Rearview Mirror // August 2022

Okay, it’s only been about a week since July’s Rearview, so maybe I’m making progress after all!

Favorite August Read

My favorite out of my new reads (The Small Bachelor wins overall, but it was a reread) was probably The Hidden Onethe latest in the Kate Burkholder series.  While it wasn’t my favorite book in the series, it was still a really solid installment.

Most Disappointing August Read

Have to go with Pat of Silver Bush.  Even though I had pretty low expectations, it was honestly even worse than I thought it would be.  So sad.

Other August Reads

August Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  18
  • Total Pages Read:  5594
  • Average Star Rating for August:  3.67
  • Longest Book: The Hidden Hand (462 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  The Diary of a Provincial Lady (129 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  The Hidden Hand (published 1859)
  • Newest Book: The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip, The Hidden One, and The It Girl were all published in 2022
  • Top Genre: Happy (my category for fun, low-stress books that aren’t particularly romance) (6 books)
  • Top Format: Hardcover (10 books)
  • Top Source: Owned (12 books)

August Challenge Updates

  • New states visited: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont
  • Chunksters read (800+pgs): 0
  • Almost-a-chunksters read (450-799pgs): 1
  • Classics read: 0
  • Nonfiction read: 1

TBR Update

This is current as of today, not the end of August!!  Since it’s only been a week, there probably won’t be much difference lol …other than me getting another Book Outlet order… whoops!

  • Standalones:  490 (holding steady)
  • Nonfiction:  132 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  601 (holding steady)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  250 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 110 (down one)
  • New Arrivals – (I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read.): 174 (up seven haha)

Current Reads

I’m still reading Middlemarch, Little House on the Prairie, and Frankenstein.  I also started another daily-read book that I just read during lunch, however far I get – nonfiction called Cold War.  Quite interesting so far.

My everyday read right now is the second Cleopatra Fox mystery that I’m buddy reading with my sister, Murder at the Piccadilly Playhouse.

Last Time on “Up Next”

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

Well, it’s only been a week, so we’ll see…

  • Spider Woman’s Daughter – Nope! This one is still on the shelf, but it’s moved to the back burner for now.
  • Frederica – Yes!  This was a reread but I couldn’t remember all the ins and outs. Georgette Heyer is just perfection, though, and I 100% loved this one.
  • Not That Kind of Guy – Kind of!! I started it, read about 80 pages, and bailed.  It wasn’t even that bad.  I just realized that I’m tired of reading contemporary romances with bitchy leads who excuse their bitchiness by saying all men are jerks and this is just what they have to do to “make it a man’s world” (absolute BS). I was also over here going on and on and on about how she’s SO MUCH OLDER than the love interest… five years is a gap, but it also doesn’t feel like it’s so much of a gap that we need to talk about every other page.  In general, I’m just over contemporary romance because the gap between what’s acceptable to most people (per romance novels, anyway) and my personal beliefs and morals has become so huge that it’s rare for me to find a book that can bridge them. /end rant
  • Murder at the Piccadilly Playhouse – current read!!
  • Songs of Willow Frost – Not yet!!

Up Next

My probable next five reads…

  • Songs of Willow Frost really is going to be one of my next books (I think)
  • Twelve Percent Dread by Emily McGovern – a graphic novel that I may or may not like
  • Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, The Roundhill by Dick King-Smith, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – all of these are really short books that check off challenges for January, so I’ll probably try to read them all by the end of the month, considering they are less than 300 pages altogether!

Woohoo!! That’s August in the books!!  On to September!!

Pat of Silver Bush // by L.M. Montgomery

//published 1933//

I didn’t really think I was going to read a Montgomery book that I liked less than Emily’s Quest, but Pat was a complete bust for me.  This was another of Montgomery’s books that Mom told me, back when I was a kid, not to bother reading, and, as usual, Mom was right!

Note: This review WILL contain spoilers both for this book and its sequel, which I didn’t read (but had Mom summarize haha), Mistress Pat.  

