Misty of Chincoteague // by Marguerite Henry


//published 1947//

When I was a little girl, I was like every other child in the world – I wanted a horse.  (What is it about horses that gives them an almost universal appeal when we are young?)  I devoured every “horsey” book I could find, and a great many of them were written by Marguerite Henry.  She was a fairly prolific writer of children’s books throughout the 1940’s and 50’s, many of which were illustrated by Wesley Dennis, whose simple line drawings are absolute perfection.  She had a knack of writing about children and animals in a way that was quite relatable, and was unafraid to tackle some darker topics as well.  For instance, Brighty of Grand Canyon involves a murder, and Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West looks at the dreadful practice of rounding up wild horses by airplane and driving them to slaughter for dog food.  But throughout, her stories are still happy and enjoyable.  They are children’s books, so many of them (like Misty) are not necessarily long on plot, but are still delightful stories.

The setting for Misty is Chincoteague, a small island off the Delmarva coast.  Between Chincoteague and the ocean is yet another, larger, island – Assateague.  While Chincoteague is populated by humans, Assateague has been left to the wild things, including several herds of ponies whose origins are shrouded in mystery.

Paul and Maureen are the main characters of the book.  Around the ages of 10-12, they live with their grandparents on Chincoteague.  Most of the island’s inhabitants make their living from fishing, but Grandpa Beebe raises and sells ponies.  Every year the menfolk from Chincoteague cross the channel and round up as many ponies on Assateague as they can find.  They swim the ponies back across the channel and have a festival of sorts known as Pony Penning Day.  Many of the younger ponies are sold, while the older ones and some of the young ones are sent back across to Assateague until the next year.


One of Wesley Dennis’s perfect illustrations.

This year, Paul and Maureen are determined to buy a pony of their own, one that won’t be sold like all of Grandpa Beebe’s eventually are.  But they don’t want just any pony – they want the Phantom, a young mare known for her wily abilities to escape the roundup.  The children work hard to earn money to pay for the Phantom. They know that she will be found this year, because Paul is old enough to ride on the roundup for the first time.  Paul does, in fact, find the Phantom – except she isn’t alone.  She has a little foal with her, and now Paul and Maureen are determined to own them both.

Henry weaves a simple but ultimately pleasing story.  Her descriptions of the island, the roundup, and the interactions of Paul and Maureen are done well.  Grandpa and Grandma Beebe are down-to-earth and practical – they guide the children but let them learn on their own.  The children work hard for their goals, and hard work is rewarded.  Ultimately, they learn lessons about themselves, ponies, and the importance of letting wild things be wild.

Even though Misty – Phantom’s foal – is the title character, she really isn’t the central part of the story.  Phantom and the children play a much bigger part in the tale.

Henry loved to write stories that were mostly real.  She says at the beginning of her book:

All the incidents in this story are real.  They did not happen in just the order they are recorded, but they all happened at one time or another on the little island of Chincoteague.


The real Misty.

Her dedication is to a list of characters in her book who are all real people, including the Phantom, Misty, and the leader of the Phantom’s herd, Pied Piper, all of whom were real ponies as well.  In real life, Henry purchased Misty as a weanling and owned her for many years before Misty returned to Chincoteague.  Misty was at the heart of many fundraisers to encourage children to read, and to give money to preserve wildlife on Assateague.

In my personal real life, I finally got to visit both Chincoteague and Assateague back in 2010 – and it was still a genuine thrill, almost twenty years after reading the book for the first time!

All in all, this reread was not a disappointment.  While the story not the type that will get your blood pounding, it is still poignant and engaging, with perfect illustrations.

20booksfinalI own a huge pile of Henry’s books and am hoping to revisit them soon.  For now, the three sequels to Misty are in the queue, including Sea Star, which will be part of 20 Books of Summer.  Misty is #12 from that challenge:  I’m beginning to think that I may be successful!

The Mistake I Made // by Paula Daly


//published 2015//

This book came highly recommended by two of my favorite bloggers, Cleopatra Loves Books and Reading, Writing & Riesling.  One of the reasons I love blogging about books so much is the opportunity to follow and interact with other book bloggers – you are all the reason that actually reading everything on the TBR is an unattainable goal!!  :-D  So even though this premise wasn’t usually one that would draw me, how could I resist the double recommendation??

