Litsy – is anyone else using it??

I recently heard about a bookish social media site called Litsy.  I’m still fumbling my way about there, but it basically strikes me as what would happen if someone decided that Instagram should be BOOKS ONLY – there are ways to post pictures and quotes of books, and ways to see what other people have posted and then immediately add that book to your TBR.  I’m rather terrible at book photos, but this whole site does seem very friendly and interactive.  So my question is – are any of you on Litsy?  If so, please follow me there @thearomaofbooks – mainly so I can follow back and start seeing interesting goings on in my feed!!!

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May Minireviews

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Indiscretions of Archie by P.G. Wodehouse – 3.5*

//published 1921//

This was another early Wodehouse that I hadn’t read before, and while enjoyable (as all his books are), this wasn’t particularly one of my favorites.  This particular book was created when Wodehouse combined several short stories he had written that all centered around Archie, so while the end result is cohesive, it still feels rather episodic in nature.  Archie is a very likable character who starts off on the wrong foot with his father-in-law and continues to accidentally do random things that keep their relationship strained (at least on the father-in-law’s side – Archie is invariably good-humored), which I think was part of the reason that I didn’t enjoy this book as much – most of the humor was based on Archie trying to do something nice and then it all backfiring and ending up with the father-in-law dealing with the disaster.  In the end, everyone ends up happy together, but that also felt a little contrived.  Still, there were plenty of humorous moments in this one, and while it wasn’t my favorite Wodehouse, it was still an enjoyable read.

Holiday Havoc by Terri Reed & Stephanie Newton – 3.5*

//published 2010//

This book is actually two short stories, one by each author.  Both were similarly unremarkable, with some serious instalove, but entertaining nonetheless.  It’s another book off the Love Inspired pile, which is really whittling down since I took most of them to Goodwill without actually reading them haha

The Villa by Nora Roberts – 3.5*

//published 2001//

Speaking of boxes of books, someone also gave me a box of Nora Roberts books at random a while back, so I’ve been sifting through those as well.  The Villa was definitely more novel than romance, a sweeping drama centered around two families who both own wineries.  I wasn’t completely sure it was going to be “my kind” of book, but I found myself drawn in almost against my will.  While I personally felt like this book could have done with more humor and less sex, it was still a very engaging story.  Despite the fact that there were a lot of characters, they felt like individuals.  The main female lead was a little too “strong independent woman” type for me (read: basically obnoxious but gets away with because she’s a woman), but I still ended up liking her.  This book followed one year of time, and the changing of the seasons was a big part of the story and really added to the overall epic feel.  Not a book I’ll ever reread, but surprisingly interesting for a one-time go.

Carousel of Hearts by Mary Jo Putney -3.5*

//published 1989//

This is yet another book from a box of books – a while ago I purchased a box of regency romances on eBay because the box included several Heyer titles I didn’t own.  Now I’m working my way through the non-Heyer titles, all of which, prior to this one, ended up being DNFs.  Carousel was an entertaining little read that was a bit strong on coincidence but was enjoyable nonetheless.  I really liked all four characters in this story, although they did need a stern talking-to.  It would honestly have been a 4*, except the ending got completely out of hand.  Still, this one ended up being a fun read.

The Legend of Luke by Brian Jacques – 4*

//published 1999//

The next installment in the Redwall series, Luke is really two stories in one.  The book begins with Martin and a few companions heading north to see if they can find out what happened to Martin’s father, who left on a quest when Martin was a child.  (As we learned in Martin the Warrior, Martin and the rest of his tribe were kidnapped and enslaved while Luke was gone.)  The first part of the book recounts Martin’s journey, which concludes when Martin finds several animals who knew Luke and know what happened.  The second part of the book is the story of Luke, pursuing vengeance on the high seas.  The third, and final, part of the book is Martin’s journey back to Redwall, which is still being constructed at this time (the Martin part of the story takes place chronologically after the events in Mossflower).

