June Minireviews // Part 1

Woohoo!! June reviews!!

NB: All links in this post go to my personal reviews of the books mentioned.

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.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – 3.5*

//published 2016//

This one was a traveling book club book that I was intrigued to read because Kristoff is the coauthor of the Aurora Cycle, which I loved.  While I found this one to be really interesting with some creative world-building, it was ultimately a bit too dark for my personal tastes, so even though it’s the first book in a series, I didn’t particularly feel engaged enough to read the next book.  Part 1 was really slow – if I hadn’t been reading this with the group, I would have DNFd.  Kristoff uses copious footnotes to explain various things, so loads of small print and a lot of infodumping.  The pace definitely picked up as the book progressed, though, and I could barely put it down during the final section.  There were some interesting characters and some terrifying creatures (sand krakens! Brilliant!) but while I did enjoy this one, the series just wasn’t for me.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry – 4*

//published 2022//

I really enjoyed Henry’s book Beach Read, but felt quite meh about People We Meet on Vacation (still not over how annoying the main character of that one was), so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Book Lovers.  However, even though it wasn’t my new most favoritest read ever, I did really enjoy this one and snorted with laughter on multiple occasions.  I feel like I have to add the caveat that literally I don’t understand city people, or people who think cities are amazing, or people who want to hang out in cities for more than like, an hour, much less live in them.  These people literally make zero sense to me – just… why???  So I did have trouble getting over the way Nora just literally LOVES the city and LOVES living in the city and can’t imagine anything else.  What a weirdo haha But I could appreciate her genuine love for her home nonetheless.

What I absolutely loved were the upside-down tropes – they were just written so perfectly, Nora’s self-awareness of them made everything work, and it was fantastic.  The snark between Nora and Charlie is perfect.  Out of all the romances I’ve read this year, they may be the couple I shipped the hardest.  I just really did genuinely feel that they brought out the best in each other, and that they could see each other’s real selves and appreciated each other for who they truly were.  (Wow, my tenses got really tangled up there, but you all know what I mean haha)  I could have done without the steamy scenes because that isn’t my thing, but I definitely didn’t feel like that was the only thing these two had going.

My biggest complaint about this book is the tension between Nora and her sister.  The whole reason Nora is spending her vacation in a small town is because her sister wants them to hang out together.  It’s obvious that Libby has something big on her mind, but we spend the entire book not knowing what it is.  Is Libby’s husband cheating on her?  Is Libby unhappy with the way her life is going?  Is she mad at Nora about something?  Does she have cancer?  Not knowing what was going on with her actually drove me somewhat crazy and detracted from my overall enjoyment because it low-key stressed me out for the entire book.  This is a book I would enjoy more the second time around, already knowing what’s going on with Libby.

Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery – 4*

//published 1929//

This was June’s book for Kindred Spirits group on Litsy, and was another Montgomery that I hadn’t read in absolute years.  My reread reminded me why – this is a perfectly pleasant book, but for some reason it just doesn’t stand out to me.  Part of it is because it’s very episodic in nature – it reminds me a lot of my least favorite Anne book, Rainbow Valley, where each chapter is just sort of its own little stand-alone adventure.  They aren’t bad, it just never really felt like there was an overarching story driving the book.  The only real common theme is Marigold wishing she had a friend, and several of the stories center on adventures wherein she meets someone and either they turn out to be not at all what she expected/an actual person who could be a friend, or something else prevents them becoming very close, usually distance.  Considering that this seems to sort of be the main point of the book, the ending felt especially odd, with Marigold becoming friends with a new neighbor, who is a boy.  She puts up with a lot of adventures she doesn’t want to participate in, like chasing frogs, to keep him happy.  Another new kid moves into the neighborhood, also a boy.  Boy A immediately drops Marigold and becomes best buddies with Boy B.  Eventually, Boy A comes back to Marigold and they restart their friendship, with Marigold realizing that it’s better to be friends in a situation where she can be herself instead of having to pretend like she likes all that “boy stuff” (not that Boy B is around to take care of that part of Boy A’s friendship needs) and the final line is something basically about her always being willing to wait for whenever Boy A needs her, or something kind of weird and dumb like that.  There are a couple of Montgomery books that I think always end up rated lower in mind because of the way they end, and this is one of them. (A Tangled Web, which was July’s book, is another.)  Anyway, all in all a perfectly pleasant read, but if I was rating all the books Montgomery has written, this one wouldn’t be particularly near the top.

