November Minireviews – Part 2

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just feel rather “meh” about and they don’t seem worth writing an entire post about.  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So, inspired by the way that Stephanie reviews the unreviewed every month, I think that some months (or maybe all of them!) will get a post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

This month I seem to already have accumulated quite a few middling books (or maybe I’m just feeling lazier about writing reviews!) so here is the second batch – I already published a first one earlier this month!

Fury: Stallion of Broken Wheel Ranch by Albert G. Miller


//published 1959//

So I’ve mentioned before that as a kid I was totally into horses (animals of all kinds, really), so I have quite the stock of horse books, many of which were published in the 1950’s and 60’s, which seems to have been a sort of high-water mark for classic horse books.  Miller wrote a little trilogy of books that center around a huge, black, wild stallion named Fury, and the young boy who tames him, Joey.  While basically unrealistic (most kids don’t just walk up to a dangerous wild stallion and tame him with his mere presence), they are still fun little adventures.

In this book, the first of the series, we are introduced to the main characters.  Jim Newton runs Broken Wheel Ranch, which captures, tames, and sells wild horses.  They catch Fury, but are unable to tame him.  Next, we meet Joey, a 13-year-old boy who lives in a children’s home, dreaming of horses and having a family.  Through a fun series of events, full of convenient coincidences, Joey meets Jim (and Fury), and Jim decides to adopt Joey.

The rest of the book is full of little stories about Joey’s adventures as he adjusts to life on the ranch.  The part where Joey and Jim become a family is actually done really well, as Jim realizes how much he loves having a son.  Jim’s acceptance and trust in Joey is an intrinsic part of the story, as is the part where Joey does his best to live up to the trust Jim has placed in him.  There are some other threads through the story, with a couple of bad guys and whatnot, and it is overall a fun read, especially for kids who have dreamed of living on a ranch with horses, or adults who have very nostalgic feelings about that same dream (or about this book!).  3/5.

PS Here is a funny tidbit that I just learned while looking up a picture for this book – this was actually a television series first and then a book!  The series ran on NBC 1955-1960.  Now I feel like I may need to try and YouTube an episode or two…

The Storyteller and Her Sisters by Cheryl Mahoney


//published 2014//

In the second installment of Beyond the Tales, Mahoney gives us the story of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” – with a twist.  In the first book, The Wanderersthe main characters of that story stop by the castle of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, but The Storyteller gives us all the background and takes us on to see what happened to the characters next.

While this book has some overlap in characters, and is set in the same world, as The Wanderers, it also reads just fine as a standalone.

I quite liked our narrator, and the story was well-told and engaging.  I’m already partway through the third book as well.  This book is a 4/5 and recommended.

The Gold Bat by P.G. Wodehouse


//published 1904//

I am still slowly working my way through Wodehouse’s earlier works, which are mostly school stories.  I was a little scared that The Gold Bat was going to be wall-to-wall cricket, but there was actually a fun little story sandwiched between the sports scenes.  As these stories progress, I see more and more glimpses of what I would consider to be “classic” Wodehouse – sturdy, upright characters whose lives spiral out of their control, bad guys who are more mischievous than actually bad, convoluted yet interconnected plots that all come crashing together at the end, etc.  On the whole, these stories lack the strong humor found in Wodehouse’s later works – while still lighthearted and fun, they don’t have those fabulous similes that make so many of his books so much fun.

Still, The Gold Bat had a fun array of schoolboy characters and plenty of scrapes to go around.  It was a fine one-off read, but not one that I see myself returning to again and again.  3/5.

Fury and the Mustangs by Albert G. Miller


//published 1960//

The second book in the Fury trilogy is full of adventure and excitement.  Like the first book, there are a few overarching stories, but each chapter also more or less reads as its own little tale.  The two big stories are the major drought in the region and the fact that a new rancher is rounding up and slaughtering mustangs on federal land.

It’s actually rather interesting.  All along, people have been rounding up mustangs to tame and sell, but a few things came together in the 1950’s to suddenly push wild mustangs towards endangerment.  Firstly, factories began buying them in order to put horse meat into dog food, creating a market for the mustangs.  Secondly, accessibility to airplanes and Jeeps meant that the rounding up of the wild horses could be accomplished swiftly and with minimal manpower.  Throughout the decade, airplanes would buzz around, flushing herds into the open and running them down towards the waiting Jeeps.  The Jeeps would then take over the chase, lassoing the horses.  At the other end of the rope would be a heavy tire.  The horses would be forced to run until they collapsed.  Then they would be packed tightly onto a waiting truck and hauled to slaughter.  It was a horrific practice, completely different from the traditional use of men on horses herding the wild horses, selectively culling the herds and leaving some for breeding.

Throughout the story, the people in the neighborhood of the Broken Wheel are working towards legislation to forbid hunting mustangs from airplanes.  One of the driving forces for this campaign, mentioned obliquely in the story, and in more detail in the afterword, was a young woman from Nevada.  Her story is told in excellent detail in Marguerite Henry’s Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West.  Wild Horse Annie overcame many difficulties to do everything in her power to save the mustangs, including testifying in Washington, D.C.  Her campaign was successful, and in 1959 it became illegal to hunt wild horses on federal land from an airplane or motor vehicle.

