December Minireviews

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry

//published 1951//

This is an easy 4/5 read, and a childhood favorite – it just isn’t very long, so I don’t have a lot to say about it.  It’s an oversized book full of gorgeous illustrations by my fave, Wesley Dennis.  Each chapter is about a different breed of horse.  I love how Henry usually manages to tell a little story or anecdote about each breed.  She even says in the afterword that writing this book inspired her to write several of her other stories, because the little mini-story she was writing in Album just got way too involved and interesting!  If you have a young horse lover in your life, this is a perfect gift book.  The illustrations are amazing, and it’s just the right amount of information to get them going.

I will say that, rereading as an adult, I was intrigued by how some of the chapters did actually feel dated.  Album was published in 1951, and she says things about various draft horses still being used to plow fields, which was in fact still happening in the 1940’s, but has disappeared pretty much completely almost 70 years later.  However, rather than detracting from the book, I felt that it gave it even more charm!

Bronco Charlie by Henry Larom

//published 1951//

This children’s book is about a boy who becomes the youngest rider ever for the Pony Express.  It seems like a completely improbable tale, but I looked it up, and most of it is actually true!  I picked this up at a booksale eons ago, but hadn’t read it in years.  Of course, I was attracted to it because of the illustrations…  by Wesley Dennis!  Have I mentioned that he was an artistic genius??  :-D  In all seriousness, his pencil drawings really do add so much to this story, and made me want to saddle up right along with Charlie.  This is an adorable story, and definitely deserves a slot on the children’s bookshelves here at my house.

A Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

//published 1972//

Another 4/5 read – the perfect combination of fun, frothy, and witty that Heyer always presents, even if it is in a rather predictable pattern!

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

//published 2015//

I’ve never actually read a book by Hoover before, but Stephanie mentioned reading this one a while back, so I thought maybe it would be a good place to start.  In this story, Fallon meets Ben right before she moves from California to New York.  They have an instantaneous connection, but Fallon doesn’t want to start a relationship at that moment.  Instead, they agree to meet on November 9 for the next five years, but to have no contact with each other – not even through social media – in between.

This book has a fun concept and I did enjoy it for the most part, but it began to feel kind of same-y, since we only get the story on November 9 each year – nothing in between.  Fallon and Ben are super insta-love-y, which I would have been okay with, except it began to translate into the sexual, so now the November 9 dates not only don’t have a lot of story, they do have a decent amount of sex, which also felt kind of weird since they don’t actually know each other all that well.  There was also a decent amount of swearing, and there is nothing like a string of completely unnecessary f-bombs to put me off a book.

Part of the problem was that I never liked Ben, like not even a little. I thought he was obnoxious and pushy and kind of a creeper. And while I did think the twist was clever, it didn’t really make me like Ben even more. He’s still kind of a self-centered whiner.

I did like the ending and felt like things came together well, and I really did want to see how things turned out, but overall I felt pretty meh about the whole book, and not particularly inspired to look up more of Hoover’s works.

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

//published 2005//

This story is about a woman who opens an agency that helps men get their lives together – she’ll help them shop for the right clothes, purchase nice gifts for people, redecorate their apartments, etc.  She’ll also provide herself as a date to various events where a plus one is needed – basically, she’ll help you with girlfriend stuff – but “no laundry, no sex.”  I really liked this concept and thought that this book would be about Melissa having various misadventures helping befuddled bachelors.  But this book turned out to be surprisingly boring.  Melissa aggravated me to no end, with her complete lack of self-confidence and the way she always knuckled under to her dad.  Her relationship with her long-time friend/flatmate (who is a guy) seemed extremely weird and confusing to me, especially since she was supposedly falling in love with this other guy.  Her dad was so horrifically obnoxious that I could hardly stand reading the scenes where she had to deal with him.  I was also confused about how Melissa was supposedly starting her own business but seemed to have no concept of how much money she had/was making/was spending…  I feel like I keep better records for my small, part-time Etsy shop than Melissa was keeping for a business that is supposedly becoming her livelihood.

I will say that I appreciated the lack of sex in this book.  While there were some romantic scenes, there was no shagging, and Melissa doesn’t sleep with anyone for the entirety of the book!  This was so refreshing and made me frustrated that I didn’t enjoy the book more overall.

