January Minireviews – Part 1

Oh, I’m back with more minireviews since I apparently have no idea how to blog in a timely manner any more.

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.

Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts – 4*

//published 2013//

This one was a borderline between straight romance and romantic suspense.  When in the midst of a bitter divorce, Eli’s soon-to-be-ex-wife is murdered, Eli becomes the prime suspect. A year later, the case against him has been dropped, but the actual murderer’s identity is unknown, meaning a cloud of guilt still follows Eli everywhere. He comes to stay in the old family home on Whiskey Beach, where he meets Abra, a jill-of-all-trades who should have really annoyed me but actually didn’t. Her free-spirit “be yourself“ attitude somehow actually came off as genuine so I ended up really liking her. Various other things happen at the old homeplace, including another murder, leaving Eli and Abra wondering how it’s all connected. This wasn’t on-the-edge-of-your-seat-are-they-all-going-to-die tension, but it did keep the story up-pace. This wasn’t my favorite Roberts ever, but it’s one I can see myself rereading at some point.  I actually really liked Eli’s character development, and somehow Abra was actually likable and sincere instead of being obnoxious.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George – 3.5*

//published 2007//

Every year this one Litsy user sets up a “book list swap” where you sign up and include your top 10-20 books of the year, and she actually takes time to really match you with someone else with similar tastes.  Then you and your match swap best-of lists and try to read some of the other person’s books.  Theoretically you’re supposed to read them all in January, but I prefer to spread mine out, one per month, until I run out lol  Dragon Slippers was on my match’s list, so even though I actually had read this one before, I decided to give it a reread.  Overall, I enjoyed it, but not enough to bother rereading the whole series.  I don’t know why this book doesn’t quite hit the sweet spot for me, despite having a lot of the components I usually enjoy.  You can read my original review of the entire trilogy here.

20 Hrs., 40 Min by Amelia Earhart – 4*

//published 1928//

This book is Earhart’s personal account of her journey across the Atlantic by plane – she was the first woman to fly across the ocean, although she was a passenger and not one of the pilots.  Still, even being a passenger took some guts at this time, as only a few people had made the journey at all.  A lot of the book consists of excerpts from the journal she kept on the way.  At less than 200 pages, Earhart’s account was much more lighthearted and less technical than Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of St. Louis (which I read several years ago and never reviewed!  Why didn’t I review it??  I still don’t know!)

Towards the end of the book, Earhart mentions that it has only been 7 weeks since the flight itself, so this was written and published with a couple months of the historic flight. Earhart is modest and depreciating, even in the chapters where she is talking about her personal pilot experience. She’s very open about the fact that she, personally, did nothing to facilitate the journey of The Friendship other than go along for the ride, but it was still so interesting to read about. Because she was writing with the presumption that her readers already knew a lot of the background for the flight (since it had literally just happened), there were times that I felt a little lost, but it was still an enjoyable read. I also loved hearing her thoughts on what direction the aviation industry should/would take, and different ways she believed people (and women) should be involved. Almost a century after this flight, it’s amazing to see how much of what she suggested did come to pass.

This isn’t exactly a book I finished and felt like everyone should rush out and read, but it was an easy read with a likable and intelligent narrator, and a worthwhile piece of history to explore, if nothing else than for a glimpse of the aviation industry in its infancy.

The Eight by Katherine Neville – 4*

/published 1988//

Another book that’s been on my TBR for quite some time, but I’ve put it off for quite a while because it’s about 600pgs long.  While I did enjoy it overall, this was one of those books that made me feel a little stupid while I was reading.  It’s full of chess, math, music, and history, and sometimes I felt like my base knowledge on those topics wasn’t enough to get the full impact of what was going on.  This book also has dual timelines, something that doesn’t always work for me, but I was fully invested in both the French Revolution timeline and the present-day one.  One funny thing was that this book is a lot older than I thought it was – published in 1988, so its setting of the 1970s was a bit of a different vibe that I get from a lot of books (and I actually had to look up info about the gas crisis).  This was a long one and quite dense, so it took me a while to read, but it was overall a worthwhile endeavor.

The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel – 3*

//published 2020//

This romance, which I read for the traveling book club, was a bit of a struggle for me, mainly because I found the main character, Liya, to be just incredibly unlikable.  I get that she had suffered a lot and had some trauma/abusive situations she was overcoming, but she was still 100% bitch 100% of the time and it really got old for me.  I don’t feel like having bad things happen to you means you get to treat everyone around you like garbage, especially since those people literally have nothing to do with the bad things.  It also felt like every character in the story hated the concept of marriage and spent a LOT of time explaining why marriage and being married is such a horrible idea.  This was emphasized by the ending, where the main characters agree to move in together, rather than actually make a legitimate commitment to each other (the moving in wasn’t like “we’re doing this for life” but like “we’re doing this because it will be much easier to get untangled if it doesn’t work out” vibe), which I hate.  As usual, I’m doing a lot of whining – but there were some really fun moments in this one as well, and several of the background characters were great fun.  It was an okay read for me, but I’m not particularly interested in finding more books by this author.