ANYWAY that’s really all background to the fun story of Fury and the Mustangs.  Fury, of course, does all sorts of things that verge on magical.  Joey is really a delightful young hero – honest, hardworking, and engaging.  There are many adventures with rustlers, bank robbers, forest fires, and more.  In the end, there are dramatic rescues and declarations, and everyone learns important lessons.  All in all, it’s a fun little story that is quite enjoyable, especially for young horse lovers.

Fugitive // by Phillip Margolin


//published 2009//

I’ve really enjoy the Amanda Jaffe series so far, and was looking forward to reading Fugitive.  While this one was a little more coincidence-based than the others, it was still a solid and engaging mystery.

This story centers around Charlie Marsh.  A small-time con-man, he struck it big when he capitalized on a heroic moment, turning himself into Gabriel Day and traveling about to sell his message of Inner Light – which, conveniently, lots of women liked to hear.  When one of Charlie’s lover’s husbands is shot, Charlie and the wife become the prime suspects.  Charlie flees the country and takes refuge in a small Africa country that doesn’t have extradition with the US.

All of this takes place a dozen years before our real story starts.  Unfortunately for Charlie, the ruler of the African country where Charlie is hiding is a really horrible person who rules with fear and torture.  In the present day, Charlie runs afoul of the ruler.  Knowing that he is going to be tortured and killed, Charlie arranges an escape from Africa, heading back to the States to face the music there instead.

Overall, Fugitive did a very good job tying the two timelines together.  For me, the main problem was that it was hard to really impress that twelve years had gone by.  None of the people have really changed all that much – they were adults then and are adults now, and no one’s character really seems to have undergone a big change in the intervening years.

While the thriller aspect was intense and the story was paced well, this book leaned a bit more on coincidences than some of the earlier titles in the series.  Also, Margolin enlisted the writing method of having a crucial piece of evidence that people in the story know about but the reader doesn’t, which is kind of annoying when it is super flagrant like it was in this instance.  There were multiple references to a picture, but we aren’t allowed to find out who/what is in the picture until the big reveal in the end – which makes it a little difficult to solve the mystery!

There were also two instances of someone getting a phone call in the middle of the night and then haring off to meet someone without letting anyone know where they were going!  Two!  Seriously!  You think people would learn after what happened the first time, but apparently not.  (The second time the person takes a gun as though this will automatically mean they will have no problems at the rendezvous.  Sheesh.)

All in all, I really did enjoy Fugitive, but not quite as much as the others, so I think it’s more of a 3/5.   Only one more book in the series, which makes me kind of sad.  I’m not sure if Margolin is going to continue with these characters or not – Violent Crimes was just published this year, so it’s taken him sixteen years to get these five books out.  Unfortunately for my TBR, Margolin has written several other books, all of which will need to be read eventually… oh dear.

The Tottering TBR // Episode IV

I haven’t run the numbers yet, but I have a feeling that I about broke even on books added and removed this week…  mainly because I’m super behind on reading other people’s reviews!!!

Added to the General TBR:

23600228Well, it looks like I actually added eight books!

  • Three books are thanks to random book advertisement emails
    • I’ve mentioned before that I really enjoy books about people who own and operate hotels or B&Bs because I’ve always secretly wanted to do so myself.  Cranberry Bluff by Deborah Garner sounds like it may fit the bill.
    • Suspicion by Alexandra Monir is billed (on GoodReads) as “A modern-day twist on the classic thriller, Rebecca, with a dash of the supernatural, a powerful romance, and a deadly family mystery.”  May be worth a whirl!
    • Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells showed up on several emails this week at a bargain price (that was higher than 99¢ so I didn’t bite haha) and is supposed to be a sci-fi thriller about some scientists who go to explore an empty spaceship – and find out that it isn’t empty after all.
  • After finding In a Dark, Dark Wood interesting, even if it wasn’t 100% my cup of tea, I added Ruth Ware’s other book, The Woman in Cabin Ten, to the TBR.  I’ve read reviews of this book on a few blogs and the consensus seems to be that it wasn’t as strong as her first outing, but I’m still interested to read it.
  • This week, it was Heart Full of Books that gave me the double-dose of TBR additions!
    • Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly sounds like a lot of fun, and who doesn’t want to read a lively YA lighthearted mystery that takes place in the same town where Nancy Drew grew up??  Maddie says, “When you read this book, you can definitely expect a lot of trouble, mischief and hilarity as the situation gets progressively harder to get out of.”
    • Bee reviewed both books in a duology by C.J. Daughtery and Carina Rosenfeld, The Secret Fire and The Secret City.  I haven’t read a lot of urban fantasy, and these sounded like a lot of fun.  And there are a lot of times where I feel like two books are the perfect length for a story.
  • Another pair of blogging sisters, Bibliobeth and Chrissi Reads, discussed The Readers of Broken Wheel by Katarina Bivald.  They recommended this “book about books” although I am a little leery of reading a story where the potential romance is between Sara(h) and Tom!
  • Finally, Carol’s review over at Reading, Writing and Riesling encouraged me to pick up Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta.  She says, “This is an incredibly well written contemporary mystery/thriller with such well-developed characters you feel like you know them! Redemption, forgiveness, hope…its all here. I can’t praise this read highly enough. Add this to your book buying list now!”  …Or at least to my mythical TBR, right??

