Rearview Mirror // August 2022

Okay, it’s only been about a week since July’s Rearview, so maybe I’m making progress after all!

Favorite August Read

My favorite out of my new reads (The Small Bachelor wins overall, but it was a reread) was probably The Hidden Onethe latest in the Kate Burkholder series.  While it wasn’t my favorite book in the series, it was still a really solid installment.

Most Disappointing August Read

Have to go with Pat of Silver Bush.  Even though I had pretty low expectations, it was honestly even worse than I thought it would be.  So sad.

Other August Reads

August Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  18
  • Total Pages Read:  5594
  • Average Star Rating for August:  3.67
  • Longest Book: The Hidden Hand (462 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  The Diary of a Provincial Lady (129 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  The Hidden Hand (published 1859)
  • Newest Book: The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip, The Hidden One, and The It Girl were all published in 2022
  • Top Genre: Happy (my category for fun, low-stress books that aren’t particularly romance) (6 books)
  • Top Format: Hardcover (10 books)
  • Top Source: Owned (12 books)

August Challenge Updates

  • New states visited: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont
  • Chunksters read (800+pgs): 0
  • Almost-a-chunksters read (450-799pgs): 1
  • Classics read: 0
  • Nonfiction read: 1

TBR Update

This is current as of today, not the end of August!!  Since it’s only been a week, there probably won’t be much difference lol …other than me getting another Book Outlet order… whoops!

  • Standalones:  490 (holding steady)
  • Nonfiction:  132 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  601 (holding steady)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  250 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 110 (down one)
  • New Arrivals – (I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read.): 174 (up seven haha)

Current Reads

I’m still reading Middlemarch, Little House on the Prairie, and Frankenstein.  I also started another daily-read book that I just read during lunch, however far I get – nonfiction called Cold War.  Quite interesting so far.

My everyday read right now is the second Cleopatra Fox mystery that I’m buddy reading with my sister, Murder at the Piccadilly Playhouse.

Last Time on “Up Next”

Did I actually read my probable next five reads from last time?

Well, it’s only been a week, so we’ll see…

  • Spider Woman’s Daughter – Nope! This one is still on the shelf, but it’s moved to the back burner for now.
  • Frederica – Yes!  This was a reread but I couldn’t remember all the ins and outs. Georgette Heyer is just perfection, though, and I 100% loved this one.
  • Not That Kind of Guy – Kind of!! I started it, read about 80 pages, and bailed.  It wasn’t even that bad.  I just realized that I’m tired of reading contemporary romances with bitchy leads who excuse their bitchiness by saying all men are jerks and this is just what they have to do to “make it a man’s world” (absolute BS). I was also over here going on and on and on about how she’s SO MUCH OLDER than the love interest… five years is a gap, but it also doesn’t feel like it’s so much of a gap that we need to talk about every other page.  In general, I’m just over contemporary romance because the gap between what’s acceptable to most people (per romance novels, anyway) and my personal beliefs and morals has become so huge that it’s rare for me to find a book that can bridge them. /end rant
  • Murder at the Piccadilly Playhouse – current read!!
  • Songs of Willow Frost – Not yet!!

Up Next

My probable next five reads…

  • Songs of Willow Frost really is going to be one of my next books (I think)
  • Twelve Percent Dread by Emily McGovern – a graphic novel that I may or may not like
  • Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, The Roundhill by Dick King-Smith, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – all of these are really short books that check off challenges for January, so I’ll probably try to read them all by the end of the month, considering they are less than 300 pages altogether!

Woohoo!! That’s August in the books!!  On to September!!

August Minireviews // Part 3

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens – 4*…ish

//published 1870//

Can you give 4* to a book that isn’t even finished?  I actually didn’t realize that this one was never completed until after I had started it.  (Thankfully I found out before I got the abrupt stopping point!)  I would have LOVED to see where this story ended up.  There are some great characters here and some very sinister set-ups.  It seems obvious what is going on – except towards the end of this partial story, Dickens is already starting to muddy the waters.  A really engaging piece of writing, even if it is rather disappointing that it just ends!

Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan – 4*

//published 2021//

I wasn’t expecting to so thoroughly enjoy this OwlCrate book, but I actually was completely engaged with the world-building and characters.  It’s a debut novel, so there were times that the pacing was a little off, but on the whole I definitely wanted to keep reading this Asian-based fantasy.  It’s listed as a standalone and I can find nothing about a potential sequel, but the ending/epilogue of this one definitely gave off “in the next book” vibes, so that was a little confusing.  While looking for information about the nonexistent sequel, I did find an official map on the author’s website – why it wasn’t in the book, I’ll never know, as it was VERY HELPFUL.  I printed it off and stuck it in the book so it will be ready next time I read it!

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way – 4*

//published 2018//

This was a perfectly fine but ultimately forgettable thriller.  I’m never a big fan of the “inherently evil child” trope, but once the other storyline started, I was able to work with them both and wanted to see how they were going to come together.  As with many thrillers, this one works best if you just suspend some disbelief and roll with it. I didn’t want to put it down once I got hooked, which bumped it up to 4* for me.

