January 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.

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1932//

Heyer didn’t tend to write sequels/connected books, so I was bit surprised when I read These Old Shades and then discovered that there was actually a sequel. Devil’s Cub is set a generation later – focusing on the son of the main couple from Shades. You don’t necessarily have to read Shades first, but it did add a level of fun, knowing more about the various characters. This wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it was good, fluffy, Heyer fun with plenty of snappy dialogue, likable characters, and slightly-absurd adventures.

The Flip Side by James Bailey – 3.5*

//published 2020//

Most romcoms are written by women, and focus on the woman as the main character, but I genuinely appreciated Bailey’s story, which focuses on a guy, and puts that guy in the situation that so many female characters start with. Josh has arranged an incredibly romantic date with his girlfriend with the intention of proposing. Except not only does she turn him down – she confesses that she’s been cheating on him and no longer “feels the magic.” Within the first chapter, Josh is single, jobless, and back to living with his parents in the suburbs. As he looks at his life, he feels completely overwhelmed by all the choices he has to make, and all the choices he has made to get where he is – he feels like a failure and can’t see a way forward. And so, he decides to stop making decisions. Instead, he starts flipping a coin and letting fate decide what happens next. And as one might expect – shenanigans ensue.

There was a lot to enjoy about this story. There are fun and slightly-ridiculous scenarios, mostly likable characters, and a little bit of thoughtfulness about life choices and where they take us. On the other hand, a lot of the pacing felt stuttered, a few of the characters were extremely underdeveloped, and there’s this whole weird thing where Josh gets a ride with a taxi driver named Jesus, which leads to this whole conversation/scenario that felt kind of sacrilegious to me.

At the end of the day – an entertaining and overall enjoyable, but it isn’t one I see myself reading again and again.

The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer – 4.5*

//published 2004// Also, the cards are for another Litsy challenge haha //

These are the sequels to Sorcery and Cecelia, which I reread in December. Like the first book, they are fun and happy epistolary novels. In The Grand Tour, the two couples from Cecelia have just gotten married and are off on a joint honeymoon around the Continent, where they run into another magical mystery. The Mislaid Magician takes place about ten years later – both families now have several children, adding to the fun. This one is extra entertaining as there are letters between the husbands as well.

All in all, these are just such fun books with enjoyable characters and a very fun world-building concept – highly recommended.

Eyewitness Guides: Brazil4*

//published 2020//

Another challenge on Litsy this year is #FoodandLit – there’s a country each month, and participants try to read some books set in that country or written by authors from it, and we also share recipes, although I’m not particularly good at that aspect haha Because I’m really trying to keep my challenges focused on reading books already on my TBR, my goal is to read two books for each country – one nonfiction, most likely a travel guide of some sort – and one fiction, mostly based on what’s available at the library! These Eyewitness guides are great fun – super colorful, full of photographs and maps, and I learned all sorts of things about Brazil, which is actually a HUGE country. It was also fun to read this one before I read my fiction choice (next review) since I had a much better grasp on the geography of the country by the time I got to Ways to Disappear, in which the characters hop around the country quite a bit.

A fun way to armchair travel, especially to countries I’ll probably never visit in person.

Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey – 3.5*

//published 2016//

This was a weird book that I would never have picked up if it wasn’t for the #FoodandLit challenge. The story is about Emma, who works as a translator. Her main focus for several years has been translating novels by a Brazilian author named Beatriz Yagoda. The story opens with Beatriz climbing up a tree with a suitcase – and that’s the last anyone sees of her. Emma, in snowy Pittsburgh, receives an email that she thinks is from someone connected to Beatriz’s publishing house, and spontaneously decides to go to Brazil to see if she can help locate Beatriz, a decision that makes Emma’s live-in boyfriend/almost fiance quite annoyed. In Brazil, everything is as opposite to Pittsburgh as it can be. It turns out that the email was actually from a mafia-like guy to whom Beatriz owes thousands of dollars in gambling debts. The story wanders through Brazil as Emma and Beatriz’s adult children try to find the missing author all while dodging the increasingly intense threats of the loan shark. The entire book has an almost dream-like quality to it, with an emphasis on the hot, sticky weather (in contrast to wintry Pittsburgh). Emma has an affair with Beatriz’s son, struggling with feeling conflicted about the marriage proposal she knows is coming from her boyfriend back home. Beatriz’s daughter, Beatriz’s opposite in almost every way, is frustrated that Emma is there at all, much less than Emma thinks she knows so much more about Beatriz than anyone else. The whole novel meanders around – it feels like, with the whole loan-shark-deadline-if-you-miss-it-we’re-going-to-kill-you thing, that there should be more of a sense of urgency, but there just isn’t. The ending is odd, but not necessarily out of character for the rest. A book I’m not exactly glad I read, but also not mad that I did, either. It was a fairly quick read, which helped, because I’m not sure how long I could have put up with the complete bizarreness of the whole thing.

