The Midnight Kittens // by Dodie Smith

//published 1978//

Growing up, The Hundred and One Dalmatians was one of my very favorite books, and I read it so many times.  The amazing illustrations by Janet and Anne Grahame-Johnstone still make me so happy and the story is just too perfect for words.  More recently, I discovered that there was actually a sequel!  And while The Starlight Barking was a little strange (and had actual magic), it was still a lot of fun.  Now for some reason, Goodreads has The Midnight Kittens listed as Book #3 in the Hundred and One Dalmatian series, so I decided to give it a go.  I found a secondhand copy on eBay, and was curious to see how it tied into the other two books.  The short answer?  It doesn’t.  So that was the first disappointment.

The next disappointment was that this book just wasn’t… interesting?  I’m not even sure what the word is that I’m looking for.  I’ve only read a couple of Smith’s books.  Most recently, I read I Capture the Castlewhich, while it wasn’t an instant classic for me (as it is for so many others), I still found incredibly readable – the writing itself was a delight, and the story very well-crafted.  But The Midnight Kittens lacked that.  The story was directionless and the characters not particularly interesting.  I just couldn’t get into it.

Basically, Tom and Pam are twins (around 12 years old) who have been going to school in London, but live with their Gram in Suffolk, as their parents died when the twins were quite young.  The story revolves around a long weekend that they spend visiting Gram.  Except… not much actually happens.  They stay up late to see if they can see some wild hedgehogs come to eat the milk and bread Gram has set out, and instead see four kittens.  Pam immediately decides that they are magic kittens (??).  Over the course of the weekend, they take a tour of a local house, a run-down mansion called Freke Hall.  The next day they go with Gram to visit a friend of hers in a nursing home, and staying in the same home is a very old lady who once lived in Freke Hall when she was a little girl.  She tells Tom and Pam about a secret room where she once hid a painting.  Tom and Pam sneak into the house when when they get home and find the secret room, and also meet some friendly squatters who are coming there to live (??).  Meanwhile, the kittens appear at midnight each night, exactly at midnight, to eat their milk and bread.  Tom is afraid to tell Gram about the kittens, because he isn’t sure if she will adopt them or have them put down (??).  Eventually, the twins tell this whole story to Gram (along with some other side adventures I haven’t bothered to include) and Gram doesn’t believe them, because Pam used to tell made-up stories, and suddenly they are all emotionally devastated by the broken trust and Tom and Pam go back to school heavily burdened by the fact that Gram doesn’t believe them (??).  But then Gram sees the kittens and calls them and tells them everything is fine and then everyone is happy la-de-da.  ??????

It was all just so rambling and pointless!  The kittens weren’t really that much of the story, it’s mostly Tom and Pam being obnoxious children – this book made me feel so old, because all I could do was roll my eyes at the way the twins were so annoying condescending towards their Gram the entire time – explaining to her how Tom is now agnostic and Pam is an atheist and how sad it is that people still believe in God (despite the fact that Gram does).  They’re always giving Gram advice about how she should be running her household and ways that she could be saving money and I don’t know, they just seemed so bratty the entire time, which is probably why I found this book so tedious.  They were SUCH know-it-alls.

The whole book was very disjointed and kind of read like a weird dream.  It was fairly short, for which I was thankful.  I was quite disappointed in this story, but at least I don’t have to worry about making room for The Midnight Kittens on my permanent bookshelves.

