August Minireviews – Part 1

I’m SO determined to actually catch up on reviews!!!

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.

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley – 3.5*

This is a really fun, although honestly pretty straightforward, variation of the Robin Hood story that I overall really enjoyed.  However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the way McKinley decided to end her story, so it left me with mixed feelings on the whole.  This was one of her books that I read a really long time ago and couldn’t really remember, but I don’t particularly see myself revisiting it again any time soon.  It just didn’t have any zing.

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson – 4*

I read this one for the traveling book club and loved it!  It definitely had some eye-rolling moments, and got a little melodramatic at the end, but on the whole it was just delightfully fun fluff with main characters that I totally shipped.  And this one was super swoony without being sexy, which I really appreciated.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens – 3*

This one sounded fun but just didn’t pan out, mainly because multiple murders plus a lot of discussion about illegitimate children felt inappropriate for the middle-grade age range for which this book is written.  The main character, Daisy, is a bit of a bully (in my opinion) and I didn’t feel like she treated Hazel, the narrator, very well, often making rather snide comments or pressuring Hazel to do things that made her uncomfortable.  Daisy is one of the popular girls at the boarding school, so a lot of Hazel’s hero-worship felt awkward to me, like she was willing to let a lot of Daisy’s actions slide so that Daisy would keep liking her.

On the other hand, this is the first book in a series, so maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t enjoy this one – nine books off the TBR with minimal effort!!

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling – 4.5*

This is actually one of my favorites (maybe even THE favorite) of the series. I absolutely love world-building and backstory, which is a huge part of what this book is all about. I love learning about the horcruxes and Voldemort’s background.  It’s a sort of calm-before-the-storm book that I really enjoy reading every time.

Sail Away by Lisa Jackson – 2.5*

This one and the next book, Million Dollar Baby, were in one volume that I got in a big box of mystery and romance books that someone on Litsy sent to me a while back.  Sail Away was pretty terrible.  Marnie’s dad really wants her to marry this dude named Kent, and Kent and Marnie were even engaged for a while.  Marnie broke it off when she found out that (surprise surprise) Kent was cheating on her.  The problem is, she never told her dad so he keeps going on and on about how Kent is perfect for Marnie and blah blah blah and like Marnie’s dad really loves her a lot and made zero sense for her not to just tell her dad that Kent is actually a secret sleezeball and she’s never going to marry him, because her dad would have totally been on her side if she had just told him the truth!  So that just super annoyed me the entire time that she wouldn’t just have this one basic conversation with him.  Meantime, the “good” love interest, Adam, was just really pushy and annoying as well.  In romance novels I can usually give a little leeway to the “he grabbed her and kissed her” routine, but I felt like Adam was just too far.  He was constantly forcing her to “submit” to his kisses, like she would be mad and he would just start kissing her until she gave up – it felt really uncomfortable to me.  In the end, a combination of annoying characters and not really being able to ship Marnie and Adam meant that I didn’t really enjoy this one all that much.

Million Dollar Baby by Lisa Jackson – 3.5*

But did not enjoying Sail Away keep me from reading the other book in that volume, Million Dollar Baby?  No, no it did not, because I have a problem haha  This one was more regular cheesy romance, with a woman with a mysterious past finding an abandoned baby in her barn, which forces her to connect with the local (ruggedly handsome) ER doctor.  This one was a bit melodramatic for my personal taste, but not a bad one-off read.

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan – 3.5*

Quite a while ago I read The Joy Luck Club by this author, which was one of those books I wasn’t exactly expecting to enjoy but then did, so I’ve had a few of Tan’s other books on my TBR since then.  Like The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetter’s Daughter explores themes of motherhood/daughterhood in a way that feels poignant and realistic.  I found myself drawn into this story and genuinely concerned about LuLing, and felt that the dual timeline aspect of the story was handled really well.  While I did find this one to be really well-written, it was soooo sad that I can’t exactly say that I enjoyed it.  It was a worthwhile read, but left me feeling a bit depressed.

Persuasion by Jane Austen – 5*

I really love this novel so much, and rereading it was a delight.  I’m not always a huge fan of the “second chance” romance just because it seems so sad that so many years have been wasted on misunderstanding each other, but Austen’s story just brings me a lot of happiness.

July Minireviews – Part 1

Progress!!!

Also, I’m getting so lazy with these minireviews that since I didn’t review them on Litsy (thus taking pictures of them), I’m not even bothering to look up cover images for them. This blog really is going downhill LOL

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.

Caroline & the Colonel by Shannon Archer – 3* (published 2021)

I was in the mood for fluffy romance/P&P variations at the beginning of July and this one sounded fun.  However, it’s hard to rate, because I thought it was going to be an easy 4* read, maybe even 4.5*, for the first 70% of the book… and then it went totally off the rails.  All of the sudden there was all this extra drama, this weird scene with Caroline making a public apology that made zero sense, and just… it got weird.  Which is a real shame, because I really loved the concept and characters for over half the book, but it was basically like Archer decided she wanted to write a sequel, but in order for that to happen she was going to need to have some loose ends, so instead of tidying things up, she decided to fray the edges.  Disappointing.

