March Minireviews – Part 1

Usually, I only post a group of minireviews for books that have just been sort of meh for me, leaving me with not a whole lot to say about the story.  But this month I’ve been super busy with work and other projects and just simply haven’t had time for reviews.  I really struggled through a reading slump the end of February and into March, but over the last couple of weeks have been back in the groove, which means I actually have quite the little pile of books waiting to be reviewed.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to really unpack all the ins and outs, so I’m going to try to just give each read a few paragraphs… hopefully I don’t get too carried away…

Dead End Close by Dominic Utton

//published 2017//

I actually started a whole long review of this book but then got really carried away.  I disliked this book so much that the whole review was turning into a rather incoherent rant, so maybe I can just summarize a briefer, coherent rant here.  I actually rather enjoyed Utton’s first book, Martin Harbottle’s Appreciation of Timeand I think that added to the disappointment that I felt about Dead End Close.  This book focuses on several households all on the same dead-end street in Oxford.  There’s a bit of mystery/thriller aspect, but at the end of the day this book was just overwhelmingly depressing.  No one has a happy life, no one has a happy ending.  All of my notes on this book end with “???” because I just didn’t get this book at all.  There’s this weird guy meandering through the story (and sometimes narrating it) with a clipboard, and we are given the impression that he’s a supernatural/angelic being of some kind (???), but apparently there for observation purposes only has he does diddly-squat to prevent anything from happening.  Throughout the story, all the lives that started pretty bad to begin with only get worse.

But the biggest reason that this book gets 0/5 stars for me is that a huge part of the plot centers around a trio of Oxford boys who are trying to get into a club, and the initiation process requires them to rape a girl, video it, and then get the video to go viral.  This whole part of the book literally made me ill to read, it was so disturbing and dark and gross.  And maybe I could have gotten around this if this book had had some kind of point, but it didn’t.  The whole story was just completely pointless.  It went no where, there was no character development, terrible things happened to everyone, people get raped and killed, and a heavy sense of hopelessness lingers on every page.

I think I was especially irked when I got to the end and Utton attempted to whitewash his entire story by acting like, somehow, there was a message of hope.  Like, “Oh wow, sometimes bad things happen, but there’s always hope!”  Yeah, that doesn’t really fly with me when the only “hope” part of your story is in the next-to-last paragraph of the entire book.

Dead End Close was given to me free of charge from the publishers, and this is my obviously very honest review.  I hated every word of this book and wouldn’t even recommend it to someone I didn’t like.  Weirdly, I would still read another of Utton’s books, though, because I enjoyed Harbottle, but this one was flat dreadful.

The Wreckage by Michael Robotham

//published 2011//

They say that a book can impact your mood.  I think this is true, but I also think that sometimes my mood impacts the book.  I picked up The Wreckage (the fifth in the Joseph O’Laughlin series) during the height of my reading slump and could not get into it.  And even though I eventually finished the book, it never really gripped me.  I can’t say for sure if that was the book’s fault or mine, but I definitely felt very meh towards this story the whole way through.

I think a large part of this was because it didn’t feel nearly as personal as the other books in this series.  The other books have dealt with tight, domestic-type crimes (kidnapping, murder, robbery, etc.), but this one was more political, following a storyline in Iraq, where a reporter believes that several bank robberies are connected; and London, where our old friend Vincent Ruiz finds himself entangled in a complicated web of disappearances, robberies, and embezzlement.

The story was done well, and the present-tense that Robotham insists on using made more sense as a third person narrative.  But my personal disinterest meant that I didn’t read this book very closely, and consequently it felt disjointed to me.  It left me with a 3/5 rating, but I think that it will be better when I read through this series again.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

//published 2017//

This was another ARC, but one that I thankfully enjoyed a great deal more than Dead End Close.  This story drifts back and forth in time, following the lives of three German women before, during, and after World War II.  While this wasn’t exactly a cheerful read, it was a very engaging one.  Shattuck handles the shifts in time perfectly, giving information about the lives of these women at just the right time.  It is not a mystery, but each of the women has her own secrets that are only gradually revealed.