First off, this book is somewhat boring compared to other Montgomery stories. It should have been titled “Judy of Silver Bush” because huge chunks of the book are just Judy – the housekeeper/cook/etc. – telling telling random stories about random people we don’t know and never will know, all in a somewhat annoying Irish brogue (delightful to hear in real life, annoying to read). Judy heads up the “let’s enable Pat in her unhealthy aversion to change” club, constantly sheltering her and scolding the family if they don’t treat Pat with the reverence she “deserves.” Don’t get me wrong – I liked Judy just fine, I just felt like a lot of this book focused just as much on her as the titular character.

Generally, Montgomery does a good job sketching characters and making me feel as though I know them, but that was completely lacking here. Even Pat herself can basically be summed up with “hates change and is obsessed with Silver Bush” and that’s pretty much her entire character. It took me several chapters to even know which names belonged to actual siblings because Montgomery (weirdly) doesn’t particularly introduce them. We’re told repeatedly that Pat and Sid are best friends (Sid is a brother), but absolutely never see that actually happening on the page – in fact, we mostly see the opposite, times when he lets Pat down or doesn’t understand her or keeps going out with the one girl Pat can’t stand at school. I absolutely never bought Pat and Sid being BFFs and was persistently puzzled as to why Pat would for one second depend on Sid for her future happiness, i.e. being so convinced that he really wasn’t ever going to get married and that they could just live at Silver Bush together forever.  (Spoilers:  Did Montgomery already know what she was going to write in Mistress Pat?  It felt like a lot of arbitrary things that happened in this book were just to set up all the absolutely horrific things she planned to do to these characters in the sequel.  I definitely felt like she killed off Bets just so Sid could marry the dreadful Binnie girl in the second book.  Knowing that was what was going to happen definitely made me enjoy this book a lot less, and it also contributed to my “why in the heck does Pat think so highly of Sid” feelings.)

Nothing happens in this book. Many of Montgomery’s books are somewhat episodic, but perhaps because she was covering so many years (10+) this one just felt rather scattered, with no consistent storyline to further what was happening. It’s just “here’s a random thing that happened. Here’s Judy telling some irrelevant stories. Oh, that Judy, so funny! Hey, here are some descriptive paragraphs about nature!” This book just wasn’t actually GOING anywhere.

I think what really got me about this book is that Pat has ZERO character growth. Other Montgomery heroines actually change – Anne, Emily, Jane, Valancy, even Marigold – but Pat is completely stagnant as a person and as a character. At the beginning of the book, she has completely meltdowns any time there is even a POSSIBILITY of something changing (her pouting around and refusing to eat because her sister MIGHT stay with family in a nearby town to go to a better school? I almost stopped reading after that because she annoyed me so much. What an absolute brat), and at the end of the book – she still does! She consistently doesn’t care about what is best for the people she supposedly loves, because what is best for people is for them to change and grow and go on to live their own lives and Pat doesn’t want that to happen. She’s so petty about everything – people going to school, people pursuing other careers, people getting married, freaking people deciding to shave off their own moustache – because it messes up HER little perfect life that she can’t BEAR to see changed. And instead of her family gently helping her learn that CHANGE IS PART OF LIFE, they all just handle her with kid gloves and go out of their way to avoid upsetting her. (And hey, here’s a tip, maybe part of the reason Pat doesn’t like leaving home is because you all freaking wait until she’s gone and then go on with some major change you know she’s going to hate and haven’t bothered to remotely prepare her for, like cut down trees! And then act all surprised when she doesn’t want to leave anymore! Maybe absolutely blindsiding someone with huge changes isn’t actually the best way to help them learn to deal with change in a health manner!)

At the beginning of the book, Pat is literally obsessed with Silver Bush and it being the perfect place and her never leaving there and always living there, and basically she worships Silver Bush. In the end – it’s the same. She doesn’t actually try anything new, beyond one year of school in a nearby town, and instead just comes back home to Silver Bush. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a homemaker, I love it, I love my home and I love my family and I love caring for them. I think being a homemaker is a noble and beautiful thing, and just as important, valid, and useful as a “career.” HOWEVER Pat’s situation is simply NOT HEALTHY. She only wants to care for Silver Bush because it means she can keep everything the same as it has always been.

