Still catching up on a bajillion reviews! Now that I’ve checked off February (ha!), it’s on to March!!
Coot Club by Arthur Ransome – 5* – finished March 5
So it may not come as a surprise to learn that I am still in love with these books! I’m reading this series very slowly, savoring each one. I’ve also been purchasing them as I go in the Jonathan Cape editions, which come with amazing end maps that I love. This story was about a gang of children on a sailing expedition. I usually think of sailboats (when I think of them, which, if I’m honest, is rarely) in association with large, open bodies of water, but in this story the characters are sailing on a river! There was loads of adventures and excitement, the most adorable characters, and just so many happy things. I loved every single page, as always.
Wild Horse Running by Sam Savitt – 4* – finished March 5
This is another children’s books, and a fairly short read with loads of gorgeous illustrations by the author, who is one of my favorites. This is a story about a wild horse, and like the countryside the horse roams, the story is a bit sparse. Although it was choppy at times, Savitt still pulls together a tale that tugs at your heartstrings. Published at a time – tragically not very long ago! – when it was still legal to pursue wild horses by car and plane, run them to exhaustion, and then ship them off to make dog food, it’s obvious that part of the reason Savitt is writing is to shine a light on this horrific practice, but his writing never feels polemic. If you like horse stories, than you’ll enjoy this one. If you don’t, this one probably isn’t for you, as there isn’t a great deal of human interest aspect.
Mystery in the Pirate Oak by Helen Fuller Orton – 3* – finished March 6
As you may be able to tell, I was on a run of children’s books at the beginning of the month, looking for some light, fast reads. (Although Coot Club was particularly fast – it was 352 pages and still not long enough for me!) This is an old Scholastic Book Club book that I picked up at a booksale back in 1997! Considering it’s barely 100 pages long, you think I would have bothered to read it sometime in the last 20+ years, but here we are. This was overall a pretty average, if someone haphazard story, but what really blew my mind was the historical context – published in 1949, yet the characters’ grandma went west in a covered wagon. It just never ceases to amaze me how actually close we are to that kind of history.
Watership Down by Richard Adams – 4.5* – finished March 6
It had been years since I last read this classic, so I was rather excited that one of my group members chose it as her book to mail for #LMPBC (Litsy Markup Postal Book Club – four people in a group – each person picks a book to read and annotate – every month everyone mails whichever book they have to the next person until you get your own back). Not only did I get the pleasure of reading it, I got to read notes and thoughts from the other members as well, which was super fun!
Anyway, if you enjoy animal stories, you have to read this one. An epic adventure of a small group of wild rabbits who leave their home warren in search of someplace new. Like truly great animal tales, the rabbits don’t behave unnaturally, other than their ability to converse with one another. (And who is to say they can’t do that in real life anyway?) Adams even uses words that are part of the rabbits’ language that are “not translatable” into English, which somehow adds to the authenticity. While this is an animal story, there is a lot of depth to the characters and world-building, and some thought-provoking lessons as well.
Fallen Into the Pit by Ellis Peters – 3.5* – finished March 8
Ellis Peters wrote the Cadfael mysteries, which are some of my favorite books of all time. Fallen Into the Pit is one of her much earlier books, and is a “modern” mystery (set just after WWII, which is when it was published) rather than a historical mystery like Cadfael. While this was a perfectly enjoyable book, I didn’t love it, or particularly bond with any of the characters. It was an interesting concept – a look at the way that WWII German POWs were being assimilated into Britain by sending them out to live in small villages. I think part of the reason that I struggled with this book is because the German is definitely one of the bad guys, and was SUCH a jerk, so in a way it felt like the lesson of the book was that Yes, you SHOULD be paranoid about Germans living among us because they SUCK. So the whole thing felt vaguely racist against Germans, if that makes sense. Still, a decent if not stellar mystery, and with a likable enough protagonist that I reserved the next two books in the series from the library. Of course, they are still there because the libraries have been shut down what feels like years, but someday!
The Last Waltz by Dorothy Mack – 3.5* – finished March 10
Another paperback out of the box of random Regency romances, this one was set in Brussels rather than England, which was a fun switch. With Napoleon closing in, the setting was more interesting than the actual story, which was incredibly bland. Truly nothing unpredictable happened in this book, to the point that I can only vaguely remember it a month later!
In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward – 3.5* – finished March 12
This is the first in a series revolving around a group of (modern) detectives in Derbyshire. While this was a decent read, it was a bit garbled since one of the characters was doing her own research about the killer at the same time as the police, and it was easy to get confused about which people knew what – something that always frustrates me a little. There were also SO MANY illegitimate babies. SO MANY. Basically every time there was a plot twist, it was because someone had had an unexpected pregnancy, and that got old after a while, especially with the not-so-subtle “if only they could have gotten an abortion at the time all their problems would have been solved!” message. That’s right, because killing your baby solves all your issues and definitely doesn’t create any others. *eye roll* Anyway, it was a fine mystery, but nothing about it inspired me to pick up the next book in the series.
Mosquitoland by David Arnold – 3.5* – finished March 15
Quite a while ago I read another of Arnold’s books, Kids of Appetite, which I genuinely loved. I’ve been meaning to read Mosquitoland ever since, so I decided to choose it for one of my #LMPBC picks this round. While I did like it, it just didn’t have the magic of Kids of Appetite. In this story, teenager Mim has been forced to move with her dad and stepmom from northern Ohio to Mississippi, leaving her mother behind. Lately, even letters and phone calls from her mom have stopped coming in, and when Mim overhears part of a conversation between her dad and stepmom, implying that Mim’s mom is sick, she steals some cash from her stepmom, jumps on a Greyhound bus, and starts heading north. The book is journey, with plenty of adventures throughout.
My two main issues with this book – the first was just that most of it was way over-the-top. I never really believed that any of these things happened to Mim. There were way too many coincidences and genuinely ridiculously crazy characters. While some of the episodes were entertaining, most of them just had me rolling my eyes in disbelief. The book is very episodic in nature, which added to the overall choppy feel.
My second big issue is just that Mim’s dad didn’t tell her what was really going on with her mom. Mim is 16, not 6, and there wasn’t really any reason that she shouldn’t have been told the truth immediately. Literally all of Mim’s problems could have been avoided if her dad had had ONE honest conversation with her – and there was literally no reason for him not to, which I found frustrating.
All in all, Mosquitoland was interesting as a one-time read, and I am definitely curious to get it back in a few months and see what notes my fellow #LMPBC readers have left, as it does have a lot of potential discussion points, but it wasn’t a book that I really bonded with. I do love the cover, though!