Dragon Slippers Trilogy // by Jessica Day George

  • Dragon Slippers
  • Dragon Flight
  • Dragon Spear

I’m always a sucker for dragons, and I’ve been meaning to read this middle grade fantasy series for a while.  Overall, these were enjoyable for a one-time read, but they didn’t really end up being books that I loved or that I wanted to add to my permanent collection.

The main reason that these books worked was because the main character, Creel, is likable.  Yes, she’s independent, intelligent, determined, and sticks up for herself, but all in a not-obnoxious way.  Authors frequently seem to have difficulty with writing a strong female character who is also NICE, like yes, you can be both strong AND nice and I’m not sure why this is so difficult to grasp.  At any rate, Creel is both strong and nice and I enjoyed traveling with her throughout the series.

In the beginning, Creel has been orphaned and is living with her uncle and aunt and they are all very poor, so Creel’s aunt decides it will be a great idea if they send Creel to the dragon, and then surely someone will feel obligated to come rescue her, and that someone will of course be rich and handsome and single and he will marry Creel and take her and her entire family to live happily ever after in his castle.  Creel thinks this plan is utter nonsense, but what with one thing and another she ends up in front of a dragon’s cave…

As Creel interacts with the dragons, there are many magical and non-magical shenanigans.  The concept was fun and the overarching plot throughout the three books as to how humans should interact with dragons was done really well.  However, things did get rather serious and intense – almost too much so for the age range that would otherwise be enjoying these books.

In the end, that was part of my issue with the series.  It really felt like George would have been better off if she had made these stories actual YA and developed some of the themes more thoroughly.  Instead, a lot of things felt like they were being glossed over in order to be more suitable for middle grade readers, to the sacrifice of the story.

I really did like these books, and if you are into dragons you will probably enjoy them as well – I just didn’t love them, even though I wanted to.

NB: Dragon Slippers was read #14 for #20BooksofSummer!

Silver in the Blood // by Jessica Day George


//published 2015//

So the trend in YA these days definitely seems to be towards trilogies.  And, here’s a confession, trilogies are kind of my least favorite thing.  So often it feels like the author is just draaaagggging things out so she can make a buck by putting one story’s worth of story in three books.  Then there’s the opposite – by the end of the trilogy, there is such a rich, amazing world-build that it seems tragic to end after only three books.  (Patricia C. Wrede’s Frontier Magic books immediately leap to mind.  I could read a dozen books set in that world.)

And now we come to Silver in the Blood.  And I got done reading this book and was like…  why isn’t this a trilogy?!  So ironic.  But while I really enjoyed this book, at times it felt like George was jamming a lot of story into one book.  Even a duology would have been nice to allow for some more character development/world building, but instead it frequently felt like the story was hurrying along, which was a shame because the setting is incredibly rich.

It was funny also because I read this on the heels of the Cecelia & Kate books, which were books set in an AU world where magic is real and was about a pair of cousins who had grown up together and were very close and had to write letters to each other… and Silver in the Blood is about a pair of cousins who have grown up together and are very close and have to write letters and are about to discover that magic is quite real.  (It was extra weird just because one of the aunts is Aunt Kate!)

Dacia and Lou have grown up in New York City (in the late 19th century), but our story opens with both of them traveling to visit their family in Romania.  Through a series of circumstances, Dacia is traveling with their Aunt Kate, while Lou is with her parents and brothers along a different route.  The book is told in a mixture of third-person narrative and letters/diary entries from the girls.  I really liked the format (although it never feels necessary to me to use different fonts for different people), and felt like it was a good way to give different perspectives and move the story along.

Things really get interesting when Dacia first meets the matriarch of the family.  Lady Ioana is super creepy.  Up until this point, you can tell that Dacia has been trying to sweep things under the rug as far as “things feel a little weird meeting the ol’ fam,” but Lady Ioana is over-the-top weird, and things get more bizarre from there.

As the reader, it felt like Dacia and Lou were a little slow to see where things were going.  I’m not sure if that’s because they really were a little slow to see where things were going, or (more likely) George was just trying to emphasize how far out of the realm of possibility the concept of shape-shifters would be for two properly brought up Young Ladies of Quality.  But because of that, there were times that the story dragged a bit.

When the big reveal happens, I was frustrated by the sudden complete character swap of Dacia and Lou.  Dacia has always been the headstrong, adventurous one, while Lou was the reserved, quiet one.  But once they realize what is happening with their family, all of a sudden they do a complete role-change.  In some ways, I see what George was trying to accomplish with this, but it also felt kind of unnatural, especially Lou going from 0 to 100mph as far as bossing people around, taking charge, and making major decisions alone.  I could understand Dacia’s horror and fear leading her to be withdrawn and confused for a time, but Lou’s personality shift seemed abrupt and strange to me.

We spend a lot of time building up to a big finale, and then things seemed rushed at the end, which is part of why it felt like this should have been two or three books.  There was a lot of world/character building (which was wasted since the girls completely changed personalities halfway through the story, ah well), and then the action was all smashed into the last few chapters.  While I found the ending mildly satisfying, there still seemed like some loose ends that needed tied up – it was a little too, “Oh yay everything is great now, let’s go on our merry way!” to really feel like a solid conclusion.

In the end, a 3/5 read for me, and recommended for people who enjoy the genre, but there are definitely better ways to jump into YA fantasy if you are just looking for a place to start.