May Minireviews – Part 2

Oh no, I already started work at the orchard!  Does this mean I’ll NEVER catch up on reviews??  ::cue dramatic music::

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.

The Gin O’Clock Club by Rosie Blake – 3*

//published 2020//

Add this one to my long list of books I wanted to like more than I did…  Lottie is caught up in her career and her grandpa, Teddy, is afraid that she’s taking life too fast, especially since Teddy’s wife died.  Teddy has three buddies and together they comprise the Gin O’Clock Club, which gets together for cards, shenanigans, and gin, and he enlists their help in showing Lottie that she needs to slow down and enjoy her blessings while she can, including her (live-in) boyfriend, Luke.  Basically, the guys convince Lottie and Luke to try some “old-fashioned” dates.  In exchange, Teddy agrees to try some “new-fashioned” dates, since Lottie is concerned that Teddy hasn’t really bounced back since his wife passed away.  Throughout the book, we also get letters that Teddy is writing to his wife as part of the way that he is working through his grief, and those letters were absolutely so touching and sweet without feeling over-the-top that they alone almost made reading the book worth it.

There was so much about this book that I liked.  Teddy and his friends were absolutely fantastic – funny without being cutesy – and Luke was a total dreamboat that no woman in her right mind would take for granted.  All the date ideas were great fun without being weird and I just overall loved seeing the older guys working with the younger folks and all of them learning from one another.

The problem – and it was a BIG PROBLEM – is Lottie herself.  There’s no other way to say it: she was a total bitch.  Like, hardcore.  She literally treats everyone around her like disposable trash, while spending her entire internal monologue saying Oh wow I’m treating everyone like disposable trash; I should really stop that.  And then NOT STOPPING.  And at first I was okay with it because she was showing growth, right?  Like she starts going on these dates and realizing how awesome Luke is and how important it is to hang out with her grandpa and how people are more important than things….  And then she literally just goes exactly back to where she started with no hesitation.  It was like the book was starting over!  There was also this big drama where Lottie was stressed out about something Luke was doing but Teddy couldn’t say anything because it involved someone else that he’d promised not to tell and like – the completely obvious solution was for Teddy to ASK this other person if he could tell Lottie??  But instead he just lets it keep going on and on and poisoning everything in Lottie’s life and it was SO unnecessary.

In the end, I honestly wanted Luke to run far, far away.  Lottie was emotionally and verbally abusive to him on more than one occasion.  I’m really over this whole “the female MC is a horrible person, but it’s really the fault of someone else/society, not her.”  Like no, she’s just a dreadful person, and if Luke had said/done half the things that Lottie did, he would have been crucified, but since Lottie is a woman, she gets a HUGE pass and I’m not okay with it.  I really wish that I had liked Lottie better, because I loved everyone else in this story, and everything else about it, including that the story is about a couple trying to stay together instead of breaking up and moving on to someone else.  All the not-Lottie characters were just delightful, but I couldn’t get past how horrible Lottie was.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1953//

For some reason, I never liked this story as much when I was a kid, but I thoroughly enjoyed my reread of it this time around, especially the character of Puddlegum.  It’s just been so much fun to read these again!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – 4.5*

//published 2021//

This was actually one of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year.  I read The Martian last year and had super low expectations for it because I’m not usually a “space story” person, but I ended up really enjoying it.  Consequently, I decided to read his newest book when it came out this spring, and even though it went a completely different direction from what the synopsis made me assume, I honestly was totally here for it.  The pacing here was fantastic, the flashbacks that filled in the MC’s background were well-placed, and I couldn’t believe how much I fell in love with Rocky.  As the book was drawing to a conclusion I didn’t really see how Weir was going to give me an ending that both made sense and didn’t make me completely depressed, but he 100% pulled it off – I absolutely loved the way everything came together in the end.

There is a lot of science-y stuff here.  I have literally no idea if what he’s saying is realistic/true/practical or not.  I just rolled with the adventure haha

Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras – 4*

//published 2021//

Last year I read Island Affairand while it wasn’t my favorite romance ever, it was still a perfectly fun little read, so when I saw the next book in the series was out, I decided to pick it up.  Luis is the male MC from the first book; the female MC of Anchored Hearts is his sister, Anamaria.  Overall this was a pretty typical romcom read with likable main characters and a splash of angst.  I absolutely loved the warm families that both these characters possessed, even if those families weren’t perfect.  Some of the issues with the male MC and his dad dragged out a little too long for me, but overall I ended up liking this one better than the first book, and I would definitely read another book in this series.

