May Minireviews – Part 1

I actually spent a lot of May reading the Lunar Chronicles, but managed to squeeze in some other reads as well!!

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.

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold – 4.5*

//published 2016//

This was a reread for me – I first read this one back in 2018 and really enjoyed it.  My review from that time pretty much stands – I really found this book to be just so readable and engaging, with great pacing, likable characters, and a coming-of-age arc that is done so well.  I’m still not a fan of all the f bombs and the murder scene is a bit much (although fairly brief), but on the whole this is really a great story, thoughtful without being saccharine.

Athena’s Airs by Zabrina Faire – 3*

//published 1980//

This was another Regency paperback from that random eBay box.  This one honestly didn’t start too badly. Athena’s parents have died recently, so she and her brother, Ares, are off to Greece to scatter the parents’ ashes someplace or other that was meaningful to them. They end up hiring this other guy to be their guide as Greece is currently ruled by the Turks/Ottoman Empire and this guy is familiar with the culture and language. Of course there’s a disaster and the Dude (who Strongly Disapproves of Women, Especially Sassy Ones Who Travel) and Athena have to travel together incognito. While completely eye-rolly it honestly wasn’t too terrible of a set up for them to be stuck together and to fall in love. But then, in the last 30 pages, the entire book went off the rails. Ever since the disaster chapter, the Dude and Athena aren’t even sure if Ares is alive. When they get to Athens, he’s there and instead of it being like “Oh wow, this is crazy, we’re all alive and safe, let’s catch up on our stories!“ Ares immediately starts accusing the Dude of kidnapping Athena yadda yadda. Then Ares proceeds to lie to both of them about the other’s indifference to keep them apart… for no reason that made any sense, especially since in the beginning of the book, Ares and Athena are presented as really close, loving siblings, and the Dude is actually a perfectly appropriate person for her to marry!  When Athena finds out her brother has been lying she literally THREATENS TO SHOOT HIM IN THE SHOULDER if he doesn’t approve of their marriage. ?!?!?!?! It just… the ending of the book literally all three main characters acted like completely different people just to make Drama, and it was very annoying. So yeah, this one honestly didn’t start too badly, but that ending. Why.  Another one for the giveaway box!

As You Wish by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden – 4.5*

//published 2014//

Like many others, I grew up on The Princess Bride and can quote pretty much the entire movie from memory.  Following the movie’s 25th anniversary reunion, Elwes, of Westley fame, wrote this book recounting his memories of filming the movie.  If you’re looking for dirty secrets and a bunch of drama, you will not find it here.  Instead, this book was an absolute delight.  Elwes is humble and friendly, constantly promoting and crediting his fellow actors.  An entire chapter is devoted to Andre the Giant and how much everyone loved him.  Elwes, even all these years later, is still mind-boggled that he was chosen for the part, and his genuine delight that he got to do so comes through on every page.  There are random snippets and stories from other actors and the director, that I at first found a little distracting as they are in text boxes throughout the main text, but grew to really enjoy as they added more insight and depth to the stories Elwes was sharing.

Personal favorite story?  The scene where the Prince and the Count confront Westley and Buttercup just outside of the Fire Swamp and the Count is supposed to knock Westley out – they were having trouble making it look like he was really hitting him hard enough, so Elwes told him not to worry and to give him a decent knock… the take that you see in the movie is literally Elwes going unconscious from getting smacked in the head so hard!

My biggest niggle was that there wasn’t a cast list anywhere in the book.  I wrote my own so that I knew which character was either telling a story who being told about in a story.  I also would have loved just more to it – a lot of it is a bit on the fluffy side.  Still, this was overall a really enjoyable read.  If you’ve low-key avoided reading this one because you’re afraid that it will ruin your favorite movie, have no worries – the cast and crew apparently really were enjoying creating that movie as much as the rest of us have enjoyed watching it.

Lady Susan by Jane Austen – 4*

//written circa 1794//

This short story (my edition was around 70 pages) was written by Austen, probably as a possibility to become a full-length novel.  Written entirely in letters, the titular character is actually quite ornery, a widow with an almost-grown daughter, quite flirtatious and stirring up a bit of trouble wherever she goes.  I definitely wish this one had become a full story – it would be so interesting to see where Austen went with all this potential, and whether Lady Susan would have stayed the main character, or if the focus would have shifted to her daughter, who seems more in line with Austen’s other heroines.  I really loved all the snarkiness in this story and wished it was much longer!