It was quite fascinating to read a story about “everyday” Germans.  Marianne, passionate about the resistance; Benita, rather naive and sometimes willfully blind; Ania, caught up in the dream of a better life and failing to see how the promises were built on shifting sand.  The language is lovely and the characters are well-drawn, although I wish that we saw more of Marianne’s thoughts and actions.  She is weirdly both the center of the story and yet in the background of it.

While I don’t see myself returning to this book time and again, I would definitely read another of Shattuck’s books, and recommend this one to anyone who enjoys history from the perspective of ordinary people struggling to see what is right.  4/5.

The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar

//published 2014//

This book is the sequel to a lighthearted YA novel that I read in February, The Art of Wishing.  While Wishing didn’t really blow my mind with its awesomeness, it was still an entertaining and pleasant read, and I was expecting more of the same from The Fourth Wish.  Unfortunately, it was overall pretty terrible.  In this book, Margo is struggling to adjust to her new life as a genie.  For some reason, Ribar decided that the overwhelming majority of people who get a hold of a genie would use their wishes to find some kind of sexual fulfillment.  Color me crazy, but if I had three wishes for anything, I really don’t think any of them would involve sex…???  Plus, we also have to spend a lot of time nattering on about how genies can be either male or female (I mean the same genie can be either), and how this doesn’t change who they are on the inside, and they can still love each other no matter their outward apperance, aw how romantic except why so boring and consequently not actually romantic at all.

I skimmed large portions of this book hoping to actually find a story, but there wasn’t one.  Margo was a total whiner in this book, spending most of  her time being a jealous girlfriend.  I don’t really have high hopes for her relationship with Oliver, especially since they are not both timeless, eternal beings.  Like I don’t think this relationship is going to last five months, much less five centuries.

In the end, 2/5 and nothing that inspired me to find out if Ribar has written anything else.

‘Pride & Prejudice’ Variations – Minireviews

I have confessed before that when my life gets  busy and stressed, my reading gets suuuuper fluffy, and, in most cases, takes on the form of terrible Pride & Prejudice variations.  I hate to admit it, but I find them endlessly entertaining, mostly because I love the concept of one thing being different, and suddenly the whole story changes.  While many of them are, admittedly, dreadful, some are still enjoyable.  I’m embarrassed to tell you all how many I’ve read lately, but here are a few, just as a sample…

The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams

//published 2013//

This one was pretty low key, but still pleasant.  In this story, Darcy and Elizabeth meet at Netherfield per canon, but, after the assembly where Elizabeth becomes quite prejudiced against Darcy, Georgiana comes from London to stay at Netherfield as well, and she and Elizabeth become friends.  A few months later, when Darcy is away visiting a relative (and Jane is staying in London with the Gardiners), Georgiana invites Elizabeth to come and stay with her.  However, Darcy returns home early, so he and Elizabeth have an opportunity to know each other better.

Things I liked:  This was just a nice variation.  There weren’t all these crazy evil people trying to drive Darcy and Elizabeth apart, there weren’t loads of steamy sex scenes, and there was no violence or rape.  In short, it was a variation that I don’t think would have made Jane Austen twitch too much.  I liked the slowly developing friendship between Darcy and Elizabeth, and I liked how not all of Darcy’s relatives immediately disliked Elizabeth.  It was also nice to have Georgiana be nice, because some variations like to turn her into a selfish shrew.

Things I didn’t like:  There was this kind of random love triangle that was never a really serious love triangle, and I don’t even understand why authors bother with it in these stories because DUH the whole point is Darcy and Elizabeth end up together, so it doesn’t really seem fair to the other fellow, does it??  Also, this book had a ridiculously long epilogue that was so involved it felt like Adams should have just written a sequel.  Instead, we just got like a couple of paragraphs throwing everyone’s lives into disarray.