December 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.

Will I finish December reviews before the end of January???

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith – 5*

//published 1956//

I always think of this as a Christmasy book, as that’s when the bulk of the action takes place, and since this is one of my all-time favorites, it seemed like a lovely time to revisit it yet again. Smith is so clever and humorous, with characters that are easy to love and a villain that’s easy to hate. As always, one of the most important parts of this story are the absolutely magical illustrations by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnston – I can’t imagine reading this story without them! If you’ve never picked up this story, you absolutely should.

The Starlight Barking by Dodie Smith – 4*

//published 1967//

I only discovered this sequel a few years ago, and while I don’t love it nearly as much as the original story, it is fun to see where Pongo and Missis’s children have ended up!! Again the illustrations make the story, and while this one definitely leans more heavily on magic (which was nonexistent in the first story), it’s still a great deal of fun.

Christmas With You by Nora Roberts – 3.5*

//published 1989, 1986//

One would expect the first (and longest) story in an anthology entitled Christmas With You and composed of only two stories to actually be, you know, Christmasy, but I honestly think some editor someone saw the title of this one (Gabriel’s Angel) and saw that there was a snowstorm in the first chapter and just assumed that it must have something to do with Christmas! In truth, the snowstorm is a freak spring blizzard and the entire story wraps up by the following fall, so there is literally not a single Christmas event in the entire tale! Setting that aside, I did enjoy this story (we all know I’m a sucker for a marriage of convenience) although there were some aspects that got a little too drama-y for me. Still a good time.

When I started reading the second story, Home for Christmas, I realized that I had already read it in the past and it employs my LEAST favorite trope (teehee oh btw I had your baby years ago but I never bothered to tell you because I’m pretending like I have your best interests at heart) BUT it takes place in New Hampshire, which I hadn’t visited yet for my #ReadtheUSA2020 challenge and it was less than a hundred pages long, so I rolled my eyes a lot and got through it. Despite the trope making me want to smack the female lead in the face, it wasn’t that bad of a story. However, I can’t believe I’ve ended up reading this one twice!

Santa’s On His Way (various authors)

//published 2018, just like all the Christmas books I read this year for some reason//

Another anthology, this one had four stories in it. Lisa Jackson’s name is in the biggest letters on the cover, so apparently she’s the keynote writer, but hers was the one story (A Baby for Christmas) that I didn’t finish – the characters just weren’t working for me. It was also weird because the other three stories were all published in 2018, but this one was from 1997??

What the Cowboy Wants for Christmas by Maisey Yates and A Cowboy for Christmas by Nicole Helm were solid 3.5* reads – nothing terrible innovative but perfectly pleasant. I’m not a big cowboy-romance reader, but these weren’t too bad.

Snowed In by Stacy Finz was my favorite of the collection (even though I would still give it 3.5* haha) It’s a fun trope and it was done well here. Plus, I liked the way it all came together in the end.

All in all, I probably won’t revisit this anthology again next year, but I may see if Finz has written any full-length novels.

Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox – 4*

//oh look, this one was also published in 2018//

Sometimes Hallmark-movie-type reads are just predictable and annoying, but other times they are predictable and fun, and this one was the latter category for me. It’s absolutely ridiculous that Charlie’s apartment just happens to be rendered uninhabitable at the same time that her cousin decides to dash off to meet her online-girlfriend, meaning that it’s the perfect situation for Charlie to take over the cousin’s upscale dog boarding business, especially considering that Charlie doesn’t even like dogs. But somehow Cox makes the whole thing work, keeping things light and fun and the scenarios mostly on the right side of believable. Charlie is overall likable and not too stupid despite her lack of knowledge about dogs and country life, and who doesn’t love a grump veterinarian hero? While not perfect, this was the exact kind of fluff I was looking for, and I kept this one for a reread next year.

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer – 3.5*

//published 1926//

This was borderline between 3.5* and 4*. It’s one Heyer’s earliest books, and it shows. Compared to most of her stories, the action in this one is choppy, the dialogue sometimes stilted (especially because most of the story is set in France with a French heroine who is constantly exclaiming things in French except I have no idea what she’s saying so I had to keep stopping to look things up because sometimes it was actually important to the plot of the conversation…), and the age gap between the two main characters was so great that I was honestly a little surprised that that was the direction the romance was headed. Despite all this, the bones of a good Heyer story are still here. It’s a fun story and when Leonie wasn’t shouting in French she was a likable character. The duke is a little over-the-top but I still ended up liking him and I absolutely loved his brother and sister and the family dynamics at work. So while I didn’t love this one, I did still enjoy it. It’s not where I would recommend someone to start if they’ve never read a Heyer story before, but if you already love her books you’ll probably enjoy this one as well.

