July 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.

The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse – 4*

//published 1922//

This is a collection of short stories, all of which are about golf.  In my question to read all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, this one was next, and I’ve kind of procrastinated on it a bit since I don’t really know much (anything) about golf, but I shouldn’t have doubted – although I certainly missed plenty of golfing references, the ability of Wodehouse to tell a hilarious story still shines through.  Most of the short stories are told by an old man whom we know only as the Oldest Member of the golf club.  He has many a tale to while a way an evening.  As with all story collections, they had their ups and downs, but overall the quality was excellent, and the stories were quite funny.

Winner Takes All by Nora Roberts – 3.5*

//published 1984, 1988//

This was actually two stories in one book, and they were originally published separately, about four years apart.  I think they would have read better if they hadn’t been together, because they were actually rather similar stories – both female leads were television producers, both had relationship issues, both meet a really similar dude through work.  Overall they were perfectly nice stories (although a bit too sexy), but also pretty forgettable.

The Haunted Fountain by Margaret Sutton – 3.5*

//published 1957//

Now that I’ve gotten into the Judy Bolton books that I don’t own, I’m reading them at a much slower pace as I have to purchase them as I go.  This one was a decent story, but it had almost no Peter in it, and Peter is my favorite character!  Still, Judy is always a great lead, and it was fun to catch up with a few other characters as well.

The Mysterious Heir by Edith Layton – 3.5*

//published 1983//

Some of you may remember that I purchased a book of random Regency romances on eBay a while back because it had some Georgette Heyer titles that I wanted.  I’m still reading the other books in the box, and The Mysterious Heir is my most recent one.  I really enjoyed this one a lot because Elizabeth and Morgan were super likable, and they actually communicated with each other, which is almost miraculous in Regency romances.  Morgan of course has a deep dark past, where his wife (now dead) betrayed him, and this is where the story went off the rails a bit, because instead of just having Morgan’s wife like have an affair or something, the author literally made her this nymphomaniac (although she didn’t use that term) who was always having sex with literally anyone who would (although none of this was graphic at all) and it just came through as weird.  I think the same impact on Morgan’s life/trust issues could have occurred with a slightly more believable situation with his now-dead wife.  However, other than the chapter of Morgan’s back story, the book was overall a fun romp that I enjoyed.

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski – 4*

//published 1945//

Lenski wrote several children’s historical fiction books back in the day.  Each one focuses on a child in a different region of the country, and they are all illustrated with Lenski’s absolutely delightful drawings.  Strawberry Girl is set in Florida around the year 1900, and it honestly blew my mind how frontier-like Florida was at that time – this is barely over a hundred years ago (and was less than fifty years earlier than when Lenski wrote the story – she says in her foreword that many of the adventures are based on first-person accounts from people she interviewed), yet the people are living a very rough and ready life without indoor plumbing, at a time when things like a cookstove were still considered rather fancy.

This was a really enjoyable story, and I highly recommend Lenski’s books if you are studying a certain region or time period.  It’s a children’s book, so things wrapped a little too conveniently at the end, but I let it go since the intended age range is around 10 years old.  All in all, this was a very fun slice of life story.

This one is also my #8 book for #20BooksofSummer!

Lincoln & Douglas: The Years of Decision by Regina Kelly (Landmark book) – 4*

//published 1954//

I’ve mentioned before that I have a big soft spot for Landmark history books.  Aimed at middle school readers, they’re perfect for an overview or review of a topic.  This one looks at the run-up to the America Civil War, focusing on Douglas and Lincoln and their debates at the time.  The author did a really excellent job of explaining the various points of view on slavery at the time.  She never excuses or justifies slavery, but she does explain that the culture of the time meant that many people didn’t question slavery’s existence, and that didn’t automatically make them evil people.  Douglas is presented as a counterview rather than a villain – someone who was trying to find some middle ground to make everyone happy – and who ended up as most people who take the road do: with everyone mad at him.  Kelly points out how Lincoln’s views on slavery also changed through time, and that there were degrees of being “for” slavery – many people felt that it should basically fade out naturally by not allowing new slaves or slave states; other believed slaves should be educated and allowed more opportunity to purchase their freedom; some believed the government should purchase slaves and then free them, thus compensating owners, etc.  Kelly manages to get a lot of complicated thoughts across in a manner that was easy to read and understand.  I’m basically always a fan of Landmark books, and this one is no exception.

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown

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by Maud Hart Lovelace

Published 1943

Betsy and  her friends are growing up!  In this book, the last before the girls enter high school in Betsy in Spite of Herself, Betsy, Tacy, and Tib find themselves entangled in many adventures, especially now that they are old enough to go to town by themselves.  Times are change in Deep Valley–there is a new-fangled horseless carriage, a theater, and a beautiful new hotel.

Lovelace describes the changes to the small town beautifully, probably because these books are very closely autobiographical.  I am growing more and more fond of Betsy and her friends, and cannot believe that I have only just discovered these perfect stories.

5/5

Betsy & Tacy Go Over the Big Hill

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by Maud Hart Lovelace

Published 1942

I feel like a broken record–these books are so adorable and sweet!  In this book, the girls decide to crown a queen of spring.  However, Betsy and Tacy’s older sisters have already decided to do the same thing!  Drama ensues.

What I really love about these books is how beautifully and kindly Lovelace portrays family.  Betsy and her sister have always gotten along so well, that to see them in the midst of a serious argument is really quite distressing.  But the way that they make up, and the way that everything comes together in the end–perfect.

I am enjoying these books so very, very much, and cannot recommend them highly enough.  5/5.

Betsy-Tacy and Tib

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by Maud Hart Lovelace

Published 1941

Guys, I love these books.  I just can’t believe that I’ve missed them all my life.  They keep getting more and more adorable!  This is the second book of the series.  At the very end of Betsy-Tacythe girls met a new girl, Tib, and in this book, the three of them go adventuring.  As I said, these books are just sweet and pleasant and very difficult to describe without making them sound silly and dull, and they aren’t.  They are very, very readable.

And Lois Lenski’s illustrations are perfect.  Bonus!!

5/5.

Betsy-Tacy

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by Maud Hart Lovelace

Published 1940

(this edition illustrated by Lois Lenski)

So the Betsy-Tacy books have been floating around my library my entire life.  I know that they were on Mom’s bookshelves growing up, but when I asked her the other day, she said that she had never read them; she just collected them at booksales thinking that they looked like nice books.  I had had much the same attitude, but finally decided to add them to the list of series to-be-read (for serious).  And I am so very, very glad that I did.  These books are delightful!

I am not even sure that I can describe them.  They are set at the turn of the century, and focus on the adventures of three little girls (this first book only involves Betsy and Tacy; Tib moves into the neighborhood in the next book).  These are the most stress-free books you could ever want to read.  I keep waiting for something bad to happen, and nothing ever does!  And yet they still manage to be quite readable, even without any kind of villain.

In this first book, Betsy lives with her parents and her older sister, Julia.  A new family moves in across the street, and they have lots of children, including a girl just Betsy’s age.  After a rocky start, the girls become firm friends.  Much of the book is not so much actual adventures as it is the stories that Betsy tells of their imaginary adventures, which are often quite imaginative indeed!

In Betsy-Tacy, the girls are quite little, but they grow throughout the series.  I have read the first three books now, but the series concludes with Betsy’s Wedding, so apparently they still have quite a lot of growing to do!

Lois Lenski’s illustrations are perfect as well.  I love her work.

I cannot express the true extent of just the innocence and joy in these  books.  They are precious and delightful and full of gentle lessons about love, friendship, and respect.  I am only sorry that I didn’t read them earlier.

5/5.