November Minireviews – Part 1

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.

So I’ve been slowly working my way through a brick of a book about Vietnam before “our” Vietnam War – basically, it covers the history from the beginning of World War II through the beginning of the Vietnam War, most of which the Communists spent fighting with the French, with the US and China getting more and more involved in the background.  It’s genuinely fascinating, but that book weighs a literal three pounds and is over 800 pages long, so while I don’t mind lugging it places if I’m going to sit and read for a while, it’s not really an ideal book to throw in my bag if I think I’m only going to have time for a few pages.  So all that to say that I have also been reading quite a few fluff books, and I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on some of them…

Accidentally Married by Victorine Lieske – 3.5*

//published 2014//

Lieske apparently wrote several of these “modern marriages of convenience” stories, all of which are clean, a bit absurd, and good fun.  They are together in a boxed set on Kindle, so I thought they would kind of intertwine, but they appear to all be completely independent of each other.  Stephanie reviewed a few of these (although, ironically, not this one haha), which is how I first found them.  Anyway, this story was pretty fun, with a decently plausible scenario.  It seemed like the ending did drag a little bit because Madison and Jared wouldn’t just USE THEIR WORDS so they did that thing where they both assumed the other person wasn’t interested and went home and pouted instead of just having a conversation.  I mean, if you think this person is going to break up with you and never see you again anyway, what in the world do you have to lose by telling them how you really feel first??  Despite that, it was still a super relaxing little chick lit read, and I’m always a fan of fake relationships/marriages of convenience, so there is that.

Blind-Date Bride by Jillian Hart – 3*

//published 2009//

This is the first in a series of the crazy Love Inspired books.  Thanks to Great-Aunt Darby I have all the books in this series and thought I would give it a go.  This one was barely a 3* read, though, as virtually nothing happened in this book except listening to the two main characters angst about how they weren’t good enough for the other person, which was overall quite boring.  Weirdly, I did like the characters in this book a lot, and the small town setting was done well, so I decided to still give the second book a go, even though this one wasn’t really my thing.

Collie to the Rescue by Albert Payson Terhune – 3.5*

//published 1928//

I do love a good Terhune every once in a while, and this one has been on my shortlist ever since it came up in my random drawing for my #20BooksofSummer reads, which I am still trying to complete by the end of the year!!  This one is quite melodramatic but still a good time, although unlike most of Terhune’s books, this one is definitely way more about Brant than it is about his collie.  This one was also interesting because it was published back in 1928 (under the title Loot!), but a big part of the plot is about smuggling and selling drugs.  It’s just funny to me because we act like that is such a modern problem, but here’s a story from a hundred years ago where that was still playing a big part.  While this was a perfectly interesting and entertaining story, it wasn’t my favorite Terhune, with just a smidge too much drama.

Montana Homecoming by Jillian Hart – 3*

//published 2012//

This was the second  book in the series, and because it was just as meh as the first, I decided not to bother with the rest.  Again, the characters were very likable, but there was virtually no plot, and honestly Brooke’s “dog training” skills bordered on miraculous, because apparently all she had to do was keep saying the command and the dog just magically started doing what she wanted, which seemed pretty handy.

Reluctantly Married by Victorine Lieske – 3.5*

//published 2015//

This one was also just completely ridiculous but so fun that I couldn’t stop reading it.  I really liked both the main characters and liked the way they kept getting more and more tangled up in their situation.  Again, I felt like the ending dragged out a little too much, which took away from my overall enjoyment of the book, but it was still a good time.  I’m definitely planning to read some more of these books soon.  (Currently, the boxed set is available on Kindle Unlimited if anyone is interested.)