Also, I just finished Devil’s Cub which is actually about the duke and Leonie’s now-adult son and it was absolutely delightful, so if nothing else it’s worth reading Shades just to get the full impact of the fun in Devil’s Cub.

This wasn’t a Christmas read, but it was December’s book for one of my traveling book clubs and thankfully still fit into my theme of an all-fluff month!!

September 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.

Still trying to catch up on at least SOME of the books I read this month!!

Three Fates by Nora Roberts – 4*

//published 2002//

This book had excellent pacing and interesting characters, although it was a little slow to start.  I liked the thriller aspect of it, with everyone dashing around and trying to find the statues.  It’s a little heavy on coincidences, but Roberts honestly weaves that into the story, as I really liked the way she incorporate the concept of fate and also the story of The Fates (the myth) into what was happening.  There was one quote in particular I liked – ” [The Fates looked at me.] The first, who held a spindle, spoke. ‘I spin the thread, but you make it what you will.’ The second held a silver tape for measuring and said, ‘I mark the length, but you use the time.’ And the third, with her silver scissors, told me this. ‘I cut the thread, for nothing should last forever. Don’t waste what you’re given.’ “

Engaging Mr. Darcy by Rachel John – 4*

//published 2018//

This was a fun little modern adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that I quite enjoyed.  I really liked the way the author decided to update some of the situations, especially with why Mr. Bennet is a lax father, Lydia’s behavior, and how Wickham played into everything.  For some reason, the author decided to randomly change the first names of the some of the characters from those in the original, but not all of them, which felt a little jarring at times.  Overall, though, this was a fun little romp.

Arabella by Georgette Heyer – 4.5*

//published 1949//

This was a reread from quite a while back, so I didn’t really remember any of the story.  However, it was just as delightful as I’ve come to depend on Heyer being.  I loved Arabella and all of the other characters.  I was on vacation while I was reading this one, and it was just perfect.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – 3*

//published 2016//

This book totally had me hooked while I was reading it, but left me feeling a little disappointed and confused.  The whole thing was just way, way too elaborate.  I was mostly left wondering why, if you were going to murder someone, you would EVER choose this way of going about it?!  The ending was quite jumbled and depended entirely upon luck.  So while this was fun while I was reading it, it definitely didn’t blow me away.  I’m still planning to check out more of Ware’s work, though.

First & Then by Emma Mills – 3.5*

//published 2015//

It’s ironic, since this was Mills’s first novel, but if I had read this first, I’m not sure I would have bothered to pick up her other books, all of which I’ve loved.  It’s not that this one is bad, because it’s actually a perfectly nice book.  However, it doesn’t particularly stand out – just kind of regular YA lightly-angsty story, lacking the delightful snark and close group of friends that has drawn me to the author’s stories.  Still, this was overall a well-written and thoughtful story that I did enjoy, with characters that I liked.  I appreciate the way that Mills manages to create high school characters who basically learn to look beyond themselves, recognizing that they are actually a small piece in a much larger puzzle.  To me, that should be the lesson you learn in high school – that life doesn’t revolve around you – and Mills manages to do that in each of her stories, yet in a different and engaging way each time.

March 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.

A Duchess in Name by Amanda Weaver – 3*

//published 2016/

I picked this Kindle book up for free somewhere along the line because I’ll pretty much always pick up marriage of convenience tropes.  This one was pretty average.  I actually liked the story and the characters a great deal, but there was a lot of pretty explicit sex in this one, which always brings down my overall enjoyment of a story.  It also meant that even though this was the first in a series of four, I didn’t really feel like paying to read the rest.

Virtually Sleeping Beauty by K.M. Robinson – 2.5*

//published 2018//

Another Kindle freebie, and another book that I really wanted to like.  The premise is fun with a very Ready Player One vibe, with one character stuck inside a popular virtual reality game.  The narrator and his best friend go into the game to try and rescue her.  However, the execution of the story was incredibly flat.  It honestly felt more like an outline or rough draft than it did an actual book.  The plotting was choppy and cliché.  The characters were one-dimensional and rather insipid.  The ending was incredibly abrupt.  I didn’t remotely believe that the characters had become even basic friends, much less that they had fallen in love, especially considering the whole story takes place over a few hours.  It turns out that this was more of a short story than an actual book, so that’s why I ended up finishing it.  If the writing had been this poor for the full length of a novel, I wouldn’t have continued.  I do have a few other of Robinson’s books as free Kindle books, but reading this one hasn’t made me exactly eager to try the rest.

