December Minireviews – Part 2

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.

Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber – 3.5*

//published 2004//

Sometimes you just need some relaxing holiday fare. Macomber isn’t my favorite romance author, since her books tend to be higher on the fluff scale than I prefer, but I actually checked two of her books from the library this season.  In this one, Mr. Grumpy-Pants-I-Hate-Christmas Charles trades homes with Emily.  Emily lives in Leavenworth, Washington, a town known for its obsession with Christmas, but wants to spend the holidays with her daughter, who is going to college in Boston.  Charles wants to get out of Boston for Christmas, and mistakenly thinks he is heading to the Leavenworth with the prison, which he figures should be pretty un-Christmasy.

Overall this was a fun little story that you just have to read in the spirit its meant – Hallmark Channel-y.  It felt like Charles’s about-face was rather abrupt, and I was mildly concerned at how fast Emily fell in love, but hey, it’s Christmas!  A short, fun read, if somewhat lacking in any kind of character development whatsoever.

The Forgetful Bride by Debbie Macomber – 3*

There was a bonus story in Trading Christmas, so I went ahead and read it.  I didn’t like this one as well, mainly because a main character who is extremely stupid on picking up on obvious clues from her best friend aggravates me excessively.  This one was perfectly pleasant but rather bland.

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber – 3*

//published 2016//

Last Macomber book for this post, I promise.  First off, I had trouble with this book because the main character’s name is Cain.  Cain??  Seriously??  As in, the first recorded murderer in Biblical history??  So I had trouble bonding with him because of that.  Anyway, Cain is a total grump, and his neighbor, Julia, is super friendly.  Julia is up for a new job, but because of the nature of the job, part of her interview process is creating a blog and gaining new followers for it.  Julia’s best friend has the brilliant idea that Julia should befriend grumpy Cain and “kill him with kindness.”  As with Charles in Trading Christmas, Cain’s personality change seemed a little abrupt, but it was still a perfectly happy little story.

The Coat-Hanger Christmas Tree by Eleanor Estes – 3*

//published 1973//

This is one I’ve had on my shelf forever, but didn’t really remember reading, which is kind of ridiculous considering it’s only 78 pages long and has a lot of pictures.  Still.  Marianna and Kenny (elementary-aged) have never had a Christmas tree because their mom doesn’t believe in “being like every Tom, Dick, and Harry.”  They really, really want one, though, so they rescue a tree (and then some more) from the trash and bring them home in hopes that their mom will let them have one.  In the meantime, Marianna also befriends a girl from school who isn’t very popular.  Marianna finds out that Allie actually lives on a barge with her family, which is why she sometimes misses school for several days at a time.

I’m usually a huge fan of Estes, and there were things about this book that I really enjoyed – the close relationship between Kenny and Marianna was very touching, and I loved the way that Marianna reached out to Allie.  But reading this as an adult, I couldn’t see past how utterly and completely selfish and ridiculous their mother was for not letting them have a Christmas tree.  Estes gives us hints that their mother doesn’t really like Christmas that much (her mother died around Christmas; the children’s father is out of town for work and she hasn’t heard from him because of Christmas mail; etc.), but I still couldn’t get over it.  Letting them have a tree was such a simple thing to do, and she just wouldn’t for literally no reason other than that she didn’t feel like messing with it.  What a jerk.

The Wonderful Tumble of Timothy Smith by Doris Faber – 4*

//published 1958//

I have read a few not-Christmas books this month as well, and this was one.  It’s another short children’s book that I’ve had on my shelf since I picked it up at a book sale in 2005.  Turns out that it was absolutely adorable – the illustrations by Leonard Shortall definitely helped.  Young Timothy falls out of an apple tree and sprains his wrist, which means he can’t do all the things young boys normally do on summer vacation.  He and his sister go to the library to try and find a book on a project Timothy wants to work on while he wrist is injured, and along the way are able to help the library find a new home, benefitting everyone.  The story is told quite well, the illustrations are adorable, and Timothy is a delightful little character.  I’m definitely going to have to see if I can find some more of Faber’s books around.

August Minireviews – Part 2

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.

I’ve had a lot of meh reading going on, plus a minimal desire for blogging, so this actually the second round of minireviews this month.  Part 1 can be found here.

The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler

//published 1949//

After really enjoying the first few books starring the gritty Californian private investigator Phillip Marlowe, The Little Sister was a bit of a disappointment.  While I was still give it a 3/5 for having a decent mystery, the overall story really lacked the wit and tongue-and-cheek-ness of the earlier books.  Instead, Marlowe is completely disillusioned with…  well, everything, it seems.  It’s a sort of midlife crisis kind of book, and doesn’t really make for uplifting reading.  I struggled to get through it, as it also seemed to lack some of cohesiveness of the earlier books.  It made me give up on these books for a while, but I think I’m about ready to pick up The Long Goodbye and give Chandler another try.