Ship to Shore by Elizabeth Adams – 3* (published 2019)

Another one that’s hard to rate.  I have read a few of Adams’s other books and really enjoyed them, so I thought I would try this random contemporary romance by her.  I was just absolutely loving this book with a fun premise and likable characters, but then at 80% (this was a Kindle book), the story literally STOPS – I can’t even explain how abruptly it stops – and says, “To Be Continued…” and then the remaining 20% is some other random story!!!!  This annoyed me so much that it colored my feelings about the entire rest of the book.  There was definitely no reason not to FINISH THE BOOK AS ONE BOOK, especially considering there still doesn’t appear to be any kind of sequel despite the fact that this was published in 2019…!!!!

Tips for the Lazy Gardener by Linda Tilgner – 3* (published 1985)

This one should really have been called something like “Tips for Gardeners Who Want to Be More Organized” or something like that.  So yes, being organized means less work further down the line, but in the meantime… well, basically gardening is just a lot of work no matter how you cut it.  It was a so-so read, but the other problem was that it really was just a collection of tips, so just a few sentences per paragraph, then the next paragraph some other random tip, making it kind of difficult to use as a reference book.  It wasn’t terrible, but it went in the giveaway box when I was done reading it.

A Timely Elopement by Joanna Starnes – 3* (published 2020)

This was another P&P variation, where Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford is interrupted with news that ANNE has eloped with WICKHAM!  I had read other books by this author before and found them to be decent, but this one needed another strong round of editing.  The concept was fun and I liked the way that she portrayed the characters, but the whole story was poorly executed with weird scene changes that made the reading choppy.  The ending was a bit out of left field as well.  Not a terrible read, but definitely could have been improved with some proofreading.

The Rogue’s Widow by Nicole Clarkston – 3.5* (published 2020)

I was TRYING to play it safe by reading books by authors who had written other P&P variations I liked, but this was kind of a batch of duds.  This one wasn’t terrible but was a bit of a yawn-fest without a lot happening.  Here, Wickham has an older brother (who is just as terrible as the original Wickham).  Through a mildly complicated series of events (orchestrated by Darcy), Elizabeth ends up marrying this guy on his deathbed, which means that she, as the widow, inherits his Pemberley-adjacent estate instead of George Wickham.  My notes just say, “Boring but inoffensive” which pretty much sums it up.

Sorrow & Second Chances by E. Bradshaw – 3.5* (published 2019)

In this variation, after Elizabeth rejects him at Hunsford, Darcy is mooning about London when he learns of Mrs. Bennet’s untimely demise.  He and Bingley head back to Meryton for the funeral, and from there reinstate themselves with the family.  This wasn’t exactly a bad variation but we pretty much only hear Darcy’s perspective and trust me, he spends WAY too much time worrying about literally everything.  This was a story that needed some tightening up as it felt repetitive (Darcy thinks and thinks about having a conversation, then we have to listen to the actual conversation, then we listen to Darcy analyze the conversation…) and thus a little too long.

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

June Minireviews – Part 2

Well, we are almost done with peaches – on to apples!!  Things continue busy at the orchard, but I’m home today and it’s gloomy enough to feel like it’s a good day to catch up on some computer work!!

Edit: That was actually several days ago, but I’m finally going to post this for real!!

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.

All About Us by Tom Ellen – 4*

//published 2020//

In college, Ben had a bit of a crush on his friend Alice, but one night changed everything – just when he was thinking about asking Alice out, he met Daphne and fell in love.  But now, years later, he’s starting to wonder if Alice was “the one who got away” and whether marrying Daphne was actually a mistake.  When a mysterious stranger in a bar gives Ben a watch that sends Ben back in time to relive some of the critical moments of his life, he’s suddenly faced with the real-life opportunity to change his fate…

There was a lot about this story that I really enjoyed.  I was afraid that it was just going to be about Ben cheating on his wife, but it’s actually about Ben reassessing his marriage and his life and recognizing his shortcomings and the way that he can make things better going forward.  I liked Ben a lot and found him an easy character to root for – it was really nice to have a male main character in this type of story, and extra nice to have him be a total jerk as so many fictional men are.  (Real-life men, too, I realize, but I feel like the jerks are disproportionately represented in romantic fiction.)  The time-travel aspect was also handled really well.  My main issue with this one involved the incredibly heavy-handed TOXIC MASCULINITY message.  There were constant passages about how ALL MEN hide ALL THEIR FEELINGS from ALL THE PEOPLE because that’s what they were taught by other men in their lives, yadda yadda (“Our friendship – like most male friendships – has been built primarily on ripping the piss out of each other”).  Like actually while most of the men I know aren’t likely to sit down and pour out every deep feeling they have, they’re fine with sharing what they need to share.  I genuinely do believe that there is a difference between men and women and the way they process feelings and emotions, and that men don’t actually have the same need to “get it all out” like women do, so this constant reiteration that the only reason men have problems is because they aren’t SHARING enough starts to really annoy me after a while.  Connected to that, but different, was my other big issue with the story – magically, Daphne is actually PERFECT and 100% of ALL their marriage issues are Ben’s fault (because he doesn’t share all his feelings!).  Absolutely NONE of them are hers!  She’s a PERFECT COMMUNICATOR and an ideal human being in every way and ONLY Ben needs to change to make their marriage blissfully happy.  This just… literally can never be true.  Human beings make mistakes and none of us are perfect, so it’s impossible that Daphne made zero mistakes in their marriage.  Laying all the blame on Ben just felt unrealistic and unfair.