I found Pat annoying as a small child at the beginning of the story, and found myself genuinely worried about her when she was a young woman at the end. She had learned nothing, had not grown or developed, and her obsession with keeping things the same had, I think, reached the point of mental illness by the end of the book. By the time you’re 19 you should be old enough to realize that change is part of life, and while it can be sad or upsetting, you can’t stop it, and pouting and crying and making everyone around you feel bad doesn’t actually solve the problem or prevent the change.

2* because there were some brief moments of storytelling that were engaging, but in the end – Mom, you were right. The Pat books really aren’t worth my time.

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

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

//published 2022//

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rearview Mirror // May 2022

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

Favorite May Read

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

Most Disappointing May Read

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

Other May Reads

May Stats

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

May Challenge Updates

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

TBR Update

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

  • Standalones:  480 (holding steady)
  • Nonfiction:  130 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  620 (down three!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  250 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 111 (holding steady)
  • New Arrivals – (I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read.): 168 (down one!!)

Current Reads

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

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

Last Time on “Up Next”

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

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

Up Next

The probable next five(ish) reads –

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

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

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

Rearview Mirror // August 2021

I was thinking that it felt mildly reasonable to be wrapping up August in October… except then I realized it’s actually already November!  Whoops!

Favorite August Read

Actually, I’m going to put a nonfiction read in this slot!  I just thoroughly enjoyed the humor and ridiculousness of The Horologicon so much.  While Persuasion was objectively my favorite read of the month, I always like to choose a new read when I can!!

Most Disappointing August Read

Weirdly, another nonfiction read!  While Leave No Stone Unturned was objectively a worse read, I didn’t have very high expectations for that one.  However, The Home Edit looks like it is going to be so useful and interesting, but it was pretty much just nice pictures without a lot of substance.

Other August Reads

August Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  21 (1 Kindle, 20 physical)
  • Total Pages Read:  5656
  • Average Star Rating for July:  3.57
  • Longest Book: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince (542 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  The Bottle Imp (31 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  Persuasion (published 1817)
  • Newest Book: The Nature of Small Birds and An Irish Hostage were published this year.
  • Number of New-to-Me Authors:  12

August DNFs

None this month!!

TBR Update

This I keep updated as I go, so it’s current as of today, rather than as of the end of August.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into six different tabs:

  • Standalones:  498 (down two!!)
  • Nonfiction:  127 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  644 (holding steady!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  252 (down two!!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 112 (down one!)
  • New Arrivals – (I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read.): 146 (down two!!)

TBR Update

This I keep updated as I go, so it’s current as of today, rather than as of the end of July.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into six different tabs:

  • Standalones:  500 (down three!!)
  • Nonfiction:  127 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  64 (down two!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  254 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 113 (down one – I actually finished the 87th Precinct books!!!)
  • New Arrivals – (I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read.): 148 (up two)

Current Reads

Right now, I’m only in the middle of two books.  A group on Litsy is reading through all of L.M. Montgomery’s books, and this month we are reading Chronicles of Avonlea (and Further Chronicles, but that will be the second half of the month).  My everyday book right now is The Ghost Bride, which has been on my TBR since 2014 and finally came up on the random number draw I use to determine my next book lol

Last Time on “Up Next…”

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

  • The Birdwatcher by William Shaw – yes!! 3.5*
  • The second half of the Shetland Island mysteries – nope! But they are still in a pile by the library bookshelf.  Hopefully this month!!
  • Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys – yes!! Slow overall and didn’t like the ending – 2.5*
  • The Third Victim by Phillip Margolin – yes!! 3.5* and guess what! It’s actually the first book in a series!! WHY
  • Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall – kind of! I “had” to read this one for traveling book club, but skimmed after about page 100.  Wow, the MC was SO TERRIBLE, plus the entire book was nothing but f-bombs on every page, which I just find SO annoying and completely unnecessary.

