August MiniReviews – Part 1

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

August reviews in August!!

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery – 5*

//published 1915//

My slow reread of the Anne series continues.  I’ve read other reviews of these books that are much more objective and critical than mine.  If that’s what you’re looking for, you are in the wrong place!  My childhood and young adult associations with these stories are far too strong for me to find them uninteresting or not worth reading.  In Island, Anne finally heads off to college, where many an adventure ensues.  My biggest problem with this book is the same as I have with Avonlea – I want MORE!  I love Anne’s group of friends, and only wish that there were even more stories exploring their friendships and relationships.  The romance is a big part of this one, as Anne struggles with ideals versus realities.  I’ve been in a relationship where a person fit all my “objective” boxes, ergo it must be romance, only to realize that a life partner needs something more than just to check the correct boxes.  When Anne begins to think of her actual future with this person – what it will be like to live with him day in an day out for the rest of her life, she realizes that beyond the boxes, there is some unidentifiable magic ingredient that is the true essence of romance, rather than her idealistic tall, dark, and mysterious.  Anyway, this is actually one of my favorites from the series for a variety of reasons, and highly recommended.

An Unequal Match by Rachelle Edwards – 2*

//published 1974//

Long-time visitors here may remember that quite a long while back I bought an entire book of Regency romances from eBay in an attempt to score some Georgette Heyer books I didn’t have yet (which worked!), and I’m still working my way through the pile of not-Heyer romances, most of which are pretty bad.  This one was definitely in the pretty bad pile.  The premise was decent – we all know I love a marriage of convenience – but as soon as he marries Verena, Justin bails out of the country, leaving her with his aunt.  There was potential for the fun “ugly duckling into a swan” kind of story, but instead Edwards chooses to skip two entire years, and when we next see Verena, she’s now a beautiful, competent, society lady, to the point that she feels like an entirely different character.  Justin comes back to London and even though he’s talked with Verena like three times in his whole life, gets all pissy about the fact that she wants to divorce Justin and instead marry a guy who has been escorting her all around town and basically courting her.  As the reader, we know this guy is a jerk, but Verena has no idea, and it seemed pretty ridiculous of Justin to be mad about it.  There’s some choppy kerfluffles and then, despite the fact that Verena and Justin have still only had maybe two or three more conversations, Verena suddenly realizes that if anything happens to Justin she’ll DIE and she loves him SO MUCH.

In short, completely unbelievable, no relationship between the main characters, no actual story, nothing.  2* because I did keep reading, although in retrospect that was more from the hope that the story was going to be redeemed than any actual pleasure…

NB: The background of some of these pictures includes a bingo card, part of a challenge I’m hosting over on Litsy.  Participants list 25 books, then I draw out the numbers at random, filling in the bingo card.  Anyone who is playing along reads the books that match those numbers to try and score a bingo!  It’s been great fun!

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne – 4*

//published 2016//

I’ve been meaning to read this one forever, so when I finally picked it up from Book Outlet on the cheap (I don’t have a problem) I was pretty stoked.  All in all, this was a fun and fluffy read with very likable main characters.  There was a bit too much sexy time/lusty thoughts for my personal preference, but because I really liked Lucy and Josh together, I was willing to roll with it.  I think this story would have worked a lot better if we had gotten some of Josh’s thoughts as well – I still prefer third person narratives for this reason – but Lucy is very likable so it helped.  All in all, if you like enemies-to-lovers romance, I definitely recommend this fun and snarky story.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater – 3.5*

//published 1938//

This children’s classic, published in the 1930s, is fun and ridiculous.  As an adult, I had to suspend a LOT of disbelief, but when I was imagining reading this out loud to a group of 9 or 10-year-olds, I could definitely see that age finding all these shenanigans hilarious.  This was a fun and quick read of a classic.  As a side note, I bought this rather battered, well-read copy as a library discard in 1999, where it had apparently been on the shelves since 1938!

The Story of the Amulet by E. Nesbit – 3.5*

//published 1906//

When I read Five Children & It a few months ago, I knew that it had a sequel (The Phoenix & the Carpet), which I already owned.  However, I didn’t realize that there was a third book in the series, so I hunted down a copy and finally got around to reading it.  All in all, while perfectly enjoyable, I definitely didn’t love this one as much as the first two.  The story is much choppier, and because they are traveling around through time and geography, there was a lot of the benevolent British superiority over uneducated natives attitude.  While interesting for the sake of historical context, it sometimes was a little cringey.  The ending also felt quite abrupt.  So while I see myself rereading the first two books sometime, I’m not sure I’ll bother to revisit this one again.

