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.

Still trying to catch up. Conveniently, November was a terrible reading month for me so it shouldn’t take as long to get through those books!! Part of my issue in November, besides being insanely busy and somewhat depressed, was that I was doing two buddy reads on Litsy – one of Northanger Abbey, which was a delight, and one of Moby-Dick, which was not. Moby-Dick especially interfered with my other reading time, as I was determined to read each day’s chapters from that book before picking up anything else to ensure that I actually got through it. My plan worked, but it definitely colored a lot of my other reading throughout the month!

Complete Home Landscaping by Catriona Tudor Erler – 4*

//published 2005//

This is one of those book that I got a book sale or Half-Priced Books or someplace like that eons ago but never actually picked up. While there wasn’t anything groundbreaking here, it was a well-organized and interesting book that broke down the concept of landscaping your entire property into bite-sized chunks. Sometimes I like to read books about gardening and landscaping because even when it goes over the same stuff as a different book, it just helps make it stick in my brain. This book was also full of really useful photographs and drawings that I really liked.

The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Katie O’Neill – 4*

//published 2020//

The latest in the Tea Dragon stories, these continue to be almost painfully adorable. I do wish that there was more emphasis on friendship instead of romantic relationships, which are almost entirely comprised of homosexual pairings, especially between the two main girls in the story – I feel like their relationship would have been so much more meaningful as friends instead of girlfriends. It’s not like this is all super explicit or anything, but the overall vibe of the book is that if you find someone who is a friend, you’re meant to be romantically involved, and it just feels somewhat awkward, especially in a story geared for younger readers.

However, the story itself is very enjoyable and the artwork is just amazing.

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie – 4*

//published 1931//

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one (my 2016 review is here) so even though I kind of remembered who did it, I couldn’t remember how it was done or how some of the red herrings played out. The one is also known as The Murder at Hazelmoor which makes so much more sense since the murder actually takes place at Hazelmoor, not Sittaford, but whatever. Anyway, this is one of Christie’s standalone mysteries. The pacing is great and there are a few twists that I never seem to remember are coming. Great fun as always.

Entwined by Heather Dixon – 3.5*

//published 2011//

I read this one a long time ago (before WordPress days) and vaguely remembered liking it but not much more, so I chose it for my traveling book club book this time around. Unfortunately, November was just not a good reading month for me so I think that colored my enjoyment of this story as my reading opportunities were really choppy and difficult. Parts of this book just felt like they went on forever. The sisters in the story are mad at their father pretty much the entire time, and I’ll agree that he’s a jerk at first, but later he starts trying to make amends and they are mean to him for way too long. I did appreciate that the author did not give the sisters a bunch of names that sounded alike and even went so far as the alphabetize them, with the oldest starting with A and going down from there which really helped keep all the sisters straight. I had a few minor continuity issues with this one, especially with the supposed ages of a few of the sisters versus their actions/attitudes. Overall, I didn’t dislike this story but I also didn’t love it.

The Wild Path by Sarah Baughman – 3.5*

//published 2020//

I 100% picked up this book because of that gorgeous cover. This one is a middle grade story about a girl named Claire who lives with her parents in a rural area of Vermont. Claire’s older brother has recently been admitted to a full-time rehab clinic after having issues with a drug addiction formed when he started taking painkillers after an accident. Claire’s parents have announced that they are going to have to sell the family’s two horses in order to save money, but Claire is determined to find a way to save them. The story deals with Claire learning more about her brother’s situation and coming to grips with the way that some parts of our lives are out of our control, and that we can’t make other people “better.” It was actually a lovely story with likable characters, but it did feel a little preachy at times. Somehow, it just never kicked me in the emotions like it seemed like it should. However, this may be a good book for a younger person in a situation similar to Claire’s re: a family member with an addiction (especially if read together with a caring adult) as that was handled sensitively and in a way that felt approachable. In part, that was kind of why I didn’t connect with this story – in some ways it seemed like it was written to specifically be used as a discussion tool more than it was written to tell a story, if that makes sense.

December 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.

Momentous day!  I am actually getting ready to review books in December that I  read in December!  (Well, except the first two. Those are still from November!)

Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle – 5*

I absolutely love Pyle’s comics and can’t recommend them highly enough.  His book is perfect – I especially loved that he had sequel comics for several of his more popular comics he had already posted online.  I follow Pyle on Instagram, where he gives me a little dose of happiness every day, so it was a no-brainer to support him by buying his book.

Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill – 2.5*

//published 2018//

The 2.5* is 100% for the absolutely gorgeous artwork in this graphic novel.  The story itself is rather thin.  A girl goes to stay with her aunt on the coast to help clean up from a big storm.  The rest of the book is about how her aunt fell in love with a fish-woman-creature and also we need to save the coral reefs!  The message in this one felt incredibly heavy-handed, but if you see it at the library it’s well-worth taking a moment to enjoy the wonderful artwork.

The Stand-In Boyfriend by Emma Doherty – 3*

//published 2018//

This wasn’t a bad YA story, but it wasn’t the best I’ve read, either.  Liv has always been in love with her best friend, but he has never noticed.  Through a series of events (that actually felt not unreasonable), Liv agrees to fake-date one of the most popular boys in school, Chase, in an attempt to get Jesse to notice her.  I always enjoy the fake relationship trope, and that part was done pretty well here.  However, Liv just really got on my nerves with her complete ostrich attitude about everything, and overall the book was just a little too long – just when it should have been gaining momentum, it started to drag, which knocked it down to a 3* read for me.  Not bad for some low-stress YA angst (especially free on Kindle Unlimited), but not necessarily a book that made me want to run out and find other books by Doherty.

