February Minireviews // Part 3

The final February batch!!!  I also read The Bear and the Nightingale in February (and it honestly was probably my favorite book of the month), but since I read the other two books in the trilogy in March, I’m going to review them all together in a separate post.  So here are the rest of February’s reads!!

Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers – 3.5*

//published 1923//

A group on Litsy is reading some various vintage/Golden Age crime books.  I’ve always meant to pick up Lord Peter Wimsey, so I thought I’d read the first book in this series along with the group.  This one was fun with a good mystery. I got a little tired of the constant dropping of the letter g in the dialogue (“I’m just sayin’ that you must get goin’ if you want to be there on time”) and there were times where there were odd shifts in location in the narrative that felt a little confusing. For instance, at one point Peter and two other people are one place, then in the next scene Peter is at his mother’s house talking with her – when did he go there? Are the two people who were with him earlier now at his mother’s house as well? As the conversation progresses, we find out this information, but the initial shift feels rather jolting, and this happened a few times.

Overall, a decent start to a series, but one with a definite “first book feel” to it. However, I have the second book on my shelf as I definitely intend to give Sir Peter another try.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – 2.5*

//published 2017//

Honestly, this book was just boring. There was a lot of potential here, but I never felt any kind of connection with the characters. Everyone was very cardboardy, especially the two main male characters, Mina’s father/the magician, and the king/Lynet’s father/Mina’s husband. Why was the magician so evil? Just for fun, I guess. We get nothing of his motivations, he’s just this dreadful, mean person lurking about in the background. Ditto for the king – why is he so obsessed the memory of his wife, to the point that he can’t bear to care about Mina? Why wouldn’t he be happy to let Lynet have a mother? Why would he rather pit them against each other? No clue, he just does and says stuff that doesn’t really make sense. There are only three men in this entire story. Two of them are emotionally abusive, creepy, selfish, and completely unlikable. The third one turns out okay, but he was literally created by a woman, so this book definitely has an anti-man taste that is always going to turn me off. Why does “feminist” in a book description always end up meaning “all the male characters suck”?

It’s a sad book, too. I liked the ending, but what a lot of wasted time, with everyone (especially Mina) assuming the worst about everyone else! I was so tired of listening to Mina go on about how no one could love her, even when people explicitly said that they loved her. I get that she was emotionally abused by her father (you know, the one that was a jerk for no reason that was ever explained… I guess because he’s a man?), but at the same time… oh my gosh, can you stop staring at your own navel for like half a second?? Please?? The author wanted so badly for Mina to be both the catalyst and still be a good guy that in the end she just annoyed the heck out of me.

Lynet is also boring and self-absorbed. It also felt a little creepy that she’s been living in a fairly insulated and isolated society, yet we’re supposed to believe that the first person she’s ever met who is around her age is also the perfect person for her to fall in love with. I’m sure that makes more sense than her just having a crush on the first attractive person her age to show up since she’s been a teenager. I think the story would have been a lot stronger with a friendship between these two instead of “love.”

I also found myself wondering throughout the entire book why any not-rich people are still living north of the frost line? It’s been snowing for literally years and years and years. Why would these people not have immigrated south by this time? What are they living on? How do they make any kind of living? What is keeping them here??

In the end, there was a lot of potential here, but none of these characters worked for me. In turn, that made the action feel clunky because none of the characters felt like they were speaking or acting naturally. I wanted to like this one, but mostly found myself bored.

Not the Witch You Wed by April Asher – 3.5*

//published 2022//

This one was gifted to me in a swap box, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  It ended up being pretty funny with some good banter and likable main characters, and I’m always here for a fun fake dating trope.  However, while I do enjoy supernatural romances from time to time, I don’t care for one that also include angels/demons.  I believe angels and demons are real; shifters aren’t.  So stories that make demons out to be good, or even regular/just like people, are always going to be a turn-off for me.  So this was okay as a one-time read, but I won’t be reading the sequel, since it’s literally about one the sisters dating a “half-demon.”

Mystery by Moonlight by Mary C. Jane – 3.5*

//published 1963//

This is another one of those children’s mystery books that I bought at a booksale back in the mists of time.  This was a fun, if somewhat forgettable, little story involving some kids and the neighborhood “haunted” house.  It was pretty cute.  I’ve read and enjoyed several of Jane’s mysteries – while they are somewhat simplistic for adult reading, I know I would have loved them as a kid!

Running Total: Books that I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet: 58!!!  High/Low: 97/58

February Minireviews // Part 2

The Horse-Tamer by Walter Farley – 4*

//published 1958//

While technically a part of The Black Stallion series, this Farley story reads quite well on its own.  In the first chapter, Alec and his horse trainer/friend, Henry, are waiting to take off in an airplane with The Black.  While they are killing time, Henry recounts a time from when he was growing up and went to live with his older brother, Bill – and this reminiscing is the rest of the book.   Originally a carriage-maker, during the course of the story Bill begins to travel around and teach people some of his methods for dealing with recalcitrant horses (during a time period when basically everyone had or worked with horses).  The more adventurous part involves a shyster who is doing the same thing as a big, money-making production, but uses cruel and unsafe methods, so Henry’s brother is determined to expose him for the fraud that he is.

This was one of my favorites growing up, and I still have a bit soft spot for it.  There are some fun stories about the methods Bill uses to break horses of bad habits, and the final scene (with a vicious zebra!!!!!) is still pretty exciting.  It’s geared for younger readers, so you can’t expect too much from it, but it’s a fun and engaging read.

