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!

September Minireviews – Part 3

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.

Yes, I know it’s almost the end of October!! But here are the last three books I read in September…

Beach Read by Emily Henry – 4*

//published 2020//

This was a traveling book club read, and for some reason I wasn’t particularly expecting to enjoy it. I think I’ve been burned a few times lately about books that look like romcoms but then turn out to be really serious novels, and I’d heard somewhere that this was along those lines. But while I wouldn’t exactly classify it as a romcom, Beach Read ended up being a lot of fun. Frequently, authors like to make the female lead be super annoying and, frankly, bitchy, but that wasn’t the case here. I ended up really liking January and Gus both, and I liked them together.

My biggest annoyance with this story is that I’m just kind of over the tired trope of “girl finds out her perfect dad was actually a cheating jerk and now she has to Get Away From It All”… maybe because I have a perfect dad who isn’t a cheating jerk, and know several others as well. Whatever. Anyway, the point is that when January’s dad died suddenly, she finds out that he had had an affair. He left her a house in his hometown (where he also had the affair) and that’s where she’s staying for the summer. He also left her a letter, which she refuses to read. And THAT is what annoyed me the most. She spends all this time being super mad at her dad when she has literally no idea what actually happened. She complains internally all the time about how she’ll “never get to hear his side of the story” since he’s dead EVEN THOUGH HE FREAKING WROTE HER A LETTER THAT SHE WON’T READ. Guess what, January – you could probably hear your dad’s side of the story if you READ THE LETTER.

So yeah, I enjoyed the romance part and the writer’s block part, but wasn’t a huge fan of the dad plot mostly because of January not reading the letter but spending the whole time complaining about how she wished she could talk with her dad one more time. ::eyeroll:: Next paragraph is a SPOILER for what was going on with her dad:

SPOILER – In the end, despite the fact that January assumed that her dad had been cheating on her mom forever up until his death, that just wasn’t true. He did have an affair when her mom was super sick, but in the end he went back to January’s mom, confessed what had happened, and they moved forward with their marriage and he didn’t cheat again. Yes, that was a horrible thing for him to do, but I also felt like her parents were adults who could decide what to do about their marriage, so January being low-key mad at her mom for forgiving January’s dad really annoyed me. I don’t think her dad was justified in his cheating (at all) but also didn’t feel like what he did meant that he wasn’t at all the man she “thought she knew” yadda yadda. -END SPOILER

So yes, overall I did like this one. There was a lot of snark and entertaining moments between January and Gus and I really liked them together. I could have done with less self-induced dad angst, but it was still a fun read.

Virtual Unicorn Experience by Dana Simpson – 4*

//published 2020//

I read all of these books earlier this year, so I was excited to snag this one from the library when it came out. It’s nothing particularly different from the earlier books, but they are still just fun, happy comics that I always enjoy.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine – 4*

//published 2001//

Levine is a hit-or-miss author with me, and while I had vague memories of reading this book several years ago, I couldn’t really remember what it was about or even if I liked it. Recently I ended up with a copy of the prequel (ish), The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre, so that inspired me to check this one out of the library.

While not a ground-breaking book, it was an overall enjoyable story. Addie and Meryl are the princesses from the title, and their kingdom is small but happy, other than a disease called The Grey Death, for which there is no cure. Years ago, a prophecy was made about when and how the cure would be found, but it has yet to be fulfilled. Of the two princesses, Meryl is the brave and outgoing one, eager for adventures and excitement. Addie is shy and quiet and prefers indoor activities. But when Meryl sickens with The Grey Death, Addie has to set out on a quest to find the cure.

Large parts of this book were pretty predictable (or maybe my subconscious remembered how it was going to turn out??) but it was still a solid MG read. Sadly, the prequel wasn’t as good – I didn’t even end up finishing it! (More on that when I talk about September’s DNFs in my next post.) But I did enjoy reading this one.