However, The Mistake I Made didn’t end up being my cup of tea, but the writing was strong and I have added Daly’s other books to the TBR as well.  (And Cleo and Carol should not feel at all bad for loving a book that I didn’t!  One of the joys is reading is that not every book is for everyone.)

Roz is a single mom with a lot of financial problems because her ex-husband seems to be stuck in 16-year-old land where money just magically appears when you need it.  Because of him, her once-thriving small business failed, and no matter what she does, Roz just doesn’t seem to be able to get ahead.

Daly does an excellent job drawing us into Roz’s life, making her situation believable and frustrating, without bogging down the story with a lot of extra angst.  Despite her troubles, Roz is still very likable, and she was a character that I wanted to help.  I also appreciated that while a lot of Roz’s problems were because of her ex-husband, we didn’t have to listen to pages of her ranting about what a terrible person he is – she accepted her part of the responsibility as well.

But just when things look darkest, Roz is offered a solution to her money problems: if she is willing to spend a night with him, a fellow Roz knows is willing to pay her quite a large amount of money. Again, Daly doesn’t overplay this or oversimplify it.  Instead, Daly was able to write this situation in a manner that made me wonder if I would have also made Roz’s decision – an offer that, had you asked me at the beginning of the book, I would have dismissed out-of-hand as ridiculous.

(And, just to be clear, there isn’t anything terribly gratuitous in the writing – we’re not talking Fifty Shades of Grey or anything like that.)

For me, where the book failed is just that I simply knew what was going to happen.  This doesn’t happen to me very often, so I was kind of surprised when, halfway through the book, I just saw how everything was going to play out, and every page I read just confirmed it for me.  I found myself starting to skim and – well, I was right!  It was super weird, if I’m honest, because I’m usually just quite dreadful at guessing plot lines.  But somehow the tension was gone.

So while I would put this at a 3/5, I still found it engaging enough to be interested in Daly’s other work.

#11 for 20 Books of Summer!!!


They Came to Baghdad // by Agatha Christie


//published 1951//

There has already been, in the past, discussion on this blog about the fact that many people don’t take Agatha Christie’s spy thrillers seriously.  And I have said then, as I will reiterate now… neither did Christie!  They Came to Baghdad is quite classic of Christie’s one-off thrillers: mysterious individuals (sometimes in capes!), people in disguise, innocent young women swept up into adventure unexpectedly, betrayal, kidnapping, and pretty clear-cut Good Guys and Bad Guys.

I, of course, ate it up.  I completely love Christie’s spy thrillers.  I love the way they are over-the-top and funny, but still have an engaging plot and interesting characters.  It’s all just ridiculously dramatic and so much fun.

Victoria is our unlikely heroine.  Christie has a knack of creating a relatable, realistic character – in this case, Victoria Jones, shorthand typist – who then go on to do something absolutely ridiculous – like haring off to Baghdad because she fell in love with a young man in a park – and yet manages to keep the situation feeling fairly believable.  wouldn’t do what Victoria did, but I didn’t really doubt that Victoria would!

Through a series of events, Victoria finds herself entangled in complications with international implications, and is soon working as a sort of unofficial spy for the Good Guys.  Throughout, Victoria is intelligent, intrepid, and upbeat.  She’s also a liar, not very good at planning ahead, and quite stubborn.  She made a believable, likable heroine, and I was completely on her side even when I didn’t agree with her decisions.

I had read this one before, so it’s hard for me to say if Christie wasn’t as knacky with her red herrings or if (more likely) I just subconsciously remembered some of the tricks.  So I wasn’t particularly surprised by the ending, but the journey was still great fun.

Throughout, Christie does get mildly preachy in spots.  It’s obvious (to me) throughout her career that Christie also believed strongly that there were definite Good Guys and Bad Guys, but she didn’t necessarily believe that they were the people that everyone always said were Good or Bad.

“I know everybody says there’s going to be another war sooner or later,” said Victoria.

“Exactly,” said Mr. Dakin.  “Why does everyone say so, Victoria?”