The Time-Traveler’s Guide to Regency Britain by Ian Mortimer – 4*

//published 2022//

The PemberLittens read The Jane Austen Project in January, which was a fictional story about two people traveling back in time to meet/befriend/steal from Jane Austen.  So when we were choosing our nonfiction read for February, this one seemed to be a natural choice!  Apparently Mortimer has done an entire series of these books covering various time periods in Britain, and I may try some more as this one was very readable and engaging.  It was a little difficult for me to get into at first.  Mortimer is writing as though you, the reader, are a time traveler and are using this book to help you navigate through Regency Britain.  Thus, the entire book is written in the second person, with Mortimer telling you things that you shouldn’t miss seeing, or things you are likely to smell, or people you may run into, etc.  Even though you’re taking in a lot of legitimate information, it feels somewhat casual and a little silly at first (to me anyway) because of the informal use of “you” throughout.  But as I got used to it, it did make the book feel friendly and welcoming.

I didn’t 100% agree with all of his conclusions about society, and felt that he did make sure to emphasize all the negatives of religion at the time without any of the positives. In the same chapter, within a few paragraphs, to claim that “all” Christians at the time were satisfied with the status quo because “it’s God’s will for some people to be poor,” and then turn around and immediately start talking about William Wilberforce with barely any acknowledgement that Wilberforce’s entire driving force were his strong Christian beliefs, was genuinely a bit offensive. He does mention that Quakers were the founders of most of the prison and insane asylum reform at the time, but without acknowledging that it was literally their Christian beliefs in the value of all human life that led them to do so. Yet he somehow manages to mention not infrequently the hypocrisy abundant among members of a society who pretty much all attended church, yet lived lives that involved ignoring what we would consider basic human decency. It’s almost as though many people went to church because it was expected, not because their faith was in any way personal or important to them, but that those who did have a strong, personal faith frequently found the motivation to fight to improve the lives of those around them. Hmm.

Despite Mortimer’s religious prejudices, I still found this to be an engaging, informative, interesting read.  It’s friendly and accessible, yet still well-organized and educational.  This book did a great job providing an overview of the era that was the right amount of detailed and has given me loads of background information for many of the books I read and love.

Brave New World by Aldous  Huxley – 3.5*

//published 1932//

This is definitely one of those classics that I have “always” meant to read, so I was rather pleased when it was drawn as my random classic for February.  It’s a hard book for me to review.  As a story, it was definitely lacking.  As a look into human nature – rather more interesting, even if I didn’t agree with the conclusions.  Because I so often see this book paired with 1984, I couldn’t help but compare the two of them as I read them.  This is probably a great place for a reminder that this is just my opinion, not a educational analysis haha  To me, Huxley weirdly comes through as more optimistic than Orwell.  In Huxley’s world, the government is working for the good of the people.  Those who dissent are allowed to go off and live their own quiet lives on various islands and reservations, separate from the more “forward thinking” population.  The government does everything it can to keep everyone happy and contented, but there doesn’t really seem much of a motivation for them to do so, because they don’t really seem to need the “upper class” of people to do much – because they’ve developed ways to create “lower classes” who have been manipulated to want to do what they are needed to do (generally all the jobs no one really wants in real life), it seemed a little odd to me that the government would keep around this “superior” class at all, much less go through so much effort to keep them content.  Orwell’s future, where people are controlled by fear, mind games, and the complete lack of privacy/freedom, makes much more sense to me.  Part of that is my perspective of human nature: I don’t believe people are inherently good; I believe we are programmed to care for ourselves and our intimate family group/tribe/whatever you want to call them first, which is why systems like communism sound good but never work in the real world.  People in power always want more power, so to me Orwell’s version, with the Party doing whatever it took, up to and including elimination of anyone who dissents, seems much more realistic than Huxley’s government that is working, in its own twisted way, to continue to serve the people.

That said, Huxley’s version is still a very interesting conversation about human nature.  I didn’t agree with a lot of the conclusions, but there was plenty to think about.  I’m quite disappointed in myself because I really thought I took some notes on this when I read it, but I can’t find them so… all you’re getting are my three-months-later vague memories haha  In the end, I found this a worthwhile read, but not necessarily one I would revisit, and while 1984 felt like an ominous warning, Huxley’s future felt more like a strange, unlikely mind game.

Running Total: Books that I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet: 66!!!  High/Low: 97/59

February Minireviews // Part 1

Oof, I was doing so well and then, as always, fell off the bandwagon!!  Things got really crazy around here as we decided to jump into the exciting project of putting down vinyl plank flooring all over pretty much our whole house!! Ourselves!!  So yeah, that was lively, but we are DONE and it looks FABULOUS! But it took two full weekends and some evenings and here we are haha

And, more importantly, here are some FEBRUARY reviews!!

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik – 4*

//published 2006//

I liked the second book in this series better than the first, mainly because Laurence isn’t as much of a prig.  Still, the story is rather dense, with a lot of characters to track.  I had to print off a character list – it really annoys me when authors have huge, complicated worlds with a zillion characters but don’t  bother giving any kind of information.  This series desperately needs a glossary, a drawing of how the dragon battle harnesses work, explanations about the different kinds of dragons, and character lists.  I think the main reason it annoys me is that I know the author has to have these things in order to write the story, so why not share so the rest of us can get our heads around what you’re writing???  A solid story, and I am planning to continue the series, but I do keep kind of putting off book three, so that may be an indication of how much I am really enjoying these haha

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart – 4*

//published 2016//

I really love The Secret Benedict Society books, and this story (by the same author) has a similar vibe.  Reuben and his mother are on their own, and struggling financially.  Reuben’s mother has to work two jobs, which means Reuben spends a lot of time on his own, exploring the city even though he’s supposed to stick to approved areas.  One day, he discovers a mysterious device.  While trying to find out what it is and how it works, he gets drawn into a complicated plot as it becomes apparent that he isn’t the only person who wants this item.  There were times that this story dragged a little, or that Reuben made such a cloth-headed decision that I wanted to bop him on the head, but overall this was a fun middle grade read with a likable protagonist and plenty of excitement to keep the pages turning.  And nothing like a villain who can go invisible to keep things scary!