Off the General TBR:

  • Another week of two DNFs!
    • Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor was just too… something.  I couldn’t get into it.  I think it’s partially because I really don’t enjoy reading books about people who are being abused.  I realize that it’s a real and horrible thing, but I don’t want to read it in my fiction, because I read fiction for enjoyment.  Plus, I’m not completely convinced that reading about horrible situations in fiction really helps people learn about those situations – sometimes I think it just begins to desensitize them and normalize behavior instead.  Anyway, I just didn’t like either of the voices in this story, and wasn’t interested in them as people after a few chapters in.  It’s a shame, because reading about Japanese-Americans shortly after World War II sounds really interesting – but I just wasn’t feeling like I was really going to get a lot of historical background.
    • I’ve read multiple reviews of The Wind is Not a River by Brian Payton (also published as All This Will Be Lost), but it just wasn’t the book for me.  It goes back to that enjoying happy books thing – and while I was interested in John Easley’s part of the story (stranded on a Japanese-occupied Alaskan island during WWII, trying to avoid detection), his wife’s story was really boring me and felt disjointed and strange.  I also genuinely hate present-tense narratives, like a lot, so unless I love the story, I’m not wading through such a stupid, stilted way to tell a story.  I have no compunctions about skipping to the end of books that I’m meh about and seeing if it’s actually worth reading to me – and this one wasn’t.  I’m not wading through hundreds of first-person narration listening to people suffer so I can get to a depressing ending.  So while I’m sure this book is lyrical and lovely and deep, it wasn’t for me.
  • Two more books were removed without being read.
    • After rereading they synopsis for Sanctuary by Ted Dekker, I just wasn’t feeling it.
    • A while back, I added a bunch of random Beauty & the Beast retellings.  But when I was flipping through Roses and Thorns by Chris Anne Wolfe, I realized that it just wasn’t my style.
  • Finally, two more books were removed because I actually read and reviewed them!
    • 9781501112317_custom-b94a64187bf3180e71db57fd0feedeb786ff5a89-s300-c85I finished Two Men on the Bummelthe sequel to Two Men in a Boat, but because they go together, they only count as one book on the list.  Both of them were highly enjoyable, and I still can’t believe I’ve gone my whole life without reading them before.
    • I also read, as mentioned above, In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, which I devoured in one evening.  Even though I personally didn’t like the main character, and wasn’t totally on board with the ending, it was still a gripping read.

Total for the General TBR:  845 (up two)


Added to the Personal TBR:

  • Thirty Days to Thirty by Courtney Psak was another Kindle freebie that sounds like a fun and lighthearted chicklit read.

Off the Personal TBR:

Still nothing here, as I’m reading a trilogy.  I’m halfway through book three, though, so this one should be off the list next week!

Total for the Personal TBR:  556 (up one!)


Added to the Series TBR:

  • I really enjoyed the Menagerie books by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, so I added Tui’s other series, also aimed at middle-schoolers, Wings of Fire…  about dragons!!!

untold-coverOff the Series TBR:

  • Speaking of the Menagerie series…  I realized that I never actually took of this tab, so even though I’m still in the middle of the Lynburn Legacy (I reviewed Book #2 this week!), I still got to drop a number!

Total for the Series TBR:  139 (even!)


Added to the Mystery Series TBR:

Nothing!!!  Score!

Off the Mystery Series TBR:

…also nothing!  But I’m through 4/6 books in the Amanda Jaffe series (I haven’t reviewed book four yet), and the one I reviewed this week, Proof Positivewas probably my favorite in the series so far.

Total for the Mystery Series TBR:  64 (even!)


Added to the Nonfiction TBR:

Actually, nothing here either.  Go me.

Off the Nonfiction TBR:

Um.  Well.  Nothing here either.

Total for the Nonfiction TBR:  50 (even again!)


Grand Totals for the Week:  Ten added, seven removed, so overall three up on the overall TBR!

Untold // by Sarah Rees Brennan (+ two short stories)


//published 2013//

So it’s taken me a while to get to this second book in the Lynburn Legacy, which was a little distressing because I freaking adored the first book in the trilogy, Unspoken.  ***Please note that there may be some spoilers for the first book in this review.  Nothing crazy, though.***

In the meanwhile, I read two short stories that Brennnan published between these two books.  The Spring Before I Met You is a glimpse into Jared’s life before he moved to England and met Kami in person.  It was really fun to get a little bit more into Jared’s head, as I feel like we don’t get enough of him in the actual books.

