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.
Bibi the Baker’s Horse by Anna Bird Stewart – 4*
This is one of those books that I have had for so long that I no longer remember where I picked it up, and for some reason neglected to write on the flyleaf – very unusual for me. This particular copy is a first edition and has actually been signed by the author, so that’s quite fun. Apparently Bibi isn’t a very popular book, as it isn’t even listed on Goodreads, but I found it to be absolutely charming. Set in France before World War I, Bibi is a small Corsican horse purchased by a baker named Jules. The story is really more about Jules and his family than it is about Bibi, and they live a happy, peaceful life. The biggest excitement in the story is a huge flood. In the afterword, the author says that the entire story is true as told to her by a friend about the friends mother (or maybe grandmother, I can’t remember right now). While not a book that strikes me as an instant classic, it was still a delightful little read.
The Treasure is the Rose by Julia Cunningham – 4*
At only 105 pages, this is more of a novella than a full-length story, yet Cunningham manages to pack a great deal of thoughtfulness into her slim story. My particular copy is an incredibly battered paperback that belonged to my mom and her sister when they were girls (frankly, the ownership has been challenged for many years between the two of them, so I solved their problem by taking it for myself). Set in England in what I’m guess are the Middle Ages (I’m never very good at remembering the distinguishing characteristics between eras – they’re living in a crumbling down castle and the main character’s husband was killed in a crusade), the story is about Ariane, a kindhearted young widow who is determined to stay in her husband’s home, despite the fact that they are running out of money. When three robbers stop at her house and demand food and shelter, she gives to them freely – but when the robbers hear rumors that Ariane is concealing a treasure somewhere in her castle, they decide they want more than food and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. The story is somewhat simplistic, and the ending is perhaps a bit too easy, but it is still a beautiful story about love and kindness conquering anger and hate.
Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter by Joana Starnes – 4*
I actually really liked this version, although it was a bit more angsty than I usually prefer. In this version, Mr. Bennet is struck ill while Elizabeth is at Hunsford, before Colonel Fitzwilliam tells her that Darcy separated Jane and Bingley, and before Darcy proposes. When they receive the news about Mr. B., Darcy basically takes control of the situation, apologizing to Elizabeth for proposing at an awkward time, but wanting her to be under his protection and care should the worst happen. Of course, he assumes that Elizabeth is going to agree, which fills Elizabeth with rage – but with the possibility of her family being put out on the streets, she reluctantly accepts.
While this wasn’t a very lighthearted variation, it was done really well, and the majority of the drama between Elizabeth and Darcy felt realistic to their situation. However, at the end the drama goes a bit over the top, and then is magically solved after dragging on for way too long. I also didn’t like the way that Mr. Bennet’s death was dealt with. Still, overall this was a solid retelling, as I found myself very attached to the characters and wanted things to work out for them.
The Undertaker’s Widow by Phillip Margolin – 3.5*
I’ve read quite a few of Margolin’s books at this point, and have found him to be a pretty solid crime/law thriller writer. This one wasn’t my favorite, but did have a lot of fun twists and turns. My usual mild aggravation with Margolin’s work was at play here – he simply introduces too many characters, ignores them for chapters, and then reintroduces them without reminding the reader of who they are. He’s the only author I have to consistently write down the names of characters and their connections in order to keep them straight.
This particular book also lost a half star because of another pet peeve of mine – where we are specifically told that a character has information necessary to figure out what is going on with the mystery, but not allowed to actually know that information. So it would be something like, “Once he told the detective about his suspicions concerning the blood splatter, they both knew they had to do something” – but I don’t get to know what those suspicions are until literal chapters later during a courtroom scene when the evidence is introduced. This happened a LOT in this book and was really annoying.
Indiscretion by Jude Morgan – 5*
I hadn’t read this book in several years, and it was an absolute delight to delve back into it again. The main character, Caroline, is just so funny and nice, and I really appreciate the way that she wants to be a better person. I also liked that when she ended up in the country living a quite life, she didn’t get bored and irritated with her life, but instead was able to appreciate the stability and restfulness of it, even though it was very different to what she was used to. The dialogue is hilarious, and the plot just convoluted/coincidental enough to keep things lively. I’ve read this book a few times, so you can read earlier reviews here and here if you are interested in more of a synopsis-type review, but for here suffice to say that this book is just as happy and funny as I remember.