February Minireviews – Part 4

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – 4*

//published 2005//

I’ve had the Percy Jackson series on my radar for literal years and finally picked up the first book in the series in February.  While this one didn’t become an instant classic for me, I could definitely see why it has appealed to so many people.  I found it it to be entertaining and enjoyable, even if it didn’t blow me away.  I loved the concept of moving the ancient Greek/Roman gods to modern-day America and found Percy to be a likable hero.  This book was definitely more about action than it was world-building, but it’s a middle grade read so I wasn’t really anticipating a lot of lengthy explanations, and it’s a book that is more enjoyable if you don’t scrutinize it too closely.  I saw a lot of reviews just absolutely slamming this book for being a Harry Potter knockoff, but that’s apparently because a lot of people think that Rowling invented things like the Chosen One trope, or the concept of having two boys and a girl have adventures together.  There are a few similarities between the two, but definitely not to a level where I felt like Riordan was trying to copy Rowling at all.  This book was published at the height of Harry Potter madness (this came out the same year as Half-Blood Prince) and I think HP fans were just weirdly obsessed with Rowling being the only person who could write a fantasy story.  ANYWAY all that to say that I found this book good entertainment and am continuing the series.  There wasn’t a lot of depth, and there was a lot more running around fighting monsters and getting through due to good luck than there was character-building, but sometimes that’s the kind of story that just hits the spot, and I can definitely see the high-action sequences appealing to its intended MG audience, especially for reluctant readers, where that faster pace can pull them along.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – 5*

//published 1850//

As part of my 2022 reading goal to tackle longer/more difficult books, I started David Copperfield on January 1 and read a chapter a day until it was finished. However, on the first of every month I add another book, so there is some overlap, depending on how long the books are. I finished this one at the end of February, and it was such a worthwhile journey.  I had read this one back in high school but couldn’t remember any of the details – just that Uriah Heep was SO creepy (spoiler: he’s SO creepy!!!)  Overall, I couldn’t believe how this book, published in 1850, contained so many people and situations that resonated with me completely. While a chapter a day doesn’t always work for me, it was kind of ideal for a book like this.  I think I may have been less patient with DIckens’s rambles if I had been trying to read this one straight through. As it was, 10-20 pages of Dickens a day was just about right. I fell in absolute love with so many of the characters here and found myself completely choked up on more than one occasion.  Is it a perfect book?  No, of course not.  But is it well worth the read?  Absolutely.

I thought I’d also include these photos of my edition – first off, so many of the chapter titles in this book absolutely cracked me up (did I mention that this book is funny?? Because it had me snorting with laughter on multiple occasions) and secondly, there isn’t a copyright date for my specific edition, but there is this notation on the flyleaf that it was owned by Ethel Chamberlin in 1900, which I just thought was absolutely the coolest thing.

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon – 3.5*

//published 2020//

Modern/loose B&B retelling set a a private school for rich, almost-in-trouble kids in Colorado (the school, that is – the kids can be from all over the world lol).  This was a fun concept and I actually really liked the characters, but it was just glaringly obvious from almost the first chapter who the “bad guy” actually was, which meant that there wasn’t really any suspense and it was almost painful to watch Jaya be mad at the wrong person (even though it was not as obvious to Jaya so like she wasn’t stupid, really – the reader just has a lot more information than she does).  Usually I like have the perspective of both main characters, but hearing from Gray in this scenario just meant we know for 100% sure that he’s a good guy, which doesn’t leave us with a lot of bad guy options.  There were some fun moments and some interesting characters, but while I mostly enjoyed this one, I didn’t absolutely love it.

Of Princes and Promises by Sandhya Menon – 3*

//published 2021//

So for the first 75% of this book I actually enjoyed it more than the first book.  It’s a Frog Prince riff and was done so well.  I love how Menon gives us these situations where you can’t say with absolute certainty whether or not magic is real.  I really liked the characters here and there was a lot of good story about learning to embrace your true self and not be worried about what other people think about you, etc etc etc.  But THEN for literally no reason Menon decided to throw in a VILLAIN and just – the whole story went right off the rails, leaving me completely confused.  Suddenly, the entire book was about this other person and her backstory and what had happened to her – and like… I didn’t care??  She was a stranger??  She had nothing to do with the rest of the book?!  Why is she here??  What is the point of her??  It was very disorienting and made the entire ending of the book feel weird and awkward instead of satisfying.  It was a really bizarre decision on where to go with the conclusion of the book and quite aggravated me.  So overall it was a fun read, but the weird ending really brought down my overall rating.