Conclusion:  3/5 for a pleasant story.  Nice for relaxing but not terribly thrilling.

Fate & Consequences by Linda Wells

//published 2009//

In this version, Darcy arrives at Ramsgate too late to stop Georgiana.  He pursues her (and Wickham, obviously), and manages to catch up with them at an inn in a small town called Meryton.  While Georgiana hasn’t actually stayed a night with Wickham, she is still ruined when word gets out of her attempted elopement.  While in Meryton, Darcy and his sister happened to run into Elizabeth, and a series of events leads to Elizabeth and Georgiana beginning a correspondence.  Darcy and Elizabeth also begin a clandestine correspondence, and fall in love through their letters.  Because Georgiana is ruined when Darcy and Elizabeth meet, Darcy has already been humbled in many ways, and is much more open to falling in love with Elizabeth in consequence.

Things I liked:  Again, I like stories where people are friends and then fall in love, and this version did that well.  Elizabeth and Darcy are just so good for each other in this story, always supporting and helping each other through difficult times.  There was a good secondary story about Elizabeth having an aunt that she never knew about because her aunt was also ruined as a young woman and sent off to Scotland in disgrace.  I also liked the way that Mr. Bennet and his wife began to work through their relationship and ended as a stronger couple in the end.

Things I didn’t like:  Mostly the ridiculous drama, like seriously Wickham is a bit over-the-top, and Lady Catherine definitely is.  Also, one of Elizabeth’s letters go missing and even though she and Darcy hardly know each other at this point, Darcy goes into this deep, dark depression and refuses to eat or sleep for days and it all just seemed a *tad* melodramatic for the situation.  Also, definitely too much sex.  Just please.  No.

Conclusion:  Still, 3/5 because there were a lot of good characterizations, and when Wells wasn’t going crazy with emotional turmoil, the story moved along well.

1932 by Karen M. Cox

//published 2010//

I really love versions where the actual setting is different.  In some ways, I think that illustrates how universal this love story really has become.  Here, Cox decided to set the story during the Great Depression.  Elizabeth’s family has lost most of their money and has to move to the small town where her mother grew up.  The Darcys of course were much better planners and have suffered minimal financial distress, and Darcy is one of the largest landowners around.

Things I liked:  I loved the concept and the setting, and I liked that Darcy and Elizabeth got married towards the middle of the story (in this version, it would be sort of the equivalent of Elizabeth accepting Darcy during the Hunsford proposal), and then grew towards love from there.  I also liked that Georgiana was likable and kind.

Things I didn’t like:  Overall, this story just felt rushed, like the author had this great idea and felt like she had to publish it before someone else beat her to the punch.  Consequently, the story felt choppy in bits.  The love story between Georgiana and the sheriff could have been much more interesting.  Darcy’s refusal to tell Elizabeth the truth of Georgiana’s past, even after Darcy and Elizabeth married, felt very unnatural, so I didn’t really buy their entire disagreement which was central the story – it seemed like Darcy would have told Elizabeth at least the basic gist.  Later, Darcy and Elizabeth have an argument and it felt like that dragged way too long – Elizabeth leaves her husband and returns home for weeks?!  

Conclusion:  3/5.  I wanted to like this story more than I did.  The author has written at least one more version with a unique setting, so I’ll probably give that one a try as well.

The Wicked Marquis // by Marnie Ellingson

Thrift stores are rather awesome, and not just because you can get gently used clothes and furniture on the cheap.  They also tend to have a corner devoted to various types of media, with books, VHS tapes, battered DVDs, and scratched CDs all piled together.  I love rummaging through thrift store books, because sometimes, under the Readers’ Digest condensed versions and scads of romance paperbacks with scantily clad heroes and heroines in fond embrace – I find a little treasure.  And one of those, purchased for a quarter a few years ago, is The Wicked Marquis.

