April Minireviews

Usually this space is reserved for books I felt kind of “meh” about, but this time around it’s just a way of trying to catch up on some of the backlog.  I’m ready for summer break!!!

Paper Towns by John Green

//published 2008//

I really was going to write a whole long review complaining about this book, but who has time for that?  I read this book because I felt like I needed to actually read one of Green’s books before dismissing him as a pretentious and condescending guy who just says whatever young adults want to hear so he’ll stay popular.  (These days, they call that “being relevant.”)  Now I can be quite smug about not liking him, because, after all, I have tried his books!

Paper Towns was about what I expected.  The main character was completely unrealistic, a high school senior who cared about grades, grammar, and making his parents proud.  And it wasn’t really those things that made him unrealistic, it was just his entire manner and way of speaking.  He spends most of this book running around trying to solve a mystery, following clues he believes his neighbor/crush has left for him.  I’ve heard Green get a lot of flack for perpetrating the “manic pixie dream girl” method of creating a story, but I’m not sure I buy that.  Like half the point was Quentin realizing that he saw Margo as a manic pixie dream girl (although he doesn’t use those words), and understanding that he’s only ever seen her as a very one-dimensional character instead of an actual person.  Yes, Margo is weird and quirky; and yes, she helps Quentin appreciate his life more fully; and yes, we don’t really get to know her from her own perspective – but I still felt like Quentin’s realizations of her were above the MPDG level.  A little.

Overall, the story was just dumb and kind of pointless.  It was a book that desperately was trying to be poignant and deep, but really just came through as cliched and boring.  I compare that to something like The Scent of Waterwhich doesn’t at all try to be poignant and deep and yet manages just that, and can’t believe that people hail someone like John Green as a genius and brilliant writer.  OVERRATED is the main word that comes to my mind, as this book was desperately boring, the characters were flat, and the entire book read like one long cliche.  2/5.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

//published 1817//

Somehow, I had never gotten around to reading this particular classic, and I’m quite sorry that I waited this long.  While this book didn’t have the character studies of some of Austen’s other works, I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions.  Austen’s wry sense ofhumor was at the forefront of this rather frivolous tale, and I loved the way that she poked fun at all sorts of things, but all in such a gentle and kindhearted way.

I purchased the perfect copy of this book, a wonderfully-sized paperback that I love.  My only problem was the “introduction,” in which I was treated to a ten-page synopsis of the story (complete with all the spoilers) and not a word of actual insight or thought!  I’m really heartily tired of introductions that are actually a CliffNotes version of the book.  Just because it’s a classic doesn’t mean that everyone who picks it up has already read it!  I mean really.  If the foreword isn’t going to actually give information, what’s the point?!

But the story itself is adorable and fun, and although this may have been my first reading of it, I don’t anticipate it being the last.  5/5.

Wild Palomino: Stallion of the Prairies by Stephen Holt

//published 1946//

This is another book in the Famous Horse Stories series, and one that I’ve had on a shelf for years and never actually read.  I wasn’t really missing all that much, as Wild Palomino was a wildly impractical tale from page one through the finish.  At the time that I actually read it I kept thinking, Wow, I should make sure to point out that crazy plot twist when I review this book!  But I honestly don’t remember many of specifics as this was an easily-forgotten story.  It’s perfectly fine, and the younger audience for whom it was written would probably enjoy all the drama and excitement, but it was just too implausible for me to really get into.  2/5.

The Prince and Betty by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1912//

So I mean, sure, some people complain about Wodehouse’s books being a little samey.  I’ve never found that to be an issue for myself personally, because each one has its own unique charm, despite following more or less a set of guidelines.  But I found myself getting major deja vu when I was reading this book, mainly because it wasn’t my imagination – Wodehouse actually used part of one of his other stories!

The part I haven’t been able to figure out completely is whether or not this book or Psmith, Journalist came first, mainly because of the whole thing where Wodehouse wrote lots of his books as serials before printing them as a book, and also tended to have some of his books published first in the U.K. and then in the U.S.  or vice versa.  Either way, this whole book felt weird because of the inclusion of virtually the entire plot of Psmith, Journalist, including a character named Smith!

The Prince and Betty starts as its own story, with Betty’s rich stepfather (or possibly actually father or possibly uncle, I’m not sure which as it has been a while) deciding that his next big scheme is going to be opening a casino on a small European island country.  Complicated hijinks begin, including the rich guy’s attempt to  make Betty marry the prince of said small country.  Of course, Betty and the prince already knew each other from before (except she didn’t know he was a prince… and neither did he!), but Betty thinks that the prince is just trying to appease her father (or stepfather or uncle), so she gets angry and runs away.  So far, so good.

