reading historical mysteries, Southern fiction, contemporary novels, terrific nonfiction, and a much-anticipated sequel. I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been reading: link up a post or tell us in comments.

Quick Lit 10/15
A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery


Raybourn writes historical fiction with a twist; she's best known for her Lady Julia Grey mysteries. This is her first novel in a new Victorian series featuring the badass but well-bred Veronica Speedwell. I heard the author speak about her source material for this new series in Raleigh, and I was intrigued: her heroine travels the world hunting beautiful butterfly specimens and the occasional romantic dalliance. When her guardian dies, the orphaned Veronica expects to embark on a grand scientific adventure. But Veronica quickly realizes that with her guardian's death, she is no longer safe—and she begins to unravel the mystery of why she poses a threat to dangerous men. An easy, enjoyable read.

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Pretending to Dance: A Novel

Pretending to Dance: A Novel

Chamberlain is known for writing contemporary Southern fiction featuring strong female characters and not shying away from sensitive subjects. In this novel, her thirtysomething heroine's adoption process forces her to confront secrets she's been keeping for twenty years about her family of origin. Chamberlain uses two narrative voices—that of 14-year-old Molly and 20-years-older Molly, to explore the power of the secrets we keep out of fear and shame and the pretending that can actually make us strong. This is the first book I've read by Diane Chamberlain; The Silent Sister is next on my list.

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The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right


I nearly didn't read this book because of the horrible title, and that would have been a shame. I'm so glad I relied on a friend's recommendation, and my own enjoyment of Gawande's latest release Being Mortal, and read it anyway. This brief, engaging book is about how to successfully live and work in a world that's becoming increasingly complex. Gawande draws fascinating examples from medicine, construction, and aviation to explain why systems remain vulnerable to human error, and what we can do about it. Highly recommended.

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A Window Opens: A Novel

A Window Opens: A Novel


I almost abandoned this book, and thought hard about including it in Quick Lit because I found it underwhelming. Its heroine, Alice Pearse, is a sandwich generation wife and mother of three who takes on a new and demanding job when her husband loses his. The book had potential: I found the premise relatable and the characters likable. But instead of thoughtfully addressing the issues Alice faces, Egan fabricates silly problems (such as a big bad corporate employer reminiscent of The Circle) for her characters and simplistic solutions. Alice works in the world of publishing, and I did appreciate the novel's unabashed love for books and readers. If you decide to read this, please read it with your book club: at least you can enjoy tearing apart the ending together.

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After You: A Novel

After You: A Novel


Finally! The much-anticipated (and originally unplanned) follow-up to Moyes's word-of-mouth sensation Me Before You. The bad news: the sequel isn't as good as original. The good news: Moyes at least had the guts to take her characters in an altogether different direction, and if it's not perfect, at least it's interesting. Moyes also left the door wide open to a third novel, which I would welcome.

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What have YOU been reading lately? 


Leave A Comment
  1. Annie says:

    I have After You to read… I just have to steal it away from my husband! I’m glad to hear Gawande’s book is good. (The title is such a turn-off!)

  2. Sara K. says:

    I agree with your opinion of After You. I just finished the audiobook. Though I thought the narration was wonderful, the book just didn’t live up it’s predecessor. I think it lacked something in the way of plot structure. More of a meandering story line that felt like it came to a conclusion too many times before the final, final conclusion.

    I can’t wait to read Deanna Raybourn’s newest book! I’m waiting on a copy from the library (unless I decide to just buy it!)

    Pretending to Dance looks very good as well.

  3. Tricia says:

    I read After You the day it came out. I enjoyed it and as long as I thought of it more as a VERY long epilogue, it was great. I would also love a third novel! Hadn’t even thought of that 🙂

  4. s says:

    I too was underwhelmed by The Window Opens…had a decent story underlying but just not well developed, trends and gimmicks overshadowed some of the characters’ development. I will look at Checklist Manifesto as I found Being Mortal so interesting and informative.

  5. I read Diane Chamberlain’s novel, Necessary Lies, earlier this year and loved it. I actually came to MMD after I finished it to see if you’d written anything about it–it just seemed liked the kind of book you would read (and enjoy). So glad you’ve found her now! And this latest book of hers looks great.

  6. Ana says:

    Ooh a new author! I haven’t read anything by Diane Chameberlain before, I’ll have to check her out. I am almost done with ” A God in Ruins”. Its good, and engaging, but tough. What I read last night was surprisingly disturbing and I couldn’t sleep, kept thinking about it. the last book I read, “In the unlikely event” was underwhelming. Do NOT read when you are traveling by plane, I wish I’d been warned. I need something lighter now.

    • Anne says:

      My hold request for In the Unlikely Event was finally filled while I was out of town, and I missed it. Now I’m wondering if I want to request it again.

  7. Breanne says:

    I just picked up After You from my library last night, I’m interested to read it because I (and everyone else!) loved Me Before You so much but I’m also a little nervous. I’m curious if Jojo Moyes felt the same way and left herself a back door to write a great third novel.
    I also have Carry On by Rainbow Rowell so one of the two sequels should be good, right?! =)

    • Anne says:

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you and your sequels …

      I can’t decide if I want to read Carry On or not. Will be interested to hear what you think.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I’m glad to know you enjoyed Me Before You. It’s been a “maybe” for me for a while so thanks for the nudge! I’m currently reading the Poldark series by Winston Graham, prompted by the recent BBC TV series. I know, I know – wrong order 😛 But I hadn’t heard of Poldark before I saw the show advertised, and now I’m really enjoying comparing the two and loving the books. I also recently read a few of Jane Austen’s smaller works, which were darling, and Seven Women by Eric Metaxas, a fantastic biography.

    • Raela says:

      I did the same thing with Poldark! Loved the show so much that I went back and found the books. It’s been fun to go more in-depth with the characters and get more details about them. Can’t wait for series 2!

  9. Dana says:

    I am eager to read Deanna Raybourn and Diane Chamberlain after meeting them in Raleigh. I have never read either before but they are on my radar now. I recently finished re-reading one of my all-time favorite novels, Broken For You, by Stephanie Kallos. It is a wonderful story about friendship, ways to create family, loss, art and making amends for the past. One of the main characters carries a book of William Butler Yeats’ poetry with him and uses it as his “Bible.” He quotes him in several places. So yesterday I checked out a book of Yeats’ poetry and plays from the library along with a book on EB White’s essays ( after a recommendation on this blog last week).
    I am trying to read books that seem similar to the one I am writing to see how the author handles various story elements. Unfortunately I have read a couple of underwhelming titles lately. One I stopped reading pretty quickly, the other I finished because I wanted to analyze what made it not work. It was not fun, but it was instructive.
    I am ready for a really good story again to get those out of my mind. Maybe one of those you mentioned.
    Thanks, as always, for guiding us to SO many great books!

    • Anne says:

      It’s so interesting that you mention Kallos, because I’d never heard of her until this weekend, when a friend enthusiastically recommended Language Arts to me. A sign, perhaps. 🙂

  10. B J says:

    I read Deanna Raybourn’s book as soon as I could get it from the library. It was the first time I had read anything by her. I’m not a huge Victorian fan, but loved this. Veronica is a female character with moxie. I devoured this book. Read Diana Chamberlain’s Silent Sister earlier this year and really liked it, the new one is on my list. Thanks for the recommendations.

  11. Greg says:

    I enjoyed “The Checklist Manifesto”. Former program lead was a big fan of checklists for everything, which almost made me not read the book. Gawande is very readable and the audio version is a good listen. I have been able to use checklists in the right places, which is good for an inveterate list-make like me. 🙂

    Thank you for the heads-up on his latest book. I have requested it from our library.

    • Anne says:

      “Former program lead was a big fan of checklists for everything, which almost made me not read the book.”

      Hahaha! Glad you read it anyway. 🙂

  12. Heather says:

    I just finished reading After You and completely agree with you. After I finished Me Before You I felt like the book was done and I didn’t really have any interest to see what happened to Lou next, but of course I had to read what did happen :). When I finished After You I was very curious to see what would happen next and like you, I feel like Moyes ended the book in a way that suggests there will be a sequel.

  13. Jeannie says:

    I probably wouldn’t give Gawande’s book a second glance (because of the title) if I hadn’t read Being Mortal, which I really liked — so thanks for the tip on that one; I’ll check it out.

  14. I sort of loved A Window Opens. It very much rang true with my own experience working at a high pressure job, doing crazy things to make it to meetings, showing up with spit up on my sweater, and finally deciding something had to change.

  15. Sheila says:

    I was disappointed with the last two of the Julia Grey series I read (pretty sure they were not the last ones in the series as I believe bailed on it before the end), but I liked the initial ones enough that I’m temped by this new series by Raybourn.

  16. Sarah says:

    The Checklist Manifesto sounds really interesting! I preordered the audible version of After You, but I haven’t gotten to it yet! I also have a copy of Pretending to Dance that I need to read. I keep getting caught up in series.

  17. Grace says:

    Interesting! I wasn’t head over heels the way a lot of people were about Me Before You, so I didn’t know if I wanted to read After You. I did just find out yesterday though that Sam Clafin is playing William in the Me Before You movie, so that got me excited.

  18. Mary says:

    This month I have been revisiting Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey. The Nine Taylors, Busman’s Honeymoom, Five Red Herrings, Cloud of Witnesses, and just finished Strong Poision. Some things never grow old. (sigh)

  19. Raela says:

    I’m in the middle of too many books!
    Just recently finished Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper on audio. I was interested but not all that invested until the TWIST–at that point I was all in and can’t wait to listen to more of hers.

    Listened to Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen and thought it was fine, a nice story, but it didn’t blow my socks off. Hoping another of hers is more compelling to me!

    I’m early in Jojo Moyes’s Last Letter to Your Lover and am liking it. I very much enjoyed The Girl You Left Behind, so I think this one should be a win too in the dual time novel category.

    I’m currently reading 2 cooking-related novels. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Kitchens of the Great Midwest. Enjoying both so far. The former is more of a fun read and the latter is stronger writing, so we’ll see how they finish.

    I’m about halfway through The Bronze Horseman but had stepped away for a while. I plan to finish it but am curious about others’ thoughts. I was expecting to have more of an Outlander-like reaction to it, and it hasn’t sucked me in quite as much as I thought it would.

  20. I have After You on my nightstand and your comments are making me think I might hold off on reading it right away like I planned. It’s funny, I adored A Window Opens so much! It reminded me of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but I thought it was even better with the humor and work/life balance issues of a working mom.

    Right now I’m trying to tackle Ready Player One. It’s a bit geeky for me, but I’m enjoying slipping out of my typical genre 🙂

  21. Kelly says:

    I read Me Before You and loved it! One of my favorite books! I read After You last weekend and was disappointed. It was still a good book but doesn’t compare to the first one! I still love her writing though!

  22. I recently read ‘One Plus One by Jojo Moyes’ and really enjoyed it. I have ‘After You’ on my to-read list but now I’m wondering if there are other books of hers that may be worth reading instead. Any recommendations? Thx 🙂

  23. Veronica Speedwell is my new favorite heroine! I never read anything of Raybourn’s before this…I picked it up because the cover caught my eye. I love the love/hate relationship between Veronica and Stoker. I hope it stays that way and doesn’t morph into a full blown romantic relationship. I feel like there’s a lack of that type of relationship in Victorian era books (due to cultural norms) and they all lean towards romantic relationships. I keep seeing Pretending to Dance at Barnes & Noble but haven’t decided whether to buy it or not yet.

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