Last batch for October!! Still less than six months behind LOL
A Horse Called Mystery by Majorie Reynolds – 4*
This is one of those older books that has been on my shelf forever. I know I read it as a kid, but couldn’t really remember anything about it. Owlie (so-called because of his glasses) is a bit scrawny and a bit of a target for the local bully. He’s been saving his money to buy a bicycle, but on his way into town he sees a horse being mistreated and impulsively uses all his money to purchase it. The rest of the book is about Owlie and the horse (Mystery) growing stronger together, and Owlie learning how to handle other people trying to manipulate and bully him. This is one of those delightful books that has a lot of lessons without feeling remotely preachy. I especially loved Owlie’s dad, who is an amazing role model. Owlie’s mother is deaf/mute, and this is also handled so well throughout the story.
While this didn’t become my new favorite book forever, it definitely stayed on my shelf for a future reread.
Only a Monster by Vanessa Len – 4*
This one was a surprise win for me. Frequently, I find the OwlCrate books to be a bit meh, but this one was innovative and engaging. The world-building was fun, the main character actually an interesting and likable person, and the story fairly well-paced. I did feel like the ending was a bit rushed/too tidy. I know that this is actually going to be a trilogy, but in some ways I didn’t exactly like where this one ended. Still, I’m very interested to see what happens in the next book, which I do believe is coming out this year!!
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware – 3*
I’m quite behind on Ware’s books, but the ones I’ve read I’ve enjoyed, although none of them have been ones I saw myself rereading time and again, as the characters generally manage to be quite unlikable. Such was the case here. There was an intriguing set up, but everyone in this book was just dreadful. And while the atmosphere was good, I was never shocked or surprised by anything that happened, which meant the entire story felt rather draggy. It wasn’t a terrible read, but definitely not a great one.
A Dog on Barkham Street by M.S. Stoltz – 3*
Another older book that I picked up on the cheap somewhere, drawn in by the delightful illustrations by Leonard Shortall. However, this one just didn’t work for me. I wasn’t really a fan of how the whole bullying situation was handled. While the main character, Edward, is physically attacked and pushed around by Martin, Edward in turn frequently retaliates/starts conflict by calling Martin names and making fun of him. I wasn’t sure who was bullying who. Edward’s dad talks about how Martin is the way that he is because people in his life are mean to him, but everyone just kind of acts like oh well, guess Martin’s dad beats him up, nbd; and at the least Edward’s dad doesn’t even seem all that fussed that his son is mocking someone else. I don’t know, it just felt a little stereotypical without a lot of resolution. This was a short, fast middle grade read that is in the giveaway box now, adorable Shortall illustrations notwithstanding.
The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston – 3.5*
This was one that I was planning to rate higher until the last few chapters went off the rails. Meg’s family is in the witness protection program, and she barely remembers her real name any more. She’s tired of her life being upended at a moment’s notice, but her dad refuses to tell her what he’s done to put their family in this situation. The pacing was good here and the writing engaging. I really did want to find out what was going on with Meg and her family, and there was definitely a lot of “who can you trust” done really well. However, in the end Meg acts like a wildly stupid teenager, to a level of completely unbelievable, and it really lowered my overall enjoyment of the book.
While My Pretty One Sleeps by Mary Higgins Clark – 4*
Ethel isn’t particularly well-liked: she writes exposé books about various rich and well-connected individuals, so when she winds up murdered there are plenty of suspects from which to choose. But Neeve Kearney, who owns an upscale fashion boutique, had a genuine soft spot for Ethel, one of her best customers who has become a friend. Neeve is drawn into the investigation, and as things progress, realizes that this murder seems to have some startling parallels to the murder of Neeve’s mother several years earlier. This was a great mystery from Clark with likable (and unlikable) characters, good motivations from various suspects, and an intelligent MC in Neeve. However, as usual, the love story aspect leaves quite a bit to be desired, and a few of the twists towards the end felt like a bit of a stretch. Still, on the whole I liked this one and can see myself rereading it again someday.