January Minireviews – Part 3

Here is the last batch of January reads!!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – 4*

//published 1952//

One of my 2022 goals is to clear at least 12 books off my classics backlist, and this one was very satisfying because it was so short!  I didn’t exactly like this book, but Hemingway writes in such a way that I had trouble putting it down, despite the fact that it’s literally an old man going fishing.  There is a tautness to his writing that makes it work, and so many layers to what is, at surface-level, a simple story.  I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the way it ended, but you can’t make everyone happy.

The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery – 4*

//published 1911//

The Kindred Spirits Buddy Read group on Litsy is continuing their foray into Montgomery’s works through 2022, and this was our January pick.  It had been a very long time since I read this one, so it was fun to revisit.  It’s a rather episodic book, but I did overall enjoy it although it will never be one of my favorites.  While the characters here are fun, they somehow lack depth – each of the children seems to fit a role and not go much beyond it.  And despite the fact that the story is being told in first person, the narrator is probably the one we get to know the least, which is odd.  Perfectly pleasant, but it will probably be another decade or so before I bother to reread this one again.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – 2*? 4*? No stars?

//published 1847//

The Litsy group that read through all of Austen’s works last year (the PemberLittens) is continuing into 2022 by reading books about Austen and also other works from women from the Austen-ish era.  Wuthering Heights was January’s book, and since I had never read this one all the way through – I remember abandoning it halfway in high school with the general feeling that the only “happy” ending would be for everyone to die of the plague – I thought I would give it a try as an adult and see if it was more palatable.  In a word – yes, it was, but… it’s really hard for me to rate this one.  First off, it was just absolutely ridiculous.  I actually found myself snorting with (inappropriate) laughter in multiple spots because it was just so over-the-top.  On purpose?  Who knows.  I was also absolutely befuddled by the fact that some people consider this a romance, or consider Heathcliff and Catherine to be a romantic couple.  What?!  These two are both mentally ill, unstable, obsessive, selfish, and creepy.  At one point, Heathcliff digs up Catherine’s dead body.  This isn’t romantic!  What is happening?! But I weirdly did like the way the story ended, although some of my fellow-readers thought it was too tidy.  I felt like Cathy, unlike her mother, actually outgrew her selfish whims and gain some balance to her personality, and I liked that.  I can’t say I exactly enjoyed reading this, but it did keep me engaged.  I was so confused by multiple people having the same name/being related that I printed off a little cheat-sheet towards the beginning of reading it and thoroughly enjoyed X-ing out everyone as they died… which was pretty much everyone, so my high school desire to have everyone die off for a happy ending was very nearly fulfilled lol  All in all, it was a worthwhile read, I think, but not one I see myself revisiting.  I did use this buddy read as an excuse to buy this pretty copy, though, which I’m perfectly happy to keep on my shelf.

Nation of Enemies by H.A. Raynes – 3*

//published 2015//

This was another one that is a little hard to rate.  It was also kind of creepy because it was published in 2015 (i.e. pre-Covid and pre-“vaccine passport” insanity) but was all about a future where the entire world is using a chip-based medical system where every person has a MedID rating based on how healthy they are and various genetic features that extrapolate how likely they are to be sick in the future (i.e. cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc).  People with good Med numbers are able to get good jobs, housing, move from place to place, etc. while people with bad numbers are relegated to the outskirts of society.  Many people tout this as a positive as eliminating the low numbers means that we are on track to eliminate said diseases, but others are beginning to grow uneasy with how swiftly the system has been used to alienate huge sectors of the population into second-class citizens.  The MedID chips have now become a way to not only track medical history, but everything else, making it easy to decide “criminals” (both real and determined by people who don’t like people) are unable to purchase groceries, travel from state to state, or get a job.  The story opens on the cusp of a huge presidential election, with one candidate determined to build on the MedID system and other poised to begin removing it, restoring the freedoms everyone once knew.  In the decade since the MedID was instated, the country has descended into a state of constant terrorist attacks, many by frustrated low-MedID citizens, others by various anarchist groups, some by other political powers playing on the emotions of vulnerable individuals.

Rayes does a great job setting all of this up, introducing the reader to several people within the government and within society who are both benefitting and losing from the MedID system, and showing how various things are working behind the scenes of the big election.  It was really terrifying and amazing to see how this concept, basically where the vaccine passports are headed, had changed the society, and it was all very believable.  But about halfway through the story, things began to lose steam as Raynes slowly turned his story into a more typical political thriller instead of exploring a lot of the nuances presented by a society dominated by this system.  In the end, basically everyone was a bad guy, which was kind of weird, and a lot of ends were left loose.  This was also a really long book, clocking in at 528 pages, so it definitely felt like it could have used some editing to tighten things up.  In the end, a story with some strong potential that just frittered away.