Except next the story takes a strange turn.  Betty lands a job as a secretary for a small newspaper and – well, insert the entire plot of Psmith, Journalist here!  It’s a shame because I actually love Psmith, Journalist  – like, a LOT – but it didn’t feel like it fit into this book at all.  I’m not sure if it’s because I had already read Psmith, or if it really did read like two different books mashed together.  So yes, both halves were good reads, but they didn’t go well together, but that could have just been me…

March Minireviews – Part 1

Usually, I only post a group of minireviews for books that have just been sort of meh for me, leaving me with not a whole lot to say about the story.  But this month I’ve been super busy with work and other projects and just simply haven’t had time for reviews.  I really struggled through a reading slump the end of February and into March, but over the last couple of weeks have been back in the groove, which means I actually have quite the little pile of books waiting to be reviewed.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to really unpack all the ins and outs, so I’m going to try to just give each read a few paragraphs… hopefully I don’t get too carried away…

Dead End Close by Dominic Utton

//published 2017//

I actually started a whole long review of this book but then got really carried away.  I disliked this book so much that the whole review was turning into a rather incoherent rant, so maybe I can just summarize a briefer, coherent rant here.  I actually rather enjoyed Utton’s first book, Martin Harbottle’s Appreciation of Timeand I think that added to the disappointment that I felt about Dead End Close.  This book focuses on several households all on the same dead-end street in Oxford.  There’s a bit of mystery/thriller aspect, but at the end of the day this book was just overwhelmingly depressing.  No one has a happy life, no one has a happy ending.  All of my notes on this book end with “???” because I just didn’t get this book at all.  There’s this weird guy meandering through the story (and sometimes narrating it) with a clipboard, and we are given the impression that he’s a supernatural/angelic being of some kind (???), but apparently there for observation purposes only has he does diddly-squat to prevent anything from happening.  Throughout the story, all the lives that started pretty bad to begin with only get worse.

But the biggest reason that this book gets 0/5 stars for me is that a huge part of the plot centers around a trio of Oxford boys who are trying to get into a club, and the initiation process requires them to rape a girl, video it, and then get the video to go viral.  This whole part of the book literally made me ill to read, it was so disturbing and dark and gross.  And maybe I could have gotten around this if this book had had some kind of point, but it didn’t.  The whole story was just completely pointless.  It went no where, there was no character development, terrible things happened to everyone, people get raped and killed, and a heavy sense of hopelessness lingers on every page.

I think I was especially irked when I got to the end and Utton attempted to whitewash his entire story by acting like, somehow, there was a message of hope.  Like, “Oh wow, sometimes bad things happen, but there’s always hope!”  Yeah, that doesn’t really fly with me when the only “hope” part of your story is in the next-to-last paragraph of the entire book.

Dead End Close was given to me free of charge from the publishers, and this is my obviously very honest review.  I hated every word of this book and wouldn’t even recommend it to someone I didn’t like.  Weirdly, I would still read another of Utton’s books, though, because I enjoyed Harbottle, but this one was flat dreadful.

The Wreckage by Michael Robotham

//published 2011//

They say that a book can impact your mood.  I think this is true, but I also think that sometimes my mood impacts the book.  I picked up The Wreckage (the fifth in the Joseph O’Laughlin series) during the height of my reading slump and could not get into it.  And even though I eventually finished the book, it never really gripped me.  I can’t say for sure if that was the book’s fault or mine, but I definitely felt very meh towards this story the whole way through.

I think a large part of this was because it didn’t feel nearly as personal as the other books in this series.  The other books have dealt with tight, domestic-type crimes (kidnapping, murder, robbery, etc.), but this one was more political, following a storyline in Iraq, where a reporter believes that several bank robberies are connected; and London, where our old friend Vincent Ruiz finds himself entangled in a complicated web of disappearances, robberies, and embezzlement.