We switch to Kami’s perspective in The Summer Before I Met You, and I could not stop laughing while I was reading this short story that delves into that whole “cricket camp scandal” thing that is mentioned in the beginning of Unspoken.  It was funny and interesting and gave some more depth to the friendship between Kami and Angela, as well as a better concept of how Kami has gone her whole life talking to Jared in her head.

However, there is a third short story, The Night After I Lost You that I simply cannot find.  The links I’ve found for it no longer work, but the reviews I’ve read said that this is a really good follow up to the end of Unspoken, and I would really like to read it so if anyone knows where it can be found, or even if you have the pdf and are willing to email it to me…  that would be fantastic!

In the meantime, I went ahead and delved into Untold.  While I didn’t enjoy this second book as much as the first, and felt like it did suffer from moderate second-book syndrome, it was still an engaging and interesting read, and did a fairly good job of moving things forward from book one, and setting things up for the final showdown in book three.

This book definitely had more angst than the first book, and to my perspective it took a lot longer for Kami and Jared to have an actual conversation than it should have.  It really frustrates me when everyone’s problems are based around the fact that they haven’t bothered to sit down and exchange the three sentences that it would take to straighten out their issues.  I know that a lot of it was because of the mean things Jared said at the end of Unspoken, so Kami was scared to talk to him, but still.  Please.

There was also a little too much time spent on the sexual orientation questions of a couple of characters.  Like basically you have these evil sorcerers who are planning to take over your whole village, but we spent a lot of time with Kami contemplating her feelings towards Jared and Ash, watching Jared thunder around like a spoiled stormcloud, and listening to Angela and Holly wonder if they have feelings for each other, and I just felt like worrying about so many feelings in the face of imminent death made the whole imminent death thing seem like it wasn’t that real.

And to me, that was the second-book syndrome part of this story – a lot of filler time focused on feelings and not enough actually getting something done.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love every character in this book, and I totally enjoyed reading it, but I had a lot more eye-rolling moments in this book than I did during the first.

Also, I understand Kami’s dad being upset about everything, but if her parents don’t work through their issues and get back on the same page by the of book three, I am going to be seriously ticked off, because their marriage made me SO happy in the first book.

All in all, a solid 4/5.  A good progression to the series, and enjoyable read on its own (despite extra angst), and I am totally anticipating the conclusion to the series.

In a Dark, Dark Wood // by Ruth Ware


//published 2015//

This was one of those books that I have troubled deciding whether or not I liked it.  The story was thoroughly engrossing – I basically couldn’t put it down, and finished the entire book in one evening!  But in the end, I also found the tale to just be rather depressing.  While the ending was satisfying in the sense that all questions were answered – some of them weren’t answers I really liked.

Still, for just pure on-the-edge-of-my-seatness, this would be a hard one to beat.  Ware does an amazing job building up a genuinely unsettling atmosphere.  Placing her characters in a remote location with a full glass wall looking out into the dark woods, the constant reminder that people can see in but you can’t see out – cutting off cell service and thus isolating the players from the world – the snowy weather – even the fact that the main character doesn’t have a car – it all comes together to create a setting and feel that is rather unnerving.

Through the use of flash-forward scenes (or are the other chapters flashbacks?), Ware also gives us slow glimpses of the “bad thing” that is coming.  This slow drip-feed is really more frightening than just knowing it all at once, and is done very, very well.  I was reading as fast as I could turn the pages, and was thankful that we had no evening plans, as all I wanted to do was find out what happens.  

At the end of the day, I think I am going with 3/5, although I am very close to a 4/5.  I definitely would like to see what else Ware has written, but I don’t see myself ever returning to this story again.  There were a few rather big things about this story that really bothered me – not plotting-wise, but just personal-preference-wise, but they involve spoilers, so I’ll put them below the cut.

I’ve read multiple reviews of this book, all of which made me want to pick it up, so thanks to Cleopatra Loves Books (who does a much better job of actually summarizing the story, if you’re interested!); Reading, Writing, and Riesling; Bibliobeth and Chrissi Reads; and Fictionophile for leading me towards this terrifying read!

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Three Men on the Bummel // by Jerome K. Jerome


//published 1900// originally published as ‘Three Men on Wheels’ //

After enjoying Three Men in a Boat so thoroughly, I approached its sequel with anticipation.  And while Bummel wasn’t quite as funny as Boat, it was still a very worthwhile and engaging read.

Several years have passed since J., Harris, and George tooled about on the river.  Harris and J. are both now married with children, and our story opens with the three friends discussing how they could really do with a bit of a break from the wear and tear of domestic life.  I think that one of the things that I greatly enjoyed was that while J. and Harris are definitely eager for a holiday, there is never a feeling that they are tired of being married or that they wish that they could abandon their families forever.  Both wives are portrayed as intelligent and hardworking, and on the whole everyone seems to be quite happily married.  However, that doesn’t mean that a bit of a vacation wouldn’t be welcome.

