November 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.

Well, here’s the last batch of November reviews – at least I’m getting them done before January!!

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – 5*

//published 1817//

This was only my second time reading this gem, and I was struck afresh by Austen’s snarky humor throughout. Catherine isn’t my favorite Austen heroine, but Henry may be my favorite Austen hero. Also, for some reason I didn’t really notice last time how Henry’s sister gets this entire complicated story in a few paragraphs at the very end of the book – she’s been secretly engaged this entire time?? Where’s my Eleanor Tilney story?! I need one!

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West – 3.5*

//published 2018//

West is pretty much always good for some clean YA entertainment, so while this one wasn’t particularly memorable, it was still perfectly enjoyable. I did think that Abby’s reaction to the whole art show thing was completely over-the-top… but on the other hand, she’s 17 so maybe West is just being realistic. I really appreciate that West likes to include adults in her stories who aren’t total losers, and Abby’s relationship with her parents and grandpa really made this story for me.

The Illyrian Adventure by Lloyd Alexander – 2.5*

//published 1986//

I really, really love Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, but haven’t really tried any of his other books. This one is the first in a series about a character name Vesper Holly. First off, the cover is completely misleading, as it appears to be a modern girl, so I was thinking that this was going to be a time-travel book or something – but no, it’s set in 1872 and Vesper is supposed to be a “normal” young woman from that era – except she isn’t, she’s super obnoxious. Recently orphaned when we meet her, she doesn’t act remotely sorrowful or sad, but instead bosses everyone around and decides that they should go on an adventure to the other side of the world to continue her father’s research. The entire book is told from the point of view of Holly’s new guardian, which was the other thing that made this book clunky and awkward – Holly is the main character, but we are completely cut off from her thoughts/motives – everything is viewed through the lens of middle-aged Brinnie, who spends much of his time being completely thick-headed and naïve and completely startled whenever Vesper does something unladylike, despite the fact that pretty much is always doing something unladylike.

This book is aimed for the middle grade audience, so perhaps for them the plot would not be so painfully obvious, but there was absolutely no surprise, twist, or anything unexpected in this entire story. The villain is obviously the villain, the hero obviously the hero, and the only person who can’t figure it out is poor old Brinnie who insists on trusting the wrong people and saying the wrong thing to them at the wrong time so everyone ends up in hot water from which Vesper must once again rescue everyone.

In short, formulaic, boring, and a narrator so dumb I can’t believe he made it to adulthood. On the brightside, a book off my shelf and a series I don’t need to read.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville – 3.5*

//published 1851//

This is one of those books that I’ve always felt like I “should” read but never really had any desire to do so. But a fellow Litten had a buddy read for this book scheduled in November, reading the book across the entire month, so I thought it was a good time to give it a go. In the end, I can appreciate what makes it a classic, but it definitely isn’t for me. I was mostly surprised at the complete and total lack of action for 95% of this book. I was expecting a roaring Captain Ahab pursuing his nemesis across the open seas, but instead it’s just a regular whaler drifting about and every once in a while they come across another boat and Ahab demands to know if they’ve seen the white whale and sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes it’s no and it doesn’t really matter because they don’t know where he is right now anyway so they just keep cruising along and then they hunt a regular whale because they do need to make some money so we spend a chapter chopping it up and then another five chapters listening the narrator natter on about whales and philosophy and random pointless stories that go nowhere and have nothing to do with anything else.

I don’t exactly regret reading this one but I would never read it again. Someone else told me that they love this book because the rhythm of it reminds them of being at sea – long stretches of quietude followed by a short frenzy of activity. In that way I can appreciate the book, but on the whole it just wasn’t for me.

Room-Maid by Sariah Wilson – 3.5*

//published 2020//

This is one of those “rich girl has to work for a living but doesn’t know how to do anything” stories, which can sometimes be annoying but overall here was good fun, mostly because the main character is a genuinely nice person, although she is a little too air-headed for my personal taste. (Like, I get that you may not look up everything you don’t know how to do because some things seem obvious, but when you’re faced with a major crisis, like spilling something on a couch that you have no idea how to get out, why would you not Google it first??? Multiple catastrophes could have been avoided with the power of the internet.) The pros here were that this book was completely clean and there wasn’t even any “grey area” cheating – not sure why these things are so difficult to find in modern romcoms, but here we are.