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July Minireviews + #20BooksofSummer

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!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine – 2*

//published 2006//

I recently reread Ella Enchantedwhich was a childhood favorite and is still a book that I love.  Full of delightful characters, fun world-building, and a really excellent story, I’ve read it many times and still enjoy it.  Somehow, I hadn’t realized that Levine had written another book set in the same world as Ella, although not a direct sequel.  Part of me wishes that I still didn’t know that, because Fairest was pretty terrible.  The main problem was the heroine, Ava, who was incredibly boring, and spent the entire book whining about how ugly she was.  I mean CONSTANTLY.  Every.  Page.  And it never really felt like a lesson came out of that, or if it did it was very muddled.  If the prince thought she was beautiful the first time he saw her… was she really not as ugly as she thought?  Because here’s the thing, ugly/plain people often DO become more beautiful in our eyes as we get to know and love them, but if you’re just sitting there and someone walks into a room – you don’t know anything about them, and literally just judge them on how they appear at that moment.  So the prince is either lying, has horrible taste, or Ava isn’t actually that ugly.  All of those answers annoyed me.

Anyway, the rest of the story was also very weak – I’m never a fan of a plot where the villain is actually NOT the villain but is being controlled by another, in-the-background villain.  This seems convoluted and confusing.  All in all, I skimmed large portions of Fairest, and had trouble focusing on the pages because I was so busy rolling my eyes at Ava’s endless whining about her appearances.

Frederica by Georgette Heyer – 4.5* – #20BooksofSummer

//published 1965//

This was my third read for #20BooksofSummer (you can find my original post here), and a thoroughly enjoyable one it was.  While I had read Frederica quite a while ago (2012), it had been several years.  At the time of my initial reading, it was actually one of the first Heyer books I had read (somehow, I didn’t discover her until adulthood!), but even after reading several of Heyer’s other books since then, I still found this one to be adorable and fun.  I think that part of the reason I love this one so much is that Alverstoke, the unwilling hero, falls in love not just with Frederica, but with her whole family.  I just loved the way that he went from being a selfish, lonely Mr. Grumpy-pants to being part of a happy, loving family.  While Alverstoke was a smidge *too* selfish to really be my favorite Heyer hero, he was still quite nice.  Frederica is a typical, but nonetheless enjoyable, Heyer heroine, being independent and intelligent without being too sassy and obnoxious.  She doesn’t take any nonsense from Alverstoke (or anyone else) and is such a wonderful sister.  My only complaint about her was how she could possibly be blind to her sister’s preferred beau??

All in all, Frederica is a delightful read for anyone looking for a bit of relaxation.  I wasn’t feeling super great over the weekend, and this ended up being the perfect book to devour.

Scotty by Frances Pitt – 3.5* – #20BooksofSummer

//published 1932//

I purchased this book years ago at a book sale somewhere, but somehow had never gotten around to reading it before.  This ended up  being a perfectly enjoyable, although not outstanding read about a Highland fox cub who is raised in captivity buy then escapes and adjusts to life in the wild.  It had a very Jim Kjelgaard-y vibe for me, and it was fun to read an outdoors book about an area of the world that is unfamiliar to me.  It was written between the Wars, so it was also an interesting, if somewhat limited, glance into life when things were starting to really undergo a big cultural change.  While I’m not convinced this will be a classic that I read time and again, it was still engaging – and also Book #4 for #20BooksofSummer!

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit – 4.5* – #20BooksofSummer

//published 1907//

This book is so precious that I just wanted to eat it up.  Every time I thought the story couldn’t get more adorable, it did.  These are the kind of children’s books that I grew up with, and I can’t believe that I didn’t discover Nesbit until adulthood!  This wasn’t a story full of angst or the need for anyone to “discover” herself – just a roly-poly happy story about four children and some magical adventures.  I can’t wait to read more Nesbit!!!  #6 for #20BooksofSummer.

NB: #5 for the list is actually A Wrinkle in Time which I have already read but won’t be reviewing until I have finished some more books in the series.

How to Cheat at Everything // by Simon Lovell

A Con Man Reveals the Secrets of the Esoteric Trade of Cheating, Scams, and Hustles

//published 2003//

It’s possible that my love for reading nonfiction on completely random topics was inherited from my dad, who is the same way.  We are always reading books on obscure things and then recommending them to the other.  Dad read How to Cheat at Everything quite a while back and really enjoyed it, and it’s been on my list ever since.  It’s basically a back-stage pass to the world of swindlers.

