Swallows and Amazons // by Arthur Ransome – #20BooksofSummer

//published 1930//

Do you ever have a book that you barely remember reading as a child, and then you revisit it as an adult and it’s really nothing at all like you remember?  That happens to me from time to time, since I grew up in a reading household.  I started reading at a ridiculously young age, and I was blessed with parents who loved to read to us out loud as well.  Some books, like Wind in the Willows, I only ever hear in my dad’s voice when I’m reading them!

At some point, Dad also read Swallows and Amazons to us, but it didn’t really stick in my memory.  I could only remember a few hazy things – it had something to do with boats, something to do with camping, and when they wanted to say “goodnight” they all said “Drool!  Drool!” which meant “goodnight” in their made up language haha  Otherwise, I didn’t remember much about this 1930 classic.

As an adult, it has been on my lists of reads to revisit for quite some time, and I was surprised to learn that it is actually the first in a series of twelve books!  These stories were originally published in Britain and appear to have been much more popular there.  Sadly, my library only has Swallows and Amazons, but none of the sequels, so if I want to read the rest, I’ll have to invest some cash!  There’s a pretty high probability of that happening, though, because Swallows and Amazons was a delight from end to end.

The story does indeed have something to do with boats and camping.  Four children – John, Susan, Titty, and Roger – are staying with their mother and their baby sister alongside a lake for the holidays.  Their father is in the Navy and his ship is all the way in Hong Kong.  The story begins when the children receive a telegram from their father giving them permission to spend the summer camping on a small, uninhabited island in the lake, which they will be able to access via a lovely little sailboat called the Swallow.  The rest of the book chronicles their adventures as they set up camp and explore the island and the lake, and then run into two sisters, Nancy and Peggy, who man their own little sailboat called the Amazon.  The two sets of siblings are both rivals and compatriots, especially when it comes to the “retired pirate” who lives on a houseboat in a nearby cove.

While this definitely isn’t a story of high drama and intensity, I was completely engaged in all of the adventures.  The children are delightfully independent, and their mother swiftly became one of my favorite characters as well.  She grew up in Australia on the coast, and has plenty of sailing and camping knowledge of her own.  Everyone felt realistic, and I honestly fell in love with literally every character in this story.  Even the “slower” parts, like the children visiting the charcoal burners, were still interesting both in what they added to the story, and what they had to say about the time period and area.  I loved how both the boy and girl characters in this story were equally involved in the adventures.  Yes, Susan was in charge of cooking and other “mothering” aspects of the camp, but all of the girls were just as capable of handling the boats and other more traditionally masculine aspects of the adventure.

All in all, I enjoyed every page of this story, and so ordered a copy of the second book, Swallowdale, on eBay.  I’m quite looking forward to delving into more adventures of this intrepid group of explorers.

Read #5 for #20BooksofSummer!

Up From the Sea // by Leza Lowitz

//published 2016//

This is a beautiful story told from the perspective of a boy who survives Japan’s 2011 earthquake/tsunami, but loses almost everything to it.  Through the course of the story, he ends up connecting with people who were orphaned by the 9/11 attacks ten years earlier, and is able to find some healing and peace from the realization that tragedy can strike anyone, and that we can either allow ourselves to be destroyed by it, or to grow from it. This was a book I got in a random book box a long way back and isn’t my usual fare, but because the book is written in verse, it’s a pretty fast read.

While I found the book to be poignant and thought-provoking, I literally do no understand books written in verse.  For instance:

He embarrassed me so bad,
sometimes I wished
he’d go away.
And then,
one day,
he did.

Why can’t that just be written as a sentence??  “He embarrassed me so bad, sometimes I wished he’d go away.  And then, one day, he did.”  I literally get the same exact emotion out of that without my brain having to hiccup every two words.

Plus, when
I’m reading something
in verse
my brain
inserts very
random
pauses in
all of my internal
conversations.

It’s very annoying.

Throughout the story, Kai’s thoughts and emotions felt extremely realistic.  Just like everyone does when something horrible happens, he looks back at his life – although his has been relatively short – and recognizes times of selfishness or the way that he took many things for granted.  I was really struck by a point where they are all sleeping in the shelter just a day or two after the tsunami:

Next to me,
old folks
burrow into their
blankets,
murmur:
It’s just like the war,
when we had
nothing.

Obaachan [Grandmother] used to talk about
how hard things were
back then,

when a banana
was a luxury,
green tea was
champagne.

She told me all this
so I’d appreciate
what I had.

But I didn’t.
Until now.

As the story progresses, Kai has the opportunity to travel to America for a 9/11 anniversary event.  I loved when he and the other youths who were going were getting ready to leave, and were talking about what gifts they could take for their hosts.

