Hey friends!! Here I am with book reviews in July for books I actually read in July!! Will wonders never cease!
Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene – 3*
For a week or two in early July I was trying the thing where I read multiple books at once. It worked at the time to get through a few books I was struggling to finish (“rewarding” myself with chapters from the books I actually like weirdly helps me haha), but I’ve noticed that when I do this thing where I read one chapter at a time and then read a chapter from the next book, and then a chapter from the next book, I frequently end up finishing books I would normally just bail on. Amber & Dusk was a great example. This book was DEADLY slow. Like, indescribably slow. Literally NOTHING was happening except for the main character whining. But part of me didn’t completely notice because I was only reading one or two of the very short chapters at a time. But I got about 2/3 through this book and suddenly thought, What has actually happened in this story, anyway?! And the answer was… basically nothing! The last handful of chapters were suddenly jammed with action, incredibly rushed, didn’t really make a whole lot of sense, and then suddenly the book was over?! I was, frankly, incredibly underwhelmed by this story. The world-building itself was also very weak, I never really got any sense of where they were or what life was like for regular people. This whole “overthrow the evil ruler” bit was… okay? I guess? But there is literally no real direction on what’s going to happen once she’s gone, and I wasn’t particularly impressed with the queen’s replacement, who spent basically the entire book whining and complaining about how she “deserved” so much more from life… not exactly qualities I look for in a rebel leader. So. Whatever. Originally I went ahead and checked the sequel out of the library thinking I would just see what happened, but when that book actually got here I realized I literally didn’t care, so I just sent it back. Three stars is somewhat generous, but I mean I did actually finish the book, and there were a few characters that I liked, and moments of creativity, so I decided to round up a little.
Finding Home by Irene Hannon – 4*
This one is a loose sequel to Seaside Reunion, and since I happened to own both, I went ahead and read this one. Set in the same town with some overlapping characters, Finding Home was a perfectly happy little romance, even if it wasn’t particularly groundbreaking. Honestly, I didn’t take any notes on this one and can’t remember much about it… so, pleasant but forgettable apparently haha
We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome – 5*
Book Seven of the Swallows & Amazons series did not disappoint in any way. I’m better than halfway through this series now, and honestly am already thinking about rereading them whenever I’m done. I love these books! In this one, the four original Swallows accidentally end up in the North Sea, in a manner that actually feels like it could really have happened. This one was a bit more action-oriented than some of the others, and even though there was a giant coincidence that helped bring everything together, even the coincidence didn’t feel terribly unlikely, so I was willing to roll with it. Another absolutely delightful addition to this series.
As a side note, I’m only missing one book to complete my set of Jonathan Cape editions. I absolutely love these hardcovers – they are a pleasure to read and have the most delightful endpaper maps!!
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie – 4.5*
This was a reread for me, but it’s one of my favorites. It’s a little over-the-top, but that’s part of the reason that I love it. A loose sequel to The Secret of Chimneys, several of the characters overlap, including the intrepid Bundle, who makes a lovely, no-nonsense heroine. This is more of a spy thriller than a straight mystery, so if you don’t like Christie’s campier style, this one isn’t for you. However, I found it to be an absolutely delight – her humor is so strong throughout this one that it almost feels like a Wodehouse!
I also read this one back in 2016, so if you want a few more thoughts, that review can be found here.
Byrony & Roses by T. Kingfisher – 3.5*
As you may be able to guess from the title, this is a retelling of Beauty & the Beast. In this version, there is no father – the story opens with Bryony getting lost and finding herself at the castle. She personally bargains with the Beast to come back and stay with him. This was an okay version – some of it was interesting and different – I loved the malevolent magic hovering over everything. However, Bryony adjusted to the fact that the Beast was a Beast basically immediately. The Beast himself is a victim, rather than someone who needs to learn a lesson, so he doesn’t really have a lot of character development and is always studiously polite and helpful, making it difficult to even picture him as a Beast. But my biggest beef with this story is that Bryony is obsessed with her garden to an unhealthy degree – as in, when she goes back to visit her sisters, she spends a few hours “fixing” her garden before going in to see her sisters?!?! Like, oh she’s been gone for weeks and weeks and weeks and has no idea what’s going on with her actual family, but she’s sidetracked by weeds in the garden and decides to take care of them first?!?!?! And that was not the only instance of her literally thinking that a garden was more important than people. It felt strange and unnatural, and did not particularly endear me to Bryony – and I say this as someone who really enjoys gardening!
So, in the end, like so many other books I’ve read lately, a perfectly fine one-off read, but not anything that made me want to rush off and see if Kingfisher has written anything else.