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.

November 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.

Hey, guess what!   I’m actually reviewing books that I read in November!  Progress!

Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome – 3.5*

//published 1932//

I’m slowly working my way through the Swallows & Amazons series, and LOVED the first two books.   Peter Duck was still adorable and fun, but because it felt a lot less plausible, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much.  I was also confused because in the last book, Swallowdale, Peter Duck was an imaginary character that the children had created a bunch of stories about.  In this book, Peter Duck is a real person that they meet.  I could get behind them finding a real live person with the same name as their imaginary friend, but they NEVER acknowledged a single time that they had ever even heard the name Peter Duck before!  It seems as though there ought to have been at least a paragraph of something like, “Can you believe we’ve found a real live sailor with the same name as our imaginary sailor??”  Still, overall this was a fun one, and also had a great book map, which is kind of my favorite thing in the world.

Birthright by Nora Roberts – 4*

//published 2003//

This ended up being romantic suspense  that was a surprisingly emotional story, touching on things like adoption, nature versus nurture, what family means, divorce, and second chances.  I couldn’t get completely behind the book because the main character, Callie, was just a smidge too abrasive for my personal taste – her go-to response was just RAGE every time and it got old for me.  But I really liked the way that the love story was between her and her ex-husband, as he is quietly determined to do better the second time around.  This was definitely one of the better reads I’ve pulled out of the random Nora Roberts box, and it’s one I can see myself reading again in the future.  I will say that it’s definitely a mature rating as there is some language and some sexy times, but it was stuff I could skim over for the most part.

They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They? by Patrick McManus – 4*

//published 1977//

McManus is one of those authors that I don’t remember reading for the first time – it’s as though I have always read McManus in the past.  He wrote humorous articles for magazines like Outdoor Life in the 1960’s and 70’s (and beyond), and most of his books are collections of those articles – so short stories, or essays on a topic.  They mostly focus on hunting, fishing, and McManus’s childhood on a small, poverty-stricken farm in the backwoods of Idaho.  Like all collections, some of the stories are stronger than others, but there wasn’t a single one that didn’t make me laugh at least once.  The childhood stories are definitely my favorites, and there is a regular cast of secondary characters, including (my favorite) an old backwoodsman named Rancid Crabtree, who always knows how to accomplish important things, like skinning a skunk or cutting a hole to go ice fishing.  If you’re someone who thinks hunting is barbaric, steer away from McManus at all costs, as you will definitely be offended.  But if you’re a bit of a country person at heart (and have a sense of humor), you should definitely give him a try.  Many of McManus’s life lessons have been imbedded into my family’s philosophy permanently, as he tackles all kinds of hardships with a good-natured dose of self-depreciating humor.

The Phantom Friend by Margaret Sutton – 3* 

//published 1959//

In this installment of the Judy Bolton series, my mind was blown.  The entire premise was that an unethical advertising company was creating television commercials with faint phantom pictures that would cause the viewers to be semi-hypnotized into purchasing what the company was advertising!  Subliminal messaging taken to the next level!  What I don’t know is – was this a serious fear back in 1959??  I can see that it would be, as television was still a very new technology that many people found suspicious.  In many ways, it reminded me of The Secret Benedict Society – can subconscious messages be transmitted into our brains via other technology we are taking in?  Maybe Sutton was onto something, and it’s only our long association with television that has numbed our natural suspicions.  Or maybe the subliminal messaging over the decades has convinced us that television is harmless??  So many questions.

A Regency Rose by Miriam Lynch – 3*

//published 1980//

This one started out at a regular level of 1980’s Regency romance ridiculousness, but then took a sharp turn into the completely implausible, which was disappointing, since I actually did like the characters for the most part.

 

Aaron Falk series // by Jane Harper

  • The Dry (2016)
  • Force of Nature (2017)

I feel like when  The Dry first came out, I saw it on EVERYONE’S blogs.  As usual, I’m several years behind, but, as frequently happens, it has weirdly worked in my favor as I was able to dive directly into the sequel,  Force of Nature.  I thoroughly enjoyed both of these stories, so I’m hoping that Harper has some more adventures for Aaron Falk up her sleeve.