Up Next…

The probable next five(ish) reads…

  • The Sentinels of the Galaxy trilogy by Maria Snyder – this series has been on my radar for quite a while because I enjoyed Snyder’s Chronicles of Ixia soooo much.
  • Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey (plus the sequel, Not Like the Movies, if the first book is any good) – another one that has been floating on the peripheral of my TBR for a while, just because it sounds like my kind of fun.
  • The Copenhagen Connection by Elizabeth Peters – my next random TBR read.  Peters can be hit or miss for me, but when I like her books, I really like them.
  • Doctor’s Boy by Karin Anckarsvard – This one has been on my shelf for YEARS.  I really enjoyed Anckarsvard’s Nordvick mysteries, so whenever I saw this one back in the day at a library discard sale, I picked it up, yet have never read it!
  • Rosalind by Clarice Peters – the next book from my ebay box of Regency romances!!!

So that’s (finally) a wrap for August.  Time for September reviews!!!

The Stanislaskis series // by Nora Roberts

  • Taming Natasha (1990)
  • Luring a Lady (1991)
  • Falling for Rachel (1993)
  • Convincing Alex (1994)
  • Waiting for Nick (1997)
  • Considering Kate (2001)

Nora Roberts is stupidly prolific, so I’m still working my way through her entire body of work here and there.  Even when they aren’t great, they’re usually good for a one-off read.  I still haven’t read anything by her that I love as much as the Bridal Quartet, which I’ve read multiple times (Nora, don’t you want to do a second-gen story about that group??? Please??), but generally speaking her writing is fun and fluffy.  She writes a lot of romantic suspense, so that was kind of what I was expecting from these, but they ended up being pretty much just straight romance.  Consequently, they weren’t super exciting, but they were definitely relaxing and enjoyable.

The first four books follow one of my favorite tropes – focusing on different members of a sibling group.  I really enjoy series that build this way (or within a group of close friends), where each book stands on its own, but you’re rewarded by reading them all in order because you get to see the fun of earlier couples being happy and adorable in the background.  Honestly, there wasn’t anything super innovative or memorable about these books, but sometimes I just need some brain fluff!!!

The last two books focus on children of the original group of siblings, another favorite thing of mine.  I loved seeing everyone a decade or so later.  They were my favorite two books of the bunch and the ones I would be most likely to reread.

All in all, nothing crazy, but an enjoyable series and another batch of books checked off of my Nora Roberts to-read list!!

Oh my gosh not only did WordPress change it’s editing layout AGAIN now the entire dashboard is completely wonk and I HATE IT.  Seriously, please let me know if you are working on a blog layout that actually makes sense instead of this god-forsaken hellscape that WordPress’s dashboard has become.

Rearview Mirror // December 2020

Well, I am at least getting to this before the end of January – and maybe I’ll actually get 2020’s wrap-up done before we finish the first month of 2021?? We shall see…

I’m very sad because it’s been so long since I’ve read anyone else’s blog. I subscribe to everyone’s blogs via email and when new posts arrive, I chuck them into a folder to be read later… except now I’m months (and almost 2000) emails behind. The truth is, I probably won’t actually get to read them all, which means I’ve missed out on some fabulous posts. But I really want to get back into the groove of this community, so we’ll see what happens next. I appreciate you all sticking with me even when I haven’t been good at reciprocating interactions!!

Favorite December Read

I think I’m going to go with The Christmas Sisters, although pretty much any of the 4* reads below could have taken this slot. My higher-ranked reads this month were rereads and I like to choose a new book for this spot when I can.

Most Disappointing December Read

Probably Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, just because I expected something more out of P&P retelling.