The Hidden Hand by E.D.E.N. Southworth – 4*

//published 1859//

Originally published in 1859, this book was reissued by Lamplighter Press back in the 1990s.  Keeping in mind the publication date, you would be correct in assuming that there are language and actions that don’t fit our modern sensibilities, but I found it to honestly be a completely engaging look at life in the “wilds“ of the Virginia mountains. “Old Hurricane“ is an Revolutionary War veteran who, through a series of events, ends up adopting an orphan girl named Capitola, mainly for his own selfish reasons – Cap is actually the long-lost heiress of a neighboring estate, currently owned by Hurricane’s arch-enemy. However, Hurricane is not remotely nefarious (although very temperamental) and soon is completely won over by Cap’s bold, saucy ways. Cap is no missish heroine, waiting to be rescued. She makes things happen, charging about the countryside on her pony, rescuing people herself, and causing all sorts of trouble. This story is completely ridiculous, with melodramatic villains, sweeping coincidences at every turn, and plenty of absurdities, but I honestly enjoyed every page.

I Found You by Lisa Jewel – 4*

//published 2016//

Pacey, engaging, and intriguing, this was a solid thriller that kept me going.  Even though I figured out parts of it ahead of time, I didn’t solve all of it.  I’ve really enjoyed all of the Lisa Jewel books I’ve read so far, and have several more on the shelf that I want to get to soon.

August Minireviews // Part 2

Another random collection of August reads!!

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit – 4*

//published 1906//

I absolutely love Nesbit’s books, and this one did not disappoint.  I think I had read it a long time ago, but couldn’t really remember how any of it went.  The story and characters are just delightful.  The adventures could be a bit of a stretch – just how many lives can one family of children save?? – but all in good fun.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield – 3.5*

//published 1930//

This one was a Traveling Book Club book, and it was pretty fun on the whole, but there was just this edge of bitterness (?) to the whole thing that made it feel not quite as lighthearted as it appears at first.  I enjoy ‘slice of life’ types of stories, so even though really nothing happens in this book other than a family living their life with the usual trials, I still found this enjoyable. The PL is a delightfully self-depreciating narrator, her sense of humor is strong, and I loved all of her side queries of introspection throughout her diary. There are some fun little adventures, and it’s an interesting glimpse of the everyday life of this place and time.

I found both the beginning and the ending to be quite abrupt, as though this book really was a random section of someone’s diary. I was also endlessly aggravated by the nearly constant quotes from the French governess, never translated yet placed in the text in a way to make it unclear as to what is being said. (It would be something like, “Couldn’t believe it was time for him to leave already. [French quote] Not sure that I can agree with these sentiments, but can’t deny that they were warmly expressed.”) I spent way too much time translating French to English just so I could confirm that she had said something like, “They grow up so fast” or something equally not-really-contributing-to-the-conversation.

Final (minor) gripe for this one is that it honestly did feel a little sad, in the sense that I’m not completely convinced that the PL is really happy. She seems to spend so much time worrying about what other people think or are saying, and spends money she doesn’t want to spend on things she thinks other people think she needs, if that makes sense. I realize that’s supposed to be part of the humor, but I just found myself wanting to reassure her that it really doesn’t matter what all those people think!

However, on the whole I really did enjoy this one. Not my new all-time favorite, and I’m not sure that I will follow the PL on her other adventures, but still a pleasant little read.

The Small Bachelor by P.G. Wodehouse – 5*

//published 1927//

I reviewed this one detail when I read it back in 2016, but suffice to say that it was just as delightful this time around.  The characters, the dialogue, the descriptions, the plot – all fabulous.  My only real beef with this one is that it’s set in New York City instead of in England where all of Wodehouse’s characters belong.  Nonetheless, if you combine these plot elements, how can you go wrong?  – A young man falls in love with a young woman he sees out on the street; another fellow writes informative and educational pamphlets and scorns the concept of love at first sight; an ex-con valet tries to go straight and encourages his pickpocket fiancee to do the same; a man is bullied by this 2nd wife who holds the purse strings; a policemen is trying to become a poet; a young English lord is hungry a lot; and there’s about to be a raid on The Purple Chicken, where you can always get IT if you know the right people. I don’t know how Wodehouse hits it out of the park basically every time, but this one is another winner for me.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware – 3.5*

//published 2022//

Sometimes I’m willing to suspend disbelief a bit if a thriller keeps me turning the pages, and this one definitely fell into that category.  There were parts I found a bit ridiculous, and it was a one-off read for me (not one I’ll come back to again and again) BUT it kept me up way past my bedtime because I wanted to find out what happened, so it deserves some kudos for that.  I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the ending – just because you find out someone didn’t do one specific bad thing doesn’t mean that that person is completely blameless of everything else – but all in all a solid thriller.

Pat of Silver Bush // by L.M. Montgomery

//published 1933//

I didn’t really think I was going to read a Montgomery book that I liked less than Emily’s Quest, but Pat was a complete bust for me.  This was another of Montgomery’s books that Mom told me, back when I was a kid, not to bother reading, and, as usual, Mom was right!

Note: This review WILL contain spoilers both for this book and its sequel, which I didn’t read (but had Mom summarize haha), Mistress Pat.  