The story was done well, and the present-tense that Robotham insists on using made more sense as a third person narrative.  But my personal disinterest meant that I didn’t read this book very closely, and consequently it felt disjointed to me.  It left me with a 3/5 rating, but I think that it will be better when I read through this series again.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

//published 2017//

This was another ARC, but one that I thankfully enjoyed a great deal more than Dead End Close.  This story drifts back and forth in time, following the lives of three German women before, during, and after World War II.  While this wasn’t exactly a cheerful read, it was a very engaging one.  Shattuck handles the shifts in time perfectly, giving information about the lives of these women at just the right time.  It is not a mystery, but each of the women has her own secrets that are only gradually revealed.

It was quite fascinating to read a story about “everyday” Germans.  Marianne, passionate about the resistance; Benita, rather naive and sometimes willfully blind; Ania, caught up in the dream of a better life and failing to see how the promises were built on shifting sand.  The language is lovely and the characters are well-drawn, although I wish that we saw more of Marianne’s thoughts and actions.  She is weirdly both the center of the story and yet in the background of it.

While I don’t see myself returning to this book time and again, I would definitely read another of Shattuck’s books, and recommend this one to anyone who enjoys history from the perspective of ordinary people struggling to see what is right.  4/5.

The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar

//published 2014//

This book is the sequel to a lighthearted YA novel that I read in February, The Art of Wishing.  While Wishing didn’t really blow my mind with its awesomeness, it was still an entertaining and pleasant read, and I was expecting more of the same from The Fourth Wish.  Unfortunately, it was overall pretty terrible.  In this book, Margo is struggling to adjust to her new life as a genie.  For some reason, Ribar decided that the overwhelming majority of people who get a hold of a genie would use their wishes to find some kind of sexual fulfillment.  Color me crazy, but if I had three wishes for anything, I really don’t think any of them would involve sex…???  Plus, we also have to spend a lot of time nattering on about how genies can be either male or female (I mean the same genie can be either), and how this doesn’t change who they are on the inside, and they can still love each other no matter their outward apperance, aw how romantic except why so boring and consequently not actually romantic at all.

I skimmed large portions of this book hoping to actually find a story, but there wasn’t one.  Margo was a total whiner in this book, spending most of  her time being a jealous girlfriend.  I don’t really have high hopes for her relationship with Oliver, especially since they are not both timeless, eternal beings.  Like I don’t think this relationship is going to last five months, much less five centuries.

In the end, 2/5 and nothing that inspired me to find out if Ribar has written anything else.

December Minireviews – Part I

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, inspired by the way that Stephanie reviews the unreviewed every month, I think that some months (or maybe all of them!) will get a post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

Quite a few this month, so here is Part I – Part II should be revealed at the end of the month…

William Tell Told Again by P.G. Wodehouse

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//published 1904//

When I started this book I just assumed that it was going to be another of Wodehouse’s school stories.  My goal of reading all of Wodehouse’s books in chronological order means that I’ve been wading through a lot of school misadventures and cricket.  However, William Tell is actually a story about…  William Tell!

Now, I must be completely honest – I really don’t know anything about the real story of William Tell.  But Wodehouse’s version was quite entertaining, with plenty of little sarcastic quips and fun characters.  He really made the whole story come to life, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s a very short, fast read as well.

I read it as a free Kindle book, and didn’t realize until the end that the original book had multiple illustrations throughout, and, more importantly, each illustration was accompanied by a short poem that actually added to the story!  The poems are available to read in the Kindle edition (although not the illustrations), but are at the very end of the book.  Apparently, I ought to have been flipping back to them throughout.

Fury and the White Mare by Albert G. Miller

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//published 1962//

This is the final book in the Fury trilogy, and followed the same basic pattern as the first two books.  There’s a new neighbor who wants to do bad things (in this case, steal timber), Fury does many clever and intelligent things, and Joey learns more about being unselfish and independent.

The only thing that annoyed me about this book was Joey’s attitude towards the white mare.  Basically, Fury yearns for a mate, and he wants the mare, jumping his corral to go to her.  Joey’s adopted dad, Jim, wants to round up the mare and bring her to the ranch for Fury, because Fury is very upset without her.  But Joey is basically jealous of the mare and doesn’t want her at the ranch.  That’s all fine as far as it goes, but they try to find another companion for Fury and eventually they find a dog that Fury really likes and who helps calm him down…  so why isn’t Joey jealous of the dog??  He makes some halfhearted explanations, but none of them really make sense to me.  It just seems like Joey either should be jealous of everything else that Fury likes, or nothing else.

But on the whole, this was a perfectly fine read and a nice addition to the series.

