Haven Point Series // by RaeAnne Thayne

  1. Snow Angel Cove (2014)
  2. Redemption Bay (2015)
  3. Evergreen Springs (2015)
  4. Riverbend Road (2016)
  5. Snowfall on Haven Point (2016)
  6. Serenity Harbor (2017)
  7. Sugar Pine Trail (2017)
  8. The Cottages on Silver Beach (2018)
  9. Season of Wonder (2018)
  10. Coming Home for Christmas (2019)

Someone on Litsy was reading one of the books in this series, and it looked like just what I needed for some relaxing Christmas romances.  Six of ten books in this series are set during Christmas time, so it was rather perfect.  I’d never heard of Thayne before reading this series, but I will definitely be checking out more of her books, as I thoroughly enjoyed these.

So my favorite way to do a series is when there is a group of friends/siblings and each book is about one of them.  My second favorite way to do a series is when it’s about a small community, and that’s the way the Haven Point books are written.  Each story can be read independently, but various people from the earlier books are floating around in the background, so it’s more fun to read them in order.

Haven Point is a small town in Idaho a couple of hours from Boise.  The town has been somewhat struggling lately, but in the first book a new guy buys a bunch of properties there, and throughout the series more businesses are developing thanks to his investments – all part of the quiet background.  If I could magically transport myself and my family into a parallel life somewhere else, a small mountain town in the Rockies would be on the short list, so the setting was definitely one that appealed to me.

These were definitely more at the “sweet” end of romances (as opposed to “steamy” at the other end of the spectrum).  While there were some lustful thoughts and feelings, there was basically no sex either on or off page, which was lovely.  Some moderate swearing, but nothing crazy.  It’s kind of sad to me that these are the kinds of assessments I have to make about romance books these days, but here we are.  At any rate, one of the things that I liked about this series was that sex was consistently viewed as a serious step, not something to be taken lightly.  And since it is a serious step, and does change everything about a relationship, I was glad to see it handled that way.

Another things I especially liked about these books was that almost all of them involved not just two people falling in love, but two people plus some random children all creating a family together.  Some were widowed or divorced or inherited unexpected children from other places, or whatever.  But throughout the series, the concept was just as much family as it was romance, and I liked that.  Even though most of these books were, by nature, a little insta-love-y, the concept of creating a family made everything feel more like long-term thinking instead of short-term lust.

I was going to choose my favorite, but as I’m flipping back through my notes, I’m not sure which one it would be!  They were basically all 4* reads except for Redemption Bay and Season of Wonder.  In the former, the main female character, McKenzie, is the mayor of the town and ends up having to make nice to her old nemesis, Ben, who is considering whether or not Haven Point will be a good town for an expansion of his company.  While I liked the romance and the chemistry between McKenzie and Ben, I was driven absolutely crazy by the lack of logic with the whole “Should I choose Haven Point” thing – Ben claims that the next big competitor for the position is another town, Shelter Springs – and then later it’s revealed that Shelter Springs is ten minutes away?!?!  Like yes, it would make a slight difference as to who would benefit from the taxes of the actual company being there, but putting a gigantic company in a town ten minutes away from your town is NOT the end of the world, since obviously people would still be living/shopping/patronizing your town?!?!  I couldn’t get it.  Then in the end he’s like, “Oh, haha jk actually I already decided Portland.”  What the heck?!

In Season of Wonder my annoyance was more traditional – the main female character, Dani, was just obnoxiously paranoid about everything and R E A L L Y was getting on my nerves.  Still, even those two books garnered a comfortable 3.5*

There were minor aggravations from some of the other stories – for instance in Evergreen Springs the female character is constantly hassling the male character about sharing his feelings, etc. – yet every time he does, when he turns around and asks her a perfectly reasonable question in response, she shuts him down.  Hello?  Emotional intimacy needs to work both ways??

But these types of things were, for me, balanced out by the warmth of the stories overall.  There are several stories that deal with adoption and foster care, and these are handled so well.  In Serenity Harbor, the main male character, Bowie (I know, right?  Bowie??) ends up with a much younger brother, Milo, who is autistic.  Meanwhile, the main female character, Kat, is saving money to adopt a little girl she met and fell in love with in an orphanage in Guatemala, who also happens to have Down Syndrome.  Throughout the story, the theme of loving and accepting children (and people) as they are is presented so well.  In this day and age, where Down Syndrome is being “cured” by murdering everyone who has it before they are even born (in a completely not-Hitler way, of course!), it was genuinely refreshing to see a character who cherished and loved everything about this little girl.