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – 4*

//published 1935//

I thoroughly enjoyed my reread of this one.  As a kid, I remember thinking it was exciting and full of adventures.  As an adult, I was absolutely terrified by everything they went through!  And sometimes frustrated with the parents who made some decisions that I found a little questionable, all things considered.  It was very interesting to read this with the Litsy group, as a few of our fellow readers were so inclined to take offense at everything that I was a smidge confused as to why they were reading this book to begin with.  While yes, Ma especially had a strong prejudice against the Native Americans in the region (and I realize that they were illegally homesteading in Indian Territory), I was honestly amazed at how callous some of the modern readers were about the very real dangers and fears the family faced.  In particular, there is one chapter where Pa has had to ride to the nearest town, a multi-day journey, leaving Ma and three small girls all alone in their cabin.  Two Native American men come into the house, force Ma to cook them dinner, stead multiple things from the home, and leave.  Several of our readers had the audacity to think Ma had overreacted by being absolutely terrified by this event!  Setting aside race, in what world is it not absolutely horrifying to imagine two strange men, who don’t even speak the same language as you, coming into your home where it is just you and your three small daughters and no way of protecting yourself??  Personally, I think there is simply a great deal to discuss and learn from in this story, as from other historical pieces.  The Ingalls’s story is only one side of the story, yes, but it IS a side and still worth understanding, as is the perspective of the native people whose land was being stolen at the time.  Both are valid and both are a real part of our history.  All I know is that I would have spent all of my time perpetually petrified by all the dangers to be faced!

Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts – 4*

//published 2018//

Wow, this was kind of a tough one.  It’s a great story and I really grew attached to the characters.  However, the material is tough to get through – the story starts with a terrifying killing spree, with three teens shooting up a busy shopping mall.  This part of the story is handled well – it didn’t feel unnecessarily gruesome, but it did capture the absolute horror and helplessness of the victims.  The story then jumps forward in time, focusing on the lives of two of the people who lived through the event – one young man who went into law enforcement because of his experience that night, and a young woman who was one of the first people to call 911 during the shooting.  The biggest reason that I don’t see myself rereading this one is because the whole point is that the mastermind behind the shooting wasn’t actually there that night – and now is going on to kill people who survived that night who “should” have died.  The shooting itself was pretty horrific, but then to watch people who survived and changed their lives after living through it still get senselessly murdered – that was just so hard to read.  It made for a great, suspenseful story, but parts of it were just so incredibly sad.  In some ways, this was one of my favorite of her books that I’ve read, just because it was written so well, with the sensitive material handled deftly, but I doubt it’s one that I’ll revisit.

The Provincial Lady in London by E.M. Delafield – 3.5*

//published 1933//

In completely contrast to Shelter in Place are the lighthearted adventures of the Provincial Lady.  In this, the second volume, the PL has come into some money from selling her first book (Diary of a Provincial Lady) and is convinced by her friends that she should rent a small flat in London where she can escape from the daily cares of life and focus on writing her second book – except every time she goes to London, she seems to get more distracted than ever!  I read the first volume of this series with the Traveling Book Club, and because the same group of us decided to read together again for another round, we chose this second volume as one of our books.  However, this one fell just a little flat – some of the situations felt a little forced, and it’s obviously that the PL has learned nothing when it comes to things like living with her budget, appreciating her life, and not trying to impress others by exaggerating her accomplishments!  I did enjoy parts of this – there were some very fun little shenanigans and whatnot, but it lacked some of the sparkle that the first volume had, and the little undertone of bitterness and discontent that would flash from time to time in the first book felt even more prevalent here.  I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the third volume – although in it the PL does come to America! – and even though I’m reading with this same group of ladies for another round of Traveling Book Club, we decided not to continue the PL’s adventures together.

January Minireviews // Part 4

Final batch for January!!

Twelve Percent Dread by Emily McGovern – 2*

//published 2022//

This graphic novel started strong, with an fun story and likable characters, but the story went literally nowhere.  There is a bunch of build-up and then it just… ends.  No resolution.  Every single character is left hanging.  It was incredibly frustrating.  I also struggled with this one because the writing is SO tiny and hard to read, and because many of panels are so small, it could sometime be difficult (especially at first) to tell characters apart.  And also, I’m sorry but this is just the way it is, having someone’s pronouns be they/them can make it SO hard to follow a narrative when you can’t tell if the narrator is referring to one person or several.  I really like McGovern’s artwork, and many of her short-form comics (especially the Background Slytherin comics), but this book just really fell short of the mark.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – 3.5*

//published 1818//

I had never read this classic before and was honestly quite intrigued to pick it up, considering that it is such a foundational piece of literature.  However, it wasn’t really for me.  The narrative structure can definitely be confusing (it’s someone writing a letter telling a story, and then he starts quoting someone else telling a story, who frequently quotes someone else telling a story… I mean, seriously), and while I understood why Shelley wrote it that way, it was sometimes difficult to remember who was telling who what.  Frankenstein himself drove me a little crazy and frequently did and said things that made no sense to me.  I was especially aggravated with (1) the fact that he creates the monster and then literally runs away immediately without a moment’s hesitation – seriously???  and (2) how long it takes him to actually take up arms against the monster, like literal months trailing this thing around and not actually figuring out a battle plan against it.  I also found the monster to be a bit unbelievable – I could buy him teaching himself to speak and read, but to be able to eloquently quote from ancient classics, and to formulate the kinds of arguments he did?  Well.