The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn – 3*

//published 2005//

This was a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and while it was okay, it was rather choppy and the entire story revolves around literal INSTA instalove, which definitely led to some eye-rolling moments for me.  I really loved the setting – Weyn chose to have this story take place just after the death of King Arthur, with the hero one of his knights trying to fulfill a promise to the king to return Excalibur to the Lady in the Lake.  This mean that even though the story was short, the world-building didn’t feel too compromised (since the reader already has the basic gist from Arthurian lore).  All in all, a pleasant one-off, but not a new fave.

May Minireviews – Part 1

Well, I’m finally delving into May’s reviews, and since May does seem like more recent past than April, I at least feel like I’m making progress!!  May is traditionally a super busy month for me since I work at a greenhouse, which means there aren’t as many books to review as there are in most months…

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.

Happiness Hill by Grace Livingston Hill – 4*

//published 1932//

I read a lot of fluff in May, because that’s what I trend towards when I’m busy (or stressed or depressed or in a reading slump or just feel like it haha).  I actually own this one, so I know I’ve read it before, but I couldn’t remember the details – not that the details of a GLH book varies much from one book to the other, but still.  If you don’t like your romances to be clean, somewhat religious, a little saccharine, and quite predictable, don’t pick up GLH.  But I find that that’s frequently exactly what I want, and I quite enjoyed this one, with the traditional strong-moraled heroine, the goofy brother, the gentle-but-in-poor-health parents, and the lonely young hero who yearns for some family.  Basically, if you like GLH, you’ll like this one.

PS No, I’m not the heathen who used this book as a coaster at some point!

100 Years of Color by Katie Greenwood – 3*

//published 2015//

This nonfiction book had such an intriguing premise, but for me it just didn’t quite follow through.  Greenwood looks at each decade from 1900 through 2000, pulling advertising posters, artwork, and textiles, and discusses the colors that were popular during that decade and why… except she doesn’t really get to the “why” all that much.  Instead, each decade has a (very) short discussion page, then several images with no explanation as to why she particularly chose those or thought they were good examples of the decade.  There was so much potential here to really delve into popular colors and patterns but instead she barely skims the surface, making the book more or less unmemorable.  It was definitely a case of me wanting to like a book more than I did.

Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse – 5*

//published 1925//

I’m still working my way through all of Wodehouse’s works in published order.  The 1920s were a great decade for Wodehouse’s writing, as he invents the immortal duo of Jeeves and Bertie, and this book did not disappoint.  I’ve read all of the Bertie and Jeeves books in the past, but am never adverse to revisiting them.  This collection of loosely connected short stories included a couple of favorites, like a chapter from Jeeves’s point of view.  And who can resist a story titled, “The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy”??  Certainly not me!

Unicorn Famous by Dana Simpson – 4*

//published 2021//

This is the latest installment of the Phoebe & Her Unicorn comics, and just as much fun as the rest of the series.  While these can obviously be read in any order, they’ve been so much fun to read in publication order, as characters (and unicorn lore) do develop throughout the series.

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne – 3*

//published 2021//

In my attempt to read newly published books by authors that I like as they get published, I reserved Second First Impressions at the library and was intrigued to read it after thoroughly enjoying The Hating Game.  However, this one just didn’t really hit the right notes for me.  While I did like the main character, Ruthie, she also frustrated me a lot.  The snarky best friend/coworker also really got on my nerves and I felt like she crossed the line and became condescending towards Ruthie, acting like Ruthie was just too sheltered and backwards to really know what she wanted from a relationship.  Like Ruthie would make a statement about what she wanted from life/a relationship and the snarky best friend was like, “Oh, no, that’s what losers would want!  THIS is what you REALLY want!”  I honestly found it a kind of offensive that Ruthie’s desire for a quiet, not-drama-filled life was dismissed as boring and pathetic.

I’m also personally a bit over having a character’s Tragic Back Story be because of a horrible “religious“ father. Can we please stop having background characters be “Christians“ just so you can talk about how hypocritical they are? Thanks.  I definitely felt like Ruthie could have had a terrible dad and a lot of the same issues without all the extra effort of emphasizing how “religious” her dad was.