The biggest problem was that this book wasn’t remotely funny.  There weren’t any humorous scenes at all, and there was so much potential!  Instead, it was basically just listening to Melissa waffle around and be stressed, which got kind of old after a while.  The next biggest problem was that there was not a single happily married person in the entire story.  Everyone who was married was miserable.  And I honestly didn’t feel like Melissa’s guy was going to make her happy, either.  It really put a damper on the overall tone of the book.

In short, this book didn’t make me feel happy to read, which is the whole purpose of chick lit.  It honestly made me feel low-grade stressed because I disagreed with so many of Melissa’s decisions.  And without anything funny to leaven the story, it just sort of dragged on with an overall dark gray tone to life.  3/5 for being fairly readable, but not particularly recommend.  At least I can mark this series off the TBR without bothering to read the other two books.

The Man Upstairs & Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1914//

Honestly, this was my least-favorite collection of Wodehouse stories that I’ve read to date.  While they weren’t terrible, they really lacked that sparkle and wit that I think of as trademark Wodehouse.  If I hadn’t known that these were Wodehouse stories, I wouldn’t have guessed it.  They were just rather flat, several with abrupt endings.  Not terrible for a one-time read, but rather disappointing on the whole, as I’ve come to expect more from Wodehouse, even with his earlier works.

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The Woman in the Window // by A.J. Finn

//published 2018//

Back in the fall, I received a nice fat envelope, and inside of it was this book.  I really don’t remember requesting it or entering a giveaway, so I’m not sure how I got it (probably I did enter a giveaway and just don’t remember!), but I am grateful to the publisher nonetheless.  I held off reading this book because I wanted to read/review it close to the publication date, which is next week.

It took me a bit to really get into this book, although the very short chapters always help to draw me in.  The narrator, Anna*, gives us bits and pieces about her life, and part of the key to the story is receiving that information at that pace, but we find out within the first few pages that she is agoraphobic – afraid of open spaces – and doesn’t leave her house.  Her husband (Ed) and daughter (Olivia) aren’t living with her, although she still talks with them every day.  Anna’s main occupations seem to be drinking wine, spying on her neighbors, and watching old movies.

Everything comes to us quite slowly, as we carefully pick up the threads of Anna’s life and try to understand why she is the way she is.  Things start to pick up a bit when Anna witnesses one of her neighbors being murdered across the park.  Frantic, she calls the police – but by the time everything starts to get sorted out, there is no sign of a murder, and everyone is convinced that Anna imagined the whole thing, aided by medication and alcohol.

I really liked how even wasn’t sure if Anna really saw what she thought she saw.  And even though I didn’t always agree with her decisions – and frequently wanted to snatch her glass of wine right out of her self-destructive hand – I still liked Anna throughout the story, even when I learned about some of her more unsavory decisions in the past.  And throughout the book I kept recalling one of my dad’s favorite quotes – When the whole world’s out to get you, being paranoid is just smart thinking!

Parts of this story felt really similar to The Girl on the Trainwhich I just got around to reading this fall: short, snappy chapters with an unreliable female narrator who is convinced she saw a crime but no one believes her because she has a lot of personal issues and is usually drunk.  But once I pushed past that initial sense of same-y-ness, I found that The Woman in the Window was its own story, with a lot of different twists and turns than I anticipated.  While I was able to guess some things (and cleverer readers than myself may be able to guess more), overall I was surprised by a couple of twists and the ending itself.

This was the type of book that, when I got to the ending and had all the answers, I wanted to read again – I did just read the first few chapters again when I was writing this review, just to see if I could spot the clues I completely missed the first time around.

All in all, a 4/5 for The Woman in the Window.  While it does have bits that feel like familiar thriller material, and while it is definitely an homage to Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window, it still stands as its own story with a lot to offer.

*I was reading this at the same time as A Drop in the Oceanwhich is ALSO narrated by a woman named Anna.  Both women were also doctors.  Despite the fact that they were very different stories, and the first-person narration meant I didn’t hear their names all that often, having two important Annas going at the same time did feel somewhat muddling…

A Drop in the Ocean // by Jenni Ogden

I’m positive I read about this book on someone’s blog, but I’m not sure who…

//published 2016//

So this is my second book I’ve read recently set in Australia, and both books had a main character named Tom.  Are there a lot of Toms in Australia??  Also my husband’s name is Tom, so it always feels weird to read about another one…

Anyway.  This book is actually mostly about a research scientist named Anna, who narrates the story.  On her 49th birthday, Anna finds out that the funding for her long-term research project on Huntington’s disease has been discontinued, and she is now unemployed and not sure what she is going to do next.  Through a series of events she ends up renting a (very) small house on a (very) small island off the coast of Australia – a completely different experience from her apartment life in Boston.