Other December Reads

December Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  29 (3 Kindle, 26 physical)
  • Total Pages Read:  9122
  • Average Star Rating for September:  3.6
  • Longest Book: Ready Player One (579 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  Foxes in Love (103 pages)
  • Oldest Book:  These Old Shades (published 1926)
  • Newest Book:  Ready Player Two, Holding Out for Christmas, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, Christmas Comes to Dickens, and Foxes in Love (all published 2020)
  • Number of New-to-Me Authors:  12, plus several more in the compilations

December DNFs

The only one I had this month was Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes. I really wanted to get on with this book and I just couldn’t. Isabel has called off her wedding at the last minute and gone on her honeymoon trip to Paris on her own. In the suite next to hers, Alec’s fiancee eloped with someone else just before their wedding so he’s also honeymooning on his own. This could have been a fun and gentle story of second chances, but instead it was mostly about Isabel’s just mind-boggling levels of self-centeredness. First off, we find out that the reason that she called off the wedding was because her fiance decided that he wanted to leave his job in the city and take over his family’s horse farm. The implication is that this is one of those gigantic, multi-million-dollar horse farms, not some little shack in the boonies, but it’s not good enough for Isabel, despite the fact that we find out that her fiance has always said that taking over the horse farm is his ultimate goal in life. But Isabel LOVES her job and LOVES living in the city so she doesn’t even bother to try to work things out with her man because why bother? It’s not like they’ve been in a relationship for several years or anything. The author does this bizarre thing where she has Isabel bring along her “engagement journal” that she started when she first got engaged. Throughout the story, Isabel reads random sections of it, recalling how excited she was at the beginning, and WOW did that make this book significantly more depressing because we’re basically reading about how happy and full of love she is for a relationship that we know is going to fail a year later. Talk about a downer, plus it honestly just emphasized how completely self-absorbed she is. Throughout all the preparations for the wedding that didn’t happen, it’s all about her and if her fiance doesn’t agree with her, it’s because he just doesn’t “get” her like he used to. I got about halfway through this one before giving up because Isabel got more unlikable, not less. She’s a total snob, obsessed with wealth, position, and jobs. She kind of dates another guy but when she finds out that he’s “just” rich and titled and doesn’t actually do much in his day-to-day job, she blows him off. Heaven forbid someone who’s a millionaire just kick back and enjoy life instead of working in finance all day. What even. Plus the whole “he doesn’t work hard enough for me” thing just didn’t ring all that true considering she broke up with the other guy because he was “just” going to be a farmer. Oh my gosh. I just couldn’t deal with her whiny, entitled attitude for a second longer.

TBR Update

This I keep updated as I go, so it’s current as of today, rather than as of the end of December. Still a million years behind on reading blog posts, though! :-/

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into six different tabs:

  • Standalones:  515 (up 2)
  • Nonfiction:  124 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  647 (up one)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  255 (down one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 118 (holding steady)
  • New Arrivals – if you actually pay attention to this section, you’ll know this is a new slot. I have a lot of books that I have been gifted or that I pick up somewhere and they get put on my “oh I’m so excited about this shiny new book” shelf… and then of course don’t actually get read. I didn’t have this as its own list for quite a while because there’s a lot of overlap (sometimes I buy a book because it’s on my TBR, so now it’s both on the TBR and on the New Arrivals) but that just means reading a book from this shelf will make multiple lists drop!!: 115

Reading Challenges Updates

  • #ReadingEurope2020 – visited no where – this challenge is NOT going to get completed this year but I’m still tracking it for fun (total 9/46 complete)
  • #ReadtheUSA2020 – visited New Hampshire & Oklahoma (total 35/50 complete – this one isn’t getting done this year, but I’m going to try again in 2021!!)
  • #SeparatedbyaPondTour – visited the states above plus Alberta (Canada), Aberdeen (Scotland), & the City of London. (Total 63/159 complete – this is still on the 3-year track. If anyone has books they love set in Canada, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, let me know!!)
  • #LitsyAtoZ – 2 books – got both Y & Z at the last minute!! (24/26 complete – only weird letters left. Specifically Q & X)
  • #BackwardsAtoZ – 22 books (No V on my fifth list through No Q on my sixth list – I’m trying to do this one in order and to see how many times I can get through the alphabet!)

Current Reads

Working my way through The Pioneers by David McCullough, which is pretty interesting nonfiction so far. It’s focused on the settlement of Marietta, Ohio, which is only a couple hours from here. It’s fun and interesting to read about places I’ve seen in real life.

To balance that out, I’m reading The Mislaid Magician by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. It’s a reread, but so much fun!