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer – 5*

//published 1953//

When all else fails, turn to Georgette Heyer!  It had been quite a while since I read this one, so I couldn’t quite remember how everything played out.  The dialogue is absolutely hilarious, and Freddy is honestly one of my very favorite Heyer heroes, because he’s so regular.  It was also fun because Jack is honestly more like the usual Heyer hero – older, brooding, a bit of a rake – but here we get Freddy, who is younger and just so ridiculously nice that it’s impossible not to root for him.  Kitty is lively and fun without being obnoxious, and all of the secondary characters are just as delightful, especially Freddy’s sister Meg – honestly, Freddy’s family really made this book, and I realized while I was reading it that one of the things I like about Heyer’s books is her ability to write families, especially siblings, so well.  At any rate, this book is a complete delight, and if, by some miracle, you haven’t picked up a Heyer book before, this one is a wonderful place to start.

December Minireviews – Part I

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, inspired by the way that Stephanie reviews the unreviewed every month, I think that some months (or maybe all of them!) will get a post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

Quite a few this month, so here is Part I – Part II should be revealed at the end of the month…

William Tell Told Again by P.G. Wodehouse

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//published 1904//

When I started this book I just assumed that it was going to be another of Wodehouse’s school stories.  My goal of reading all of Wodehouse’s books in chronological order means that I’ve been wading through a lot of school misadventures and cricket.  However, William Tell is actually a story about…  William Tell!

Now, I must be completely honest – I really don’t know anything about the real story of William Tell.  But Wodehouse’s version was quite entertaining, with plenty of little sarcastic quips and fun characters.  He really made the whole story come to life, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s a very short, fast read as well.

I read it as a free Kindle book, and didn’t realize until the end that the original book had multiple illustrations throughout, and, more importantly, each illustration was accompanied by a short poem that actually added to the story!  The poems are available to read in the Kindle edition (although not the illustrations), but are at the very end of the book.  Apparently, I ought to have been flipping back to them throughout.

Fury and the White Mare by Albert G. Miller

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//published 1962//

This is the final book in the Fury trilogy, and followed the same basic pattern as the first two books.  There’s a new neighbor who wants to do bad things (in this case, steal timber), Fury does many clever and intelligent things, and Joey learns more about being unselfish and independent.

The only thing that annoyed me about this book was Joey’s attitude towards the white mare.  Basically, Fury yearns for a mate, and he wants the mare, jumping his corral to go to her.  Joey’s adopted dad, Jim, wants to round up the mare and bring her to the ranch for Fury, because Fury is very upset without her.  But Joey is basically jealous of the mare and doesn’t want her at the ranch.  That’s all fine as far as it goes, but they try to find another companion for Fury and eventually they find a dog that Fury really likes and who helps calm him down…  so why isn’t Joey jealous of the dog??  He makes some halfhearted explanations, but none of them really make sense to me.  It just seems like Joey either should be jealous of everything else that Fury likes, or nothing else.

But on the whole, this was a perfectly fine read and a nice addition to the series.

To Refine Like Silver by Jeanna Ellsworth

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//published 2014//

This was a moderately interesting variation of Pride and Prejudice where Darcy and Elizabeth meet in Derbyshire before the events of the original story.  There, Elizabeth befriends Georgiana, who is recovering from her harrowing experience at Ramsgate.  Darcy is captivated by this kind and intelligent young woman, and things go from there.  This is definitely a story that is heavy on Christian themes, and a lot of the story is comprised of conversations about deep and serious topics rather than anything actually happening.

I read another variation by this author a while back – Mr. Darcy’s Promise – which was also alright. However, Ellsworth definitely needs to find someone else to do her cover art, because they are both just simply dreadful.

If you’re interested, I’ve reviewed this book more fully on my “secret” book blog where I post reviews only of P&P variations, because I can’t stop reading them even though they’re terrible…

Lad of Sunnybank by Albert Payson Terhune

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//published 1929//

Earlier this year I reviewed another book by Terhune, The Way of a Dog.  At the time I gave a bit of background for Terhune, who raised collies at his New Jersey home (Sunnybank) and wrote about the prolifically in the 1920’s and 30’s.  Lad is one of Terhune’s great heroes, and he has several books and numerous short stories about him, of which Lad of Sunnybank is one.  This volume is a collection of vignettes starring this intelligent and faithful companion.

