October 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.

Technically, these are actually September minireviews still, since I’m THAT far behind haha

Bloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovern – 3.5*

//published 2019//

The internet is a weird place for artists and authors and creators of all kinds.  It can be an amazing way to let others see your work, but everyone expects everything on the internet to be free.  I’ve really been making a conscious effort the last few years to find ways to financially support internet people whose creations I regularly enjoy, and my preferred method of showing that support is by preordering books they create.  Emily McGovern’s webcomic,  My Life as a Background Slytherinhas brought me a great deal of laughter over the years, so even though her book didn’t look like my normal cup of tea, I preordered it nonetheless.

As I suspected, Bloodlust & Bonnets, a graphic novel set in Regency times that involves a great deal of vampire stabbing and a little too much gender identity questioning, wasn’t really my type of book.  But it was honestly a very fun one-time read.  The artwork is stellar, the story was actually quite hilarious, and there were several good zingers throughout.  So while it doesn’t get my wholehearted recommendation, it was still a lot of fun.  And, if you’ve ever read Harry Potter, you should definitely check out McGovern’s comics, as they are A+ hilarious.

The Clue of the Broken Wing by Margaret Sutton – 3.5*

//published 1958//

I’m still reading my way through the Judy Bolton books, although I’m almost at an end, as I only have one or two left that I own. I’m missing the last five or six of the series, but they are too expensive for me to justify purchasing them, so I think I’m just going to have to hope Judy and Peter ride happily off into the sunset.  At any rate, Broken Wing was another pretty regular addition to the set, although there was a rather odd scene where she stops by someone’s house to ask them some questions, and they basically lock her in the attic?!  I was so confused.  And what is up with Judy’s face on this cover?!

The Fugitive Heiress by Amanda Scott – 3.5*

//published 1981//

This was one of those random Regency novels I’ve acquired, and it was another fun one-time read, although the two main characters were a little too volatile for me to really get behind them as a couple.  Still, it was an overall fun book with decent pacing.  However, Georgette Heyer sets a high standard for witty Regency tales and has consequently kind of ruined me for these types of stories – this one was just felt like it was taking itself a little too seriously.

Me, You and Tiramisu by Charlotte Butterfield – 3*

//published 2017//

This is one of those books I’ve had on my Kindle forever.  It started out alright – Jayne is a quite, introverted type who has recently reconnected with a boy from her high school days.  She and Will always had a special connection then, and in the present day their dating relationship feels completely natural and happy.  When she moves in with Will, Jayne’s twin sister, Rachel, moves into the spare bedroom (and no, that isn’t the source of drama in this book THANK GOODNESS) and the three of them have a seemingly idyllic life.  Will owns a small deli/bakery and loves cooking.  Through a series of events, he becomes a YouTube sensation, and soon has his own agent, is appearing on national television, and has the potential to have his own cooking show.  He gets practically mobbed in the streets and is absurdly popular.  Meanwhile, Jayne feels a bit left behind and hates being in the spotlight.

This was a book that needed to be at least 25% shorter.  The middle dragged on for so long I thought I might not ever finish it.  Part of the problem was that I felt like all three characters were contributing to the miscommunications and issues, but in the end, it turns out that everything was Jayne’s fault, so once SHE apologizes and starts acting “right” then everything is okay.  But I actually thought Jayne had some valid points about how both Will and Rachel were acting, so it really annoyed me that they got to be all self-righteous and act like they had never done anything wrong ever.  Meanwhile, Will really was blowing off Jayne’s legitimate concerns about privacy and their personal relationship, while Rachel was hiding a huge part of her life from her sister under the extremely annoying guise of “if you really cared about me, you would notice without me saying something.”  URGH. It was especially annoying because part of what was bothering Jayne was that Will’s agent thought he “sold” better as a single guy, so he was basically not particularly publicly acknowledging his relationship with Jayne, but everyone acted like Jayne was the one being unreasonable by saying that that made her feel unloved!  I mean seriously!

Overall, the story had a lot of potential, but it just fell flat for me.  It was one of those books that I wanted to like a lot more than I actually did.