Lovell sets up the book by introducing us to his friend Freddy the Fox.  Freddy is an expert in the world of scamming, but is now retired (mostly) and is willing to share his tricks and tips to the public, purely to help them avoid getting swindled.  Lovell emphasizes the foolishness (and illegality) of actually trying to perform these cheats yourself, and quite honestly while I think that you could learn and practice a few of things, like some of the bar bets (which also aren’t illegal), overall I doubt reading the instructions in this book would really enable you to learn how to stack a poker deck or load your own dice.

The book is divided into several broad sections:  bar bets, street hustles, fairs/carnivals, cons, cards, dice, and beating the system.  Some sections were more interesting than others.  For instance, I was quite intrigued by how a bunch of the fair games work, but found myself growing bored with descriptions of multiple ways to stack/fake shuffle cards.

The overall premise is sound:  con men consistently play on their victim’s greed.  They will present you with “fail safe” opportunities to turn a profit, be it a bet that seems like you can’t lose, a game that seems so simple, or the promise of a later reward.  Lovell repeated frequently that what will protect you from being a victim is your willingness to walk away from these types of “opportunities.”

It was super interesting to realize how swindlers really work, as far as gently leading their victims into the con with sweet talk.  I really enjoyed the section on the bar bets, which are probably the most harmless of the lot (usually very low money, and people don’t mind losing as much when they get to learn the trick), because not only are they fun, they are really more about the verbal set-up, persuading people that this is just a casual idea that has just popped into mind and convincing them how impossible it would be to, say, predict which side a match is going to land on.

My personal favorite bar bet, which actually made me get out of my chair and grab a tape measure and a glass, is for “Freddy” to casually begin musing as to whether the circumference of a glass or its height is a longer distance – at this point, it’s pretty obvious that it’s the circumference, but this is just the hook.  Pretty soon, Freddy slides a pack of cigarettes under the glass – what about circumference versus the entire height, including the cigarette package?  Basically, Freddy gets his victim hooked by just getting them intrigued about the answer to the question – and by the time there are multiple cigarette packages under the glass, it starts to look obvious that the height has overtaken the circumference… which is when Freddy starts taking bets.  The best part about this one is that there isn’t any trick – it’s just that the circumference of a glass is SO much longer than you think it is!  The pub glass I pulled out of our cabinet is 5 3/4″ high… and 10 1/2″ around!  Another glass I pulled out is less than 5″ tall, but over 11″ in circumference – so twice around as it is tall, which genuinely doesn’t seem possible.  It’s enough to make me want to head down to the pub on Saturday night and see if I can pull in a few extra bucks…

A disadvantage to this book is that it is a smidge dated.  A lot has changed since it was published 15 years ago, and it would be fun to get an expanded edition that talks more about internet scams (which weren’t touched on much in this edition) and doesn’t assume that everyone is carrying around a package of cigarettes (although maybe that’s just a sign of a con man).

Reading this book also really made want to watch The Sting again, as well as several other movies that Lovell mentioned in passing.  I also have a deep love for the Oceans movies (George Clooney <3), so maybe I’ll pull those out again.  These kinds of scams are always a lot more fun when you’re on the inside.

All in all, How to Cheat at Everything is a readable and interesting book that will help make sure that you’re the grumpy person everywhere you go, refusing to jump in on casual poker games, to attempt to win a stuffed animal for your child at the fair, or even to buy a train ticket for that nice old man who reassures you that he will mail you a check as soon as he gets home.  4/5 and recommended.

The Paper Magician series // by Charlie Holmberg

  • The Paper Magician (2014)
  • The Glass Magician (2014)
  • The Master Magician (2015)

NB: There is a spin-off book set in the same universe, The Plastic Magician, which I didn’t bother reading because I was over these books.