//published 1982//

This isn’t a book of high adventure or intensity, but it’s a fabulous go-to for a happy, relaxing, funny little story.  This definitely has echoes of Georgette Heyer, with a strong-minded but lovable heroine who is determined to rescue her cousin from a marriage of convenience (but no love), and in doing so, embroils herself with the Wicked Marquis himself.  It’s one of those wonderful little stories where there isn’t really a villain, where misunderstandings are minimal, and where you know that everything will come together in the end for a happy ending.

Esme is a wonderful protagonist.  She is intelligent, interesting, and contented with her lot in life.  She isn’t afraid to stand up for the people she loves, but never comes across as obnoxious or ridiculous.  And despite the fact that she is adventurous and not particularly fussed about all of the societal regulations, she’s still feminine and even girly at times, enjoying a good chat about clothes and handsome young men.

All in all, I definitely recommend The Wicked Marquis, with a strong 4/5 rating.  And despite the fact that I’ve owned this book for several years and have read it several times, this was the first time that I bothered to find out if Ellingson wrote anything else.  I did find one of her books on eBay secondhand, and hope to read Unwilling Bride soon, although not in public, as the cover is absolutely ridiculous.

I mean seriously?!

Briar Queen // by Katherine Harbour

//published 2015//

Life continues to be quite busy, although I am feeling a bit more like reading these days, so we will see how that translates into blogging!  I’ve missed being active here, but sometimes real life interferes with my internet life!!

Quite a while back I reviewed the first book in the Night & Nothing Trilogy, Thorn Jack.  In that book, we met Finn, who had moved (with her dad) to her dad’s hometown in upstate New York.  However, the seemingly idyllic little college town of Fair Hollow is actually the home to a group of fairy-like creatures known as the Fata.  Finn falls in love with one of the Fata, Jack, who used to be human.  By the end of Thorn Jack, the love that Finn and Jack have for each other has made Jack human again.

Part of the reason that Finn and her father left San Francisco and moved to Fair Hollow was because they were recovering from the suicide of Finn’s sister, Lily Rose.  In Briar Queen, Finn learns that her sister isn’t actually dead – she has been taken by the Fata and is being held in the shadow-world that parallels the human one.  Soon, Finn, Jack, and Finn’s friends are all embroiled in an rescue attempt that leads to many terrifying and exciting adventures.

It’s been a while since I actually finished this book – almost a month, actually – so I don’t remember all the specific details.  However, I liked this book better than Thorn Jack, I think mostly because a lot of the first book was spent setting up the world and characters.  In the second book, we were able to jump right into some action after a brief recap.  Despite the fact that my notes for this book say, “Plot like a pinball machine,” overall this book seemed more cohesive than the first.  In the first book, I complained about the story feeling choppy and jerky, but Briar Queen flowed much better.  It was full of action and adventure, but still stayed focused and had a fairly cohesive plot.

All in all, this book was a 4/5 for me, and I’m rather excited to (someday) read the conclusion, Nettle King.

Still Life // by Dani Pettrey

//published 2017//

Still Life is the sequel to Cold Shotand as the books focus on a group of friends, my guess is that there will be a few more books in the series.  While there were several things that I enjoyed about this story, it also fell into some ruts in places, so overall I’m going with the same rating as I gave the first book in the series – 3.5/5.

The initial mystery in this book is great.  It starts with Avery visiting the opening of an art show.  Avery used to be a photographer, but was blacklisted (before the events in the first book) because of a controversial political shot.  After that, she worked for a while as a crime-scene photographer, which is where we met her in Still Life.  However, she felt like her feelings were growing too strong for her employer, Parker (a crime-scene analyst), so since the ending of the last book, she has gone back to doing some free lancing.