I actually enjoyed this book, which felt more focused than a lot of the other installments in this series.  It was also nice to have a story where the shrews aren’t just disposable extras!  And, thankfully, there weren’t that many scenes with the youngsters being obnoxious, which has been a theme in the last few books.  Overall, I’m still enjoying and planning to finish the series, but it’s working well to read them one at a time a bit spread out.

Vacation TBR!

Next week, the husband and I are heading south to soak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!  We’re super excited to get away for a few days, and we are always into hanging out in the mountains.  While we’ve been through sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, we’ve never visited GSMNP, so that should be a fun experience.  We’ve rented a cabin just outside the park, so hopefully we’ll be covered even if the weather is rainy.  :-D  (And yes, someone will be here with the dogs so still not a good time to try and rob us, internet people! – not even counting how disappointed you would be when you broke in here haha)

And while deciding which hikes to take, which restaurants to visit, which museums to explore, and what route to drive are all important parts of vacation, I’m sure my readers here will understand that deciding which books to take is THE critical decision!  There are loads of vacation book theories, partially depending on what kind of vacation you’re taking, I suppose.  Our vacation will kind of depend on the weather, as we are hoping to do a lot of hiking.  But even if we hike all day, we’ll probably spend most of the evening sitting on the porch of our cabin.

Some people prefer to take books they’ve never read, and some people prefer library books.  Some people just travel with an ereader instead of lugging around physical books.  I’m pretty much the opposite of all of those.  :-D  I love to use vacation as a chance to reread some old favorites that I’ve been meaning to revisit, and I almost always take my own books – in some ways the books become imbued with the flavor of the places I read them, tied to happy memories.  I love looking at my shelves and remembering where I was the last time I read a certain book!

The other reason I like rereads on vacation is because it’s just Tom and me on the trip, and part of the point is for us to hang out and visit with each other – something I find difficult to do with anyone if I’m embroiled in an exciting book with the ending unknown!  Rereads take some of the pressure of I NEED TO FINISH THIS off so that I can more easily set a book aside to enjoy the moment with my husband.  One of the most important pieces of marriage advice I ever received was a reminder to always “listen with my face” – to put down whatever I’m looking at, be it a book or my phone or computer or whatever, and actually LOOK at my husband when he’s saying something.  It can be a challenge for this bookworm, but so important to do!

ANYWAY, time for the important part – what books am I actually taking??  The real problem is my constant, haunting fear of not having enough books!  This has been somewhat alleviated the last few trips by the addition of a Kindle to my life – I load a bunch of books as backups (in case, you know, I really do have time to read the eight physical books I’m lugging along haha).  So while these are the books I’m taking with me, deep down I know that the odds are slim that I’ll actually read all of them.  Still, I’ll give it my best shot!!

Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

I bought this book while on vacation all the way back in 2003, and for some reason it’s been on several trips with me since then, probably because it’s a small, fat paperback.  I haven’t read it since I reviewed it here back in 2013, so I’m looking forward to enjoying it again.  Magic, humor, engaging characters, and talking animals – do I really need anything else from a book?

Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

I’m not sure a vacation would be complete without a Heyer book to read.  I enjoyed this book enough back in 2012 to add it to my permanent collection, but haven’t read it since.  I gave it a full five stars then, but I’ve read a lot of Heyer’s other books since then, so I’m curious to see if this one still ends up a fave.

Indiscretion by Jude Morgan

I’ve actually read and reviewed this one twice since I’ve had this blog – the most recent time was when I took it on vacation back in 2015!  (The first time was in 2013.)  This Regency romance is just delightfully funny and full of wonderful characters.  My sister read it recently and listening to her wax eloquent about how perfect it is made me want to pick it up again.

The Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale

Apparently I’m revisited a lot of books from 2013, which is the last time I read this quartet as well.  While I have read this series a couple of times, I’ve only read the final book, Forest Born, once, and it was my favorite of the batch last time.  I remember really liking these books as exciting but thoughtful fantasy stories, so I’m excited to revisit them.