These books are set in an alternative universe (it feels like around 1900) wherein magic is a reality.  However, magic can’t be used all willy-nilly by just anyone.  People attend a school and are then apprenticed before becoming full-fledged magicians.  In school, students learn about the different types of magic – each kind adheres to a different material: glass, paper, plastic, metal, fire, etc.  When students become apprentices, they bond with a specific material.  Once the bonding spell has been cast, there is no going back – a magician can only work with his bonded material.  This isn’t because of a law or rule – it’s just the way the magic works.

loved this world concept.  This leaves room for so many different side trails of intrigue and interest, and I was way into it.  I found myself wondering how this would apply to a modern variation of this world, and I was really interested in how this applied to the everyday lives of non-magicians.  But I think this was a case where I allowed myself to get so interested in the concept that it took me a while to notice that the actual story was kind of terrible.  By halfway through the second book, I was getting incredibly bored, and I basically skimmed the entire third book just to make sure of how things were going to turn out – which wasn’t too hard to guess, as the entire storyline was absurdly predictable.

Part of the problem was the main character, Ceony.  I didn’t like her from the very beginning – and I kept not liking her through the rest of the series.  She annoyed me.  Ceony is one of those characters who ALWAYS knows what’s best and is constantly ignoring everyone around her and doing whatever she wants because she is SO CLEVER.  Clever and ANNOYING.

In the first book, we start with Ceony, on her first day as an apprentice, arriving at the home of her new mentor.  Ceony has been more or less forced to accept a position as a paper magician (a Folder) because there aren’t enough Folders.  She’s quite depressed at the prospect of bonding with what she considers to be the most boring of all the materials, but while students’ inclinations are taken into consideration, ultimately the board decides which apprentices bond with which material – so paper it is.  Because of the dearth of Folders, Ceony is being apprenticed a male magician, which isn’t exactly against the rules, but isn’t preferable.  Ceony is surprised to find that her new mentor is (conveniently) rather youngish and good looking.  Wow, I wonder what’s going to happen next.

What happens next is that Ceony falls in love with Emery immediately, to the point that when he is attacked she is willing to risk literally everything to save him.  And that’s where this book started to lose me already, because Ceony went from “I hate being here and I don’t want to be a Folder and everything about this sucks” to “omg I am so in love with Emery that I am willing to give up everything up to and including my own life just to save his *heart eyes* *kissy face*”  She then frolics off against everyone’s rules and manages to rescue Emery completely on her own, even though she’s only been an apprentice for like two weeks.  This ENTIRE book could have been made at least somewhat believable if Holmberg had just inserted a sentence or a paragraph indicating that at least a smidgen of time had passed.  Something like, “After a few weeks, Ceony had settled into her new life as a Folder. While still not exactly thrilled about it, she had at least come to appreciate some its finer subtleties.”  Or maybe, “As the days went by, Ceony found herself reluctantly drawn into the world of Folding, not least because she found Emery himself increasingly engaging.”  ANYTHING.  Instead, I’m supposed to buy that in a mere handful of days she knows a crapton of amazing Folding techniques, is desperately in love with Emery, and is able to take on – and defeat – an incredibly powerful magician.  Ummm.

The other weird thing is that somehow the story becomes all about Emery.  Ceony is learning about  his past life through his memories… so even though Ceony is the main character, it ends up being this weirdly passive story all about Emery.  It just read really strangely and left me feeling incredibly disconnected from the story.

Still. I wanted to give the second book a chance… but it was just as ridiculous.  By book three I was just over the whole thing.  What really made me just roll my eyes in disbelief is that the opening of the third book informs me that two years have passed (apprentices have to apprentice for at least that long before testing to be a magician).  During this time, Ceony and Emery are deeply in love.  They kiss and cuddle.  They live alone and unchaperoned.  And… that’s it.  Here’s the deal, folks – if you’re really desperately in love with someone, I do not believe that you’re capable of living alone with them for TWO YEARS without succumbing to temptation.  I’m not condoning that or saying that it’s a good thing.  I’m just saying that that’s reality.  Saying that they had lived together but not slept together despite being “madly in love” the entire time meant that I just didn’t believe that they were really all that in love.  It made their whole relationship feel unbelievable.