While these weren’t perfect romance books (for instance, they really didn’t have much humor), they were still some of the more enjoyable books from that genre that I’ve read this year.  I’ll definitely be looking for more books by Thayne soon, and recommend this series to anyone looking for some relaxing reading with likable characters.

Fatherland // by Robert Harris

//published 1992//

Ever since I read The Man in the High CastleI’ve been keeping my eyes open for other good alternative history stories.  Fatherland is just such a story.  Again, here Germany won World War II.  And here again, we are now in the 1960’s.  But instead of being set in the US, Fatherland takes place in Berlin and focuses on a man named Xavier March, a detective who is rather disillusioned with life.  All of Berlin is gearing up for Hitler’s 75th birthday, but March is just trying to live his every day life.  He’s divorced and lives alone, spending most of his time working.  He doesn’t quite buy into all of the Nazi glad-handing, but not really because he has a passion against the Nazi government – more because he thinks all of this “we’re all one big happy family” stuff is a bit of nonsense.  Still, for the most part he keeps his head down and just does his job, even if he doesn’t bother to Heil Hitler every time he meets up with a fellow official.

When a body is discovered early one morning, March begins his investigation, and finds a few things that seem rather odd.  But then the body is identified as a high-ranking Nazi commander, and March is called off the case as the Gestapo step in.  But March can’t quite let go of all those facts that don’t match.  Working the case on his own time means that he’s playing a dangerous game – the Gestapo don’t take kindly to people who don’t fall in line.

Soon, March meets up with another quiet rebel – an American journalist named Charlotte who happened to discover the body of another high-ranking Nazi official… coincidence?  March doesn’t think so, either.

There was a lot to like about this book.  Harris has done his research, and based his Berlin (and world) on documents by real Nazis, who had a lot of plans for the world they intended to conquer.  However, the fact that Germany won the war is really just background to a solid mystery.  March isn’t leading a rebel force, we don’t hear much about insurgencies and uprising, there’s no big rebellion – it’s just one detective trying to do his job.  While I wasn’t staying up all night to finish this one, the pacing was excellent, and I didn’t want to put it down whenever I was reading it.  I really liked March a lot, and was rooting for him.  He’s intelligent but not flashy.

I was a little scared of how it was going to end, but it was handled well, even if a bit sad.  I would have been happy to read an entire series of mystery books with March as the main character.  All in all, and enjoyable read – a historical fiction mystery with a different history as the background.  4/5.

December Minireviews – Part 2

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.

Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber – 3.5*

//published 2004//

Sometimes you just need some relaxing holiday fare. Macomber isn’t my favorite romance author, since her books tend to be higher on the fluff scale than I prefer, but I actually checked two of her books from the library this season.  In this one, Mr. Grumpy-Pants-I-Hate-Christmas Charles trades homes with Emily.  Emily lives in Leavenworth, Washington, a town known for its obsession with Christmas, but wants to spend the holidays with her daughter, who is going to college in Boston.  Charles wants to get out of Boston for Christmas, and mistakenly thinks he is heading to the Leavenworth with the prison, which he figures should be pretty un-Christmasy.

Overall this was a fun little story that you just have to read in the spirit its meant – Hallmark Channel-y.  It felt like Charles’s about-face was rather abrupt, and I was mildly concerned at how fast Emily fell in love, but hey, it’s Christmas!  A short, fun read, if somewhat lacking in any kind of character development whatsoever.

The Forgetful Bride by Debbie Macomber – 3*

There was a bonus story in Trading Christmas, so I went ahead and read it.  I didn’t like this one as well, mainly because a main character who is extremely stupid on picking up on obvious clues from her best friend aggravates me excessively.  This one was perfectly pleasant but rather bland.

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber – 3*

//published 2016//

Last Macomber book for this post, I promise.  First off, I had trouble with this book because the main character’s name is Cain.  Cain??  Seriously??  As in, the first recorded murderer in Biblical history??  So I had trouble bonding with him because of that.  Anyway, Cain is a total grump, and his neighbor, Julia, is super friendly.  Julia is up for a new job, but because of the nature of the job, part of her interview process is creating a blog and gaining new followers for it.  Julia’s best friend has the brilliant idea that Julia should befriend grumpy Cain and “kill him with kindness.”  As with Charles in Trading Christmas, Cain’s personality change seemed a little abrupt, but it was still a perfectly happy little story.