She frowned.  “Why, because Russia – the Communists – America – ” she stopped.

“You see,” said Dakin.  “Those aren’t your own opinions or words.  They’re picked up from newspapers, and casual talk, and the wireless.  There are two divergent points of view dominating different parts of the world; that is true enough. And they are represented loosely in the public mind as ‘Russia and the Communists’ and ‘America.’  Now the only hope for the future, Victoria, lies in peace, in production, in constructive activities and not destructive ones.  Therefore, everything depends on those who hold those two divergent viewpoints, either agreeing to differ and each contenting themselves with their respective spheres of activity, or else finding a mutual basis for agreement or at least toleration.  Instead of that, the opposite is happening, a wedge is being driven in the whole time to force two mutually suspicious groups further and further apart.  Certain things led one or two people to believe that this activity comes from a third party or group working under cover and so far absolutely unsuspected by the world at large.  Whenever there is a chance of agreement being reached or any sign of dispersal of suspicion, some incident occurs to plunge one side back in distrust, or the other side into definite hysterical fear.  These things are not accidents, Victoria, they are deliberately produced for calculated effect.”

Is it totally conspiracy theory?  Yes, absolutely.  But that doesn’t make it any less plausible then or now.

For me, Christie’s writing is truly classic because it is, in so many ways, quite timeless.  While culture may have changed somewhat in the last sixty-odd years since this book was published, there is still a basis of relatability because Christie understood and portrayed human nature so very well.

They Came to Baghdad is a super fun romp of a spy thriller, with more serious undertones, should you choose to read them.  Either way, it’s a fabulously fun read and highly recommended.

AND it marks the halfway point for 20 Books of Summer – Book #10!!!


The Fold // by Peter Clines


//published 2015//

I got basically nothing else done on the day I started reading The Fold.  Somehow, the writing completely engaged me, and I couldn’t put it down.  In retrospect, I can see all kinds of holes in this story’s logic (including a major one that I’ll put in the spoiler section), but I am still giving this book 4/5 just because it was irresistible reading for me.

Mike is a high school teacher.  Just a normal guy trying to live a normal life.  But his friend, who works for the government, approaches him with a possible job, Mike agrees to at least attend the meeting – even though he isn’t really interested in the gig.

Out west, a group of scientists have been working several years on a project, and are seeking more grant money.  Mike’s friend wants Mike to go to their project and assess whether what is happening there is on the up-and-up.  The project involves a sort of teleportation, wherein dimensions are folded together, so that a single step can pass over a long distance.  I got a little bit of deja vu when I was reading this, because it really brought to mind Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which I read many, many years ago and barely remember.  But the part I do remember is that the example used was an ant at one end of a string, trying to get to the other end.  Twelve inches for him to walk to get to the other side of the string – unless the two ends are brought close together in a “U” shape.  Then the ant is able to travel one inch (or less) – but still gets to the other side of the string: a wrinkle in time.

Clines uses a similar concept by putting two dots on opposite sides of a piece of a paper, but then folding the paper so they touch: the dimensions are folded together, and the dots are now next to each other, even though they are still technically on opposites sides of the paper.

Honestly, the whole book was super sketch when it came to science, and I read a lot of reviews ragging on it for that.  So if you like your sci-fi to be amazingly sound science, this isn’t for you.  But if you’re like me, and you just want your sci-fi to be entertaining and exciting – well, you may enjoy this tale.

The ending was a little weak, but I think that if I had read Clines’s other book, 14, I may have understood it better.  But this was another one of those cases where I have no idea the two books are linked until it’s too late.  I just don’t understand why, if an author is going to make two of his books interconnected – even loosely – no one bothers to mention that at the beginning.  Like, “Oh, hey, you can totally read this independently, but if you want the full impact, read this other one first!”  I hate reading things out of order, so this is super annoying to me.

Bit of a spoiler rant below, but all in all a fun, engrossing read – and #9 for 20 Books of Summer!!!



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On the Fence // by Kasie West

Book #8 for 20 Books of Summer…

18298225I have a few of West’s books on the TBR, as I come across her name pretty regularly as an author of lighthearted fluffy reads that are fun and relaxing.  On the Fence fulfilled all of those obligations.  While it wasn’t a book of incredible depth, it was still enjoyable and entertaining.