First off, this book is somewhat boring compared to other Montgomery stories. It should have been titled “Judy of Silver Bush” because huge chunks of the book are just Judy – the housekeeper/cook/etc. – telling telling random stories about random people we don’t know and never will know, all in a somewhat annoying Irish brogue (delightful to hear in real life, annoying to read). Judy heads up the “let’s enable Pat in her unhealthy aversion to change” club, constantly sheltering her and scolding the family if they don’t treat Pat with the reverence she “deserves.” Don’t get me wrong – I liked Judy just fine, I just felt like a lot of this book focused just as much on her as the titular character.

Generally, Montgomery does a good job sketching characters and making me feel as though I know them, but that was completely lacking here. Even Pat herself can basically be summed up with “hates change and is obsessed with Silver Bush” and that’s pretty much her entire character. It took me several chapters to even know which names belonged to actual siblings because Montgomery (weirdly) doesn’t particularly introduce them. We’re told repeatedly that Pat and Sid are best friends (Sid is a brother), but absolutely never see that actually happening on the page – in fact, we mostly see the opposite, times when he lets Pat down or doesn’t understand her or keeps going out with the one girl Pat can’t stand at school. I absolutely never bought Pat and Sid being BFFs and was persistently puzzled as to why Pat would for one second depend on Sid for her future happiness, i.e. being so convinced that he really wasn’t ever going to get married and that they could just live at Silver Bush together forever.  (Spoilers:  Did Montgomery already know what she was going to write in Mistress Pat?  It felt like a lot of arbitrary things that happened in this book were just to set up all the absolutely horrific things she planned to do to these characters in the sequel.  I definitely felt like she killed off Bets just so Sid could marry the dreadful Binnie girl in the second book.  Knowing that was what was going to happen definitely made me enjoy this book a lot less, and it also contributed to my “why in the heck does Pat think so highly of Sid” feelings.)

Nothing happens in this book. Many of Montgomery’s books are somewhat episodic, but perhaps because she was covering so many years (10+) this one just felt rather scattered, with no consistent storyline to further what was happening. It’s just “here’s a random thing that happened. Here’s Judy telling some irrelevant stories. Oh, that Judy, so funny! Hey, here are some descriptive paragraphs about nature!” This book just wasn’t actually GOING anywhere.

I think what really got me about this book is that Pat has ZERO character growth. Other Montgomery heroines actually change – Anne, Emily, Jane, Valancy, even Marigold – but Pat is completely stagnant as a person and as a character. At the beginning of the book, she has completely meltdowns any time there is even a POSSIBILITY of something changing (her pouting around and refusing to eat because her sister MIGHT stay with family in a nearby town to go to a better school? I almost stopped reading after that because she annoyed me so much. What an absolute brat), and at the end of the book – she still does! She consistently doesn’t care about what is best for the people she supposedly loves, because what is best for people is for them to change and grow and go on to live their own lives and Pat doesn’t want that to happen. She’s so petty about everything – people going to school, people pursuing other careers, people getting married, freaking people deciding to shave off their own moustache – because it messes up HER little perfect life that she can’t BEAR to see changed. And instead of her family gently helping her learn that CHANGE IS PART OF LIFE, they all just handle her with kid gloves and go out of their way to avoid upsetting her. (And hey, here’s a tip, maybe part of the reason Pat doesn’t like leaving home is because you all freaking wait until she’s gone and then go on with some major change you know she’s going to hate and haven’t bothered to remotely prepare her for, like cut down trees! And then act all surprised when she doesn’t want to leave anymore! Maybe absolutely blindsiding someone with huge changes isn’t actually the best way to help them learn to deal with change in a health manner!)

At the beginning of the book, Pat is literally obsessed with Silver Bush and it being the perfect place and her never leaving there and always living there, and basically she worships Silver Bush. In the end – it’s the same. She doesn’t actually try anything new, beyond one year of school in a nearby town, and instead just comes back home to Silver Bush. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a homemaker, I love it, I love my home and I love my family and I love caring for them. I think being a homemaker is a noble and beautiful thing, and just as important, valid, and useful as a “career.” HOWEVER Pat’s situation is simply NOT HEALTHY. She only wants to care for Silver Bush because it means she can keep everything the same as it has always been.

I found Pat annoying as a small child at the beginning of the story, and found myself genuinely worried about her when she was a young woman at the end. She had learned nothing, had not grown or developed, and her obsession with keeping things the same had, I think, reached the point of mental illness by the end of the book. By the time you’re 19 you should be old enough to realize that change is part of life, and while it can be sad or upsetting, you can’t stop it, and pouting and crying and making everyone around you feel bad doesn’t actually solve the problem or prevent the change.

2* because there were some brief moments of storytelling that were engaging, but in the end – Mom, you were right. The Pat books really aren’t worth my time.

August Minireviews // Part 1

August was an insanely busy month for me at the orchard – we had a huge peach crop and were quite short-staffed.  My reading definitely suffered as a result – I only read 18 books, which is about 10 fewer than my average.  And as usual, they were quite the mixed bag!!

Nudges by Loren Anderson – 3.5*

//published 2021//

Loaned to me by a friend, this book was written by a man who was a missionary to Guatemala.  Having been to Guatemala myself, I was interested to read this one.  However, the execution was a little flat – in some ways, this book almost felt like a thank you letter to the many people who have helped and inspired Anderson and his wife through the years, and there were times that I wanted to hear more about what they were doing rather than who was doing it, if that makes sense.  Much of this story takes place in 1950s and 60s, and Anderson and his family DROVE from Ohio to Guatemala more than once!!  Those are the types of things I would have liked to have read about in more detail, but are just sort of glossed over.  All in all, a perfectly nice book, but I just didn’t find it as engaging as I wanted to.

