April Minireviews

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!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me…

The Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge

//published 1964//

I really can’t believe that I never came across any of Goudge’s books as a child.  I had a very old-fashioned reading list, as my mom is an avid collector of old books (I come by it honestly), and I remember distinctly coming to a realization somewhere around middle school that nearly all of my favorite authors were long deceased.  This whole concept of finding an author who is still producing new things for me to read is kind of a crazy concept to me, actually.  :-D

Anyway, Goudge completely seems like someone my mother would love.  Her books are incredibly magical and perfect – gentle and kind.  There is no rush or slapdash action, but instead perfectly placed scenes and conversations, filled with characters one cannot help but love wholeheartedly.  I feel in love with every single person in The Runaways, even the bad guys.  This isn’t a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat, or leaves you frantically turning the pages at 1am, but it is definitely a book I see myself returning to time and again, to immerse myself in the gentle and beautiful world of the young Linnets.  4.5/5

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

//published 1946//

Read The Runaways made me want to reread this one.  I had only read it once, a couple of years ago, and it was my first introduction to Goudge’s work.  (Her second book for me was The Scent of Waterwhich is one of the few books that I genuinely felt changed me as a person when I read it.)  The Little White Horse was just as delightful the second time around, with a heroine who isn’t quite perfect, and just enough magic to keep you wondering if this could really happen. 5/5

The Princess by Lori Wick

//published 1999//

I’m not going to lie.  This is one of my go-to books when I am in need of something relaxing.  This is definitely a love story that has very strong Christian themes throughout, but the story itself is strong enough that I think that even if hearing about prayer/God’s plan/etc. isn’t your thing, you would still enjoy it.  I love stories where people get married first, and then fall in love, and this is an all-time fave. 4.5/5

Come On, Seabiscuit by Ralph Moody

//published 1963//

This is one of those random books I’ve had on my shelf forever, that I probably bought as a kid because it was about horses, especially since I went through a stage where I fascinated with racehorses in particular.  But somehow, I’ve only just gotten around to reading it – and it was actually a total win!  I was completely invested in Seabiscuit’s life. It’s hard to believe that Moody wasn’t just making things up, as this horse’s life was incredibly dramatic and full of excitement.  I had genuine tears in my eyes when Seabiscuit finally won the Santa Anita Handicap.  I know that just a few years ago someone else wrote a book about Seabiscuit that was made into a movie.  I never got around to either of those, but after reading this book – a somewhat brisk biography, since it was aimed at children – I think I’ll definitely find the newer book and see what other details there are to read.  Overall a surprisingly fun and fascinating read about a horse who overcame some amazing obstacles and the people who loved him.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

//published 1941//

Reading the book about Seabiscuit made me want to pick up this childhood classic right away.  The real-life build up of the race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral (grandson and son of Man O’War) reminded me a LOT of the race build-up between Sun Raider and Cyclone (and later the Black) in Farley’s tale.  Interestingly enough, the real race took place in 1938, while Farley’s book was published in 1941 – so it’s quite possible that the similarities between the two match races wasn’t just in my imagination!

The Black Stallion has always been a favorite of mine, for reasons that I can’t even fully explain.  The characters aren’t terribly well developed and the whole plot is rather ridiculous, but I still love this book.  I love Alec and I love Henry and I love the Black and I love Tony and I love Alec’s parents and this whole book just makes me happy from beginning to end.  I reread this entire series several years ago, back when I was still on Tumblr, and the books sadly got progressively worse as the series went on (culminating in The Black Stallion Legendwhich was unreasonably depressing), so I don’t see myself doing that again any time soon, but this original story is, and always will be, a definitely favorite.

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Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries // by P.D. James

This was my first foray into the writing of P.D. James.  I’ve seen the Dalgliesh mysteries mentioned here and there around the interwebs, and decided to give them a try.  I ended up reading the first 4 1/2 books in the series, but it just wasn’t for me, so I decided not to finish.  I read:

  • Cover Her Face (1962)
  • A Mind to Murder (1963)
  • Unnatural Causes (1967)
  • Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)
  • The Black Tower (partially) (1975)

Cover Her Face was a 3.5/5 read for me, and a decent, although not riveting, start to the series.  Dalgliesh himself is honestly a very minor player in this book – he doesn’t even appear until page 59, and most of the story is more about the murder victim’s family than it is about the detective.  Virtually everyone in the book was unlikable, even Dalgliesh’s potential love interest.  One of the characters in particular (Stephen) was just flat obnoxious, and I basically dreaded every time he appeared on the page.  Still, the story and mysteries were decent, and I was quite willing to give the next book a go.

