July Minireviews – Part 3

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.

Some more July reviews in August!!

Mystery Mountain by Florence Laughlin – 3*

//published 1964//

Regular readers here will know that I’ve collected a lot of random books over the years at yard sales and library discards and antique shops and flea markets and just wherever I can find them.  What this also means is that I have a LOT of super random unread books. This one I purchased all the way back in 2003 and only just now managed to read!  While this wasn’t a bad story exactly, it wasn’t that great, and it definitely hasn’t aged all that well over the years.  Even I, who am pretty old-fashioned, got tired of the way the boys were treating Karen, who is only allowed to join them on their adventure if she does a bunch of extra chores i.e. all the cooking and clean-up!  When they finally solve the mystery of what happened to their grandpa all those many years ago, it literally made no sense.  I’m going to spoil it for you in the next paragraph, because really, what are the odds of you finding this obscure not-that-great book from 1964 and reading it??

So the kids’ grandpa disappeared back in the day when he was on his way to his gold mine that no one else knew where it was.  Everyone suspects he was murdered, and probably murdered by some wily Indians (another reason this book felt a bit dated).  The kids do find his remains in a cave, along with a journal that conveniently explains exactly what happened (and also means he died a long, lingering death of starvation, which makes no sense because everyone looked for him everywhere and if he was in a blocked up cave right next to where he disappeared, why wouldn’t the rescuers have heard him calling for help…????) and what happened was he got jumped by a wily Indian and managed to escape into this cave, and then the Indian rolled a big rock in front of it to block him in.  Except… why?!?! If the wily Indian was after the gold, why would he kill this guy BEFORE the guy got to the gold mine???????  There was literally no motive for murdering this guy, so the entire story made zero sense!

Honestly, 3* is kind of generous for this one, but it did have some fun moments and it wasn’t horribly written – it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the end!

Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey – 3*

//published 2002//

A retelling of Sleeping Beauty, this one was pretty firmly in the so-so category.  It was perfectly fine for a one-time read, but I’ve noticed with every book I’ve picked up in this “Once Upon a Time” series that it almost always feels like an outline of a story instead of a fully-fledged story itself.  The way this one concluded felt rather odd, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella – 3.5*

//published 2012//

In this romcom, we meet Poppy desperately searching for her missing engagement ring – it’s gotten lost while she was at a hotel for a conference, and while she’s searching for it, her cell phone gets stolen, too.  When she finds a perfectly good cell phone in the trash, it’s almost too good to be true.  Poppy immediately begins using it to call and text her friends to see if they know what happened to her ring.  So when the guy who owns the phone – which happens to be a business line – tries to reclaim it, Poppy convinces him to let her borrow it, since she’s already given that name to the hotel workers who are hopefully going to find her ring.

The set-up sounds convoluted, but Kinsella makes it work.  Poppy is a likable featherbrain, constantly getting herself into what Anne Shirley would call “scrapes,” but she is so warm and friendly that it works just fine with the story.  She impulsive, but usually because she’s trying to help someone, and her character really carried the story.

My main issue?  She lies to her fiancee the entire time, and since the reader literally knows she’s going to end up with the other guy……!!!!!  As I’ve noted with several other romcoms lately, I just do NOT understand WHY there is another guy!  That tension could be created soooo many other ways besides putting us in a “grey” area of cheating.  (Is it cheating to be texting/calling/hanging out with a guy that your fiancee doesn’t even know exists?)

All in all, as usual, a fun one-time read but, yet again, not one I see myself rereading.

July Minireviews – Part 1

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.

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

//published 1956//

Actually, I felt more than “meh” about this book – it was a delight, and an easy 4/5.  However, what can one say about Heyer’s work that hasn’t already been said?  The characters were lively and clever, the adventure took many hilarious twists, and there happy endings handed out all around.  Heyer is always so relaxing and pleasant – never any niggling doubts as to whether or not everything will end with sunshine and rainbows.  I really loved everyone in this book, and it had me snorting with laughter on more than one occasion.  It felt like the ending was a bit rushed/it would have been nice to see a little bit more of a love story between Gareth and Hester, but all in all this story was just super adorable and happy.

Also, it was #10 for #20BooksofSummer!

Sunlight & Shadow by Cameron Dokey

//published 2004//

I really liked Dokey’s fairy tale retellings (this is the third I’ve read).  This story moved right along.  It was a little weird because Dokey used five first-person perspectives, and never told us who we were jumping to next, you just kind of had to read a few sentences and figure it out.  This felt weird at first, but once I got into the groove, it worked completely.  The voices were actually really, really similar, though, so it was mostly the actual circumstances that indicated who was doing the talking.

In her afterword, Dokey said that this book was actually inspired by the story from one of Mozart’s operas, which I found entertaining.  It has a very mythological flavor, since the main character (Mina) is the daughter of the Queen of Night and the Mage of Day.  The story is not just about Mina finding true love (which of course she does), but about the balance between light and darkness.  As always, Dokey has a slim thread of thoughtfulness running throughout a story that appears to be all fluff and lightheartedness, leaving me thinking about it a bit after I’ve finished.

