July Minireviews – Part 1

Progress!!!

Also, I’m getting so lazy with these minireviews that since I didn’t review them on Litsy (thus taking pictures of them), I’m not even bothering to look up cover images for them. This blog really is going downhill LOL

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.

Caroline & the Colonel by Shannon Archer – 3* (published 2021)

I was in the mood for fluffy romance/P&P variations at the beginning of July and this one sounded fun.  However, it’s hard to rate, because I thought it was going to be an easy 4* read, maybe even 4.5*, for the first 70% of the book… and then it went totally off the rails.  All of the sudden there was all this extra drama, this weird scene with Caroline making a public apology that made zero sense, and just… it got weird.  Which is a real shame, because I really loved the concept and characters for over half the book, but it was basically like Archer decided she wanted to write a sequel, but in order for that to happen she was going to need to have some loose ends, so instead of tidying things up, she decided to fray the edges.  Disappointing.

Ship to Shore by Elizabeth Adams – 3* (published 2019)

Another one that’s hard to rate.  I have read a few of Adams’s other books and really enjoyed them, so I thought I would try this random contemporary romance by her.  I was just absolutely loving this book with a fun premise and likable characters, but then at 80% (this was a Kindle book), the story literally STOPS – I can’t even explain how abruptly it stops – and says, “To Be Continued…” and then the remaining 20% is some other random story!!!!  This annoyed me so much that it colored my feelings about the entire rest of the book.  There was definitely no reason not to FINISH THE BOOK AS ONE BOOK, especially considering there still doesn’t appear to be any kind of sequel despite the fact that this was published in 2019…!!!!

Tips for the Lazy Gardener by Linda Tilgner – 3* (published 1985)

This one should really have been called something like “Tips for Gardeners Who Want to Be More Organized” or something like that.  So yes, being organized means less work further down the line, but in the meantime… well, basically gardening is just a lot of work no matter how you cut it.  It was a so-so read, but the other problem was that it really was just a collection of tips, so just a few sentences per paragraph, then the next paragraph some other random tip, making it kind of difficult to use as a reference book.  It wasn’t terrible, but it went in the giveaway box when I was done reading it.

A Timely Elopement by Joanna Starnes – 3* (published 2020)

This was another P&P variation, where Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford is interrupted with news that ANNE has eloped with WICKHAM!  I had read other books by this author before and found them to be decent, but this one needed another strong round of editing.  The concept was fun and I liked the way that she portrayed the characters, but the whole story was poorly executed with weird scene changes that made the reading choppy.  The ending was a bit out of left field as well.  Not a terrible read, but definitely could have been improved with some proofreading.

The Rogue’s Widow by Nicole Clarkston – 3.5* (published 2020)

I was TRYING to play it safe by reading books by authors who had written other P&P variations I liked, but this was kind of a batch of duds.  This one wasn’t terrible but was a bit of a yawn-fest without a lot happening.  Here, Wickham has an older brother (who is just as terrible as the original Wickham).  Through a mildly complicated series of events (orchestrated by Darcy), Elizabeth ends up marrying this guy on his deathbed, which means that she, as the widow, inherits his Pemberley-adjacent estate instead of George Wickham.  My notes just say, “Boring but inoffensive” which pretty much sums it up.

Sorrow & Second Chances by E. Bradshaw – 3.5* (published 2019)

In this variation, after Elizabeth rejects him at Hunsford, Darcy is mooning about London when he learns of Mrs. Bennet’s untimely demise.  He and Bingley head back to Meryton for the funeral, and from there reinstate themselves with the family.  This wasn’t exactly a bad variation but we pretty much only hear Darcy’s perspective and trust me, he spends WAY too much time worrying about literally everything.  This was a story that needed some tightening up as it felt repetitive (Darcy thinks and thinks about having a conversation, then we have to listen to the actual conversation, then we listen to Darcy analyze the conversation…) and thus a little too long.

Rearview Mirror // June 2021

Definitely not behind on these LOL  Okay, so this is the fourth post I’ve typed in two days, so maybe I’m kind of catching up???  We’ll see what happens.  In the meantime, some numbers that are only four months behind!!

Favorite June Read

Unusually, I think I’m going to go with a nonfiction book for this slot – I really enjoyed The Perfect Horse so much.  It was everything I want from nonfiction history: engaging, interesting, informative, and readable.  I probably enjoyed my rereads of the Narnia books more, but I like to choose new reads for this spot when I can!!

Most Disappointing June Read

The Sleeper and the Spindle.  It was just weird and creepy to me.

Other June Reads

June States

  • Total Number of Books Read:  33 (0 Kindle, 33 physical)
  • Total Pages Read:  9027 (highest for the year so far)
  • Average Star Rating for September:  3.69
  • Longest Book: Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire (627 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  The Sleeper & the Spindle (69 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  Emma (published 1815)
  • Newest Book: Written in Starlight, People We Meet on Vacation, Mister Impossible, Every Vow You Break, 10 Truths & a Dare, and The Soulmate Equation were all published this year.
  • Number of New-to-Me Authors:  3

June DNFs

None this month!!