I think I was hoping that this story would just be about Anna’s life on the island and getting to know people and whatnot, and at some level it was.  But on the island Anna meets Tom, who is also a scientist.  His work is studying sea turtles.  Anna falls in love with Tom, but even though he does become her lover, there isn’t really a sense of permanence about the relationship.  Anna is only staying on the island for a year, and there is a sort of big question mark as to what is going to happen to them when her time there is done.  It felt like way too much of this story was about Anna and her feelings towards Tom, which was disappointing to me, because the feelings weren’t particularly interesting, and felt somewhat weird considering Anna’s age – so much of her internal dialogue felt way more YA than mature adult.  Not that adults can’t have fluttery, romantic feelings, but Anna’s uncertainty and self-consciousness and jealousy just didn’t always feel like they fit her age.

There is an ongoing theme with Huntington’s disease, and as I have had a cousin (only two months older than me) pass away from complications of early-onset Huntington’s, and since his sister is also positive and beginning to show symptoms, I do have some personal connection, even if it isn’t super close.  While I felt like Ogden handled the disease aspect sensitively, it was pretty obvious that she is very much pro-assisted-suicide, a position that I cannot remotely condone.  While the book wasn’t necessarily polemic, it did venture that direction at times, and the reader is definitely only given one very specific position on a topic that to me has way, way more complications than Ogden’s simplified “this is just a nice way to make sure people don’t have to suffer if they don’t want to” explanation.  (It was also frustrating that Ogden only gave people two options: long, drawn-out misery and suffering or a quick, painless, basically pleasant death.  Especially after reading a book about hospice last winter, and after watching multiple relatives work through varying stages of cancer, I cannot possibly agree that killing oneself is the only “good” option…)  I was just really, really uncomfortable with the way Ogden consistently presented assisted suicide as a 100% great choice, and people who opposed it as being close-minded and unable to really understand the situation.  Of course, I always get aggravated when people inform me that my conservative viewpoint would obviously change if I was in a different situation.  Or… I’ve actually thought through it and this is what I believe from a logical decision, not just off-the-cuff?!

Anyway.  It also felt pretty obvious to me what Tom’s “big secret” was, and the way that it all played out really annoyed me quite a bit, which I’ll put below the cut.

Despite these negatives, I actually did enjoy reading this book.  Large chunks of it had nothing whatsoever to do with death or disease or suicide, and those bits were quite pleasant.  I loved reading about the sea turtles and the research there, and reading about Anna reconnecting with her love of the ocean.  And even though it felt somewhat odd, I even enjoyed Anna making up with her mom and the way those things played out.

Overall, A Drop in the Ocean had that typical A Novel tendency to make everything quite dreary and depressing, with even the “happy” parts somehow coming out a bit gray and surrounded by qualifications.  While I found it a nice one-time read, it definitely wasn’t a book that became an instant classic for me, especially because of the way it all concluded.  But apparently loads of people enjoy having all their characters end up with mediocre conclusions, so maybe this book is for you…

Spoilers below –

Continue reading

The Rose-Garden Husband // The Wishing-Ring Man // by Margaret Widdemer

I read a review for The Rose-Garden Husband over on The Captive Reader, and I must say that while Claire said she enjoyed the book, she also admitted to being frustrated by it – probably because everything works out for the book’s heroine with much greater ease than it ever seems to in real life!

//published 1915//

Phyllis is a librarian in the early 1900’s (the book was published in 1915), and her life is rather a hard one.  Long working hours, low wages, a lonely boarding house – most of the time Phyllis’s natural optimism is able to help her through, but on the dreary day in which our story begins, she is feeling rather low and frustrated.  What she really wishes, she realizes, is for a lovely home with a rose garden, and a husband.  And because this is a story instead of real life, her wish is granted almost immediately!