At any rate, this art show is one of the first times that she’s reentered the professional photography sphere and she is a bit nervous.  But she promised her friend that she would come.  Skylar and Avery grew up together, and even though they aren’t as close as they once were, Avery still feels a lot of responsibility for Skylar.  While Skylar isn’t an artist, she is the focus of the art show that is getting ready to open, as the photographer used her as his model.  Weirdly enough, the artist chose to use a theme wherein he posed his subject as though she had died.  Kind of creepy, but artists can be a strange lot.

When Avery gets there, she is surprised that she can’t find Skylar anywhere.  But Avery doesn’t really begin to worry until the photographs are revealed – and the artist becomes enraged because not only has someone stolen one of his photographs, it has actually been replaced by another picture of Skylar posing as though she has died… except Avery isn’t convinced that it is actually a pose…

Soon Avery and our friends from Cold Shot (which you definitely need to read before reading this book to really understand the interactions between the main characters) are scampering all over the place trying to put together the clues.  And while some of them have jurisdiction over what they are doing, I was sometimes confused about how they would just knock on doors and ask questions and people would just chat it up with them without requesting any kind of proof that these people should be asking these questions.

Then there was this weird secondary plot with a terrorist who snuck into the country illegally on a boat, and that thread just didn’t seem to fit with the Skylar story at all.  Instead, it felt like a heavy-handed contrivance so Pettrey could keep setting up another couple for the next book.  I found myself mildly aggravated, because with a little more attention, I think that the Skylar mystery could have been much stronger.  Like I understand that you want to make characters flow from one story to the next, but I don’t have to be repeatedly told about the confused/conflicted feelings that these other two have for each other just so I’ll understand the next book.  Instead, it felt like the other couple was stealing the show from Avery and Parker.

As with Cold Shot, there was more romance/relationship than thriller, which would have been fine if the focus had stayed on Avery and Parker.  I think that Still Life would have greatly benefited from focusing on the Skylar mystery and the Avery/Parker relationship, and relegating the build up for the next book to the background.  Still, this was a solid read with engaging characters, and I do see myself continuing through the series.  The ongoing mystery of what happened to Luke several years ago is being woven into these stories, so I’m hoping for a grand finale tale at some point that will answer all of those questions as well.

My only other issue with this book is the cover art.  This one isn’t quite as bad as Cold Shot, but I’m just really not a fan of carrying around a book with a brooding hero on the cover, especially when I felt like the book was actually a lot more about Avery than it was about Parker.

Many thanks to Bethany House, who provided me with a free copy of the book.  My sincere apologies for taking so long to get to this review, but life has taken one of those turns for the crazy!

Rearview Mirror // February 2017

Hey friends!  Well, I am still alive, but quite busy now that I have started back up at my seasonal job at the garden center.  I really do love working there a lot, mainly because I spend all day digging about in the dirt and helping things grow.  (As an aside, I’m a total Hufflepuff anyway, and I realized that I even possess the badger-like quality of enjoying a good dig!)  However, working full time means less time for reading and less time for blogging.  I’ve been super lazy with my reading since I started working two weeks ago, although now that my body is readjusting to the manual labor aspect, hopefully I won’t just come home and go straight to bed.  Plus, it’s almost time for the time change, which I actually hate, but it does mean that it will be lighter later into the evenings!

As far as reading for February goes, as I was compiling the list of reviews and trying to decide what my favorite/least favorite reads were this month, I realized I had a LOT of 3/5 reads.  Kind of a meh month on a lot of levels!

Favorite February Read:

Weirdly, I think that I’m going to go with The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.  This isn’t really my usual type of book, but Tan’s writing was so excellent that I was drawn right into this story that is really more a series of vignettes from the lives of four Chinese women (all of whom immigrated to America as adults) and their (now adult) daughters.  This book managed to capture a lot of emotion and insight, and while a little sadder than I usually like my fiction to be, still came through as hopeful and oddly uplifting.