I liked the second book a great deal more, and gave it a 4* rating.  While the initial cast of characters was a bit confusing, once I got everyone sorted, the mystery was quite engaging.  The pacing was very good and the red herrings excellent.

Unnatural Causes went a bit off the rails in my mind.  It was an incredibly depressing read, with yet another set of characters out of whom not a single one was pleasant.  Dalgliesh’s role in the entire thing was quite murky (since he was technically on holiday), and it made the whole book feel off-kilter.  James also used what is virtually one of my least-favorite writing techniques of all time: where the main character has a sudden revelation and magically knows everything that happened… but doesn’t let us know until multiple other characters have been told.  And in this case, there was (a) not really any way that I could have arrived (or jumped rather) to the conclusion Dalgliesh did, and (b) the information was obviously just being withheld so there would be this grand revelation in the end.  I don’t mind this  method as much if I’m following a character who’s a bit slow (say, Dr. Hastings in a Poirot tale), or when the author has at least given me ALL the clues so that I could have figured it out if I was clever enough – but neither of those things was true here, so it just felt awkward, with things like, “he explained everything to the detective, who shook his head in disbelief.”  That makes for aggravating, rather than interesting, reading.  And, like I said, the ending honestly felt like a cheat.  I just could NOT grasp how Dalgliesh could have POSSIBLY figured out how the murder was committed.  I had trouble understanding how the murderer thought of it to begin with!  It was absurdly complicated (and honestly rather disturbing, ugh).  All in all, this was a 2* read for me.

Book #4 was somewhat better (3.5/5), but still just weirdly depressing.  There were weird things that I guess were supposed to be red herrings, but ended up just feeling random and never really had a good explanation, like the way that one of the suspects was once engaged to a man who died, and then it turns out that another suspect is that man’s brother… and Suspect #1 had an affair with Suspect #2.  But…  why??  Why was there a connection between them??  I guess this is just supposed to throw me off??  But it seemed very out of character for Suspect #1 so I just felt confused.  In another chapter, one of Dalgliesh’s underlings has sex with one of the witnesses, and then spends the evening dancing with someone else he’s supposed to be questioning, and the entire chapter felt like a bad dream.  And of course, once again, I had to suffer through not getting to know what Dalgliesh knows, for not really any good reason:

“But I think I know how it was done.”  [said Dalgliesh.]

He described his theory.  Sergeant Masterson, cross with himself for having missed the obvious, said:  “Of course.  It must have been done that way.”

“Not must, Sergeant.  It was probably done that way.”

But Sergeant Masterson had seen an objection and voiced it.

Dalgliesh replied:  “But that wouldn’t apply to a woman.  A woman could do it easily.”

Do you see why this annoys me??  It’s not necessarily because I don’t get to know what Dalgliesh is thinking – it’s because there is an entire conversation going on about something that I don’t get to know.  And, for instance, I never find out what Masterson’s objection was, even after I find out what the heck they were talking about!  (Which, by the way, doesn’t happen for at least another hundred pages.)

Still, despite feeling a bit meh about everything so far, I picked up The Black Tower.  And I can’t explain exactly why I didn’t finish it.  I think because James had set up an entirely new cast of characters, all unlikable, all depressing, in a depressing setting, and I just found that I couldn’t face another 300 pages of Dalgliesh moping about his job (because he is a great one for being morose and withdrawn, constantly agonizing over some life decision, always on the verge of a crisis, etc.).  So I stopped.  And I sent the whole batch of books back to the library and moved on with my life.

While these weren’t bad books, they just weren’t for me.  I’m not fond of a dark and dreary brooding hero who is full of introspection.  I don’t like it when I feel like I wouldn’t care if someone came by and poisoned the entire cast of characters.  I hate it when authors withhold information just so their hero can appear even more clever later (even if it makes the writing awkward in the short term).  I don’t like finishing a book and feeling vaguely sad about life.  So while I can see why people enjoy these stories – because the writing is good and the mysteries are decent – I just couldn’t get into them myself.

