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 had a lot of minireviews for July, so Part 1 can be found here.
Water Song by Suzanne Weyn
This book was a retelling of The Frog Prince, but set in World War I Belgium without (much) magic. I really, really liked the concept and setting for this story, but honestly the book was just too short for what was going on. This ended up feeling more like an outline/draft for a story instead of a full story, which meant the characters were very flat and I couldn’t get behind the main love story because it felt so abrupt. The ending felt rushed and a little strange, and after a big build up around the locket, the actual reveal was quite anticlimactic.
This was a book where I found myself wishing that Weyn had taken the time to turn it into a real, full-length novel. There was so much potential in the story and characters, but this book barely skimmed across the surface. 3/5 for a decent read and a fantastic concept, but not a book that I would bother reading again.
#16 for #20BooksofSummer!
Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
This is the second book starring hard-bitten private detective Phillip Marlowe. As with the first book, The Big Sleep, Marlowe’s narrative is what makes this book worth reading. While the story is fine, with a decent mystery and fair pacing, it’s Marlowe’s slang-ridden, dryly humorous observations that keep me turning the pages.
After a little while, I felt a little better, but very little. I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.
This book is, as with the first, very reflective of the ingrained prejudices of its time, and the easily offended will probably not make it past the first page, where ‘negro’ appears three times, but I found the story to be all the more engaging because of its unvarnished view of its time – so much more interesting to read the books written then, where these words and concepts flow naturally because it was just the way it was, rather than books set during that time but written now, that frequently try too hard to belabor the point that there were prejudices. It was genuinely disturbing to see how no one really cared about the first murder in the story because the victim was ‘only a negro,’ and that the case was given to a man on the police force generally considered to not be important or skilled enough to deal with something ‘more worthwhile.’ In the end, when Marlowe mentions to the murderer that he may have been able to get away with killing ‘just a shade,’ he really won’t be able to get out of also killing a white woman.
So yes, a fun story with a lot of twists and a fairly satisfying (if somewhat hurried) ending; Marlowe’s voice is absolutely hilarious; and, to me, an absolutely fascinating look and reminder of how in the not-so-distant past, having separate ‘joints’ for blacks and whites was not only normal, but considered completely unlikely to ever change. 3.5/5, and I plan to continue reading more of Chandler’s works.
The Methods of Lady Walderhurst by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This is the sequel to The Making of a Marchioness, which I read earlier this month. I found myself a bit ambivalent towards that read, and I actually enjoyed this one even less. The story begins with the marriage of Emily and Walderhurst, but the majority of the book focuses on Emily’s relationship with Walderhurst’s current heir, Osborn, and his wife. Osborne has spent his whole life anticipating becoming the next Lord Walderhurst, and is quite upset when Walderhurst marries a reasonably young and healthy wife. The entire book is a bunch of melodramatic nonsense that would have been a good story if Emily’s devotion to Walderhurst (who is mostly absent in India for the book) actually made a bit more sense.
I would have been willing to go along with the whole thing if the ending hadn’t been so odd and abrupt. Just – quite, quite strange. All in all, I think that I’ll stick with The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, and leave Emily Fox-Seton on the shelf. 2/5.
#19 for #20BooksofSummer!
Martin’s Mice by Dick King-Smith
I’m not sure whether or not I’ve rambled on about King-Smith on this blog before, so even if I have it’s been a while. While he’s best known for his classic Babe: The Gallant Pig, King-Smith was an incredibly prolific writer of children’s books. While I don’t love all of them – some are really just too fast and shallow to be considered good reading, even for a children’s book – others have become lifelong favorites, like The Fox Busters and The Queen’s Nose.
In this tale, we have the story of a farm kitten, Martin, who doesn’t like eating mice. He thinks they are so beautiful and precious. When he discovers that the farmer’s daughter keeps rabbits as pets, he is intrigued by the concept – and when he catches a mouse one day, he decides to keep her as a pet. The rest of the story follows the adventure (especially when his long-lost dad finds out), and involves all sorts of funny critters, like an extremely intelligent hog, a crafty fox, and some quick-thinking mice.
While this isn’t a book that’s likely to win a lot of awards or to cause you to ponder your life, it’s still a very fun and witty story that would be a great read aloud or early reader book. 4/5.