Summer Moonshine by P.G. Wodehouse

Like Heyer, I always take along a Wodehouse, because there is no way to go wrong.  While I’m “officially” reading all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, I’m jumping to 1937 with this one – I’m pretty sure I’ve read it before but remember literally nothing about the story or characters.  The 1930’s are really the height of Wodehouse’s magnificence though, so I think this should be a treat.

Well, that’s a total of 2740 pages to keep me busy for six days.  Do you think it will be enough??  Good thing I’m bring my Kindle, too…  :-D

The Lost // by Claire McGowan

Just as a heads up:  a lot of this book is about abortion, so a lot of my review is also about abortion.  (I had no idea about this when I started the book, and it didn’t take a turn into this territory until more than 100 pages in, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up.)  My personal stance is strongly against abortion, so if you don’t want to hear snide comments about it, I’d recommend giving this review a miss.  And if you don’t like hearing blatant lies and misinformation about the prolife movement, I wouldn’t recommend reading this book.

//published 2013//

The Lost is the first in a series of books that focus on a forensic psychologist named Paula Maguire.  It’s one of those series that has been on the TBR for so long that I’m not sure who exactly first reviewed it and inspired me to add it.  For me, while The Lost wasn’t a terrible read, there were enough negatives to dissuade me from reading the rest of the series (which is currently five more books).

Part of the problem is that I started the book not really knowing what a forensic psychologist does… and I still have no idea.  Paula’s job description seemed incredibly vague, and got vaguer.  Just now, when I finally looked up forensic psychologist, it only made me more confused as it doesn’t sound remotely like anything that Paula did in this entire book!

Our story opens in London, where Paula is being strongly encouraged by her boss to take a new position, which involves moving back to her small hometown on the border between the two Irelands, a place that Paula (of course) swore she would never return to.  The reason that her boss thinks she should make the move is that even though she’s awesome at her job (whatever it is), she isn’t very good at obeying the rules, which is kind of an important part of being a member of law enforcement.  Although Paula fights against the reassignment, readers will be unsurprised to find Paula returning to Ballyterrin.

Paula’s new job is working with a team on what is apparently her specialty – missing persons cases.  This new team has brought together individuals from Ireland and Northern Ireland (and is being headed up by someone from London) in order to look at cold cases of missing persons from the last thirty years or so in an attempt to be able to share information between the two Irelands – something that was very difficult during the Troubles – and possibly close some of the cases.  Because Ballyterrin was a border town, I could kinda sorta buy it as being the location for this new team, despite the fact that everyone goes on about how it’s such a small an unimportant town (it seems like this kind of team would set up in a city with more resources but whatever).  I was also confused about why, if the team’s purpose was to be looking at cold cases, they were actually working two very hot cases – two young women, apparently unconnected, have disappeared from Ballyterrin in the last few weeks.  When one of the young women turns up dead, I was even more confused that the cold case missing persons team continued working what was now an active homicide case….

Still, I was willing to overlook the confusing team purpose (and the fact that Paula’s job description seemed to be “writing reports” even though she spent most of her time dashing around town following her own leads against express orders from her superior officer), except then the book took a sharp turn onto Abortion is a Basic Human Right Street and put its foot on the accelerator.  The entire drive for the rest of the book seemed to be producing pregnant teenagers and then getting super angsty about how in Ireland, they can’t just pop off and murder their babies, and how basically every single time someone gets an abortion anywhere in the world, it’s because a young teenage girl has been either raped or seduced by a creepy older man (who is of course “Christian”).  I realize that I’m prolife (unabashedly) and thus am going to be somewhat more sensitive to a strong pro-abortion message (and seriously, this wasn’t a prochoice message, it was literally pro-abortion, there wasn’t a single time that it was mentioned that any of these girls should have been able to choose whether or not to carry their babies to term, it was 100% they should have been allowed access to the abortion that they obviously needed), but this really did feel over-the-top.  It’s been a few weeks since I finished this one, but there were at least SIX pregnant teenagers (three or four of whom had been impregnated in less than a year by the same man), plus two girls that were slightly older, plus the implication that there were even more than the ones they knew about.  Seriously??  It was like a murder mystery where the body count gets wildly out of hand to the point where you can’t believe the murderer has even had time to sit down and eat a decent meal in days because he’s been so busy killing people and hiding bodies.  This was definitely the same thing – it was like this guy had nothing but back-to-back-to-back appointments with vulnerable young girls to sleep with until they got pregnant, to the point that it was genuinely not believable any more.