BUT overall this was still a fun little story.  Serious enough that I wouldn’t quite call it a romcom, but lighthearted enough that it didn’t feel like a drudge.  If you like your romances with a dose of thoughtfulness, this is probably one you’ll enjoy.

The Sleeper & the Spindle by Neil Gaiman – 2*

//published 2013//

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while.  It’s a picture book kind of thing with a retelling of Sleeping Beauty… ish… honestly, do you ever read books and wonder what the heck you’re missing??  That’s how I felt reading this one.  To me, it was just kind of bizarre and didn’t hang together very well, but I have seen so many raving reviews for this one.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the artwork, either.  I think this would have worked better as a full novel instead of a short story – the concept was interesting but not fleshed out at all, making it hard for me to connect with the characters.  Not for me, but loads of people love it, so it may be for you!

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry – 3*

//published 2021//

My lower rating for this one is a combination of having higher expectations for it because I really enjoyed Beach Read last year, and the fact that the main character would literally NOT STOP hating on Ohio.  Like basically every couple of chapters there had to be another paragraph or two of Poppy going on and on and on about how horrible it was to grow up in Ohio and how literally the worst thing that could ever happen in her life would be if she was forced to move back to that dreadful place.  Obviously I’m extra sensitive to Ohio because I freaking LOVE IT HERE, but in general I’m over novels having characters grow up in small Midwest towns that they can’t escape fast enough and then finding fulfillment and joy in the big city… like that would be okay if they didn’t then spend their entire time in the big city moaning about how they barely escaped the Midwest with their lives, as though they were literally going to DIE if they had to live there for another day.  I just.  Eye roll.  Whatever.  Believe it or not, most people who don’t live in a big city have CHOSEN to not live in a big city because they think cities suck, so you can stop feeling sorry for us.  We’re actually super happy with our lives in the countryside, so please find someone else to pity and insult.  I’m pretty over the whole “only people too stupid to escape live in the Midwest”… like actually we chose to stay here because it’s awesome so… suck it lol

ANYWAY the actual story itself was so-so.  Apparently literally all of Poppy’s problems (and everyone else’s) could be solved just be seeing a therapist, so it’s nice to know that that fixes everything.  I never really shipped Poppy and Alex – although I enjoyed their banter and thought they were great friends, it never felt like they were actually on the same page about what they wanted from life.  I personally found Poppy to be super self-centered and annoying.  It wasn’t a terrible read – there were a lot of funny and fun moments and some entertaining characters and adventures – but it definitely wasn’t one I would read again, although I’ll still try whatever Henry writes next, because I really did enjoy Beach Read.

Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater – 4*

//published 2021// And yes, this is the reversible OwlCrate cover with artwork from Stiefvater and I love the way the sword lines up on the spine. //

Earlier in the year I finally got around to reading The Raven Cycle and the first book in the spin-off series, Call Down the Hawk – just in time to read the second book in the spin-off trilogy, Mister Impossible.  While I kind of wish that Stiefvater had chosen to do more with the ley line magic instead of the dreamer magic, I’m still really enjoying these books.  I also loved that Ronan’s brothers were a more important part of this story – I really love Declan, who is definitely my personality match of the brothers, so spending more time with him was great.  I really don’t want to wait an entire year to see how this story wraps up!!

Side note: Sometimes books in a series can be read as stand alones, but definitely not here – I even went back and read the last 50 or so pages of Call Down the Hawk to refresh myself as to where things had left off because Stiefvater jumps directly into the action!!

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson – 4* or maybe 2* or possibly 3*

//published 2021//

So on Litsy when you post a book review you can choose to rate it as a Pick, So-So, Pan, or Bail. My contention is that they need to add a “WTF” option for books that are, frankly, batshit insane yet compulsively readable.  This would definitely fall into that category!

I blew through this entire book in one evening because I did not want to put it down – despite the fact that no one was particularly likable, the plot was completely unbelievable, every twist just made the story more absurd, and the more I think about it the more questions I have… But I couldn’t stop reading!! Does that make it 2* or 4*? Do I rate it on whether I would recommend it to others or on how much I wanted to keep reading when I was reading it? It’s hard to say, so I guess I’m just going middle of the ground for my rating. If you don’t mind thrillers that are just genuinely over-the-top ridiculous, this may be the read for you!