So nice to think about
what to give
instead of
what’s been
taken away.

Overall, I found Up From the Sea to be a beautiful and thoughtful read.  However, the fact that it was in verse meant that it drove me absolutely insane when I was reading it, as it made me feel as though I was lurching through the text instead of being able to simply read it.

PS I have a beautiful hardcover copy of this book that is heading to the secondhand shop soon, so if you would like it mailed to you instead, please feel free to email me!!

Lunar Court // by Aileen Erin

Last summer I read and weirdly enjoyed Aileen Erin’s Alpha Girl series, so when I had an opportunity to read the latest installment in that series as an ARC, I took it, despite the fact that I rarely read ARCs (way more pressure/commitment than I’m usually interested in).

So yes, these are werewolf books.  I don’t do a lot of paranormal reading because most of it tends to be too angsty/sexy/plain creepy, but sometimes you find a series that works, and I feel that way about Alpha Girl.  I really like the characters and the world-building.  I reread the series to work my way back into Lunar Court, and found myself liking Tessa and her friends all over again.  The first five books are basically all one big story – while they do a good job of having each book wrap up some small lines, the overarching plot continues throughout and is done really well.  From there, while the books are still closely connected, each one reads more individually.

In Lunar Court the story focuses on Chris and Cosette.  Chris is a werewolf, and has been one of my favorite characters throughout the entire series.  Cosette is fey, an area of world-building that Erin has been slowly developing throughout the last few books, especially in Shattered Pack, where we learned a lot more about how their culture works.  There are a lot of obstacles between Chris and Cosette becoming a couple, and overall this book was a lot more romance-focused than the earlier books.  As such, there wasn’t quite as much action.

My favorite part about this book was the dual POV.  The rest of the books in the series have had a single POV, which worked for what was happening in them, but being able to know what was happening with both Chris and Cosette, since they spend a lot of the book apart, really worked here.  I’m on Erin’s mailing list, and she’s mentioned that she enjoyed the dual POV so much that she’s thinking of using it for her next book in the series as well, so hopefully she sticks with it.

Overall, this was a 3.5* read for me, which is slightly below the 4* average I would give the series as a whole.  The pacing felt slower in this story – it didn’t quite drag, but some things definitely felt repetitive.  It also had a darker tone than earlier books, with themes of long-term physical and emotional abuse and manipulation.  There are still way more f-bombs in these books than I find necessary – one of my biggest complaints about this series as a whole.  Finally, while overall this series has done pretty well skirting around the religious aspect of paranormal, the involvement of archons in this story (who aren’t angels except they kind of basically are angels??) meant that this story was edging over the line of theological complications that made me more uncomfortable than the earlier books’ theme of “don’t mess with demons.”

Still, the story itself is well done.  I really like Chris and Cosette and totally ship them. I enjoyed watching them overcome the obstacles so that they could be together.  Hopefully Erin continues this series, as there are still a lot of characters to explore.  If you’re looking for some slightly-angsty paranormal, I totally recommend this series, especially since a bunch of the Kindle books are currently on sale in celebration of Lunar Court’s release.

Rearview Mirror // May 2019

May was a good month.  The weather was excellent, tons of projects got checked off the list, and we took a vacation that was topped off by a four-day weekend at home.  The gardens are 98% in, the camper (AKA the Zeppelin) is cleaned up and ready to go, we ordered a canoe rack for the 4Runner, and all in all we are ready for summer adventuring!  Also, my sister got a new kitten and he is PAINFULLY adorable.

Our trip to the Smokies was full of waterfalls, elk, and relaxing.  A definite win!  When we got back, we got a TON of stuff done around the house and yard, and that was basically just as much fun, as it’s incredibly satisfying to get stuff checked off the list!


I am legit excited about gardening this year.  We are getting ready to celebrate our fifth anniversary of moving here, and it feels like most of our hardscaping – raised beds, fences, fish pond, paths – are settling into place.  Some of the things we planted four and five years ago are really maturing, and all in all this place is suuuuuper happy in the summer.


I’ve still been doing tons of reading, but the outdoors calls to me too much for me to really have the patience to sit and write thoughtful reviews.  Plus, while on vacation, I did several rereads of old favorites, which means I pretty much just say, “THIS BOOK IS AMAZING” and the rest is more or less incoherent.  However, I did actually read all the books on my Vacation TBR, although the Books of Bayern carried over into the next week!