The Man Who Made Lists // by Joshua Kendall

Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus

//published 2008//

I’ve always been passionate about words, and have had a fondness for Roget’s Thesaurus my entire life.  When I came across this biography mentioned in Slightly Foxed, I felt that I must give it a whirl.  While I enjoyed learning more about Roget’s life, the biography itself was mostly just alright.

Part of the problem was that Roget’s life wasn’t amazingly thrilling.  While he did have some adventures along the line, for the most part he was just an average guy who happened to be way, way into writing lists of things.  Kendall’s writing didn’t particularly lend itself towards making the everyday interesting, so there swaths of the book that were rather humdrum.  Kendall also spends what I considered to be a rather inordinate amount of time on the state of Roget’s mental/emotional health…  all well and good, except for the fact that it’s not as though Kendall was a close friend, so he’s basically just sort of making things up based on his own personal interpretation of Roget’s journals and letters:

Though Roget’s obsessions did help him cope with his stressful early life, they came at a cost.  Categorizing rather than experiencing the world has its limits.  Like his mother, Peter was incapable of looking inward.  Immersed in his own analytical observations, he was not particularly attuned to what others were feeling.

Just… if someone was to take an analysis of my personality based only on my journals, they would probably say that I am pretty unemotional as well, as much of my journaling is also lists and/or brief accounts of what is going on.  I don’t have a lot of spare time to sit down and pour out all of my feelings onto paper.  (And maybe, in fairness, I am unemotional?  I don’t have a lot of inner turmoil to sift through!)  Basically, in places Kendall came through as very judgy about Roget’s “lack of emotion,” which I felt was rather unfair over a century after he was alive.  Just because Roget didn’t dash all over the place proclaiming his feelings doesn’t mean that he didn’t have any.

On the other hand, Roget did once write a paper entitled “Description of Moving the Knight over Every Square of a Chess-Board Without Going Twice Over Any One,” so many Kendall was onto something after all…

Kendall was also incredibly dismissive of Roget’s religion/beliefs, basically just shoving them under the title of “Stupid Stuff People Used to Believe Because They Didn’t Know Any Better.”  Any and all of Roget’s claims that he pursued scientific research because of his interest in God and understanding the mechanics of God’s creation were quite belittled, Kendall even going so far as to suggest that if Roget were alive today he wouldn’t be bothered with such nonsense.

When recounting the death of Roget’s wife, Mary, Kendall says:

Roget also looked forward to “a heavenly reunion” with Mary – one of the major comforts that Christianity offered to the grief-stricken at the dawn of the Victorian era.  Spending eternity with departed loved ones was a common fantasy.

Excuse me??  That’s really an astounding amount of officious condescension to stuff into two sentences!  (1) Christians still exist, Kendall.  (2)  They still believe in eternal life.  (3)  Christianity isn’t the only religion that has beliefs about eternal life.  (4)  To call someone’s deeply-held personal beliefs a fantasy is just amazingly offensive.  …And that was basically Kendall’s attitude towards religion throughout.

Still, despite my annoyance at Kendall that surfaced from time to time (and since we’re apparently okay with deriving someone’s entire personality from their writing, I imagine Kendall to be rather a pompous ass), overall I enjoyed learning more about Roget.  I was particularly interested that the Thesaurus was actually one of his final contributions to the world.  He wrote many other scientific papers (mostly, unsurprisingly, involving sorting things into categories), and also expanded the basic slide rule into the tool that was widely used until the advent of the pocket calculator in the 1970’s.

Despite Kendall’s insistence that Roget was an emotionless and basically boring person, that wasn’t the impression that I got from Roget’s writing, inventions, and thoughts.  Instead, he seems to have been a man who held his cards close to his chest and enjoyed observing and understanding the world around him.  As someone passionate about words, lists, and general orderliness myself, I felt a strong connection to the man who wanted to make precise language accessible to the masses.

Timeless Fairy Tale Series // by K.M. Shea

(Edit:  Apparently, I forgot to review one of the book when I initially posted this!  Whoops!)