Charlotte, known by all as Charlie, is the youngest in a household of males.  Her mom died when she was little – she can barely remember her – so her dad has raised Charlie, along with her three older brothers.  Charlie is sixteen and a 100% tomboy.  She loves playing sports, and is used to fighting – literally – her way through her pack of brothers for whatever she wants.  Despite not having a mom, Charlie has still been raised in a home full of affection, loyalty, and support.

The drama in our book begins when Charlie gets a speeding ticket, and her dad tells her she has to pay it off herself, since this isn’t her first offense.  Charlie has no interest in getting a job, but now has no choice.  Through a series of (believable) events, she somehow ends up working at a small boutique, owned and operated by a slightly crazy but still super nice older lady.  Charlie’s usually informal wear isn’t acceptable for her new job, and she finds herself wearing skinny jeans and lacy shirts, hoping that none of her brothers see her.

Various other things are going on as well, and Charlie finds herself confiding in their long-time next-door neighbor, Braden.  Braden has basically grown up as one of her older brothers, but suddenly Charlie begins to wonder if they could have something more…  *CUE DRAMATIC MUSIC MONTAGUE*

Okay, so this definitely reads as a book that would make a great little chick flick with a fun soundtrack, but that’s okay.  And I think that this book did a really good job of avoiding some (although not quite all) of some cliches that can make chick lit so irritating.

For starters, even though Charlie is a tomboy, this is never presented as a “better than” option.  So often I read YA that basically says that if girls enjoy makeup and clothes, it means that they are shallow and vapid.  However, at one point, Charlie goes to lunch with some girls she has met through work.  She’s nervous about it because she doesn’t think she’ll be able to find any common ground with them.  However, it turns out that they all enjoy a lot of the same things, like books and various hobbies.  Even though these girls don’t play sports, and Charlie isn’t really into hanging out at the mall, neither “type” is portrayed as being superior – they’re all just girls who enjoy different things, and that’s okay.  I think that that is SO important.  I read so many reviews of books where the reviewers go on about the importance of “diversity” in reading, so all YA books should have gay people, transgender people, people with mental illnesses, non-white people, etc. But I think it is just as, if not more, important to simply stop writing people as stereotypes – all people, including white cheerleader girls.

Actually, one fun thing about this book is that there wasn’t a villain.  It’s just a story about Charlie readjusting her thinking about herself and people around her, and that was really refreshing.  There is some drama about finding things out about her mom and, of course, boys, but there isn’t this Evil Enemy Girl, and I thought that was great.

As for boys, that part was okay.  Obviously Charlie is falling for Braden, but at the same time she meets another guy.  The thing is, she meets Other Guy when she is hanging out with the girls – wearing makeup and trendy clothes.  Charlie feels like this isn’t the “real” her, but she likes Other Guy, so she tries to make things work with him while not revealing to him that she actually loves playing tackle football with her brothers and is super knowledgeable about baseball.  For me, this was the weakest part of the story.  I didn’t feel like Other Guy was necessary for Charlie to learn the lessons she learned, so he felt kind of weird and superfluous.  And it was somehow portrayed that Other Guy not knowing about/appreciating her sport side was worse than Braden not knowing about/appreciating her “girly” side.  The whole point was that Charlie was learning about another aspect of herself, and realizing that any guy she had in her life also would need to understand that she is multi-faceted.  She wasn’t “just” the sports girl.

Of course, the fact that she’s sixteen means that I roll my eyes at her romance anyway.  I would say that it’s because I’m getting old, but the truth is that I didn’t date in high school because even then I felt like it was pointless to invest so much time, energy, and money into a relationship that is statistically unlikely to be permanent, and, even if it is going to become permanent, will still have to drag on for ages before marriage is actually an option.  Yes, I fear I was a rather boring teenager, haha.