June Minireviews – Part 5

Part 5?!  Oh my gosh.

Five Children & It by E. Nesbit – 4*

//published 1902//

Nesbit’s work is just classic – children having magical adventures and everything is perfect.  In this story, a group of siblings discover a magical being (the “It” of the title) who grants them one wish a day.  Of course the wishes don’t always play out the way the children anticipate, and sometimes saying “I wish—” without intending it to be your wish causes extra complications as well.  All in all just good, clean fun.

Seaside Reunion by Irene Hannon – 3.5*

//published 2012//

This is a gentle and rather uneventful romance that takes place in a small town in northern California.  A young widow has moved back to town several years ago to help her dad with their family store.  When the story opens, a guy who lived there for just a year or so when he was little comes back for a visit – it was the happiest place of his difficult childhood, and he wants to see it again.  While nothing particularly ground-breaking happens, it’s a nice story to while away some time.

Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren – 4*

//published 2017//

This is a borderline 3.5* and I keep going back and forth.  There was a lot about this book that I really enjoyed, most of which can be categorized as “snark.”  The idea is that both the main characters work for competing companies that represent actors, so despite the fact that they hit it off really well, they aren’t sure that their high-pressure jobs will let them date.  Things get even worse when their companies unexpectedly merge – and Evie’s boss – now also Carter’s boss – announces that the company can only afford one of them, so they’re going to have to basically duke it out to decide who stays.  So their flirting turns into pranking (some of which felt a little ridiculous for two adults) with an undercurrent of seriousness.  My main problem with this book was that the boss was SUCH a horrible jerk.  I literally had to flip to the end of this book to make sure that he got some kind of comeuppance because he made my teeth hurt every time he was on the page.  That plus a little too much sex is what kept this book from being a hearty 4*.  In the end, another fun and fluffy read, but not one that I truly fell in love with.

The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit – 4*

//published 1904//

The sequel to Five Children & It, this book takes place the next year when the children are back to living in town.  They get a new carpet for the playroom, and an odd rock falls out of it – which turns out to be a phoenix egg.  The rest of the book is taken up with regular Nesbit shenanigans, with many wishes not quite going the way one would hope.  Nesbit’s books are always happy and fun, and so relaxing.

January Minireviews

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.

Followed by Frost by Charlie Holmberg – 4*

//published 2015//

This is one of my sister’s favorite books, so when she got a hard copy of it for Christmas, she generously gave it to me for the first read. I was a little leery because I read Holmberg’s Paper Magician books last year and was quite frustrated with them – the concept and world were fantastic; the characters and actual story were unbelievable and boring.

However, Followed by Frost was a much better read.  I absolutely loved the concept of this story and the way that it unwound.  Smitha’s character development is thoughtful and believable.  There were times when things dragged a little bit, and I would have liked a little more of Smitha’s life before the curse, to get the full impact of what a jerk she was, but overall a very solid read that, while following a basically traditional fairy tale pattern, did so in a creative and engaging way.

Wet Magic by E. Nesbit – 3.5*

//published 1913//

I really have a soft spot for Nesbit’s writing, but while this one was perfectly enjoyable, it wasn’t as magical as some of her other books.  Things bogged down a bit in the middle when the children got caught up in an underwater war, and there was this weird thing where the first time they met the mermaid she was super grumpy and unreasonable, and then she suddenly was actually really nice and wonderful and perfect, but I could never get over my initial feelings about her, so I spent the whole story being suspicious that she was going to turn out to be a bad guy after all.  All in all, while this was worth a one-time read, it’s not a new favorite.

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon – 3.5*

//published 2015//

I read a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses by this author a long time ago (pre-blog), so I thought I would give this book a try when I came across it.  Overall a solid read, but not one that really spoke to me.  The setting is interesting and the concept, of parallel worlds, is always one that engages me.  However, there were a few plot questions that left me feeling a little confused.  Dixon was also a little heavy-handed on the whole concept of having a “compass” inside of you that “points true north” (i.e. to the good) that everyone should follow.  A nice little thought, but kind of pointless if “true north” is just based on what you feel is the right thing.  The supposedly bad character in this story was also doing what she thought was best for her country and people, so I think an argument could be made that she was following her “true north” … which is why moral relativity doesn’t really work all that great in real life…  Ennywho, still a fun and imaginative read.