I discovered Litsy, and highly recommend it if you are someone who enjoys Bookstagram, or if you are just looking for a very friendly book community.  It’s more or less Instagram for books, with every post linking to a book.  You can post thoughts or quotes or short reviews (Litsy uses a four-rank system:  Pick, So-So, Pan, and Bail), and there are tons of conversations and book swaps and reading challenges and photo challenges, and people working together to listen to audio books while exercising, and everything else you can think of.  It’s a little confusing to find your way around at first.  They could really use some sort of homepage that lists different current challenges and groups and whatnot, and what I really, really wish they had was a way to bookmark posts so you can find them later, but it’s also a somewhat new website, so they are still getting things sorted.  It’s both an app and a website, so you can use it however works for you.  I’m there as @aromaofbooks, so be sure to give me a shout if you try it out!!

Favorite May Read:

Usually I don’t choose rereads, but because I had so many this month – and they were all favorites! – I am definitely going with Indiscretion by Jude Morgan.  This book is just so funny and fun, with likable characters and entertaining dialogue.  This is the third time I’ve read it, and each time has been delightful.

Most Disappointing May Read:

Probably The Trail of the Green Doll by Margaret Sutton.  I read another three books in the Judy Bolton series, and didn’t actually review them here, as they were pretty much more of the same in that series!  But The Green Doll was even more ??!!!?? than usual, as there was a character who grew up with these two neighbor guys (brothers) and ended up marrying one and moving away, but then he died and she came back and married the other brother because she’d secretly been in love with him all along??  Or something??  The whole thing had a much weirder vibe than these books usually have!

By the Numbers…

In May:

  • I finished 25 books for 6944 pages.
  • My average star rating was 3.9, probably thanks to rereading a bunch of 4.5* favorites!
  • This month I read a lot more books from my personal collection than the library/Kindle Unlimited, with 20 books from home.  As always, way more physical books – 19 this month.
  • The honors for the oldest book again go to P.G. Wodehouse – this month it was The Indiscretions of Archiepublished in 1921.
  • This month’s longest book was The Villa by Nora Roberts at 486 pages, while The Treasure is the Rose by Julia Cunningham was the shortest at only 105 pages.

May DNFs:

I had two DNFs this month, both Kindle books.

  • The Darcy Legacy by Joana Starnes – I’ve read a few P&P variations by this author and enjoyed them, but this one was just a little too far.  It starts with the fact that Darcy’s parents are both ghosts and can hang around Pemberley and watch over their children (although not really interact with them).  I was going to ride with this and see where it went, because I really liked the rest of the premise, where Mrs. Bennet has passed away, leaving her husband to raise their five daughters.  But then, around the 36% mark, through a weird series of events, the author decides to have Mr. Bennet marry Lady Catherine?!  For basically no reason – so Anne will have sisters?!  What?!  At this point I finally threw in the towel.
  • Steamborn by Eric Asher – this is a Kindle book I’ve had forever.  It wasn’t a bad story, but it just was not holding my interest at all, and I gave up about 30% in.  I’m also not a huge fan of giant bugs, so that could have been part of it!  I may return to this one at some point, but I was not feeling it at the time.

#20BooksofSummer

It’s time for the annual 20 Books of Summer challenge, which is the only one I participate in regularly!  I chose my list, and the challenge starts tomorrow!  We’ll see how I do. I always read more than twenty books in the summer, so for myself I choose some random books on my upcoming list, and those are the twenty, even though I’ll be reading other books in between!

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:  424 (up seven, which is mostly funny because last month I was down seven so)
  • Nonfiction:  89 (up three, mostly due to some intriguing reviews on Litsy)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  664 (down two)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  234 (holding steady – I still want to do some serious purging on this list, but just haven’t had time)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 115 (down one)

Awaiting Review:

I’m actually caught up, other than the Alpha Girl series (by Aileen Erin), which I’m currently reading.

Currently Reading:

Speaking of the Alpha Girl series, I’m currently on book #4, Bruja.  I read this series last summer, and even though I don’t read a lot of paranormal fiction, I really enjoyed these.  Erin is getting ready to publish the eighth book in the series this month.  I received it as an ARC and decided to reread the series before reading and reviewing the newest book.

The Probable Next Five(ish) Reads:

My newest round-robin method of book reading is doing really well for me, so I’ve actually been following my next five reads pretty closely!!

  • Planning to finish the rest of the Alpha Girl books.
  • Cliff’s Edge by Meg Tilly – the second book in the Solace Island series, and my first book for #20BooksofSummer.
  • Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills – I’m still trying to read all of Mills’s backlog, as I’ve enjoyed both of her books I’ve read so far.
  • Dreamology by Lucy Keating – I don’t remember how this book ended up on my list, and I think it will be one I either really like, or one that I don’t even finish haha
  • Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz – this is a book in verse, and kind of outside my normal realm of reading, but I got it in a book box a while back, so I’m going to at least give it a go.

So there’s the report!  Happy June everyone!!