Widdemer manages to marry Phyllis off to a young man who was in a bad automobile accident several years earlier and is now unable to walk.  An invalid, his mother has cared for him ever since, but now she is very sick and dying, and is afraid that no one will care for her son when she is gone.  Believing that a wife would have more commitment than mere hired nurses, she asks her old friend and attorney to find a proper young woman to care for her son when she is gone.  While the premise sounds rather far-fetched, Widdemer actually pulls it off rather well.

Of course, Phyllis brings light and sunshine (and roses) into Allan’s life, and there are happy endings all around.  The story is nothing if not predictable, but was still told in such a warm and happy tone that it was just a delight to read.  Phyllis isn’t perfect, but she seemed like she would make a wonderful friend to have, and I was very glad to see her happy ending.

//published 1917//

The Wishing-Ring Man is a loose sequel, taking place several years later.  The heroine of this story is Joy, a young orphan who has lived with her grandparents her entire life.  Her grandfather is a famous poet, so Joy has had a rather strange upbringing – he considers her his muse, and writes many poems dedicated to her, and Joy wears rather ridiculous flowing clothes and has to attend all of his literary gatherings.  I’m making this sound a little weird and creepy, but it isn’t presented that way at all.   Joy’s grandfather is definitely pompous and self-centered, but not at all creepy.

Still, Joy is beginning to realize that her life isn’t exactly normal, and she wishes that she could have some ‘regular’ adventures.  Through a series of events, she and her grandparents end up spending a summer in a little cabin-camp in the mountains.  There, she meets our old friends Allan and Phyllis, now the happy parents of two adorable children.  When Phyllis invites Joy to come stay with them for a month, Joy’s grandpa won’t let her – he has always said that the only way she could leave his care was if she was safely engaged.  So… Phyllis announces her engagement to a man she has never met, which seems like a brilliant plan… until he shows up!

Honestly, once I got through the rather weird beginning, I actually liked The Wishing-Ring Man even better.  Joy and John are so adorable together, and I loved the fact that the ‘fake relationship trope’ has apparently been around a very long time.

Both of these stories were completely predictable and completely enjoyable.  I actually enjoyed the relationship between Phyllis and Allan even more in the second book as well – they are so happy together and their family is adorable.  I just wanted to be friends with everyone!

These books are both available as free Kindle books, so there is no reason not to read them as soon as you can.  They are perfect stories for relaxing on a wintry evening.  Easy 4/5 for both and definitely recommended.

Brightwater Trilogy // by Lia Riley

  • Last First Kiss
  • Right Wrong Guy
  • Best Worst Mistake

Sometimes I don’t really want to think when I’m reading.  This time of year can get really busy, plus I’ve spent way too much time being sick lately, so I’ve been doing a lot of fluff reading.  I started this series because I had the first book as a free Kindle book, and even though it was a pretty average read, I found myself wondering what was going to happen with the other two brothers, so giving me a free Kindle book and persuading me to buy the other two actually worked, even though I knew it was a gimmick.  :-D

All three stories take place in a small town in California, Brightwater.  Recently, Brightwater has become a popular destination because of a movie that was filmed there, so there are a lot of fancy rich people buying second homes here, even though the town still has that small-town rural vibe.

//published 2015//

In the first story, Annie is moving back to Brightwater after her divorce.  She has her young son (like around 5) in tow, and is here to get the family ranch ready to sell.  Because of the rich yuppies moving in, property values have skyrocketed, so she and her dad and sister are confident they can get a good price.  Her dad has always been a crazy hippy, and when Annie was in high school, she and her sister were made fun of by everyone for being “Kooky Carson’s” daughters.  Annie is stressed about being back in that environment, blah blah blah.

So this was a super stereotypical story, with a hunky cowboy next door who JUST SO HAPPENS to be Annie’s old high school flame.  But despite its predictability, it was still an enjoyable story, despite the fact that Annie was way over-the-top helicopter parent, like to the level that I had no idea what she was going to do when her son when to kindergarten, like she couldn’t handle having him out of her sight at all and seemed to think her only purpose in life was to be his mom, and it felt really strange.  She also was a little too vegan for me.

Still, I did like her romance with the hunky sheriff, whose name I am too lazy to look up, and felt like they had actually worked through their issues and were going to make a go of it.