The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel – 2.5*

//published 2001//

Apparently this book is also a Hallmark movie, but I haven’t seen it.  It was chosen by a member of the traveling book club book, which is really the only reason I finished it as I found the main character, Livvy, to be insufferably selfish and bratty.  Set during WWII in Colorado, Livvy is from an upper-class family and has always lived a rather spoiled life. The author tries to make her a sympathetic character by giving her a dead mother and a distant father, but she never felt like a real person to me.  She gets pregnant from a one-night stand with a soldier with whom she’s gone on a few dates, and her father solves the “problem” by finding a farmer in eastern Colorado for her to marry, sight unseen.  Ray is stereotypically strong and silent, but the main things we have to know about him is that he’s uneducated by Livvy’s standards and thus rather dumb, he immediately begins to worship the ground Livvy walks on for literally no apparent reason, and Livvy’s so concerned about Ray’s “heart” because of his “innocence” around women – she goes on and on and on about this, about how she’s sooooo “experienced” and Ray isn’t, despite the fact that she went on like 3 dates and got pregnant, not sure how that makes her some kind of relationship/sex expert and it REALLY got on my nerves.  But Livvy’s that way about everything.  She’s from the city and she’s gone to college, so she’s soooo smart and clever and worldly and wise and all these other people are just sort of dumb hicks.  I kept think that she was going to recognize the fact that she’s just a blatant snob, but she never really does.  She and Ray have like two conversations and then from there forward Livvy’s always saying things like, “I could tell from the love in his eyes how much he yearned for us to be together” blah blah blah, which was both boring and unbelievable.  There’s this whole story about these Japanese women who are in a prison camp nearby and how the Japanese prisoners are working on the region’s farms, including Ray’s, but it’s really a sort of surface-level look at this because we never talk with Ray, we just get Livvy’s assumptions about how Ray feels about it.  What Livvy assumes is that he completely approves of interning the Japanese and thinks the Japanese are stupid and guilty, despite the fact that he treats them incredibly well and absolutely nothing in his actions support her theory.  Livvy also spends a bunch of time driving all over the countryside despite Ray specifically telling her that his gas rations are supposed to be being used for farm work, not pleasure.  Livvy justifies it by basically saying she’s bored.  I was also amazed at how a farm wife during World War II could be bored and have nothing to do, but here we are.  Everyone else in my traveling book club seemed to really like this one (I was the last to read it) so maybe I’m just being overly harsh, but I found Livvy to be painfully unlikable, which made the whole story drag for me a lot, since it’s literally all from Livvy’s perspective and literally all about her in every way, because to Livvy, Livvy is the most important person in the world.  I had absolutely zero confidence in her long-term happiness with Ray, because Livvy never actually changed as a person.

January Minireviews – Part 2

Happy March, everyone!!! This week things are starting to smell like spring and I’m so excited!!!  In the meantime, here are some books I read back in January.

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi – 3*

//published 1883//

Do you ever read a book that just leaves you feeling !??!?!  That book was Pinocchio.  I never thought I’d say this, but Disney actually made this story more cohesive and actually somewhat make sense compared to the original!  Part of my problem with this one is that the sense of time was all wrong.  It seems like Pinocchio is only with his carpenter-father for like, a day, yet constantly references things his father taught him.  There were a lot of situations where I was confused about how long something had been going on.  It wasn’t a bad book, exactly, just choppy and confusing.  I did appreciate that Pinocchio’s attempts to be a “good boy” did cycle a lot – he would learn a lesson, be good for a while, and then slip-slide back into something he knew he shouldn’t be doing.  Been there, Pinocchio.  This was an interesting read, but did also make me wonder, once again, about why certain stories become classics while others fade away.

Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie – 4*

//published 1937//

This one was a reread for me (as most Christies are these days) and I really enjoyed it.  Poirot receives a letter from an elderly woman who, in a roundabout way, seems to be fearing for her life.  However, the letter is dated nearly two months earlier – and Poirot finds out that the woman is dead.  Seized with a sudden feeling that because this woman wrote to him, she’s technically his client and he owes it to her to investigate her (supposedly completely unsuspicious) death, Poirot and Hastings head off to the countryside to chat up the family.  As always, there are tons of red herrings and potential murderers, plus the usual everyday people holding back irrelevant information that makes them look bad.  Not my all-time favorite, but a very solid entry.