The Coat-Hanger Christmas Tree by Eleanor Estes – 3*

//published 1973//

This is one I’ve had on my shelf forever, but didn’t really remember reading, which is kind of ridiculous considering it’s only 78 pages long and has a lot of pictures.  Still.  Marianna and Kenny (elementary-aged) have never had a Christmas tree because their mom doesn’t believe in “being like every Tom, Dick, and Harry.”  They really, really want one, though, so they rescue a tree (and then some more) from the trash and bring them home in hopes that their mom will let them have one.  In the meantime, Marianna also befriends a girl from school who isn’t very popular.  Marianna finds out that Allie actually lives on a barge with her family, which is why she sometimes misses school for several days at a time.

I’m usually a huge fan of Estes, and there were things about this book that I really enjoyed – the close relationship between Kenny and Marianna was very touching, and I loved the way that Marianna reached out to Allie.  But reading this as an adult, I couldn’t see past how utterly and completely selfish and ridiculous their mother was for not letting them have a Christmas tree.  Estes gives us hints that their mother doesn’t really like Christmas that much (her mother died around Christmas; the children’s father is out of town for work and she hasn’t heard from him because of Christmas mail; etc.), but I still couldn’t get over it.  Letting them have a tree was such a simple thing to do, and she just wouldn’t for literally no reason other than that she didn’t feel like messing with it.  What a jerk.

The Wonderful Tumble of Timothy Smith by Doris Faber – 4*

//published 1958//

I have read a few not-Christmas books this month as well, and this was one.  It’s another short children’s book that I’ve had on my shelf since I picked it up at a book sale in 2005.  Turns out that it was absolutely adorable – the illustrations by Leonard Shortall definitely helped.  Young Timothy falls out of an apple tree and sprains his wrist, which means he can’t do all the things young boys normally do on summer vacation.  He and his sister go to the library to try and find a book on a project Timothy wants to work on while he wrist is injured, and along the way are able to help the library find a new home, benefitting everyone.  The story is told quite well, the illustrations are adorable, and Timothy is a delightful little character.  I’m definitely going to have to see if I can find some more of Faber’s books around.

December 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!  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.

Momentous day!  I am actually getting ready to review books in December that I  read in December!  (Well, except the first two. Those are still from November!)

Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle – 5*

I absolutely love Pyle’s comics and can’t recommend them highly enough.  His book is perfect – I especially loved that he had sequel comics for several of his more popular comics he had already posted online.  I follow Pyle on Instagram, where he gives me a little dose of happiness every day, so it was a no-brainer to support him by buying his book.

Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill – 2.5*

//published 2018//

The 2.5* is 100% for the absolutely gorgeous artwork in this graphic novel.  The story itself is rather thin.  A girl goes to stay with her aunt on the coast to help clean up from a big storm.  The rest of the book is about how her aunt fell in love with a fish-woman-creature and also we need to save the coral reefs!  The message in this one felt incredibly heavy-handed, but if you see it at the library it’s well-worth taking a moment to enjoy the wonderful artwork.

The Stand-In Boyfriend by Emma Doherty – 3*

//published 2018//

This wasn’t a bad YA story, but it wasn’t the best I’ve read, either.  Liv has always been in love with her best friend, but he has never noticed.  Through a series of events (that actually felt not unreasonable), Liv agrees to fake-date one of the most popular boys in school, Chase, in an attempt to get Jesse to notice her.  I always enjoy the fake relationship trope, and that part was done pretty well here.  However, Liv just really got on my nerves with her complete ostrich attitude about everything, and overall the book was just a little too long – just when it should have been gaining momentum, it started to drag, which knocked it down to a 3* read for me.  Not bad for some low-stress YA angst (especially free on Kindle Unlimited), but not necessarily a book that made me want to run out and find other books by Doherty.

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere – 3*

//published 2001//

It’s always awkward when someone else hands you a book to read.  The Christmas Shoes is a little too saccharine for my personal taste, but it was a short and easy (if very predictable) read.  Mostly it felt like it should have been longer – almost like an outline of a book instead of an actual book.  There were also weird jumps backward and forward in time, which led to awkward tense changes.  That kind of thing is always jarring for me when I’m reading.  I’m not really a great person to review this book because it’s not my style, but it was an alright Christmas read.  I guess it’s the first in an entire series, but I didn’t really feel inspired to pick the rest up.