The main character is a law enforcement officer named Aaron Falk.  However, unlike the traditional MC of a detective novel, Falk’s job actually has to do with tracing money – money laundering, embezzling, and the like.  In The Dry, he’s returned to his hometown for the first time since they moved away when he was teen.  The reason for his visit is to attend the funeral of his best friend growing up, Luke.  The reason Luke is dead is because Luke killed his wife, son, and himself.  And the only reason Aaron has returned for the funeral is because Luke’s father sent Aaron a note, telling him he had to be at the funeral, because Aaron lied, and Luke lied.

The pacing in both books is absolutely spot on.  In both cases, the reader is receiving snippets of the back story, while Aaron is making discoveries in the present.  In The Dry, the backstory is about Aaron’s own history, so he does technically know more than the reader, but at the same time the reader slowly realizes how events that happen to us when we are in our mid-teens may not look the same when we revisit them as adults, so even Aaron is learning new pieces of his own past.

In Force of Nature, a group of employees has gone on a team-building retreat, backpacking for a few days.  The group is split between the men and the women, with each group taking a different trail.  When the women’s group emerges from the woods – late, injured, panicked – one of their group is missing.  Again, the pacing is excellent, with the reader slowly learning what happened on the trail, keeping pace with the investigation in the present.

In both books, Australia itself is virtually another character.  In The Dry, the region is in the midst of a terrible drought.  The oppressive heat, the tensions that come with an extended drought in an agricultural community, the isolation of the small town with its small worries and its myriad of interconnections – all weave together to form a backdrop that is almost tangible.  In Force of Nature its the opposite – the claustrophobia of the forest, the cold rain, the mud, the slog, the isolation.  Harper doesn’t spend a lot of time banging on about the weather and the environment – it’s just there, touching everyone and everything.

All in all, The Dry was one of those few instances where I felt like it lived up to the hype.  Both of these were easy 4* reads for me.  In both instances, I felt like the ending was decent but not stunning, which kept them at 4* rather than 4.5*, but they were definitely compulsively readable.  I have Harper’s The Lost Man on my TBR now, and will definitely be on the lookout for any more stories with Aaron Falk at the center.

Bess Crawford Mysteries // Books 1-5 // by Charles Todd

  1. A Duty to the Dead (2009)
  2. An Impartial Witness (2010)
  3. A Bitter Truth (2011)
  4. An Unmarked Grave (2012)

4.5.  The Walnut Tree (2012)
5.  A Question of Honor (2013)

WordPress doesn’t like the idea of a “4.5” in my numerical listing, so you’ll have to forgive the wonky formatting!

Charles Todd is actually a mother/son writing team best known for their Ian Rutledge series, which I have never gotten around to reading.  Bess Crawford is their newer series, which centers around a World War I nurse (Bess Crawford) and various mysteries in which she finds herself entangled.  While the mystery aspect is done well in each book, the real charm of the series is in the excellent sense of setting and place.  World War I often gets rather overlooked, so reading a series with it as a backdrop has been quite intriguing.

Bess grew up (an only child) in India, with her military father (whom she and her mother fondly refer to as the Colonel Sahib) and her mother.  I love the fact that Bess has both of her parents, they are both kind, hardworking, loving people, and that her parents love Bess and love each other.  They’re supportive without being pushy, worried without being controlling.  Being a nurse is still a slightly questionable occupation for a well-brought-up young woman, but instead of following the well-worn, boring trail of having the main character rebel against her upbringing blah blah blah, here we have a refreshing scenario where Bess’s parents are thrilled – mainly because they know it’s dangerous – but recognize the need for nurses and Bess’s skill in that area, and thus support her decision.

Bess herself is a very likable character.  She’s intelligent and independent without being obnoxious.  She works hard and loves being a nurse, but isn’t constantly raging about the restrictions society places on females.  She’s determined and can be a bit bull-headed, but isn’t constantly dashing into danger and then getting annoyed when people don’t trust her.  In short, she felt realistic to me, and it was genuinely delightful to read a series where I wasn’t constantly being preached at about the patriarchy and how hard life was as a woman in the early 1900’s.