The Fire by Katherine Neville – 3.5*

//published 2008//

This follow-up to The Eight, published twenty years later, was not as strong as the original story.  Following the daughter of The Eight’s main character, there is a lot of running around but it just felt like this book’s main character, Xie, wasn’t really the main character.  Things happened TO her the entire time, but it never felt like she was in charge of what was going on.  Her best friend, Key, felt way more like the MC and I think the whole book would have been more interesting (and made more sense) if either Key was the MC, or Xie had some of the circumstances in her life that Key did, if that makes sense.  There was also this thing where I literally lost count of how many times characters realize that the room/conversation is bugged, to the point that I was confused about why they even attempted to have a conversation inside of any building or within 20 yards of any electrical device ever.  It was kind of ridiculous.  In The Eight the second story-strand set during the French Revolution enhanced and explained a great deal of what was going on in the modern-day story.  But in The Fire the historical part never really made sense to me and just felt like filler.  All in all, while there were some good elements here – and I really liked the ending – The Fire just didn’t jive like The Eight did.

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour – 3.5*

//published 2011//

In this nonfiction book published by favorite homesteading publishers, Storey Publishing, Jabbour explores ways to extend the gardening season beyond the frost dates.  A resident of Nova Scotia, Jabbour has added cold frames and a non-heated greenhouse to her personal garden, and also examines methods like cloches, row covers, etc. as ways to protect crops from the cold and lengthen the growing season.  There’s a lot of good information here, but no matter how you cut it, the main plants that are going to grow in the cold, even in cold frames, are plants like lettuce, spinach, carrots, etc., so in the end it seemed like a lot of work for not a lot of payback.  However, Jabbour also has a really great vegetable index in the back with notes on different varieties, varieties of various veggies that are more cold-tolerant, and planting/harvesting notes.  This comprises probably half the book and has some really great information.  All in all, not my favorite gardening book, but it is one that I’ve referenced a few times, and I’m still thinking about putting in a cold frame for some early season plants.

December Minireviews – Part 5

Believe it or not, this is the LAST of my 2021 reviews!!  Woohoo!!!  Usually I try to divide my reviews up evenly, but for some reason I just wasn’t paying attention and ended up with only two reviews for this one!  Part of it is because the last book I read in 2021 was the first book in a series, so I’m going to add it to my January reviews, when I read the rest of the series.  Whoops.  I also can’t believe how close I was to finishing the 2021 reviews before the end of January, but then dropped the ball!!!  But here they are, before mid-February, anyway, so that’s something!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd – 3.5*

//published 2019//

I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I actually really liked the characters and the banter was great. On the other hand, the book felt overly long and somewhat unfocused. There’s also the whole dating-your-supervisor thing that felt weird, and then the book made a sudden turn away from fluffy romcom into sexual assault/MeToo territory. I was so confused because there was a point where Olivia literally has JUST BEEN TOLD that a male character is a known sexual predator, and then she just wanders off with him and ends up in a dangerous situation?!!? Like why did she go with him?!?! And it wasn’t sneaky, he’s basically like, “you should come sit with me in this isolated spot“ and she thinks “oh this guy is really bad and keeps getting away with it because he’s a horrible person“ and then says, “oh, okay!“ and goes with him!?!?!?

Also, even though this book is listed as a standalone, it apparently has characters from Shepherd’s first book, and she doesn’t do a very good job at explaining them or their relationships to one another, so I felt myself floundering a bit at time because of the complete lack of background information.

Still, there were so many moments were this book made me snort with laughter and I really did ship the main characters completely. I think this one would have benefitting from another editing round to tighten it up, but I can also see myself checking out Shepherd’s other book.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson – 3*

I’m sure I’ve read this original story at some point, but I really couldn’t remember it, and wow was it weird.  However, I have a lovely edition that includes several other fairy tales, so that part was fun lol  It was interesting to read this original tale since I’ve read variations and adaptations of it, but I did find it confusing when the story just seemed to wander away from the main plot.  Plus, I never exactly understood what the Snow Queen’s motivation was.  Still an interesting story and the edition I read had lots of fun illustrations.

September Minireviews – Part 1

Okay, reviewing September books in November actually feels not completely unreasonable haha At least we’re in the same season!! September was actually a really slow reading month for me, so it shouldn’t take me too long to get through these!!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Duke’s Disappearance by Margaret Summerville – 3.5*

Another paperback from my box of eBay Regency romances, this one was actually one of the better ones I’ve read from that pile.  While it didn’t become a new favorite that I wanted to read again and again, the set-up actually felt plausible and the story was a lot of fun.