Finally, while the two old ladies who lived at the retirement home were funny and sweet, their whole schtick of only hiring good looking young men so they could make them do embarrassing things until they cracked just felt, for lack of a better word, cringe.  I can’t even imagine how this aspect of the story would have gone over if it was two old men who hired young women so they could comment on how good they looked in various outfits and then send them off to do demeaning and difficult tasks just to see how long it would take them to quit.  I mean seriously.

So while this one was an okay read for me, I definitely didn’t love it.  It really lacked the chemistry, snark, and snap of The Hating Game, and read closer to women’s fiction than romcom for me.  The “humor” felt a little forced, like Thorne was writing a serious story but kept trying to make it into a romcom instead.

Three-Act Tragedy AKA Murder in Three Acts by Agatha Christie – 4*

//published 1934//

While this isn’t my favorite Poirot story, it was still quite good and, as usual, I had no idea what the solution was.  Hopefully no one ever needs me to solve their murder, because I can 100% promise that I won’t be able to do it!  One of my favorite parts of this book was the fun way Christie listed the cast of characters in the front.  The chapter/section headings also aligned with the parts of a play, carrying the theme throughout.

Rearview Mirror // April 2021

Well, it’s been less than three weeks (barely) since I posted March’s Rearview Mirror, so that means I’m getting caught up, right???

Favorite April Read

If I’m honest, my favorite read was actually my reread of Prince Caspian, but since I like to chose new books for this slot, I’m going with Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

Most Disappointing April Read

I had a lot of reads I was ambivalent towards this month, but the one that really was the worst was Shoot the Moonwhich was especially annoying because it was the middle book of a trilogy.

Other April Reads

April Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  17 (9 Kindle, 8 physical)
  • Total Pages Read:  6075
  • Average Star Rating for September:  3.7
  • Longest Book: The Raven King (475 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  Mansfield Park Revisited (201 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  Parker Pyne Investigates (published 1934)
  • Newest Book: Off Script and A Lady’s Guide to Mischief & Mayhem (both published 2020)
  • Number of New-to-Me Authors:  4

April DNFs

None this month!!

TBR Update

This I keep updated as I go, so it’s current as of today, rather than as of the end of April. I am also making progress on winnowing down the unread blog emails!!! Under 1000!!!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into six different tabs:

  • Standalones:  508 (down three)
  • Nonfiction:  126 (up two)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  648 (down two)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  251 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 115 (holding steady)
  • New Arrivals – (I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read.): 137 (holding steady)

Current Reads

  • I’m trying to read some nonfiction every day while I’m on my summer break.  Yesterday I started a book about unusual words called Horologicon by Mark Forsyth.  It’s pretty entertaining.  So far my favorite new word is zwodder which means “a drowsy and stupid state of body or mind.”  I definitely suffer from zwodderness frequently!!!
  • Jane Austen Made Me Do It by various authors – I got this one on the cheap from Book Outlet, a collection of Jane Austen-inspired short stories by a bunch of different authors.  I’ve been reading one a day this month.  I’m better than halfway through, but so far not a single story has been over a 3* rating for me, and a lot of them have been more like 2*.  They’re just… boring and kind of pointless.  It’s quite disappointing.
  • Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken – after finishing Emma in June (and disliking it just as much as ever), I was interested to revisit this alternate story that focuses on “Emma’s other heroine – Jane Fairfax.”  It’s actually been pretty good so far, although a little slow in spots.
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis – the final book in the Narnia series, and the one I’ve read the fewest times because it makes me SO sad.
  • Sons of Pemberley by Elizabeth Adams – I’m actually working my way through the next batch of 87th Precinct mysteries and thought I would take a little break from the gritty by reading another P&P variation.  This one isn’t exactly bad but it’s complicated because Adams has decided to add a BUNCH of Darcy family members (including more siblings for Darcy and Georgianna!) and has two timelines going with loads of names that are the same for the two different generations because basically everyone in the younger generation is named after someone in the older generation.  This is definitely a book that needs a family tree and list of characters!