And that’s really what it came down to for this whole series.  Throughout the entire time Holmberg is trying to use this amazing romance between these two characters as the catalyst for all of Ceony’s behavior – and it just didn’t work.  Their relationship NEVER felt even remotely believable.  I had zero confidence in their ability to make it work long term, and there was absolutely NO chemistry between them.  And it just emphasized how uncomfortable their relationship was to me because Emery was in a position of authority over Ceony.  So despite the fact that “Ceony fell in love first” and Emery wasn’t “taking advantage” of their situation – just no.  If they were serious about not taking advantage of their situation, Ceony should have transferred to another Folder, and let Emery court her for those two years.  Instead, she goes, at the age of 19, straight from school into Emery’s house where she falls in love with him – her teacher and boss – and then that’s it.  It was just sooo uncomfortable to me.

I really wanted to like these books.  The concept is fantastic.  But Ceony was completely unlikable to me, and the relationship that is supposed to be the driving force for the whole series was unbelievable and forced.  That meant that the entire story dragged and never felt natural or particularly engaging.

These books have their fans, but they are not really for me – despite the fact that I love the cover art!

Judy Bolton Mysteries // Books 1-5 // by Margaret Sutton – #20BooksofSummer

  1. The Vanishing Shadow (1932)
  2. The Haunted Attic (1932)
  3. The Invisible Chimes (1932)
  4. Seven Strange Clues (1932)
  5. The Ghost Parade (1933)

Published in the 1930’s, the Judy Bolton mysteries focus on 15-year-old Judy, who lives in a small town somewhere in New England, presumably upstate New York.  The daughter of the town doctor, Judy is, in many ways, a typical teenager – but one with a knack for problem solving… and problems seem to come her way.

I first came across these books when I was about 15 myself.  I picked one up in an antique store, and enjoyed the lighthearted, semi-ridiculous plot.  After that, I began collecting them whenever I came across them, which is when I realized that, unlike many of the other mystery series from this era, Judy actually gets older throughout the series – by some of the later books, she’s married and setting up her own household!  Somewhere in my late teens I read all of the books that I owned at the time, but I haven’t reread them in years, and have actually collected quite a few more since then, so there are several – especially the later books – that I have never read.

There are 35 books in the series, published over a course of almost thirty years.  Since then, a few more have been added to the series – the most recent in 2012 – but I’m assuming that they weren’t written by the original author.  I don’t own all 35 of the original, but I own most of them, and have the first 24 in order.  At that point I’ll have to decide if it’s worth hunting up the rest, as the later books are rarer and more expensive.

The first five books have honestly been a hoot.  They are wildly impractical.  In The Vanishing Shadow Judy overhears a conversation between two dastardly villains, who then try to buy her silence.  When she refuses, they kidnap her… and hold her prisoner until she promises not to tell anyone – and then they let her go!  Then BEST part is… she doesn’t tell anyone!  She feels bound by the honor of her word and has to work around her vow.  Ah, for the days when people were so trustworthy!

The rest of the books are just as ridiculous.  In The Invisible Chimes, Judy and her friends try to stop some criminals by forming a human chain across the road, forcing the villains to either run them over or run off the road!  In The Ghost Parade, instead of waiting for a storm to pass, Judy and her friends race their boat through the islands in the midst of it!

But despite the fact that they’re a little absurd, these books are also great fun.  Judy isn’t a perfect character, and I really like that about her.  At times, she’s impatient, makes mistakes, and gets a little pouty.  She feels like a genuine character who grows and changes, instead of just being a paper-cutout of a teenage girl detective.  Her friends also have different back stories, although it always cracks me up when “regular” characters conveniently end up with a really rich friend, who in turn paves the way for everything to go smoothly.  Yes, Judy comes from a workingman’s background… but her friend’s brother owns an airplane??  Not quite as middle-class as everyone pretends to be.  ;-)

For the most part, these have been 3* and 3.5* reads.  Enjoyable, entertaining, engaging – but nothing magnificent.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest, though, and seeing how Judy’s life develops.