Fallen by Linda Castillo – 4*

//published 2021//

Ever since I read the Kate Burkholder series in 2019, I’ve tried to stay on top of reading the new installments as they appear.  Fallen was an overall solid thriller, although there was one point where the bad guys had an opportunity to kill Kate outright and not doing so felt a little unrealistic for the situation lol  I really enjoy this series a lot as Castillo does such a great job with the Amish community in her writing.  I highly recommend reading these in order – I think they would work individually, but reading them as a whole gives us a real picture of Kate as a person.  I have loved seeing her grow and work through various issues in her life.  Also, I’m still in love with Tomasetti haha

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton – 4*

//published 2021//

I literally don’t even know how to review this book.  It’s set in Regency-ish times and there are pirates and flying houses and a homeless pirate and romance and betrayal and tea and rogues and genteel ladies and just absolute insane amount of shenanigans.  There’s a blurb on the front cover that says, “Delightfully bonkers” and I honestly can’t think of a better way to sum this one up.  If you’re looking for something sensible and orderly, give this one a miss.  But if you’re willing to just set aside any hope for logic and plausibility and go along for the ride, this was a pretty fun read.  And the cover!!!

Flint Spears by Will James – 4*

//published 1938//

A while back I read James’s most famous book, Smoky the Cow-Horse, and was surprised at how engaging and readable it was.  The following fall, we were on vacation and stopped at a bookstore in Wall Drug, South Dakota, where I saw a reprint of another of James’s books and decided to add it to my collection.  This one didn’t have much of a plot, but I found myself drawn into the story nonetheless.  James follows the career of a cowboy named Flint Spears who is around when rodeos were first becoming a commercial enterprise.  And… that’s pretty much the whole story.  If you think about someone’s life, it doesn’t exactly have a plot, it’s just you going around doing your everyday thing and hoping for the best, and that’s pretty much what happens here.  I really liked Flint a lot and learning about the origins of the rodeo and seeing how different aspects of it developed was really interesting, but there wasn’t a big finale or anything like that.  James also decided to kill off a character I really liked and it honestly broke me up a lot.  I loved James’s illustrations (he drew them himself), and despite this story just being kind of meandery and not really going anywhere, I would definitely read another of his books.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – 5*

September saw the conclusion of my reread of the Harry Potter series.  I still really love how everything comes together in the end, and still think Snape was a terrible person despite some redeeming qualities.  Sorry, a teacher who verbally and emotionally abuses students every chance he gets isn’t a good person, period.  I was struck this time, probably because I was reading it a chapter-a-day instead of as fast as I could, how much of the book not much is actually happening, the trio are just wandering around trying to figure out what they should do.  It was an interesting way to write the book, and I feel like an honest way, if that makes sense.  Sometimes you don’t know what to do, and you just go along and hope for a breakthrough.  On the whole, this series definitely has its weaknesses, but I still enjoy it nonetheless.

August Minireviews – Part 2

I’m getting sooo lazy about the reviews!!  I dream that someday I’ll be caught up and do really nice reviews with actual pictures and real thoughts! LOL  But in other news – this wraps up August reviews!!!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – 4*

I had somehow never read this classic, even though of course I knew the basic premise.  Stevenson does a great job setting everything up and giving his readers a very eerie background of foggy London.  I found myself thinking about how I would feel about this story if I had never heard anything about it before – this would have been absolutely a brilliant read when this story was first published, and was still a fun one even though I knew what was going to happen.

The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson – 4*

My copy of Dr. Jekyll included a short story by Stevenson that I had never even heard of.  While still a little creepy, this was also a story that had bit of a moral to it – what exactly are you willing to sacrifice for success and riches?

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows – 3.5*

This one has been on my TBR since it was first published, as it seemed to race through the blogging community at the time, garnering loads of positive reviews.  All in all, I really did enjoy this one a lot.  Such a fun concept, and I appreciated the authors telling the readers that they were planning to butcher history haha  It’s definitely a completely ridiculous story, so if you’re looking for some serious historical fiction, give this one a pass.  I enjoyed the humor and the likable characters, and appreciated the way everything came together.  I did find it a bit over-long.  Even though this isn’t one I see myself rereading, it was pretty fun as a one-off.

The Cross & the Switchblade by David Wilkerson – 4*

This nonfiction story, originally published in 1963, is about a pastor in a small Pennsylvanian town who felt called to minister to gang members in New York City.  Wilkerson tells his story simply and owns up to the mistakes he made along the way, while crediting God with any successes.  I really appreciated his honesty about times he felt weak and confused, but chose to carry on.  This edition was published in 2001 and included and afterword telling what happened to many of the main players in Wilkerson’s original story, and it was a beautiful thing to read about how the majority of the gang members who had decided to become Christians in the 60s had stuck with it through the decades, embracing and growing in their faith.  Wilkerson’s story wasn’t especially polished, but it’s heartfelt and sincere, and I found it to be an encouraging read, touching on the importance of prayer, faith, and community.