There was also this whole thing about how the only reason that Ireland hasn’t legalized abortion is because “Christian” charities make SO MUCH MONEY by virtually kidnapping young pregnant girls and forcing them to give birth and then STEALING THEIR BABIES and SELLING THEM to the United States for TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS all of which goes DIRECTLY to American prolife groups!  Because obviously the ONLY way a prolife group could get money is by abusing young women.  And I don’t know much about Ireland’s history, and it’s entirely possible that there were these type of “homes” all over the place that took young women in and then gave their babies up for adoption, but I find it hard to believe that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM also starved, abused, beat, and imprisoned these girls and then forced them into indentured servanthood until they became adults.

By this time, the number of pregnant girls was ridiculous, and Paula’s actions were completely erratic, and I still had no idea what her actual job was.  I was also, frankly, a bit put off by the fact that Paula has sex with THREE different men in this book, and then acts shocked and confused that she’s pregnant in the end!  Two of the people she sleeps with are coworkers/supervisors, which felt uncomfortable and unethical, and the third person is the editor of the newspaper who has been mucking about with their investigation, and thus also felt uncomfortable and unethical, despite the fact that Paula had a backstory with this guy from when they grew up together.  It just seemed like if a male character had had sex with these same types of characters, everyone would think he was a manipulative creep, but Paula is just an Enlighted Woman.  The actual murderer of the girl who is killed felt glaringly obvious (and this from someone who actually is not good at guessing whodunit for the most part) and Paula literally didn’t get it until the killer confessed because she was SO convinced that SHE KNEW who the killer was that she ignored all the contrary evidence.

The whole thing with the pregnant girls was also confusing because the actual motive of this guy was super vague??  Like, okay, he wants to bang teenage girls.  But it seems like there would be a lot of way simpler ways to accomplish this then setting up this entire religious organization with tons of staff members and big community outreaches and stuff??  I was also confused about the fact that they couldn’t prosecute the guy because even though the one girl said he had had sex with her, it was consensual so…  aren’t their laws against adults sleeping with minors even if the minor says it’s okay?? This girl is 15??

There was also this whole other thing where one of the girls who disappeared is from this trailer park or something outside of town and these people hate everyone because of racism, but because I’m not incredibly familiar with Ireland, I never really understood what the racism bit was – like are these gypsies maybe?  Or is it some kind of Muslim community?  I never had any idea what people group these people were, just they hate everyone and everyone hates them.  They also refused to talk with the police and actually physically attacked them like by throwing bricks and crap at them, yet spend all their time being outraged because the police aren’t doing enough to find the missing girl….?!??!?  And everyone else is like, “Boo, police, they are such racists, they don’t even care about this girl!” despite the fact that literally no one in this community would talk with the police except for the girl’s sister and literally the girl’s sister is the ONLY reason they even know the girl is missing!  I was SO confused by this entire aspect of the story.

I realize this book was written and published in Great Britain where presumably people are much more familiar with the culture and history of the area, but it really felt like there could have been at least a few explanatory paragraphs about a couple of historic events that had a big impact on the present story.