May Minireviews – Part 3

Oh look, more minireviews from the backlog!!!

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.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez – 3*

//published 2020//

This one has been on my radar for a while because of that gorgeous cover, and also because I’m always interested in books with a Central/South American flavor to them.  This book was, I think, what you might call magical realism rather than fantasy.  It was a solid story about a group of people holed up in hiding because they people that they conquered several generations ago have now risen up and conquered them.  There’s a lot of discussion about imperialism and what it means to have a group conquer another group, and which culture is the “real” culture, etc etc.  Some of it was handled well while other bits felt a little too polemic.  While I liked the characters, I also somehow couldn’t connect to them.  There were really random scenes that felt over-the-top violent for the rest of the story, and Ibañez decided to arbitrarily kill off a character I really liked, which always annoys me.  The author also chose to put a LOT of Spanish words in her text, which did add to the flavor of the story, but there was no glossary in the back, and the context did not always make the meaning of the words obvious, which meant I frequently had to stop to look up words, which always takes me out of the story – for some reason way more than it does when all I need to do is flip to a glossary.  (I think because looking it up means I have to actually set down the book and pick up a completely different item – my phone or a computer – to find the answer, which frequently leads to other distractions.)

In the end, I did like this book, and I think some people might like it even more than me, but it just wasn’t a perfect match.

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai – 4*

//published 2020//

I had actually been meaning to read this book for a while, and then a member of the traveling book club chose the sequel, The Dating Game, for her pick.  Even though the second book could be read as a stand alone, I figured this was a good chance to go ahead and read this one, and I ended up really enjoying them both.  This is just the kind of fun and fluffy romance I like (although a little on the sexy side).  Layla was quirky without being obnoxious; Sam was angsty but reasonably so; and Layla’s family was absolutely hilarious while still filling realistic.  This one definitely hit the spot and I can totally see myself rereading it at some point.

The Dating Plan by Sara Desai – 4*

//published 2021//

I didn’t like this one quite as well, but still really enjoyed it.  My main issue with this one is that Daisy and Liam are in a fake relationship, but are CONSTANTLY talking about how it’s fake when the people they are supposed to be fooling are just in the next room, or around the corner, or what have you.  It was driving me crazy how they would basically get into a shouting match about how the whole thing is fake, and yet Daisy’s nosy family never noticed???  It just didn’t jive.  Liam also spent a little too much time hating on himself – we get it, you were a jerk.  Still, all in all it was still great fun.  A third book is scheduled to be published in November, and I’ll definitely be reading it!

Living in Norway by Solvi Dos Santos & Elisabeth Holte – 3.5*

//published 1999//

This was another book that I read for the Food & Lit Club, where we “visit” one country per month with books and recipes.  May’s country was Norway, and I read this one in addition to a travel guide that I didn’t review (it was very travel guide-y).  Reading Living in Norway was like reading a PBS special. I could practically hear the soothing voiceover of a narrator the entire time.  Going season by season the authors visit different homes in Norway, discussing architecture, history, hobbies, and ways of life. I’m not sure how much this book reflects the majority of Norwegians’ lives as it seemed to focus a lot on the artsy types, but the photography was gorgeous and it was all and all an enjoyable read.  I’m fascinated by life so close to the Arctic Circle in terms of daylight and weather and loved reading how the people who live here embrace winter and the long hours of darkness.  So many of the architectural details there are because of the long winters, so it was very interesting to learn more about them.  Maybe not a book for everyone, but if you’re looking for some gentle nonfiction with a lot of photographs, this was pretty fun.

Love at First by Kate Clayborn – 3*

//published 2021//

I read Love Lettering last year and had a lot of mixed feelings about it, but decided to give Clayborn’s new book a try.  Once again, I was left with a book that had a fun concept but, for me, no follow-through.  I really liked Will and Nora, but this whole thing with Will needing to sublet the apartment felt weird and forced.  The synopsis makes it sound like Will’s going to, I don’t know, tear down the entire apartment building or something, but instead he literally just wants to make it into an Air B&B? Like I get you not wanting that to be your next-door neighbor, but it didn’t seem worth the amount of angst that was going on.  What redeemed the story were all the secondary characters – all the other apartment building folks were delightful and fun and I really enjoyed them.  This one weirdly reminded me a lot of Second First Impressions which I had read earlier in the month, and, like that one, this one just didn’t quite hit the mark for me, because all the conflicts felt strangely manufactured instead of natural.

May Minireviews – Part 2

Oh no, I already started work at the orchard!  Does this mean I’ll NEVER catch up on reviews??  ::cue dramatic music::

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.

