The Other Wife by Michael Robotham – 4*
I really enjoyed reading the Joseph O’Laughlin series last year. Joe is a middle-aged psychologist who, at the beginning of the series, is diagnosed with Parkinson’s. While the books can be read in any order or as stand-alones, they really work best if they are read in order, as you watch Joe and his life grow and change. When I read the then-last-book in the series last July, I was excited to see that Robotham had another book in the series scheduled for late 2018. Close Your Eyes had a rather weird ending, and I really wanted more for Joe, whom I actually really love.
The Other Wife was an addictive read that I was glad I picked up on a lazy Sunday, as I pretty much wanted to do nothing but read it. Robotham easily reestablished me into Joe’s life and, per usual, jumped right into the action. As always, Joe’s good friend Vincent Ruiz is one of my favorite characters, so I was glad to see him back. It has also been fun to see Joe’s daughters grow older throughout the series, and in this book his oldest is at university and starting to make her own way in the world.
Reflecting later after I finished the book, I realized that Robotham honestly got a bit sloppy at the end. One of the main characters (the “other wife”) wasn’t really given any closure, which seemed quite important given the circumstances. But I just couldn’t really justify knocking off a half star for that as the book had been so thoroughly engrossing while I was reading it. I definitely need at least ten more books in this series, so hopefully Robotham is on it!
Early Candlelight by Maud Hart Lovelace – 3.5*
Several years ago I read the Betsy-Tacy books by this author. Despite being exactly the kind of books I would have loved growing up, I somehow didn’t get around to reading them until adulthood – and they were a complete delight! Early Candlelight, however, is Lovelace’s historical fiction, a tale of love and survival set on the 1830’s Minnesota frontier. While this book was an enjoyable read, and had an excellent sense of time and place, it was also a rather sad book on the whole (frontier life wasn’t super easy). I also spent most of the book being a little confused because I couldn’t really get my head around the “class difference” between the main character, Dee, and her love interest, Jasper. Jasper spends a lot of time dwelling on Dee’s unsuitability (and actually so does Dee), but I couldn’t understand why in the world an intelligent, educated, hardworking woman wouldn’t make him a good wife, especially considering that everyone in the area knew and respected Dee and thought she was a wonderful person?? Apparently the people in the fort were trying to cling to their class distinctions from back east, but I just didn’t get it, so it made parts of the story seem contrived to me, even though I’m sure that Lovelace was being historically accurate.
All in all, while this was a nice one-time read, it didn’t speak to me on the same level as the sweet and inspiring Betsy-Tacy books.
The Coming of Bill by P.G. Wodehouse – 3.5*
This book is often mentioned as Wodehouse’s attempt at a “serious” novel, and it certainly lacks the lighthearted frivolity of most of Wodehouse’s works. The main characters of this book are not, in fact, named Bill, but instead are Ruth and Kirk. Ruth is a society girl with plenty of money. Her mother passed away years ago, and she lives with her grumpy, busy father and her self-important brother, Bailey. Ruth and Bailey have an aunt who is “famous” for writing books and articles about how people should really live. The aunt is obsessed with self-improvement, with exercise, and with eugenics – she believes that it is the responsibility of every human to make themselves as fit as they can be, and to find the spouse who will be the ideal breeding partner so that the human race can be bettered through the generations. When the aunt meets Kirk, a “fine specimen” who is also an artist living off a legacy, she decides he will be the perfect match for Ruth. Luckily, Ruth and Kirk feel the same way.
If you’re looking for Wodehouse humor and froth, this book is a bit of a fail. But if you’re just looking for a decent novel with interesting characters, it’s not a bad story. Wodehouse is gently poking fun at several different things throughout, but at the heart of it all the story is about Kirk and Ruth growing up enough to take responsibility for their own lives, choices, and their child (the Bill of the title). While this isn’t a book I would return to again and again, as a Wodehouse connoisseur it was interesting read just to see this stage of his writing.
Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien – 4*
My local library always has a few shelves of discard books for a quarter, and if I’m feeling dangerous I take a moment to browse them when I go in. A while back I found a very nice hardcover copy of this book and picked it up. While this wasn’t a mind-blowing book or anything, it definitely was a fun and entertaining little children’s story about a rather pompous farmer and, more importantly, a dragon. I can definitely see this being a fun read-aloud book – I think that kids would get a kick out of the drama. Tolkien’s dry humor is in full force throughout and I found myself snickering on more than one occasion. There isn’t a lot of depth to this one, but it was a fun little read nonetheless.