Leave No Stone Unturned by Jeanne Glidewell – 1*

I owned this one on Kindle for a while and decided to finally give it a go.  It’s been a long time since I actually finished a book this bad instead of just bailing on it, but it was only 189 pages and I really wanted to read a book set in Kansas for my #SeparatedByaPondTour that I’m still working on haha  But this one was REALLY REALLY TERRIBLE.  The story made no sense, the characters made no sense, the mystery made no sense, every decision someone made made no sense.  It was BAD.  SO BAD.  But at least I can write off this entire series!

The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin – 2.5*

This home organization book had lovely photographs but almost zero practical advice.  A lot of it was the authors talking about spaces they had organized for almost-famous people, yet even those – no before/after photos or anything like that.  For a book I checked out of the library, it was pleasant enough to page through, but as far as using it as any kind of reference book or actually gleaning useful information from it – total fail.

An Irish Hostage by Charles Todd – 4*

The latest installment in the Bess Crawford series did not disappoint.  I really like this series a lot.  Bess is very likable and the setting of World War I (and now post-war) is done SO well.  This one did drag here and there, and I’d really like to see more progress in Bess’s personal relationship with a certain fellow, but it was overall still another solid entry for the series.

August Minireviews – Part 1

I’m SO determined to actually catch up on reviews!!!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley – 3.5*

This is a really fun, although honestly pretty straightforward, variation of the Robin Hood story that I overall really enjoyed.  However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the way McKinley decided to end her story, so it left me with mixed feelings on the whole.  This was one of her books that I read a really long time ago and couldn’t really remember, but I don’t particularly see myself revisiting it again any time soon.  It just didn’t have any zing.

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson – 4*

I read this one for the traveling book club and loved it!  It definitely had some eye-rolling moments, and got a little melodramatic at the end, but on the whole it was just delightfully fun fluff with main characters that I totally shipped.  And this one was super swoony without being sexy, which I really appreciated.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens – 3*

This one sounded fun but just didn’t pan out, mainly because multiple murders plus a lot of discussion about illegitimate children felt inappropriate for the middle-grade age range for which this book is written.  The main character, Daisy, is a bit of a bully (in my opinion) and I didn’t feel like she treated Hazel, the narrator, very well, often making rather snide comments or pressuring Hazel to do things that made her uncomfortable.  Daisy is one of the popular girls at the boarding school, so a lot of Hazel’s hero-worship felt awkward to me, like she was willing to let a lot of Daisy’s actions slide so that Daisy would keep liking her.

On the other hand, this is the first book in a series, so maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t enjoy this one – nine books off the TBR with minimal effort!!

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling – 4.5*

This is actually one of my favorites (maybe even THE favorite) of the series. I absolutely love world-building and backstory, which is a huge part of what this book is all about. I love learning about the horcruxes and Voldemort’s background.  It’s a sort of calm-before-the-storm book that I really enjoy reading every time.

Sail Away by Lisa Jackson – 2.5*

This one and the next book, Million Dollar Baby, were in one volume that I got in a big box of mystery and romance books that someone on Litsy sent to me a while back.  Sail Away was pretty terrible.  Marnie’s dad really wants her to marry this dude named Kent, and Kent and Marnie were even engaged for a while.  Marnie broke it off when she found out that (surprise surprise) Kent was cheating on her.  The problem is, she never told her dad so he keeps going on and on about how Kent is perfect for Marnie and blah blah blah and like Marnie’s dad really loves her a lot and made zero sense for her not to just tell her dad that Kent is actually a secret sleezeball and she’s never going to marry him, because her dad would have totally been on her side if she had just told him the truth!  So that just super annoyed me the entire time that she wouldn’t just have this one basic conversation with him.  Meantime, the “good” love interest, Adam, was just really pushy and annoying as well.  In romance novels I can usually give a little leeway to the “he grabbed her and kissed her” routine, but I felt like Adam was just too far.  He was constantly forcing her to “submit” to his kisses, like she would be mad and he would just start kissing her until she gave up – it felt really uncomfortable to me.  In the end, a combination of annoying characters and not really being able to ship Marnie and Adam meant that I didn’t really enjoy this one all that much.

Million Dollar Baby by Lisa Jackson – 3.5*

But did not enjoying Sail Away keep me from reading the other book in that volume, Million Dollar Baby?  No, no it did not, because I have a problem haha  This one was more regular cheesy romance, with a woman with a mysterious past finding an abandoned baby in her barn, which forces her to connect with the local (ruggedly handsome) ER doctor.  This one was a bit melodramatic for my personal taste, but not a bad one-off read.