Also:  The Vanishing Shadow was book #1 for my #20BooksofSummer challenge!

June 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!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West – 3*

//published 2013//

I’ve read a couple of Kasie West books, and I really like them.  They’re everything YA chick lit should be – fluffy, funny, a little bit ridiculous, and overall just happy.  They aren’t full of ridiculous amounts of angst or sexual dilemmas, just straightforward little stories with likable characters.  That said, this wasn’t really my favorite book, mainly because I got so tired of Cayman constantly assuming that she already knows what everyone is thinking/what their motivations are… and she’s wrong a LOT.  Consequently, all the misunderstandings seemed like they could have been avoided easily if Cayman would just USE HER WORDS and have some conversations.  Despite my aggravation with her at times, I still liked Cayman and basically everyone else as well.  Perfectly happy for a one-time read, and I really need to delve into some more of West’s back catalog.

Elizabeth Bennet’s Deception by Regina Jeffers – DNF (#20BooksofSummer)

//published 2015//

I don’t usually worry about updating you all on DNF books, but since this was on my original list for my #20BooksofSummer challenge, I thought I would let you know that it was SO terrible that I didn’t even bother finishing!  If you’re interested in the full rant, be sure to check it out on my P&P blog here.  Meanwhile, I’ve selected another book to finish out the 20 Book challenge!

The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley – 3*

//published 2016//

This was a free Kindle book that I got a while back.  This summer, when we’ve been taking the Zeppelin out for the weekend, I’ve been loading some super fluffy Kindle books so I have plenty of spares, and this one totally fit the bill.  Two friends have two bad romantic situations and decide to switch homes for a few weeks.  While I enjoyed this story while I was reading it, it didn’t really inspire me to find more of Stoneley’s books, and I don’t really see myself going back to this one.  It was a little too heavy on the “finding the right man fixes all your problems” (and I say this as someone who is happily married), and so it ended up feeling like neither of the women really grew that much – they just switched out their loser boyfriends for nice ones.  It also seemed like it ended kind of abruptly – this is definitely a book that would have benefited from a little epilogue from a few years later talking about how happy everyone is.

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle – 3*

//published 2013//

Yet another book that I really wanted to like more than I did.  While this was a perfectly pleasant sequel focusing on Mary, it was just rather unexciting.  Lydia shows up with a new scandal trailing behind her, but somehow the story just didn’t quite click together.  Many of the characters seemed rather stagnant, and I felt like Henry, in particular, was inconsistent.  I did like Mary and it wasn’t a terrible story, but not one that I particularly see myself returning to.

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse – 4*

//published 1919//

In my quest to read all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, this collection of short stories, many of which feature the Bertie/Jeeves combo, was next on the list.  While Jeeves and Bertie made their debut in another short story collection (The Man With Two Left Feet), it is here that they begin to genuinely become the individual characters that are so beloved.

Overall, this collection was much more up to classical Wodehouse levels.  While the Bertie tales were my favorites, there were some other solid little tales in this collection.  This was the first collection where it felt like Wodehouse genuinely decided that all of this worrying about being serious stuff was really nonsense, and instead just embraced the joy of happy chaos.

Swamp Cat by Jim Kjelgaard – 3.5*

//published 1957//

It had been a while since I picked up a Kjelgaard, and this was another one that I hadn’t read as a youth – so apparently our library didn’t have it!  From the title, I assumed that the story was going to be about a Florida panther or a bobcat or some other type of wild cat – but it was actually about a regular domestic cat!  Of course, Frosty isn’t really a REGULAR cat, as he learns to survive, and thrive, in the wilds.  He of course adopts a young man who lives off the land, and I quite enjoyed the parallel story of Andy and the beginnings of his muskrat farm (right??).  All in all, this was a surprisingly engaging tale.  I read it as a free Kindle book, but I would definitely like to add it to my hard-copy collection if I can find a copy.