Anyway, this review is getting long and rambly.  Point is, I liked it.  I liked that it wasn’t full of sex or discussions of sex.  I liked that we didn’t have to have pages devoted to Charlie having a period.  I liked that she had a loving, supportive, protective family.  I liked that she had a dad who sincerely cared about her and wanted the best for her.  I liked that there were no Evil Girls, and that the “girly” girls were just as personable as the “sports” girls.  While the book still induced some eye-rolling moments, on the whole it was an enjoyable read, and I’ll be checking some more of West’s work in the future.  4/5.20booksfinal

Cursor’s Fury // by Jim Butcher


//published 2006//

Well, this series is kind of getting to that point where I don’t even know what to say because I’m enjoying it SO MUCH but it is ridiculously involved.

One thing that I really like is the way that the books are spaced – about two years between each one, which means that our main character, Tavi, has a chance to grow and develop even when we aren’t around.  It makes the events far more believable, because by Cursor’s Fury, even though Tavi is still young, he isn’t a kid any more, and he’s had several years of education and training.

Butcher has created a really intricate but understandable world.  There are layers of culture, but nothing disproportionate or jarring.  Tavi is intelligent, industrious, loyal, and kind, but he isn’t perfect.  I really, really like how there are different types of creatures in this world besides humans, and how Butcher uses the inherent prejudices the humans have against these other creatures to build his story, especially as Tavi is one of the few who are willing to meet and understand them on their own terms.

In this book, the main enemy are the Canim, a sort of wolf-human creature.  They come from another continent and have raided Alera off and on through the years, but this time they have come as an invading force, and they couldn’t have chosen a better time (from their perspective) to strike, as one of the High Lords has incited a rebellion against the First Lord.  Resources and military units are stretched thin, and tension is high.  Butcher does a really excellent job of giving us a few chapters with one character, and then a few chapters with another.  While Tavi is the main focus, many of the secondary characters are well developed, especially Tavi’s family and Amara, the Cursor we met in the first book.

We also get the official reveal of who Tavi really is, something I guessed basically in the first half of the first book, but it was nice to have it officially confirmed and to get all the details of the story.  It also gave a lot more insight into the minds and motives of some of the other characters.

All in all, this has been a solid series.  I just started book four today, and am excited (and a bit terrified) to see the action continue!

#7 for 20 Books of Summer!!!


A Girl of the Limberlost // by Gene Stratton Porter

Here we are, Book #6 for 20 Books of Summer!  I am actually making great progress with this challenge, as I have read 12 of my 20 (although I’ve bogged down a bit this week – so scared to get sucked into the next Codex Alera book…!!!!), but I am suuuper behind on reviews!


//published 1909//

A Girl of the Limberlost is Gene Stratton Porter’s sequel to Freckles (which I have read several times, and reread earlier this summer).  It’s a loose sequel as only a few of the characters from Freckles reappear in this tale, although I think some aspects of the story would be confusing if you hadn’t read the first book.

On the whole, this book was not nearly as enjoyable as Freckles.  The story was much more disjointed and confusing.  The main character is Elnora, and when the story begins she is just getting ready to start high school.  At this time (early 1900’s), high school education wasn’t free.  Elnora’s mother is a widow and they don’t have a lot of money to spare.  Her mother thinks that education is really quite a waste, but has grudgingly agreed to pay Elnora’s tuition.

And this is where, right off the bat, things get confusing.  Basically, Elnora’s mother is really a jerk.  Her husband died before they had been married a year, when she was pregnant with Elnora.  He was sucked into a quagmire in the Limberlost, and Elnora’s mother watched him die, unable to help him.  Except later part of the story seems to be that she was actually giving birth to Elnora?  Or she gave birth and then ran to the swamp but wasn’t in time because of giving birth?  None of which makes sense, really, and it never does get clarified.

But apparently Elnora’s mother holds Elnora responsible for her father’s death, and has treated her badly her entire life.  Literally, the first sentence in the book starts us off with Elnora’s mother ragging on Elnora:  ” ‘Elnora Comstock, have you lost your senses?’ demanded the angry voice of Katharine Comstock as she glared at her daughter.”  There just isn’t any kind of background or explanation.  By the end of the first chapter, I found myself wondering if I had some kind of edited copy wherein the first bit of the book had been eliminated, because it felt as though I had jumped right into the middle of the story.