While this wasn’t my new favorite, it was still a fun and fluffy story that made for a relaxing read.

June 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!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West – 3*

//published 2013//

I’ve read a couple of Kasie West books, and I really like them.  They’re everything YA chick lit should be – fluffy, funny, a little bit ridiculous, and overall just happy.  They aren’t full of ridiculous amounts of angst or sexual dilemmas, just straightforward little stories with likable characters.  That said, this wasn’t really my favorite book, mainly because I got so tired of Cayman constantly assuming that she already knows what everyone is thinking/what their motivations are… and she’s wrong a LOT.  Consequently, all the misunderstandings seemed like they could have been avoided easily if Cayman would just USE HER WORDS and have some conversations.  Despite my aggravation with her at times, I still liked Cayman and basically everyone else as well.  Perfectly happy for a one-time read, and I really need to delve into some more of West’s back catalog.

Elizabeth Bennet’s Deception by Regina Jeffers – DNF (#20BooksofSummer)

//published 2015//

I don’t usually worry about updating you all on DNF books, but since this was on my original list for my #20BooksofSummer challenge, I thought I would let you know that it was SO terrible that I didn’t even bother finishing!  If you’re interested in the full rant, be sure to check it out on my P&P blog here.  Meanwhile, I’ve selected another book to finish out the 20 Book challenge!

The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley – 3*

//published 2016//

This was a free Kindle book that I got a while back.  This summer, when we’ve been taking the Zeppelin out for the weekend, I’ve been loading some super fluffy Kindle books so I have plenty of spares, and this one totally fit the bill.  Two friends have two bad romantic situations and decide to switch homes for a few weeks.  While I enjoyed this story while I was reading it, it didn’t really inspire me to find more of Stoneley’s books, and I don’t really see myself going back to this one.  It was a little too heavy on the “finding the right man fixes all your problems” (and I say this as someone who is happily married), and so it ended up feeling like neither of the women really grew that much – they just switched out their loser boyfriends for nice ones.  It also seemed like it ended kind of abruptly – this is definitely a book that would have benefited from a little epilogue from a few years later talking about how happy everyone is.

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle – 3*

//published 2013//

Yet another book that I really wanted to like more than I did.  While this was a perfectly pleasant sequel focusing on Mary, it was just rather unexciting.  Lydia shows up with a new scandal trailing behind her, but somehow the story just didn’t quite click together.  Many of the characters seemed rather stagnant, and I felt like Henry, in particular, was inconsistent.  I did like Mary and it wasn’t a terrible story, but not one that I particularly see myself returning to.

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse – 4*

//published 1919//

In my quest to read all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, this collection of short stories, many of which feature the Bertie/Jeeves combo, was next on the list.  While Jeeves and Bertie made their debut in another short story collection (The Man With Two Left Feet), it is here that they begin to genuinely become the individual characters that are so beloved.

Overall, this collection was much more up to classical Wodehouse levels.  While the Bertie tales were my favorites, there were some other solid little tales in this collection.  This was the first collection where it felt like Wodehouse genuinely decided that all of this worrying about being serious stuff was really nonsense, and instead just embraced the joy of happy chaos.

Swamp Cat by Jim Kjelgaard – 3.5*

//published 1957//

It had been a while since I picked up a Kjelgaard, and this was another one that I hadn’t read as a youth – so apparently our library didn’t have it!  From the title, I assumed that the story was going to be about a Florida panther or a bobcat or some other type of wild cat – but it was actually about a regular domestic cat!  Of course, Frosty isn’t really a REGULAR cat, as he learns to survive, and thrive, in the wilds.  He of course adopts a young man who lives off the land, and I quite enjoyed the parallel story of Andy and the beginnings of his muskrat farm (right??).  All in all, this was a surprisingly engaging tale.  I read it as a free Kindle book, but I would definitely like to add it to my hard-copy collection if I can find a copy.

On the Fence // by Kasie West

Book #8 for 20 Books of Summer…

18298225I have a few of West’s books on the TBR, as I come across her name pretty regularly as an author of lighthearted fluffy reads that are fun and relaxing.  On the Fence fulfilled all of those obligations.  While it wasn’t a book of incredible depth, it was still enjoyable and entertaining.