The Fox Busters by Dick King-Smith – 4*

//published 1978//

Although I’ve only reviewed a couple of King-Smith’s books here, his books were an absolute delight to me growing up, and The Fox Busters was the story that introduced me to the magical absurdity of his writing.  This isn’t really a book I would recommend to very small children, as there is, frankly, a decent amount of death, but I remember loving the military-like execution of events.  Basically, the chickens of Foxearth Farm have, through generations of natural selection (due to generations of farmers not really being bothered to take much care of said chickens), become almost like wild birds.  This means that generations of foxes around the farm have very rarely ever been able to experience the delights of a chicken dinner.  The events in The Fox Busters occur when a trio of especially intelligent pullets are hatched right around the time that a quartet of particularly clever foxes are growing up nearby.  This is the story of their battle.

So yes, it’s honestly a rather violent book.  A lot of chickens – and several foxes – die during the course of it.  But the sheer creativity is fantastically engaging.  King-Smith’s writing is brisk and to the point – he doesn’t tend to linger over descriptions or unneeded details.  Yet somehow that suits the overall military feel of the book.  There is a sly tongue-in-cheek humor throughout that I think I rather missed as a child, but found quite amusing as an adult.

While this isn’t a perfect book, it’s well worth a read if you’ve ever raised chickens, or if you’re just looking for a quick bit of British humor.

Show Lamb by Hildreth Wriston – 4*

//published 1953//

This is another book from my personal collection, one that I picked up at a book sale eons ago but never got around to reading.  It’s a shame, because this is a book I would have quite enjoyed as a child – a bit of historical fiction set in 1850 Vermont, focusing on 10-year-old Chad.  Chad, along with his parents, sister, and aunt, live together on a sheep farm, and Chad wants nothing more than to also be a sheep farmer like his father.  He feels that the best way to start on that path is to get to choose his own lamb to take to the fair that fall, but Chad’s father doesn’t think he’s old enough yet.  This story follows Chad from lambing season through the fair (he of course does choose his own lamb, secretly, which is part of the story) and is a delight the entire way.  One of the things I liked best about this book was that there were multiple times that Chad was strongly tempted to do the wrong thing, but for the most part he choose not to – and even if that behavior wasn’t rewarded immediately, it always paid off in the end.  This is a lesson sadly lacking in virtually all children’s literature these days, as modern authors seem to think it’s much better to tell children that their parents are the enemy and also rather stupid and inept.  In Show Lamb, Chad’s father is not at all perfect, but he is good and genuinely loves Chad, and this really comes through in the story.  We’re also shown a contrast in the lazy, no-good neighbor, which was also done well.

All in all, it seems a shame that literally no one else on Goodreads has ever come across this one (I added it myself), as I found it a delightful little piece of historical fiction with a lot to offer.

The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer – 3.5*

//published 1959//

I’m not sure if it’s because I had the large print version or what, but this was one of the few times where a Heyer book felt like it went on forever.  While the last third of the book picked up the pace and become much more engaging and humorous, the beginning and middle really dragged.  Without any insight into what Hugo was thinking, it was hard to recognize that he was pulling the collective leg of his relatives, because it’s hard to recognize, in writing, that he’s speaking in “broad Yorkshire,” beyond his saying “happen” instead of “perhaps.”  There were also moments where supposedly he accidentally forgot to use his Yorkshire accent, but again this was hard to pick up in writing, so a lot of the subtlety of humor was lost on me. It was a fun story with some likable characters and a lot of potential, but this one felt too directionless for too long, as though Heyer couldn’t quite decide where she was headed with this story.  It was (sadly) still better than a very large chunk of modern romances, but it wasn’t a Heyer I particularly felt I needed to add to my permanent collection.

November 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.

So I’ve been slowly working my way through a brick of a book about Vietnam before “our” Vietnam War – basically, it covers the history from the beginning of World War II through the beginning of the Vietnam War, most of which the Communists spent fighting with the French, with the US and China getting more and more involved in the background.  It’s genuinely fascinating, but that book weighs a literal three pounds and is over 800 pages long, so while I don’t mind lugging it places if I’m going to sit and read for a while, it’s not really an ideal book to throw in my bag if I think I’m only going to have time for a few pages.  So all that to say that I have also been reading quite a few fluff books, and I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on some of them…

Accidentally Married by Victorine Lieske – 3.5*

//published 2014//

Lieske apparently wrote several of these “modern marriages of convenience” stories, all of which are clean, a bit absurd, and good fun.  They are together in a boxed set on Kindle, so I thought they would kind of intertwine, but they appear to all be completely independent of each other.  Stephanie reviewed a few of these (although, ironically, not this one haha), which is how I first found them.  Anyway, this story was pretty fun, with a decently plausible scenario.  It seemed like the ending did drag a little bit because Madison and Jared wouldn’t just USE THEIR WORDS so they did that thing where they both assumed the other person wasn’t interested and went home and pouted instead of just having a conversation.  I mean, if you think this person is going to break up with you and never see you again anyway, what in the world do you have to lose by telling them how you really feel first??  Despite that, it was still a super relaxing little chick lit read, and I’m always a fan of fake relationships/marriages of convenience, so there is that.

Blind-Date Bride by Jillian Hart – 3*

//published 2009//

This is the first in a series of the crazy Love Inspired books.  Thanks to Great-Aunt Darby I have all the books in this series and thought I would give it a go.  This one was barely a 3* read, though, as virtually nothing happened in this book except listening to the two main characters angst about how they weren’t good enough for the other person, which was overall quite boring.  Weirdly, I did like the characters in this book a lot, and the small town setting was done well, so I decided to still give the second book a go, even though this one wasn’t really my thing.

Collie to the Rescue by Albert Payson Terhune – 3.5*

//published 1928//

I do love a good Terhune every once in a while, and this one has been on my shortlist ever since it came up in my random drawing for my #20BooksofSummer reads, which I am still trying to complete by the end of the year!!  This one is quite melodramatic but still a good time, although unlike most of Terhune’s books, this one is definitely way more about Brant than it is about his collie.  This one was also interesting because it was published back in 1928 (under the title Loot!), but a big part of the plot is about smuggling and selling drugs.  It’s just funny to me because we act like that is such a modern problem, but here’s a story from a hundred years ago where that was still playing a big part.  While this was a perfectly interesting and entertaining story, it wasn’t my favorite Terhune, with just a smidge too much drama.

Montana Homecoming by Jillian Hart – 3*

//published 2012//

This was the second  book in the series, and because it was just as meh as the first, I decided not to bother with the rest.  Again, the characters were very likable, but there was virtually no plot, and honestly Brooke’s “dog training” skills bordered on miraculous, because apparently all she had to do was keep saying the command and the dog just magically started doing what she wanted, which seemed pretty handy.

Reluctantly Married by Victorine Lieske – 3.5*

//published 2015//

This one was also just completely ridiculous but so fun that I couldn’t stop reading it.  I really liked both the main characters and liked the way they kept getting more and more tangled up in their situation.  Again, I felt like the ending dragged out a little too much, which took away from my overall enjoyment of the book, but it was still a good time.  I’m definitely planning to read some more of these books soon.  (Currently, the boxed set is available on Kindle Unlimited if anyone is interested.)

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer – 5*

//published 1953//

When all else fails, turn to Georgette Heyer!  It had been quite a while since I read this one, so I couldn’t quite remember how everything played out.  The dialogue is absolutely hilarious, and Freddy is honestly one of my very favorite Heyer heroes, because he’s so regular.  It was also fun because Jack is honestly more like the usual Heyer hero – older, brooding, a bit of a rake – but here we get Freddy, who is younger and just so ridiculously nice that it’s impossible not to root for him.  Kitty is lively and fun without being obnoxious, and all of the secondary characters are just as delightful, especially Freddy’s sister Meg – honestly, Freddy’s family really made this book, and I realized while I was reading it that one of the things I like about Heyer’s books is her ability to write families, especially siblings, so well.  At any rate, this book is a complete delight, and if, by some miracle, you haven’t picked up a Heyer book before, this one is a wonderful place to start.

October Minireviews (+ #20Booksof Summer … still!)

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.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – 4*

//published 2012//

As I’ve mentioned, a while ago I signed up to be part of a Traveling Book Club, where each member choose a book to share.  The first month you mail your own book to the next person on the list and receive a book from the person behind you on the list.  Each month you mail whatever book you have until you get your own back.  In the meantime, members are encouraged to annotate and make notes in the books, so that when you get yours back it will be full of fun thoughts from its journey.  (You can see the list of these reads here.)  I was excited to get this book in the mail, because it’s one I’ve read – and enjoyed – before, so it was extra fun to see other people’s thoughts and insights.  One of the earlier readers is a computer programmer, so it was especially interesting to see her thoughts on some of the computer-y aspects of the story.

