Shelfie by Shelfie // Shelf 2A

Shelfie by Shelfie is a book tag started by Bibliobeth.  You can see her original post here (and her most recent Shelfie here) – and I’ve nabbed her image as well.  :-D  The concept is that you take a picture of a bookshelf, and then answer ten questions about the books on it.  I have about a billion bookshelves, so I thought that I would give it a go!

Well, it’s been several months since I did a Shelfie, as things have been a bit crazy around here!!  But today I have a bit of extra time, so I thought I would look at another shelf!

Today is a VERY EXCITING Shelfie, because we are actually moving on to a completely different bookshelf!  All of my earlier Shelfies the list of posts can be found here) have been from Shelf #1, but today we are actually moving on to Shelf #2!!

Here is the actual entire bookshelf – it’s part of the same original set of shelves that my husband built for me multiple houses ago.  At the time, we had a long, wide hallway that just begged to be filled with bookshelves (and books!).  He built them so they would go around and under the windows in the hallway, and would have plenty of room for books and for knickknacks (which I also have a lot of).  Although we’ve moved multiple times since then, we’ve always found a way to make the shelves work.  In our current house, they run along a wall in our lower room, framing the fireplace and then the big on (Shelf #3) on the other side of a picture window.

As an aside, we were just talking yesterday about expanding our bookshelves, so these are probably going to be built up to the ceiling and over the fireplace at some point this winter… somehow I seem to be running out of bookshelf room again!?


Anyway, here is the specific shelf we are looking at today – Shelf 2A!

And the questions!

1 – Is there any reason for this shelf being organized the way it is, or is it purely random?

As usual, these are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the author, as I do with the majority of my fiction books.  It makes it easier to find them!!

2 – Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you; i.e. how you got it, a memory associated with it, etc.

Hidden behind the other books in this picture is a very slim, very battered paperback called The Treasure is the Rose by Julia Cunningham.  This book was originally published in 1973, when my mom was 11, and she fell in love with the story.  I can remember reading this book with her, and was so touched when she gave it to me.  The whole book is kind of falling apart, but I still love it, and have such warm memories of the gentle Ariane who loved her roses and her husband so much.

3 – Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

Honestly, this shelf has a lot of books I feel kind of so-so about.  I think the top one to ditch would be the random play about Robert E. Lee that I’ve never even read – why do I even HAVE that book?!  Where did it come from??  My life is full of mystery.

4 – Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

I would probably keep Time to Go House by Walter Edmonds (which I reread back in 2013).  I have a lot of memories of reading this with my mom when I was growing up and really love it.  So much so that this actually her copy, which I pilfered at some point (I believe I’ve mentioned that book pilfering is almost a sport in our family! :-D)

5 – Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

Oh wow, if it’s not Time to Go House, it’s probably Mandy, which I have owned for so long that I just scrawled “SARAH W” in huge letters inside of it with no date or other information haha  I was completely fascinated with that book as a child – I loved the concept of having a special, secret hideaway – maybe because I’m the oldest of six!!  (And I actually reread this one in 2013 as well, if you’re interested in more details!)

6 – Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

Actually, I think Senior Year by Anne Emery.  I already owned a couple of the books from this series, so in order to read it properly, I of course needed to purchase more books!!  :-D

7 – Which book on this shelf are you most excited to read (or reread if this is a favorite shelf)?

This shelf is a weird collection of books that I’ve owned for a long time, but haven’t necessarily read lately – or ever!  I’ve been really wanting to reread The Robe for a long time now, but it’s such a big block of a book that I keep kind of putting it off, even though I remember really liking it when I read it back in high school.  It’s a fictional account of the soldier who helped crucify Jesus and ended up winning his robe when the men gambled for it while Jesus was dying on the cross.  The story itself was full of excitement and was very intense, as the early days of the Church weren’t exactly known for their relaxation and luxury!

8 – If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There is a small decorative box on this shelf that I’ve owned for so long that its origins are lost in the mists of time.  The little stuffed cow came from my mom – I loved cows and have collected stuffed cows for years now.  This one is so tiny and adorable AND it’s brown and white: a Guernsey, my favorite!!

9 – What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

That I collect books that I may or may not ever read!  Out of the five Lloyd C. Douglas tomes, I’ve only read one!

– Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

Everyone should participate in this book tag as it is great fun!!

For a free question:

10 – Which of these books was the most fun to read?

I never got a chance to mention The Wicked Marquis, which is possibly my favorite story on this shelf.  It’s just so lighthearted and fun, with a truly delightful heroine and likable characters all around.

Special thanks to Bibliobeth for coming up with this fun tag!  Next time – Shelf 2B, where we see more of my tendency to collect lots of books by the same authors!  :-D


Judy Bolton Mysteries // Books 11-15 // by Margaret Sutton

11.  The Unfinished House  (1938)
12.  The Midnight Visitor  (1939)
13.  The Name on the Bracelet  (1940)
14.  The Clue in the Patchwork Quilt  (1941)
15.  The Mark on the Mirror  (1942)

I’m continuing to read my way through the Judy Bolton series in five-book chunks, because if I’m honest, the books get a little same-y after a while, and they go down better in batches instead of all in one go.  At the end of The Riddle of the Double Ring, Judy became almost-engaged to Peter Dobbs, who is probably my favorite character in this series.  Steady and intelligent, Peter is a great balance for Judy’s tendency to be impulsive and sometimes too trusting.  Now that Peter is a lawyer, Judy is working as his secretary, and it was quite delightful to have an adorable little couple working together without any hanky-panky going on.  Instead, here’s a concept, Peter works all day, and so does Judy!

Way back in the beginning of the series, the small town in eastern Pennsylvania where Judy (and Peter) lived was destroyed in a flood when a dam burst.  Since then, they have all been living in a town about 30 miles away, Farrington.  Now Roulsville is being rebuilt, and The Unfinished House begins there, with some crazy shysters giving away completely useless lots in an effort to sucker people in.  This is the first book where Peter’s lawyering has a significant impact on the story – Judy works to find and expose the crooks, and Peter works to make sure they get their just desserts!  That aspect was kind of fun even if, as always, the story is a bit melodramatic.  This was also the last book in the series that I remember reading, so since then none of these stories seem remotely familiar to me.

These books definitely build on each other, so while they can be picked up and read in any order, reading them in order makes the whole process a great deal more cohesive.  Judy makes friends and helps them solve problems, so by this point in the series there is quite the little gang, all with backstories and shared histories.  While Sutton doesn’t make a great deal of effort to develop her characters, they still do have some personality and it is interesting to see where they go.

Judy seems like a pretty forward-thinking heroine for her time.  She isn’t big into all the “girly” stuffy of housekeeping and babies, but is totally supportive of her friends who are – The Name on the Bracelet is all about Judy going to visit a friend who is married and just had her first baby, and Judy is completely happy for her.  While marriage is viewed as a stable and good thing, Sutton is honest about how it doesn’t always work out.  The Mark on the Mirror talks a lot about why people get married, and why those marriages can break apart.  At this point, Judy and Peter are officially engaged and planning their wedding, and it was interesting to see how Sutton doesn’t act like that that will be the grand finale of Judy’s life, or her “career” of solving problems.  Instead, she emphasizes how the happiest marriages are the ones where the participants both support the other as they grow as individuals and grow together as a team.  Judy loves Peter, but also has some doubts about whether or not marriage is right for her.  Peter isn’t dismissive of these doubts, but instead works to show her how sincere he is in loving her for who she is.

I also thought that it was interesting that Judy’s parents had hoped that she would go to college instead of “just” getting married!  It isn’t a big part of the story, but it’s mentioned in The Clue in the Patchwork Quilt that they were somewhat disappointed that Judy decided to become Peter’s secretary and later his wife instead of pursuing her studies further.  Out of Judy’s gang of friends, one is married and one is engaged at this point – the other girls are all pursuing their own careers and education in a manner that isn’t made a big fuss of – pretty solid for those “backwards” times in the 1930’s!