The Gin O’Clock Club by Rosie Blake – 3*

//published 2020//

Add this one to my long list of books I wanted to like more than I did…  Lottie is caught up in her career and her grandpa, Teddy, is afraid that she’s taking life too fast, especially since Teddy’s wife died.  Teddy has three buddies and together they comprise the Gin O’Clock Club, which gets together for cards, shenanigans, and gin, and he enlists their help in showing Lottie that she needs to slow down and enjoy her blessings while she can, including her (live-in) boyfriend, Luke.  Basically, the guys convince Lottie and Luke to try some “old-fashioned” dates.  In exchange, Teddy agrees to try some “new-fashioned” dates, since Lottie is concerned that Teddy hasn’t really bounced back since his wife passed away.  Throughout the book, we also get letters that Teddy is writing to his wife as part of the way that he is working through his grief, and those letters were absolutely so touching and sweet without feeling over-the-top that they alone almost made reading the book worth it.

There was so much about this book that I liked.  Teddy and his friends were absolutely fantastic – funny without being cutesy – and Luke was a total dreamboat that no woman in her right mind would take for granted.  All the date ideas were great fun without being weird and I just overall loved seeing the older guys working with the younger folks and all of them learning from one another.

The problem – and it was a BIG PROBLEM – is Lottie herself.  There’s no other way to say it: she was a total bitch.  Like, hardcore.  She literally treats everyone around her like disposable trash, while spending her entire internal monologue saying Oh wow I’m treating everyone like disposable trash; I should really stop that.  And then NOT STOPPING.  And at first I was okay with it because she was showing growth, right?  Like she starts going on these dates and realizing how awesome Luke is and how important it is to hang out with her grandpa and how people are more important than things….  And then she literally just goes exactly back to where she started with no hesitation.  It was like the book was starting over!  There was also this big drama where Lottie was stressed out about something Luke was doing but Teddy couldn’t say anything because it involved someone else that he’d promised not to tell and like – the completely obvious solution was for Teddy to ASK this other person if he could tell Lottie??  But instead he just lets it keep going on and on and poisoning everything in Lottie’s life and it was SO unnecessary.

In the end, I honestly wanted Luke to run far, far away.  Lottie was emotionally and verbally abusive to him on more than one occasion.  I’m really over this whole “the female MC is a horrible person, but it’s really the fault of someone else/society, not her.”  Like no, she’s just a dreadful person, and if Luke had said/done half the things that Lottie did, he would have been crucified, but since Lottie is a woman, she gets a HUGE pass and I’m not okay with it.  I really wish that I had liked Lottie better, because I loved everyone else in this story, and everything else about it, including that the story is about a couple trying to stay together instead of breaking up and moving on to someone else.  All the not-Lottie characters were just delightful, but I couldn’t get past how horrible Lottie was.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1953//

For some reason, I never liked this story as much when I was a kid, but I thoroughly enjoyed my reread of it this time around, especially the character of Puddlegum.  It’s just been so much fun to read these again!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – 4.5*

//published 2021//

This was actually one of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year.  I read The Martian last year and had super low expectations for it because I’m not usually a “space story” person, but I ended up really enjoying it.  Consequently, I decided to read his newest book when it came out this spring, and even though it went a completely different direction from what the synopsis made me assume, I honestly was totally here for it.  The pacing here was fantastic, the flashbacks that filled in the MC’s background were well-placed, and I couldn’t believe how much I fell in love with Rocky.  As the book was drawing to a conclusion I didn’t really see how Weir was going to give me an ending that both made sense and didn’t make me completely depressed, but he 100% pulled it off – I absolutely loved the way everything came together in the end.

There is a lot of science-y stuff here.  I have literally no idea if what he’s saying is realistic/true/practical or not.  I just rolled with the adventure haha

Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras – 4*

//published 2021//

Last year I read Island Affairand while it wasn’t my favorite romance ever, it was still a perfectly fun little read, so when I saw the next book in the series was out, I decided to pick it up.  Luis is the male MC from the first book; the female MC of Anchored Hearts is his sister, Anamaria.  Overall this was a pretty typical romcom read with likable main characters and a splash of angst.  I absolutely loved the warm families that both these characters possessed, even if those families weren’t perfect.  Some of the issues with the male MC and his dad dragged out a little too long for me, but overall I ended up liking this one better than the first book, and I would definitely read another book in this series.

The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn – 3*

//published 2005//

This was a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and while it was okay, it was rather choppy and the entire story revolves around literal INSTA instalove, which definitely led to some eye-rolling moments for me.  I really loved the setting – Weyn chose to have this story take place just after the death of King Arthur, with the hero one of his knights trying to fulfill a promise to the king to return Excalibur to the Lady in the Lake.  This mean that even though the story was short, the world-building didn’t feel too compromised (since the reader already has the basic gist from Arthurian lore).  All in all, a pleasant one-off, but not a new fave.

May Minireviews – Part 1

Well, I’m finally delving into May’s reviews, and since May does seem like more recent past than April, I at least feel like I’m making progress!!  May is traditionally a super busy month for me since I work at a greenhouse, which means there aren’t as many books to review as there are in most months…

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.

