So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just feel rather “meh” about and they don’t seem worth writing an entire post about. However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something. So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.
I’ve had a lot of meh reading going on, plus a minimal desire for blogging, so this actually the second round of minireviews this month. Part 1 can be found here.
The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler
After really enjoying the first few books starring the gritty Californian private investigator Phillip Marlowe, The Little Sister was a bit of a disappointment. While I was still give it a 3/5 for having a decent mystery, the overall story really lacked the wit and tongue-and-cheek-ness of the earlier books. Instead, Marlowe is completely disillusioned with… well, everything, it seems. It’s a sort of midlife crisis kind of book, and doesn’t really make for uplifting reading. I struggled to get through it, as it also seemed to lack some of cohesiveness of the earlier books. It made me give up on these books for a while, but I think I’m about ready to pick up The Long Goodbye and give Chandler another try.
PS Reading the introduction to this book, the introducer stated that The Little Sister was the only one of his books that Chandler never read again – apparently he disliked it as well, and was writing it during a dark time when his wife was dying, so that all makes sense in a very sad sort of way.
The Whisky Wedding by Elizabeth Ann West
I got this Pride and Prejudice variation for free, which was really the only good thing about it. It starts with a decent premise – the Bennets receive word of Lydia’s elopement before Elizabeth and the Gardiners leave on their journey. However, I was already a little leery of the tale when Mr. Bennet, Mr. Gardiner, and Jane go to London while Elizabeth, Mrs. Gardiner, and all the Gardiner children (??!!) head north on the road to Scotland. Despite the incredibly impracticality of this, I was willing to let it slide for the setting up of the story… except that was only the first in a long litany of absolutely ridiculous actions, including Darcy and Elizabeth eloping while Elizabeth is drunk, Mrs. Gardiner abandoning Elizabeth in Scotland and returning to London by herself, Elizabeth running off with no one but a footman for company, Jane wandering around London by herself looking for Lydia, and Mr. Bennet shrugging his shoulders because Oh well Lydia is a whore now, nothing we can do about it, guess I’ll just read a book.
In between, conversations were nonsensical, characters didn’t remotely resemble their originals, and no one was particularly likable. Mr. Bennet was ridiculously uncaring (while lazy and selfish, I never get the impression that Mr. B would willingly just stop looking for his daughter after one day of halfhearted searching). Mr. Bingley was portrayed as a pathetic, whimpering puppy, which always annoys me – yes, in the original he was swayed by his friend, but the arguments that kept him from returning to Jane were Darcy’s reassurances that (1) Jane didn’t actually care for Bingley and (2) that Jane’s mother would force her into a marriage with Bingley regardless of Jane’s feelings. Thus, Bingley’s non-return to Jane wasn’t completely due to a weak spirit, but also due a misguided attempt to do what was best for Jane. But in this version he is a completely pathetic wuss, and Jane is instead won over by the manly spirit of Colonel Fitzwilliam.
Point being, I slogged through this for over half the book and then realized that I was just being bored out of my mind (because yes, on top of everything else, it was SO so boring), so this book ended up as a DNF at 67%, with my only regret being that I waited that long.
Mail-Order Bride by Debbie Macomber
Something quite strange is the fact that The Whisky Wedding isn’t the only book I’ve read lately that involved a drunk bride! I was trapped at the doctor’s office once day and finished my current book. This Macomber book was a freebie I had picked up recently, and since I really enjoy the trope of marriage first and then love, I knew I had to at least give it a try. Despite the fact that Macomber is incredibly prolific, I actually don’t particularly remember reading any of her books, although I probably have at some point. This is one of her earliest books, recently released as an ebook for the first time.
Unfortunately, the story just wasn’t that great. The trope itself was done well – the events leading up to the marriage are completely believable and I was pretty pleased that the story was actually going to be plausible. Carolyn’s aunts give her a trip to Alaska to help Carolyn recover from the breakup with her fiancee… except that they’ve actually answered an ad for a bride, placed by Paul who lives in a remote Alaskan village but yearns for companionship and a family. Of course, Carolyn is upset when she finds out that she’s married to Paul (the drunk thing is actually done in a way that is mostly believable), but it felt like Macomber just cut a big chunk right out of the middle of this book, as we go from Carolyn being angry and trying to escape to Carolyn being desperately in love with Paul and super jealous of his past. There never felt like there was a time where they were just becoming friends and learning about each other’s pasts.
I really wanted to like this book, but in the end it was just another 3/5 meh read with a decent set-up followed by a pretty sloppy plot. I’m sure I’ll end up reading another of Macomber’s books one of these days, but Mail-Order Bride didn’t really inspire me to hunt any up.
Mind Your Manors by Lucy Lethbridge
(British title: Spit and Polish)
I think the problem I had with this book was that I was a bit misled by the synopsis, which says, “Lethbridge reveals these old-fashioned and almost-forgotten techniques that made British households sparkle before the use of complicated contraptions and a spray for every surface. A treasury of advice from servants’ memoirs and housekeeping guides…” Going in, I think I just thought that this would be somewhat of a reference book, when in fact it is more of just a book full of little tidbits that were interesting, but not necessarily for practical application. (The ‘practical application’ part was basically ‘use vinegar and baking soda!’)
So while I did enjoy this book and find it interesting, it was much shorter and less practical than I anticipated. I also couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the American edition, which not only changed the title, but even the subtitle from ‘Old-Fashioned Ways to Banish Dirt, Dust and Decay’ to ‘Tried-and-True British Household Cleaning Tips’ because apparently Americans didn’t clean things the same way as British servants, so we need to clarify that these are going to be British tips, not American tips! Why, publishers, WHY?!
Overall, while this book was a pleasant read, I didn’t feel any need to add it to my personal reference library.