Summer at the Cape by RaeAnne Thayne – 4*

//published 2022//

I really enjoy Thayne’s contemporary romances, which always have likable characters and the right amount of drama.  This story focuses on three women – Rosemary and her adult daughters, Cami and Violet. Violet’s twin sister, Lily, has recently died in a tragic accident. At the time of her death, she was working on creating a “Glampground” on a neighbor’s property. Rosemary is determined to make this dream a reality, and the Glampground is now up and running. The problem is that Lily, who wasn’t always all about the details, neglected to get the very important signature from the neighbor on an official lease agreement. With the (elderly) neighbor beginning to show signs of dementia, his son, who has been out of the country, assumes that Lily was taking advantage and is determined to shut the entire business down. The sisters come together to help their mom, and there really aren’t any big surprises along the way. However, I enjoyed the way that there had never been a huge rupture between the women – they had just grown apart after Rosemary divorced her husband and moved several hours away, taking the twins with her and leaving Cami with their dad. This was a gentle story about grief, guilt, and second chances. Nothing groundbreaking but still an enjoyable story with likable and relatable characters and a splash of romance.

Kids of Appetite // by David Arnold

//published 2016//

I first read about this book over at Heart Full of Books, although rereading Bee’s review makes me wonder what exactly inspired me to add it to the TBR?  Because while it doesn’t sound like a book I would necessarily dislike, it doesn’t really sound like one that I would immediately pick up!  But I’m really glad I did, as I quite enjoyed this story.  Not only was it engaging and funny, it had a solid story, character growth, and an ending that made me fill up with happy tears.

The story starts with present tense, first person – Vic narrating.  He’s in a police interrogation room with an officer who is asking him questions about a murder.  Because we have Vic’s perspective, we know that he is stalling for some reason, but we don’t know why.

This morning’s memory is fresh, Baz’s voice ingrained in my brain.  Diversion tactics, Vic.  They will need time.  And we must give it to them.

Vic’s diversion tactic is to begin telling the story of where he’s been in the last eight days – ever since his mom reported him missing.  And he tells it in his own way.

The story is told in alternating narration between Vic and Mad, a girl he meets along the way of the story.  There are a few other kids caught up in the story (Baz, his brother Zuz, and Coco), and despite the fact that I should have been rolling my eyes at this gang of ridiculousness, I loved them all and was completely invested in their story from the very beginning.

Pacing in this book was spot-on.  It’s the kind of mixed up timeline that makes you want to immediately start the book over and reread it once you get to the end and have all the pieces.  We have the past being told by Vic and Mad, with each chapter opening at the police station in the present (Mad is being questioned in another room).

While I don’t want to give too much of this story away, a big part of it is about Vic coming to grips with his dad’s death.  Vic loved his dad and they had a great relationship.  His dad died of cancer a couple of years before this story, and now Vic’s mom is thinking about getting remarried.  Vic ends up running away and having this sort of coming-to-terms journey that could have been cheesy and cliched, but instead is done so well.  

One of the things that I really liked about this book is that Baz is a Christian.  It’s not this huge part of the story, or something that Baz goes on and on about.  Instead, it’s just an organic part of his character that influences some of his actions because it’s a part of who he is.  It doesn’t make him better or worse than any of the other characters – it’s just a layer of his essence, and I really appreciated the way that he was portrayed.

It was the same with Vic’s physical condition.  He has a condition with which he was born, but the whole thing was handled so tastefully.  Like it was a huge part of who Vic is and how he has become this person – but it wasn’t his defining characteristic.  It’s just another one of the layers.

There are a few reasons that this book can’t quite achieve a full 5-star rating for me.  There was a decent amount of swearing in this book.  And like I get that “that’s the way kids talk these days” or whatever, except I don’t really feel like it has to be the way kids talk these days, and I personally prefer to not have to read the word “fucking” a few times in every chapter.

The other thing is the murder itself – kinda unexpectedly graphic and intense.  Not a long, drawn-out thing but – just a bit of a surprise.  I wasn’t ready for it.

Finally, I was just a smidge confused by Vic’s mom.  Vic is taking this journey, following instructions that his dad had left for Vic’s mom.  It was never really clear if Vic’s mom had already done this?  Or had just… not?  I felt like her character was a little fuzzy, although I really did appreciate the scene where Vic and his mom were reunited.  Their conversation felt genuinely healing, like they were on the right track together going forward, and I loved that.

All in all, a solid 4 stars for Kids of Appetite.  There was a lot to enjoy in this book.  I loved the characters, the story, and the pacing, and if the swearing – and brief gruesome scene – don’t bother you, I definitely recommend it.  To me, this is what a coming-of-age novel should actually look like.