Up Next

The probable next five (ish) reads…

  • The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack – not one I would have necessarily picked up on my own, but it’s my next read for the traveling book club. I’m actually in two groups right now, but my other book for this group hasn’t arrived (wow the postal service has been crazy, that’s a whole other topic, but my books for the traveling book clubs were heading to Massachusetts and Connecticut respectively (from here in Ohio) yet went to DES MOINES and sat there for almost two weeks…!!!!) and I can’t even remember which one it is, so that’s a surprise title that will get read whenever it arrives!
  • Miss Eleanor Tilney by Sherwood Smith – After reading Northanger Abbey I realized that what I really wanted was a book about Henry’s sister!! This is the only one I’ve found and since it’s free on Kindle Unlimited I’ll probably give it a whirl even though the reviews aren’t that great.
  • Bill the Conqueror by P.G. Wodehouse – I haven’t forgotten my goal to read through all of Wodehouse’s works in published order, but other reads keep getting in the way!
  • The Boden Birthright by Mary Connealy – frankly, I don’t even remember what this book is about, but something possessed me to download it for free to my Kindle at some point! This is the next book in my attempt to wade through my neverending Kindle backlog.
  • Time and Time Again by Ben Elton – a random book from my TBR – it’s been there forever – I’m not a huge fan of time travel-y books, but I’m willing to give this one a try.

Well, my friends, that’s finally all the reviews for 2020!!! Hopefully I’ll post a wrap up for the year sometime soon and then – on to 2021!! Happy new year!!

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter // by Jennifer Reese

//published 2011//

This was another nonfiction read that had been on my radar for a while, and after thoroughly enjoying Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, I decided to try another not-exactly-cookbook. Make the Bread, Buy the Butter was entertaining and informative, and I ended up purchasing my own copy to add to my collection so that I can try out some of Reese’s recipes.

Reese introduces her book by saying that a while back, she lost her job. And even though her husband was still making good money and they weren’t going to be destitute or anything, her immediate thought was wondering how she could save money. Her thoughts went towards her grocery budget. So much money spent on food every month! Couldn’t she save a lot of money if she started making things from scratch instead of purchasing them ready-made? After all, now she had plenty of time on her hands!

But as she began her experiments, she realized that sometimes store-bought really is better – and cheaper – than homemade. And so this book was born, as she writes about her various attempts at home-making just about everything, telling her readers which things are worth the effort and which things aren’t.

Reese analyzes her results on quality, expense, and hassle. She summarizes her experiments with the recipe, and then says whether she thinks it’s worth making it, or if you should buy it. She also tells you how much hassle it’s going to be if you decide to try and make it yourself. For instance, when talking about bread she says that it’s fairly easy, but it’s also easy to get carried away –

For a while I felt I should bake all our bread – that it was spendthrift and lazy not to. I didn’t want my husband to buy bread, even when we ran out, and I got snippy when he did. But I also got snippy when he’d remind me that we were running out of bread – I felt like I was being nagged to put on my apron. I think everyone in my family is glad I’ve stopped wearing that particular hair shirt. Homemade bread is better but still: it’s just bread.

She goes on to say that bread is worth making it and lists the hassle level as “Can you stir? You can make this bread.”

Another great example was the comparison between hot dog and hamburger buns. She says she spontaneously tried a recipe for hot dog buns one day and even though they were “lopsided and lumpish” when they came out of the oven, they tasted delicious. Reese said that as she was eating them –

I found myself reflecting on how bad most hot dog buns are. How we take for granted their badness, how inured we are to their badness. How I always throw away what’s left after the last bite of hot dog because the bread has the texture of foam rubber.

And so, hot dog buns fell into the “make” category. But then –

Because hot dog buns were such a revelation, I assumed the same would be true of hamburger buns. This didn’t turn out to be so. In my experience, homemade hamburger buns are always too stiff and substantial, not fluffy enough. Here’s the issue: Unlike hot dogs, hamburgers are sloppy and effusive and you need a bun to work as both a sponge to soak up juices and a mitt to hold the hamburger itself. While I can bake a really outstanding mitt, it never quite doubles as a sponge. I have to hand it to Big Food: it has mastered the spongy bread.