Rosalind by Clarice Peters – 3.5*

//published 1985//

This book was just so close to being fun.  There are some engaging characters and witty dialogue, but it also felt like the author had ideas for about a dozen different stories and decided to cram them all into this 203 page book.  There was just way too much going on, so the story felt cluttered and choppy.  A lot of potential here, but it just didn’t work.

The Hidden One by Linda Castillo – 4*

//published 2022//

I’m always excited to read the next installment in the Kate Burkholder series.  I absolutely love Kate and have so enjoyed watching her character grown and develop throughout the series.  This is the 14th book, and while you don’t HAVE to read them in order, it definitely gives the characters more depth and interest if you do.  I’m always a bit sad when the story takes place away from Painters Creek, but on the other hand, how many murderous Amish people can you plausibly have in one community??  The pacing here was good, and while I guessed some of what was coming, I didn’t guess all of it.  Another solid installment.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow – 3.5*

//published 2019//

This is one of those books that I feel like I saw everywhere for a while.  As usual, I’m late to the party.  My main issue with this book was that January herself felt a little slow on the uptake.  There were several things that I figured out way, way, WAY before she did, to the point that it was making her seem kind of slow and stupid that she didn’t see these things and how they connected and who was really the bad guy, etc.  The world-building was interesting and I did LIKE January, but the pacing in this one was off.

The Secret Road by Bruce Lancaster – 3.5*

//published 1952//

Another one that I’ve owned FOREVER, finally off the list.  Historical fiction set during the Revolutionary War – the most unbelievable part of this one was the love story, which felt like it was getting in the way of the story instead of furthering it.  There is some fun spy action here and fairly likable characters, but the ending was quite abrupt and left me wanting some more resolution.

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa – 2.5*

//published 2020//

This one just didn’t hit the right notes for me.  Lina was super annoying and spent most of her time whining about how she has to work 50x harder than everyone else because she’s a WOMAN trying to make it in a MAN’S WORLD (…of wedding planning…) blah blah blah.  Don’t care, Lina.  Max felt like a manic-pixie-dream-feminist-man-who-says-all-the-right-things-as-though-it’s-a-script.  Literally, has Sosa even MET a man?  Max was incredibly boring, trite, and unrealistic.  He felt like a doll where you pull the string and a little feminist by-line comes out.  To top it all off, we included one of my absolutely least-favorite tropes, the “we’re just having sex; it doesn’t mean anything” bit – UGH.  Gross, stupid, and annoying.  There are loads of positive reviews for this one, and plenty of people found it fun and funny, but although it had it’s moments here and there, on the whole it just wasn’t for me.

Rearview Mirror // July 2022

Only six months behind, not too bad!  LOL

Favorite July Read

My favorite book of the month was my reread of Wodehouse’s The Girl on the Boat, but out of the new books I read, I think Nightwork by Nora Roberts takes the slot.

Most Disappointing July Read

I read a lot of 3* meh kind of reads in July, but I think the one I disliked the most was probably the short story collection Summer Days and Summer Nights.  It was really disappointing that there wasn’t a single story in the entire book that I would have given more than 3* to.  They were uniformly pretty poor.

Other July Reads

July Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  21
  • Total Pages Read:  6821
  • Average Star Rating for June:  3.71
  • Longest Book: Black Hills (439 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  Her Mother’s Keeper (169 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  The Picture of Dorian Gray (published 1891)
  • Newest Book: Nightwork (published 2022)
  • Top Genre: Romance (14 books)
  • Top Format: Hardcover (10 books)
  • Top Source: Library (10 books)

July Challenge Updates

  • New states visited: Hawaii, Oregon, South Dakota, and Virginia
  • Chunksters read (800+pgs): 0
  • Almost-a-chunksters read (450-799pgs): 0
  • Classics read: 2
  • Nonfiction read: 0

TBR Update

This is current as of today, not the end of July!!  However, I did note down my stats at the end of 2022, so if I ever get to the point where I can review the year as a whole, I’ll be able to compare it to the end of 2021 and see if I made any progress!!

  • Standalones:  490 (up a tragic 20 because I actually moved over books from various “wishlists” onto my TBR where they belong haha)
  • Nonfiction:  132 (up one)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  601 (down three)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  250 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 110 (down one)
  • New Arrivals – (I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read.): 167 (down one)

Current Reads

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot – Still try to work my way through some classics, so when a group on Litsy decided to buddy read this on start January 1, I went ahead and jumped in.  So far, it’s astoundingly boring.  Just.  So.  Boring.  Only 711 pages left to go!!
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Another Litsy buddy read, this one through the Little House books.  I’ve been meaning to reread these for eons, so it’s been quite enjoyable to get back into these.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – As I did last year, I’m utilizing my BookSpin challenge to start a classic every month and read at least a chapter a day until I’m through it.  I got through several books I never would have read otherwise this way last year, and I’m excited about my fresh new list!!  Frankenstein was first up on the random draw.  Interesting-ish so far, but really different from what I was expecting.
  • The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman – I’m still working through the Leaphorn and Chee series – this is book 18!!  It’s also the last one that Hillerman wrote before he died.  The series has been taken over by his daughter, so I’m interested to see where she goes with the characters.  Sometimes having the next generation works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
  • Cold War by Jeremy Isaacs and Taylor Downing  – you may or may not have noticed that my nonfiction list never seems to get any shorter!!  Another thing to work on this year!!!