Despite all this, I was still willing to go with a 3* rating and try the second book.  I actually did like Paula for the most part, and the pacing of the book was solid, with a lot of likable secondary characters.  The vibe was very Irish, and I genuinely enjoyed the sense of place.  And lots of times the first book in a series is still trying to sort itself out, so I like to give second books a go if the first is at least moderately enjoyable or feels like it has potential.  But within the first few pages of the second book it was obvious that I was going to have to listen to Paula spend pages trying to decide whether or not she should kill her baby (even though she still doesn’t even know who the father is – guess he doesn’t get any sort of say in the matter, as usual), and I knew I simply couldn’t handle it, even if she decided to keep the baby in the end.  So while there were things to like about this book, overall a very choppy and semi-incoherent plot, combined with an incredibly polemic message about abortion, means I can’t quite recommend it.

87th Precinct // Books 6-10 // by Ed McBain

  • Killer’s Payoff (1958) – 4*
  • Lady Killer (1958) – 3.5*
  • Killer’s Wedge (1959) – 3*
  • ‘Til Death (1959) – 4*
  • King’s Ransom (1959) – 3.5*

I read the first five books of this classic series in early April, and this set of five towards the end of the month (yes, I’m a bit behind on reviews as usual haha).  With a total of 55 books to read, I decided chunks of five was the way to go, and so far that feels about right.  These are pretty short, snappy reads (usually only around 150 pages), so reading five at a time gets me into the groove without getting too repetitive.

As with most series, these have their ups and downs, but on the whole I am really enjoying them.  McBain has a wry sense of humor, and for the most part writes likable characters that may have problems or weaknesses, but overall make me want them to win.  The series focuses on the entire group of detectives, although various ones are more prominent and various stories.

Killer’s Payoff and Til Death were my two favorites out of this batch – Till Death probably edges a little bit into the lead.  In that book, one of the detective’s sisters is getting married – and the groom-to-be gets a threatening message on the wedding morning.  The detective invites several of his buddies from the precinct to attend the festivities, and the whole story is a bit of a delightful dashing around (although one characters dies that really made me super sad!).  In Killer’s Payoff, there’s an excellent blackmail angle, although the main detective in that one is single and sort of sleeps his way through the book with various women, which felt a little awkward (although not at all graphic).

Lady Killer and King’s Ransom were fairly average but enjoyable entries to the series.  In Lady Killer the precinct gets a message that The Lady is going to die at 8:00 that night… except they literally have no idea who The Lady is.  The pacing is really good with the impending deadline, and McBain lets us get some glimpses of the murderer-to-be’s activity to that the reader knows the message is for real and not a hoax, as the precinct can’t help but wonder if it is.  King’s Ransom is more of a thoughtful book, a lot more about the people involved rather than the detectives themselves.

I felt that Killer’s Wedge was the weakest of the bunch, although I liked the one side of the plot – a woman walks into the precinct and holds everyone hostage, enraged that her husband died in prison and completely blaming one of the detectives for the death.  She wants to kill the detective she hold accountable, except he isn’t there yet.  So she keeps everyone else hostage until his arrival.  Meanwhile, that detective is investigating an apparent suicide across town – except he isn’t convinced it’s a suicide.  There were a few fairly large weak spots in this book for me.  One was the suicide mystery itself – the whole idea is that the man has to have committed suicide because of being in the locked room.  But the detective has three sons as his suspects… but never seems to think that may the three of them were working together (i.e. one gets locked in with the old man and kills him, and then the other two break down the door).  Meanwhile, back at the precinct, I found myself quite disappointed in the apathetic attitude of the cops being held hostage – I guess they just seem to think if they sit there, the detective will come in, the lady will kill him, and then everyone gets to go home??  There seemed to be a very “oh well” vibe from them that aggravated me to no end and really made me think quite a lot less of them as men!

As you can see, these were published in the 1950’s (and into the 60’s I’m assuming, although I haven’t gotten that far yet), and it’s always fun to me to see little bits of our past culture that no one really remembers or thinks about now.  For instance in one of the books, the way that they trace a suspect’s travels is because before credit cards, you could get a credit book from a specific gas station brand (e.g. Marathon or Gulf) and then every time you fill up, it gets marked in your book and then they send you a bill at the end of the month.  So the detectives were able to find out what gas station this guy used, and then find his credit records to see which gas stations he visited on his trip and thus determine the general area he visited!  I had never even heard of the gas station credit system, so that alone was quite intriguing to me.