Most Disappointing February Read:

Definitely The Heroic Edge of the Mysterious World by E.L. Konigsburg, and not just because I had some higher expectations, having loved some of Konigsburg’s other works.  This book just made no sense.  The characters were weird, the story was incredibly disjointed, and I never did really get what the author was driving at.  It was a book I really wanted to like – and, from the premise, I should have liked – but ended up not even kind of liking it.

Other February Reads:

  • The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar – 3/5 – an alright YA with a fun premise, but somehow just came through as a bit bland for  me.
  • Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham – 3/5 – the fourth installment of the Joseph O’Laughlin series and a decent read but not quite as smooth as some of the other books.
  • Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey – 3/5 – decent story with some fun characters, but a little too much romance and not quite enough story for me personally.
  • Container Gardening by Suzanne Frutig Bales – 4/5 – informative with lots of pictures.
  • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer – 3/5 – a dystopian book that really wrestles with a lot of deep questions in a thoughtful manner, but wraps things up a bit too neatly to be completely believable.
  • The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer – 3/5 – a great sequel to The House of the Scorpion, but despite the depth of issues explored, it felt a bit simplistic in its conclusion.
  • Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – a genuinely funny story that also sets up the unlikely friendship between the two title characters, who will go on to appear in future Wodehouse entertainment.
  • Mike at Wrykyn by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – a lively school story with more character development than some of the others.
  • The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux – 3/5 – a decent mystery, but the “hero” was a bit on the obnoxious side for me.
  • The Princess by Lori Wick – 5/5 – reread of an old favorite.
  • Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour – 3/5 – a good start to the Night & Nothing Trilogy, but rather choppy in parts.
  • The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England: A Tale of the Great Invasion by P.G. Wodehouse – 4/5 for a witty and entertaining little tale told with tongue firmly in cheek.

In Februarys Past…

Now that I’ve been doing my Rearview Mirrors for two years, I thought it would be fun to see what my favorite and least-favorite reads were from those years.

In 2015, I had a favorite read and a so-close-it’s-basically-a-tie read:  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness was my official favorite, and still is highly recommended.  It is a book that will emotionally destroy you, but I also found it incredibly healing.  I’ve never read a book that deals with grief so beautifully, and the illustrations by Jim Kay are amazing.  And actually, I think that this book went on to become my unofficial favorite book of 2015.

That runner-up slot was filled by the third Pollyanna book, Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms.  This book is all about Pollyanna and Jimmy when they are first married, and it’s my favorite book out of the series.

I was most disappointed by Dan Brown’s Deception Pointmostly because it was EXACTLY like the first book of his that I read, Digital Fortress.

Last February, my favorite book was a classic Agatha Christie – The Seven Dials MysteryIt’s one of her spy thrillers and is full of fun characters and lively dialogue.

My least favorite book was a novella by William Ritter, The Map.  However, this really doesn’t seem fair because the only thing I really seemed to dislike was that it felt short and choppy.

TBR Update:

I haven’t been blogging much, so I haven’t posted a Tottering TBR episode in a few weeks.  But I’m sure that you will all be unsurprised to learn that the TBR is continuing to grow nonetheless…

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:

  • Stand-Alones:  891 (up ten, which for me is doing really great… we won’t mention the fact that I have 153 unread emails, almost all of which are book reviews from your lovely blogs…)
  • Nonfiction:  64 (up three… again)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  616 (up eleven… curse you, free Kindle books!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 149 (up two)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 72 (up one)

The real problem is that since I started working my brain has been fried, so instead of reading productive books off the literal hundreds on my list, I’ve been reading terrible Pride & Prejudice variations.  Whoops.