As a story warning about the dangers of dabbling in things we really don’t understand, and claiming that “science” justifies things like creating the atom bomb or seeing what kind of horrific diseases we can create in a lab, this reads great. As gothic horror, it reads okay.  It was definitely worth the one-time read, and I think it deserves its status as a classic, but it isn’t one I see myself rereading.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – 2*

//published 1970//

My husband was given this book to read at an influential age, and would mention it from time to time as the first time he ever considered the concept of transcendence, so I got him his own copy for his birthday.  It’s the story of a seagull who isn’t content to just hang out on the beach and eat stuff like the rest of the flock – he wants to pursue the true magic of flight, beyond just the necessities.  Of course, this kind of attitude can’t be tolerated (for some unknown reason) so he is cast out from the rest of the flock.  Over time, Jonathan Livingston Seagull uses his extreme flight speeds to achieve another level of existence, which he teaches to the other young, rebellious seagulls as well, as they all pursue their flying nirvana, much to the horror of those boring, traditional seagulls who just want to do regular seagull stuff.

My husband enjoyed the nostalgia trip, although he wasn’t quite as enamored with the story as he was when he was 13.  That said, he did write, “Seagull is to flying as I am to _____” on our chalkboard as he contemplated what it is in his life that makes him fly haha  However, I’m not as “heady” as my husband, so I honestly just found the entire parable to be quite aggravating.  What’s the big problem with wanting to just hang out on the beach and eat breakfast?  Why does everyone have to suffer and struggle to try and transcend to the next level?  At the end of the day, it wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t a match for me.  I like doughnuts and sitting in the sunshine too much to spend my days trying to transcend!

Ben and Me by Robert Lawson – 4*

//published 1939//

Lawson wrote a few of these books, taking historical figures, putting some kind of animal in their life, and then telling the person’s story from the perspective of the animal.  This is the most well-known of them, with the life of Ben Franklin told from the perspective of his friend and companion, Amos the mouse.  Amos helps Ben make most of his discoveries and inventions, and helps him become a renown diplomat as well.  Amos lives in Ben’s hat, where it’s convenient for him to take notes and give Ben advice on the fly.  My favorite part was how many other famous people from the time had their own secret mouse-companions helping them along.  This one is fun and silly with fabulous illustrations by the author.  An all-around good time.

The Roundhill by Dick King-Smith – 3*

//published 1999//

King-Smith was incredibly prolife, writing, I don’t know, probably close to a hundred children’s books over his lifetime.  (I mean seriously, look at his list of published works on Wiki!)  I pick up his books whenever I come across them on the cheap, and have quite a few of them sitting unread on my shelves, despite most of them only being around 75-100 pages long.  With such a large body of work, some are definitely stronger than others (he’s best known for The Sheep-Pig, which is what the movie Babe the Gallant Pig is based from; I personally have a soft spot for the first of his books I ever read, The Fox Busters.)  All that to say, while this story was okay, it wasn’t one of his best (in my opinion).

Evan is a rather lonely boy who has a love for his special, secret place, which he calls The Roundhill. One day, he finds a girl there, who tells him her name is Alice.  At first annoyed that someone else has invaded his space, over the next few meetings Evan finds himself drawn to her.  However, she is also rather mysterious – to the point that Evan begins to wonder if she is even real.  This book is weirdly sad and doesn’t exactly go anywhere.  I never could particularly like Evan, who is rather mean to his visiting cousin at one point, and whom I just never quite connected to.  At the end of the book he is an elderly adult reflecting on his life, and I felt quite sad for him as he said he wished he could believe in God but just couldn’t.  All in all, there is a sad undertone to the story that kept me from really enjoying it.  At only 84 pages long it didn’t take me long to read, but I doubt I’ll pick this one up again.

Mr. Mulliner Speaking by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5*

//published 1929//

Like Meet Mr. Mulliner, this collection of short stories are all told by Mr. Mulliner from his usual spot in the Angler’s Rest.  With so many relatives inclined to get entangled in all sorts of adventures, Mr. Mulliner has a tale for every occasion.  These stories are fun and silly, and delightful Wodehouse fare.

Salute by C.W. Anderson – 4*

//published 1940//

Anderson’s Billy and Blaze books were some of my first introductions into the joys of horse stories, and I still snatch up any book written and/or illustrated by him that I can find.  He wrote several books for younger readers that are short chapter books (so a step up from the Billy and Blaze picture books, difficulty-wise), and Salute is one of those.  At only 64 pages, many of which are illustrated, it’s not a very in-depth book, but is still a fun story about a boy who is given a retired racehorse.  The odd part about this story is that Salute himself doesn’t show up until the very end of the story – it’s more about this first horse that the boy owns, helps restore to health, and then retrains to race.  Still, a nice little story that definitely added to my conviction as a child that someone would just show up and give me a horse someday!  LOL

Running Total: Books that I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet: 59!!!  High/Low: 97/59

January Minireviews // Part 3

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn – 3*

//published 2017//

Add this to the large pile of books that I wanted to like more than I did.  In this one, set in the near future, time travel exists, but is used very sparingly and for very specific purposes.  Recently, a previously unheard-of letter from Jane Austen has been discovered, and it references a hitherto unheard of, unpublished novel.  Rachel and Liam are chosen to go back to 1815, befriend Jane, and then steal this novel by using fancy technology to copy it onto a flash drive-like thing.  Their cover story is to pose as a brother and sister moving to London from Jamaica to hopefully cover the fact that they don’t know anyone and maybe sometimes get a little bit of the “politeness rules” wrong.  Rachel is a doctor, and the secondary aspect of the mission is to try and find out what killed Jane at such a relatively young age.