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan – 3.5*

Quite a while ago I read The Joy Luck Club by this author, which was one of those books I wasn’t exactly expecting to enjoy but then did, so I’ve had a few of Tan’s other books on my TBR since then.  Like The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetter’s Daughter explores themes of motherhood/daughterhood in a way that feels poignant and realistic.  I found myself drawn into this story and genuinely concerned about LuLing, and felt that the dual timeline aspect of the story was handled really well.  While I did find this one to be really well-written, it was soooo sad that I can’t exactly say that I enjoyed it.  It was a worthwhile read, but left me feeling a bit depressed.

Persuasion by Jane Austen – 5*

I really love this novel so much, and rereading it was a delight.  I’m not always a huge fan of the “second chance” romance just because it seems so sad that so many years have been wasted on misunderstanding each other, but Austen’s story just brings me a lot of happiness.

June Minireviews – Part 3

Should I just give up on this project???  I’m weirdly stubborn about someday actually being CAUGHT UP on these reviews without skipping any. I may have a problem haha  And yes, things are still chaotic at the orchard!! However, the gardening season is winding down so hopefully the actual amount of work that needs to be done around the house will calm down a smidge.

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston – 4*

//published 2019// And that picture is from last year, not this June haha //

I read this one last year and really enjoyed it, so when a loose sequel appeared, I decided to reread this one first.  I enjoyed it just as much the second time – maybe even more.  The family is just so warm and loving in this story, which make all the dating scenarios fun and funny instead of weird and creepy.

10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston – 3.5*

//published 2021//

I did enjoy the follow-up but not quite as much as the original book, mainly because there isn’t as much big family time as their was in 10 Blind Dates.  Still, there is a lot to find entertaining here and the characters are all so likable that the overall book was fun.  My biggest issue – the core group of friends/cousins have had a life-long feud with two other cousins, and I would have really liked to have seen some better resolution with their relationship.  A few times it felt like they were on the cusp of a breakthrough of realizing how the “Evil Joes” could have felt left out so maybe the “evil” wasn’t all on one side… but it just never quite happened.  Still, this one was a lot of fun and I can definitely see myself rereading these again.

Emma by Jane Austen – 3.5*

//published 1815//

I reread this one as a chapter-a-day read with the PemberLittens group on Litsy.  Emma is by far my least favorite Austen, although I will say that I found it more readable in small doses – this is the highest I’ve ever rated this book haha  Emma is just soooo annoying and bratty.  I spend all my time wanting to smack her.  I also still am not a big fan of the romance here, mainly because, besides Frank Churchill, Emma has never had a chance to even MEET anyone else, having spent all her days in Highbury.  So while I do have a fondness for Knightley in general, there is also an inevitability to their relationship because really… who else does she have??  Every time I read Emma I think it’s the last time I’m going to read Emma.  Maybe I’m serious this time??

The Other Typist by Suzenne Rindell – 2.5*

//published 2013//

This book has been on my TBR since it was published in 2013. At the time, it got a lot of positive buzz from several bloggers that I follow. Since then, I’ve read one of Rindell’s later books (this one was her debut), Eagle & Crane, and loved it. All that to say, I was anticipating something a little creepy and intriguing, but ended up honestly being bored most of the time. Hardly anything happens for long swaths of book, other than the narrator constantly telling us that she’s unreliable and giving us a LOT of incredibly heavy-handed foreshadowing about where she ends up, meaning that there honestly weren’t a lot of surprises. The ending answered zero questions, which in this case just kind of felt like lazy writing instead of intriguing. It wasn’t a horrible read, but if this had been the first Rindell I read, I would never have bothered to pick up another. In Eagle & Crane she doesn’t try nearly as hard to be mysterious and it works so much better.  I can still see myself trying another of her books based on the strength of Eagle & Crane, but this one didn’t impress me.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1955//

I really enjoyed my chapter-a-day reread of this classic as well – it’s one of my favorites of the series and I still do NOT think it should EVER be read as the first book, despite being chronologically the first.  It’s so much richer and more meaningful when read after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I absolutely love reading about the creation of Narnia, the establishment of the kingdom, and the challenges that the children face.  It may be my favorite of the series overall.

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1934//

This isn’t my favorite of Heyer’s books, but it was June’s traveling book club book, and I actually enjoyed it more as a reread than I did when I first read it back in 2018.  Some of the scenes are honestly hilarious, and it does make use of the marriage of convenience trope, which is definitely my favorite.  As before, I found myself growing steadily more annoyed with the female main character’s stammer – something that doesn’t bother me at all in real life, but was q-q-q-quite annoying t-t-t-t-to r-r-r-r-read after a while.  Still, if you’re looking for just some relaxing fluff, it’s hard to go wrong with Heyer.