Up Next

The probable next five(ish) reads…

  • The next two 87th Precinct books, The Big Bad City and The Last Dance.  After this, I’ll only have five books left!!!!
  • To Have and To Hoax, which is my choice for the next round of the traveling book club
  • Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman – this is the next book in the Leaphorn & Chee series.  The first book was decent but not amazing, so I’m giving the next two books in the series a try.  If they’re also just meh for me, I’m not going to bother with the rest of the series, since there are around 20 books.
  • Abandoned by Lisa Jackson – a while back someone gave me a box of books, mostly mysteries.  I’ve never tried anything by Jackson before, but several of the books in the box are by her, so I’m interested to see if I like them, or if I’ll be adding several books to my giveaway box!
  • My Lady Jane has been on my TBR forever.  I actually ended up getting a copy from Book Outlet (okay, so I’m a sucker for brand new books that are under $5!) so I think I’m finally going to get to it!!!

So those are the current updates plus the April sum-up.  Doing May minireviews feels like it’s a lot closer to current, so I’m excited to delve into them next!!  Happy reading!!

The Mansfield Trilogy // by Lona Manning

Do you ever read a trilogy that (a) should have only been two books at the most, not three, and (b) just kind of gets worse the further you go along?  That’s what happened to me with this retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

  • A Contrary Wind
  • A Marriage of Attachment
  • A Different Kind of Woman

So basically this trilogy explores what would have happened if the winds blowing Sir Thomas home had remained contrary – meaning that the scandalous play being rehearsed at Mansfield Park went on as scheduled, and the various relationship train wrecks that almost happen in the original DID happen.  I really enjoyed this concept, especially since the version gives Fanny a little more backbone – she leaves Mansfield Park to find a post as a governess, following her own path.  I really enjoyed the first book.  Even though it was a little over-the-top in places, I felt like, for the most part, Manning did a good job capturing the essence of the original characters and took the story in a direction that felt possible.  I felt like Manning had a lot of leeway in her variation because most people don’t actually like the way Mansfield Park ends.  So basically if someone writes a Pride & Prejudice variation, you KNOW Darcy and Elizabeth are going to end up together – otherwise, what’s the point?  But few people view Fanny and Edmund the same way, so basically no hard feelings when Manning decides to have their romances go in different directions.

Things started to come apart a little in the second book, mostly because there were long sections that just felt like padding.  In the first book, Fanny falls in with an abolitionist group (which actually read really well), but here the societal-improvement sections began to feel a little preachier.  This series is also about lots of other characters besides Fanny – the Crawfords, Edmund, and Fanny’s brother William are the main other characters.  Some of their storylines got a little ridiculous, but on the whole I still was engaged enough to delve into the third book.

For me, the third book just felt like Manning was dragging everything out.  There wasn’t really any kind of plot, so when she was jumping around between characters, it felt clunky and manufactured instead of like things were coming together as it was in the first two books.  All the preaching about doing good and helping the poor was a lot more polemic, and there was this whole side plot with Mary Crawford and the real-life poet Shelley that just felt like it was NEVER going to end and also felt COMPLETELY pointless.

Overall, I did like the conclusions for the various characters, and I did love the way that Manning decided to develop Fanny’s character.  There were several side plots that I thoroughly enjoyed, but while I gave the first book 4*, the second book only got 3*, and the finally book got 2*.  However, there were a few of us reading this at the same time on Litsy and the others seemed to enjoy the concluding book more than I did.  So, if you’ve always felt vaguely that Fanny got a little ripped off, I think it’s well worth picking up because Manning does go some creative directions.

The Raven Cycle + Call Down the Hawk // by Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is one of the few authors that I just really like and enjoy as a person (honestly I usually try to find out as little as possible about authors; I just want to enjoy their writing, not analyze their personal belief systems), and I loved the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, despite being definitely in the angsty YA paranormal genre (not my usual wheelhouse) as well as The Scorpio Races.  The Raven Cycle has been on my TBR for many moons and I finally got around to reading it this spring!!

  • The Raven Boys 
  • The Dream Thieves
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue
  • The Raven King

These were all solid 4* reads for me; I would honestly bump Blue Lily, Lily Blue to 4.5* as it was my favorite of the four.  I don’t even know how to review this series.  Stiefvater creates a world that is magical, complicated, and intricate, while at the same time keeping it tied down to reality with knowable, likable characters, a wry sense of humor, and strong friendships.  I fell in love with everyone in these books, and finished every book wanting more.

She ended up concluding the series in a way that was not how I would have chosen/how I hoped it would go down, but it still made sense and pulled things together.  Also, she really made me want an old Camaro even more than I did originally.