The Randolphs by Isabella Alden – 3*

Alden was an aunt to Grace Livingston Hill, and an influence on Hill’s writing.  She mostly wrote under the pen name of Pansy, books similar to what Hill would write during the next generation – gentle romances and stories with Christian faith at the center.  I own a few collections of GLH that have three of her books plus one of Alden’s included.  What I didn’t realize is that The Randolphs is actually a sequel – the first book centered on the oldest (adult) son of the family, Tom, who apparently became saved during the first book.  Here, Tom is trying to live out his faith, but the main character is his sister Maria, who is skeptical of faith and how it can actually be useful for her life.  This was a perfectly pleasant story for the most part, but I did feel like Alden 100% copped out by having Maria’s actual transformation take place off-page!  It’s the old “she gets sick/injured and is bedridden and it makes her reassess her life” trick, and then Alden skips a couple of YEARS and suddenly Maria is a paragon and inspiration to everyone.  What a cheat!  Still, this was a nice little story, and honestly just a fun look at its time – this one was originally published in 1876 – I especially loved how one character they went on and on about how he came from “the west”… which turns out to be Michigan!

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – 4*

//published 1883//

This was my classic that I started in May, but what with being out of town for a week in May and such, I didn’t finish it until June.  Although I’ve seen the amazing Muppets version of this story more than once, I had never read the original.  While this was a fun story – and I can definitely see how it appealed to young lads when it was published in 1883 – honestly, I liked the Muppets better!!  It’s still a fun and creative yarn, although things did get a little muddled when they got to the island, I thought, and the book was sadly devoid of angry natives and musical numbers.  A week or two ago my whole family sat down for the Muppet version, and I just can’t believe how they managed to capture the spirit and essence of the story and its characters so very well.  The original book is definitely worth a read – I’m quite enjoying working through Stevenson’s works.

The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip // by Sara Brunsvold

NB: This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for a review, which does not impact my opinions of the book.

//published 2022//

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, and I’m not sure how to describe what I got.  It’s rather a simple novel in terms of its story, but I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I anticipated, and it really choked me up at the end as well.

Aidyn is a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star and starting to get impatient with the research and fluff that she’s assigned.  However, she makes a misstep by approaching her boss’s boss asking for more difficult work, and is now even more on the back burner than before.  When her boss sends her to write an obituary for a woman in hospice care, Aidyn knows she’s being punished for pushing too hard.

Clara Kip just found out she has cancer – and probably only a week or two to live.  At 79, she knows she’s had a full life and her faith reassures her that death isn’t the end, but no one gets excited about dying, especially when you’re a childless widow with no close family, staying alone in hospice care.  But Clara is determined to embrace every moment she has left, and asks God to show her if there is anything else He has for her to do – and He sends her Aidyn.

If you aren’t a Christian, I’m not completely sure you’ll get much out of this book, as Clara’s fervent faith is the cornerstone of the story.  There is a lot here about dying, and the emotional and physical steps for both the person dying the those left behind.  I found all of this to be handled thoughtfully and well.  Despite the fact the whole plot is that one of the main characters is within a few days of dying, this book never felt morbid or depressing.  Instead, this was a story that inspires the reader to think about how our lives are full of opportunities to serve, even if it isn’t in the dramatic way we might hope for.

The book is told mostly in the present day (2016), but some sections are from the late 1970s.  In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Clara finds a way to help Laotian refugees in her own hometown of Kansas City.  Clara’s original plan for her life was to be a missionary for orphans in Brazil, but that never came to fruition, leaving her bitter and disappointed for many years.  In many ways, this book is about accepting where we are and helping those around us however we can.  I loved this quote as Aidyn is thinking about all she has learned from Clara –

That woman, now spindly and vulnerable to falls, had once helped reshape the city’s cultural dynamic.  A woman who hadn’t fought in a war or influenced the law of the land or won a major game, but rather, with quiet courage and immeasurable compassion, had helped ensure that refugees were not left to their own devices.  The everyday woman who befriended and loved complete strangers, who stood in the gap between two clashing cultures not ready to wholly trust each other.  It all began because Mrs. Kip, intimately familiar with pain, once stopped amid her daily rush to comfort a grieving mother and unwittingly found herself in the center of world history.