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie – 4*

//published 1923//

Over on Litsy, I’m part of the Agatha Christie Club, which is reading one Christie book per month and then discussing it at the end of the month.  We’re going through her books in published order, and November’s book was Murder on the Links.  (Yeah, I was late reading it haha)  I’ve already read all of Christie’s books, but I love them all, even the ones I don’t love as much as others, so this seems like a fun and leisurely way to make my way back through them.  This one is Poirot’s second appearance.  As always, it’s actually Captain Hastings that I love, even if he is a little dense at times.  I was slightly concerned because they apparently put the murdered man’s body in a shed (???) for a few days (?????) even though everyone was complaining about how hot it was (????!!!).  There is also a slightly ridiculous competition between Poirot’s little grey cells method vs. a famous French detective aka The Human Bloodhound, but honestly I thoroughly enjoyed all the over-the-top posturing between the two of them.  All in all, while this may not be Christie’s best work, it’s still a great deal of fun with some solid red herrings to keep readers guessing.

Bess Crawford Mysteries // Books 6-11 // by Charles Todd

6. An Unwilling Accomplice (2014)
7. A Pattern of Lies (2015)
8. The Shattered Tree (2016)
9. A Casualty of War (2017)
10. A Forgotten Place (2018)
11.  A Cruel Deception (2019)

Wow, first off I just have to say that I am SO excited that this series is apparently still being written, because every book I read was better than the one before it.  This series was absolutely fantastic and I enjoyed every page.  While I had a few 3.5* reads in the first half of the series, these were all 4* and 4.5* reads.

In case you missed it, here is my review of the first five books in this series, which gives the background of the main character in this series, Bess Crawford, who works as a nurse during World War I.

I honestly don’t know exactly how to review these books other than to say that if you enjoy historical mysteries at all, you should definitely read them.  I also wasn’t sure how the series was going to work once the war was over, but book 9-11 are all post-war books, and they were my favorites.  The authors do such an amazing job capturing how the end of this war wasn’t exactly a joyous victory, but rather the slow, grinding halt of a tragedy that left a generation of men dead and maimed.  The absolute heartbreak of soldiers suffering from shell shock (so misunderstood at the time as well) and who would rather kill themselves than return home to a place where they no longer felt that they could be useful, due to the loss of a limb, was handled so, so well.

Yet these books aren’t all doom and gloom.  There is still a lot of hope there as well, the cautious optimism that maybe the world has learned something from this brutal, useless war.  The slow picking up of the pieces and trying to find a way forward.  Bess herself has, to this point, continued to work as a nurse for men recovering from the war, but she isn’t completely sure if that is what she wants to do forever.  It really feels like the door has been left open for Bess to explore a variety of places and adventures in future books.

There is a love interest (ish), but that has also been handled well.  Bess hasn’t felt like the war was the time or place to be worried about emotional entanglements, but now that it is over, there are a few glimmers of potential.

All in all, this series is moving from strength to strength.  I’ll be on the lookout for a twelfth book, and in the meantime may have to check out the other World War I series by this same mother/son writing duo.  As for the Bess Crawford books – highly recommended!

2020: The Year of the Reading Challenges!

So I’ve never been much for reading challenges, but they are a big part of the Litsy community (are you guys on Litsy yet?  You NEED to be on Litsy!), and I’m finding myself drawn to all of them.  While I doubt that I’ll be able to complete them all, I am looking forward to seeing if I can find books from my TBR to fit some of the categories.  I’m not looking for new books to read as much as I am looking for creative ways to choose what books I knock off my already-huge TBR next!

I’ll probably be posting updates for these challenges on each month’s Rearview Mirror for my own records.


Can I read a book set in every state in the US?  Bigger question:  Is there a book set in every state in the US in my personal collection here in this very house??  I’m still working on pulling together the list, but I think that I am going to be at least at 75% just from books I own.  We’ll see.