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman – 3*

//published 1970//

This is the first book in the next mystery series I am hoping to read – Leaphorn & Chee.  Set on the Navajo Reservation in southwest US, the main character of the first book is Joe Leaphorn.  There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about this one.  The setting was great and Hillerman does a fantastic job helping the reader understand the complicated jurisdiction lines when something as serious as murder occurs with the boundaries of the Indian reservation.  The mystery itself was engaging and the pacing was good.  However, Leaphorn himself was not a particularly knowable character?  We read the entire book and I never even found anything about where he lives or what is home life is like.  There is a casual reference to a message being left for him by his wife – but we never meet her.  Does he even like her?  Does he have children?  I don’t have to know ever nitty-gritty detail about a MC’s life, but Leaphorn ended up feeling a bit more like an outline of a person than someone I knew.  The mystery itself went a bit off the rails at the end as well, leaving me with a lot of questions, and this book undeniably NEEDED a map in the worst way – Hillerman was constantly and casually talking about driving from here to there without any real indication as to what that distance meant in real time (1 mile? 10 miles? 100 miles?).  Still, it was a good enough story that I felt like I wanted to give the second book a try – even if it didn’t come in at the library until the next month haha

June MiniReviews – Part 1

Have I mentioned that my life is pretty much just peaches right now???  You all really just can’t understand LOL  In the meantime, here are a few books that I read all the way back in June…

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Horse & His Boy by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1954//

Growing up, this was one of my least favorite books in the series (along with The Silver Chair), but every time I reread it, I enjoy it more.  There’s a lot to soak in here about providence and why bad things happen to people and how that all works together for good, plus it’s just a fun story.  Narnia is always a joy to me.

Kitty’s Class Day & Other Stories by Louisa May Alcott – 3*

//published 1882//

I’m a huge fan of Alcott, and some of my all-time favorite books were penned by her.  However, I’ve had this collection of short stories on my shelf for literal years and somehow never read it… and when I did, I honestly wasn’t that impressed.  The subtitle for this one is “Proverb Stories” and each tale has a little saying/proverb at the beginning and then the story goes on to illustrate it.  Consequently, these came across as a little on the preachy side.  Alcott is always a fan of making her writing somewhat moralistic, but I feel like that works better with her longer-form writing, as we are able to see characters grow and mature organically.  Here, with only a few pages per story, the lessons felt a bit too in-your-face for my tastes.  Perfectly fine but honestly not particularly engaging.

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – 4*

My reread of the Potter books also continued in June with a chapter a day of the fourth book.  I think this is where the series really starts to take off, with a lot of connections being made.  It’s a chunkster of a book and sometimes does feel a little ponderous, but overall I still find this series plenty entertaining.

Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez – 3.5*

//published 2021//

In May I read Woven in Moonlight and found it to be a decent enough read that I wanted to pick up the sequel, Written in Starlight.  It’s hard to tell about this one without giving away some spoilers for the first book, but basically there is a character from the first story who ends up being sent away into the jungle as a punishment at the end of the book.  It honestly felt a little jarring, so reading the second book felt like reading the other side of the coin.  Although the main character is different, it really ties in with the first story and, I felt, tied up a lot of loose ends.  Overall, I think I actually liked this one better, even if the main character was super dense from time to time.

Led Zeppelin: Heaven & Hell by Charles Cross & Erik Flannigan – 3.5*

//published 1991//

My husband is a huge Zeppelin fan, so we have several nonfiction books about the band.  In my quest to read all of the books I own (LOL) this one was the next stop.  Published in 1991, it was written at a time when there was still a lot of chatter about whether the band would get back together, with John Bonhome’s son, Jason, as the drummer.  This book read more like an extended fanzine, with a lot of information about band paraphernalia, concerts, albums, concert memorabilia, etc.  If you already love Zeppelin and are just looking for some random tidbits, it’s worth picking up for the photographs if nothing else, but if you don’t know much about the band, this isn’t really a great place to start, because the authors definitely assume that you already have foundational knowledge about the band members and the trajectory of the band itself.  I definitely preferred Flannigan’s sections to Cross’s – I find Cross’s writing to be somewhat condescending, something I also noted when I read his biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than HeavenUltimately, Cross felt like it was super important to spend a great deal of time hating on Hammer of the Gods by Stephen Davis (which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet), which, whether or not his claims were justified, just came through as rather petty.  A moderately enjoyable read, but not one I’d particularly pick up again.

May Minireviews – Part 2

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

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

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

//published 2020//

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

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

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

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

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1953//

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

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – 4.5*

//published 2021//

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

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

Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras – 4*

//published 2021//

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

The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn – 3*

//published 2005//

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