This series of fairy tale retellings currently includes ten different titles.  I’m hoping that we get at least one more – while these books do read individually for the most part, there are definitely threads that weave through them all, and we didn’t quite get the conclusion to that big story that I was hoping for.  But Shea is still an active author, so there’s a good chance that another book is in the works.  Currently, the series runs as follows:

  • Beauty and the Beast (2013)
  • The Wild Swans (2014)
  • Cinderella and the Colonel (2014)
  • Rumpelstiltskin (2014)
  • The Little Selkie (2015)
  • Puss in Boots (2015)
  • Swan Lake (2016)
  • Sleeping Beauty (2016)
  • The Frog Prince (2017)
  • The Twelve Dancing Princesses (2018)

The series had a lot of ups and downs, but on the whole were basically 3-4* reads.  At their best, the books are funny with engaging characters and interesting interpretations of classic fairy tales.  At their worst, they’re unnecessarily complicated with characters who act unnaturally to forward the story.  One thing that I really loved about the series as a whole is that Shea has created an entire continent of countries where all of these stories are taking place, and most of them happen in a country that is somewhat similar to the country where the fairy tale originated.  This added another level to the interest of what was going on.

Below, some brief thoughts on each book –

Beauty and the Beast

3.5/5.  An enjoyable retelling with likable main characters.  The lack of backstory for Ellie made it difficult to get to know her or to understand her attitude.  There were also rather muddled motivations concerning why anyone would particularly want to kill the beast.  Still, I loved the relationship between Ellie and Severin, and the overall introduction into this world.

The Wild Swans

3/5.  Not a bad story, but a VERY bad love triangle that just got progressively worse before ending with a “pick your own” conclusion?!  This story had a lot going for it, but the love triangle aggravated me so much that I could barely give it 3*.

Cinderella and the Colonel

4/5.  Possibly my favorite out of the whole series.  I absolutely loved Cinderella and also loved the Colonel.  I loved their relationship and everything else that was going on.  There was a lot going on with the political situation in this story, which sounds boring but actually added a lot more depth.

Rumpelstiltskin

3.5/5.  I really loved Rumpelstiltskin himself, but Gemma got on my nerves.  Few things are as annoying as listening to someone go on and on and ON about how unworthy and unimportant they are – it got to a point where it basically sounded like she was bragging about how humble she was.  However, there was a lot about this story that I really liked, especially seeing some loose ends get tied up that were left behind from The Wild Swans.

The Little Selkie

3/5.  One of my least favorites from the series.  There was a lot of fun potential here by taking The Little Mermaid and making the main character a selkie instead.  But sadly, this story was just plain boring.  Absolutely nothing happened for huge swaths of time except for Dylan (which is definitely a boy’s name in my mind, which added to my low-grade annoyance throughout) wandering around eating.  Like 25% of this book was describing Dylan eating.  We get it.  She likes to eat.  Move on.  Also, Dylan is supposedly the captive of this other guy, but… he just leaves her to wander around loose?  And even though she can’t talk, she can write things down and communicate that way, so it seemed extremely strange that he just let her do whatever she wanted.  This was definitely a book where a lot of characters had to act weirdly in order to make the story work, and that always annoys me.  It meant that I felt like every single character of this book was a bit slow in the head.

Puss in Boots 

4/5.  This one was a little confusing because it went back in time (compared to the other books) and then forward in time.  But it was overall just a super fun story, and mostly got a 4* rating because Puss is hilarious and legit says all the things I would expect a cat to say the entire time.

Swan Lake

3.5/5.  There was a lot of fun with this one – I really liked Odette and her whole gang of people.  The whole top-secret thing she was smuggling definitely dragged on too long, but there were other fun bits to make up for it.