So technically the original ReadingUSA challenge was last year, so the people on Litsy who completed that one are starting a new challenge of reading a book set in every European country this year.  While I’m going to focus on USA (so much easier), I’m also seeing if I can check off books for Europe as well.  This all ties into my overall goal of entering/tagging all of my books in LibraryThing (an ongoing project that may last years).  So far I’m through the “H” authors on my shelves and have found books for Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.  It should be pretty easy to check off the major countries, but I don’t anticipate just stumbling across a book set in, say, Slovenia. I’ll keep my eye out, but since I’m mostly focusing on books that are already on my TBR, I’m not sure how far I’ll actually get with this challenge.


This is a random challenge with six categories for each season.  The categories for winter are:

  • Millennial Author
  • Hat/Head Covering on the Cover
  • #LiveandLearn – Subject Mostly New to You
  • Set in Hollywood
  • #CoverCrush
  • Finish in a Day

Again, I think I can find books either on my shelves or on my TBR list to fit all of these categories.


The host for this challenge gave everyone the opportunity to vote on what authors they would like for this challenge, and the top twelve were chosen.  January’s author is Fredrick Backman, so I may finally get around to picking up Beartown.  The idea is to read at least one book by the month’s author as a way of discovering some new authors.


MrBook is a major member of Litsy and an active promoter of the community there.  He chooses one category a month and encourages everyone to read a book from it and let him know what has been read.  January’s category is “One-Word Title” – should be a pretty easy one to find on my shelves!


The hosts for this challenge are encouraging everyone to check off some of those 500+ page books from their TBRs.  I don’t get myself embroiled in ridiculously long books very often, but I am going to see what’s on my shelves.  One chunkster a month may be a good goal.

Book Log

At the beginning of this year I started using an Excel spreadsheet to track my reading, and it’s been fantastic.  It lets me geek out on my personal stats, which I love, and has helped me keep track of what books have been reviewed.  However, I really have been wanting a physical book to use as well.  When I’m traveling and such, it’s nice to have something with me where I can jot down a few notes while I am still having all the book feels.  Plus, what happens if my computer crashes and I lose all my spreadsheets??  However, I’ve had trouble finding a book journal that reflects what I want.  Most of them have a lot of stuff for future planning, or try to be a combo book log and daily planner.  I finally found one on Amazon that is less than $6, has space for 100 books, and asks the exact questions I want to track.  I’ve been using this one for the month of December and it’s fantastic.  The first few pages are an index, and then each number links to a full page for that book.  It’s simple and does just what I need it to and no more:

I’m mostly passing this on in case any of you are looking for a book log also.  The price is so reasonable that it seemed worthwhile to mention it.  Here’s the link on Amazon (I get literally nothing out of you purchasing this; this is just me personally liking something, not me getting rewarded to plug an item) – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1695289064

The cover choices are kind of meh, but you can’t have everything!

So, do any of you participate in any kind of reading challenges?  Have any of you joined Litsy yet?  Let me know if you do!

Katy Carr series // by Susan Coolidge

  • What Katy Did (1872)
  • What Katy Did at School (1873)
  • What Katy Did Next (1886)
  • Clover (1888)
  • In the High Valley (1890)

Do you ever have books sitting on your shelf that you  know you are going to enjoy, yet somehow never get around to reading?  I’m not sure how long my anthology of the Katy Carr books, which includes the first four books in the series, has been gathering dust and getting moved from place to place, but I’m going to say at least a couple of decades.  And, surprise surprise, when I finally read these stories – I loved them!

As you can see from the copyright dates, these are old stories, written and published during a time when “family stories” were very popular (think:  Little Women).  These are simple stories that honestly are what I classify as “coming-of-age” books, without nearly as much angst and extramarital sex as those types of stories seem to include today.

These are terribly thrilling books, but they are gentle, delightful little stories.  The first focuses on Katy, the oldest of her family of several children (I can’t remember how many, five or six), who live with their widowed father (a doctor) and an almost-elderly aunt who does the housekeeping and minds the children.  The setting is a small town in Ohio near Lake Erie, so that alone kept me intrigued.  What the book lacks in intrigue, it makes up for in the pure interest of a glimpse into life at the time.

As is frequent in books from this era, Katy starts out as a rambunctious and careless child.  She gets very ill and almost dies, and has to spend a long time recovering, during which time she learns lessons in patience and thoughtfulness.  While Katy doesn’t lose her independence or intelligence, she does gain maturity and compassion.