Overall, this series has been quite enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to the next batch.  My only real problem is that half of these are only available as large print editions at the library, and while I don’t like reading tiny print (my eyes really aren’t that great), when I’m reading large print I feel like all I am doing is turning pages and not getting anywhere!  Still, I’m interested to see where the series heads, and what else happens in the personal lives of the detectives (one of them got married in one of the first books, and now just found out that his wife is pregnant, so how fun is that??).  They’re definitely the kind of books that you can read independent of one another if you just want to grab one at random and go, but reading them in order is building a lot of fun and interesting background between the main characters.

 

If you’re looking for some quick, snappy, slightly politically-incorrect mysteries, I definitely recommend these.

Pride & Prejudice Variations (again)

Greetings, friends!  Spring is busy as always, which means that blogging takes a bit of a backseat to the rest of my life.  Yesterday I bought some more plants, not because I have an addiction, but because it’s spring and I have to buy plants.  ::shifty eyes::  In case you’re interested (you know you are), I was mainly buying some little bedding annuals to go into containers – verbena, impatiens, salvia, lobelia.  I also got some floating plants for the fish pond, a critical part of keeping the pond at least somewhat clean.  This is both great and also sad because now it means I need to take a day and empty the whole pond and clean it and then refill it.  Funny story, ever since I started getting floating plants every year, I’ve never had to feed our fish.  The fish eat the roots of the floating plants, the floating plants eat all the fish waste, and our pond is just a mini circle of life!

ANYWAY did you actually want to hear about some books??  Spring always makes me feel like reading some fluffy stuff, so here are a few P&P variations I read recently.  All three of them are available on Kindle Unlimited if you’re interested – I like to get KU for a month or so at a time and soak up the P&P haha

Duty Demands by Elaine Owen – 4*

//published 2016//

So I actually really enjoyed this variation (although the cover is rather dreadful).  It starts while Elizabeth is visiting Charlotte in Kent.  Before Darcy’s proposal, Elizabeth receives word that her father has fallen very ill.  He dies before she gets back home.  A few days later, Darcy, via Uncle Gardiner, offers his hand in marriage.  Elizabeth accepts, knowing that this is probably the only way that her family can stay together.  However, she has no idea that love was the motivation behind Darcy’s offer.  Her uncle says he assumes that Darcy is pleased to find a quiet country miss who will basically do his bidding and not make too many demands on his time or purse.  So their marriage begins with Darcy in love – and assuming that Elizabeth at least likes him, since he didn’t receive a severe set-down in Kent, and Elizabeth still completely prejudiced against Darcy and assuming the worst of his motives at every turn.

What I liked here was that the angst felt realistic instead of overly-dramatic.  There weren’t a bunch of horrific villains lurking around every corner.  Instead, Darcy and Elizabeth have to find their way through their misunderstandings together.  This was also a clean retelling, so while there are mentions of the marital bed, there is nothing detailed, which was nice.  All in all a surprisingly pleasant retelling, although a bit towards the soap-opera end of the spectrum.

Miss Darcy’s Companion by Joana Starnes – 4*

//published 2016//

I’ve read a couple of Starnes’s other retellings with mixed results (quite enjoyed The Falmouth Connectionbut The Second Chance was SO boring).  This one was overall enjoyable, although it’s more of an alternate storyline than an actual variation, as nothing really happens the way it does in canon.  Instead, Mr. Bennet has already died before the story opens and through a series of events, Elizabeth ends up working for Darcy as Georgianna’s companion.  I really enjoyed watching the friendship between all three of them grow, and the love story between Elizabeth and Darcy felt natural.  This series of events meant that there wasn’t really a time where Elizabeth didn’t like Darcy, but it did also mean that there was more of a class distinction between them to make things awkward.

