Oh look, every time I think I’m gong to get caught up – I stop posting for days!!! Things are legit quieting down at work now, so I’m super excited about my little summer break between greenhouse work and orchard work. Loads of things to catch up on!! In the meantime, some random thoughts on some random books!
The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan – 3*
After mostly enjoying A Natural History of Dragons, I decided to give the second book in the series a try. Like the first book, Tropic is written as though it is a memoir of Lady Trent, who lives in a Victorian-like era in a different world. My biggest complaint about A Natural History was that setting this story in a different world felt very laborious for the reader, who now has to try and learn loads of new cultures and countries and languages, when all of that would have been mostly unnecessarily if Brennan had simply set her story in AU England, since that’s the vibe the book had anyway. Well, I had that same complain about Tropic except even more so. Literal CHAPTERS of Tropic are spent on history and politics, all of which was utterly boring because it was completely made up. I just couldn’t bring myself to care at all, and that part of the story went on and on and on and ON. Where are the dragons???? I asked myself repeatedly while dragging my way through this tale.
The other extremely annoying part about this book was Isabella’s attitude towards motherhood. At the end of the first book (spoiler here), her husband dies (which was a whole other level of aggravating), but Isabella is pregnant. When Tropic opens, her son is now a toddler, and Isabella basically finds him to be a huge cramp in her style. She hires someone else to nanny him, noting, “Is the rearing of a child best performed by a woman who has done it before, who has honed her skills over the years and enjoys her work, or by a woman with no skill and scant enjoyment, whose sole qualification is a direct biological connection?” Well, thank goodness not everyone’s mother feels this way, my gosh. She further excuses herself by stating that no one would hold a man to the same standards – one of THE most annoying arguments people craft, as though the fact that Group A doesn’t do X means that rather than changing culture’s expectations to demand more of Group A, instead Group B should be allowed to lower themselves to the same expectations! Throughout the entire story Isabella refuses to acknowledge any true responsibility as a parent, and frequently sighs over the fact that she has a child at all, and between that and the long, drawn out political aspect of the story, I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to bother finishing.
However, the pace did eventually pick up, bringing my rating up to a rather reluctant 3*. I already own the third book in the series (I got it as as a set on eBay with Tropic), so I probably will read it someday, but my experience with Tropic didn’t really make me feel like reading it right away.
The Big Four by Agatha Christie – 4*
In this Hercule Poirot book, Poirot becomes a bit obsessed with the concept that there is an organization, comprised of four powerful people, slowly undermining the governments/economies of the world. Poirot is determined to discover the identities of these individuals and bring them to justice, especially the one who does the dirty work, known as the Destroyer, a master of disguise and duplicity. This book is comprised of several short stories that are all connected by the theme of the Big Four. Hastings narrates, at times convinced that Poirot is right and other times convinced that he’s seeing shadows. All in all, while this is one of Christie’s novels that goes a bit over-the-top on the “secret society is taking over the world” theme, it’s still good fun with several twists.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – 5*
It’s kind of hard to write any kind of review for a beloved classic that has been in print since 1868. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I couldn’t believe how long it had been since I had read it! This is an old-fashioned story for sure, but still has plenty of thoughts and lessons that are both timeless and timely. I love the themes of sisterhood and family. While most people seem to view Jo as the protagonist of the story, there is so much time spent with the other sisters and their life lessons as well – Meg is always my favorite. All in all, this was one trip down memory lane that did not disappoint.
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson – 4*
Swanson has become an author whose books I try to read when they come out. Each one has its own style, and I really like that. This one is about a guy who owns a bookshop. At one point, back in the day, he published a blog post about eight perfect murders in fiction – they weren’t necessarily perfect books, but the murders themselves are clever and nearly undetectable. Now, in the present day, it appears that someone is using his list to kill people.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable mystery with excellent pacing. The bookshop owner, who is also the narrator, is quite likable, and the way the dominoes fell into place felt realistic. This book definitely has loads of spoilers for several classic mysteries. Besides the ones on the list of eight murders, there are a few others, including a few of Christie’s classics. I definitely recommend looking up the books that are spoiled and making sure none of them are ones that you want to read before reading this book. However, if you don’t want to read those books, and haven’t read them before, it shouldn’t really reduce your entertainment from this story. Swanson does a great job of organically explaining the plot of each one in a way that didn’t feel boring or out of place, but meant that I could grasp the way that the classic mystery tied into this one. I had read a few of the books mentioned, but definitely not all of them, and I never felt lost. I really appreciated the way that Swanson credited and basically bragged on the classic mysteries he used – the way that he incorporated them felt like it came from a place of genuine admiration and love for those stories, and I liked that a lot.
While I really have enjoyed all the Swanson books I’ve read, this is the first one that I see myself maybe revisiting again someday. Recommended.
Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome – 5*
I really don’t know how every book in the Swallows & Amazons series can be just as delightful as the one before it, but here we are! As always, literally every page is a delight. This is the sixth book in the series, and I’m not even sure I could pick out a favorite because I have enjoyed each of them so much. They are simple, funny, and delightful, and I highly recommend them to anyone who has a soft spot for simple stories about children having adventures.