Elnora and her mother have a pair of close neighbors who live where the Duncans lived in Freckles.    The Sintons are good, hardworking folks.  They were unable to have any children of their own, but they love Elnora dearly, and they hate the way Elnora’s mother treats her.  But not, apparently, enough to do anything about it.  About halfway through the book, there is a HUGE reveal, in which Mrs. Sinton finally tells Elnora’s mother the truth about Elnora’s father (spoiler: he wasn’t that great of a guy), and Elnora’s mother suddenly goes through a complete 180* turn, declaring that her life of mourning her husband has been a waste, and suddenly she adores Elnora and can’t do enough for her.  So….  why didn’t the Sinton’s mention all this like 15 years ago…???!!

I don’t know, it was just a really confusing story.  Elnora’s mother is a character who makes no sense.  Sometimes she’s mean, sometimes she’s super nice, and she just doesn’t make sense.  I was consistently befuddled by her actions and words.  The Sintons are a little better, but their relationship with Elnora’s mother is weird, too, and despite the fact that they claim to love Elnora like their own daughter, it seems like they could have done a lot to make Elnora’s life easier with minimal effort on their part.

There is this whole story with these poor little children who are starving because their father is a drunk and doesn’t take good care of them.  Finally, Elnora and Mr. Sinton go to the see the children at their home and see if they can help them, and turns out that their dad DIED (as in, he is still in his bed and the kids think he is sleeping except he’s dead), and legit Mr. Sinton just takes the youngest kid home with him and they adopt him… and we never hear about the other two kids again.  We kind of assume that they get help, too…??  But snatching this kid away from his family seems really horrible to me, and it is totally presented as No Big Deal.  And again… the Sintons have always wanted children, so why didn’t they just take all three??  And also… hello, Mr. Sinton brings home a CHILD without consulting his wife first?!  And basically blackmails her into agreeing to raise him!?

The love story is ABSURD.  Handsome Young Man comes to the countryside for his health.  He tells Elnora that he is engaged to be married to a Beautiful Society Woman back in Chicago.  However, he then flirts with Elnora all summer, and at the end of the summer is basically like, “Um, so if you wanted to kiss me, that would be cool…” and Elnora is like, “No, Handsome Young Man, you must be faithful to your Beautiful Society Woman!” and he’s like, “Oh, yeah, okay, thanks for reminding me!!  Toodles!” and then he toddles back to Chicago like nothing ever happened.  Except Beautiful Society Woman gets angry at him about something stupid and scorns him in public, and then his love is as ashes, and he flees back to the Limberlost, and basically proposes to Elnora immediately.  She’s like, “Um.  Weren’t you engaged like yesterday to someone else?” And he’s like, “Well, yeah, but she is but an empty-headed Beautiful Society Woman.  I want a Real Woman like you, who doesn’t mind bugs and moths and swamps.”  Elnora, who is legit the only likable character in this entire book, is pretty much like, “Well, you’re going to have to wait a while because I’m not super convinced of your sincerity.”  Blah blah blah the summer passes, Beautiful Society Woman returns and causes trouble, and Elnora runs away and hides and doesn’t tell anyone where she is going, and then Handsome Young Man is SO DISTRESSED that she is gone that he almost DIES from worrying.  What.  Even.

But the NUMBER ONE REASON that this book drove me crazy was because Porter COULD NOT stop using the word “panted.”  I mean, seriously.  It’s like she read that word and thought it was nifty, and used it all the time, and her editor was like, “Gene.  Gene, Gene, Gene.  I like what you’ve got going on here but… don’t you think you should switch it up a little?  You’ve used the word ‘panted’ three times on the same page.”  And Porter said, “Hush your mouth.  There is NO BETTER WORD THAN ‘PANTED’.  IT IS THE ONLY WORD THAT TRULY EXPRESSES WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY HERE.”

If they aren’t panting, they’re groaning or sobbing or crying.

  • “Such vulgarity!” panted Edith Carr.
  • “Nothing on earth could kill that!” she cried
  • “Don’t mention clothes,” sobbed Elnora.

It just got really annoying after a while, especially the word “panted.”  Every time I read it, I just pictured the speaker standing there with her tongue hanging out.