Last Time on “Up Next”

Did I actually read my probable next five reads from last time?

  • Full Moon by P.G. Wodehouse – Yes!  As always, a very fun romp.  I absolutely love his Blandings Castle books, and this one did not disappoint.
  • A Treason of Thorns by Laura Weymouth – Yes!  This was definitely a case of I wanted to like it more than I did.
  • The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman – Yes!  A solid Leaphorn and Chee installment.
  • Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik – Nope!  Still hoping to make some progress on this series, though.  Someday.
  • Greywaren by Maggie Stiefvater – Nope!  Definitely planning to read this concluding book one of these days, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

Up Next

The probable next five(ish) reads –

  • Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman – the next Leaphorn and Chee book, and the first written by Tony Hillerman’s daughter.
  • Frederica by Georgette Heyer – this month’s traveling book club book is a reread for me, but one I love and am looking forward to revisiting.
  • Not That Kind of Guy by Andie Christopher – I absolutely LOATHED Not the Girl You Marry by this author.  However, I already had this one on my shelf.  On of my random StoryGraph challenges I am doing this year is “Read Your TBR by Color” – with one color for each month; find a book on your shelf that color and read it haha  Since January is pink, I picked this one. Time to either DNF or read it!
  • Murder at the Piccadilly Playhouse by C.J. Archer – my sister started reading this historical mystery series, and decided that I should read it with her, so this is the second Cleopatra Fox book.
  • Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford – a random TBR book that has been on my list forever.  Not sure if it’s going to end up being “my” kind of book or not.

Alright!! July is checked off the list!  On to August… hopefully before February!!

July Minireviews // Part 3

I’ve long decided that the idea of me ever being caught up on reviews is kind of hopeless.  But now I find myself wondering the opposite – is it possible that I will eventually become so far behind on reviews that readers won’t even know which July I am referring to without further explanation??  Only time will tell.

At any rate, Happy New Year!! And here are some books I read back when it was a million degrees out and super muggy.

Nightwork by Nora Roberts – 4*

//published 2022//

Continuing my July Roberts binge, I also picked up her latest novel.  I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for this one, and even though I, personally, enjoyed it, I can understand why a lot of people didn’t.  It’s really more of a story about the main character, Harry Booth, than it is about romance or suspense – which is a bit of a departure from most of the Roberts books I’ve read.  The story starts with Harry as a small boy.  His single mother has cancer and can only work irregularly so they struggle to make ends meet.  Harry starts stealing, and, as he grows into adulthood, becomes a con artist and a professional thief.  Despite Harry’s job, this story was slow, and the heists never felt particularly pulse-pounding.  Personally, I liked Harry as a character, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the various places he lived and worked (especially New Orleans), so I enjoyed the book.  But both the romance and the suspense are on the slow side, so this one probably isn’t for everyone.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym – 4*

//published 1952//

I read this one as a buddy read with a group on Litsy.  It definitely wasn’t a book that I would have picked up on my own, but I ended up enjoying it, especially at the chapter-a-day pace.  It’s not a particularly fast-paced read, a story of an older spinster just after WWII.  It’s an interesting look at a specific layer of British society, one of a generation of women whose potential husbands were slaughtered on the battlefields.  I ended up liking Mildred and sympathizing with her quiet, industrious life, where most of her work was taken for granted.  I was a little let down by the ending, which felt rather sitcom-like, where everyone just ends up exactly where they started, but overall while this wasn’t a new favorite that I see myself reading time and again, I found to be an engaging, quiet novel.

A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery – 4*

//published 1931//

It had been probably 15-20 years since my last reread of this one.  It was never one of my favorite Mongomery’s growing up, but I appreciated it a lot more now than I did when I was in my early 20s, finding several of the storylines a bit more sympathetic.  There are a lot of characters here and a lot of threads (hence the title), so there are definitely stories within this one that I prefer to others.  The Sams were never my favorites before or now, and it does make me sad that their weird racism bit is the what comprises the final pages of this book, considering that the rest of the novel is old-fashioned but pleasantly so.  This isn’t where I would start with Montgomery’s books, and it’s definitely more adult than many of her other novels, but there are plenty of enjoyable characters and interesting motivations here.  This was an especially fun one to read with the Kindred Spirits group on Litsy as there is a lot to discuss!!