I actually really liked the concept of this book and overall even though it was executed fairly well.  However, I found Rachel and Liam both to be extremely unlikable.  The entire story is narrated by Rachel, and they haven’t been in 1815 for very long before we start hearing about how she finds Liam strangely attractive and really wishes she could sleep with him, yadda yadda yadda.  She also acts like it’s SO horrid that she has to go SO LONG without having any sex (months!), what a burden .  She has a lot of opinions about how strong and independent she is, which means she sleeps with lots of different guys with no strings attached.  (Side note: really tired of that being the definition of “strong and independent woman”.)  Eventually, despite the fact that it wildly endangers their entire mission, she and Liam DO sleep together, and then I have to hear about THAT.  On top of all of this, Liam is actually engaged to someone back home!  But both of them think this is relatively unimportant, and in fact have an entire conversation about how it’s fine to cheat on someone because that person doesn’t “own” you.  I’m sorry, what?!?!  Rachel especially uses words like “own,” “possession,” and “control” to describe monogamous relationships, which was both creepy and insulting.  I get that Rachel and Liam aren’t actually from 1815, but it was still very jarring to have so much of the story revolve around Rachel’s sex life, all mixed up with the two of them getting to know the Austen family.  Of course, in a weird way I needed to have Rachel keep telling me how attractive she found Liam, because there was absolutely ZERO chemistry between these two, so their entire relationship felt completely forced anyway.  In the end (spoiler) Rachel and Liam do end up together, which left me pretty underwhelmed.  They both are terrible people who think cheating is fine, so I didn’t hold out a great deal of optimism for the long-term success of their relationship, and was genuinely disgusted by their completely callous attitude towards Liam’s fiancee.

Other than completely disliking the main characters, I weirdly liked the story.  The concept really was a lot of fun.  The ending was a little rushed and thus not particularly believable, but it did mostly tie things up.  The 3* is a bit of a generous rating because I did keep reading even with some unlikable characters, and I feel like the book deserves some credit for that!

Skeleton Man by Tony Hillerman – 4*

//published 2004//

Another fantastic installment for the Leaphorn & Chee series.  Excellent pacing and an engaging mystery.  The characters in this series are just so dang likable, and per usual, Hillerman weaves a great deal of culture and tradition into the reading in a natural way.

Indian Island Mystery by Mary C. Jane – 3.5*

//published 1965//

Did you know that there is an Indian Reservation in Maine??  I had no idea!  The story is about two siblings who haven’t been living in the area very long and who have befriended some of the Native American children living on the reservation. The story touches lightly on being friends even if someone doesn’t look or live like you, and the main character concludes by realizing that everyone is different from everyone, and that’s part of what makes life so interesting. The mystery itself is simple but fun, and I was a bit mind-blown that their parents just let these two kids take the bus to Bangor and back on their own to see if they could find a man that none of them actually know very well…!!! This one isn’t going to be some kind of forever classic, but it’s a typical fun little MG mystery from the era and I quite enjoyed it.

The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman – 3.5*

//published 2006//

This was one of the weaker installments in this series, and sadly is also the last of these books that Hillerman wrote before he passed away and his daughter took over the series.  (I haven’t read any of her books yet, so I’m interested to see if there is a noticeable change in the writing style.)  My biggest confusion was continuity – Leaphorn has been retired for several books, yet suddenly here it’s only been a month or so.  Other changes in the characters’ lives indicate that we haven’t gone back in time, so I was genuinely perplexed.  The mystery was rather weak, and where in most books the conversations about culture and religion feel natural and engaging, here it just felt like filler, especially an overly-long section where Leaphorn and another character are driving and talk for probably a full chapter about different religions and beliefs they have in common.  It wasn’t a bad book, and I still overall enjoyed it, but definitely was not one of the stronger books in this overall fantastic series.

Frederica by Georgette Heyer – 5*

//published 1965//

It’s hard to go wrong with Heyer, and Frederica is one of my favorites.  I was happy to revisit it for the traveling book club.  The typical Heyer hero, the Marquis of Alverstoke is handsome, rich, and a bit bored.  He’s also determined not to marry, despite the pressure from all his female relatives.  Enter some distant country cousins in need of his help, which he fully intends to NOT give… only to find himself embroiled in their lives against his will.  I absolutely love this book because Alverstoke doesn’t just find love, he finds an entire warm, happy family, which is exactly what he needs.  Frederica’s siblings are just the right amount of adventurous without being too obnoxious, and Frederica herself is the typical Heyer heroine – independent, intelligent, and has a strong sense of humor.  This is one of my all-time favorite Heyer books, and always worth a reread.

Murder at the Piccadilly Playhouse by C.J. Archer – 4*

//published 2021//

The second Cleopatra Fox mystery felt like the series is beginning to find its stride.  Archer finds a (mostly) natural way for Cleo to get embroiled in another mystery, and it was fun to see some developments with the secondary characters as well.  While this series hasn’t blown me away, they are enjoyable historical mysteries.

Running Total: Books that I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet: 66!!!  High/Low: 97/66 – Making progress!!!

January Minireviews // Part 1

Well, well, well, would you look at that!  Reviews from THIS YEAR!  Progress!!!

Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca – 3.5*

//published 2022//

This series started with Well Met, in which the main character gets sucked into helping with the local Renaissance Festival.  I’ve enjoyed the other books in the series (although not as much as the first book if I’m honest) and appreciate the creative ways DeLuca finds to keep us on the RenFaire circuit.  If you’ve enjoyed the earlier books in the series, you’ll probably like this one as well, as it has a lot of the same ingredients.  I really liked these characters together.  However, I do always find DeLuca’s books to be quite sexist against men, and this one was true to form, with Lulu constantly going off on mental rants about how all men are inherently jerks.  It also really annoys me how frequently her female characters complain about men objectifying women, while also constantly going on about how hot men in kilts are.  Almost sounds… hypocritical?? My final eye roll for this book was the fact that DeLuca dedicated the book to herself for being so amazing.  I just.  So tasteless.  So all in all a fine, middle-of-the-road read, but filled with those annoying little nags that so often mix into romcoms these days.