It wasn’t all bad.  There were still some good descriptions, and there could have been an interesting story if Elnora’s mother had made a bit more sense.  But on the whole, I definitely didn’t enjoy this book at anywhere near the level of Freckles, and I wouldn’t recommend it even to people who enjoyed that tale.  2/5.

Life or Death // by Michael Robotham


//published 2014//

This book has been on my TBR since FictionFan read it a couple of years ago.  At the time, she said that it was one of her thrillers of the year, so don’t let my 3/5 rating deter you from reading it!  :-D

Audie is the hero of our tale, and when the story opens it is the day before the last day of his ten-year prison sentence.  He was convicted in a robbery in which seven million dollars were stolen and four people were killed, including two of accomplices to the crime.  The seven million dollars has never been recovered, and Audie has never talked, despite years of abuse as people try to force the secret from him.

But the night before Audie is set to be released, he escapes from jail.  The story follows Audie’s escape, tells us snippets of Audie’s past life (which begin to explain the present), and also gives us insight into the actions of a few other characters, including FBI agent Desiree and fellow-inmate Moss.  (“What sort of name is Moss?”  “Well, suh, my momma couldn’t spell Moses on my birth certificate.”)

There were a lot of things about this book that I really liked.  It was an engaging story, well-plotted, and twisty without being ridiculous.  Audie is quite likable (almost too likable), Desiree is intelligent and logical, and Moss – well, he was my favorite – just a really solid, believable character.

So why did this book not rank higher for me?  The biggest reason is that Audie felt just too passive to me.  Virtually all the back story that we learn about him is based on coincidences and luck – and all of them bad.  Audie’s entire life to date basically reads like the diary of someone who regularly breaks mirrors and walks under ladders.  I started to feel a little frustrated because it seemed like so much of the story was happening to Audie instead of Audie making it happen.  Yes, he breaks out of jail – but even as he works towards his goal, those same bad luck coincidences seem to haunt his steps.  And I think I might have been okay with all of that except legit the biggest plot twist in the entire book – just plain old bad luck (again).

The other hiccup for me was that both Desiree and Moss are looking for Audie, but they are on completely separate tracks.  So there were times that I found myself feeling a little confused about which person knew which facts.  Although, in fairness, this could be because it took me a few days to read this one.  I just can’t explain why it didn’t grab me!

Overall, a solid read, and with close to a four-star average on Goodreads, this book obviously has a lot of fans.  While I only give it a 3/5 for me personally, it did make me want to look for more of Robotham’s work – any suggestions?

Also – Book #5 for the 20 Books of Summer!


Crooked House // by Agatha Christie

I first came to know Sophia Leonides in Egypt towards the end of the war.

Agatha Christie’s Crooked House was first published in 1949, but her own foreword to the book states that she had had the book in her mind for quite some time, and that it was “one of my own special favourites.”  I enjoy little snippets into the author’s mind, so I liked that she felt as though the Leonides were quite a real family – “I feel that I myself was only their scribe.”

9875107Our story is narrated by Charles, a young man who met and fell in love with Sophia Leonides, but, although he told her he loved her, sent her off  back home to England without an official engagement, as he knew he would still be gone “on assignment” for another few years.  In the second chapter, Charles returns home after two years.  He has been exchanging letters with Sophia during the interim and is more convinced than ever that he wants to marry her.  He wires her first thing and makes arrangements to meet up with her at a restaurant.  While he paces the hours away, he comes across a death announcement in the newspaper for Sophia’s grandfather – “suddenly, in his residence.”

And when Sophia shows up to dinner, she tells Charles that she can’t marry him until – unless – her grandfather’s death is resolved:  “I think, Charles, that he didn’t just – die.  I think he may have been killed…”

Sophia’s fears are justified.  Old Mr. Leonides has definitely been murdered.  Conveniently, however, Charles’s father is an important man at Scotland Yard.  Charles tells him that he intends to marry Sophia, and Charles’s father sends Charles off with the case’s Chief Inspector to sort of muddle about and see what people will tell him.

So Charles meets his possible future in-laws for the first time as they are being interviewed by the police (which makes anyone else’s story of awkward first impressions rather tame in comparison), and we get quite the picture of a tangled – and crooked – household.