Lost Lake by Phillip Margolin – 3.5*

//published 2005//

I really enjoy Margolin’s legal thrillers.  This one wasn’t my favorite, but it still kept me turning the pages.  Ami is a single mother and struggling attorney.  She rents out the apartment above her garage for extra income, and her latest tenant seems like a regular, kind man a little older than herself.  But when he goes berserk at her son’s baseball game and almost kills someone with his bare hands, Ami sees an entirely different side of him.  Now in prison, he shares an almost unbelievable story with her, about a secret group of trained killers, hired by the government entirely off the books and headed up by a famous general who is now running for president.  His story is corroborated by the General’s own daughter, Vanessa – who had a mental breakdown in her past and spent time in a mental hospital, meaning that now no one takes her accusations very seriously.  Margolin does a great job of presenting information against the General that makes you think Carl and Vanessa are right, followed by the General explaining away everything in a perfectly reasonable manner, leaving you convinced that Carl (a Vietnam vet) and Vanessa are actually just paranoid and delusional, pitiable individuals who need help.  However, this did mean that book was slightly repetitive at times, especially when we would hear about something from Carl’s view, than Vanessa’s, then the General’s.  And towards the end of the book there is a big courtroom scene where everything is summed up in far too much detail – like, I literally just read the book?? I don’t need an entire chapter-long synopsis!  However, I genuinely didn’t know who to believe up until the ending, so, a good one-time read, but not my new favorite by this author.

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan – 4*

The final book in the Percy Jackson series wrapped everything up nicely.  On the whole, while I enjoyed the series just fine, it didn’t really reach out and grab me.  There are various spinoff and other related series, but I don’t see myself picking up any of the others.

July Minireviews // Part 2

It’s -3* right now, so this seems like a good time to travel back to July in my mind…

(I wrote most of this post just before Christmas but didn’t finish it – a bit warmer now, a whopping 42*!!)

Her Mother’s Keeper by Nora Roberts – 3*

//This one included Her Mother’s Keeper (published 1983) and Island of Flowers (published 1982)//

I was actually sick in July, so I went on a bit of a Nora Roberts binge, reading four of her books in pretty short order.  What can I say?  She’s a comfort author for me haha

Unfortunately, this was definitely one of her weaker stories – even 3* may be generous.  Gwen is worried that her mother, who lives by herself in a large, rambling house in the bayou, is being taken in by her latest boarder.  Gwen heads home to make sure her mother isn’t in trouble, believing that her mother and Luke are romantically involved, despite Luke being almost 20 years younger than Gwen’s mother, and despite Gwen having zero proof that this is happening.  This misunderstanding drags through the entire book, when normal people would just have a five-minute conversation along the lines of, “Oh, you must be my mom’s boyfriend” “What? No, I’m not”.  Like I get that we need conflict to make a story, but this conflict was so unbelievable that it made the whole story annoying.  Plus, this is the somewhat-typical 80s romance where there is a lot of grabbing and kissing in lieu of actual conversation.  All in all, this wasn’t terrible for a one-off read, especially if you’re running a fever and drifting in and out of sleep, but it’s not one I would particularly recommend.

Island of Flowers by Nora Roberts – 3.5*

Following the theme of “a simple conversation would solve a lot of problems,” in this one Laine is traveling to Hawaii to reconnect with her dad after years of not hearing from him.  However, her dad’s business partner, Dillon, is convinced that Laine is just trying to get her dad’s money, so he pretty much treats her like garbage the entire time.  Of course, it turns out that Laine’s dad actually had been sending Laine letters and money through the years, but Laine’s selfish mother (now deceased) never told Laine about any of it, which is where the “we could have a simple conversation” bit comes in.  Dillon was definitely not the hero for me, as frankly he was an ass the entire time, one minute being all romancy and then the next minute accusing Laine of being a con-artist and treating her like trash.  He’s the reason that this book wasn’t a win for me.  However, Roberts’s descriptions of Hawaii were amazing and totally made me want to go there, despite the fact that I’m not really into beaches or warm weather (or flying), so there’s that.

Black Hills by Nora Roberts – 4*

//published 2009//

This is a newer Roberts novel, and it really is interesting to me how much her work has matured over the years.  This one is somewhat of a romantic suspense and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Lil has always loved her childhood home in South Dakota, and has fulfilled her dream of opening a large-cat wildlife sanctuary there.  (Random, I know, but Roberts makes it work.)  Growing up, her neighbors’ grandson, Cooper, used to come and stay with them, and the two of them were best friends, who fell in love in high school.  But then Cooper OF COURSE broke her heart and headed off to The Big City to become a Hotshot Lawyer.  Now he’s back because his grandparents are in poor health.  Sparks fly between them, while at the same time someone seems intent on shutting down Lil’s sanctuary, as several instances of sabotage occur.

Overall, I did enjoy this one a lot.  The whole sabotage storyline kept the pace up, and I did like Lil a lot.  However, it’s been something like 12 years since Cooper broke her when she was 19, and it felt like she was really hanging onto the bitterness/suspicion way too long.  I can understand not just like leaping into his arms, but at some point you need to move on.  Cooper was also an uneven character – he starts off treating Lil like trash, then all of the sudden is like, “actually it’s because I’ve been in love with you forever!!!!!!”  There’s also a secondary love story going on that I either wanted more of or less of, because while I totally shipped it, sometimes it just felt like filler wedged in here and there, and it felt clunky.

While this wasn’t my new favorite Roberts, it’s one I can see myself rereading, especially when I need to check South Dakota off my read-the-USA list!

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – 4*

//published 1891//

This is one of those classics that it feels like I should have read but never had.  While I didn’t love it, I did find it engaging.  My edition had notes about the differences between Wilde’s original book and the additions he made for a later edition, which was interesting.  This one gave me the creeps in a good way.