The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda – 3.5*

//published 2020//

This one is a slow burn yet has weirdly addictive writing. As a child, Olivia was swept into her town’s drainage system while sleepwalking, yet managed to survive three days and was rescued, becoming a national story in the process. Years of being harassed and judged (she and her mother received a lot of money as a result of the rescue) has led her to change her name and try to escape the pressure of the past. But as the 20th anniversary approaches, Olivia is finding it harder to maintain her anonymity – especially when someone from her past appears in her front yard… murdered.

The whole sleepwalking thing was kind of creepy; it’s so scary to think that you can just get up and wander around doing things and not know it. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to wake up someplace different from where you went to sleep! This added just the right amount of unreliability to Olivia’s account. The reason that it stayed a soft pick for me is that while the ending was mostly satisfying, I felt like a lot of the secondary characters were just kind of left hanging. I wanted more resolution with some of the other people I had come to know throughout the story. Still, a solid read, and I can see myself reading another of Miranda’s books if it comes my way.

Wallace the Brave by Will Henry – 5*

//published 2017//

I’ve followed this account on Instagram for quite some time, so I used some Christmas money to purchase the four books Henry has published so far.  Set in a small coastal town in Rhode Island, it focuses on the adventures of young Wallace, his parents, his half-feral younger brother, and Wallace’s group of friends, especially his BFF Spud.  I genuinely love the warm, happy characters, especially Wallace’s parents, who are perfect.  The artwork is so fun.  My only complaint is that there aren’t a lot of longer storylines – most of the comics are self-contained, which is fine, but sometimes it’s fun to have a multi-comic story arc.  Still, these are just so delightful and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey – 4*

//published 2021//

As the star rating reflects, I did enjoy this book a great deal.  The characters are warm and funny, and I’m a sucker for the way Winfrey sets her stories in Ohio and fills them with people who actually enjoy living here.  I did have some nitpicking annoyances with this one, the biggest one just being that I’m over the message that EVERYONE has a THING that is their PASSION and if you want to be TRULY HAPPY you just have to FIND THE THING!!!  I just don’t think everyone has a THING and I also think it’s perfectly possible to be content, happy, and fulfilled without finding that THING.  The weird part was that this aspect of the story was left weirdly unresolved, as it never actually did feel like Teddy found her thing, so that seemed strange.  There were also some inconsistencies with Everett’s character that I struggled to get past.  All in all, not my favorite read of Winfrey’s, but still a fun and fluffy read, definitely above the average when it comes to contemporary romance.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren – 4*

//published 2020//

I’ve had this one on my shelf for a couple of years and finally got around to it.  It was a really fun romcom, although the fake relationship led to multiple situations where I got serious secondhand stress from the lies!!  I loved the banter between the two main characters and did overall ship them together.  However, Olive herself got on my nerves a lot, especially her tendency to hold a grudge.  There is a point in the story where Ethan sides with his brother instead of Olive.  Later, he apologizes to her about it, and that’s the point where Olive should have been willing to admit that she would have done the same thing for her sister if the situation had been reversed, but instead she acts super snotty about it.  Part of being in a relationship is not just admitting when you’re wrong, but being graceful towards your partner when they admit that they were wrong, and Olive has a LOT of work to do in that department.  This book would have really benefited from giving us Ethan’s perspective – Olive was just a little too abrasive for me to fully enjoy being 100% in her head the entire time.  A fun read, but not necessarily one I’ll pick up again.

December Minireviews // Part 2

More Christmas fun!!

A Cross-Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh – 2*

//published 2021//

Okay, maybe “fun” isn’t exactly the way I would describe this one LOL  Keep in mind that this book has an over 4* rating on GR, so apparently I am way in the minority on it.  I kept reading this one thinking it was going to get better, but then something would happen and the main character would act like a bratty child AGAIN and tick me off.  Basically, Lauren needs to get home for Christmas (California to… Illinois, I think?), and through a series events manages to hitch a ride with her brother’s best friend, Will, whom she hasn’t seen in years.  The problem is, Lauren is a spoiled, whiny, bratty bitch for the ENTIRE book.  Will is unfailingly polite, kind, patient, and friendly.  Meanwhile, Lauren starts the entire trip by getting in the car and telling Will she’s planned out their route for maximum efficiency, and then gets pissy when Will says he has a different plan.  Hello???  HE is doing YOU a favor; you don’t get to act all indignant that he isn’t following the route you want?? I should have bailed RIGHT THEN because that set the tone for the ENTIRE book, with Lauren making genuinely unreasonable demands and then acting like a brat if it didn’t go her way.  At one point, they are starting to get along better and they stop at a hotel and the hotel is having a fancy party and they decide to go.  When Lauren comes down to the bar to meet Will, he’s talking with a random (attractive) woman.  Does Lauren go up to them and say, “hey, what’s up?”  Does she even sneak a little closer to eavesdrop and see if they’re flirting?  No, no she does not.  She just assumes that Will is “being a player” (he and Lauren aren’t even dating!!!), storms back upstairs, refuses to talk to Will, and gives him the cold shoulder for who knows how long – literally for NO REASON because Will did NOTHING WRONG and Will has NO IDEA why she’s upset because she won’t USE HER WORDS.  Will:  RUN AWAY THIS CHICK SUCKS!!!