For the most part, the mysteries fit into the context of the war, and so it doesn’t feel unnatural for someone wholly unrelated to law enforcement to be stumbling across murders and suspicious circumstances.  With the exception of  An Unmarked Grave, which depended far too much on coincidence, the mysteries were well-plotted and engaging.

One thing I also enjoyed is how free of profanity and sex the stories are.  The authors don’t pretend like these things didn’t exist at the time, but the truth is that this was an era when swearing around women was still rather taboo.  And Bess is too well-brought-up, too busy, and too practical to think about sleeping around.  It is such a relief to enjoy some mysteries without constantly being hammered with f-bombs and gratuitous sex.

The Walnut Tree  isn’t about Bess Crawford, but instead is a side story that focuses on another nurse Bess knows, and about this girl’s journey to becoming a nurse.  It was definitely the weakest of all the stories.  It isn’t a mystery, but instead more of a “romance” with an incredibly boring love triangle.  There was this strange side plot about smugglers that I thought was going to be somewhat central, but instead felt tacked on, as though the authors felt that even a side book in a mystery series ought to have some mystery.  Also, while all the other characters became known by just their first names, every time Bess appeared it was as “Bess Crawford,” as though to emphasize the reminder that this book is connected to the Bess Crawford series.  So it would be something like, “I was so happy to see Bess Crawford and Diane sit down at the table with me.  Diane said she had been busy catching up on correspondence that afternoon, while Bess Crawford had gone out to do some shopping.”  I was so tired of seeing BESS CRAWFORD!

Anyway, while I’ve spent some time grumbling here, the truth of the matter is that these have been thoroughly enjoyable books, with the series getting 4* so far.  I have the second half of the series checked out of the library and ready to read, and I’m quite looking forward to picking up Bess’s journey.

Julie series // by Jean Craighead George

  • Julie of the Wolves (1972)
  • Julie (1994)
  • Julie’s Wolf Pack (1997)

Despite the fact that I read and loved (and reread and reloved) George’s My Side of the Mountain so many times, I never really hit it off with the Julie books.  And as with Mountain, the sequels to the original Julie story were published decades later, which seems strange.

The original story is about an Eskimo girl named Miyax who runs away from home, hoping to somehow make it to her pen pal in San Francisco.  However, when the story opens, Miyax is lost on the Alaskan tundra, where she is befriended by a pack of wolves.  Throughout the story, Miyax becomes a member of their pack.

I was confused by multiple things.  The main one was – why does the title of the book use Miyax’s English name, which she hates, but the narrative uses her Eskimo name?  Secondly, I found it almost impossible to believe that Miyax would be able to “speak” with the wolves, using their body language, in a way that would actually convince them to adopt her as one of their own.  Thirdly, the book had a sad/bittersweet ending that, on reflection, is probably why I didn’t like or revisit this book as a kid.  I’ve always been a fan of happy endings.

Still, it wasn’t a bad story.  I was engaged in Miyax’s survival and her observations of the pack, even if I did think it sort of crossed the line sometimes, as wolves aren’t actually people, and while they may be intelligent, they are still animals, not humans.

The second book deals with Miyax and her family, as she is now living with humans again.  Like Frightful’s Mountain, this book felt just a little preachy when it came to concepts of conservation, the circle of life, we all need one another, let us join hands/paws with the wolves, etc etc.  Not necessarily bad lessons, but very heavy-handed.

Finally, Julie’s Wolf Pack is from the perspective of the wolves, and covers some of the story from Julie and then beyond.  While a bit simplistic, it was overall an enjoyable and interesting story about wolves in the wilderness, and actually may have been my favorite of the three.

All in all, I enjoyed reading these, but didn’t connect with them all that much.  They were all around the 3.5* range.  Pleasant one-time reads, but not books I see myself returning to again and again.

Magnolia Wednesdays // by Wendy Wax

//published 2010//

Sometimes you end up with books on your shelf that you doubt you are going to enjoy but decide to at least give a chance to, and that’s what happened here.  I figured Magnolia Wednesdays was going to be a dreary novel about women discovering all men are total jerks and then going on to “find themselves.”  Instead, this story had a surprising dose of humor, some very relatable characters, and a story that kept me hooked.  I actually thought this was going to be a 4* read, but the ending fell off a great deal and really annoyed me.

