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.
A Duchess in Name by Amanda Weaver – 3*
I picked this Kindle book up for free somewhere along the line because I’ll pretty much always pick up marriage of convenience tropes. This one was pretty average. I actually liked the story and the characters a great deal, but there was a lot of pretty explicit sex in this one, which always brings down my overall enjoyment of a story. It also meant that even though this was the first in a series of four, I didn’t really feel like paying to read the rest.
Virtually Sleeping Beauty by K.M. Robinson – 2.5*
Another Kindle freebie, and another book that I really wanted to like. The premise is fun with a very Ready Player One vibe, with one character stuck inside a popular virtual reality game. The narrator and his best friend go into the game to try and rescue her. However, the execution of the story was incredibly flat. It honestly felt more like an outline or rough draft than it did an actual book. The plotting was choppy and cliché. The characters were one-dimensional and rather insipid. The ending was incredibly abrupt. I didn’t remotely believe that the characters had become even basic friends, much less that they had fallen in love, especially considering the whole story takes place over a few hours. It turns out that this was more of a short story than an actual book, so that’s why I ended up finishing it. If the writing had been this poor for the full length of a novel, I wouldn’t have continued. I do have a few other of Robinson’s books as free Kindle books, but reading this one hasn’t made me exactly eager to try the rest.
The Fox Busters by Dick King-Smith – 4*
Although I’ve only reviewed a couple of King-Smith’s books here, his books were an absolute delight to me growing up, and The Fox Busters was the story that introduced me to the magical absurdity of his writing. This isn’t really a book I would recommend to very small children, as there is, frankly, a decent amount of death, but I remember loving the military-like execution of events. Basically, the chickens of Foxearth Farm have, through generations of natural selection (due to generations of farmers not really being bothered to take much care of said chickens), become almost like wild birds. This means that generations of foxes around the farm have very rarely ever been able to experience the delights of a chicken dinner. The events in The Fox Busters occur when a trio of especially intelligent pullets are hatched right around the time that a quartet of particularly clever foxes are growing up nearby. This is the story of their battle.
So yes, it’s honestly a rather violent book. A lot of chickens – and several foxes – die during the course of it. But the sheer creativity is fantastically engaging. King-Smith’s writing is brisk and to the point – he doesn’t tend to linger over descriptions or unneeded details. Yet somehow that suits the overall military feel of the book. There is a sly tongue-in-cheek humor throughout that I think I rather missed as a child, but found quite amusing as an adult.
While this isn’t a perfect book, it’s well worth a read if you’ve ever raised chickens, or if you’re just looking for a quick bit of British humor.
Show Lamb by Hildreth Wriston – 4*
This is another book from my personal collection, one that I picked up at a book sale eons ago but never got around to reading. It’s a shame, because this is a book I would have quite enjoyed as a child – a bit of historical fiction set in 1850 Vermont, focusing on 10-year-old Chad. Chad, along with his parents, sister, and aunt, live together on a sheep farm, and Chad wants nothing more than to also be a sheep farmer like his father. He feels that the best way to start on that path is to get to choose his own lamb to take to the fair that fall, but Chad’s father doesn’t think he’s old enough yet. This story follows Chad from lambing season through the fair (he of course does choose his own lamb, secretly, which is part of the story) and is a delight the entire way. One of the things I liked best about this book was that there were multiple times that Chad was strongly tempted to do the wrong thing, but for the most part he choose not to – and even if that behavior wasn’t rewarded immediately, it always paid off in the end. This is a lesson sadly lacking in virtually all children’s literature these days, as modern authors seem to think it’s much better to tell children that their parents are the enemy and also rather stupid and inept. In Show Lamb, Chad’s father is not at all perfect, but he is good and genuinely loves Chad, and this really comes through in the story. We’re also shown a contrast in the lazy, no-good neighbor, which was also done well.
All in all, it seems a shame that literally no one else on Goodreads has ever come across this one (I added it myself), as I found it a delightful little piece of historical fiction with a lot to offer.
The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer – 3.5*
I’m not sure if it’s because I had the large print version or what, but this was one of the few times where a Heyer book felt like it went on forever. While the last third of the book picked up the pace and become much more engaging and humorous, the beginning and middle really dragged. Without any insight into what Hugo was thinking, it was hard to recognize that he was pulling the collective leg of his relatives, because it’s hard to recognize, in writing, that he’s speaking in “broad Yorkshire,” beyond his saying “happen” instead of “perhaps.” There were also moments where supposedly he accidentally forgot to use his Yorkshire accent, but again this was hard to pick up in writing, so a lot of the subtlety of humor was lost on me. It was a fun story with some likable characters and a lot of potential, but this one felt too directionless for too long, as though Heyer couldn’t quite decide where she was headed with this story. It was (sadly) still better than a very large chunk of modern romances, but it wasn’t a Heyer I particularly felt I needed to add to my permanent collection.