I liked this book just as much the second time around.  Clay is such an entertaining and likable narrator, and while the story does get a bit ridiculous at times, it’s always a good time.  Still an easy 4* read.

False Colours by Georgette Heyer – 4.5*

//published 1963//

I know that I have read this Heyer before, but apparently I never reviewed it at that time!  This is an especially fun one – when Kit comes home from his diplomatic job abroad to check in with his widowed mother and his twin brother, his twin is missing.  His mother, a rather capricious but likable lady, persuades Kit to take his brother’s place at an important dinner – just for that night.  Needless to say, and entire tangle ensues.  The whole story is just absolutely delightful.  I really like Kit a lot, and it was fun to have a character who isn’t the oldest son and doesn’t want to be!  Even though it seems like the whole thing should be ridiculous, Heyer somehow makes it feel plausible.  I will say that the ending felt a little too tidy, with everyone planning out how they were going to fix things, but the story ends before things are actually fixed!  It would have been nice to see things actually play out.  Still, a very fun and lighthearted read.

Terms of Service by Scott Allan Morrison – 3.5*

//published 2015//

This is one of those Kindle books I’ve had forever, and now that I’m committed (ha) to getting through my Kindle backlog, I finally got around to reading it.  While this was a decent one-time thriller, the plot was rather scattered and convoluted, and the message wasn’t super clear.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to trust social media or never use it again.  It was weird because this was written in 2015, but the whole story is about a presidential election that gets influenced by social bots.  What honestly blew my mind about this story was the number of people who let themselves be completely swayed on huge, important issues by total strangers on the internet.  Like, if they present a convincing argument that’s worth looking into, that’s one thing.  But just being persuaded by things like, “Wow, this guy really has some good things to say!” seems completely ridiculous to me, but apparently is exactly what people do in real life.  (See: Reasons I Don’t Do Facebook)

I think I would have liked this whole book better if the overall message had been a little clearer, but Morrison’s conclusion is basically like, “Yeah, people in charge of social media pretty much control what the masses think and do, but we’re all way into it and the positives outweigh the negatives so…”  Overall, this book had its engaging moments, but it wasn’t really the kind of thriller that made me want to rush out and see what else Morrison has written.

Utah Lion by James Ralph Johnson – 4*

//published 1962//

My great-grandma was an elementary school teacher, and when she passed away back when I was in middle school, I inherited some of her fiction books she used in her class.  I kind of wish she was still around so I could ask her if she actually used Utah Lion for teaching purposes or if it was just a book that the kids could read if they wanted to.

The story, as the title implies, is about a wild mountain lion in Utah, presumably around the time this book was published in the 1960’s.  It has a very Jim Kjelgaard feel to the overall story, including the verging-on-polemic message about the importance large predators play in the overall balance of nature.  Johnson weaves an interesting tale, although ironically he was so convincing about the dangers (from men) that lions face, that I wasn’t genuinely convinced that Blue Tom and his mate were genuinely going to survive and help repopulate the lions in Utah.  At the end of Johnson’s story, nothing had really changed to make life any easier for mountain lions, so it just seemed like they would keep getting hunted until they were dead, which was kind of discouraging.

Still, this was overall a solid read if, like me, you enjoy random outdoorsy stories.  Unlike most of Kjelgaard’s books, this one focused on the lion and not on a parallel human, which definitely meant that all of my sympathies were with the lion!

NB Utah Lion was originally a selection I made for #20BooksofSummer.  I didn’t finish reading my list by the end of summer, but I am trying to finish it by the end of the year!!

September 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.

I realize that it’s now October, but September really flew by!  I had most of this post already written up, and they are books that I read last month – so here are a few quick paragraphs just to try and get somewhat caught up!!

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola – 3.5*

//published 2016//

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this book.  I had read a couple of good reviews of it (by Books for the Trees and also Cleopatra Loves Books), so I knew that it was a historical crime book – and that was about it!  The setting was fantastic and the characters were well-drawn.  However, while I found this book compulsively readable, it never really captured me.  There was a twist at the end that I had guessed almost from the very beginning, and it made me feel rather out of sorts with a few of the characters along the way!  So while I did overall enjoy this read, it didn’t really make  me want to rush out and see what else Mazzola has been up to.  I think part of it was that I was expecting to experience some terror while reading this, and that just never really happened.

The Accident by Chris Pavone – 3.5*

//published 2014//

A while back I read The Travelers by this author.  I liked the book enough to want to try another of his works, and while I enjoyed this one as well, it didn’t really blow me away in any sense.  It was a good plot and good pacing, but it just felt like loads of people got knocked off unnecessarily.  The ‘villain’ of the piece was a big vague – like we know who he is, but he’s really just sort of a shadow man; there is never anything from his point of view or anything.  I think the book definitely would have benefited from having him be a little more concrete.  The other problem was that I didn’t like anyone in this book, so while I wanted to root for the ‘good’ guys, they weren’t super likable either, so in a way I kind of didn’t care. However, there was a really good twist towards the end of the book that suddenly made everything come together, which bumped this up half a star.  Pavone isn’t a super prolific writer, so I’ll probably still check out his other couple of books.  They’ve  been fun for one-time reads, even if they aren’t instant classics.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – 4.5*

//published 2015//

After reading SO MANY 3-3.5* books, I really wanted to read something that I knew I would love.  Ever since I finished Uprooted last year, I’ve wanted to reread it, so I picked it up the other day and enjoyed it even more the second time around.  This was one of my top three books from 2017, and my reread only cemented that opinion.  This book is incredibly magical, with fantastic world-building and engaging characters.  I absolutely love the terror inspired by the Wood, and the ending is just so, so perfect.  I’m still not a fan of the sex scene, because it makes me feel uncomfortable recommending this book to younger teen readers, but other than that this book is really just a complete delight.  I’ve ordered Novik’s second novel, Spinning Silver, and am really looking forward to it!

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1940//

We were camping this weekend, so I grabbed this one for a quick read.  Heyer never disappoints, and this book was full of all sorts of lively adventures and genuinely funny moments.  Heyer’s writing frequently involves a somewhat-older male lead with a somewhat-younger female lead.  I have mixed feelings about this, and I realized when reading this book that it really depends on the female’s situation.  In a lot of her books, the girl has been out and about in the world (Frederica and Deb from Faro’s Daughter come to mind), and then I don’t mind an age difference so much.  But other books, like this one (and actually the last Heyer I read, The Convenient Marriage), the girl isn’t even ‘out’ yet, so having an older (and by older I mean late 20’s/early 30’s, not like her dad’s age or something) fellow sweep her off her feet feels a little weirder.  I realize that it’s a product of the time, where (upper class) men frequently waited until later in life to marry than women, but it still sometimes feels a little strange to have a 29-year-old man who has been out and about in the world marry a 17-year-old girl who hasn’t even had a Season.

HOWEVER all that to say that despite that, this book was still great fun with some very likable characters and some hilarious hijinks.  Heyer is so reliable as an entertaining and fun writer.  I can’t believe that I am still working my way through her bibliography, but I’m grateful that she was so prolific!!

August Minireviews – Part 2 – #20BooksofSummer

Still plowing through a pile of back-log reviews!!!

When Patty Went to College by Jean Webster – 4* – #20BooksofSummer

//published 1903//

This was a funny sort of book because there really wasn’t a plot.  We don’t get any character background or explanations – instead the reader is just dumped right into Patty’s senior year of college.  Each chapter is a little adventure, but other than Patty herself, nothing really ties them together.  In that way, this book was a little bit of a disappointment, and I definitely didn’t love this one as much as the Daddy Long-Legs books (especially Dear Enemy… gosh, I love that book SO MUCH).  Still, the stories were funny, and Patty and her friends very likable.  This is also #10 for #20BooksofSummer, so I’ve made it halfway through the list!

The Temporary Wife by Jeannie Moon – 3*

//published 2013//

This was a fun little story, although ultimately unmemorable.  I do love a marriage of convenience trope, and usually can’t resist them even if they sound terrible.  While I enjoyed this one while I was reading it, I didn’t quite enjoy it enough to pony up $4/ea for the rest of the books in the series.  Overall, this one had some likable characters and an interesting premise, but was a bit choppy on the execution and had a bit too much shagging for my taste.

Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse – 5*

//published 1947//

What holiday is complete without a Wodehouse??  This is one of my very favorites, and I read it in almost one sitting this time around.  There is nothing I can say about Wodehouse that hasn’t been said before.  If you haven’t read him yet, you need to find one immediately!

“One prefers, of course, on all occasions to be stainless and above reproach, but, failing that, the next best thing is unquestionably to  have got rid of the body.”

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1934//

While this story was engaging and had its funny moments (the whole scene where they are trying to be highwaymen is quite, quite funny), it really wasn’t one of my all-time favorite Heyer stories (even with my favorite trope).  The main female character speaks with a stammer, something that doesn’t bother me at all to listen to in real life but g-g-g-grates on m-m-m-my nerves v-v-v-very m-m-much when reading.  It also seemed completely unnecessary.  Still, a happy one-off read, even if it isn’t one that I intend to add to my permanent collection.

The Five-Minute Marriage by Joan Aiken – 4.5*

//published 1978//

On the theme of marriages of convenience, I reread this one while on vacation as well.  While not quite as perfect as I remember (how could I possibly have forgotten how ridiculous it was that the entire family had names related to Arthurian legend??  Did I just not notice it the first time around??  The evil cousin’s name is Mordred??  Really??) this was nonetheless a truly delightful and fun romance, with a strong-minded and independent heroine who isn’t obnoxious.  It’s a bit on the melodramatic side, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the 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.

April Minireviews // Part 2

I keep thinking that I’m through my blogging funk and am ready to write some solid full reviews… and then I start to write and realize I just don’t wanna!  :-D  So here’s another batch of minireviews from this month…

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

//published 2011//

Before I picked up this book and read the introduction I didn’t realize that it’s actually a book based on a movie.  I’m not completely sure I would have bothered checking it out of the library if I had known that before, as it’s not something I generally enjoy.  And, like other movies-to-books that I’ve read, this one felt a little flat.  There wasn’t a lot of character development, and the third person POV jumped around between characters in a manner that was very choppy and confusing.  There was a lot of potential with this story, but instead it just felt like it dragged on and on and created more questions than it answered.

Why have the villagers been offering sacrifices to the werewolf for years but now all of a sudden decide that it must die?  That was the biggest one for me.  These people have been living with this situation for decades, but all of a sudden it’s this huge emergency/crisis and everyone is flipping out about killing the wolf.  I hated the blend of religion/paranormal in this book, as the “good” guy, who is a bishop or something, is also a total jerk + arrogant + stupid, and goes around proclaiming how he is “working for the power of God” etc etc and it really felt like he could have been the same character minus the constant blathering about God and wouldn’t have been nearly as offensive.  The main character, Valerie, basically sucked and was completely passive and also inconsistent and we had to spend WAY too much time listening to her dither about which guy she should be with; she and everyone else just kind of ran around like a bunch of sheep, making every stupid decision possible.

THEN, the final kicker – there’s no last chapter!  The book just stops!  Apparently, the book came out just before the movie, so they didn’t want the ending spoiled and didn’t post the lats chapter until after the movie appeared.  Now you can go online and read it (and I did, and it genuinely was a terrible ending that STILL didn’t really make the story make sense), but it seems like a pretty obnoxious marketing device to not put the ending in a book.  All in all, a 2/5 for this one – I did want to see how things came out, so I feel like I can’t justify only 1*, but it’s close.

The Foundling by Georgette Heyer

//published 1948//

It had been way too long since I had indulged in the sheer joy and relaxation of a Heyer book, and I was excited to read this one for the first time.  I genuinely loved the main character, Gilly, and laughed out loud on more than one occasion at his ability to get tangled in some genuinely ridiculous situations.  It was funny to read a Heyer that was more about a guy than a girl, but Gilly was so completely likable that I really enjoyed it.  I wish there was a sequel to this book that was nothing except Gilly and his new wife and all of their adventures because I shipped them SO HARD.  4/5.

Ride Like an Indian by Henry Larom

//published 1958//

A while back I read the Mountain Pony series by Larom and really enjoyed it, so I checked to see if he had written anything else.  I found a copy of Ride Like an Indian on eBay and took the $5 splurge.  This was aimed at younger readers than the Mountain Pony books – it’s almost a picture book – but it was pretty adorable, even if it wasn’t very exciting.  I enjoyed the reading, but it wasn’t really an instant classic for me.  3.5/5.

The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillup

//published 1988//

I’ve had kind of mixed results from McKillup’s writing.  Everything I’ve read has been good but they have not all been magical.  That was the case with this book.  The story was a pleasant and engaging one, but didn’t have that magic that made me want to add it to my permanent collection.  3/5.

Don’t Believe a Word by Patricia MacDonald

//published 2016//

I read about this book over on Fictionophile’s blog a while back, and thought I would give it a whirl.  While I enjoyed reading it and definitely wanted to see how everything came together, it wasn’t a book that I loved, and it didn’t particularly inspire me to find more of MacDonald’s writing.  For some reason, this book just had a negative vibe for me, and I’m not even sure exactly why.  There is also this weird plot twist where it turns out that two of the characters are actually half-siblings and have been having an incestual relationship.  That was never really addressed as a negative thing and it made me kind of uncomfortable that the conclusion was just that it was basically their business and they should be able to do whatever they feel is right.  Still, that was a minor part of an otherwise decent story.  3.5/5.