Although this book flirts with the line, I didn’t feel that it crossed in the saccharine territory.  I found both Aidyn and Clara believable as characters and enjoyed their journey together.  I felt like Aidyn’s character arc was convincing and found Clara’s story to be inspiring and thought-provoking.  This was honestly what I’m looking for when I pick up a Revell title, and what I feel has been missing from the last few that I’ve reviewed from that publisher – a story that is actually centered on a character’s Christian faith, a faith that gives them purpose, direction, and hope.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Mrs. Kip, and hope that I can meet my final days with the same grace and peace that she did.

Rearview Mirror // May 2022

Ohho! Look who only took a week to get to the next month’s wrap up!  Progress!!  :-D

Favorite May Read

Even though I technically rated my reread of Jane of Lantern Hill higher (and, if I’m honest, do love it more), I’m going with a brand new read for this slot – Cress was my favorite of Lunar Chronicles series.  I read a lot of really good books in May, so competition was tight this month!  Look at all those 4 & 4.5* ratings!

Most Disappointing May Read

Probably The Heart’s Victory by Nora Roberts.  It was just too 80s romance haha

Other May Reads

May Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  17
  • Total Pages Read:  5462
  • Average Star Rating for March:  3.91
  • Longest Book: Winter (823 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  Lady Susan (71 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  Lady Susan (published 1871)
  • Newest Book: Summer at the Cape and Meet Me in the Margins (published 2022)
  • Top Genre: Science Fiction (7 books)
  • Top Format: Paperback (12 books)
  • Top Source: Purchased (8 books) (“Purchased” is books purchased within the last six months vs “Owned” haha)

May Challenge Updates

  • New states visited: Indiana was my only new state – spent most of my month in space!!
  • Chunksters read (800+pgs): 1
  • Almost-a-chunksters read (450-799pgs): 2
  • Classics read: 0
  • Nonfiction read: 1

TBR Update

This is current as of today, not the end of May, and since it’s only been a week since the last Rearview, it may not be tooooo different haha

  • Standalones:  480 (holding steady)
  • Nonfiction:  130 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  620 (down three!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  250 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 111 (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.): 168 (down one!!)

Current Reads

I’m in the midst of several chapter-a-day-ish reads right now!

  • Still reading The Hidden Hand and The Secret World of Weather and enjoying both.
  • Started my August classic – The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens.  Honestly kind of weird so far.
  • Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare is a buddy read for Litsy.  It’s a little outside my usual romance wheelhouse, but so far it’s been engaging.  We’ll see if it turns into a bail, though haha
  • The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip by Sara Brunsvold is my current “regular” read – it’s one from the publisher, so I’ll actually be reviewing it within the next week or so.

Last Time on “Up Next”

Did I actually read my probable next five reads from last time?

The answer is – no to all of them because it’s only been a week haha  Although actually, looking at this list, I did actually read The Last Olympian.  I did enjoy it, but don’t think I’ll read the spin-off series.

Up Next

The probable next five(ish) reads –

Still planning to read the books I mentioned last time, but also –

  • The Hidden One by Linda Castillo – this is the latest installment in the Kate Burkholder series.  I’ve really enjoyed these books and am looking forward to jumping back into Kate’s world soon!!
  • The It Girl by Ruth Ware – following my attempt to read new books by authors I like as they come out, Ware’s latest just came in at the library for me, but since it’s new I’ll need to read it pretty promptly.  I’ve only read two of Ware’s books – one of which I liked and on I didn’t, so I’m curious about this one.
  • His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik – I actually finished TWO series in the last couple weeks, so I’m ready to start another one!! I’ve been wanting to read these books for a while – set during an AU of the Napoleonic Wars WITH DRAGONS!!!
  • Moonlight Cove by Sherryl Woods – still working my way through the Chesapeake Shores series, and this one is the next on the list.
  • Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron – This is the first book in a mystery series wherein Jane Austen is the heroine.  I have really mixed feelings about reading fiction books that “star” real-life people.  Another buddy read on Litsy, I thought I would at least give it a try as I have actually heard a lot of good things about this series.  Soooo we’ll see!!

So those are the latest updates!!! Hopefully I can get on top of my June reviews as well!!