In the second book, Dr. Carr fears that Katy has grown old before her time, since she has taken on the responsibility of the housekeeping after the death of their aunt.  He decides to send her and the next sister, Clover, to boarding school.  Again, it’s not necessarily the story as much as the setting that completely engaged me.  It’s a multiple-day journey to the boarding school in the Connecticut countryside, which means that Katy and Clover won’t be able to see their family for a full year.  This volume also follows a pattern from the time, when boarding school stories were very popular.  There are adventures and intrigues and delightful characters.  I was particularly entertained by their homeward journey, which included traveling on the Erie Canal, simply because it just was – which to me is one of the big differences between reading historical fiction and reading books that were written during an earlier time period.  Coolidge doesn’t explain the Canal or even describe it much – it’s just a natural part of the story, like an interstate would be in a book written today.

What Katy Did Next follows a third stereotype for books of the time period: the Grand Tour of Europe!  While Dr. Carr couldn’t afford to send Katy on such a journey under normal circumstances, he agrees to let her travel with a widow and her daughter, as a sort of companion/friend/babysitter.  In this story we discover one of Coolidge’s weaknesses – writing any type of romance.  There is a lot of potential here, but Coolidge keeps things so G-rated that it’s a little difficult to believe that Katy really has any type of romantic feelings for her young man at all.  This was probably my least favorite of the batch (which honestly isn’t saying much because I found all these stories delightful) just because there was definitely a lot of lecturing about history and historic sites, and it all got a little travelogue-y, but it was still a great deal of fun.

While I would have greatly enjoyed a story about newly-married life with Katy, Coolidge decides to shift her focus on the fourth book to Katy’s next sister, Clover.  One of the younger brothers (can’t remember his name), who is in his late teens, has been sickly, and despite the expense, it’s decided that the best thing for him is to travel to the clean mountain air of Colorado.  This book was absolutely fascinating because of the glimpse into “regular” life at the time.  It was so much fun to see Colorado in the 1870’s, that time period between it being a frontier and being truly “civilized” – when there were trains but not cars, when towns and communities were growing exponentially, when the concept of ranching was in its infancy.  Again, Coolidge’s weakness at romance is apparent in this story, but it was still a great deal of fun.

When I finished these books, I found out that there is a fifth (and final) story to the sequel, In the High Country.  It took me a little while to get a copy, and then an even longer while to get around to reading it, so I fear I didn’t appreciate it quite as much, as some of the details of the various characters had become rather fuzzy in the intervening weeks.  In Clover, that young lady ends up marrying a rancher who has immigrated there from England.  In In the High Country, the British rancher’s cousins (or maybe it’s his cousins neighbors? I can’t remember) also move to Colorado so that the brother can become a partner of the ranch and the sister can take up housekeeping for her brother.  This story starts in England and focuses a great deal on the inherent prejudices against the wilderness of Colorado (and Americans in general) held by the sister.  She is gradually won over by the warmth and welcome of Clover and the rest of the family, and of course finds love and happiness along the way.  It was mostly fun to see several loose-ends tied up for the Carr family, and to be able to think of them all contently living out the rest of their days.

All in all, while these aren’t books that will keep you glued to the pages, they were relaxing and happy reads, with a great deal of fun to be had just from the descriptions of everyday life at the time.

Rearview Mirror // November 2019

It’s December already!!!  I can hardly believe it.  November was a weird month.  It was super, super cold at the beginning of the month, so it felt like winter appeared out of nowhere.  Work at the orchard has slowed down a lot, and I had a job interview for a spring job – I’ll be working at another greenhouse!!  I’m pretty excited about that.

Reading this month has been pretty average, but I at least have been able to post some reviews! It’s felt good to get back into a (sort of) blogging groove again.  Whenever I follow someone else’s blog on WordPress, I always set it to email me blog entries, and then I can read them whenever I get a chance.  Well, I’m still reading blog entries from back in September!!!  I really do enjoy reading everyone’s book reviews.  Maybe someday I’ll be caught up!

Favorite November Read

I think probably the final Bess Crawford book, which I haven’t reviewed yet –  A Cruel Deception.  (My review for the first half of the series can be found here.)  This series is really going from strength to strength.  This one was just published this year, so I have high hopes that more are to appear in the future.

Most Disappointing November Read

Another book I haven’t reviewed yet – Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill.  It’s a graphic novel by the same person who wrote/drew The Tea Dragon Society.  While the artwork was gorgeous, the story was quite flat.