And so, the three decide to bicycle around Germany (specifically through the Black Forest).  The first few chapters are them deciding where to go and what to do, and then persuading the wives to let them go off and do it – without tagging along.  My first genuine laugh came in chapter two, when J. begins to imagine how he will broach the subject to his wife, and how his wife will respond.

I opened the ball with Ethelbertha that same evening.  I commenced by being purposely a little irritable.  My idea was that Ethelbertha would remark upon this.  I should admit it, and account for it by over brain pressure. This would naturally lead to talk about my health in general, and the evident necessity there was for my taking prompt and vigorous measures.  I thought that with a little tact I might even manage so that the suggestion should come from Ethelbertha herself.

J. imagines a lovely discussion with his wife, in which she humbly pleads with him to take a break from domestic life and go off on a little jaunt with Harris and George.  The whole paragraph had me giggling, with sentences like, “Go away to some green corner of the earth, where all is new and strange to you, where your overwrought mind will gather peace and fresh ideas.”  Or, “Go away for a space and give me time to miss you, and to reflect upon your goodness and virtue, which, continually present with me, I  may, human-like, be apt to forget, as one, through use, grows indifferent to the blessing of the sun and the beauty of the moon.”  The whole thing is absolute balderdash, but one can still see a man thinking that this may be what his woman will say to him!

It is extra funny when contrasted with how the conversation actually goes – from Ethelbertha not actually noticing that J. is more irritable than usual, to her completely turning the tables and persuading J. that she should go on a holiday.  It is all just too perfectly written.

Eventually, the friends get away and begin their journey.  It is full of the usual adventures, although Jerome is less apt to go off onto his historical and natural meanderings – and I found myself rather missing them.  Still, he does give many observations about Germany and the people who live there.  On the whole, Jerome tends to admire their hardworking and law-abiding attitude.  His writing on the way that Germans obey rules that the English would flaunt was quite funny, and a reminder of how different cultures really can be.  However, I never felt that Jerome crossed the line to unpleasant mockery.  His teasing is always gentle and kind.

This book was published in 1900, with World War still over a decade away, yet Jerome already seems to sense the possible danger of a culture so tied up in automatic and unquestioning obedience to the government.

Their [the German schools] everlasting teaching is duty.  It is a fine ideal for any people; but before buckling to it, one would wish to have a clear understanding as to what his ‘duty’ is.  The German idea of it would appear to be: ‘blind obedience to everything in buttons.’  It is the antithesis of the Anglo-Saxon scheme; but as both the Anglo-Saxon and the Teuton are prospering, there must be good in both methods.  Hitherto, the German has had the blessed fortune to be exceptionally well governed; if this continues, it will go well with him.  When his troubles will begin will be when by any chance something goes wrong with the governing machine.

All in all, while Bummel wasn’t the rollicking, nonstop laughter of Three Men in a Boat, it was still an interesting and entertaining volume, reflective of its time, yet still full of the timeless observations of human nature that made Boat so enjoyable.  Not quite as highly recommended as the first book, but Bummel is still an easy 4/5 read and recommended as well.

Proof Positive // by Phillip Margolin


//published 2007//

I really, really enjoyed the third book in the Amanda Jaffe series – it may be my favorite that I have read so far.  I got almost nothing useful done when I was reading this book because I couldn’t put it down!

Question for you:  If you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that someone had committed a terrible crime, and you knew that the only way that this person would be punished for his crime was if you were willing to lie under oath, would you be willing to commit that perjury, when telling the truth means that a perpetrator gets off free?

The crazy thing about this book is that we know from almost the very beginning who the bad guy is – and yet it did not relieve the tension a single iota.  Instead, I found myself basically bouncing in my chair when people are talking with this guy, begging them to see through his veneer.  People die because of this guy, and Margolin does a really great joy of making him believable as a villain, but also believable that people wouldn’t see his villainy – I completely bought the fact that people were trusting this guy, and I also completely bought the idea that he has become unhinged, convinced that his lies are for the greater good, and that protecting those lies – no matter the cost – is also for the greater good.

I really enjoy the reintroduction of characters from earlier books, especially two of the bad guys who have been with us from the first book.  Amanda’s dad has represented them on multiple occasions, and they did him a favor in the last book – and collect on it in this one.  Their characters are done quite well.

Once again, I really enjoy these crime procedurals, with minimal swearing, violence, and sex.  It’s almost like Margolin realizes that a good story and strong characters are what make a book realistic and enjoyable, not mindless f*ing, gore, and shagging.  Brilliant.  I love it.  Don’t get me wrong – there is a little bit of all three of those components, but they are seasoning, not the main course – as they should be.

I do feel like Amanda herself could have been a stronger player in this story.  In many ways, she was sort of a background person.  This happened in the last book, where Kerrigan’s story ended up overshadowing Amanda’s.  In this book, a great deal of time is spent on another defense attorney, Doug Weaver.  And Doug is a great character and his story is a good one, but if you have a theoretical main character of the series, it seems as though she ought to be a bit more…  main.

