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 High Window by Raymond Chandler
In this outing for PI Phillip Marlowe, the tough-talking-but-soft-hearted detective finds himself working for a rich but rather dreadful old widow. Per usual, Marlowe is pulled into all sorts of shenanigans, most of which would seem unrelated to someone more optimistic than our hero. The mystery in this one seemed stronger to me than the first few books, and I really enjoyed the story. These books are pretty fast reads and I am finding them to be thoroughly engaging. 3.5/5.
Once Upon a Kiss by various authors
This collection of short stories are all retellings of fairy tales by random YA authors. I picked it up as a free Kindle book in hopes of maybe finding some new authors to check out. However, none of the stories in this collection rated higher than a 3/5 for me, and some I didn’t even bother to finish. To me, a short story should still have a coherent plot with a beginning, middle, and end, and some kind of driving force for the protagonists, but a lot of these stories just came across as ‘sample’ writing – a few stories literally just stopped and were like, ‘If you want to find out more about what happens next, be sure to check out my book!’ which annoyed me so much that I won’t be checking out their books.
Overall, not a complete waste of time, but almost.
The Cat Sitter Mystery by Carol Adorjan
This is an old Scholastic Book Club book that I’ve had around for as long as I can remember. I read this book when I was pretty little – it was possibly one of the first mysteries I ever read. I was quite enthralled with the exciting and mysterious events surrounding Beth’s neighbor’s house!
Rereading as an adult, this story about a girl who moves into a new neighborhood and then ends up taking care of her eccentric neighbors’ cats, doesn’t really have a great deal of depth, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Adorjan does a really great job of making the whole story plausible, and also setting up reasonable explanations for all of the shenanigans. The side story about Beth trying to settle into her new neighborhood in the middle of summer is also done well.
My edition is fabulously illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush, who illustrated several other childhood favorites, like Magic Elizabeth and Miracles on Maple Hill. They are probably most famous for their work with the original editions of The Borrowers and their sequels. The Krush’s line drawings are just perfect, especially of the cats.
All in all, a comfortable 4/5 for this short children’s book, an old favorite that held up quite well to an adult reread.
The Story of Amelia Earhart by Adele de Leeuw
Back in the 1950’s, Grosset & Dunlap published a series of children’s biographies called ‘Signature’ books – each one has a copy of the famous person’s signature on the front, and an illustrated timeline of ‘Great Events in the Life of…’ inside the front cover. I really enjoy history books that are aimed at the middle school range because they usually hit all the high points without getting bogged down with a lot of details and political opinions. It’s a great way to get a basic introduction to a person or event. I’ve collected a lot of these Signature books over the years – they have those delightful cloth covers from the era and are just a perfect size to read.
That said, I wasn’t particularly impressed with this one. While it was a fine read, de Leeuw’s choices about what random vignettes from Earhart’s life to include seemed really random. For instance, an entire chapter is devoted to a random event in Earhart’s life involving a neighbor who treats his horse cruelly – and in the end, Earhart and her sister don’t actually get to rescue the horse – instead, it escapes and then dies leaping over a creek?! It just felt incredibly random and didn’t really add any information about Earhart – it never came back as this big influential event or anything. There were several other, smaller stories like that throughout, like de Leeuw had collected tons of tales and then just pulled out of a hat which ones to include. It was definitely much choppier than other Signature books that I’ve read.
Still, Earhart had an amazing and fascinating life. I really loved how so much of what she did wasn’t amazing because she was the first woman to do it – but just the first person. I love biographies that emphasize a woman’s abilities, intelligence, and skills as those of a person instead of those as a woman. No one is going to believe that women are just as capable as men if we constantly act like being a woman was a weakness they had to overcome.
All in all, this was a fun and interesting book. I’m not particularly into aviation, but apparently Earhart herself wrote a couple of books – I’m especially interesting to check out her book 20 Hrs., 40 Min. about flying over the Atlantic – I’m curious to see how it compares to Charles Lindbergh’s account, which I ended up really enjoying a lot.
The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
The fourth Phillip Marlowe felt a little darker than the first three. Marlowe seems a little jaded, and while he still manages to make fun of many of the terrible people he meets (usually everyone he meets is pretty terrible), sometimes it felt a little serious, like Chandler genuinely was starting to think that everyone out there really is terrible. There is also a rather gruesome scene when a body is found – not exactly graphic, but so well implied that it didn’t need to be in order to make me feel a little queasy (possibly because I was trying to eat a baloney sandwich at the time).
However, the mystery itself was, I felt, the strongest yet. The reader has access to all the same information as Marlowe, and while I was able to connect some of the dots, I didn’t hit them all. I really enjoyed watching everything come together, but the ending was just a bit too abrupt to feel completely satisfactory.
Still, a really great read, if a bit darker than the earlier fare. 3.5/5.