I think that that’s one of the big reasons that I enjoyed this book – in many cases, Reese concluded that making something yourself actually wasn’t worth it, and instead of beating yourself up trying to find the perfect hamburger bun recipe, you should just embrace the fact that they aren’t that expensive to buy at the grocery.

In addition to experimenting with cooking, Reese looked at sourcing her food closer to home as well – her chapters about raising chickens, goats, turkeys, ducks, and a garden were all entertaining, honest, and useful. Her conclusion that raising your own chickens genuinely is not a money-saving proposition was completely genuine, especially when she said that she now keeps the chickens because she likes them, and the eggs are a bonus.

Throughout, Reese writes as though she’s sitting across the kitchen table from you, chatting about her life experiences. Her husband and children frequently flit through the stories as individuals who have to endure her experiments and are sometimes rather snarky about it.

I ended up with a long list of possibilities I wanted to try from this book, including making my own cream cheese and vanilla extract, hot dog buns and tortillas, whipped cream and graham crackers – and several more. This fall has been (as I may have mentioned) a bit insane, so I haven’t had time to try any of these yet, but I’m hopefully that I’ll get to some of them this winter. I’ve been making bread for us every week already (even before I read this book) and would love to find a few more homemade recipes that, once I knew what I was doing with them, wouldn’t be too much hassle to keep in the regular rotation.

All in all, I definitely recommend this one. It was easy to read and felt very accessible. Reese made me feel better about the fact that I don’t make everything from scratch even while she encouraged me to try making things from scratch that I’d never considered before. An unexpectedly fun and engaging read.

Rearview Mirror // September 2020

Yes, my title is correct: this post is a wrap-up for September… on the last day of October third of November (!). What can I say, life has been a little crazy haha Things are humming right along and we are keeping as busy as ever. October is always a really slammed month for me now that I work at an orchard, so I’ve had a little trouble keeping up the blog. Hopefully November will be a little quieter and I will catch up on important things, like reading and blogging about reading!!!

Favorite September Read

It’s rare that a nonfiction book snags this slot (and, if I’m honest, Secret Water was probably the book I enjoyed reading the most this month, but I just can’t let Arthur Ransome win EVERY month!), but Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat was so unique and intriguing that I feel like it deserves this spot. I really learned so much from this one – as far as practical application goes, I’ve been surprised at how many of the concepts I’ve been able to apply.

Most Disappointing September Read

Probably Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff. I’ll admit that I didn’t have super high expectations for this one, but even my low standard wasn’t met. This one dragged on too long and had a bizarre love triangle. Ugh.

Other September Reads

September Stats

  • Total Number of Books Read:  16 (one ebook)
  • Total Pages Read:  6186
  • Average Star Rating for September:  4.05
  • Longest Book: S. (456 pages)
  • Shortest Book:  Fangs (100 pages and most of them were pictures!)
  • Oldest Book:  Anne’s House of Dreams (published 1917)
  • Newest Book:  Fangs, Thorn, Nine, Beach Read, and Virtual Unicorn Experience (all published 2020)
  • Number of New-to-Me Authors:  11

September DNFs

The Castle in the Attic – by Elizabeth Winthrop – This is one of those books that’s been on my shelf for eons, but I’ve never gotten around to reading. While it had many elements that I generally enjoy in a book for younger readers, the overall story was just SO boring. Plus the main character was kind of a brat and I found him hard to like. So this one is now in the giveaway box!

Silken Scales – by Alex Hayes – This is a Kindle book I got for free forever ago. It started super slow and wasn’t really going anywhere. It was also the first book in a trilogy, and I’ve noticed a trend (especially in free Kindle books…) where literally nothing happens in a first book because the author is “setting the stage”… and I just wasn’t that invested.

The Crimson Thread – by Suzanne Weyn – I’ve read other books by this author and found them to be fine, but I couldn’t get into this one. It was a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin except without magic, set around 1900. I’ve read other fairy tales done this way in this series (series is a loose term – the books aren’t actually connected, they’re all just fairy tale retellings of some kind) and it ends up feeling more like the outline of a book instead of an actual story. The format is just too short or something.