Sleeping Beauty

3/5.  Probably  my least favorite of the whole series, and almost a 2/5.  I literally wanted to strange the “hero” Isaia, who kept acting like his selfishness and self-centeredness was all about Briar and protecting her when it wasn’t, it was just about him and his poor little feelings.  A lot of what happened in this book felt extremely contrived so that it would fit into the overall timeline for the series, and it made the whole story awkward.  I just couldn’t understand how Isaia could go on and on about how he was “respecting Briar’s wishes” when she literally came to him and said, “I’m about to fall asleep; I love you; please come kiss me ASAP because the SAFETY OF THE WORLD LITERALLY DEPENDS ON IT.”  And then he just sits around FOR A YEAR bemoaning the fact that he has to sit around because he’s “protecting Briar.”  Give me a break.  I may have been able to get past it, but Briar also annoyed me a LOT.  Basically everyone in this story needed to take a class on basic interpersonal communications.  For instance, I had to listen to things like “Briar winced when her mother called her Rosalinda…” like fifty times, but Briar never says, “Mother, while Rosalinda is a beautiful name, it just doesn’t feel like my name.  Do you think you could call me Briar Rose as a compromise?”  Instead, she just expected everyone to magically know how she felt about everything, and then spent a lot of time bravely working through her hurt feelings when they didn’t.  Also, her grandpa made zero sense.

The Frog Prince

3.5/5.  This book definitely felt like it was more about the big series story than it was about the smaller book story.  The book story was okay, but the interesting part of this one was the series story progress.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

3.5/5.  While there were several moments where it felt like Shea was making things unnecessarily complicated, I overall really liked this story a lot, mainly because I loved the elf king.  There were a lot of fun moments between the two main characters, and I totally shipped them more than almost any other pair (except maybe Cinderella and the Colonel).

*****

So all in all, a bit of a mixed bag.  At the end of the day, I do recommend these books if you are looking for some relaxing fairy tale retellings, but they lack the depth to make them genuinely magical reads.  It really felt like the entire series needed another round of strong editing to help make everything consistent throughout.  Still, there were plenty of fun and funny  moments and a lot of very likable characters.  I’ll definitely be watching to see if Shea finishes this series, as there are still some loose ends to tie up.

The Perfectionists // The Good Girls // by Sara Shepard

//published 2014//

This was my first foray into Shepard’s writing, and also my first experience with this sort of evil YA girls that seems to be a theme nowadays.  But sometimes it’s fun to read something on the edges of where you’re comfortable, and that’s where The Perfectionists was for me.  Even a quarter of a way into the book I wasn’t completely sure that it was for me, despite the immediate action and intensity.  But the further I went, the more hooked I was, and by the end of The Perfectionists I was racing through the pages – and leaped into The Good Girls as soon as I could!

The first book starts with a murder, and the entire premise of the book is centered around the question of whether or not this group of girls killed their classmate, Nolan.  There were five main characters in this book:  Mackenzie, Ava, Caitlin, Julie, and Parker.  It seemed like it should have been confusing, but it really wasn’t, especially since the story was told in third person (past tense! Yay!), which I think always helps – nothing is more confusing than multiple first-person perspectives that all sound the same.  The third-person narrative means that we get to hear the girls’ thoughts and worries, and also get glimpses of other action taking place elsewhere.

The girls manage to be different without being too cliche.  They all attend a “rich kids” school in a Seattle suburb, so at some level are struggling with stereotypical first-world problems, like whether or not Mackenzie is going to get into Julliard and if Caitlin is going to land a soccer scholarship.  But as I got to know the girls better, they had other, deeper problems that were more relatable to not-rich people – one of the girls is struggling with the recent death of a close family member, another is unsure if her long-time boyfriend is still the right person for her, while one has a home life she is desperate to keep hidden from all of her classmates.  Slowly, motives and issues are revealed, and I genuinely had no idea whether or not the girls – or one of them – had killed Nolan.  I had my own personal idea that was proven wrong (and so was idea #2).  The twists never felt contrived, and the information was revealed at a nearly perfect pace.

The ending of The Perfectionists was such a cliffhanger that I honestly knocked it a bit on the rating because of it.  If The Good Girls hadn’t already been published and sitting on my shelf, I would have been pretty genuinely enraged.  Like many duologies, these aren’t two separate stories – they’re two volumes of one story, and I think that publishers need to make that more clear.  For instance, while the cover of The Good Girls says that it’s the sequel to The Perfectionists, I honestly don’t think it would even make sense if you hadn’t read the first book first.

However, I didn’t have to worry about any of that, because I had The Good Girls already checked out the library, thanks to my obsessive insistence on reading all series in order, and I was SO glad!  The Perfectionists ended with another murder, so just when I thought the girls were in the clear, they’re back on the hook for possibly both murders.  These books were kind of interesting because at no point do we get to see how the official investigation is going, or learn any of the clues being discovered and analyzed by the police.  The story focuses entirely on the girls, and I wasn’t completely sure that I could trust any of them!

When I initially read and rated The Perfectionists I only gave it 3.5 stars, partially because of the cliffhanger ending, and also partially because literally every male character in the book was a total jerk – like EVERY SINGLE ONE.  However, several of those characters were redeemed in the second book/had their actual actions and motivations revealed so it turns out they weren’t all jerks, and that was nice.  I was honestly a bit annoyed when I got to the end of The Perfectionists – like are there no decent males left in the world?!  But Shepard did a really good job bringing some of those stories back around to make sense of those secondary characters’ actions, and that helped a lot.

//published 2015//

The Good Girls was incredibly satisfying.  I couldn’t believe how well Shepard brought everything together, and I really, really appreciated the way that she wrapped up a lot of the storylines.  Not everyone got a neat and tidy ending, but they did at least get endings, which is what I want from my fiction.

Usually I don’t really care if I know spoilery kinds of things about books, but in this case I accidentally read a spoiler (my fault, it was clearly marked… I just thought it was going to be a spoiler for another part of the story…) that was for THE big twist in this story.  And while at some level it allowed my mind to be blown while reading the way Shepard was setting everything up, part of me is really sad that I couldn’t enjoy the shock at its full value.  So my advice is – don’t read the spoilers on this one.  For real.

Overall, 4/5 for this pair of books.  There were a few things that kept it from being a full 5* read – the biggest one was a teacher having sexual relationships with students.  And while it wasn’t presented as a positive thing at all, it was kind of presented as just “one of those things” that happen/no actual adults seemed to take it seriously.  I felt like if I was reading this as a young adult and was in a situation like this or knew someone who was, the way it was handled in this book would make me think that it was pointless to bother going to someone in authority about it, because at best nothing would happen and at worst I would be made fun of and not believed.  It felt like that could have been handled better, and it’s kind of a serious topic.

And I realize that this is a personal and nit-picky thing, but a big part of this book is that the girls watched And Then There Were None for their film class, and like that’s a huge part of this book’s plot, and yet Agatha Christie wasn’t mentioned a single time!  I realize they watched the movie and didn’t read the book, but it still felt like Christie should have at least have gotten a nod for creating that incredibly crafty plot, which, in a lot of ways, Shephard built on.

Still, I definitely recommend these books.  I first saw them reviewed over on Heart Full of Books (The Perfectionists and The Good Girls), and their biggest complaint was a similarity between the characters in these books and characters in Shepard’s other book, Pretty Little Liars.  I’ve never read PLL, so I didn’t have that issue, but it was a theme I saw echoed in some of the Goodreads reviews of these books as well.  So maybe these won’t be as good if you’ve read some of Shepard’s other books, but if you haven’t – these are definitely worth the read.

Rearview Mirror // March 2018

Well, this hasn’t been my best month on the blog if I’m honest.  While I’ve still been reading a lot, I’ve been feeling really ambivalent towards blogging.  I think it’s partially because I’ve been doing a lot of updates for my Etsy shop, so I haven’t felt like spending extra time on the computer beyond that.  Maybe it’s also been the weather?  March has been cold and cloudy, with below-average temperatures and even snow!  I enjoy winter when it’s wintertime, but I am very ready for spring!

Anyway, almost all of my March reviews ended up being minireviews, so nothing super exciting.

Favorite March Read

Basically any time I have a month with a Wodehouse book, the favorite book is the Wodehouse book – in this case, Uneasy Money.  But it hardly seems fair to all the other books, since Wodehouse exists in a class of his own, so I also have to give a co-award to This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills.  I just loved all the characters so much that I wanted to book to go on forever!

Most Disappointing March Read

While I didn’t have very high expectations for A Daughter’s Legacy, I also didn’t expect to completely despise it – which I did.  There was a decent premise, but I kept waiting for the explanation as to why Kelli’s mom sucked and treated Kelli like trash… and it never came.  Apparently Kelli’s mom was just a jerk who really did think that her career was so much more important than being a mother that she shipped the recently-bereaved-of-her-father Kelli, as a little child, off to her grandmother.  I mean seriously.

Other March Reads

  • Adorkable by Cookie O’Gorman – 3.5/5 – cute chick lit that I would have enjoyed more if Sally’s mom and best friend hadn’t been so obnoxious
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley – 4/5 – an old favorite that I really enjoyed revisiting
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – 4/5 – classic
  • Black Beauty’s Clan by Josephine, Diana, and Christine Pullein-Thompson – 3.5/5 – an interesting collection of short stories about horses
  • Black Beauty’s Family by Josephine, Diana, and Christine Pullein-Thompson – 4/5 – historical fiction through horse stories
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – 3.5/5 – I wanted to like this book but just… didn’t really
  • The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand – 3.5/5 – a bit too horror-y for me
  • Child of Grace by Irene Hannon – 4/5 – a surprisingly gritty little story
  • Curse Workers Trilogy by Holly Black – 4/5 – a really good story that gave me all the feels and left me wishing there were lots more books about these characters.
  • George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – 4/5 – really intriguing nonfiction
  • The Heart’s Song by Winnie Griggs – 4/5 – cheesy and predictable yet somehow enjoyable
  • Hidden Identity Trilogy by Lynette Eason – 3.5/5 – engaging and exciting although sometimes a bit too simplistic
  • I See You by Clare Mackintosh – 4/5 – I was totally clued to the pages of this one
  • The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham – 3.5/5 – a decent thriller, but one I just couldn’t get into all the way
  • The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn – 3/5 – needed a bit more thriller and a bit less love triangle
  • The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald – 3/5 – cute, but kind of abrupt
  • The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald – 3.5/5 – pretty adorable little fairy tale
  • Rescue Dog of the High Pass by Jim Kjelgaard – 3.5/5 – not his best book, but still interesting and entertaining
  • The Road to Forgiveness by Leigh Bale – 3.5/5 – not a bad story except the ending made no sense
  • The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde – 3.5/5 – a fun collection of short stories attempting to make the traditional fairy tale a bit more plausible
  • Sing by Vivi Greene – 3/5 – just a smidge too fluffy to really be good reading
  • Tulipomania by Mike Dash – 4/5 – quite interesting but in desperate need of pictures

Last March…

I read what was one of the worst books I read in 2017 – Dead End Close by Dominic Utton.  Especially disappointing because I quite enjoyed his debut, Martin Harbottle’s Appreciation of Time.  But Dead End Close was so incredibly depressing and pointless that I could hardly bear it – I’ve rarely read a book so completely devoid of any sense of hope.

TBR Update

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

  • Standalones:  819 (down EIGHT thanks to some culling!)
  • Nonfiction:  81 (down one!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  695 (down six!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  230 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 109 (up four)

Awaiting Review

I cleared out a bunch with three batches of minireveiws at the end of the month, but still do have some in the wings…

  • The Perfectionists and The Good Girls by Sara Shepard – a lot of mixed feelings on this duology
  • The Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge – so adorable I could hardly stand it
  • I’m reading my way through K.M. Shea’s Timeless Fairy Tale collection.  I’m on book #7 right  now.  They’ve had their ups and downs but overall enjoyable, if slightly fluffy, fairy tale retellings.
  • My current mystery series is the Adam Dalgliesh series by P.D. James.  I’ve never read any of James’s books before, and enjoying this foray into her work.  I’m on book #3.
  • The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge – reading The Runaways made me want to pick this one up immediately afterwards.
  • The Princess by Lori Wick – an old fluffy favorite
  • The Squire’s Tale by Gerald Morris – I can’t believe how long it’s been since I read these books!  Spontaneously reading this (the first in the series) made me want to reread them all.  They are books I’ve been meaning to purchase anyway, so the next three in the series are on their way to me now!

Current Reads

  • The Man Who Made Lists by Joshua Kendall – a biography of Peter Roget, who wrote Roget’s Thesaurus
  • Sleeping Beauty by K.M. Shea – the next Timeless Fairy Tale
  • Unnatural Causes by P.D. James – the next Adam Dalgleish mystery
  • The Darkest Hour by Tony Schumacher – a free Kindle book set in AU 1940’s England where the Nazis won the war

Approaching the Top of the Pile

The probable next five reads…

  • The Frog Prince by K.M. Shea
  • Shroud for a Nightingale by P.D. James
  • Come On, Seabiscuit by Ralph Moody
  • The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster
  • Piccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse

March Minireviews – Part 3

Still not feeling the whole blogging thing, so here are some more notes on recent reads.  Part 1 for March can be found here, and Part 2 can be found here.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

//published 2012//

I honestly have a lot of mixed feelings about this book.  It was definitely more horror than fantasy, which I wasn’t exactly expecting.  However, it’s still a children’s book so while it was more gruesome than I personally prefer, I personally prefer the most minimal amount of gruesomeness possible, so I may not be an accurate judge.  I think part of my issue with this book was that the central theme seemed to be that the pursuit of perfection is inherently bad, but I’m not sure I agree with that.  If the pursuit of perfection is an obsession that causes you to be cruel or harsh to those around you, then it’s bad.  But I’m honestly a little distressed by a recent trend that I see of taking the “you are wonderful just as you are” to a level that turns it into “you are wonderful just as you are, so don’t bother trying to be better,” and I am not convinced that that’s healthy.

ANYWAY philosophical questions aside, the story itself was engaging from the beginning, although it was slow in spots and had an intriguingly ambiguous ending.  At the end of the day a 3.5/5, and still not completely sure if I would purposely seek out another book by Legrand or not…

I originally added this book thanks to a review by The Literary Sisters, so check their review out for a more overall positive vibe!

The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn

//published 2014//

I read another of Bunn’s books not long ago and found it interesting enough that I thought I would give another of his titles a go.  However, The Patmos Deception ended up as an incredibly bland read to me.  The book was very slow in spots and had this strange love triangle that made almost no sense.  Everything fell into place exactly when and how it needed to, and consequently the ending felt unrealistically tidy.  The epilogue was completely pointless, leaving everything even more open-ended than before (including the love triangle).  The plot was disjointed and rather directionless, with smuggling, counterfeiters, stolen artifacts, and a potentially world-changing ancient scroll all muddled together with the economy crash in Greece.  While it earned a 3/5 from me for moments of interest, it definitely wasn’t a book that made me want to find another of Bunn’s works.

Uneasy Money by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1917//

I was completely in love with the simplehearted Bill, who just wanted everyone to get along.  This was an easy 4.5/5 – not quite as perfectly funny as some of Wodehouse’s other stories, but still an absolute delight.

Adorkable by Cookie O’Gorman

//published 2016//

This story was a lot of fun, and I always like a good fake relationship trope, especially since Sally and Becks have been friends for so long.  However, Sally’s mom and Sally’s best friend were so obsessed with Sally having a boyfriend that it honestly kind of weirded me out, and I found it really frustrating that they acted like there was something wrong with Sally because she didn’t really want a relationship right then.  Not having a significant other should never be portrayed as meaning you are a less valuable person, especially in high school where I think serious romantic relationships are basically a waste of time and energy anyway.  So even though the romance bit was adorable and fun, I never actually felt like things changed with Sally’s mom and best friend – like it still felt like every time Sally was single in her life, they were going to be hounding her about it, and that was aggravating.

There was also this weird thing about Sally’s dad – like I don’t even know why he was in the story??  She hates him and apparently he’s a jerk, but she never spends any time with him and her parents have been divorced since she was really little, so that felt kind of arbitrary, like the only version of her dad that she has is the one her (presumably somewhat bitter) mother has given her.  I just didn’t get why he was there, he would just pop up every once in a while so Sally could be angsty about him, and then he would leave, and it was kind of pointless.

Even though I’m complaining (like usual) I actually did overall enjoy this story.  While I don’t see myself going out and hunting down more books by O’Gorman, I wouldn’t mind reading one if it came my way.  I originally added this book because of a review by Stephanie, but I have to say that she also felt pretty lukewarm about Sally’s best friend!

Sing by Vivi Greene

//published 2016//

I got this book in a subscription box, and it was so fluffy and devoid of any deep thought that it almost gave me a cavity just reading it.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it definitely was another one that emphasized that necessity of romance in order to make life worth living.  Lily’s character just didn’t really grow or change, and the whole story felt kind of stagnant.  It did have it’s funny, sweet moments and I didn’t hate it, but it’s not one that I’m keeping for my permanent collection.