Happiness Hill by Grace Livingston Hill – 4*

//published 1932//

I read a lot of fluff in May, because that’s what I trend towards when I’m busy (or stressed or depressed or in a reading slump or just feel like it haha).  I actually own this one, so I know I’ve read it before, but I couldn’t remember the details – not that the details of a GLH book varies much from one book to the other, but still.  If you don’t like your romances to be clean, somewhat religious, a little saccharine, and quite predictable, don’t pick up GLH.  But I find that that’s frequently exactly what I want, and I quite enjoyed this one, with the traditional strong-moraled heroine, the goofy brother, the gentle-but-in-poor-health parents, and the lonely young hero who yearns for some family.  Basically, if you like GLH, you’ll like this one.

PS No, I’m not the heathen who used this book as a coaster at some point!

100 Years of Color by Katie Greenwood – 3*

//published 2015//

This nonfiction book had such an intriguing premise, but for me it just didn’t quite follow through.  Greenwood looks at each decade from 1900 through 2000, pulling advertising posters, artwork, and textiles, and discusses the colors that were popular during that decade and why… except she doesn’t really get to the “why” all that much.  Instead, each decade has a (very) short discussion page, then several images with no explanation as to why she particularly chose those or thought they were good examples of the decade.  There was so much potential here to really delve into popular colors and patterns but instead she barely skims the surface, making the book more or less unmemorable.  It was definitely a case of me wanting to like a book more than I did.

Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse – 5*

//published 1925//

I’m still working my way through all of Wodehouse’s works in published order.  The 1920s were a great decade for Wodehouse’s writing, as he invents the immortal duo of Jeeves and Bertie, and this book did not disappoint.  I’ve read all of the Bertie and Jeeves books in the past, but am never adverse to revisiting them.  This collection of loosely connected short stories included a couple of favorites, like a chapter from Jeeves’s point of view.  And who can resist a story titled, “The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy”??  Certainly not me!

Unicorn Famous by Dana Simpson – 4*

//published 2021//

This is the latest installment of the Phoebe & Her Unicorn comics, and just as much fun as the rest of the series.  While these can obviously be read in any order, they’ve been so much fun to read in publication order, as characters (and unicorn lore) do develop throughout the series.

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne – 3*

//published 2021//

In my attempt to read newly published books by authors that I like as they get published, I reserved Second First Impressions at the library and was intrigued to read it after thoroughly enjoying The Hating Game.  However, this one just didn’t really hit the right notes for me.  While I did like the main character, Ruthie, she also frustrated me a lot.  The snarky best friend/coworker also really got on my nerves and I felt like she crossed the line and became condescending towards Ruthie, acting like Ruthie was just too sheltered and backwards to really know what she wanted from a relationship.  Like Ruthie would make a statement about what she wanted from life/a relationship and the snarky best friend was like, “Oh, no, that’s what losers would want!  THIS is what you REALLY want!”  I honestly found it a kind of offensive that Ruthie’s desire for a quiet, not-drama-filled life was dismissed as boring and pathetic.

I’m also personally a bit over having a character’s Tragic Back Story be because of a horrible “religious“ father. Can we please stop having background characters be “Christians“ just so you can talk about how hypocritical they are? Thanks.  I definitely felt like Ruthie could have had a terrible dad and a lot of the same issues without all the extra effort of emphasizing how “religious” her dad was.

Finally, while the two old ladies who lived at the retirement home were funny and sweet, their whole schtick of only hiring good looking young men so they could make them do embarrassing things until they cracked just felt, for lack of a better word, cringe.  I can’t even imagine how this aspect of the story would have gone over if it was two old men who hired young women so they could comment on how good they looked in various outfits and then send them off to do demeaning and difficult tasks just to see how long it would take them to quit.  I mean seriously.

So while this one was an okay read for me, I definitely didn’t love it.  It really lacked the chemistry, snark, and snap of The Hating Game, and read closer to women’s fiction than romcom for me.  The “humor” felt a little forced, like Thorne was writing a serious story but kept trying to make it into a romcom instead.

Three-Act Tragedy AKA Murder in Three Acts by Agatha Christie – 4*

//published 1934//

While this isn’t my favorite Poirot story, it was still quite good and, as usual, I had no idea what the solution was.  Hopefully no one ever needs me to solve their murder, because I can 100% promise that I won’t be able to do it!  One of my favorite parts of this book was the fun way Christie listed the cast of characters in the front.  The chapter/section headings also aligned with the parts of a play, carrying the theme throughout.

April Minireviews

Heck yeah, now we’re talking!! I’m also down to only 1250 unread emails, so I’m really making progress LOL

I actually read three series in April, so here are all the one-offs, and I’ll be posting some series reviews hopefully soon!

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.

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – 5*

Another enjoyable reread, I’ve always been fond of this one, maybe because I absolutely LOVE the name Caspian. So perfect.