Big spoiler here, though, for the main reason I couldn’t rate this book above 2* – this didn’t come out until almost the end of the book – if I had known it from the beginning I really probably would have DNFd it – the whole reason Lauren is mad at Will is because TEN YEARS AGO when they were both around 20 they are at a party and Will gets completely trashed.  Lauren is 100% sober.  She drives him home.  Will is super flirty.  Lauren helps him upstairs and Will kisses her.  Lauren then uses this as an opportunity to make out with him, despite the fact that, remember, Will is TOTALLY drunk.  The whole time she thinks things like “this is my fantasy come true” because she’s had a crush on him for so long.  The next day, Will doesn’t remember it, and THAT is why Lauren is mad!  Ten years later!  And when she finally tells Will about this, HE apologizes!  My mind was blown trying to imagine this scenario with the genders reversed.  Imagine if Will had a big secret crush on Lauren, waits until she’s totally drunk and he’s totally sober, drives her home, and then makes out with her because it’s been his “fantasy” for so long.  That’s totally gross and creepy, and it’s totally gross and creepy that Lauren did it to Will, especially since she makes HIM feel bad about it!  UGH.

Heartsprings Valley Winter Tales (series) by Anne Chase – 3.5*

  • Christmas to the Rescue (published 2016)
  • A Very Cookie Christmas (published 2017)
  • Sweet Apple Christmas (published 2018)
  • I Dream of Christmas (published 2018)
  • Chock Full of Christmas (published 2019)

All five of these books were on Kindle Unlimited.  They’re very similar in nature, low-angst with amazing amounts of insta-love. My review for the first book was as follows:  Becca, widowed three years, has moved to a new town for a fresh start. She ends up adopting a dog, getting lost in a snowstorm, getting rescued by the local hunky veterinarian, and helping him deliver a baby llama. Absurd? Absolutely. Good, clean, Christmasy fun? Also absolutely.

That’s pretty much the whole series LOL  They all center around a small New England town (naturally), with some overlapping characters.  I’m really a sucker for series like that.  These were clean and happy, and the drama felt fairly reasonable.  I liked some more than others (I Dream of Christmas was probably my least favorite of the batch), but they all ended up in the middle ground.

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith – 5*

//published 1956//

I read this book almost every Christmas, since the majority of the story takes place in the few days leading up to that holiday.  This is such a comfort read for me, and one of my all-time favorites.  Every time I review it, I always like to say that the illustrations by Janet and Anne Grahame-Johnstone are half the delight, and no one should ever read an edition without them.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – 5*

//published 1932//

The Little House books have been on my reread radar for quite some time, but I never seem to get to them.  I haven’t read this series since probably junior high.  So when someone on Litsy decided to do a chapter-a-day readalong through the series, I was quite excited to jump in.  She’s done an absolutely great job leading discussions on these books (we’re about halfway through By the Shores of Silver Lake right now) and I am really enjoying revisiting these.  Big Woods is just a delightful book.  There isn’t much of a plot; it’s mostly little vignettes of Laura’s life.  It’s just insane how much work it was just to stay alive.  The writing is simple to engage younger readers, and while some of it can be scary, everything comes out right in the end.  These are big nostalgia reads for me as well, and rereading this series has just been wonderful.

The Summer Garden by Sherryl Woods – 2*

//published 2012//

I really wanted to like this one because I really like Luke, but Moira was just so unreasonable.  She and Luke have only been dating for a couple of months, but she spends the entire book being a brat because Luke doesn’t want to get married right away.  Look, I got married when my husband and I had only known each other for three months, and it’s worked great, but that’s not for everyone and I didn’t feel like Luke’s attitude was out of line.  He’s totally committed to Moira and on the track for marriage, but he’s also starting his own business and trying to get it off the ground, and specifically says that he wants to wait and get married when he feels like things are more stable.  If that had gone on for like, years, I would understand Moira’s impatience, but for the amount of time that had already passed, she just felt really absurd.  The rest of Luke’s family took Moira’s side and acted like Luke was a moron for not getting married, like, yesterday, and it just really aggravated me because from my perspective he was trying to be a responsible adult and instead he spent the entire book having to defend himself.  To top it off, Moira has a real talent for photography, so now everyone wants her to be a professional photographer/artist and go around and do art shows with her photography etc etc.  Which is fine, except she also kept getting told that she basically “had” to do this so that would have a “fulfilling career” when Moira herself said that she really wanted to get married and start a family and didn’t want to have a career that would interfere with that.  I felt like Moira’s desires were actually reasonable and was uncomfortable with the way that she was getting completely railroaded into this photography career that she didn’t want because all women have to “do something” as though raising children isn’t enough of a “something” on its own.

All in all my least favorite book of the series.  One might ask, Sarah, why do you keep reading this series when all you do is complain about the books?  The answer is, because I bought the next-to-last-book at a booksale and didn’t know it, and now I have to read until I get to that one in order to completely this quest.  I just can’t help it!

Running Total: Books that I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet!! 88!!!  High/Low: 97/88

October Minireviews // Part 4

Last batch for October!! Still less than six months behind LOL

A Horse Called Mystery by Majorie Reynolds – 4*

//published 1964//

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*

//published 2022//

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*

//published 2017//

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*

//published 1960//

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*

//published 2013//

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*

//published 1989//

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.

October Minireviews // Part 2

More reviews from the depths of time!!

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy – 3.5*

//published 2019//

This is one of those books I kept seeing everywhere and finally read.  It’s a picture book, mostly, and should have felt trite and Hallmarky, but instead somehow came through as just gentle conversations about life, love, personal value, etc. without being too preachy.  There isn’t any kind of story or anything like that, just little snippets.  It was pleasant as a thoughtful one-time read, but wasn’t a book I felt like I needed to cherish.  Definitely struck me as the kind of book people buy to give as a gift to other people, and I don’t exactly mean that as an insult haha

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn – 3.5*

//published 2022//

This book had a super fun premise and a lot of funny moments, but it was one I wanted to like more than I actually did.  The characters were virtually indistinguishable from one another, and the anti-man sentiment was dished out pretty heavily.  Apparently men just lounge around and collect paychecks while women have to WORK.  Also, EVERY woman is just weighed down by guilt about everything because MEN make them feel horrible no matter what choices they make about life.  Sorry, but if you choose to feel guilty, that’s on you.  But whatever.  The story itself was a lot of fun, and I would definitely pick up a sequel if one came out, but it was a little too preachy for me to really wholeheartedly enjoy it.

