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.

The High King


by Lloyd Alexander

Published 1968

In this final installment of the Prydain books, Taran and his friends face an epic battle against the Annuvin, the Death Lord.  I don’t feel that I’m giving away any secrets to say that good prevails.  However, Alexander does place before his characters a difficult choice after the battle is won, and provides a satisfactory ending to this epic series.

I really love these books (in case you haven’t picked up on that) and strongly recommend them.  The characters are very real and funny, and everything comes together in the end beautifully.


Taran Wanderer

Somehow, I am lacking a picture for this book, so sorry about that.

It’s ironic, because I think that this, the fourth (out of five), is my favorite of the Prydain tales.

In this book, Taran, Assistant-Pig Keeper of Caer Dallben, yearns to ask for the hand of Princess Eilonwy in marriage, but hesitates to do so because he does not know who he is. So, with the blessing of Dallben, Taran sets off to try to find the truth of his parentage.

I love this book.  Taran travels all over Prydain, and learns much  more about himself than his parents.  During his travels, Taran spends a great deal of time in the Free Commots.  There, as he stays with various independent farmers and crafters, he learns a different lesson from each one.

“If I fret over tomorrow, I’ll have little joy today,” says Llonio, a man who raises his large family on the riverbank, living by their wits and ability to see a use in everything that comes their way.  Llonio keeps nets in the river to catch the flotsam and uses what appears with enthusiasm and gratitude.  He calls it luck, but Taran can see that it is much more.  “My luck is no greater than any other man’s,” Llonio tells him.  “You need only sharpen your eyes to se your luck when it comes, and sharpen your wits to use what falls into your hands …  Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer.  But don’t forget to put out your nets!”

Hevydd the blacksmith teaches Taran his art, and many lessons are learned as Taran strives to forge his own sword.  “Life’s a forge!”  Hevydd tells Taran.  “Face the pounding; don’t fear the proving; and you’ll stand well against any hammer and anvil!”

Throughout the tale, Taran learns much of himself and of life, and returns to Caer Dallben a man.

I know that I haven’t really done a good job describing this book, but it’s one of my favorites, and I highly recommend it.  5/5.

The Castle of Llyr


by Lloyd Alexander

Published 1966

In this third installment of the Prydain Chronicles, the Princess is leaving Caer Dallben to stay on the Island of Mona, where she will receive some education as befits a princess.  Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, is, naturally, unhappy to see her leaving.  However, he and his faithful friend Gurgi are granted permission to escort Princess Eilowy to Mona.

Once there, they meet up with  many old friends (my personal favorite, Fflewddur Fflam, is there with his ever-present harp) and make some new ones.  Before Taran and Gurgi can head for home, danger and intrigue strikes at the castle, and the Princess is kidnapped.  The adventure that follows introduces one of my favorite characters, Llyan, a giant wildcat.

As always, I simply love these books.  The stories are not as detailed or intense as some other epic fantasy series, but are still most definitely worth a read.  The dialogue is so happy and the characters a lot of fun.


The Black Cauldron


by Lloyd Alexander

Published 1965

This is the sequel to The Book of Threea continuation of the Prydain Chronicles, and the adventures of Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper.

One of the things that I love about the Prydain stories is the way that each book is a little deeper and more thoughtful than the one before, while still retaining the light-hearted fun and happiness that make these books so enjoyable.  In each tale, Taran learns a bit more about what it means to be a man, and I love watching him grow.

The Black Cauldron deals a great a deal with pride and honor, as Taran accompanies a host intent on seeking out the black cauldron, which is being used by the arch-enemy to create the feared Cauldron Born.  These living dead are dead men who have been put in the cauldron and emerge without any memory of life, and they cannot be killed.

As the story unwinds, lives are lost in the attempt to find and destroy the cauldron, and Taran learns more about the true meaning of honor.

I can’t stress enough how much I love these books.  Read them!!!!


The Book of Three


by Lloyd Alexander

Published: 1964

So, this is the first book in the Prydain chronicles, and I had forgotten how much I love them until I started reading them again.  These books are delightful in every way.  The Book of Three is fairly light-hearted.  It introduces all of the main characters, bringing them together has they travel through Prydain.  The main character is Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper of Caer Dallben.  When the pig in his charge, Hen Wen, runs away, Taran is caught up in an adventure.

While this book feels like a bit of an introduction (and it is), it is still delightful in its own right.  I highly, highly recommend this entire series.  5/5.