But that’s a fairly minor quibble.  The truth of the matter is, I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book.  I had trouble reading it fast enough.  I already have a problem where I basically read while I’m doing…  well, almost everything.  This book got read while I was cooking supper, making the bed, vacuuming, feeding the chickens, walking to the post office…  it was pretty intense.

This puts me at the halfway mark for this series, and so far, I highly recommend it.  This book was a definite 4/5, and I’m pretty stoked about delving into the next book.

The Tottering TBR // Episode III

Well, after a brilliant week last week of slamming books of the list left and right, this week ended up being one of those where I found myself adding several to make up for it…

Added to the General TBR:

Well, I’m just going to tell it to you straight:  I added six books this week!

While You Were Mine and A School for Unusual Girls both came as GoodReads recommendations.  The first is a story about a young woman who has raised an abandoned baby during World War II, only to have the baby’s father come to claim her after the war.  The second is about a “finishing” school just after the Napoleonic Wars that is actually teaching its students how to become spies.


Fun fact: when I was looking up images for this cover, some of them show her with still water and the oars up, while others have rippled water and oars down… seems mysterious…

Apparently I need to just stop reading Cleopatra’s blog, because she adds to the TBR very consistently!  This week she intrigued me with not one, but two titles!  The first is Another Day Gone by Eliza Graham.  Cleo says:

I really enjoy books about consequences that occur far later than the initial act, decision or mistake but to pull this type of story off, you need great characters, ones whose behaviour and actions are recognisable as realistic, given the circumstances, at any point in the story. Eliza Graham has this absolutely nailed. I was transfixed and reached that stage of reading where I wanted to know the ending but simultaneously wanted to stay with the characters, for just a little bit longer.

Of course, she also warned that not everyone gets a happy ending, so maybe this isn’t the book for me!

The second title from Cleo is In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings, a psychological thriller that Cleo says has not only an engaging story, but engaging characters as well.

Of course, Cleo alone is not to blame.  A review of Life of Pi (by Yann Martel) over at Rose Reads Novels reminded me that I have vague memories of enjoying that book when I read it many years ago, and would like to give it another go.

Finally, From First Page to Last reviewed The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.  Janet says, “Don’t expect a mad dash of a story for this is a gently told tale. Sometimes that is just what is needed, gentle escapism. A lovely story, perfect to curl up with on a long winter evening.”  So even though I probably won’t get to this book until January of 2037, I will at least be ready at that point for a nice comforting story.

Off the General TBR:

This was an unusual week for me – two books that I did not finish.

I started Boneman’s Daughters by Ted Dekker – I’ve read a few of his thrillers before and they were decent, but this one just wasn’t capturing me.  I think it was because so often, if we spend time with the “bad guy,” the author feels a need to emphasize the bad guy’s craziness by giving him strange obsessions that I, as the reader, have to listen about at length.  In this case, the bad guy had this bizarre thing about beautiful skin, and spent lots of time using specific lotions for specific regions of his body, and after about maybe the third or fourth time listening to a few paragraphs of this guy contemplating lotion, I was over it.  And there just wasn’t anything else going for me in this book, so I let it go.


Do you have books that you really want to like and just don’t??

Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer started out alright – set in the midwest during the Depression, the main character is married to a storekeeper who is home for a month, and then spends the next month traveling about purchasing supplies for the store.  Except it turns out that what he’s actually doing is visiting his other wife and children just a few towns over.  In the first chapter, the main character finds out about this when the sheriff of that town shows up, tells her that the man and wife #2 (whom the sheriff thinks is the only wife, of course) have died and left their children to their “aunt.”  While it felt like this could have been a good story, it was just too slow and too much of listening to various characters whine.  Plus, wife #1’s son is just such a brat and is so mean to the new kids that I just couldn’t take it any more.  The final nail in the coffin was a personal annoyance with third-person narratives that still title various sections with a character’s name to let me know whose thoughts we will be hearing.  I’m not stupid, so I think I can figure out whose thoughts we’re reading when it is in the third person and you mention their name in the first sentence.  I mean, sheesh.

I removed Infandous by Elana K. Arnold after reading a few reviews.  I have zero scruples about knowing spoilers, and the spoilers for this book definitely made me realize that I did not want to read it.

Dragon Mystics is actually part of a series, so it got shifted over, and I’ve gone back and forth about reading Eligiblea modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice, but every review I read really just makes me more convinced that I’ll actually hate it, so it’s back off the TBR again.

Ironically, no books were removed because I actually read and reviewed them, despite the bit where this is a book blog and that’s what I do… whoops.

All in all, five off the list.

Total for the General TBR:  843 (up one!)


Added to the Personal TBR:

These are books I have purchased, either in physical or ebook form, and that I haven’t read since I started blogging my reviews.  It’s been on of those awkward weeks where I keep coming across free Kindle books that sound like fun…

  • download

    Doesn’t it look terrifying??

    At the Villa Rose by A.E.W. Mason (because I keep wanting to try some older mystery writers)

  • More Than Pancakes by Christine Depetrillo (because I enjoy fluff sometimes and have always wanted to run a hotel of some kind)
  • Maids of Misfortune by Louisa M. Locke (because even though most mysteries with a female protagonist set in the late 1800’s are terrible, every once in a while I come across one that’s brilliant)
  • A Victorian Christmas Cottage by Catherine Palmer & others (because of that whole fluff thing)
  • The Perfect Stranger by Wendy Corsi Staub (because I got this for free for filling out a survey and it sounds deliciously creepy)

So…  five added!

Removed from the Personal TBR:

Sadly, none.  My personal book that I read this week was the first in a trilogy (and will appear in the next batch of minireviews), so it won’t officially be off the list until I read book 3!

Total for the Personal TBR:  555 (up four… although it should be five… so apparently I can’t count somewhere…  not unusual)


Added to the Series TBR:

Like I said, one book from the General TBR is now on the Series list.  Other than that, I also added the Guardians Trilogy by Nora Roberts.  I’ve found her books to be hit or miss in the past, and these sound a little crazy but still intriguing.

Removed from the Series TBR:

Still working my way through the Lynburn Legacy books (I read two of the short stories this week), so no progress here.

Total for the Series TBR:  139 (up two)


Added to the Mystery Series TBR:

I know that I’ve read some reviews about the Will Trent series by Karen Slaughter before, but Stephanie’s review of the most recent addition to that series, The Kept Woman, made me realize that I had somehow neglected to actually add the series to the list!

Removed from the Mystery Series TBR:

Still working on the Amanda Jaffe books.  This week I reviewed the second book, Ties That Bindand my next review should actually be the third in the series, Proof Positive, which was fantastic.

Total for the Mystery Series TBR:  64 (up one)


Added to the Nonfiction TBR:


Plus, I just like the word “kraken.”

Despite the fact that I have been reading exactly zero nonfiction titles lately, I still find myself intrigued by various nonfiction books, especially ones that choose something kind of random and tell all about it.  Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid by Wendy Williams sounds exactly like the kind of book I would enjoy.  It was brought to my attention by The Literary Sisters, who did a series this week on Really Underrated Books.

Removed from the Nonfiction TBR:

Nothing, but I am determined (ha!) to make progress here by next week!

Total for the Nonfiction TBR:  50 (up one)


Grand Totals for the Week:  Fourteen added and five removed, so net gain of nine this week on the overall TBR!

November MiniReviews – Part 1

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just feel rather “meh” about and they don’t seem worth writing an entire post about.  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So, inspired by the way that Stephanie reviews the unreviewed every month, I think that some months (or maybe all of them!) will get a post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

This month I seem to already have accumulated quite a few middling books (or maybe I’m just feeling lazier about writing reviews!) so here is the first batch, and you can anticipate another before the end of the month!

Rose & Thorn by Sarah Prineas


//published 2016//

Uggghhh this is the sequel to Ash & Bramblea book that gave me a lot of mixed feelings – and Rose & Thorn did the same.  In the end, I guess it’s a 2/5.  Once again, it’s more because of the overall tone/message of the book than it is because of the story itself, which is alright but fine.  But the message can be summed up from this paragraph on page 25:

“You and the Penwitch had a story together, didn’t you?  Some kind of adventure …  Something terrible, and also wonderful.  And after it you lived happily together?  Maybe you even had children, and you were a family.  But not forever.”  No, there was no ever-after.  Shoe had taught me that.  Even if the adventure ended, the story went on.

I think the reason that this book gave me a gag reflex wasn’t because of the concept that stories don’t really end, it’s the insistence that that means that there is, ultimately, no happiness to be found.  Even if you have it right now, that’s only going to be for a moment because it doesn’t last, love doesn’t last, you can never be together forever.  It was just super depressing, and also felt like it meant the whole story had no point.  Like, if you aren’t going to find happiness, what are you even fighting for?  The chance to choose your own misery?  That just didn’t seem inspiring to me.

I dragged through this book and didn’t really like it.  Thankfully it was in past tense, which was definitely an improvement.  However, the story itself had so many logical gaps that I just couldn’t buy it.  They started in the first chapter with the fact that we’re calling Owen “Shoe” after half the point of the last book was finding his true identity and giving him his name back.  It felt like the whole first book was kind of pointless also – which I suppose is true when all you’re trying to do is make sure people understand that if they have a happy ending, it’s because they are letting someone else write their story: happy endings don’t happen when we have the power to make our own stories.  BLEH.

The Ghost Rock Mystery by Mary C. Jane


//published 1956//

This is one of those happy little Scholastic Book Club books that they used to print back in the day and sell for 50¢.  I’ve accumulated a lot of them at book sales over the years.  While they aren’t super deep, they are fun for younger readers, and this one was no exception.  Janice and Tommy go to stay for the summer with their aunt Annabelle (a widow) and their cousin Hubert.  Aunt Annabelle has just purchased an old house in upstate Maine that she is renting as a hotel/bed & breakfast, but many of the locals believe that it’s haunted, and she is having trouble getting guests to stay.

The kids solve the mystery, and all is well in the end – even Aunt Annabelle finds new love with her hunky neighbor who works for the Border Patrol.