This is Christie at her best, in my opinion.  The classic closed murder, conversations and interviews with all the potential murderers, quirky characters, complicated connections, plenty of motives and a plethora of red herrings.  While it takes a bit of a stretch to think that the family would just casually welcome Charles into the household, considering his connections with the police, the story still works quite well.

The ending is brilliant – the kind that made me want to sit and read the book again, now that I knew who the murderer was, just so I could admire all the clever clues Christie gave throughout the story – clues that I (and Charles!) completely missed.

All in all, an excellent stand-alone mystery of Christie’s and definitely recommended.


Rearview Mirror // June 2016 (+ 20 Books of Summer update!)

Well, I’ve spent a month being unemployed, and it’s awesome!  (As long as you have someone else paying the bills, of course… which I do!)  I’ve been getting lots of projects done around the house, although, of course, my family tends to hijack a lot of my time… sometimes I wonder if I should pretend that I’m still working…

Anyway, ironically, being home more actually means I’m reading less.  I had an enforced hour lunchbreak at my job, which meant lots of reading through the spring.  Now that I’m home, I’m spending way more time working in the garden and painting things than I am reading.  But I can never cut it off completely, so I’ve definitely made some progress.

Favorite June Read:

  • 133664Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher – the second book in the Codex Alera series was an emotional rollercoaster of awesomeness that I had troubled putting down – except I had to put it down every chapter or two just to try and get my heart rate back under control!  I was amazed at how Butcher kept all his many plot lines flowing with perfect pacing, and was able to tie everything up in the end without feeling rushed.

Most Disappointing June Read:

  • 9781408854280The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley – I really, really wanted to like this book – except I couldn’t because it made no sense.  There was some beautiful writing, but it just wasn’t enough to pull things together.

Other June Reads:

  • Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher – 4/5 – a fabulous start to the new fantasy series I’m reading – excellent world-building, engaging characters, and plenty of adventure!
  • Remembered Death by Agatha Christie – 4/5 – engaging and twisty with perfect pacing.
  • House of Thieves by Charles Belfoure – 4/5 – excellent writing, really interesting premise, but somehow an emotional disconnect from the main characters.  (PS Belfoure actually tweeted me after this review and I felt awkward because my review wasn’t completely complimentary haha)
  • Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter

    Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter – 4/5 – classic early 1900’s novel with very good good people and very bad bad people, and the bonus of a fabulous setting.

  • The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson – 3/5 – an interesting nonfiction read on the history of English.  I will give one caveat since I wrote the original review – I got to reading some reviews on Amazon, and a lot of people seem to think that many of Bryson’s “facts” are actually erroneous, especially as regards his comments on other languages.  So maybe do some research before you decide to pick this one up!

Other June Posts:

20 Books of Summer Update:

20booksfinalSpeaking of the 20 Books of Summer, here is where things stand as of today!  At the last update, I had a slightly modified list from the original (links to GoodReads if I haven’t reviewed the book yet, or my review if I have) –

So far, I have completed six books.  I just started Cursor’s Fury today, so another brick of a book ahead!  Unfortunately, I read about 100 pages of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and decided that it just wasn’t for me.  So it is being replaced by The White Flower by Grace Livingston Hill.

Life or Death and Girl of the Limberlost both ended up being kind of meh reads for me (more to come in their eventual reviews), so that kind of bogged down the whole process… I found myself reading bad Pride and Prejudice variations instead, as well as trying to finish The Mother Tongue.  I’m also reading another nonfiction book that isn’t on my list so.  There’s always plenty of good excuses.  ;-)  But I really have been enjoying Butcher’s series, so hopefully this next book is just as engaging, even if it is 675 pages long…

Still a little behind on reviews – three books in the pile – but nothing too crazy.  I’m a smidge behind schedule, but I think I may still be able to pull it off!!!

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 four different tabs:

  • Stand-Alones:  821 (up THIRTY-FOUR from 787!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  584 (up SEVENTEEN from 533! – I really need to stop buying $0.99 books on Kindle)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  126 (up three from 123)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  51 (holding steady)

Good times, good times.  I do not have an addiction.

Awaiting Review:

Only three books right now –

  • Crooked House by Agatha Christie
  • Life or Death by Michael Robotham
  • Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter