September Minireviews – Part 1

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

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

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

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – 3.5*

//published 2017//

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

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

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

//published 1949//

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

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – 3.5*

//published 2014//

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

Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey – 3.5*

//published 2018//

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

Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn – 3.5*

//published 2009//

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

Rearview Mirror // August 2018 + #20BooksofSummer

Summer is over?!  How did that happen??

Well, it doesn’t feel like summer is over, as it is still hot and muggy here.  We had a glorious week of autumn weather – cool, dry, clear – and then rushed back into 90* and a billion percent humidity.  It’s been good garden weather, though, and the tomatoes and other veggies are finally rolling in.  I froze 12 quarts of tomato sauce yesterday, and will hopefully be able to can some more pickles this weekend.  I’ve also been freezing peppers and onions – such fun!!

August’s big adventure was a trip to Wyoming, which was amazing.  My aunt and uncle bought a cabin just outside a very, VERY small town called Centennial, about 30 miles west of Laramie.  They were kind enough to loan the cabin to us for the week, and it was sooo relaxing and happy there.  We spent the week hiking, exploring, and sitting around reading.  It was the most restful vacation I think I have ever taken, and I read so many books while sitting on the front porch in perfect weather soaking up that thin mountain air (Centennial is at a little over 8000′) and watching the neighbors’ horses.  We saw antelope, moose, fox, and jackrabbits.  We almost didn’t come back…

But we did, and are back in the swing of things now.  I’m working at the orchard again, and have spent the last few weeks sorting and selling peaches three days a week.  It sounds silly, but the peach crowd is totally different from the apple crowd.  I thoroughly enjoy it, even when it’s stupidly hot.  The early apples are also coming in, so we’ve been grading apples in the afternoons and getting things geared up for fall.  Hopefully I will start driving my delivery truck soon – we are pressing cider now!!

In the reading world, I have read a LOT of fluff books this month.  I spent vacation luxuriating in reading books that were comprised completely of cotton-candy-like substance, and regret nothing!  I’ve done a lot of minireviews this month – way more time for reading than reviewing!!  I’m also going to fail my #20BooksofSummer challenge – more on that below – but I’m totally cool with it, so it’s all good.  On the other hand, I’m crushing my Goodreads goal for the year – I’ve read an almost-embarrassing 218 books this year so far…

Favorite August Read:

Oh wow, hard to say yet again.  I mean, it’s obviously Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehousebut I hate to choose a reread!  Honestly, my second-favorite was probably The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts.  It’s unusual for a nonfiction book to grab the top spot, but this one was really well done, and I just thoroughly enjoyed learning about Snowman and his triumphs, and also about his owner and his whole background.

Most Disappointing August Read:

I didn’t read anything horrific this month, but I did find Holiday Wishes by Nora Roberts to be a bit more of a letdown than my other 3* reads, just because I have really enjoyed some of her other books in the past.

Other August Reads:

  • Alpha Girl series by Aileen Erin – 4* – I enjoyed these way more than I should have – and as an aside, the entire series is on sale for September with the first two books free.  So if you think you might like them, it’s a great time to try them out!!
  • The Arm of the Starfish by Madeline L’Engle – 4* – a children’s spy book?  Totally my cup of tea.
  • Chasing Ravens by Jessica Paige – 3.5* – enjoyable and interesting, but somehow not magical.
  • Chosen Child by Linda Huber – 3.5* – basically the reading equivalent of watching a train wreck (the story, not the writing).
  • The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – 4* – not my favorite Heyer tale, but still had plenty of funny moments.
  • The Five-Minute Marriage by Joan Aiken – 4.5* – a rollicking good tale with a great heroine.
  • Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery – 3.5* – a nice little story, but not one of Montgomery’s best.
  • Modern Conveniences series by Leah Atwood – 4* – plausible marriage-of-convenience tropes with likable characters.
  • Mystery Over the Brick Wall by Helen Fuller Orton – 3* – a nice but rather boring children’s book.
  • Rocky Mountain Heirs series by various authors – 3.5* – a collection of fun if slightly predictable stories.
  • The Royal Treatment and The Royal Wedding by Melanie Summers – 3* – alright, but just not interesting enough for me to pursue the third book.
  • The Temporary Wife by Jeannie Moon – 3* – a nice but basically unmemorable story.
  • Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins – 4* – really enjoyable with a surprising amount of depth.
  • Unwilling Bride by Marnie Ellingson – 4* – genuinely delightful little Regency romance.
  • The Wedding Pact trilogy by Denise Grover Swank – 3.5* – funny and entertaining, but just a bit too much sex and swearing.
  • When It’s Real by Erin Watt – 4* – fake relationship trope done very well.
  • When Patty Went to College by Jean Webster – 4* – not exactly what I was expecting, but still enjoyable.

Last August…

I was going through a major reading slump this time last year with a lot of very meh reads.  However, I ended August strong with what became one of my favorite books of the year – Uprooted by Naomi Novik.  I LOVED THIS BOOK.  I actually really want to reread it soon.  I’m also excited because Novik just published another book, Spinning Silver.  I haven’t gotten around to that one yet, but hopefully soon!!

#20BooksofSummer Update!

So we all know that I read an absurd amount of books because of who I am as a person, so just simply reading twenty books this summer wasn’t actually a challenge.  (I also always feel vaguely embarrassed by this, but I’m going to refrain from apologizing because it really is just the way my life works!)  So instead I chose twenty of my own, personally-owned books, and wanted to try and read them while still keeping up with my regular reading schedule of books from tons of other sources.  What with one thing and another I have NOT accomplished my goal, having only completed twelve of the twenty (full list here), but in some ways it’s still a win because I did read over twenty of my own, personally-owned books… just not the ones I originally picked!

The rest of the twenty are still in my queue for reading, so I should get to them this fall.  The challenge was a mixed success for me this year, but it’s always tons of fun, and I quite enjoy finding other book blogs by checking out other people’s lists and reviews!

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:  858 (up five, but I am way behind on reading other people’s posts, so this number will probably jump yet again!)
  • Nonfiction:  76 (down one!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  681 (down eight, and I can’t believe it isn’t more!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  234 (up four!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 108 (holding steady)

Awaiting Review:

Right now, just Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey, which is also a reread, and And Both Were Young by Madeline L’Engle, which I liked a lot more than I anticipated.

Current Reads:

  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – a decent read so far, but  not one that has wowed me.
  • Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey – the final  book in this series, and I am anxious to see all the storylines wrapped up!!
  • Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy by Patricia McKillup – so as the title says, this is actually three books in one, and I just started the second book.  McKillup is a master of not explaining anything, which makes her writing both magical and aggravating all at the same time.

Approaching the Top of the Pile…

The probable next five reads:

  • Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch (and then probably Frost Like Night as long as the series is worth it!)
  • Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn – a library discard find
  • The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola – I’ve heard mixed reviews, so we’ll see what it’s all about
  • The Accident by Chris Pavone – I really liked The Travelerseven though I had some issues with it, so I thought I would give another of Pavone’s works a whirl
  • Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen – I can’t even remember why I added this one to the TBR, so a surprise read here!

That’s the update for now – Happy September!!