By the Numbers…

In November:

  • I read 25 books for a total of 6254 pages.
  • My average rating was 3.76*.  I had a lot of 3.5* and 4* this month, but nothing higher than 4*.
  • I didn’t read any Kindle books this month, execpt for part of one I ended up not finishing.
  • The oldest book I read this month was  Swiss Family Robinsonwhich was originally published 1812.

November DNFs

Two this month, although since I only read the first 18 pages of  Side Effects May Vary (by Julie Murphy), I’m not even sure it counts – just… already the main character was incredibly annoying AND we find out that her mom’s having an affair, all in those first 18 pages, and I just wasn’t feeling it.

The other DNF was a free Kindle book from quite a while back called  By Magic Beguiled (by Maggie Shayne).  I got about 20% into this one before calling it quits.  I just wasn’t in the mood, and the pacing was kind of slow.  I may pick it up again at some point, but not any time soon.

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:  438 (DOWN one!)
  • Nonfiction:  105 (up two)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  654 (DOWN twelve!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  235 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 113 (holding steady)

Awaiting Review

I have whittled the pile down quite a lot, but there are still several titles in the wings, although in fairness three of them have been read in December.

  • The rest of the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd – I enjoyed the second five books even more than the first.
  • Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle – if you’ve never checked out Pyle’s comics, you should go do it now.  They’re perfect.
  • Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill – beautiful artwork, but basically a bunch of preaching about conservation with very little story.
  • The Stand-In Boyfriend by Emma Doherty – a little too long but not a bad contemporary YA.
  • The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere – not my usual fare, but someone loaned it to me so.
  • The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie – I always love revisiting a classic Christie.

Currently Reading

I just started Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber.  I’m involved in a crazy month-long reading challenge thingy on Litsy (seriously guys, you ALL need to join Litsy!), so I’m actually reading Christmas books at Christmas, something I pretty much never do.  I could use some Christmas spirit, so it’s probably a good thing!!

The Probable Next Five(ish) Reads

  • Fatherland by Robert Harris – because who doesn’t like a good alternate history read?
  • The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon – a book I got in a book box a long time ago.
  • The Coat-Hanger Christmas Tree by Eleanor Estes – more holiday fare
  • Come to Me Alive by Leah Atwood – it’s the first in a series, so if I like it, there are three more!
  • In the High Valley by Susan Coolidge – actually, these books should have gone on the Awaiting Review list – I read the first four books in the series back in September, but didn’t own this one.  Since it finally arrived, I just haven’t taken the time to pick it up!

Thanks for sticking with me, readers!  Here’s to a lovely December and happy Christmases all around!

87th Precinct Mysteries // Books 21-25 // by Ed McBain

21. Eighty Million Eyes (1966)
22. Fuzz (1968)
23. Shotgun (1968)
24. Jigsaw (1970)
25. Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here (1971)

I haven’t done a review for these in a little while, although I have still been working through batches of five at a time (there are an astounding 55 titles in this series, so I still have quite a ways to go!).  They are short, snappy, and snarky, and I really enjoy them a lot.  It’s interesting to watch them progress through time as well – the first was published in 1956 – for instance, Miranda rights were established in the mid-1960’s, so McBain makes a big deal out of them in these books, emphasizing the mixed feelings the officers themselves have about this limitation on what they are and aren’t allowed to say and do to suspects.

This was a pretty strong set of five.  Eighty Million Eyes was clever and fun.  When a man dies on live television, killed by a very fast-acting poison, it seems impossible to believe that someone could have killed him while eighty million eyes were watching him.

In Fuzz we had the return of the nemesis of the 87th Precinct, the Deaf Man.  In one of the author notes in one of these books, McBain was saying that he really wanted to write a lot more deaf man stories, but the truth was that the Deaf Man was cleverer than even McBain, so it was a struggle!  In this story, there is a fairly large coincidence that brings down the Deaf Man’s plot, but in a way that’s kind of the point – the Deaf Man actually IS smarter than the detectives, and it’s only sheer dumb luck that keeps allowing them to thwart him.

Shotgun had a great twist, and also emphasized one of the random things that I like about this series – small continuities throughout.  While each of these would read perfectly well as a standalone, reading them in order does let small details build together.  While the story in He Who Hesitates was concluded in a fairly satisfactory manner, in this book, a side plot is an even more satisfying postscript to that story.