An easy 3.5/5 and a very pleasant read, as well as being #12 for #20BooksofSummer!

Unwilling by Elizabeth Adams

In this Pride & Prejudice variation, shortly after the Netherfield Ball, Mr. Bennett finds out that he doesn’t have much longer to live.  He regrets wasting time and money, and decides to do the best that he can to make up for it.  He makes a bunch of rules for the girls, including sending Lydia back to the schoolroom, and gives them actual lessons to do, which feels a little bit weird since Jane and Elizabeth are in their 20’s.  Mr. Bennett is also determined that if any eligible suitors come asking, he will marry the girls off, as long as it doesn’t seem like the guy is a total jerk.  So at Hunsford, Mr. Darcy asks Mr. Bennett for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, and Mr. Bennett says yes.

All in all, this was actually a really pleasant P&P variation.  It was definitely PG13 – a lot of innuendo and discussions, but nothing explicit.  It was also quite refreshing that there were no ridiculous villains.  However, it did feel like only Elizabeth was doing the changing.  In the original, both Darcy and Elizabeth realize their shortcomings, but in this version, Darcy didn’t really seem to have any.  Towards the end, he is really insulting towards the Gardiners when he meets them for the first time.  Elizabeth takes him to task and Darcy apologizes, but he never interacts with them again in the story, so it didn’t necessarily come through that he really felt remorseful about the situation.

Still, a pleasant story and an easy way to spend an afternoon.  3.5/5.

The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

//published 1901//

Burnett is another one of those authors whose two most famous books – The Secret Garden and A Little Princess – were childhood favorites (that I still love today), but somehow I’ve never really checked to see if she wrote anything else.  So I added The Making of a Marchioness, along with its sequel, The Methods of Lady Walderhurst to my 20 Books of Summer list.

This was a pleasant read, but was almost like an outline of a book rather than a full-length story.  It’s only around 180 pages with large print, so more of a novella.  Still, the main character, Emily, was rather adorable, even though she was almost absurdly nice.  Through a series of events she gets invited to a country house party (mainly so she can do a bunch of errands for the hostess) and ends up marrying the most eligible bachelor there.

However, there really isn’t much of a love story.  Walderhurst admires her from afar, but during his proposal, he says that he “must marry, and I like you better than any woman I have ever known.  … I am a selfish man, and I want an unselfish woman.”  It doesn’t seem particularly romantic that he’s marrying her because she won’t make very many demands on his time or purse, but overall he seems like a fine fellow, so I actually did end the book believing that they would deal well together.  A 3/5 and I am intrigued to read the sequel.  Also, #15 for #20BooksofSummer!


So I’m sitting here looking at the pile of books I need to review, and I’m thinking to myself that most of them are a bit… unmemorable.  So I think I’m going to take the lazy route and combine some of these 3-star reviews into one post.  I’d like to get a bit caught up on these reviews so I can start reviewing closer to the finish date!

The Eternal World by Christopher Farnsworth


//published 2015//

This is one that I read about on Amazon or Goodreads and thought sounded interesting.  The premise is that there is this group of guys who, back when the Spanish conquistadors first started conquering the Americas, discovered an actual fountain of youth.  Since then, they’ve been able to keep themselves alive through the centuries, accumulating wealth and power.  Now, in the modern world, their source of the Water is being threatened and they have to try to find a way to replicate it.  They hire David Robinton, who is basically a scientific genius, to attempt this.  Of course, Robinton has no idea what he is actually getting into.

Meanwhile, the conquistadors have one enemy, someone else who has access to the Water.  Shako is the daughter of the chief of the American Indian clan the Spaniards slaughtered to gain access to the fountain, and she has been haunting their footsteps for the last few hundred years, determined to avenge her people.  Robinton finds himself entangled in the feud, without even a clear understanding as to what the feud is about.

On the whole, The Eternal World was engaging and exciting.  There was a good pace to the story, and Farnsworth does a really good job of muddying the waters concerning who is a bad guy vs. who is a good guy.  He also examines some concepts regarding immortality, money, and power that are thought-provoking and interesting.  The whole idea of something that can instantaneously heal people, and go on to keep them alive indefinitely – on the surface, it sounds brilliant, something that is obviously a good idea.  Robinton believes in the concept wholeheartedly.  His sister died of cancer when she was a little girl, and Robinton has devoted his life to pursuing a medical breakthrough that would prevent such tragedies.  But as the actual practicalities of what such a formula would mean begin to play out, Robinton starts to question everything he has always believed.

For me, what kept this book from pushing up to the 4-star level was the ending, which felt rushed and a little weird, and while it wrapped up most of the physical aspects of the story, never really gave any kind of genuine resolution to all the moral questions it raised.  There was also a lot of violence in this book, and some of it felt gratuitous and unnecessary, like having the one conquistador be this super creepy murdering rapist.

Still, on the whole, it was a decent read, even if its not destined to become one of my favorites.

Any thoughts on any of Farnsworth’s other works?  This one didn’t really inspire me to seek any of his other books out, but if someone had one they especially thought was awesome, I would be willing to give it a try!