Call Down the Hawk is the first book in a spin-off trilogy that focuses on one of the main characters from the original series and his brothers, as well as what was ironically my least favorite part of the magic from the Raven Cycle – the dream magic.  I feel like more could be explained about the connections between the ley lines and the dream magic, as well as the trippy aspect of Ronan dreaming/creating things that he can then access in the real world but that we didn’t originally know were created by him… there are times that things get a little tangled (I was still definitely left with some questions at the end of The Raven King), but in many ways CDtH sort of shakes off some of those things and goes in its own direction.

All in all, if you like YA fantasy where the romance is more in the background than the foreground, there’s a lot to like here. The Raven Cycle does lean a little too heavily on tarot for my taste, but on the whole was new and different.  I really liked CDtH and felt like it did a good job tying to the original story while still doing its own thing.  However, I would definitely recommend reading The Raven Cycle before CDtH – technically it’s a stand alone, but I’m not convinced the story would make that much sense without the background you get from the original books.

A solid 4* for this batch.  Spoiler alert: I already read Mister Impossible, the second book in the Dreamer Trilogy, which just came out in late May or June or whenever it was, and it was also quite good – I can’t believe I have to wait all the way until next year to find out how everything ends!!

Seeking Mansfield trilogy // by Kate Watson

This trilogy has actually been on my radar for a while, so when I reread Mansfield Park in March, it seemed like a great time to pick up this modern adaptation.  I’d been putting it off because it had been so long since I read MP that I couldn’t really remember the details.  At the time that I added this one to the TBR I didn’t realize that there were two sequels (or maybe there weren’t two sequels at the time… we all know how long books linger on my TBR lol).

  • Seeking Mansfield (2017)
  • Shoot the Moon (2018)
  • Off Script (2020)

In Seeking Mansfield, Fanny’s character has been updated to Finley, a teenage almost-orphan (her father has died and her mom is in prison) who has been adopted by her parents’ best friends, the Bertrams.  Mr. Bertram is cool but busy with business, Mrs. Bertram has some chronic health problems, and the four children of the original story have been reduced to three (although let’s be real, we didn’t really need both sisters since they act almost exactly the same anyway) – Tate (in college), Oliver (Finley’s crush), and Juliette (a total brat).  Finley’s older brother is a professional soccer player, so even though they’re close, she doesn’t get to see him often.  Shy and a little uncertain about her place in the world, Finley is nonetheless drawn to the theater (in stage manager/director roles) and is hoping to seize an opportunity to work with the prestigious Mansfield Theater over the summer.  Finley’s dad was a famous actor, so in many ways the theater is in Finley’s blood.

Of course, everything changes when teen stars/heartthrobs Harlan and Emma Crawford move in next door to live with their aunt and uncle for the summer.  Emma immediately sets her sights on Oliver, and Juliette is desperate to date Harlan, even if it means ditching her son-of-a-local-important-politician boyfriend.

It’s YA, so there is plenty of angst to go around, but overall I thought this was a really solid modernization of MP, despite the characters in this version being a lot younger than the characters in the original – the drama of the intersecting love lives actually fit the YA scene pretty well.  I felt like the essence of the original story was captured really well and enjoyed watching Finely find her inner strength.  There were a few times where the drama felt pretty over-the-top, but I was willing to roll with it.  It also seemed like there could be more/better resolution between Finley and her mother – I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole “Finley HAS to visit her mom and forgive her” – it was just a really complicated and nuanced situation that felt like it was kind of shoehorned in for no real reason.

Shoot the Moon focuses on the oldest Bertram, Tate.  In Seeking Mansfield we find out that Tate has a gambling addiction.  When we start the second book, he’s going to therapy and meetings, but doesn’t really think that he has a problem, despite the fact that he’s also secretly running a underground gambling ring in his friend’s apartment.  When his dad finds out, Tate is in huge trouble.  His aunt Nora offers to let him work for her on her political campaign, where Tate also runs into his old crush/nemesis Alexandra.