Charlotte, known by all as Charlie, is the youngest in a household of males.  Her mom died when she was little – she can barely remember her – so her dad has raised Charlie, along with her three older brothers.  Charlie is sixteen and a 100% tomboy.  She loves playing sports, and is used to fighting – literally – her way through her pack of brothers for whatever she wants.  Despite not having a mom, Charlie has still been raised in a home full of affection, loyalty, and support.

The drama in our book begins when Charlie gets a speeding ticket, and her dad tells her she has to pay it off herself, since this isn’t her first offense.  Charlie has no interest in getting a job, but now has no choice.  Through a series of (believable) events, she somehow ends up working at a small boutique, owned and operated by a slightly crazy but still super nice older lady.  Charlie’s usually informal wear isn’t acceptable for her new job, and she finds herself wearing skinny jeans and lacy shirts, hoping that none of her brothers see her.

Various other things are going on as well, and Charlie finds herself confiding in their long-time next-door neighbor, Braden.  Braden has basically grown up as one of her older brothers, but suddenly Charlie begins to wonder if they could have something more…  *CUE DRAMATIC MUSIC MONTAGUE*

Okay, so this definitely reads as a book that would make a great little chick flick with a fun soundtrack, but that’s okay.  And I think that this book did a really good job of avoiding some (although not quite all) of some cliches that can make chick lit so irritating.

For starters, even though Charlie is a tomboy, this is never presented as a “better than” option.  So often I read YA that basically says that if girls enjoy makeup and clothes, it means that they are shallow and vapid.  However, at one point, Charlie goes to lunch with some girls she has met through work.  She’s nervous about it because she doesn’t think she’ll be able to find any common ground with them.  However, it turns out that they all enjoy a lot of the same things, like books and various hobbies.  Even though these girls don’t play sports, and Charlie isn’t really into hanging out at the mall, neither “type” is portrayed as being superior – they’re all just girls who enjoy different things, and that’s okay.  I think that that is SO important.  I read so many reviews of books where the reviewers go on about the importance of “diversity” in reading, so all YA books should have gay people, transgender people, people with mental illnesses, non-white people, etc. But I think it is just as, if not more, important to simply stop writing people as stereotypes – all people, including white cheerleader girls.

Actually, one fun thing about this book is that there wasn’t a villain.  It’s just a story about Charlie readjusting her thinking about herself and people around her, and that was really refreshing.  There is some drama about finding things out about her mom and, of course, boys, but there isn’t this Evil Enemy Girl, and I thought that was great.

As for boys, that part was okay.  Obviously Charlie is falling for Braden, but at the same time she meets another guy.  The thing is, she meets Other Guy when she is hanging out with the girls – wearing makeup and trendy clothes.  Charlie feels like this isn’t the “real” her, but she likes Other Guy, so she tries to make things work with him while not revealing to him that she actually loves playing tackle football with her brothers and is super knowledgeable about baseball.  For me, this was the weakest part of the story.  I didn’t feel like Other Guy was necessary for Charlie to learn the lessons she learned, so he felt kind of weird and superfluous.  And it was somehow portrayed that Other Guy not knowing about/appreciating her sport side was worse than Braden not knowing about/appreciating her “girly” side.  The whole point was that Charlie was learning about another aspect of herself, and realizing that any guy she had in her life also would need to understand that she is multi-faceted.  She wasn’t “just” the sports girl.

Of course, the fact that she’s sixteen means that I roll my eyes at her romance anyway.  I would say that it’s because I’m getting old, but the truth is that I didn’t date in high school because even then I felt like it was pointless to invest so much time, energy, and money into a relationship that is statistically unlikely to be permanent, and, even if it is going to become permanent, will still have to drag on for ages before marriage is actually an option.  Yes, I fear I was a rather boring teenager, haha.

Anyway, this review is getting long and rambly.  Point is, I liked it.  I liked that it wasn’t full of sex or discussions of sex.  I liked that we didn’t have to have pages devoted to Charlie having a period.  I liked that she had a loving, supportive, protective family.  I liked that she had a dad who sincerely cared about her and wanted the best for her.  I liked that there were no Evil Girls, and that the “girly” girls were just as personable as the “sports” girls.  While the book still induced some eye-rolling moments, on the whole it was an enjoyable read, and I’ll be checking some more of West’s work in the future.  4/5.20booksfinal