Vivian is a hardcore investigative reporter who has worked very hard to get where she is, and who hasn’t been afraid to knock over people who have gotten in her way.  Some life events occur, and Vivi is forced to accept a job she thinks is ridiculous – she begins “investigating” life in the suburbs, mocking (under a pen name) the everyday life lived there.  Vivi has also been forced to move to the suburbs herself, back home to the south to stay with her widowed sister and the sister’s two teenage children.

I was expecting to really dislike Vivi, but while she did, in fact, do the exact opposite of what I would have done in literally every situation, I still found myself liking her.  She’s a hard worker and very intelligent, and underneath of everything she does care about her family and want to do right by them.  I actually really appreciated her journey of rediscovering a close relationship with her sister, building ties in the community, and bonding with her niece and nephew.  Her articles making fun of the lives of the people around her are definitely mean-spirited, and I felt like she wrestled with her guilt very well.  In my mind, I kept wondering why she couldn’t gradually change the tone of them – the whole idea is she is someone who is living in “foreign” territory – wouldn’t it be natural for her to begin to appreciate the ways of her new community, and to share that aspect with her readers?  But instead she keeps writing very mean, mocking articles even when that’s no longer how she truly feels about the people around her.

One of the big things Vivi finds out early on is that she’s pregnant.  Her boyfriend of several years is also an investigative reporter, but one who works in foreign correspondence and is often out of the country for months on end chasing a story in dangerous, war-torn areas.  Vivi not telling him about their baby genuinely made me angry (I’m always angry when people act like mothers are the only ones who get to make any decisions about unborn babies, as though fathers don’t count until the child is born), but I appreciated that she at least felt like a horrible person about it (AS SHE SHOULD), and that whole story was resolved extremely well.

In the end, things of course blow up in Vivi’s face when her identity as the writer of the mean articles is revealed.  That was to be expected, but what I didn’t expect, and what dropped my enjoyment of this story a literal full star, was the way Vivi’s sister blamed her for EVERYTHING that went wrong.  A bunch of stuff happens all at one time, all of it bad, and somehow Vivian gets the full weight of blame for a big reveal about her sister’s dead husband, another friend’s husband having a heart attack, and one character deciding to postpone her wedding (for good reasons!).  This felt completely unreasonable and instead of me feeling sympathetic towards Vivian’s sister, who truly should have felt betrayed about the articles, I just felt super annoyed with her because she was pouting like a small child because Vivian happened to be standing near her niece when the NIECE put together the pieces and realized the big reveal about her dad/Vivian’s sister’s dead husband.

Still, overall I found this book to be surprisingly readable.  There was a large dose of humor, and the stories of the different women throughout were told well and woven together nicely.  This isn’t a book I’ll read again, but it’s one that I enjoyed as a one-off read, even while it reminded me why I’m not a huge fan of women’s fiction.

November 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.

Most of these books were from the very beginning of October, so the details may be getting hazy…

The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross – 3*

//published 2019//

Look at this gorgeous cover!  How can anyone resist this cover??  This book had some potential, but the pacing was sooo slow.  I also felt like the actual reason/purpose behind the Beast’s curse was rather muddled and not explained particularly well, so it made it difficult to bond with the tale.  There were a lot of aspects of the story that I enjoyed, but it definitely wasn’t one that leaped onto my bookshelf forever.

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson – 4*

//published 2017//

I really do like Swanson’s writing.  The pacing here was excellent, especially in regards as to when to switch perspectives/introduce a new perspective.  Anytime a story is based on someone else being in your house when you are there, but you don’t know they are there, I’m completely creeped out.  (Yay small houses with multiple dogs; someone would be hard-pressed to hide in here haha)  Even though the police didn’t get the whole story, the reader does, and that’s what counts to me.  I also liked the little hint of a happy ending, because I’m a happy ending kind of girl.  This may have been my favorite Swanson yet.