The Girl on the Boat by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5*

//published 1922//

A reread for me, this isn’t my favorite Wodehouse, but it’s still a great deal of fun, as always.  Billie is a bit of a flake, but there are plenty of ridiculous shenanigans and fabulous one-liners.  Basically, if you enjoy Wodehouse, you’ll probably like this one as it is pretty typical fare.

July Minireviews // Part 1

Okay, July!! Woohoo!!

Also!  I happened to be on my phone the other day and looked at something on my blog and realized that the mobile version has decided to completely ignore my paragraph breaks!  I don’t really know how to fix that – maybe I should go back to the old-school method of inserting the paragraph symbol whenever a new one is started?? ¶  So apologies to anyone who may attempt to read these posts on mobile as apparently WordPress is determined to make me look a bit ridiculous, probably because I insist on using the Classic Editor instead of the horrific Block Editor that I genuinely hate.  Lack of paragraph breaks is a small price to pay to avoid that atrocity!

Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier – 3.5*

//published 1956//

Apparently this one was also published as The Silver Sword.  Set in Warsaw during WWII, the story follows a family whose parents are arrested by the Nazis, leaving the children alone and homeless.  Their father manages to escape the prison camp, but doesn’t know how to find the children.  Meanwhile, the children decide to try and make it to Switzerland to their mother’s family and begin a cross-country journey.  Along the way they pick up another orphan who has been living on the streets even longer than they have, mostly by stealing stuff.  He’s quite obnoxious and drove me crazy for the entire book.  This wasn’t a bad story, but was a bit disjointed.  An author’s note explained that although he made up this story, he based their adventures on various true stories, which could account for the way this book felt like it was kind of pulling together bits and bobbles that didn’t always go together.  I think this also greatly increased the “we need a coincidence to move this along” factor.  It wasn’t at all a bad book, and I can see the middle grade audience for which it’s intended getting very caught up in the drama and excitement, but this one did go into the giveaway box when I was done reading it.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson – 4*

//published 2015//

I’ve been working my way through Swanson’s backlog of books, and I feel like this is the one that always comes the most highly recommended.  While it was a good, pacey thriller, I didn’t absolutely love it.  Swanson has an amazing knack for being able to keep me 100% engaged in a book to the point that I really don’t notice all the niggling coincidences and inconsistencies and completely lack of character development until I’m done!  So he gets great kudos for keeping me in the moment, but maybe not so much for actual writing lol  I also get a little exasperated that he seems to think that sex is the ONLY motivation for 100% of men and 98% of women.  Like no one does anything unless the angle involves sex in some way, and that gets old to me.  But still – his pacing is impeccable.  It’s rare for me to start one of his books and not finish it within 24 hours!

Harbor Lights by Sherryl Woods – 3*

//published 2009//

Another mediocre installment to the Chesapeake Shores series.  Woods has a great habit of writing a book that I’m totally fine with it until she gets to the final drama and then I just want to bonk everyone’s heads together.  Just.  Why.  In this one, Kevin is a widower with a young son (I think… maybe it was a daughter, I can’t remember, this was back in July haha) and he meets the new girl in town, Shanna, who is opening a bookstore.  Kevin spends literally the entire book (because he has ZERO character growth) saying things like, “I really like Shanna but I want to take it slow” which honestly makes sense given his relationship history.  Consequently, while I generally enjoy books with large, boisterous, slightly-obnoxious families, the O’Brians really got on my nerves here as they just were constantly trying to force Kevin to up his relationship with Shanna, to the point that I was starting to cringe every time they all got together.  There was one particularly dreadful scene where Kevin’s in-laws (parents of his deceased wife) are there to visit their grandson, and while at supper with the whole family, Kevin’s sisters start teasing him about Shanna, despite the fact that it’s obviously making the in-laws, who are still, you know, mourning the death of their daughter, seriously uncomfortable.  It was terrible!  This isn’t that much of a spoiler, because these books are designed to have the HEA, but even the proposal at the end made NO sense.  Kevin literally says something like, “I still really think we need to take this relationship slowly because I’m not sure of myself” and Shanna is like, “Look, I need some actual commitment from you if you want to keep going” (which I honestly also thought was fair) and Kevin IN THE SAME CONVERSATION where he has JUST SAID that he IS NOT READY to progress this relationship PULLS AN ENGAGEMENT RING OUT OF HIS POCKET and says, “oh wow you’re right, we should go ahead and get married, I am 100% on board with this”  WHAT??!?!?!!  I couldn’t deal.

Summer Days and Summer Nights by various authors – 3*

//published 2016//

I got this collection of short stories from Book Outlet for a dollar or two, but didn’t pay very close attention and thus didn’t realize that they were actually all YA stories.  Whew boy, there were some doozies in here.  And maybe it was just me, I actually didn’t realize it but I was getting sick the two days I was reading this book (maybe this book got me sick?  Could be), but none of these stories hit right for me.  They were pretty much just girl meets boy, they argue, they fall in love, now they’re together forever!  I read these kinds of collections in hopes that a new author will tickle my fancy, but while most of these were okay, none of them really wowed me.