The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt – 2.5*

//published 1974//

Do you ever read a book that can’t quite decide what it wants to be?  This book was too not-romantic to be a romance, too slow to be a thriller, and too narrowly-focused to be historical fiction.  I picked this one up all the way back in 2011 at Salvation Army for a quarter, and now that I’ve finally read it, I think it’s headed back to Salvo’s shelves.  I read the first half, hoping that maybe this was the kind of book that was just slow to get started but then went somewhere.  But it was actually just the slow part.  Part of my problem with this book was the big romantic story just didn’t seem that romantic to me.  The guy that she loves (sorry, I’ve forgotten everyone’s names) has to be presented as somewhat untrustworthy in order for the plot of “maybe he killed his uncle” to work, but all that really did was just make me not like this guy as he’s super irresponsible and annoying.  Consequently, I really never could get behind her pining away for him for years.

So I skimmed the second half, thinking that maybe something would happen, but I didn’t really regret my decision to not thoroughly read each page, as it was still a whole lot of super slow and a kind of ridiculous ending.  This one is heading to the giveaway pile for now, and maybe my next 25¢ read will be a better one!!

My Side of the Mountain Series // by Jean Craighead George

  • My Side of the Mountain (1959)
  • On the Far Side of the Mountain (1990)
  • Frightful’s Mountain (1999)
  • Frightful’s Daughter (2002) (picture book)
  • Frightful’s Daughter Meets the Baron Weasel (2007) (picture book)

When I was a kid, I found some of my dad’s childhood books stuck in a closet in his old bedroom at my grandparents’ house.  Some of them, like Jim Kjelgaard’s Wild Trekwent on to become lifelong favorites.  Another beloved classic from that stack was the first book in this series, My Side of the Mountain.  Like Wild Trek, My Side of the Mountain is about someone living off the land, all alone – a topic that has always fascinated me, and continues to do so.  I was very drawn to My Side of the Mountain because of George’s conversational tone, aided by Sam’s first-person narrative, and accompanied by sketches of things like plants, snares, and handmade fishhooks.

Sam Gribley is a teen when he decides to run away from his home – a crowded apartment full of younger siblings in New York City – and try to live off the land in the Catskills, where his family owns, but has never visited, his grandfather’s old abandoned farm.  Sam’s parents tell him he’s welcome to try, but obviously expect him to be back home as soon as he gets a little hungry.  However, Sam has been doing his research, and although things are hard at first, he begins to make progress as he harvests food and other necessities from the wilderness.  Throughout the story we also hear of wild creatures and natural occurrences, a gentle lecture on the ways of the mountain that never feels preachy or forced.

While I had read My Side of the Mountain many times as a youngster, and several times as an adult, I had only read the sequel, On the Far Side of the Mountain, once, and had never read any of the other stories.  As you can see from the published dates, these all followed quite a long while after the original story.  While enjoyable, the two main sequels definitely felt much more heavy-handed in their conservation message, especially Frightful’s Mountain, which is more or less a constant bombardment of why birds of prey are critical to the balance of nature.

In the first book, Sam finds a peregrine falcon nest, from which he takes a young falcon and raises her to hunt for him.  He names her Frightful, and she becomes an amazing part of the overall story.  In the second book, a ranger shows up and tells Sam that he is harboring an illegal bird and confiscates Frightful, telling Sam that she will be rehabilitated into the wild.  Meanwhile, Sam’s younger sister Alice is now also living in the wilderness.  She sets off on her own adventure, leaving a trail for Sam to follow.  As the story unfolds, Sam begins to wonder if the person who took Frightful was legitimate, and in the end the youngsters uncover and illegal bird-trading ring.

While it’s a decent story, I didn’t warm to On the Far Side of the Mountain nearly as much as the first story.  Part of it is the removal of Frightful, which aggravated me as an adult and genuinely upset me as a kid – I remember distinctly that that was why I disliked this story then and only read it once.  The other part is that the whole bit where there is illegal falcon trading going on doesn’t really fit with the rest of the story.  It’s an attempt to make things suspenseful, but it just doesn’t flow at all.  The whole story would have read much better if Frightful had been taken by a legitimate wildlife officer who also worked with Sam as they rehabilitated Frightful to the wild.  Instead there is this weird “mystery” that isn’t really a mystery.

Frightful’s Mountain is a book that will really only interest you if you are fascinated by peregrine falcons.  It is all about Frightful trying to survive in the wilderness, despite the fact that she was raised as a tame bird.  Throughout, there are very heavyhanded messages about things people – including children – can do to help with the preservation of these rare and beautiful birds, most of which seem to do with writing letters to people, which the children in this book do incessently.  For me, there was more preaching than story, and aspects of the story seemed rather convoluted so that they could fit with the preaching.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it definitely wasn’t one that I would particularly care to read again.