Meet Mr. Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5*

//published 1927//

It’s no secret that I love Wodehouse, and this short story collection was a great deal of fun.  If you happen to drop in at the Angler’s Rest for a drink, you’ll probably run into Mr. Mulliner, who has an unending well of stories about various relatives of his – something for every occasion!  Some of these were quite silly, as Wodehouse can be, but all of them were quite funny.  Not my favorite collection, but a great deal of fun.

Lady Thief by Kay Hooper – 4*

//published 1981//

I picked this one up at a library discard sale somewhere along the line, because the synopsis sounded interesting.  I actually didn’t realize at the time that it was a Regency romance rather than a modern one.  The author has an absolutely adorable note in this reprint of her first novel, pretty much asking readers to be nice to her because she didn’t know what she was doing when she wrote this one LOL  As expected, then, this one is a bit melodramatic and predictable, but still it was somehow very likable.  There is a second short story included that I also really liked.  All in all, while this wasn’t an amazing tale, it did make me think that I should check out some of Hooper’s later writing.

A Fine and Pleasant Misery by Patrick McManus – 5*

//published 1978//

McManus has always been a part of my life.  He’s on the most-quoted authors in our household; it’s astounding how relatable his articles are.  However, it’s been a long time since I read through his books, so I thought I would start through them again.  For those who don’t know, McManus wrote articles for magazines like Outdoor Life about hunting, fishing, hiking, and growing up in the backcountry of Idaho.  His books are collections of those articles, so while there are plenty of repeat characters and settings, there isn’t really any kind of cohesive plot throughout the book.  As with all short story collections, some are stronger than others.  I personally love his childhood tales the best, but it’s rare that one doesn’t at least make me snicker.  McManus has a great knack for stringing the reader along – you know at some point he’s gone from fact to fiction, but you’re not exactly sure when that shift happened.  If you’re not much into the outdoors or hunting, his writing may not be for you – but personally I think there is a lot of universal wisdom to be found in his writing.

October Minireviews // Part 1

October was busy, but not as insane as August and September, so I did get some more reading in!

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik – 3.5*

//published 2006//

This series has been on my TBR ever since I heard of it.  Alternate Universe set during the Napoleonic Wars except with DRAGONS??  Count me in!  While I liked this one, I didn’t love it.  The pacing is slow and the main character really got on my nerves as he was so unnecessarily formal and obnoxious, getting all pissy about people not, whatever, shaking his hand right or other equally stupid things.  He was just such a snob and spent most of the book being annoyed because people would say things “wrong” or in a tone of voice he didn’t like.  Like, get over yourself, dude.  But he gradually loosened up and I liked him better when he did.

My biggest issue with this book, though, was the lack of information about dragons.  Considering how important they are to the story, wouldn’t it have been nice to include more information about them?  Their size, how the crews work, why certain dragons are used certain ways?  It was really hard to get my head around the dragon having an entire crew because we aren’t really told how big they are… I guess big enough that several people can clamber about all over them??  There is a brief, unsatisfying appendix in the form of an excerpt from a “dragon history book” that is more or less useless.

However, on the whole I loved the concept and liked most of the characters, so I’ve continued to work my way through the series, albeit slowly.

Mystery of the Jittery Dog-Walker by Robin Gottlieb – 3*

//published 1966//

I picked up this book at a library discard sale in 1997 and while I have to imagine I read it at some point, I couldn’t remember anything about it.  It was a perfectly fine little MG read, but the entire plot hinged on an adult character not “confessing” about something that had happened, and in the end his reasoning made literally no sense to me.  So, after 20-odd years, this one headed off to a new home.

Engaging Mr. Darcy by Rachel Johns – 4*

//published 2018//

I read this one a couple of years ago.  It’s a modern adaptation that doesn’t get too crazy.  I really liked the characters, and felt like the scenarios were adapted well.  However, it’s a really short book, so I found myself really wanting more from the story.  I mostly reread it because the author wrote an series of Austen adaptations and I wanted a reread fresh in case there were overlapping characters to her other books.  Sadly, there were not.  Still, a fun little read.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – 3.5*

//published 1876//

Continuing to make my way through some classics, I think I read Tom Sawyer as a youth, but didn’t have any clear memories.  It’s also possible that I had never read it, but just saw the Wishbone episode.  All in all, an enjoyable and entertaining read, but not one that blew me away.  I did like the irrepressible Tom, who can be mischievous but is still goodhearted at the core.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – 4*

//published 1847//

I had extremely low expectations going into this one, as I have vague memories of trying to read it in high school and not getting anywhere.  This time I read it with the delightful PemberLittens group on Litsy, and while I don’t see myself rereading it, I did enjoy it more than I anticipated.  I was concerned that it was just going to be one big long misery-fest, especially with the way the story opens, but the action did pick up when Jane left for school.  I really admired Jane as a person – her strong commitment to her morals, her independence, and her determination to do what was right no matter the cost.  There was one line in particularly that I felt summed her up and that I found so thoughtful – “Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour … If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?“  That’s genuinely fantastic writing.

Jane’s biggest weak spot was her love for Rochester – that guy was a jerk, and I never could get behind the “love” story part.  Ditto with St. John – I didn’t despise him the way many of my fellow readers did, but he was definitely so single-minded that he couldn’t see anyone else’s perspective.  Not exactly endearing.

All in all, I was kind of expecting to hate this one, but actually found myself completely drawn into the story.  I doubt I’ll reread it, because who wants to revisit dumb Rochester, but I definitely ended up respecting and liking Jane herself far more than I imagined I would.