Probably the most thought-provoking book out of this batch is The Name on the Bracelet.  Judy goes to visit her friend Irene, and Irene’s husband Dale.  They’ve just had their first baby, and Judy arrives on the day that Irene and the baby are coming home from the hospital.  In hospital, Irene has made friends with another first-time mother, Jane.  Now, this book was nothing if not predictable – we spent a literal couple of chapters leading up to the fact that Irene and Jane have dressed their babies JUST ALIKE, so it’s not big surprise to the reader when the babies get mixed up as the ladies leave the hospital.  Interestingly enough, this is another case where Sutton isn’t afraid to create an unhappy marriage situation – Jane has a “terrible” husband and in-laws that she is trying to escape from, at a time when women – especially young mothers – didn’t have a lot of options for earning money.  ANYWAY the point is, Dale and Judy realize that the baby is the wrong baby.  At this point, Dale decides, emphatically, that Irene will not be told!  Judy is very unhappy with this decision, as she is an honest soul, but Dale insists that this is what is best for Irene.  As Dale and Judy are unable to locate Jane – who has done a runner in an attempt to escape from the husband/inlaws – for a while it is uncertain as to whether or not Dale will ever get his real baby back.  Watching the way this lie impacts his relationship with Irene, and the way that Judy contemplates whether or not it’s best to have true honesty in a marriage, is quite interesting.  In the end, of course everything is made right, and Dale even receives confirmation from the doctor that lying to Irene was what was best for her health.  Judy, however, remains convinced that truly good marriages are built on absolute honesty and transparency, and even asks Peter to promise that no matter what happens in their future, he will always tell her uncomfortable truths instead of comfortable lies.  While the story itself, in all honesty, wasn’t that great, I did find the whole truth/lie/protection question to be intriguing.

All in all, while these books haven’t been amazing – pretty solid 3.5* reads all around – they have been interesting.  I hear a lot of people being very dismissive of the early part of the 1900’s, as though “the patriarchy” was forcing all women to be enslaved housewives, but actually reading books from that era reveal a much more layered and nuanced society (surprise, surprise) wherein yes, being a housewife was the “regular” pursuit of women at the time, but not the only one, and not the end-all of a woman’s life.  It’s also no true surprise to reasonable people to recognize that many men, like basically all the men in Sutton’s stories, were supportive and encouraging to the women in their lives, wanting them to grow and learn.  While Peter and other menfolk in these stories can be protective of the women, it’s always with an acknowledgement of the inherent autonomy of the women they love.

Gardener Mysteries // by Mary Freeman

  • Devil’s Trumpet (1999)
  • Deadly Nightshade (1999)
  • Bleeding Heart (2000)
  • Garden View (2002)

This series was first brought to my attention by Fictionophile, who reviewed the first book last year.  I believe that the series has been reissued under the author’s name of Mary Rosenblum – my understanding is that her real name is Mary Rosenblum, but since most of her writing was science fiction, she published this little cozy mystery series under the pen name of Mary Freeman.

It took me a long time to work my way through these four books, not because they weren’t enjoyable, but because I had some difficultly locating them!  My library weirdly only owned the first and third books in the series.  After I read and enjoyed the first book, I found a secondhand copy of the second book on eBay… that took forever to get here.  By the time it had arrived, Bleeding Heart was due back to the library because someone else had it on reserve – and there was only one copy in the whole system!  So then I had to wait until whoever that was finished the book (I almost left them a note asking them to hurry when I returned the book!), and finally was able to read both it and the fourth book, which I also purchased secondhand.

So while I’m not completely positive that this series was worth the hassle, it was overall quite enjoyable and engaging.  Rachel O’Conner is the main character of the series.  She lives in a small down in the Willamette Valley of Washington state, which has been mostly a farming/orchard community until recently, when it is starting to become much more touristy.  There are mixed feelings about the tourists from the long-time residents – many dislike the change and see only the negatives, while others recognize that the influx of money from rich outsiders may be the only way to really preserve their town.

Rachel herself is a likable, determined, hardworking heroine.  She owns her own landscaping business, having chosen not to continue working the family orchard under the leadership of her uncle, who definitely belongs to the old guard.  While still young, her business is starting to establish herself.  Rachel is very knowledgeable about her work, and excellent at gently nudging customers towards good long-term solutions for their landscaping issues.

In the first book, Rachel’s old high school flame returns to town, and I liked him, too.  Jeff has had a difficult life in many ways, but has returned to the town of Blossom as the chief of police, leaving behind a much more arduous law enforcement gig in a big city on the coast (I can’t remember which one… probably LA).  The romance between him and Rachel is built well throughout the series, as they both slowly build on their old friendship.

There is a whole cast of likable (and unlikable!) characters, so while each of these books would read find as individual stories, they really are a delight to read in order, watching some of the background characters grow as well.

The mysteries themselves were, at some level, the weak point of the stories.  While not bad, I did guess the bad guy on two of them, and in the last one the bad guy seemed a bit of a stretch.  Despite this, I really enjoyed reading these books because I enjoyed the characters and setting so much.

Overall, Freeman does a pretty good job of keeping the politics to a minimum, although there was a bit of insistence that “conservative” means “old, boring, stubborn stick-in-the-mud who refuses to modernize or care about anything other than earning $$$” while “liberal” means “forward-thinking, open-minded, kind, intelligent, far-seeing, generous individual who cares about the environment and other people even it means a great deal of personal sacrifice.”  As someone who definitely identifies as conservative, but who also does care about the environment and other people, it got a little old to be constantly told that in order to be a true conservative, I actually have to be an old grumpy white man.

But this was a fairly minor theme throughout, so I was willing to mostly overlook it.  Overall, I definitely recommend these (if you can find them!) if you are looking for some relaxing cozies with likable characters.  The series wraps up very well at the end, giving a definite conclusion to the books in a way that I found to be very satisfying.

NB: It appears that for the reprint of these books under Mary Rosenblum, they have changed the name of the last book to Deadly Harvest. Why they would do this when there is another book in the series that already starts with the word “deadly,” I have no idea.  Each of the titles – including Garden View – ties neatly into the actual story.  The last book doesn’t really have much to do with harvesting, so I definitely prefer the original title all around.

Rearview Mirror // September 2018

So as regular readers of my blog may recall, I only work (outside the home) seasonally.  A while back I realized that one of my life goals was actually to be a migrant farm worker, except without the migrant part, so I started working at a greenhouse in the spring and an orchard in the fall.  Various life events last spring meant that I actually skipped the greenhouse half of the year, so when I started back at the orchard in August, I was amazed yet again by how much TIME working takes up!  It’s so ridiculous!  Hours of my life that could be spent doing awesome stuff like reorganizing closets, weeding the garden, freezing tomatoes, and, of course, reading, instead spent – working!  What even.

Anyway, as you can see, a little regular work is probably good for the discipline of my soul.  August, September, and October are the busiest months of the year at the orchard, and while I haven’t been working overtime hours or anything, I have still been working a lot, and not spending as much time reading and reviewing!  I also haven’t been spending a lot of time reading other people’s reviews, as the 284 emails in my inbox attest – basically all of them are blog posts from book blogs I follow…!!!!

While I’m not exactly in a reading slump, I haven’t been reading a lot of books that I love.  For a couple of months now I feel like the overwhelming majority of books I’ve read have just been decent.  Not a waste of time, but also not magic.  I have read SO MANY 3.5* reads.  But here’s hoping that I’ll find a new personal favorite this month.

October will be another busy month for sure, but after that things should somewhat calm down.  I’ll still be working, since the main part of my  job is to drive the delivery truck twice a week, but because we will be done harvesting, there won’t be quite as much extra stuff going on – right now, I also spend a lot of time helping to sort and grade apples, and also jug cider, plus about a million random chores like picking up an order of pumpkins from another local farm, watering mums, taking inventory of how many jars of apple butter we have left, helping get ready for the county fair, loading empty apple crates onto the wagon so the pickers can fill them with apples, helping in the sales room, etc.  We’re a very small operation, so everyone does a bit of everything.  Plus, it’s only about a mile from my house, so I’m the first person to get called if there is just a ‘quick’ project – I generally don’t mind popping in for just an hour or two since it’s so close.

Anyway, here is the book update for September – sadly thin! – but still going along.

Favorite September Read:

I really hate choosing a reread for this slot, but I read so many so-so books this month, that I think I am going to go with Uprooted by Naomi Novik anyway.  I loved this book even more the second time around!

Most Disappointing September Read:

I didn’t read any books that were emotionally devastating this month or anything, but I was rather disappointed with Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch.  There was a lot of potential here, but I never really connected with the characters or cared that much about them.  The practicality of the world building also confused me a little bit, and in the end I just didn’t really feel like finishing the series.

Other September Reads:

  • The Accident by Chris Pavone – 3.5* – engaging with a good twist, but unlikable characters and a vague villain.
  • And Both Were Young by Madeline L’Engle – 3.5* – a nice ‘coming of age’ sort of story with a good sense of its era.
  • Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – 3.5* – very readable with likable characters.
  • The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – 4* – typical Heyer hijinks.
  • Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey – 3.5* – good conclusion to the series.
  • Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn – 3.5* – not a bad read, but not engaging enough for me to pick up the sequel.
  • Riddle-Master trilogy by Patricia McKillip – 4* – solid storytelling, but a bit rambly
  • The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola – 3.5* – interesting but ultimately a bit meh.

Last September…

I thoroughly enjoyed the classic Vertigo.  Even though it started a little slowly, I was swiftly dragged into the story.  It also had a perfect ending.  I also read Maria Snyder’s Study Series, and really enjoyed them.  I definitely want to reread the entire series sometime.

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:  856 (DOWN two!  However, like I said, I have almost 300 blog posts that I may or may not catch up on someday haha)
  • Nonfiction:  78 (up two)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  678 (down three!  Being behind on emails means I haven’t been reading all the Kindle bargain/freebie lists, either!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  238 (up four!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 108 (holding steady)

Awaiting Review:

I tried to get caught up with a couple of minireview posts, but I’m still a little behind!  I finally was able to finish the Garden Mysteries (I’ve been waiting for book #3 to come into the library FOREVER), so I will hopefully be posting about those next.  I also read a little batch of Kindle books called “Romancing Wisconsin” which ended up being four novellas that were decent but not amazing.  Finally, I got to reread Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore as my most recent read for the Traveling Book Club.

Current Reads:

Normally, I like to have three or four (or five) books going at a time, but when life is busy like it has been, I usually just read one, plus a bedtime book – I always like to have a relaxing chick lit bedtime book going!  Today I started reading another Judy Bolton mystery.  I read the first ten in the series a while  back, and I’m going to read another five now.  They’re quick reads, so it shouldn’t take too long, and I really do want to finish reading the series.  Some of these later ones are the ones that I haven’t ever read before, so I’m looking forward to that, even if these do tend to be a bit simplistic!

For my bedtime read, I’m working through a little trilogy of books I got for free on a Kindle deal – the Cupid’s Coffeeshop books by Courtney Hunt.  I finished the first one already and it was okay, but unless the rest of the books are also free, I don’t see myself reading past these first three that I already own.

Approaching the Top of the Pile…

The probable next five reads:

  • Four more Judy Bolton books
  • Terms of Use by Scott Allan Morrison – this was one of the first Kindle books I ever bought, yet I’ve never read it!
  • A set of Love Inspired books
  • Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane – should have been one of my #20BooksofSummer reads!
  • Utah Lion by James Ralph Johnson – a book from my childhood that I inherited from my great-grandma, who was a school teacher.  This was another #20BooksofSummer book that I didn’t get to this summer!

That’s the update for now.  Happy October!!

September Minireviews – Part 2

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.

I realize that it’s now October, but September really flew by!  I had most of this post already written up, and they are books that I read last month – so here are a few quick paragraphs just to try and get somewhat caught up!!

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola – 3.5*

//published 2016//

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this book.  I had read a couple of good reviews of it (by Books for the Trees and also Cleopatra Loves Books), so I knew that it was a historical crime book – and that was about it!  The setting was fantastic and the characters were well-drawn.  However, while I found this book compulsively readable, it never really captured me.  There was a twist at the end that I had guessed almost from the very beginning, and it made me feel rather out of sorts with a few of the characters along the way!  So while I did overall enjoy this read, it didn’t really make  me want to rush out and see what else Mazzola has been up to.  I think part of it was that I was expecting to experience some terror while reading this, and that just never really happened.

The Accident by Chris Pavone – 3.5*

//published 2014//

A while back I read The Travelers by this author.  I liked the book enough to want to try another of his works, and while I enjoyed this one as well, it didn’t really blow me away in any sense.  It was a good plot and good pacing, but it just felt like loads of people got knocked off unnecessarily.  The ‘villain’ of the piece was a big vague – like we know who he is, but he’s really just sort of a shadow man; there is never anything from his point of view or anything.  I think the book definitely would have benefited from having him be a little more concrete.  The other problem was that I didn’t like anyone in this book, so while I wanted to root for the ‘good’ guys, they weren’t super likable either, so in a way I kind of didn’t care. However, there was a really good twist towards the end of the book that suddenly made everything come together, which bumped this up half a star.  Pavone isn’t a super prolific writer, so I’ll probably still check out his other couple of books.  They’ve  been fun for one-time reads, even if they aren’t instant classics.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – 4.5*

//published 2015//

After reading SO MANY 3-3.5* books, I really wanted to read something that I knew I would love.  Ever since I finished Uprooted last year, I’ve wanted to reread it, so I picked it up the other day and enjoyed it even more the second time around.  This was one of my top three books from 2017, and my reread only cemented that opinion.  This book is incredibly magical, with fantastic world-building and engaging characters.  I absolutely love the terror inspired by the Wood, and the ending is just so, so perfect.  I’m still not a fan of the sex scene, because it makes me feel uncomfortable recommending this book to younger teen readers, but other than that this book is really just a complete delight.  I’ve ordered Novik’s second novel, Spinning Silver, and am really looking forward to it!

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1940//

We were camping this weekend, so I grabbed this one for a quick read.  Heyer never disappoints, and this book was full of all sorts of lively adventures and genuinely funny moments.  Heyer’s writing frequently involves a somewhat-older male lead with a somewhat-younger female lead.  I have mixed feelings about this, and I realized when reading this book that it really depends on the female’s situation.  In a lot of her books, the girl has been out and about in the world (Frederica and Deb from Faro’s Daughter come to mind), and then I don’t mind an age difference so much.  But other books, like this one (and actually the last Heyer I read, The Convenient Marriage), the girl isn’t even ‘out’ yet, so having an older (and by older I mean late 20’s/early 30’s, not like her dad’s age or something) fellow sweep her off her feet feels a little weirder.  I realize that it’s a product of the time, where (upper class) men frequently waited until later in life to marry than women, but it still sometimes feels a little strange to have a 29-year-old man who has been out and about in the world marry a 17-year-old girl who hasn’t even had a Season.

HOWEVER all that to say that despite that, this book was still great fun with some very likable characters and some hilarious hijinks.  Heyer is so reliable as an entertaining and fun writer.  I can’t believe that I am still working my way through her bibliography, but I’m grateful that she was so prolific!!

Riddle-Master trilogy // by Patricia McKillip

  • Riddle-Master of Hed (1976)
  • Heir of Sea and Fire (1977)
  • Harpist in the Wind (1979)

Somehow I landed a book that has all three books from the Riddle-Master trilogy in one volume.  While I’m not usually a fan of this method, as it means I have to lug around a giant brick of a book with me, in this case it worked – mainly because these definitely read as one long book with three parts, rather than three separate-yet-connected stories.

Overall, this was a 4* series for me.  The world building was excellent and the story was engaging.  I liked the characters and wanted to know what was going to happen.  The writing is lovely.

I’ve mostly enjoyed the McKillip books that I’ve read to date, but she has a habit of never explaining anything.  The reader just has to muddle along as best he can, hoping that things become more clear as the story continues.  At times, this makes the story intensely engaging.  At other times, it’s incredibly aggravating.  In this case, it was definitely a mixture.  While it sometimes added to the magic and natural flow to the story, it also frequently just made things feel more muddled and confusing.

The pacing for the entire trilogy was definitely on the slow side.  While I mostly didn’t mind the meandering pace, there were places where the story dragged quite a bit.  Combined with the way that the books didn’t remotely stand on their own, it really just felt like this whole trilogy should have been given a hard editing and combined into one book.

Still, I enjoyed it.  While some aspects of the story seemed really obvious to me, I still enjoyed the journey, and I liked the way that everything wrapped up.  While I’m not sure that this will be a classic series that I read time and again, I can see myself picking it up again somewhere down the line for a reread.

September Minireviews – Part 1

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.

September is buzzing by at a frightening clip.  We’ve been quite busy at the orchard, so I haven’t had as much time for reading or for writing reviews.  Plus, once again, I haven’t been reading anything that’s really excited me, although I’ve had several reads that get described with words like “solid” and “decent.”  So here are a few of those decent reads…

Update:  It’s now 28 September, and I haven’t posted a single thing this month…!!!  As mentioned before, the orchard has sort of taken over my life, plus there have been a lot of random family things going on.  Still, I’m hoping to at least complete THIS post before the end of the month!

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – 3.5*

//published 2017//

I read the first three books in this series a while ago, when I got Blind Spot as an ARC.  This summer, the fourth (and final) book was released.  I got it from the library and started to read it, but realized that I really couldn’t remember what all was happening with the terrorist plot line, so I decided to give this one a quick reread.  While I did like this book, I was nagged by the same things that mildly aggravated me the first time around.  The main one is something that annoyed me about this entire series – that Pettrey would have two completely separate plots in the book, and they never tied together.  Consequently, one of those always ended up feeling like filler to me, like she was writing to parallel series at the same time or something.  In this case, there’s the terrorist plot (main) and then a random murder (secondary).  Not only does the murder feel shoehorned into the story, it seemed completely ridiculous to me that the characters in this book were allowed to process/be in charge of the crime scene since they actually knew the victim/possible criminal, and there were questions as to whether or not the dead guy had killed other people and then committed suicide, or been murdered and set up.  I just still can’t believe that friends of his would be allowed to process the crime scene.

But despite this, I still overall enjoyed the book and I really do like the characters.  I was intrigued to see how everything was going to get wrapped up in Dead Drift.

And Both Were Young by Madeline L’Engle – 3.5*

//published 1949//

I’ve gotten a bit off track from my L’Engle reading, dashing off on tangents with random books of hers as I keep drifting further and further backwards in time through her bibliography.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one, but I’m always drawn to stories that take place in boarding schools, so I thought I would go ahead and give this one a whirl.  While I wasn’t blown away by it, it was a really enjoyable story.  I loved the way that Flip’s discontent with her situation was due to both her actual circumstances, which are kind of lame, but also her own attitude.  As she grows the realize this through the story, she is able to start changing the parts of her life that she actually can change – so while some of the lame parts are still there, she’s overall happier and more contented because she has started to learn how to be proactive in her own life.  This story also had an interesting setting, being in Europe just after WWII in a boarding school with girls of all different nationalities.  While most of them were small children during the war, they have all been touched by it, and L’Engle did a really excellent job of weaving that background in very naturally.  Although this story was sometimes a bit melodramatic, it was overall a really pleasant read.  I don’t see myself going back to it again and again, but I still think I would recommend it, especially if you enjoy thoughtful, character-driven stories.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – 3.5*

//published 2014//

This is actually the first book in a series, and I’ve heard some good things about it – and who wouldn’t be drawn to that gorgeous cover art??  However, while I found this to be an alright read, I didn’t really find it compelling.  The world-setting was interesting, but didn’t really make practical sense to me – I mean, seriously, four kingdoms, and each one is always the same season?  How does that even work?  What does it mean to always be Autumn – a perpetual state of harvest?  The whole idea just confused me a bit when I started trying to think of what it meant to actually live there.  While this was an okay read for me, I didn’t like it well enough to bother with the other books.  Not a bad read, just kind of boring.

Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey – 3.5*

//published 2018//

This is the final book in the Chesapeake Bay series, and I definitely enjoyed seeing everything get tied up, especially Jenna’s murder.  I still think that this entire series would have benefited from having just one story line, as they consistently felt rather choppy and disconnected, but I still did like them and would read something else by Pettrey if it came my way.  I really liked the characters in these books, and it was fun to see them all get some closure with all the stuff that had been happening throughout the stories.

Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn – 3.5*

//published 2009//

I’ve read a couple of Bunn’s books before and found them to be decently interesting, so when I saw this one for a quarter on the library discard shelf, I went ahead and picked it up.  It kind of made me realize that while Bunn’s writing is alright, it doesn’t really grab me all that much.  This book did definitely have me turning the pages by the halfway point, but it didn’t really make me want to pick up the sequel.  Not bad for one-time reads, but not interesting enough to keep returning to time and again.