June 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!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Second Chance by Joana Starnes – 3*

//published 2014//

In this P&P variation, the characters from that classic also meet up with the characters from Sense and Sensibility.  This was a book that I really wanted to like, but just didn’t.  It was boring, there wasn’t really any kind of villain, Darcy spent way too much time wandering around being morose, and the whole book was just kind of choppy.  It wasn’t horrible, but it definitely wasn’t great.

For those who are interested, there is a more detailed review over on my P&P blog here.

Planting With Perennials by Richard Bird – 3*

//published 2002//

This is a really basic introduction to perennials.  If you literally aren’t even sure what a perennial is, this would be a great place to start.  However, if you’ve worked with them at all, you probably already know most of the information in this book.  There are a lot of photographs and some nice charts.  And since this book doesn’t claim to *be* anything other than an introduction to the topic, I can’t really fault it for being just that.

Ring of Truth by Jaclyn Weist – 3*

//published 2015//

I love a good fake-relationship trope, but I have to admit that this one wasn’t really very good!  While it would have made decent sense for these two people who just met to pretend they were dating, pretending that they were engaged made legit no sense and just created all sorts of unnecessary drama.  I was also confused about why they both acted like they couldn’t make their relationship real…  like… nothing to lose??  You were total strangers a week ago, so even if the other person thinks dating for real is stupid, oh well??  Finally, in the end, they go straight into being really engaged, even though they’ve only known each about three weeks!  What?!

The thing is, despite the fact that this book was thoroughly implausible, I completely enjoyed it!  It was just so innocent and happy.  No sex, no swearing, just purely relaxing and adorable.  I actually really liked the characters a lot, and would have been willing to forgive a lot of the story if they had just started dating in the end (and then an epilogue where they are happily married a year later or something), but leaping straight into being engaged felt ridiculous given the short time frame.

For now, I’m giving the rest of this series a miss, but if I find myself yearning for some quietly innocent romance, I may pick the next one up!

This is Book #2 for #20BooksofSummer!

The Child by Fiona Barton – 3.5*

//published 2017//

I recently read and enjoyed The Widow by the same author, so when I saw she had another book with some overlapping characters, I checked it out from the library.  I picked up this book coming off a bit of a slump wherein I basically was reading nothing but terrible P&P variations, so it took me a little bit to get into it, but once I did, I found it engaging but not electrifying.  While I wanted to find out how things were going to come together, there was never really any sense of urgency.  There were also some reveals that felt just painfully obvious but took forever to get to.  In many ways, it felt like it didn’t really matter if the mystery was ever solved or not.

The reporter from The Widow, Kate, is the main recurring character, and I liked her even better in this book.  And while it was fun to read this story with the background of The Widow in my mind, this could definitely be read as its own book with no trouble.  All in all, a 3.5* read.  It looks like Barton is going to publish a third book early next year, so I’ll probably pick that one up as well.  Hopefully it will have a little more zip.

The Possible by Tara Altebrando – 3*

//published 2017//

This was a book that came in a book box, so it was a totally random read for me.  I kind of like picking up the book box books, because they get me a little out of my comfort zone.  This one was engaging, but the story was a bit scattered at times, and there was some inconsistency with the characters.  (For instance, the lady doing the interviews is presented in the end as though she is a “good guy,” but at one point earlier in the story she had obviously manipulated what people had said to make things more dramatic/imply things that weren’t true… and that’s never addressed, she just goes back to being a good guy…)  The conclusion was decent, and I definitely was kept unsure throughout the story as to whether or not the ability to control things with the mind was a real possibility.  All in all, I didn’t mind reading this book, but it didn’t inspire to find out what else Atlebrando has written.