July Minireviews + #20BooksofSummer

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!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine – 2*

//published 2006//

I recently reread Ella Enchantedwhich was a childhood favorite and is still a book that I love.  Full of delightful characters, fun world-building, and a really excellent story, I’ve read it many times and still enjoy it.  Somehow, I hadn’t realized that Levine had written another book set in the same world as Ella, although not a direct sequel.  Part of me wishes that I still didn’t know that, because Fairest was pretty terrible.  The main problem was the heroine, Ava, who was incredibly boring, and spent the entire book whining about how ugly she was.  I mean CONSTANTLY.  Every.  Page.  And it never really felt like a lesson came out of that, or if it did it was very muddled.  If the prince thought she was beautiful the first time he saw her… was she really not as ugly as she thought?  Because here’s the thing, ugly/plain people often DO become more beautiful in our eyes as we get to know and love them, but if you’re just sitting there and someone walks into a room – you don’t know anything about them, and literally just judge them on how they appear at that moment.  So the prince is either lying, has horrible taste, or Ava isn’t actually that ugly.  All of those answers annoyed me.

Anyway, the rest of the story was also very weak – I’m never a fan of a plot where the villain is actually NOT the villain but is being controlled by another, in-the-background villain.  This seems convoluted and confusing.  All in all, I skimmed large portions of Fairest, and had trouble focusing on the pages because I was so busy rolling my eyes at Ava’s endless whining about her appearances.

Frederica by Georgette Heyer – 4.5* – #20BooksofSummer

//published 1965//

This was my third read for #20BooksofSummer (you can find my original post here), and a thoroughly enjoyable one it was.  While I had read Frederica quite a while ago (2012), it had been several years.  At the time of my initial reading, it was actually one of the first Heyer books I had read (somehow, I didn’t discover her until adulthood!), but even after reading several of Heyer’s other books since then, I still found this one to be adorable and fun.  I think that part of the reason I love this one so much is that Alverstoke, the unwilling hero, falls in love not just with Frederica, but with her whole family.  I just loved the way that he went from being a selfish, lonely Mr. Grumpy-pants to being part of a happy, loving family.  While Alverstoke was a smidge *too* selfish to really be my favorite Heyer hero, he was still quite nice.  Frederica is a typical, but nonetheless enjoyable, Heyer heroine, being independent and intelligent without being too sassy and obnoxious.  She doesn’t take any nonsense from Alverstoke (or anyone else) and is such a wonderful sister.  My only complaint about her was how she could possibly be blind to her sister’s preferred beau??

All in all, Frederica is a delightful read for anyone looking for a bit of relaxation.  I wasn’t feeling super great over the weekend, and this ended up being the perfect book to devour.

Scotty by Frances Pitt – 3.5* – #20BooksofSummer

//published 1932//

I purchased this book years ago at a book sale somewhere, but somehow had never gotten around to reading it before.  This ended up  being a perfectly enjoyable, although not outstanding read about a Highland fox cub who is raised in captivity buy then escapes and adjusts to life in the wild.  It had a very Jim Kjelgaard-y vibe for me, and it was fun to read an outdoors book about an area of the world that is unfamiliar to me.  It was written between the Wars, so it was also an interesting, if somewhat limited, glance into life when things were starting to really undergo a big cultural change.  While I’m not convinced this will be a classic that I read time and again, it was still engaging – and also Book #4 for #20BooksofSummer!

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit – 4.5* – #20BooksofSummer

//published 1907//

This book is so precious that I just wanted to eat it up.  Every time I thought the story couldn’t get more adorable, it did.  These are the kind of children’s books that I grew up with, and I can’t believe that I didn’t discover Nesbit until adulthood!  This wasn’t a story full of angst or the need for anyone to “discover” herself – just a roly-poly happy story about four children and some magical adventures.  I can’t wait to read more Nesbit!!!  #6 for #20BooksofSummer.

NB: #5 for the list is actually A Wrinkle in Time which I have already read but won’t be reviewing until I have finished some more books in the series.