A Chesapeake Shores Christmas by Sherryl Woods – 3.5*

//published 2010//

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I went ahead and picked up the next Chesapeake Shores book even though Kevin had driven me batty in the previous book.  The background story of this entire series is that the parents, Mick and Megan, got divorced back in the day, but now that all the kids are grown, Mick wants to try their relationship again.  It’s actually handled pretty well, with all of the now-adult children coming to grips with their parents having their own reasons for why the relationship didn’t work, and neither Mick nor Megan completely blaming the other for the failure of their marriage, and both of them admitting that they screwed up with how they handled it.  But for the last couple of books they have slowly been trying to rebuild something between them, and this book focuses on the two of them.

Here’s my problem with all of the books by this author that I’ve read so far.  She introduces a legitimate concern between the two potential lovers.  The characters discuss it and try to work through things throughout the story.  Then, in the end, they’re just like, “yay, we’re in love, everything is good!” WITHOUT ACTUALLY FIXING THE PROBLEM.   Like I get that I’m supposed to get a HEA here, that’s the whole point of reading this, but why introduce a problem that you aren’t going to solve??  It leaves me feeling like these characters aren’t actually going to have a successful relationship long-term.  And that was the case here – I actually really like Mick and Megan together and feel like they have made some great progress over the course of the first three books, but there is this whole thing with Megan’s art gallery that is a huge part of what they are trying to work out, and in the end it’s just kind of glossed over like of course everything is going to fall into place, despite the fact that it has NOT fallen into place during ANY conversation so far!  It’s what keeps making these books a soft pick for me.  Why do I keep reading the next one???  I can’t even explain it LOL

Rearview Mirror // June 2022

Hey friends!  It’s November, so that seems like a great time to talk about June!  :-D

Favorite June Read

I actually read a lot of books I really enjoyed in June, so it’s a toss-up.  I think the leading edge probably goes to Book Loversthough.  It was fun and the banter was fantastic.

Most Disappointing June Read

Probably By Your Side.  I’ve enjoyed several of West’s other books but this one just got on my nerves for some reason.

Other June Reads

June Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  25
  • Total Pages Read:  8945
  • Average Star Rating for June:  3.71
  • Longest Book: Gone With the Wind (959 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  The Randolphs (149 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (published 1848)
  • Newest Book: Book Lovers, Something Wilder, The Sweet Life, and The League of Gentlewomen Witches (all published 2022)
  • Top Genre: Romance (8 books)
  • Top Format: Paperback (14 books)
  • Top Source: Library (8 books)

June Challenge Updates

  • New states visited: Georgia, North Carolina, and Utah!
  • Chunksters read (800+pgs): 1
  • Almost-a-chunksters read (450-799pgs): 1
  • Classics read: 4
  • Nonfiction read: 3

TBR Update

This is current as of today, not the end of June!!

  • Standalones:  470 (down ten!)
  • Nonfiction:  131 (up one)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  604 (down seventeen!!! AND I have past the halfway mark – I have more in the “read” column than in the “unread” column!  Because yes, I do own over 1200 books LOL)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  250 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 111 (holding steady)
  • New Arrivals – (I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read.): 168 (holding steady)

Current Reads

Right now I am reading –

  • Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon – an interesting read, definitely more biographical and less story than I was expecting, but still engaging.  This is a chapter-a-day read for me.
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker – I started this one with the #DraculaDaily craziness and even though I’m a bit behind, I am swiftly closing in on the conclusion of this classic.
  • The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery – This is our #KindredSpiritsBuddyRead for November and one that I have somehow never read.  It was published posthumously in the early 2000s and is a collection of poetry and short stories.
  • Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts – My current “main” read.

Last Time on “Up Next”

Did I actually read my probable next five reads from last time?

  • The Hidden One by Linda Castillo – Yes! Another solid entry for the Kate Burkholder series, which I love.
  • The It Girl by Ruth Ware -Yes!  Enjoyable but forgettable.
  • His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik – Yes!  This one was rather slow in spots but still interesting enough that I’m planning to read the next in the series.
  • Moonlight Cove by Sherryl Woods – Yes! But overall this series just isn’t doing much for me.  I’m undecided whether or not I’m going to continue on.
  • Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron – Nope – but I tried.  As I suspected, a fictional story wherein a real-life person is the main character just didn’t click for me.

Up Next

The probable next five(ish) reads –

So for November I’m trying to finish/progress a few series that I’m in the middle of, plus I have a couple of traveling book club books to get through.  I’m mostly busy planning my December TBR of absolute Christmas FLUFF.  SO EXCITED.  But before then I’m hoping to read –

  • Full Moon by P.G. Wodehouse – The four of us who created a “happy books” traveling book club group enjoyed it so much that we’re doing another round.  I contributed a Wodehouse last time as well, because I believe he is the ultimate in happy stories!! This one is a Blandings Castle tale – love it!!
  • Treason of Thorns by Laura Weymouth – At the last minute I spontaneously joined a second traveling book club group, this one focused on fantasy.  Probably going to be a mixed bag.  I have this one unread on my shelf, so I decided to give it a go.
  • The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman – If I’m really lucky, I’ll even read more than one Leaphorn and Chee book!!
  • Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik – I’d really love to read the next book or two in this series as well.
  • Greywaren by Maggie Stiefvater – Although I have a lot of mixed feelings about the Dreamer Trilogy I’m still intrigued to find out how everything comes together in the end.

So that’s (finally) a wrap for JUNE!  Will I finish reviewing July books before the end of November??  Only time will tell!! Thanks for sticking with me!!