While most of the stories are good (True??  Maybe??  Some of them??), Terhune does have a habit of veering off onto minirants about personal peeves.  It’s not bad if you’re just reading one of his shorts, but if you’re blazing through the whole book, have 2-3 pages per chapter devoted to Terhune’s grumbling sometimes gets rather old.  And it’s not even that I disagree with him – it’s just not really part of the story.  For instance, in one chapter, Lad saves a child from being struck by a car.  Then Terhune goes on for three pages about the dangers of motor vehicles –

A heedless high-school boy – a feather-brained flapper – a drunkard – a degenerate speed-maniac – any or all of these are allowed to drive a gigantic metal projectile of death, through crowded streets or along peaceful country roads.  The examination they have taken in order to get a driver’s license has made no test of their reliability or even of their sanity.  They are turned loose with full chance to kill or maim.

A bit melodramatic, but valid points – also nothing to do with the actual story, so.

But homilies aside, Lad of Sunnybank is another engaging group of stories that make for delightful reading for dog lovers of all ages.

The Way of a Dog // by Albert Payson Terhune

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//published 1932//

Long, long ago when I was a little girl, I learned how to read when I was only three, so by the time I was six or seven I was already in the habit of scouring bookshelves for something exciting.  Stuffed away on a shelf in my aunt’s bedroom was a battered hardcover book with the picture of a collie on the front.  The book was Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune, and it made me fall in love with collies.

Terhune wrote in the 1920’s and 30’s, and you can tell by his attitude towards certain groups of people, especially the “hill folk.”  But taking into account the perceptions of the times, Terhune’s writing is quite enjoyable to me still.  he wrote prolifically about his own collies that he raised at his estate, Sunnybank, in New Jersey, as well as making his dogs stars of their own fiction books (I kid you not).  Many of his short stories are about other dogs he knew, and how much of his tale is embroidery and how much is fact – well, your decision probably depends on what you think of dogs.

Collies were Terhune’s passion, and he does sometimes go over the top a bit, waxing eloquently about their intelligence, obedience, and all-around awesomeness, but in some ways it’s endearing to see him so enthusiastic.

Over the years, I’ve collected quite the stash of Terhune books, and I’m honestly a bit surprised that this is somehow the first one that I’ve reviewed on this blog.  While The Way of a Dog isn’t my favorite of his books, it’s still a solid collection of short stories.

The first half of the book is several chapters about one of Terhune’s own dogs, a blue merle named Gray Dawn.  Gray Dawn already made an appearance in another collection of short stories, and these are Terhune’s response to his readers who apparently enjoyed the first batch of tales.  Gray Dawn is, of course, intrepid and intelligent, but Terhune still paints a realistic picture of a dog who, in his own words, was “in the midst of the hobbledehoy age.  In spirit and temperament, too, he was infuriatingly bumptious; the very soul of destructive mischief.”

Throughout his stories, Terhune generally speaks in the third person, referring to himself as the Master and his wife as the Mistress.  In Terhune’s writing, he practically worships his wife.  She is painted as all that is good, gentle, far-seeing, thoughtful, and kind.  She is intelligent, with a strong sense of humor and justice.  If there is ever a difference of opinion between them, it is the Mistress’s inclination that is invariable proven to be the correct one.

And so, it is the Mistress who sees Dawn’s true potential, despite his penchant for “doing the wrong thing, not only at the wrong time, but all times.”  We follow Dawn through a few chapters of adventures, concluding with his death.  Terhune genuinely mourns the passing of his chum – “I missed him, and I still miss him, more bitterly than a mere collie should be missed.  His going took something unsparable out of my life.”  Perhaps only someone who is truly a dog person can understand the sentiment.

The rest of the book – two-thirds, probably – are random stories, each chapter unto itself, of dogs who prove themselves loyal and intelligent.  (Some stories are true, others are fiction. Terhune leaves it for you to decide which are which.)  They are stories that would probably bore someone who doesn’t like dogs, but I always find them to be great fun.  Terhune is a warm writer, able to sketch his characters with a few select lines.  While his books are nothing of depth or intrigue, the fact that Terhune loves collies, and loves people who love them, comes through, and gives life and interest to his writing.  Recommended for all dog lovers.