It was interesting to read a book that involved illegal immigration, but written about back in the day when it was a much more cut-and-dried issue than it has been made into during modern times.  At one point, one of the kids asks the Border Patrolman why the illegal immigrants can’t come into the country.

“Many of them could,” Mr. Grant replied, “if they would go about it as they are supposed to do.  If they sneak in, we never know how many men among the ordinary laborers may be dangerous enemies who are using this as a way to get into the United States.”

I just find it interesting that in our current culture, if anyone says that they don’t believe that illegal immigrants should be immediately granted citizen-level rights, it’s because we’re racist and cruel – no one seems to consider that perhaps it is simply unfair to the thousands of people who are trying to enter the country legally, by following the rules – and that those rules have been created for the safety of everyone already living here.

Anyway.  A fine little book, although nothing out of the ordinary.

Wait for What Will Come by Barbara Michaels


//published 1978//

Another 3/5 so-so read from Michaels.  I’ve almost given up on her, despite my unfailing love for the Amelia Peabody series.  The Vicky Bliss series was pretty meh, and so have the independent novels of hers that I’ve read – and there have been quite a few that I’ve gotten from the library and then sent back because they just didn’t capture me.

Wait for What Will Come had a fairly intriguing story, with Carla returning (from America) to her family’s old home in Cornwall.  She meets like five guys, all super hot and available, within 24 hours of her arrival, though, so I was already doubting the credibility of the entire story.  But despite being ardently pursued by basically all of them, Carla is no missish heroine.  Even though her crazy housekeeper keeps telling Carla about the curse on her family that will strike if Carla stays until Mid-Summer’s Eve, Carla refuses to be bullied out of the home she is growing to love.

Overall, it wasn’t that bad of a book, and much of the adventure kept me avidly turning pages.  However, the ending felt very rushed – I even had to go back and read a few pages to make sure I understood exactly what was happening. While plausible, it wasn’t necessarily a natural ending.

Tales of St. Austin’s by P.G. Wodehouse


//published 1903//

Another one of Wodehouse’s very early works, this book is a collection of short stories that all take place at a boys’ school called St. Austin’s.  As with most short story collections, there were some that were quite funny and others that fell a bit short of the mark (mostly due to cricket).

On the whole, while Wodehouse’s school stories aren’t terrible reading, they aren’t thoroughly engaging, either.  St. Austin’s was basically forgettable.  While worth a one-time read, it isn’t one that I see myself returning to time and again.


Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog!) by Jerome K. Jerome


//published 1889//

This book was first brought to my attention by FictionFan, who has mentioned in a few posts, and reviewed it here.  After reading the first chapter, I couldn’t believe that I had somehow gone my entire life without this book.  Jerome has created a masterpiece of humor, a sort of travelogue with random reminiscences thrown in, and a little spice of thoughtfulness as well.

Published in 1889, the story follows our narrator, J., as he and two of his friends, Harris and George.  Feeling weary of their everyday life, they decide to take a holiday by boating up the Thames.  But the joy of this story is in the narration itself, as J. gives us plenty of asides.  While the book loosely follows their journey, much the book is meandering anecdotes, a style that feels like it ought to be annoying but is honestly just pure delight.  I could not stop laughing while I was reading this book, and probably read over half of it out loud to my ever-patient husband, because so much of this story was just too much fun to keep to myself.

I tried to mark pages to quote for this review, but realized that what I really wanted to do was quote the entire book, which means that you just simply need to sit down and read it for yourself as soon as you possibly can.

One of the things that I loved about this story was how while the setting was obviously dated, the story didn’t seem to be at all.  The adventures and thoughts of these three were completely relatable, right from the first page where J. tells us how he visited the the British Museum and started reading about various diseases and realized that he had them all!  While WebMD may have given us a more modern access to hypochondria, it is most certainly not an issue limited to our place in time!

The whole book is that way.  The classic story of Uncle Podger hanging a picture (who hasn’t known someone just like him?!), the comforting realization that a full stomach makes you feel just as happy and contented as a clear conscience (and so much cheaper and more easily obtained!), the foul and dirty nature of a tow line – Jerome captures our human nature perfectly, and, in the process, reveals that we really haven’t changed that much in the almost 130 years since he wrote this tale.

Besides humorous anecdotes, Jerome also gives us snippets of history and various travel tips that are thoroughly engaging, and also manages to touch on serious topics with a deft hand, somehow slipping it between funny bits without detracting from the story or trivializing the issue at hand.  His few pages on a young, unmarried mother who found that drowning herself in the river was easier than continuing to live under a cloud of shame and poverty genuinely choked me up, and added yet another layer to the fact that human nature – both of those who have been judged and those who judge – really hasn’t changed that much, either.

In short, this is a book that is very much worth reading.  As I said at the beginning, I cannot believe that I have never read it before – or even heard that much about it!  This book is a delight that I think everyone would – and should! – enjoy.  I will definitely be adding a copy to my personal shelves very soon, and the sequel, Three Men on the Bummel, is next in the queue to read.