TBR Update

This I keep updated as I go, so it’s current as of today, rather than as of the end of June.

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

  • Standalones:  503 (down six!!)
  • Nonfiction:  127 (up two)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  645 (down three!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  253 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 114 (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.): 146 (up three)

Current Reads

Only reading two books right now – a lot of my series buddy reads have wound down for the year!!  I’m reading Emily’s Quest by L.M. Montgomery.  It’s the third in the Emily of New Moon trilogy, which I have somehow never read before… and am not planning to ever read again.  They are definitely more depressing and serious than the Montgomery books that I love.  I just don’t find Emily as likable as Anne, either.  They’re interesting and I’m glad to read them, but don’t see myself revisiting, especially since her one love interest is just DREADFUL.

I am also, believe it or not, on THE FINAL BOOK of the 87th Precinct series – book FIFTY-FIVE!!!!

Last Time on “Up Next…”

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

  • Lexie Star mysteries – I read the first one and it was DREADFUL! So that’s an entire series off the list!
  • The Duke’s Disappearance – Yes! I read this one and it was decent but not amazing.
  • Flint Spears – another yes!  This was a solid read – Will James’s writing is so different yet engaging.
  • Sam in the Suburbs – despite rather needing a Wodehouse fix, the answer to this one is no… but soon!!
  • Holdfast – another no.  This one just keeps getting ditched in line!!

Up Next…

The probable next five(ish) reads –

So for the month of October, Litsy has a giant “contest” called Scarathlon.  Everyone who wants to read along signs up to be on a team (one team focuses on horror/supernatural books while the other team focuses on mysteries/thrillers), so I decided to take October and focus on either wrapping up and progressing on a few of the mystery series I’m reading!!  So –

  • Beside finishing the 87th Precinct series, I’m also planning to read the entire Shetland Island series by Ann Cleeves.  I read the first book in September and really enjoyed it, so I’m intrigued to read the rest (eight books altogether).
  • I read the first five Leaphorn & Chee books in July & August.  There are 20-something of them altogether so I won’t be finishing this series this month, but I am hoping to read books 6-10!
  • The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie – this is the next book for the Agatha Christie club on Litsy; we’re reading all of Christie’s books in published order, although I’ve skipped a few haha
  • The Jackal’s Head by Elizabeth Peters – Peters’s books are hit or miss for me, but I’m always willing to at least give them a try.  This one has been on my TBR for quite a while and is due back at the library next week, so it’s actually probably going to be next up after I finish the last 87th Precinct book.
  • The Birdwatcher by William Shaw – I’m also hoping to read at least a few of the thrillers that have been on my shelf for a while, like this one – books that looked really interesting and that I really wanted to read when I acquired them (mostly through BookOutlet; curse those $2 books!) but still haven’t actually read!!!

So that’s a wrap for JUNE… stay tuned for July in October!! :-D

June Minireviews – Part 4

Believe it or not, my final batch of books for June!!

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.

Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne – 4.5*

//published 1926, 1928//

I had both of these books in one volume, The World of Pooh.  It had been years and years since I read these, and I was honestly surprised at how readable they were.  These are just delightful little children’s stories with lovable characters and adorable adventures.  And as a side note, although Disney generally butchers every book they get their hands on, I really do think they got their original Winnie-the-Pooh animation right.

Russian Magic Tales edited by Robert Chandler – 4*

//published 2012//

This was an utterly fascinating collection of stories from Russia, arranged in somewhat chronological order, allowing the reader to watch the stories morph through time.  There are some tidbits about different story tellers/collectors (basically Russian versions of Hans Christian Anderson) and just enough editorial material to provide context and interesting background.  It was really interesting to see what concepts seem to be somewhat universal from both these stories and the ones that I’m more familiar with – things like siblings in groups of three, evil stepmothers, the youngest sibling being the one that is the most clever, etc.).  However, there were also a lot of differences.  Especially in the earlier stories, rather than a character who is compassionate and wise being the victor, frequently it was a character who was aggressive and demanding – even violent.

All in all, these were dark stories (as many old/original fairy tales tend to be) but quite interesting.  I read this one spread out over a month and think I enjoyed it more in small doses than I would have if it had been my main reading fare.  I also wish that the essay about the Baba Yaga, which is included as an appendix, had actually been at the beginning of the book as it had a lot of insight and information about the Baba Yaga and how she fits into Russian stories and culture.  This one was a win, and if you enjoy the un-Disney-fied versions of fairy tales, there’s a lot to explore in this volume.

Missee Lee by Arthur Ransome – 4*

//published 1941//

While I have been absolutely loving the Swallows & Amazon series, this one was definitely one of the weaker entries – although, as you can see, even a weak entry for this series still garners a very-much-enjoyed 4* from me!  The main thing was that this one felt completely unbelievable, so it was a little difficult to really get into.  Still, there is just so much to love and enjoy in this series as a whole, and once I was able to suspend disbelief more than usual, Missee Lee was also an entertaining read.  I’m enjoying this series so much that I’m thinking about rereading them once I finish them!! I just finished reading The Picts & the Martyrs, which means I only have one book left!!

When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne – 3.5*

//published 1924, 1927//

I read these two volumes of poetry after the Winnie-the-Pooh books.  Poetry isn’t really my jam, so while these were perfectly nice, they didn’t really speak to me on any real level.  There were some cute little ditties here, along with some delightful illustrations, but they weren’t instant classics for me.

The January Girl by Joslyn Gray – 3*

//published 1920// I forgot to take a picture of this one so this is a random cover haha//

This was a random book my sister picked up somewhere, mainly because my sister was born in January and is named Mary Rose, while this book is focused on two characters whose names are January and Rosemary.  Unfortunately, while I generally enjoy books from the early 20th century, this one just didn’t do anything for me.  The entire book is just constant drama and misunderstandings, and Rosemary is pretty much the biggest brat the grace the pages I’ve read recently.  It also read like a sequel, and I found out that it WAS a sequel and that the entire first book was supposedly about Rosemary getting over herself and accepting her stepfather, except apparently she didn’t actually learn anything because she’s sooo completely self-absorbed STILL in this book and never really seemed to learn anything.  I think I wouldn’t have minded the drama as much if it actually felt like Rosemary grew as a person, but I just didn’t get that impression.  Ah well, you can’t always win the buy-a-random-old-book lottery, I suppose!

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren – 3.5*

//published 2021//

I’ve read a few of Lauren’s books now and still am working my way through the (mostly enjoyable) backlog, so I thought I would pick up their newest book as well.  However, while this was a fine book, I definitely didn’t love it.  There were loads of ethical questions raised that were never really addressed, which made the whole story feel somewhat gimmicky to me.  Basically, the idea is that one of the characters has created a way to genetically match people by studying different matching genes between super happy couples who have been together for a long time.  And like I get that this is chick lit so maybe they didn’t want to spend too much time on the science of this kind of thing (although honestly, you brought it up so), but, for instance, it feels like real-life relationships are about balance, so shouldn’t you also have certain genes that NEVER match with happy couples – i.e., your contrasts?  Like relationships aren’t about finding someone who is exactly like you.  And maybe that’s what they meant by “matching” was actually “complementary” but it isn’t exactly put that way and left me feeling a little confused about the entire process.  I was also confused when I saw multiple reviews of this book accusing it of supporting eugenics… which just proves that either these people didn’t read the book or they have no idea what eugenics actually is, since there was nothing in this story about forcing people (or forcefully not allowing people) to reproduce, or about eliminating certain characteristics from the gene pool, or even anything about the matches being physical (there was nothing about only matching people to other physically similar people).

Anyway.  All that to say that this was an okay book for a one-off read, but it definitely wasn’t my favorite book by this duo, and it felt like if they wanted to get all “sciencey” then maybe they should have had some explanations.  Still, I’m sure that I’ll keep reading Christina Lauren books because there was a lot of good banter and some fun scenes as usual.

The Perfect Horse // by Elizabeth Letts

//published 2016//

Those of you who have been with me for a while have probably noticed that I read significantly more fiction than nonfiction.  But I do also have a nonfiction TBR and have been trying to read more from that as well.  In June I started The Perfect Horse because I had read another book by Letts a couple of years ago, The Eighty-Dollar Champion, and really enjoyed it.  In The Perfect Horse I was so pleased to see that Letts’s attention to detail and ability to tell an engrossing story had definitely carried over.

During the 1930s, while Hitler was amassing territory and power, he also was working on a project to create the ideal war horse.  In World War I, horses were hugely instrumental to the war effort, so the concept of making a perfect “race” of horses fit in well with Hitler’s overall scheme of a perfect “race” of humans.  As various countries fell under German control, many assets of those countries were centralized, including famous stables and horses.  Letts follows the journey of several different horses, including two famous Arabian stallions from Poland, and several Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Austria.  She also introduces us to the people connected to these horses.  There are a lot of people and places in play, but Letts’s writing is compulsively readable, and I honestly had trouble putting this one down.

The first two sections of the book focus on introducing the horses, people, and places involved.  Letts gives the readers the background of why Hitler found horses to be such an important part of his military program, and also discusses what the US Calvary was doing at the time (they were still on horseback!), yet we also begin to see the writing on the wall – horses are not actually going to be critical military assets for much longer.  It was really interesting to see the way that the horses were shifted around and centralized, and how the focus of Hitler’s horse breeding program was on creating virtually identical stallions for war, a horse factory if you will, with horses being trained and used as young as possible, and mares producing foals as rapidly as they could.  This was especially in contrast with the incredibly slow-moving and precise breeding/training program of the Lipizzaner horses, who aren’t ridden until they are several years old.

In the third part of the book, the war is moving along and Germany is falling.  It’s at this point that an American officer finds out, through a captured German, that a small herd of incredibly valuable horses are just across enemy lines.  With the Russians closing in from the east, and willing to literally eat anything and everything in their path, a decision is made to cross lines and basically steal the horses.  An interesting part here was the discussion about whether or not it was worth it to risk human lives to rescue equine ones, and I appreciated the way that Letts explained this –

This mission mattered to him – he wanted to save the horses.  All over Europe, there were men whose express job was to protect cultural artifacts and recover stolen art.  At the highest level, the American military was aware that even in the darkest times, care must be taken to protect irreplaceable cultural treasures.  But the horses, equally beloved, equally treasured, infinitely precious because they were living things, did not have the same official protection afforded to museum pieces.

For me, the book fell off a bit in the final section, which looks at the aftermath of the rescue.  Because the focus is more on this group of specific horses than it is on the Lipizzaner breed as a whole, it’s honestly a little bit of a downer.  The American Calvary stopped using horses after World War II, which meant that the horses were sold rather than used.  The American Jockey Club refused to acknowledge the meticulously-kept records of the heritage of rescued horses, which meant that they were almost valueless in America.  Consequently, the end-destination of many of the horses is unknown, although the fates of the four stallions that Letts focused on the most were happy.

All in all, I definitely recommend this one.  It was completely engrossing and an intriguing look at yet another aspect of both the war and Hitler’s regime.  Letts kept me completely engaged in the fates of these beautiful horses and the men who cared about them.  I felt like this quote really summarizes the story well –

World War II is still the most destructive event ever to have occurred in human history, with estimates of the total death toll as high as sixty million, or 2.5 percent of the world’s total population.  The irreparable loss to civilization that resulted from people being slaughtered and entire cultures being obliterated is impossible to measure.

Against the backdrop of all this wreckage, the saving of the horses was a small thing; and yet as Hank Reed’s men instinctively knew, it was only through individual acts of compassion that the world was able to climb out of the trough it had dug for itself and attempt to find its way into a more peaceful future.

Later, when people asked why he had decided to save the horses, Colonel Reed’s answer was simple:  “We were so tired of death and destruction.  We wanted to do something beautiful.”

The Stanislaskis series // by Nora Roberts

  • Taming Natasha (1990)
  • Luring a Lady (1991)
  • Falling for Rachel (1993)
  • Convincing Alex (1994)
  • Waiting for Nick (1997)
  • Considering Kate (2001)

Nora Roberts is stupidly prolific, so I’m still working my way through her entire body of work here and there.  Even when they aren’t great, they’re usually good for a one-off read.  I still haven’t read anything by her that I love as much as the Bridal Quartet, which I’ve read multiple times (Nora, don’t you want to do a second-gen story about that group??? Please??), but generally speaking her writing is fun and fluffy.  She writes a lot of romantic suspense, so that was kind of what I was expecting from these, but they ended up being pretty much just straight romance.  Consequently, they weren’t super exciting, but they were definitely relaxing and enjoyable.

The first four books follow one of my favorite tropes – focusing on different members of a sibling group.  I really enjoy series that build this way (or within a group of close friends), where each book stands on its own, but you’re rewarded by reading them all in order because you get to see the fun of earlier couples being happy and adorable in the background.  Honestly, there wasn’t anything super innovative or memorable about these books, but sometimes I just need some brain fluff!!!

The last two books focus on children of the original group of siblings, another favorite thing of mine.  I loved seeing everyone a decade or so later.  They were my favorite two books of the bunch and the ones I would be most likely to reread.

All in all, nothing crazy, but an enjoyable series and another batch of books checked off of my Nora Roberts to-read list!!

June Minireviews – Part 3

Should I just give up on this project???  I’m weirdly stubborn about someday actually being CAUGHT UP on these reviews without skipping any. I may have a problem haha  And yes, things are still chaotic at the orchard!! However, the gardening season is winding down so hopefully the actual amount of work that needs to be done around the house will calm down a smidge.

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.

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston – 4*

//published 2019// And that picture is from last year, not this June haha //

I read this one last year and really enjoyed it, so when a loose sequel appeared, I decided to reread this one first.  I enjoyed it just as much the second time – maybe even more.  The family is just so warm and loving in this story, which make all the dating scenarios fun and funny instead of weird and creepy.

10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston – 3.5*

//published 2021//

I did enjoy the follow-up but not quite as much as the original book, mainly because there isn’t as much big family time as their was in 10 Blind Dates.  Still, there is a lot to find entertaining here and the characters are all so likable that the overall book was fun.  My biggest issue – the core group of friends/cousins have had a life-long feud with two other cousins, and I would have really liked to have seen some better resolution with their relationship.  A few times it felt like they were on the cusp of a breakthrough of realizing how the “Evil Joes” could have felt left out so maybe the “evil” wasn’t all on one side… but it just never quite happened.  Still, this one was a lot of fun and I can definitely see myself rereading these again.

Emma by Jane Austen – 3.5*

//published 1815//

I reread this one as a chapter-a-day read with the PemberLittens group on Litsy.  Emma is by far my least favorite Austen, although I will say that I found it more readable in small doses – this is the highest I’ve ever rated this book haha  Emma is just soooo annoying and bratty.  I spend all my time wanting to smack her.  I also still am not a big fan of the romance here, mainly because, besides Frank Churchill, Emma has never had a chance to even MEET anyone else, having spent all her days in Highbury.  So while I do have a fondness for Knightley in general, there is also an inevitability to their relationship because really… who else does she have??  Every time I read Emma I think it’s the last time I’m going to read Emma.  Maybe I’m serious this time??

The Other Typist by Suzenne Rindell – 2.5*

//published 2013//

This book has been on my TBR since it was published in 2013. At the time, it got a lot of positive buzz from several bloggers that I follow. Since then, I’ve read one of Rindell’s later books (this one was her debut), Eagle & Crane, and loved it. All that to say, I was anticipating something a little creepy and intriguing, but ended up honestly being bored most of the time. Hardly anything happens for long swaths of book, other than the narrator constantly telling us that she’s unreliable and giving us a LOT of incredibly heavy-handed foreshadowing about where she ends up, meaning that there honestly weren’t a lot of surprises. The ending answered zero questions, which in this case just kind of felt like lazy writing instead of intriguing. It wasn’t a horrible read, but if this had been the first Rindell I read, I would never have bothered to pick up another. In Eagle & Crane she doesn’t try nearly as hard to be mysterious and it works so much better.  I can still see myself trying another of her books based on the strength of Eagle & Crane, but this one didn’t impress me.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1955//

I really enjoyed my chapter-a-day reread of this classic as well – it’s one of my favorites of the series and I still do NOT think it should EVER be read as the first book, despite being chronologically the first.  It’s so much richer and more meaningful when read after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I absolutely love reading about the creation of Narnia, the establishment of the kingdom, and the challenges that the children face.  It may be my favorite of the series overall.

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1934//

This isn’t my favorite of Heyer’s books, but it was June’s traveling book club book, and I actually enjoyed it more as a reread than I did when I first read it back in 2018.  Some of the scenes are honestly hilarious, and it does make use of the marriage of convenience trope, which is definitely my favorite.  As before, I found myself growing steadily more annoyed with the female main character’s stammer – something that doesn’t bother me at all in real life, but was q-q-q-quite annoying t-t-t-t-to r-r-r-r-read after a while.  Still, if you’re looking for just some relaxing fluff, it’s hard to go wrong with Heyer.

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman – 3*

//published 1970//

This is the first book in the next mystery series I am hoping to read – Leaphorn & Chee.  Set on the Navajo Reservation in southwest US, the main character of the first book is Joe Leaphorn.  There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about this one.  The setting was great and Hillerman does a fantastic job helping the reader understand the complicated jurisdiction lines when something as serious as murder occurs with the boundaries of the Indian reservation.  The mystery itself was engaging and the pacing was good.  However, Leaphorn himself was not a particularly knowable character?  We read the entire book and I never even found anything about where he lives or what is home life is like.  There is a casual reference to a message being left for him by his wife – but we never meet her.  Does he even like her?  Does he have children?  I don’t have to know ever nitty-gritty detail about a MC’s life, but Leaphorn ended up feeling a bit more like an outline of a person than someone I knew.  The mystery itself went a bit off the rails at the end as well, leaving me with a lot of questions, and this book undeniably NEEDED a map in the worst way – Hillerman was constantly and casually talking about driving from here to there without any real indication as to what that distance meant in real time (1 mile? 10 miles? 100 miles?).  Still, it was a good enough story that I felt like I wanted to give the second book a try – even if it didn’t come in at the library until the next month haha

Hostile Intent // by Lynette Eason

//published 2021//

I’ve really been enjoying Eason’s Danger Never Sleeps series, so I was excited when I received a copy of the final book from the publisher in exchange for this review.  Links to my thoughts on the rest of the series can be found here.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this book.  The pacing is solid and I was interested to find the conclusion.  Some of the twists I guessed, but not so many that it ruined my reading experience.  The characters are overall likable, although Ana does flirt with the “perfect character” line – I’m kind of over characters who literally speak six languages, are masters of self-defense and firearms, know how to scuba-dive and rock climb, can fly a helicopter, and somehow manage to go four days in a row with no sleep yet keep going – but, haha, they don’t cook so it’s not like they’re PERFECT! *eye roll* Sometimes it’s just a little too much.

Setting aside her perfection, I was still rooting for Ana to not only stay safe from the guy who is after her, but for her to be able to find out the truth about her father and reach a place of peace with her past.  Eason does a really good job of making her characters be Christians, but in a quiet way – it’s just a part of their essence, and they live by those values without making a big deal about it.  I also appreciate that Eason doesn’t have everyone participate in “missionary dating” where one person is a Christian and the other isn’t.

While Hostile Intent wasn’t the best thriller I’ve ever read, it was still an enjoyable and engaging read.  I really feel like this series could have been better connected – while there are overlapping characters because they are all friends with each other, there wasn’t any kind of overarching plot that linked the books with one another.  These could definitely be read as standalones, so I guess there are pluses and minuses to the minimal connections.

Thanks again to Revell for providing me with a copy of this one, and I look forward to seeing what Eason writes next!!

June Minireviews – Part 2

Well, we are almost done with peaches – on to apples!!  Things continue busy at the orchard, but I’m home today and it’s gloomy enough to feel like it’s a good day to catch up on some computer work!!

Edit: That was actually several days ago, but I’m finally going to post this for real!!

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.

All About Us by Tom Ellen – 4*

//published 2020//

In college, Ben had a bit of a crush on his friend Alice, but one night changed everything – just when he was thinking about asking Alice out, he met Daphne and fell in love.  But now, years later, he’s starting to wonder if Alice was “the one who got away” and whether marrying Daphne was actually a mistake.  When a mysterious stranger in a bar gives Ben a watch that sends Ben back in time to relive some of the critical moments of his life, he’s suddenly faced with the real-life opportunity to change his fate…

There was a lot about this story that I really enjoyed.  I was afraid that it was just going to be about Ben cheating on his wife, but it’s actually about Ben reassessing his marriage and his life and recognizing his shortcomings and the way that he can make things better going forward.  I liked Ben a lot and found him an easy character to root for – it was really nice to have a male main character in this type of story, and extra nice to have him be a total jerk as so many fictional men are.  (Real-life men, too, I realize, but I feel like the jerks are disproportionately represented in romantic fiction.)  The time-travel aspect was also handled really well.  My main issue with this one involved the incredibly heavy-handed TOXIC MASCULINITY message.  There were constant passages about how ALL MEN hide ALL THEIR FEELINGS from ALL THE PEOPLE because that’s what they were taught by other men in their lives, yadda yadda (“Our friendship – like most male friendships – has been built primarily on ripping the piss out of each other”).  Like actually while most of the men I know aren’t likely to sit down and pour out every deep feeling they have, they’re fine with sharing what they need to share.  I genuinely do believe that there is a difference between men and women and the way they process feelings and emotions, and that men don’t actually have the same need to “get it all out” like women do, so this constant reiteration that the only reason men have problems is because they aren’t SHARING enough starts to really annoy me after a while.  Connected to that, but different, was my other big issue with the story – magically, Daphne is actually PERFECT and 100% of ALL their marriage issues are Ben’s fault (because he doesn’t share all his feelings!).  Absolutely NONE of them are hers!  She’s a PERFECT COMMUNICATOR and an ideal human being in every way and ONLY Ben needs to change to make their marriage blissfully happy.  This just… literally can never be true.  Human beings make mistakes and none of us are perfect, so it’s impossible that Daphne made zero mistakes in their marriage.  Laying all the blame on Ben just felt unrealistic and unfair.

BUT overall this was still a fun little story.  Serious enough that I wouldn’t quite call it a romcom, but lighthearted enough that it didn’t feel like a drudge.  If you like your romances with a dose of thoughtfulness, this is probably one you’ll enjoy.

The Sleeper & the Spindle by Neil Gaiman – 2*

//published 2013//

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while.  It’s a picture book kind of thing with a retelling of Sleeping Beauty… ish… honestly, do you ever read books and wonder what the heck you’re missing??  That’s how I felt reading this one.  To me, it was just kind of bizarre and didn’t hang together very well, but I have seen so many raving reviews for this one.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the artwork, either.  I think this would have worked better as a full novel instead of a short story – the concept was interesting but not fleshed out at all, making it hard for me to connect with the characters.  Not for me, but loads of people love it, so it may be for you!

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry – 3*

//published 2021//

My lower rating for this one is a combination of having higher expectations for it because I really enjoyed Beach Read last year, and the fact that the main character would literally NOT STOP hating on Ohio.  Like basically every couple of chapters there had to be another paragraph or two of Poppy going on and on and on about how horrible it was to grow up in Ohio and how literally the worst thing that could ever happen in her life would be if she was forced to move back to that dreadful place.  Obviously I’m extra sensitive to Ohio because I freaking LOVE IT HERE, but in general I’m over novels having characters grow up in small Midwest towns that they can’t escape fast enough and then finding fulfillment and joy in the big city… like that would be okay if they didn’t then spend their entire time in the big city moaning about how they barely escaped the Midwest with their lives, as though they were literally going to DIE if they had to live there for another day.  I just.  Eye roll.  Whatever.  Believe it or not, most people who don’t live in a big city have CHOSEN to not live in a big city because they think cities suck, so you can stop feeling sorry for us.  We’re actually super happy with our lives in the countryside, so please find someone else to pity and insult.  I’m pretty over the whole “only people too stupid to escape live in the Midwest”… like actually we chose to stay here because it’s awesome so… suck it lol

ANYWAY the actual story itself was so-so.  Apparently literally all of Poppy’s problems (and everyone else’s) could be solved just be seeing a therapist, so it’s nice to know that that fixes everything.  I never really shipped Poppy and Alex – although I enjoyed their banter and thought they were great friends, it never felt like they were actually on the same page about what they wanted from life.  I personally found Poppy to be super self-centered and annoying.  It wasn’t a terrible read – there were a lot of funny and fun moments and some entertaining characters and adventures – but it definitely wasn’t one I would read again, although I’ll still try whatever Henry writes next, because I really did enjoy Beach Read.

Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater – 4*

//published 2021// And yes, this is the reversible OwlCrate cover with artwork from Stiefvater and I love the way the sword lines up on the spine. //

Earlier in the year I finally got around to reading The Raven Cycle and the first book in the spin-off series, Call Down the Hawk – just in time to read the second book in the spin-off trilogy, Mister Impossible.  While I kind of wish that Stiefvater had chosen to do more with the ley line magic instead of the dreamer magic, I’m still really enjoying these books.  I also loved that Ronan’s brothers were a more important part of this story – I really love Declan, who is definitely my personality match of the brothers, so spending more time with him was great.  I really don’t want to wait an entire year to see how this story wraps up!!

Side note: Sometimes books in a series can be read as stand alones, but definitely not here – I even went back and read the last 50 or so pages of Call Down the Hawk to refresh myself as to where things had left off because Stiefvater jumps directly into the action!!

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson – 4* or maybe 2* or possibly 3*

//published 2021//

So on Litsy when you post a book review you can choose to rate it as a Pick, So-So, Pan, or Bail. My contention is that they need to add a “WTF” option for books that are, frankly, batshit insane yet compulsively readable.  This would definitely fall into that category!

I blew through this entire book in one evening because I did not want to put it down – despite the fact that no one was particularly likable, the plot was completely unbelievable, every twist just made the story more absurd, and the more I think about it the more questions I have… But I couldn’t stop reading!! Does that make it 2* or 4*? Do I rate it on whether I would recommend it to others or on how much I wanted to keep reading when I was reading it? It’s hard to say, so I guess I’m just going middle of the ground for my rating. If you don’t mind thrillers that are just genuinely over-the-top ridiculous, this may be the read for you!

June MiniReviews – Part 1

Have I mentioned that my life is pretty much just peaches right now???  You all really just can’t understand LOL  In the meantime, here are a few books that I read all the way back in June…

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 Horse & His Boy by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1954//

Growing up, this was one of my least favorite books in the series (along with The Silver Chair), but every time I reread it, I enjoy it more.  There’s a lot to soak in here about providence and why bad things happen to people and how that all works together for good, plus it’s just a fun story.  Narnia is always a joy to me.

Kitty’s Class Day & Other Stories by Louisa May Alcott – 3*

//published 1882//

I’m a huge fan of Alcott, and some of my all-time favorite books were penned by her.  However, I’ve had this collection of short stories on my shelf for literal years and somehow never read it… and when I did, I honestly wasn’t that impressed.  The subtitle for this one is “Proverb Stories” and each tale has a little saying/proverb at the beginning and then the story goes on to illustrate it.  Consequently, these came across as a little on the preachy side.  Alcott is always a fan of making her writing somewhat moralistic, but I feel like that works better with her longer-form writing, as we are able to see characters grow and mature organically.  Here, with only a few pages per story, the lessons felt a bit too in-your-face for my tastes.  Perfectly fine but honestly not particularly engaging.

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – 4*

My reread of the Potter books also continued in June with a chapter a day of the fourth book.  I think this is where the series really starts to take off, with a lot of connections being made.  It’s a chunkster of a book and sometimes does feel a little ponderous, but overall I still find this series plenty entertaining.

Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez – 3.5*

//published 2021//

In May I read Woven in Moonlight and found it to be a decent enough read that I wanted to pick up the sequel, Written in Starlight.  It’s hard to tell about this one without giving away some spoilers for the first book, but basically there is a character from the first story who ends up being sent away into the jungle as a punishment at the end of the book.  It honestly felt a little jarring, so reading the second book felt like reading the other side of the coin.  Although the main character is different, it really ties in with the first story and, I felt, tied up a lot of loose ends.  Overall, I think I actually liked this one better, even if the main character was super dense from time to time.

Led Zeppelin: Heaven & Hell by Charles Cross & Erik Flannigan – 3.5*

//published 1991//

My husband is a huge Zeppelin fan, so we have several nonfiction books about the band.  In my quest to read all of the books I own (LOL) this one was the next stop.  Published in 1991, it was written at a time when there was still a lot of chatter about whether the band would get back together, with John Bonhome’s son, Jason, as the drummer.  This book read more like an extended fanzine, with a lot of information about band paraphernalia, concerts, albums, concert memorabilia, etc.  If you already love Zeppelin and are just looking for some random tidbits, it’s worth picking up for the photographs if nothing else, but if you don’t know much about the band, this isn’t really a great place to start, because the authors definitely assume that you already have foundational knowledge about the band members and the trajectory of the band itself.  I definitely preferred Flannigan’s sections to Cross’s – I find Cross’s writing to be somewhat condescending, something I also noted when I read his biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than HeavenUltimately, Cross felt like it was super important to spend a great deal of time hating on Hammer of the Gods by Stephen Davis (which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet), which, whether or not his claims were justified, just came through as rather petty.  A moderately enjoyable read, but not one I’d particularly pick up again.

Rearview Mirror // May 2021

I just don’t seem to be getting any forwarder on my blogging!!  Ah well, here’s a recap from May, which was a stupendously busy month at my greenhouse job – definitely reflected in the overall amount of reading I got done, my lowest month of the year so far.

Favorite May Read

Although it was technically Carry On, Jeeves, I like to choose a new read for this slot when possible, which means Project Hail Mary is going to take the win.  This book ended up being funny, engaging, emotional, intense, and all game together in the end – a total win for me.

Most Disappointing May Read

Possibly Love at First by Kate Clayborn, which was honestly an okay read for me, but somewhat boring and just not that engaging.  However, as you can see from my little pile of 3* reads this month, it could just as easily have been any of the other meh reads I had.

Other May Reads

May Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  18 (1 Kindle, 17 physical)
  • Total Pages Read:  5361
  • Average Star Rating for September:  3.75
  • Longest Book: Project Hail Mary (476 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  Unicorn Famous (171 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  Happiness Hill (published 1932)
  • Newest Book: Unicorn Famous, Second First Impressions, Project Hail Mary, Anchored Hearts, The Dating Plan, and Love at First were all published this year.
  • Number of New-to-Me Authors:  5

May DNFs

None this month!!

TBR Update

This I keep updated as I go, so it’s current as of today, rather than as of the end of May. I am also making progress on winnowing down the unread blog emails!!! Under 800!!! LOL

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

  • Standalones:  509 (up one)
  • Nonfiction:  125 (down one)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  648 (holding steady)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  252 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 114 (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.): 143 (up six!)

Current Reads

  • I’m trying to have one nonfiction book on the go all the time right now, just a chapter a day.  It actually is helping me get through the ones both on my official nonfiction section of the TBR and some of the scores of nonfiction I already own!  Right now I’m reading The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, about a preacher in the 1960s who ended up moving from rural Pennsylvania to New York City to work with a gang ministry.  This one has been on my shelf for literal years but I’m glad that I’ve finally picked it up as it’s thoroughly engaging.
  • The PemberLittens group on Litsy is on our final Austen read – Persuasion.  I quite like this one and am enjoying the gentle chapter-a-day pace.
  • Another Litsy group is reading through the Emily of New Moon trilogy by L.M. Montgomery.  Despite the fact that several of Montgomery’s books rate in my top books of all time, I’ve never read this series.  I think when I was growing up Mom told me that it was sad, so I never bothered.  But I’m probably old enough to handle the sad now haha  So far, the first book, Emily of New Moon, has been okay, but it really does have a down tone compared to many of Montgomery’s other books.  And Emily’s Aunt Elizabeth is just a terrible person.  Like Marilla without any sense of humor or empathy.
  • I’m also trying to check some classics off my list, also via the chapter-a-day method, and am currently read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, another of those classics I’ve just never gotten around to reading.  It’s short and snappy so I’m really enjoying it.
  • My “regular” book that I’m reading right now is The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan.  A while back I read The Joy Luck Club and enjoyed it so much more than I was anticipating – I’m usually not a fan of novels.  So far, this book is also drawing me in despite being a book it doesn’t “sound” like I should enjoy.
  • Finally, last night I wasn’t feeling sleepy and just wanted something happy and fluffy to read before going to sleep, and ended up getting about a third of the way through My Lady Jane, which I have been meaning to read forever.  So far, absolutely fantastic.

Up Next

The probably next five(ish) reads –

  • The next free Kindle book I’m planning to check off the list is a collection of the first three books in the Lexie Star cozy mystery series.  I can’t decide if I’m hoping that I enjoy them and read the whole series, or if I hope the first book is dreadful and I don’t need to read the rest! LOL
  • I still have a handful of books from the Regency book box I bought off of eBay a couple years ago.  They’ve ranged from “what even” to “pretty decent” so we’ll see what The Duke’s Disappearance has to offer.
  • A while back I read Smoky the Cow Horse and found it surprisingly engaging.  So, when we were in South Dakota in 2019 and I saw another of James’s books, Flint Spears, I decided to pick it up.  And two years later, I’m planning to actually read it!!  Actually not a bad timeline from purchase to reading for me.
  • My next Wodehouse book is one I actually somehow haven’t read before – Sam in the Suburbs.  I’m rather excited about it as I only have a tiny handful of unread Wodehouse books left.
  • Still working through my personal collection of unread books – the next will be Holdfast by Patricia Beatty.  Back in high school I purchased a bunch of library discards by Beatty but haven’t read them all (or at least not since the late 90s).  She’s a mixed bag for me – I’ve kept a couple and gotten rid of a couple, so we’ll see how this one plays out.  Many of her books are set on the west coast in the 1800s, so moving to early 1600s Ireland will be a definite change of pace!!

Well, that about brings you up to speed as well as summing up my May reading.  On to June!!!