The final two books are actually picture books with beautiful illustrations but minimal story.  Pleasant, but nothing amazing.

All in all, while I enjoyed reading through this series, I only ever see myself returning to My Side of the Mountain in the future.  While the rest of the books were a worthwhile one-time read, they really lacked the simplicity and interest of the original tale.

Rearview Mirror // September 2019

Well, gang, I did a puh-retty terrible job of being a book blogger in September, but that’s typical for me this time of year – September is one of my busiest months of the year, and this year I compounded it by going on an epic journey to Wyoming and back!  It’s been a great month overall.  Vacation was awesome; I love my job at the orchard; and we’ve managed to get a few projects checked off here at home, too.  I’m still reading a lot, pages wedged in whenever I can, but haven’t had a lot of time for blogging.  I managed to get two batches of minireviews accomplished in the last two days, so you at least have had a taste of what I’ve been reading!  Here’s the list of books still waiting to be reviewed, as some of them may play into the rest of this entry’s stats…

  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, plus two sequels and two children’s picture books
  • Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern
  • The Clue of the Broken Wing by Margaret Sutton
  • The Fugitive Heiress by Amanda Scott
  • Me, You and Tiramisu by Charlotte Butterfield
  • The Katy Did series by Susan Coolidge

I also reread Nora Roberts’s Bridal Quartet, but I probably won’t bother reviewing those again.  They were relaxing vacation fare.

Favorite September Read

I had a few 4.5* reads this month, but I think I’m going to hand this slot to My Side of the Mountain.  It’s a childhood favorite that has worn very well through the years.  I was delighted to be reunited with Sam and his woodsy wisdom.

Most Disappointing September Read

Probably The Woman in Cabin 10.   I was left feeling confused at the end of this one, and was frequently aggravated while reading it, neither of which are signs of a good thriller.

By the Numbers

In September…

  • I only read 5511 pages – my lowest monthly count this year by quite a lot.  Like I said, busy busy busy!!
  • However, I had my highest average star rating of the year – 3.8!
  • This month most of my books were from my own personal library – 16 out of 23 books.  I only read one book on my Kindle.
  • September’s oldest book was originally published in 1872 – What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge.
  • Nora Roberts snagged the longest book slot with Three Fates checking in at 472 pages, while Jean Craighead George’s Frightful’s Daughter was only 27 pages, with lots of pictures.

September DNFs

I only had one this month – Pippa’s Cornish Dream by Debbie Johnson, which I got as a free Kindle book a long time ago.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it was just SO boring that I couldn’t bring myself to care about what happened to anyone.  I slogged through 70% of it as a bedtime read before realizing that I just didn’t want to even finish.  But isn’t that cover adorable??

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:  435 (DOWN one!)
  • Nonfiction:  103 (up three)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  655 (DOWN four!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  236 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 115 (DOWN one!)

Awaiting Review

Besides the books listed at the beginning of the post, which I read in September, I’ve read three books in October so far – I’m just getting more and more behind on reviews!!!

  • The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt
  • The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross
  • Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Current Reading

Today I started Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George.  I remember vaguely reading this as a youngster and not liking it, which is weird because I have always liked wolves.  I’m interested to revisit it as an adult and see if it has improved with time for me.

The Probable Next Five(ish) Reads

I’ve been doing really terrible at sticking with my short TBR as I just haven’t been in the mood for… well, anything, really.  But these *may* be what I read next…

  • Double Folly by Marnie Ellingson – I bought this one a while back after rereading The Wicked Marquis and remembering how much I enjoyed it. We’ll see if this one lives up to the standard.
  • Lord Brocktree by Brian Jacques – I still want to finish the Redwall books, but I just wasn’t in the mood for this one this summer, so I pushed it down the list.  We’ll see how I feel about it this time around.
  • Magnolia Wednesdays by Wendy Wax – this one came in a book box a year ago or so.  I’m not completely sure it is going to be my kind of fare, so it may end up as a DNF.
  • In the Forests of Serre by Patricia McKillup – I’ve had mixed results from this author in the past, but when I like her books, I REALLY like them, so I’m least going to give this one a try.
  • The Dry by Jane Harper – I feel like this book was on every blog when it was published back in 2016.  As usual, I’m way behind on reading new releases (actually, I think I’ve waited so long there’s a sequel out haha), so it’s about time to see if it lives up to the hype!!