Awaiting Review:

  • Still Life by Dani Pettrey.  I’ve had this review almost-written for about two weeks, and since it’s actually from the publisher, I really do feel like I ought to get this one out here soon!
  • Briar Queen by Katherine Harbour – I actually enjoyed the second book in the Night & Nothing series better than the first!
  • The Wicked Marquis by Marnie Ellingson – this is a book I bought for a quarter at the Salvation Army years ago, and is one of my favorite go-to books when I just want something happy and fun – very Georgette Heyer-esq.
  • 1932 by Karen M. Cox – this is one of those P&P variations, with they story set during the Great Depression.  This was one of the more enjoyable variations I’ve read lately.
  • The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams – another P&P variation, pleasant but a bit bland.

Current Reads:

  • The Wreckage by Michael Robotham – despite the fact that this book is quite good, I’ve been trying (and failing) to read it for over two weeks!)
  • All Fall Down by Christine Pope – I’m trying to actually read books that are on my Kindle, especially since I spend my lunch half-hour at work sitting in my car (it’s awkward to eat and read a bulky book…  like The Wreckage, for instance…)
  • Fate & Consequences by Linda Wells – obviously not another P&P variation, because that would be just plain ridiculous.

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probably next five reads…

Well, since I haven’t been reading from my list at all, who knows??  We’ll just let this section by mysterious for this month…

February Minireviews

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just feel rather “meh” about and they don’t seem worth writing an entire post about.  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.

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg

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//published 2007//

So growing up, Konigsburg’s The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of my favorite books.  As an adult, I discovered her book The View from Saturday and loved that one, too – a lot (I even read and reviewed it again!).  But for me, The Mysterious Edge just didn’t work the way her other two books did.  The plot is disjointed and strange, the characters inconsistent and unrealistic, and the entire premise centers around a lot of coincidences.

I really wanted to like this book – two kids becoming friends while helping an elderly lady clean out her house that’s full of interesting stuff – doesn’t that sound like fun??  But the old lady, Mrs. Zender, is really weird, and so are both of the boys – and not in the realistic, quirky way of some of Konigsburg’s characters in Saturday – just weird, weird: the kind of weird that leaves you scratching your head in puzzlement.

A lot of the story centers around a picture that one of the boys finds, a drawing of a naked woman.  Now we’re informed that this is art, so this is a “nude” which is different from just someone being naked.  But…  it still felt really inappropriate for the age of the characters and the intended readers, and, once again, was just kind of weird.  Like why does the picture have to be of a naked person??

There are almost some good discussions about how people perceive us and how we perceive ourselves, about people who are rich and people who aren’t, about whether or not a government should be able to decide what is or isn’t art.  But none of those conversations really go anywhere, so the whole book feels awkward and stunted.

All in all, 1/5 for a book that I wanted to like but just couldn’t.  I’m still planning to read some more of Konigsburg’s books because I have enjoyed a couple of them so very much, but I don’t see myself ever revisiting this one.

American Gardening Series: Container Gardening by Suzanne Frutig Bales

s-l225

//published 1993//

This is one of those random books that I picked up for a quarter at a library book sale at some point.  It’s not a terribly thick book, but it does have a lot of photographs and plenty of good information about choosing plants for container gardens and then keeping them alive after you’ve planted them!  Bales has a lot of enthusiasm for container gardening as it is very flexible and can be done in almost any amount of space.

I’ve been working through several gardening books this month, and I always glean some new tips and ideas.  This one is well worth the shelf space as a great reference book.  I especially enjoyed the chapters that focused on planning container gardens – I think that a lot of times people go into container gardening assuming that you just sort of jam some plants in and it will look great, but this book spends some time talking about not just the color of the plants you are planting, but texture, size, and growing requirements.  Definitely recommended if this is a topic you’re interested in learning more about.

The Princess by Lori Wick

001

//published 1999//

This is a (multiple time) reread for me, and I have a more detailed review here.  Sometimes I just need some happy fluff, and this book always fits the bill.  It involves my favorite trope (marriage than love), and just is a happy, gentle little tale that I have read many times and yet always find enjoyable.  I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump here at the end of February, what with starting my new job and being super tired all the time, so The Princess helped get me through!