//published 2015//

The next book is about the hunky sheriff’s brother, Archer, (I remember his name!), who has always been the wild guy.  We learn more of the backstory for the brothers in this book as well – their parents died in a house fire when the boys were really young, so all three of them came to live with their grandma, who is a crazy grumpy old lady who still runs the ranch.  But in this book, Grandma admits that she isn’t as young as she used to be, and she wants Archer to settle down and help her run the ranch.  Luckily, Archer ran into the woman of his dreams and is ready to actually settle down, once he convinces said woman that he is no longer going to be the wild guy.

Love interest Edie was really likable – she moves to Brightwater to escape a cheating fiancee who is also trying to blackmail her, and opens a little cafe.  I liked her and Archer as a couple as well, and really enjoyed the side story of Archer and his grandma.  Of course, it was nice to see the couple from the first book in the background.  (Sawyer??  I think his name may be Sawyer.)

//published 2015//

Finally, book three is about brother three, the oldest, whose  name is Wilder.  (I remember that one because I think it’s an awesome name.)  Wilder has been fighting wildfires in Montana for years, but at the beginning of the book has a terrible accident where he loses part of his leg.  Forced to return home to recover, and faced with the fact that he’ll never be able to fight fires again, Wilder holes himself up in a small cabin and becomes a hermit.  With nothing else much to do, he orders books from the bookstore in town and has them mailed out to his cabin every week.

Of course, the love interest works at the bookstore.  Through a series of events, she ends up stranded at Wilder’s cabin during a snowstorm, and their romance blossoms from there.  I felt like Wilder really had the most to work through, and liked the way that the whole story with the brothers’ parents’ deaths was resolved.  The series wrapped up nicely, and it seemed like everyone was definitely going to live happily ever after.

Overall, a 3/5 for each of these books and for the series.  They were pleasant for a one-time read to wile away the hours that I was stranded on the couch with a low-grade fever and a sore throat, but I don’t see myself returning to them again – not a lot of depth to these stories, and also wayyyyy too much sex, like I skipped large portions of each book.  I almost didn’t read the second book because it starts with Archer waking up with a total stranger in Las Vegas, and the whole scene was really uncomfortable.

It also made me sad that while each of these couples had plans to get married, that that wasn’t really how they ended.  I just don’t feel like moving in together is really a romantic way to end a book.  Romance books should end with weddings!  Not vague commitments and more convenient shagging.  Still, they were fun little stories even if they were incredibly predictable.

The Divine Conquest // by A.W. Tozer

Also published as God’s Pursuit of Man.

//published 1950//

Wow, I don’t even really know where to begin with this book.  It is so incredibly challenging and thought-provoking.  It should come with a warning label – Don’t Read Unless You Are Ready to Be Convicted and Change Your Life.

I don’t mean to be rude or exclusive, but this is really a book for Christians.  I don’t see a non-Christian taking anything away from it, other than, perhaps, the urge to learn more about this mystery that is the relationship between man and God.  But Tozer is primarily writing to people who have at least a basic knowledge of Christianity – although he will challenge you to consider what exactly “being a Christian” means in real life as well.

Each chapter is a little essay, and they all build together to a cohesive overall message.  Tozer begins by discussing different aspects of the Christian faith, and how willing we are, as a rule, to “settle” for just sort of a cow-like behavior of coming to church when we’re supposed to, sitting in the pews, and then going home.  However, Tozer reminds us that becoming a Christian means accepting the Word means inviting an external force to change who we are from the inside out.

The argument of this book is the essential interiority of true religion.  I expect to show that if we would know the power of the Christian message our nature must be invaded by an Object from beyond it; that That which is external must become internal; that the objective Reality which is God must cross the threshold of our personality and take residence within.

Tozer reminds his readers, without mincing words, that becoming something means that you are changing, and changing means that you also are un-becoming things.

It is impossible to travel south without turning one’s back upon the north.  One cannot plant until he has plowed nor move forward until he has removed the obstacles before him.

In this day and age of constant fear of offending people, reading this book was like a drink of cool water on a hot day.  Tozer says flat out that, “Whatever stands in the way of spiritual progress I have felt it my duty to oppose,” and he does it firmly and without apology.

There is so much in this book.  I’ve underlined scores of passages.  After a few chapters of talking about turning one’s life around, Tozer begins to remind his readers that God does not expect us to do this on our own – and the rest of the book is devoted to the Holy Spirit.  When I first read this book, circa 2007, I had grown up in the church and attending churches and Bible studies and Sunday School and everything you can think of my entire life.  I had embraced the Christian faith as my own as an adult.  Yet I realized that I could not recall a single sermon on the topic of the Holy Spirit.  Tozer challenges his readers to embrace this aspect of God, not in the speaking-in-tongues-rolling-in-the-aisles way, but the fact that He does indwell the children of God and is there to help us make decisions, to live purely, to understand Scripture.  And instead of coming to Him, most of the time we just ignore Him.