Eventually, Darcy goes to London to wrestle with his feelings and decide what he should do about Elizabeth.  While he’s gone, an old family friend begins dropping by and being super smarmy – our old buddy Wickham.  All of the Wickham drama actually felt completely natural for once, and I was genuinely caught up in the WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN bit.  There was a little bit of over-the-top-ness, but overall this was a fun and engaging story with likable characters.  It was also another G-rated version, which, I may have mentioned, is always nice.

Mr. Darcy Dances by Sophie Lynbrook – 3.5*

//published 2017//

A few of Lynbrook’s other variations have also come my way – Lizzy’s Novel was a great concept that felt like it needed a bit more meat to it, and An Odd Situation was also a likable story, although one that really needed more of Elizabeth’s perspective to round it out.  In Mr. Darcy Dances, the story opens with the assembly, except instead of standing around being a snob, Darcy dances every dance!  Throughout the evening, we know that Darcy is determined to annoy Miss Bingley as much as he can, but we aren’t sure exactly why…

This story was a fun play on Elizabeth’s dislike of Darcy, as here she thinks him a rather obnoxious fop.  While I did quite enjoy a lot of things about this version – it was quite fun to have a version that takes place entirely in Hertfordshire with the entire Bennet crew – I was never able to quite buy Darcy unbending to extent that he did during that first evening.  This was another clean version, so it’s good to know that more of those are taking over this genre.

Rearview Mirror // April 2019

The year is flying by!!  April was super busy with lots of good weather, which means lots of getting-outside-stuff for me.  Winter is always so cozy and leisurely, and then spring hits and ALL OF THE THINGS need to get done at once!!  But I actually love getting outside and getting my hands in the dirt, so it’s a good thing.

It’s been kind of a weird month on the blog – just haven’t felt like writing any major reviews, really, so I had three batches of minireviews, plus a batch of minireviews for a new mystery series I started to read.  This always seems to happen to me in the spring, though – just too many other things on my mind!

Favorite April Read:

While I don’t usually like to choose rereads for this slot, I simply have to go with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  This book was just as magical and perfect the second time around, solidifying its position as a book I want to keep rereading in the future!

Most Disappointing April Read:

I’ve had a lot of books that left me feeling rather ambivalent this month, but I think Wednesday Riders was the one that dragged on the longest.  I was just soooo bored over the unnecessary angst.

By the Numbers:

In April…

  • I finished 27 books for a total of 6395 pages, which is pretty average for me – a little over 200 pages per day.
  • My average star rating was 3.67, so up again!  I have really been working on not finishing books I’m not enjoying.
  • As usual, my division between personal books and library/Kindle Unlimited books was about even – 14 from home and 13 from other sources – but I still read way more physical books than Kindle books – only four Kindle titles this month.
  • Funnily enough, I read two books published in 1920 this month – Bruce by Albert Payson Terhune, and Jill the Reckless by P.G. Wodehouse.  However, the 1950s were still by far my most popular decade.  I started reading the 87th Precinct books, so that was ten 1950’s titles right there.  Plus, I’ve gotten far enough along in the Judy Bolton books that they are 1950s publications as well.
  • Besides being my favorite book of the month, The Night Circus was also the longest at 490 pages.  The shortest was Brown Sunshine of Sawdust Valley by Marguerite Henry at only 79 pages (and those include a lot of pictures!).

April DNFs:

Since I’ve been making more of an effort to DNF books that aren’t holding my attention or that I simply don’t like, I thought I’d mention them here.  In April I managed to make myself DNF five books!  That has to be some kind of record for me, as I’ve always been the type to stick it out to the bitter end, which just isn’t a good use of my time!