Belle by Cameron Dokey


//published 2008//

This was a fairly average retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  While a pleasant story with nice characters, the “twists” to the tale weren’t really interesting enough to push this book’s star-rating any higher.  I do like Dokey’s writing, though, and it is always nice to have a B&B retelling where Beauty’s family is actually super nice.

As an aside, does anyone else have a favorite Beauty & the Beast retelling?  It’s one of my favorites, and I love seeing all the crazy ways it has been reimagined!

Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl


//published 2001//

This was one of those books that I wanted to like a lot more than I actually liked it.  Alexandria is a lovely heroine and a nice narrator, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into this story all that much.  Given the gift of beauty, dandruff that turns into gold dust, and tears that turn into diamonds – all because she shared her lunch with an old crone – Alexandria goes from poor and uninteresting to being sought after by the rulers of two neighboring countries.  Locked in a tower for her “protection” until she decides which of them to marry, Alexandria doesn’t really know what she is going to do.  When Alexandria’s geese come to rescue her, her adventures really begin, but it just kind of felt like there wasn’t a lot of point to the story.  It’s always awkward to have an escape with no real plan as to where they are heading, so the whole book felt a little random.  There were a lot of characters that I really liked, and some funny moments, but it wasn’t the type of book that I felt like I should bother reading again.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie


//published 1944//

For this novel, Christie set out to show that humans are human through all the ages – and murder is murder.  Set in Egypt around 2000 B.C., our mystery centers around a family whose patriarch works as a ka-priest, a man who is paid to maintain tombs and perform certain religious ceremonies at different times.  The story begins with Renisenb, a young widow who has returned to her father’s home after the untimely death of her husband.

Christie weaves an excellent mystery here, with suspicion and motivation abounding.  It’s an interesting mystery because there is no detective or person leading an investigation, other than the suspicions of Renisenb’s grandmother.

While I really enjoyed this book, as I do all of Christie’s mysteries, I wasn’t particularly attached to any of the characters, and I had a strong suspicion of the murderer’s identity from the beginning.  Still, a solid read with an interesting setting.


How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year by Cameron Dokey


//published 2004//

Sometimes you read a book and it’s obvious, from the outset, that the author expects you to realize that this book is pure, frothy fun.  Suspend belief, jump on for the ride, and don’t think about it too much. How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year is definitely one of those books, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with no illusions of being a deep, thought-provoking YA story – an easy 4/5.

Our narrator is high school senior Jo-Jo, who assures us, on page one, that the story she is about to tell is 100% true.  By page two, I was already engaged with Jo-Jo as a story teller:

Where does my 100-percent-true story truly start?

I suppose you could say the whole thing started the day I was born.  I’m thinking that’s a bit extreme, though.  As an alternative, I’m going to go with the third grade, which I think makes me about eight years old.  I’m choosing this because that’s the year my mom died, and my dad and I moved for the very first time.

Just how often did we move?  Let me put it this way:  To the best of my knowledge, I am the only person in the entire United States to have attended fourteen different elementary schools between the third and sixth grades.

The real story starts on the first day of Jo-Jo’s attendance at her second high school of her senior year, when, instead of quietly blending into the background as she always has, she finds herself falling head-over-heels in love –

His name was Alex Crawford.

Actually, it still is.  Nothing terrible happens to him during the course of my story, although it is both fair and accurate to say he does experience some surprises.  A thing which makes two of us, now that I think about it.

From there, the story gets absolutely unbelievable, but delightfully so.  The pacing is excellent, Jo-Jo is completely likable, and there really isn’t a mean, terrible character out of the whole story, which was a fabulous change of pace from most YA.  I absolutely loved the fact that Dokey created Alex has someone who was a “big man on campus” but was still super, super nice.

Like I said, there definitely some rather pronounced plot holes, like why Jo-Jo would just switch schools instead of actually leaving Seattle, but on the whole, the story was too much fun to get too picky.  If you’re looking for a lighthearted and whimsical tale, and some angst-free YA, I highly recommend How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year.


//by Cameron Dokey//published 2006//

Alright, first off, I’m sorry but my computer is being kind of stupid and not letting me post an image of this book so.  You’ll either have to use your imaginations or look it up.  ;-)

Anyway, Golden is a title in a series of books that are all retellings of various fairy tales. They aren’t connected in any way, and are written by several different authors, so you can read them in any order you like.  I had read Golden before many years ago, but really couldn’t remember anything about it at all, so it felt like a completely new read.

In Dokey’s version, Rapunzel’s mother rejects her child and allows the enchantress to have her baby.  Rapunzel, who narrates the story, grows up with Melisande and works with her on their small farm.  It is a rather simple tale, as good fairy tales are, but with a depth to the telling that leaves the story resonating with you later.

It might have been better if I had been deliberately unkind.  A will to be unkind is like a sickness.  It can be healed or driven out.  But to be unkind because you are thoughtless is the worst kind of blindness: difficult to cure because you cannot see the fault even as you commit it.

This is a book I would definitely recommend to those who enjoy fairy tales.  Golden was a comfortable 4/5.  While not a long or complicated book, the very simplicity of the story gives it depth.