May Minireviews – Part 2

Part 2 and final for May!!  Also, after I published Part 1 I realized that I had literally labeled it April Minireviews.  Losing my mind LOL

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.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery – 5*

//published 1937//

This is one of my favorite Montgomery books, and I couldn’t believe it had been so long since I had reread it!  Victoria Jane lives with her mother, grandmother, and aunt in a large and gloomy house.  Grandmother is incredibly overbearing and jealous of Jane’s mother’s attention.  Jane assumes that her father is dead, but when she is 11 learns that actually her parents are just separated, and her father lives on Prince Edward Island – and he wants Jane to come visit him so that he can have a chance to get to know her as well.  Jane doesn’t want to go, convinced that her father must be a terrible person since her mother is so sweet – but she falls in love with her dad, the Island, and her life of freedom and industry there.

This is a typical Montgomery story of a sturdy young heroine finding her independence.  My only complaint is that Jane definitely seems older than 11 a lot of the time.  I love all the many side characters and adventures, although I would like the ending to be a little less rushed.  Still, this is overall just a delightful story that always reminds me of a younger version of The Blue Castle.

The Heart’s Victory by Nora Roberts – 3*

//Heart’s Victory – published 1982// Rules of the Game – published 1984//

This story and the next one I read because they were republished together – a lot of Roberts’s 80s romances seem to be republished this way as they are shorter stories (~200pgs).  These were both pretty dreadful if I’m honest haha  In this one, the heroine was raised by her older brother, a racecar driver, so she grew up on “the circuit“ and always had a crush on her brother’s friend. Now she’s back on the circuit on assignment as a photographer and sparks fly. This one had a little too much of the “grabbing and kissing until she gives in“ routine that was so popular in the early 80s and made a really weird jump in the middle of the story where they suddenly decide to get married and now all their issues are about her settling in with his rich family?? It felt like two stories in one and was a bit confusing.  There was basically no character development and I never really believed in the success of these two as a couple.

Rules of the Game by Nora Roberts – 3*

Here, the protagonist directs commercials and her new client is an up and coming baseball star. This one wasn’t too bad, it just didn’t really go anywhere. There wasn’t really any reason that the two of them couldn’t be together, other than the female MC being all “I don’t do commitments,” which felt underdeveloped and kind of pointless because she didn’t really have a reason not to other than just… not wanting to?  Which is totally a fine choice to make, obviously, but here just felt like filler/trying to cause drama.  Once again – no confidence in the long-term success of this relationship!
Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson – 3.5*

//published 2022//

This one was a decent read but not a book I loved or want to reread.  Savannah works for a small publishing house that focuses on serious, nonfiction topics.  The owner despises “fluff” books, especially romcoms.  However, Savannah loves them and has secretly been writing one of her own.  Through a series of events, someone else finds her manuscript and leaves her editorial notes that turn out to be helpful, and soon they are passing the manuscript back and forth – except Savannah doesn’t know who her secret editor is.  Of course, it’s a romcom, so the reader knows who it is, but still.  This book was just kind of boring, and I found pretty much nothing about Savannah’s job to be realistic, especially the ending.  (No one’s getting laid off??  For real??)  I was hoping for more notes between the two of them, but we get almost none of those.  It was a perfectly fine story, but not one that I really loved.
Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter – 3.5*

//published 2021//

Liz is starting her senior year of high school, and her childhood crush, Michael, has just moved back to town.  She really wants to reconnect with him but isn’t sure how, and ends up enlisting the help of her neighbor (who was also good friends with Michael back in the day), Wes.  Liz has always considered Wes to be her nemesis as he has teased and played tricks on her through the years, so she is surprised by how well they get along as they start to hang out.  Liz’s mom died when Liz was little, and the way that she stays connected is through the movies and music that her mom loved.  All of the movie and music references made sense within the story, but they made this story kind of feel like it was actually for adults, despite being a YA story, since I’m not sure that current YA readers watch a lot of 90s romcoms or listen to Radiohead and Beastie Boys (although maybe they do, I don’t know a lot of teens right now lol).  This was another pretty forgettable story for me.  All the drama with Wes just felt like it went on way too long.  There is also a scene where Liz is at a party and someone throws up on her, and there were literal PAGES of clean up that involved describing texture, color, scent, etc. of this vomit – just why.  It felt so unnecessary and gross.
All in all, another perfectly fine read, but one I was glad I had checked out of the library instead of buying.