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre – by Gail Carson Levine – I really enjoyed The Two Princesses of Bamarre, so I was looking forward to this book set earlier in the kingdom’s history. However it was just DEAD BORING. I struggled along and finally gave up about 75% through the book because I still did NOT CARE about what was happening.

TBR Update

This I keep updated as I go, so it’s current as of today, rather than as of the end of September.  I’m sure it’s off-kilter, though, because I get most of my TBR additions from reading book reviews on all of your lovely blogs, and despite my efforts to try and get caught up on reading them, I still have over ONE THOUSAND unread emails that are all blog entries!!!!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  497 (up 31 as I finally transferred all of my Litsy wishlist books to the “official” TBR!)
  • Nonfiction:  124 (up 8 for the same reason!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  647 (up one)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  254 (up nine!!!!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 118 (up six!!)

Reading Challenges Updates

  • #ReadingEurope2020 – visited no where!! – this challenge is NOT going to get completed this year but I’m still tracking it for fun (total 7/46 complete)
  • #ReadtheUSA2020 – visited two states: Arkansas and Colorado (total 33/50 complete – unless I get myself really organized, I probably won’t get this one done this year)
  • #SeparatedbyaPondTour – visited the states above, plus Cornwall, Cumbria, and Wiltshire in England. (Total 57/159 complete – this is still on the 3-year track. If anyone has books they love set in Canada, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, let me know!!)
  • #LitsyAtoZ – 0 books (22/26 complete – only weird letters left. Specifically Q, X, Y, and Z, so let me know if you have suggestions for titles or author last names that start with those letters!)
  • #BackwardsAtoZ – 10 books (No M through no V on my fourth list – I’m trying to do this one in order and to see how many times I can get through the alphabet!)

Current Reads

In November I’m participating in two buddy reads on Litsy – Moby Dick and Northanger Abbey. Unfortunately, Moby hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m already behind on that one (lol). However, I’ve read the first few chapters of Northanger Abbey and love it. It’s a reread for me, but I’ve only read it once, and I had forgotten how funny it is.

I’m also reading Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley. Two things I generally dislike in fiction – dual timelines and a hint of paranormal – but somehow when Kearsley writes them it all just works out. I’m almost done with this one and have really enjoyed it.

Finally, I’m reading The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie. It’s been a while since I’ve read this one, so, as usual, I can’t remember exactly how it goes!

Up Next

The probable next five(ish) reads –

  • The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu – Every now and then I have subscribed to OwlCrate, and this is a book from them so it’s quite a lovely edition. November starts a new round of the traveling book club and this is my pick for the fantasy group that I’m in. (Actually, Bellewether is my pick for the romance group).
  • Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery – I’ve been rereading all the Anne books, and this is the final in the series. This one is actually my favorite in the series in many ways and it always just guts me emotionally (in a good way).
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – As you all know, I’m pretty active in the Litsy community, including being a part of their penpal club. One of the other members randomly sent me this book with a notation that she thought it would be fun to have a few books just floating around the group to be annotated and then passed on to someone else, a sort of unofficial traveling book with no particular destination in mind haha I haven’t really looked to see if this is a book I’m going to like, but I’ll at least give it a try before passing it on.
  • Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West – I’ve read a few of West’s books and found them to be pretty harmless fluff. This one has been on the TBR for a while so it’s about time to pick it up.
  • Forced Alliance by Lenora Worth – Some of you may remember quite a while ago when I inherited a laundry basket full of Love Inspired paperbacks. While I’ve donated most of them (after attempting to read them all, I realized that it just wasn’t going to work since most of them, frankly, were 2-3* reads for me), I kept a few that genuinely looked interesting. This one is romantic suspense, so we’ll see how it goes.

Well, that’s a wrap for September (ha!) Hopefully everyone’s fall is going well. While I’m not exactly excited about winter, I’m looking forward to the more relaxed pace it generally brings… although the guy I work for at the greenhouse in the spring already called to see what my schedule looks like since he will probably start planting in December!

Happy November everyone!!