PS Reading the introduction to this book, the introducer stated that The Little Sister was the only one of his books that Chandler never read again – apparently he disliked it as well, and was writing it during a dark time when his wife was dying, so that all makes sense in a very sad sort of way.

The Whisky Wedding by Elizabeth Ann West

//published 2016//

I got this Pride and Prejudice variation for free, which was really the only good thing about it.  It starts with a decent premise – the Bennets receive word of Lydia’s elopement before Elizabeth and the Gardiners leave on their journey.  However, I was already a little leery of the tale when Mr. Bennet, Mr. Gardiner, and Jane go to London while Elizabeth, Mrs. Gardiner, and all the Gardiner children (??!!) head north on the road to Scotland.  Despite the incredibly impracticality of this, I was willing to let it slide for the setting up of the story… except that was only the first in a long litany of absolutely ridiculous actions, including Darcy and Elizabeth eloping while Elizabeth is drunk, Mrs. Gardiner abandoning Elizabeth in Scotland and returning to London by herself, Elizabeth running off with no one but a footman for company, Jane wandering around London by herself looking for Lydia, and Mr. Bennet shrugging his shoulders because Oh well Lydia is a whore now, nothing we can do about it, guess I’ll just read a book.

In between, conversations were nonsensical, characters didn’t remotely resemble their originals, and no one was particularly likable.  Mr. Bennet was ridiculously uncaring (while lazy and selfish, I never get the impression that Mr. B would willingly just stop looking for his daughter after one day of halfhearted searching).  Mr. Bingley was portrayed as a pathetic, whimpering puppy, which always annoys me – yes, in the original he was swayed by his friend, but the arguments that kept him from returning to Jane were Darcy’s reassurances that (1) Jane didn’t actually care for Bingley and (2) that Jane’s mother would force her into a marriage with Bingley regardless of Jane’s feelings.  Thus, Bingley’s non-return to Jane wasn’t completely due to a weak spirit, but also due a misguided attempt to do what was best for Jane.  But in this version he is a completely pathetic wuss, and Jane is instead won over by the manly spirit of Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Point being, I slogged through this for over half the book and then realized that I was just being bored out of my mind (because yes, on top of everything else, it was SO so boring), so this book ended up as a DNF at 67%, with my only regret being that I waited that long.

Mail-Order Bride by Debbie Macomber

//published 1987//

Something quite strange is the fact that The Whisky Wedding isn’t the only book I’ve read lately that involved a drunk bride!  I was trapped at the doctor’s office once day and finished my current book.  This Macomber book was a freebie I had picked up recently, and since I really enjoy the trope of marriage first and then love, I knew I had to at least give it a try.  Despite the fact that Macomber is incredibly prolific, I actually don’t particularly remember reading any of her books, although I probably have at some point.  This is one of her earliest books, recently released as an ebook for the first time.

Unfortunately, the story just wasn’t that great.  The trope itself was done well – the events leading up to the  marriage are completely believable and I was pretty pleased that the story was actually going to be plausible.  Carolyn’s aunts give her a trip to Alaska to help Carolyn recover from the breakup with her fiancee… except that they’ve actually answered an ad for a bride, placed by Paul who lives in a remote Alaskan village but yearns for companionship and a family.  Of course, Carolyn is upset when she finds out that she’s married to Paul (the drunk thing is actually done in a way that is mostly believable), but it felt like Macomber just cut a big chunk right out of the middle of this book, as we go from Carolyn being angry and trying to escape to Carolyn being desperately in love with Paul and super jealous of his past.  There never felt like there was a time where they were just becoming friends and learning about each other’s pasts.

I really wanted to like this book, but in the end it was just another 3/5 meh read with a decent set-up followed by a pretty sloppy plot.  I’m sure I’ll end up reading another of Macomber’s books one of these days, but Mail-Order Bride didn’t really inspire me to hunt any up.

Mind Your Manors by Lucy Lethbridge

(British title: Spit and Polish)

//published 2016//

I think the problem I had with this book was that I was a bit misled by the synopsis, which says, “Lethbridge reveals these old-fashioned and almost-forgotten techniques that made British households sparkle before the use of complicated contraptions and a spray for every surface. A treasury of advice from servants’ memoirs and housekeeping guides…”  Going in, I think I just thought that this would be somewhat of a reference book, when in fact it is more of just a book full of little tidbits that were interesting, but not necessarily for practical application.  (The ‘practical application’ part was basically ‘use vinegar and baking soda!’)

So while I did enjoy this book and find it interesting, it was much shorter and less practical than I anticipated.  I also couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the American edition, which not only changed the title, but even the subtitle from ‘Old-Fashioned Ways to Banish Dirt, Dust and Decay’ to ‘Tried-and-True British Household Cleaning Tips’ because apparently Americans didn’t clean things the same way as British servants, so we need to clarify that these are going to be British tips, not American tips!  Why, publishers, WHY?!

Overall, while this book was a pleasant read, I didn’t feel any need to add it to my personal reference library.