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief & Mayhem by Manda Collins – 3*

//published 2020//

This one was a read for the traveling book club, although it’s also one that was on my TBR, so score.  In the end, it was just a little too “sassy independent women are the only kind who get anywhere in the world” for me.  I don’t mind sassy independent women as characters, but when it’s combined with an attitude that all other women are just sad little victims of the patriarchy, it starts to grate on my nerves, especially in “historical” novels.  The timing also felt weird in this one – the main character meets a woman and they hit it off and start hanging out – then literally two weeks later they’re just going on and on about how they’re BFFs and basically inseparable and it just felt odd.  It was the same with the love interest, who goes from a complete stranger to the most important person in her life in about five minutes.  It was also a book that would have benefited from deciding what it wanted to be – either a romance OR a mystery, because in the end it was just pretty muddled.  It wasn’t a bad story, and I can see why some people really like it, but it wasn’t a good fit for me.

Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie – 3.5*

//published 1934//

This is a collection of short stories based around the character of Parker Pyne, who isn’t a detective at all but someone who says he can make people’s lives happier.  While these were fairly entertaining, they were also a bit ridiculous.  Not a bad read, but not a particularly strong collection.

Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken – 3.5*

//published 1985//

After reading Mansfield Park in March, I read a few MP variations that had been on my TBR in April.  In this one, Aiken writes a sequel that focuses on Fanny’s younger sister, Susan, who comes to live at Mansfield Park towards the end of the original story.  This wasn’t a bad story, it was just kind of boring.  Aiken also ruthlessly kills off Sir Thomas in the first chapter and since he’s actually pretty much my favorite character in the original story, I was sad to see him go haha

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling – 4*

//published 1999//

Not my favorite in the series but still a decent installment.  I’m really enjoying reading the British edition of these books as well.  I’m a strong believer that if a book is written by someone who is British, and set in Britain, there should be no “translation” into American English.  It’s just silly!  So it’s fun to read these with their original British slang and terms.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1952//

This is probably the most episodic of the series, with each chapter or two being its own little adventure.  I really do love the redemption of Eustace, and while Reepicheep can be a bit much, I still can appreciate his valor.  There are a lot of interesting little tales here, some better than others, but on the whole a delightful revisit.

March Minireviews – Part 4

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.

Heartstone by Phillip Margolin – 4*

//published 1978//

I’m still working my way through Margolin’s back catalogue after the Amanda Jaffe series got me hooked on his writing.  This one was a little darker than I like, but was still just thoroughly engaging writing.  As always, my biggest complain with Margolin’s writing in general is his habit of dumping about 50 names on you in the first 50 pages without really indicating which of those names are going to be important later on.  My bookmark for a Margolin book is always an index card with names/notes on it, which is just a little ridiculous.  It  evens out as I get into the story and the main players emerge, but still.  While this isn’t one I would read again, it was definitely worth the one-time read.

On Equal Ground by Elizabeth Adams – 4*

//published 2017//

We all know that I go through kicks where all I want to read is P&P variations, and I hit a mini-kick at the end of March.  I’ve really enjoyed a couple of Adams’s other variations so I read two more lol  This was one of those ones that’s actually just a different story with the same characters.  While staying with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth catches the eye of a wealthy widower some 20 years her senior.  Adams has them marry and love each other without it feeling creepy or weird.  Of course, the reader knows that the poor man is just a plot device, and probably the biggest drawback of this book was that I actually really liked earl and thought he and Elizabeth were a great match, and I spent the entire first half of the book dreading his untimely death.  Still, it was handled really well, and Elizabeth falling in love with Darcy felt natural and was done well.  Because Elizabeth has married an earl, she actually outranks Darcy in both class and wealth, so the big twist here is a difference in their prejudices from the original.  This wasn’t my new favorite, and it’s definitely a little more thoughtful than a lot of P&P variations tend to be, but I overall really enjoyed this one.  NB, this one didn’t have any explicit sex scenes, either, which was super nice.

The 26th of November by Elizabeth Adams – 4.5*

//published 2018//

A mashup of P&P and Groundhog Day??  Sign me up!  The best part of the Netherfield Ball from Elizabeth’s perspective – when it’s OVER!  So it’s rather unfortunately that, for some reason, she has to keep living that same day, including the dreadful ball, over and over again.  This is a very lighthearted variation, so don’t expect a lot of life philosophy, but I really enjoyed watching Elizabeth try to figure out why she is having this experience, and wondering if she’s supposed to “fix” something so that she can move on.  This was an entertaining way for her to come to grips with some her prejudices and blind spots.  Darcy isn’t living the same day over and over, but because his interaction with Elizabeth is different each time, he also has some changes of character as well.  The ending is the whole final rendition of November 26 from Darcy’s perspective, so it was a little repetitive, but still interesting to see what, from his view, was just one day.  If you’re looking for a low-angst P&P variation with some definite funny moments, this one is totally worth a read.

Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon by Maria Grace – DNF

//published 2016//

Usually I review DNFs at the end of the month, but I feel like I’m on a P&P roll here.  I gave this one up about halfway through the story, despite loving the concept of an England full of dragons, with each estate having a dragon guardian.  However, the story itself was sooooo slow.  Everyone was spending all their time bickering and arguing (including the dragons) and Mr. Bennet was an absolutely GRUMP.  There were random chunks of the original P&P just plunked in here and there, which really disrupted the flow of the story.  I was already getting over the way no one in this version was likable, and threw in the towel when Mr. Bennet very condescendingly told Elizabeth that a man would be able to do her job better.  It was just so completely out of character for Mr. Bennet to say something so derogatory to Elizabeth, and the way he said it was just beyond insulting and rude.  Even my high tolerance for bad P&P variations was over this one.

Darcy Comes to Rosings by Andrea David – 3*

//published 2018//

Technically, this was the first book I finished in April, but like I said, I feel like I’m on a P&P roll haha  This one was a classic tale of two halves.  The first half of the story takes place at Rosings during Elizabeth’s visit to Charlotte.  However, Darcy and Elizabeth end up with a few more opportunities to converse, and Charlotte takes a much more proactive role in encouraging romance between the two.  This part of the story was really engaging and I felt like it actually totally fit Charlotte’s character as well.  But then I hit the second half, after Darcy and Elizabeth get engaged.  All of a sudden, it was page after page of Elizabeth panicking and stressing out that she’s not good/rich enough for Darcy, going on and on and on and on and on despite reassurances from everyone.  It was sooo repetitive and boring and I honestly didn’t feel like it was resolved all that well.  I just found it hard to believe that saucy, self-confident Elizabeth, who was willing to write off Darcy for being a jerk in the original, would spend so much time agonizing about her self-worth.  Lame.

March Minireviews – Part 3

I dream of a day where I’m reviewing books from only, like, two months ago instead of three!

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.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – 3.5*

//published 1814//

It’s tough to decide sometimes which Austen is my least favorite – Mansfield Park or Emma.  I just finished the latter, after reading the former in March, and I’m still kind of undecided. The problem with MP is that Fanny is so freaking apathetic about everything in her life except for Edmund.  She’s definitely the Austen heroine most influenced by being “in love” and unfortunately I really don’t like Edmund either (such a twat) so it’s hard for me to really empathize with Fanny even on that.  The ending is also so strange and rushed, just basically “haha they get married after all, eventually, and trust me, they’re super happy!” like… I’m not actually convinced, Jane.  MP has its moments and definitely has some Austen humor to get it through, but I do think it’s overall the most boring of Austen’s novels, with Fanny as the most passive of heroines.

Andy & Willie by Lee Sheridan Cox – 4*

//published 1967//

This is just some old random 1960s book I picked up somewhere along the line.  I think I may have read it way back in the day, but it had been so long I couldn’t even remember if I liked it.  (One would think that since it is still on my shelves, it meant I liked it.  Unfortunately, that’s not always true haha)  But I actually really did enjoy this one a lot.  It was surprisingly funny.  Basically, it’s just a kid telling about his life and adventures in the small Indiana town where he lives.  He and his best friend are always getting into scrapes, and Cox does a great job of letting the older readers in on the reasons why some of Willie’s adventures end up the way they do, even if Willie himself is perplexed by the way adults’ minds work.  This isn’t really a book you’re likely to find around, but if you do, it’s definitely worth a read.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – 2*

//published 1904//

This was March’s fairy tale for the #FairyTaleReadAlong on Litsy.  For most of the fairy tales, I read an adaptation, but in this case I had never actually read the original so I decided to give it a try, and wow was it dreadful.  It’s violent and creepy and weirdly hateful towards adults in general and parents in particular.  I think maybe some parts were supposed to funny, or tongue-in-cheek??  But to me it just came across as bizarre and I didn’t like it at all.  What really sent me over the edge was a line in the final chapter/epilogue – “Mrs. Darling was now dead and forgotten” – just… wow.

The Boomerang Clue AKA Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie – 4*

//published 1933//

First off, real talk, why would you ever publish this book under the second title??  It literally gives away half the plot?!  At any rate, this was another great Christie novel with absolutely delightful main characters and plenty of entertaining humor and rather ridiculous adventures.  And let’s be real, the actually question is, why didn’t they KILL Evans?!  I mean seriously!

Defiant Dreams by Cheri Michaels – 3*

//published 1985//

This was one of those random paperbacks from the box of Regency romances I bought from ebay eons ago.  This one is actually set in the US during the Civil War and is about a southern belle who has to go north for safety and ends up staying with relatives in Gettysburg.  Spoiler alert: the war comes to her!  Of course she falls in love with a northern soldier, etc. etc.  This wasn’t a terrible story, but it jumped around a lot instead of actually explaining things.  There are also scenes that just make no sense, like when she calmly removes a bullet from a soldier’s side as though she’s had literally any kind of training in this??  There were just too many moments like that, where the protagonist magically knows how to do something, for me to really get into this one.