This book was pretty terrible and I honestly more or less hated the entire thing.  First off, we meet Aunt Nora multiple times in Seeking Mansfield, and as the modernized Aunt Norris character she’s DREADFUL.  She’s constantly saying hateful, cruel things to Finley for no reason, is obsessed with political/societal posturing, and is just an all-around jerk.  But suddenly, in Shoot the Moon, she’s the good guy??  She’s the kind, understanding, empathetic relative who is the only one willing to stick her neck out to help Tate.  I couldn’t get over the fact that I spent the whole first book hating this character, but am supposed to magically love her in the second book AND totally support her running for public office!  Sorry, but I would not vote for this woman – she had ZERO redeeming qualities, but anyone who didn’t like her or who pointed that out was just labeled as someone who “hates women” and doesn’t want them to be in politics.  *HUGE EYE ROLL!*

On a similar note, we find out in the first chapter that Finley and Oliver have broken up?!  I mean, seriously, what was even the point of the first book if every single aspect of character development is completely mitigated in the first few pages of the second book??  There was also a lot of personal family drama going on in my life in early April, so honestly a book about a spoiled brat refusing any and all advice from the people who actually care about him, insisting that he has no problems/any problems he does have are the fault of his family and not him, and that character never really acknowledging that he said or did anything wrong just wasn’t the story that I needed.  I get that Tate is supposed to be self-centered and self-destructive, but I was really over watching him make the same mistakes over and over and over and over and then whining about how hard his life was.  The love interest, Alex, was pretty much just as bad – she’s completely self-absorbed and consistently a jerk, but for some reason I’m supposed to think she and Tate will make a great couple??  I literally never shipped them for even a second, and honestly wished that the story had ended with them realizing that they weren’t good for each other – because they WEREN’T!  This book was an incredible disappointment and I almost bailed on it multiple times.

And in fairness, I think I should mention that Oliver and Finley do end up together again by the end of the book, but they’re really just extremely peripheral to the entire story, so it just felt like Watson had broken them up so she could create awkward love triangles.  It was super annoying.

That said, I approached Off Script with trepidation, especially since it was supposed to be a riff on Emma, my other least-favorite Austen.  However, this book was significantly better – much closer to Seeking Mansfield in story quality – and ironically I didn’t need to have read Shoot the Moon at all in order for this one to make sense (although I would definitely recommend reading Seeking Mansfield.)  This story follows up on the Crawford siblings from the first book, and I thought the modern/YA adaptation of Emma’s character (and story) was done extremely well, with Emma Crawford focusing on the career of her new assistant (she’s so beautiful that she has to be a movie star!) and the Knightley character being filled by Finley’s older brother, Liam, who is totally fine with calling Emma out on her nonsense.  There was a lot about this book that I really enjoyed, although it did definitely go off into an extremely preachy/polemic #MeToo essay at the end that didn’t feel particularly organic or natural.  Like I thought the decision that Emma made to create the organization she did made total sense, but listening to expound on the evils of the patriarchy for paragraphs at a time felt clunky. I also felt like things could have been better resolved with her brother.

In the end, if you enjoy YA and are interested in Austen variations, I would totally recommend reading Mansfield Park and Off Script.  Definitely skip Shoot the Moon, though, because it’s pretty terrible and adds nothing to the overall story arc of the series.

April Minireviews

Heck yeah, now we’re talking!! I’m also down to only 1250 unread emails, so I’m really making progress LOL

I actually read three series in April, so here are all the one-offs, and I’ll be posting some series reviews hopefully soon!

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.

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – 5*

Another enjoyable reread, I’ve always been fond of this one, maybe because I absolutely LOVE the name Caspian. So perfect.

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief & Mayhem by Manda Collins – 3*

//published 2020//

This one was a read for the traveling book club, although it’s also one that was on my TBR, so score.  In the end, it was just a little too “sassy independent women are the only kind who get anywhere in the world” for me.  I don’t mind sassy independent women as characters, but when it’s combined with an attitude that all other women are just sad little victims of the patriarchy, it starts to grate on my nerves, especially in “historical” novels.  The timing also felt weird in this one – the main character meets a woman and they hit it off and start hanging out – then literally two weeks later they’re just going on and on about how they’re BFFs and basically inseparable and it just felt odd.  It was the same with the love interest, who goes from a complete stranger to the most important person in her life in about five minutes.  It was also a book that would have benefited from deciding what it wanted to be – either a romance OR a mystery, because in the end it was just pretty muddled.  It wasn’t a bad story, and I can see why some people really like it, but it wasn’t a good fit for me.

Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie – 3.5*

//published 1934//

This is a collection of short stories based around the character of Parker Pyne, who isn’t a detective at all but someone who says he can make people’s lives happier.  While these were fairly entertaining, they were also a bit ridiculous.  Not a bad read, but not a particularly strong collection.

Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken – 3.5*

//published 1985//

After reading Mansfield Park in March, I read a few MP variations that had been on my TBR in April.  In this one, Aiken writes a sequel that focuses on Fanny’s younger sister, Susan, who comes to live at Mansfield Park towards the end of the original story.  This wasn’t a bad story, it was just kind of boring.  Aiken also ruthlessly kills off Sir Thomas in the first chapter and since he’s actually pretty much my favorite character in the original story, I was sad to see him go haha

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling – 4*

//published 1999//

Not my favorite in the series but still a decent installment.  I’m really enjoying reading the British edition of these books as well.  I’m a strong believer that if a book is written by someone who is British, and set in Britain, there should be no “translation” into American English.  It’s just silly!  So it’s fun to read these with their original British slang and terms.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1952//

This is probably the most episodic of the series, with each chapter or two being its own little adventure.  I really do love the redemption of Eustace, and while Reepicheep can be a bit much, I still can appreciate his valor.  There are a lot of interesting little tales here, some better than others, but on the whole a delightful revisit.

Rearview Mirror // March 2021

Well, it’s been less than two week since I posted the February Rearview Mirror, so maybe I am catching up a little!!!

Favorite March Read

While I definitely am not picking this one for its depth and thoughtfulness, I have to say that The 26th of November was the book I enjoyed reading the most in March.  A fun and fluffy P&P variation that didn’t try to take itself too seriously.

Most Disappointing March Read

Probably Peter Pan.  While I wasn’t expecting it to be my new favorite, I honestly found parts of this classic to be on the disturbing side.  It’s a lot darker than I anticipated and I just wasn’t a fan.

Other March Reads

March Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  25 (10 Kindle, 15 physical)
  • Total Pages Read:  7258
  • Average Star Rating for September:  3.6
  • Longest Book: Mansfield Park (494 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  The Breakthrough (58 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  Mansfield Park (published 1814)
  • Newest Book: Unknown Threat (published 2021)
  • Number of New-to-Me Authors:  6

March DNFs

My only DNF this month was a P&P variation that I actually reviewed the other day – Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon by Maria Grace.

TBR Update

This I keep updated as I go, so it’s current as of today, rather than as of the end of February. Still a million years behind on reading blog posts, though! :-/  I’m sure I’ll get caught up over summer break, right?  RIGHT?!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into six different tabs:

  • Standalones:  511 (down two)
  • Nonfiction:  124 (down three)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  650 (up one)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  251 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 115 (holding steady)
  • New Arrivals – (I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read.): 137 (holding steady)

Current Reads

  • Tips for the Lazy Gardener by Linda Tilgner – one I picked up at a booksale several years ago but never got around to reading.  So far, it’s more like “tips for getting organized when you garden” lol
  • Jane Austen Made Me Do It by various authors – a collection of short stories all inspired by Austen.  Another book I picked up on the cheap somewhere.  For fun, I’m just reading one story a day from the collection.
  • Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling – about 2/3 through this one.  It’s my least favorite from the series, but reading it only a chapter a day has been making Harry’s angst (and Umbridge) more bearable.
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis – almost done with the chapter-a-day readalong of Narnia.  It’s actually been longer since I read this one than the others because the beginning of this one just makes me feel wretched.
  • A Blissful Marriage by Lory Lilian – I’ve been in the mood for more terrible P&P variations so I’m reupped my Kindle Unlimited subscription this month.  Not going to lie, this one is pretty terrible so far.

Up Next

The probable next five(ish) reads…

If I’m honest, more bad P&P variations.  Officially, per the TBR –

  • The Paris Library by Janet Charles
  • Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken
  • The Little Mermaid & Other Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson
  • Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft
  • The next five 87th Precinct books

Well, that about wraps up March (HA) so I’ll be back soon with some April reviews!! Thanks for sticking with me!!

March Minireviews – Part 4

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.

