June Minireviews – Part 3

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

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

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston – 4*

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

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

10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston – 3.5*

//published 2021//

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

Emma by Jane Austen – 3.5*

//published 1815//

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

The Other Typist by Suzenne Rindell – 2.5*

//published 2013//

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

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

//published 1955//

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

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1934//

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

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman – 3*

//published 1970//

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

10 Blind Dates // by Ashley Elston

//published 2019//

On the cusp of Christmas break, Sophie’s parents have decided to drive a couple hours away to stay with Sophie’s older sister, who is very pregnant and experiencing some complications.  Sophie convinces her parents to go without her, promising to go stay with her grandparents in the next town.  Of course, what Sophie is  really excited about is getting to spend some time with her boyfriend, Griffin.  But when Sophie shows up at a party, excited to tell Griffin that she’ll have plenty of time to hang out with him over the next couple of weeks, she overhears him talking with a friend about how  he’s excited about having a few weeks away from Sophie – as a sort of test to see if he wants to actually break up with her.  Sophie is hurt and upset – she breaks up with Griffin and takes off for her grandparents’ house.  There, her boisterous extended family steps up to the plate, and before Sophie can stop it, her grandma has come with a brilliant plan – they’ll all take turns setting Sophie up on blind dates over Christmas break.  Cue a white board, sign up sheets, and one get-out-of-a-date-free card – Sophie’s family is determined that she’ll have a fun and romantic couple of weeks.

Okay, I have to say – I genuinely loved this book.  Honestly, this is what I was hoping for when I read Match Made in Manhattan (which, if you missed it, I ended up DNFing and ranting about in my December Rearview).  Of course, this was YA edition, but it was the kind of YA that is still just so fun and happy that I found it overall enjoyable and entertaining.

The main reason is Sophie’s family.  They’re fantastic.  I come from a big family myself (although not as much extended family as Sophie, sadly), and know how rapidly things spiral out of control when another family member gets an idea of how you should run your life.  But for the most part, everything happening to Sophie is because her family genuinely loves her and wants her to be happy, and that’s what makes this story work.

Throughout the story, Sophie is reconnecting with her family. Even though they don’t live super far apart, it’s still enough that she’s in a different school district from her cousins, and they’ve grown apart over the years.  I loved how both Sophie and her cousins realized that they could have handled their relationship better in the past, and how they all grew from it.

Sophie’s relationship with her sister is also a delight.  The sister (whose name I can’t remember and neglected to write down) is having complications with her pregnancy, but it’s obvious that she and Sophie are close.  I loved their text conversations and Sophie’s love and concern for her sister.  Mild spoiler here, but nothing bad happens to Sophie’s sister or the baby, which I also loved.  For a minute, I was scared that the author was going to do something tragic just to provide some angst, but that didn’t happen and I was so glad.

This was a solid 4* for me.  The main reason this book doesn’t rank higher was that on one of the dates they end up at a porn flick – it first off didn’t seem like something that could actually happen (a drive-in theater that only plays porn??  I just… no, I just can’t buy it, especially since I don’t particularly remember them having their ID checked when they got there…) and secondly just felt completely unnecessary and contrived to give the story some “edge.”  However, that was really the only date that felt creepy – for the most part they were good fun.  There were a few other eye-rolling moments of “look how I can make my book edgy if I try,” but not too bad overall.

If you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun (and a smidge Christmasy), 10 Blind Dates fits the bill. I’ll definitely be looking for more of Elston’s books in the future.