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere – 3*

//published 2001//

It’s always awkward when someone else hands you a book to read.  The Christmas Shoes is a little too saccharine for my personal taste, but it was a short and easy (if very predictable) read.  Mostly it felt like it should have been longer – almost like an outline of a book instead of an actual book.  There were also weird jumps backward and forward in time, which led to awkward tense changes.  That kind of thing is always jarring for me when I’m reading.  I’m not really a great person to review this book because it’s not my style, but it was an alright Christmas read.  I guess it’s the first in an entire series, but I didn’t really feel inspired to pick the rest up.

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie – 4*

//published 1923//

Over on Litsy, I’m part of the Agatha Christie Club, which is reading one Christie book per month and then discussing it at the end of the month.  We’re going through her books in published order, and November’s book was Murder on the Links.  (Yeah, I was late reading it haha)  I’ve already read all of Christie’s books, but I love them all, even the ones I don’t love as much as others, so this seems like a fun and leisurely way to make my way back through them.  This one is Poirot’s second appearance.  As always, it’s actually Captain Hastings that I love, even if he is a little dense at times.  I was slightly concerned because they apparently put the murdered man’s body in a shed (???) for a few days (?????) even though everyone was complaining about how hot it was (????!!!).  There is also a slightly ridiculous competition between Poirot’s little grey cells method vs. a famous French detective aka The Human Bloodhound, but honestly I thoroughly enjoyed all the over-the-top posturing between the two of them.  All in all, while this may not be Christie’s best work, it’s still a great deal of fun with some solid red herrings to keep readers guessing.

September 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.

Oh wow, it’s the end of September and I haven’t posted a SINGLE REVIEW!  Ha!  September is always a busy month for me, plus this year we also went on an epic western roadtrip (almost 4300 miles in nine days, woot!) so things have been a leeeetle bit crazy.  Still, plenty of reading has been accomplished!!

I really don’t want to do minireviews of some of these books, as I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I am suuuper behind on reviews!  So, as always, the star rating is a more accurate representation of my feelings on the book rather than the length of the review!

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – 4*

//published 2019//

Oh my gosh, this book was SO adorable.  Basically, Leon needs some extra money.  He works nights, so he decides to sublet his flat for the times that he isn’t there.  The flatmate will get the apartment nights and weekends.  Tiffy needs a place to stay, so even though the concept is a bit irregular, she rolls with it.  Through a series of events, which O’Leary paces perfectly, Tiffy and Leon don’t actually meet for quite a long while.  But roommates really do need to communicate, even if they never see each other – and so the sticky notes begin.

I just really enjoyed this book.  It was lighthearted and fun, and the romance was adorable.  The chapters that were from Leon’s perspective were a little strange to read at first because of the way his steam-of-thought rolls, but after I adjusted I got into it.  I really loved the way their relationship developed over time.  I thought the drama with Tiffy’s ex was a little bit much, and it was hard to figure out how much of it was real, how much of it was just in Tiffy’s head, and how much of it was actually worse than Tiffy thought it was, since all we had was Tiffy’s perspective on the situation.  Still, overall this was thoroughly enjoyable.

Special thanks to reviews by Stephanie, Bibliobeth, and From First Page to Last, which inspired me to give this book a try!!

Those People by Louise Candlish – 3.5*

//published 2019//

This was a thriller that kept me completely gripped throughout with its excellent pacing, but felt like it just kind of ran out of gas and stuttered to an end rather than having the tight conclusion I was hoping to see.  I loved the format at the beginning of the book – an excerpt of a police interview from one of the characters, and then a chapter headed “[x] Weeks Ago” – it really made the build-up to the tragedy tense.  The reader knows there is a tragedy, that there is at least one death, knows at least one of the characters who is involved in the tragedy – but the details are vague and unfold slowly.

The ending isn’t unreasonable by any means, it just felt a little loose.  I was also a little big confused – a minor character ties in, and I didn’t really understand why, or what he had to do with anything, or why he would be the one suggesting the specific means of causing the accident.  That may also have been part of the reason I was left feeling mildly disappointed by the conclusion.

But overall excellent, taut writing.  This is my first book by Candlish, but I have a couple of her other books on my list, and will definitely be finding them!  For this one, reviews by Stephanie and Jennifer led me to read it, so thank you!!

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill – 4.5*

//published 2017//

A while back I bought the most adorable card game ever, where players are raising tiny tea dragons.  I bought it solely based on the artwork (although luckily it turned out to be a fun game to play, also).  Last month, I found out that the card game is based on a BOOK and I had to read it as soon as I could get my grabby hands on a copy.

The artwork is STUNNING.  I could seriously look at the pictures in this book all day long.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that all the friendships are actually gay relationships – I still just really feel like it devalues friendship a lot; like this could be about two lonely girls becoming friends, but instead now they are MORE, and the implication seems to be that friendship wouldn’t have been enough.  But it’s still a very gentle part of the story, and the overall artwork is just soooo beautiful.  Apparently there is a sequel being published this fall, and I’m on the waiting list at the library.

Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome – 5*

//published 1931//

Swallows & Amazons was my favorite read in June, and the sequel was my favorite read in August (even if I’m just getting around to reviewing it).  This book was everything I could possibly want from a sequel and more.  I don’t really have words to explain why I love these books so hard, but I cannot WAIT to read Peter Duck.

The Girl on the Boat by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5*

//published 1922//

Is it possible to go wrong with Wodehouse?  Not in my experience.  Who else can pull off a line like this?  “At this, she melted perceptibly. She did not cease to look like a basilisk, but she began to look like a basilisk who has had a good lunch.“