  • Home Sweet Home by Kim Watters – a Love Inspired title that was just too absurd and also super boring.  I mean seriously, the main character is scared of shopping by because she got lost in a store when she was a toddler???  I really feel like she would have at least learned to deal with it a LITTLE in the intervening thirty years!
  • Libertine in Love by Caroline Courtney – a while back I purchased an entire box of Regency romances on eBay because it had several Georgette Heyer titles I didn’t own.  Now I’m reading through some of the not-Heyer titles, and most of them are TERRIBLE.  In this one, my notes say, “Obviously the responsible guy is going to turn out to be a jerk and the jerk is going to turn out to be super romantic, and I don’t have time in my life for STUPID.”
  • The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan – this one has been on my TBR for a while, although I did see mixed reviews for it from the blogs I follow.  It was an interesting concept but just wasn’t for me.  Sometimes books just weird me out in a bad way, and this was one of them.  There was a lot of Christianity mockery in just the first few chapters, and there was this bizarre thing where it felt like the author was trying to hint that the father of the main character’s baby was the bear…???  I read spoilers so that isn’t true (although the real story was almost as creepy), but the whole thing was just weirding me out.
  • The Telling Pool by David Clement-Davies – I’m usually fairly patient with low-key anti-Christian messages, but I think this book suffered from me starting it directly after DNFing The Gracekeepers, and I just didn’t have the patience to wade through an entire book where a big part of the message is that all Christians are money-grubbing, hateful hypocrites while people who are wiccan are gentle, peaceful, loving souls.  I’m not sure what the obsession is with refusing to write nuanced characters, or acknowledging that there are good and bad people in any category you choose.
  • Lo, Michael by Grace Livingston Hill – at the other end of spectrum, I usually also have a lot of patience of Hill’s sometimes overly-descriptive writing, but I literally could not read a single other sentence about how angelic Michael was in appearance.  I read almost half of this book, and I think half of that was talking about how beautiful Michael was.  I think there was a good story in there somewhere, I just didn’t have the patience to dig for it!

TBR Update:

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  417 (down SEVEN although I will say that I’m behind on reading everyone else’s reviews – my biggest source of TBR additions!!)
  • Nonfiction:  86 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  666 (down one)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  234 (down 20 because I’ve also been working on purging this tab as well, although I haven’t had much time to devote to the project!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 116 (up one)

Awaiting Review:

I’ve read the next five books in the 87th Precinct series, plus four Pride & Prejudice variations (I’ve been on a kick, although I think I may be coming out of it for now).

Currently Reading:

The Indiscretions of Archie by P.G. Wodehouse, and it honestly hasn’t been my favorite of his as the humor is mostly everything Archie tries to do going wrong, which isn’t my favorite kind of laugh – I get secondhand embarrassment too much!!

I’ve technically started (and stalled on) Vietnam: A History, but I do want to pick it back up as well and at least get through the second chapter!

The Probable Next Five(ish) Reads:

I actually did pretty well reading what I anticipated last month, so let’s see what happens with this list!

  • I have the first three books in Claire McGowan’s Paula McGuire series (the library doesn’t have the most recent three), so I’ll be reading those if the first one strikes my fancy.
  • The next three books in the Judy Bolton series – these are the last ones that I own, and I don’t think I can justify purchasing the rest at $12-15/each, which is a shame since I’ve been enjoying the later ones more.  I may invest in them slowly over time!
  • Holiday Havoc by Terri Reed – another Love Inspired book.
  • The Villa by Nora Roberts – someone gave me an entire box of Roberts’s books (do you like how often I receive batches of books in boxes??).  She’s so prolific and I don’t really like all of her books, despite loving the Bridal Quartet so much.  Still, these are in my house, so they’re at least worth reading the first few chapters before chucking them into the Salvation Army bag.
  • Carousel of Hearts by Mary Jo Putney – the next book out of that Regency romance box.

May should be a busy month – my youngest two siblings are graduating high school, Tom and I are going on vacation (hello, Smoky Mountains!!), and I’m hoping to get all the rest of the vegetables into the garden over Memorial Day weekend (so far – onions, peas, radishes, and lettuces are coming up!).  Here’s to lovely weather and productive days!!  Happy May!