Each story focuses on a different detective, and we got to focus on one that had mostly been a background character up until this time.  It was interesting to travel with Detective Brown (brown both in name and in color, he says), as McBain rather sarcastically explores the racism of the time.  I loved the way they used that racism to the precinct’s advantage.

The final book in this batch, Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here, was a completely different pattern from the usual – instead of one major mystery at the center of the story, it just focuses on a 24 hour period at the precinct, with all the small mysteries and disturbances that come with it.  It made for rather addictive reading, trying to find out what was happening with several small stories all crisscrossing together.

If you’re sensitive to things like annoying men referring to women as “broads” and that sort of thing, you should steer clear of these.  But if you can accept it all as part of the fun (and part of the times), these are fun and fast procedurals, with McBain’s genuine respect and admiration for city detectives – and his love for the city itself – at their core.

November Minireviews – Part 3

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.

Whittling down the pile of reviews!!!

Jessica’s First Prayer by Hesba Stretton – 3.5*

//published 1867//

I’ve mentioned Lamplighter before – a small publishing company that reprints very old books with strong moral stories.  This one is a very slim volume about a homeless girl and a church-going man who learns the value of living his faith in a real way.  While a bit saccharine, there really is an excellent and thoughtful lesson here.

Golden Sovereign by Dorothy Lyons – 4*

//published 1946//

Regular readers know that I have a life-long addiction to horse stories of all kinds.  I’ve collected a few of Lyons’s books over the years, and sincerely wish that I could find more as I really like them, so if you have any sitting about your house that you want to unload, let me know.  :-D  Anyway, this one is apparently the third book in a series, but I didn’t have any trouble following along.  Connie is finishing her high school career and looking to the future – college and starting her own stable raising palominos, with her beautiful young stallion, Golden Sovereign, as the foundation.  Towards the beginning of the book, she also purchases a run-down mare at a horse sale, convinced that the mare’s lineage is better than her condition.  There’s a bit of a mystery about the mare, and also about Sovereign’s behavior (although I’ve apparently read far too many horse books, as I immediately knew the source of Sovereign’s bad temper!), and a lot about training Sovereign and going around to horse shows.  If you enjoy horse stories, you’ll probably like this one, as it’s a fairly classic formula.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Adventures of Sally by P.G. Wodehouse – 4*

//published 1922//

The usual Wodehouse froth, although this one was a bit more of a romance than his stories normally are.  Sally is quite likable, and the ups and downs of her life make for entertaining reading, with a bit dollop of Wodehouse humor.

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss – 4*

//published 1812//

So I’m still really enjoying my life over on Litsy, and have recently joined a book club there called the #LMPBC – the Litsy Postal Mark-up Book Club.  Four people join each group, and each person choose a book to read and make notations in, and then once a month you mail the book to the next person until you get your own book back, full of notations from the other three people in the group.  Each group is a different theme/genre of book, and I joined the Classics and Romance groups.  I’m really looking forward to reading the books coming my way!  At any rate, Swiss Family Robinson was my choice for my Classic, and it was interesting to read it for the first time since my childhood.  Overall, it was a fun and interesting read, but the family did have just an inordinately ridiculous amount of good luck, and even the synopsis on the back cover informed me that it would be impossible to find an island with all of the animals described in the story!  In fairness, the book was written with education for young minds as the primary purpose, so if you think of it as an entertaining way to learn some lessons, it fits the bill.

The Prenup by Lauren Layne – 3.5*

//published 2019//

This was my pick for #LMPBC’s Romance group.  I’ve been meaning to read a Lauren Layne book forever, and this one employs my favorite trope – marriage of convenience.  Overall, I really did enjoy this story BUT there is a second woman!  That really brought down my enjoyment a great deal, because it was really hard to ship the main characters when the dude is also engaged to someone else.  While they never physically cheat, there are a lot of feelings/scenarios that just shouldn’t have been happening when he was committed to someone else.  I especially get annoyed when pseudo-cheating is justified with the whole “well the other woman sucks” concept – like, doesn’t matter if she sucks or not.  He still made the commitment.

Still, it was also a funny and lighthearted read, so I definitely think I will be trying some more of Layne’s works in the future, and I’ll be interested to see if my fellow book club members are aggravated by the almost-cheating bits of the story like I was.