Double Folly by Marnie Ellingson – 4*

//published 1980//

Years ago I purchased a book by Ellingson at a thrift store (The Wicked Marquis), which I absolutely loved.  Not so long ago it occurred to me that, with the power of the internet, I could probably find some of her other books, and this is one of them.  It was quite the adorable story, and I enjoyed every page.  I will say that at one point the hero was in a carriage accident, and it felt like the heroine’s feelings underwent too much of a change to quickly, but other than that the story hummed right along in a delightful fashion.  It’s one of those little stories that is just plain good fun, although it’s possible that Ellingson lifted part of her plot concept from Georgette Heyer’s False Colours

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid – 3*

//published 2013//

I got this one for free on Kindle and thought I would give it a try.  While it was an alright contemporary romance, Janie annoyed me SO. MUCH. Like, I get it.  She babbles when she’s nervous.  It was bad enough to have to hear what she said out loud; having to listen to all of her babbling thoughts was even worse.  This book would have benefited a LOT from having Quinn’s perspective as well, because his actions really did seem inconsistent a lot, so if we had known his thoughts, it would have helped the story a great deal.  As it was, this was a fine one-off read, but it definitely didn’t inspire me to finish the series.  I was also expecting there to be a lot more about the knitting club, but they only appear a couple of times and don’t really become individual characters, so I didn’t care enough to read other books and find out about their stories.

Your Perfect Year by Charlotte Lucas – 2*

//published 2016//

This was a classic case of the book not being what I expected.  The synopsis definitely makes this sound like a lighthearted, romcom type of story.  Jonathon is a super rigid, scheduled, Scrooge-ish kind of person.  On New Year’s Day he comes back from his morning run to find an appointment diary hanging on the handlebars of his bicycle.  Inside, every day has been already filled in with assignments, and all of those assignments are about embracing and enjoying life.  According to the synopsis, Jonathon begins to follow the directions, which change his life, and throughout the course of that he falls in love with the author of the diary.  That’s all technically true, but instead of it being lighthearted and fun, it’s quite serious, verging on sad.  The suicide of one of the characters plays a major part in the plot, as does the residual grief and guilt of the people left behind.  One character has terminal cancer, another discovers that the death of a loved one was due in part to a letter he wrote.  All in all this just wasn’t a book for me.  It wasn’t a bad story, but it was definitely a downer.  Consequently, the romance part didn’t feel like it fit into the rest of the story at all.  Having Jonathon fall in love with the diary’s owner was weird instead of fun because of everything going on in Hannah’s life.  I kept waiting for the tone of the story to go up instead of down, and it just never did.  I was already feeling a little depressed when I started this one, and I felt even more depressed when I was done, despite the technically “happy” ending.

In the Forests of Serre by Patricia McKillip – 3.5*

//published 2003//

I’ve found McKillip’s books to be a mixed bag of magical, bizarre, and mysterious.  This was the type of story where I didn’t quite “get” everything, yet still found it enjoyable.  As always, her language is lovely and world-building excellent.  I would have liked to have seen some more character depth, but overall this was still a book I liked reading.

Rearview Mirror // October 2019

Well, we are quite a ways into November, but I suppose an October recap is due, even if my posting in that month was virtually nonexistent!  October took some strange and difficult turns that didn’t leave me with a lot of spare time or emotion for blogging, so I have been taking it easy.  However, since reading is somewhat of an addiction, I still did plenty of that, completing 18 books for a total of 5625 pages.  I may or may not ever get caught back up on reviews, but that’s the way life is sometimes!

October had some lows (The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt) and some highs (The Dry by Janet Harper), and plenty in between, since my average star rating for the month was 3.52.  I only had one DNF for the month, Maxa’s Children by Johanna Spyri, and I believe it was the fault of the translation rather than the author, since I have found other of Spyri’s books to be delightful – but all of those were translated by Charles Tritten, unlike this particularly edition.

I really like to do the TBR number update for my own personal record, even if it’s over a week late, so here are the numbers –

  • Standalones:  439 (up four)
  • Nonfiction:  103 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  666 (up ELEVEN?!  How is that possible?!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  235 (down one!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 113 (down TWO!)

So that’s the skinny for October’s reading.  I’m hoping to get through a few batches of minireviews this week, now that life is somewhat entering a new regular.  I’m about a million years behind on reading everyone’s posts, but since I get them all as emails (like a creeper), I’m still working my way through them, so I am anticipating some jumps in the TBR per usual.  :-D  In the meantime, hopefully all is well out there in blogger world!

Happy November!