Tozer says all of this much, much better than I ever could.  If you’re a Christian (or thinking about Christianity), I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  I’m still being challenged by it.  Tozer’s writing rarely feels dated.  Instead, it feels like he is writing today, and writing directly to his reader.  It’s like reading a letter from a well-loved but somewhat strict uncle.

Read The Divine Conquest.  But only if you’re willing to make some life changes along the way.

A Beautiful Blue Death // The September Society // by Charles Finch

//published 2007//

I remember reading a couple of the books from this series a very long time ago, back when there were only three or four in the series.  It’s one that I have meant to revisit for quite some time, especially since several books have been added to it since then.  However, in the end I reread these two books and found them rather bland, and so have decided not to fuss with the rest of the books after all.

The books center on Charles Lenox, a gentleman in 1860’s London, who works as a private detective.  He’s a rather odd character because he apparently has enough money of private means to just ‘be a gentleman’ but chooses to work as a detective as well.  We don’t meet up with him on his first big case, but are dropped into the middle of his career, seemingly at random.  He lives next door to a widow, Lady Jane, with whom he also grew up.  His older brother, Edward, serves in parliament, which is actually Lenox’s dream job (which makes sense, because he loves rambling on about random stuff all the time).

//published 2008//

The main problem I had with these books was Finch’s tendency to really pontificate about random things.  I don’t mind a bit of background on a character or a few lines of description to help with the setting, but in these books it feels like every time Lenox passes a historical building or London neighborhood, Finch finds it necessary to go on for at least a paragraph, explaining the history and significance of the location, as well as all of Lenox’s personal associations with the spot.  After a while, it really began to feel like it was interfering with the pace of the story.

For instance, in The September Society, Lenox passes through a park:

Green Park, a shamrock-colored rectangle that lay behind the Houses of Parliament, was warm and beautiful that afternoon.  The willow trees bent toward the lake, their lowest branches just brushing the water, and the park’s lone wanderers and couples alike walked more slowly than they had along the fast city blocks, stopping to watch for a while.  Lenox always liked to watch the swans gliding serenely, birds with just the mix of beauty and danger that humans like in wildlife – for a swan, of course, could break a man’s arm.

Okay, a bit prosy but alright.  Except the next paragraph, rather than getting on with the story, continues with the swans!

Another curious fact about them was that every swan in England belonged to Queen Victoria.  Not many people knew it, but poaching swans was an offense the crown could punish.  The official swan keeper to Her Majesty wrangled the birds in the third week of July every year, when they were served at the Queen’s table and a few others across the isles, in Cambridge, Oxford, York, Edinburgh.  The swans were mute, but at their deaths they found voice and sang, and the long line of wranglers always claimed to be haunted by the sound.  It was the origin of the term swan song.

???  Just… this has nothing to do with the story.  And if this was the only instance of this meandering fact-giving it would be find, but it happens multiple times per chapter, and it became very off-putting to me, as it started to feel that Finch felt that it was important to insert all of his research into the story whether it fit or not.  It really, really interfered with the pace of the story.

In A Beautiful Blue Death, I was put off almost immediately when Lenox and his friend, a doctor, determine almost immediately that the murder victim’s death was caused by a very rare poison.  However, we aren’t really told how the doctor arrives at this conclusion.  He just…  knows?  After that, the detective in charge of the investigation decides he doesn’t want Lenox around.  So the whole story feels rather strange, with Lenox sort of meandering around the edges of it.

It just felt like both books lacked any urgency.  Lenox is very dry as a main character, and always felt rather pompous to me, although part of that is definitely Finch’s narration.  However, I will say that my younger brother loved these books, and his favorite part were all the asides and odd facts, so maybe it’s just a reader-preference thing.

All in all, these were solid 3/5 reads for me.  They were fine stories that didn’t feel like a waste of time, but also didn’t really leave me with any desire to complete the series.  With 105 other mystery series on the TBR, I don’t necessarily feel like I need to read ones that don’t really do something for me.