Heartstone by Phillip Margolin – 4*

//published 1978//

I’m still working my way through Margolin’s back catalogue after the Amanda Jaffe series got me hooked on his writing.  This one was a little darker than I like, but was still just thoroughly engaging writing.  As always, my biggest complain with Margolin’s writing in general is his habit of dumping about 50 names on you in the first 50 pages without really indicating which of those names are going to be important later on.  My bookmark for a Margolin book is always an index card with names/notes on it, which is just a little ridiculous.  It  evens out as I get into the story and the main players emerge, but still.  While this isn’t one I would read again, it was definitely worth the one-time read.

On Equal Ground by Elizabeth Adams – 4*

//published 2017//

We all know that I go through kicks where all I want to read is P&P variations, and I hit a mini-kick at the end of March.  I’ve really enjoyed a couple of Adams’s other variations so I read two more lol  This was one of those ones that’s actually just a different story with the same characters.  While staying with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth catches the eye of a wealthy widower some 20 years her senior.  Adams has them marry and love each other without it feeling creepy or weird.  Of course, the reader knows that the poor man is just a plot device, and probably the biggest drawback of this book was that I actually really liked earl and thought he and Elizabeth were a great match, and I spent the entire first half of the book dreading his untimely death.  Still, it was handled really well, and Elizabeth falling in love with Darcy felt natural and was done well.  Because Elizabeth has married an earl, she actually outranks Darcy in both class and wealth, so the big twist here is a difference in their prejudices from the original.  This wasn’t my new favorite, and it’s definitely a little more thoughtful than a lot of P&P variations tend to be, but I overall really enjoyed this one.  NB, this one didn’t have any explicit sex scenes, either, which was super nice.

The 26th of November by Elizabeth Adams – 4.5*

//published 2018//

A mashup of P&P and Groundhog Day??  Sign me up!  The best part of the Netherfield Ball from Elizabeth’s perspective – when it’s OVER!  So it’s rather unfortunately that, for some reason, she has to keep living that same day, including the dreadful ball, over and over again.  This is a very lighthearted variation, so don’t expect a lot of life philosophy, but I really enjoyed watching Elizabeth try to figure out why she is having this experience, and wondering if she’s supposed to “fix” something so that she can move on.  This was an entertaining way for her to come to grips with some her prejudices and blind spots.  Darcy isn’t living the same day over and over, but because his interaction with Elizabeth is different each time, he also has some changes of character as well.  The ending is the whole final rendition of November 26 from Darcy’s perspective, so it was a little repetitive, but still interesting to see what, from his view, was just one day.  If you’re looking for a low-angst P&P variation with some definite funny moments, this one is totally worth a read.

Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon by Maria Grace – DNF

//published 2016//

Usually I review DNFs at the end of the month, but I feel like I’m on a P&P roll here.  I gave this one up about halfway through the story, despite loving the concept of an England full of dragons, with each estate having a dragon guardian.  However, the story itself was sooooo slow.  Everyone was spending all their time bickering and arguing (including the dragons) and Mr. Bennet was an absolutely GRUMP.  There were random chunks of the original P&P just plunked in here and there, which really disrupted the flow of the story.  I was already getting over the way no one in this version was likable, and threw in the towel when Mr. Bennet very condescendingly told Elizabeth that a man would be able to do her job better.  It was just so completely out of character for Mr. Bennet to say something so derogatory to Elizabeth, and the way he said it was just beyond insulting and rude.  Even my high tolerance for bad P&P variations was over this one.

Darcy Comes to Rosings by Andrea David – 3*

//published 2018//

Technically, this was the first book I finished in April, but like I said, I feel like I’m on a P&P roll haha  This one was a classic tale of two halves.  The first half of the story takes place at Rosings during Elizabeth’s visit to Charlotte.  However, Darcy and Elizabeth end up with a few more opportunities to converse, and Charlotte takes a much more proactive role in encouraging romance between the two.  This part of the story was really engaging and I felt like it actually totally fit Charlotte’s character as well.  But then I hit the second half, after Darcy and Elizabeth get engaged.  All of a sudden, it was page after page of Elizabeth panicking and stressing out that she’s not good/rich enough for Darcy, going on and on and on and on and on despite reassurances from everyone.  It was sooo repetitive and boring and I honestly didn’t feel like it was resolved all that well.  I just found it hard to believe that saucy, self-confident Elizabeth, who was willing to write off Darcy for being a jerk in the original, would spend so much time agonizing about her self-worth.  Lame.