To Refine Like Silver by Jeanna Ellsworth

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//published 2014//

This was a moderately interesting variation of Pride and Prejudice where Darcy and Elizabeth meet in Derbyshire before the events of the original story.  There, Elizabeth befriends Georgiana, who is recovering from her harrowing experience at Ramsgate.  Darcy is captivated by this kind and intelligent young woman, and things go from there.  This is definitely a story that is heavy on Christian themes, and a lot of the story is comprised of conversations about deep and serious topics rather than anything actually happening.

I read another variation by this author a while back – Mr. Darcy’s Promise – which was also alright. However, Ellsworth definitely needs to find someone else to do her cover art, because they are both just simply dreadful.

If you’re interested, I’ve reviewed this book more fully on my “secret” book blog where I post reviews only of P&P variations, because I can’t stop reading them even though they’re terrible…

Lad of Sunnybank by Albert Payson Terhune

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//published 1929//

Earlier this year I reviewed another book by Terhune, The Way of a Dog.  At the time I gave a bit of background for Terhune, who raised collies at his New Jersey home (Sunnybank) and wrote about the prolifically in the 1920’s and 30’s.  Lad is one of Terhune’s great heroes, and he has several books and numerous short stories about him, of which Lad of Sunnybank is one.  This volume is a collection of vignettes starring this intelligent and faithful companion.

While most of the stories are good (True??  Maybe??  Some of them??), Terhune does have a habit of veering off onto minirants about personal peeves.  It’s not bad if you’re just reading one of his shorts, but if you’re blazing through the whole book, have 2-3 pages per chapter devoted to Terhune’s grumbling sometimes gets rather old.  And it’s not even that I disagree with him – it’s just not really part of the story.  For instance, in one chapter, Lad saves a child from being struck by a car.  Then Terhune goes on for three pages about the dangers of motor vehicles –

A heedless high-school boy – a feather-brained flapper – a drunkard – a degenerate speed-maniac – any or all of these are allowed to drive a gigantic metal projectile of death, through crowded streets or along peaceful country roads.  The examination they have taken in order to get a driver’s license has made no test of their reliability or even of their sanity.  They are turned loose with full chance to kill or maim.

A bit melodramatic, but valid points – also nothing to do with the actual story, so.

But homilies aside, Lad of Sunnybank is another engaging group of stories that make for delightful reading for dog lovers of all ages.

November MiniReviews – Part 1

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, inspired by the way that Stephanie reviews the unreviewed every month, I think that some months (or maybe all of them!) will get a post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

This month I seem to already have accumulated quite a few middling books (or maybe I’m just feeling lazier about writing reviews!) so here is the first batch, and you can anticipate another before the end of the month!

Rose & Thorn by Sarah Prineas

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//published 2016//

Uggghhh this is the sequel to Ash & Bramblea book that gave me a lot of mixed feelings – and Rose & Thorn did the same.  In the end, I guess it’s a 2/5.  Once again, it’s more because of the overall tone/message of the book than it is because of the story itself, which is alright but fine.  But the message can be summed up from this paragraph on page 25:

“You and the Penwitch had a story together, didn’t you?  Some kind of adventure …  Something terrible, and also wonderful.  And after it you lived happily together?  Maybe you even had children, and you were a family.  But not forever.”  No, there was no ever-after.  Shoe had taught me that.  Even if the adventure ended, the story went on.

I think the reason that this book gave me a gag reflex wasn’t because of the concept that stories don’t really end, it’s the insistence that that means that there is, ultimately, no happiness to be found.  Even if you have it right now, that’s only going to be for a moment because it doesn’t last, love doesn’t last, you can never be together forever.  It was just super depressing, and also felt like it meant the whole story had no point.  Like, if you aren’t going to find happiness, what are you even fighting for?  The chance to choose your own misery?  That just didn’t seem inspiring to me.

I dragged through this book and didn’t really like it.  Thankfully it was in past tense, which was definitely an improvement.  However, the story itself had so many logical gaps that I just couldn’t buy it.  They started in the first chapter with the fact that we’re calling Owen “Shoe” after half the point of the last book was finding his true identity and giving him his name back.  It felt like the whole first book was kind of pointless also – which I suppose is true when all you’re trying to do is make sure people understand that if they have a happy ending, it’s because they are letting someone else write their story: happy endings don’t happen when we have the power to make our own stories.  BLEH.

The Ghost Rock Mystery by Mary C. Jane

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//published 1956//

This is one of those happy little Scholastic Book Club books that they used to print back in the day and sell for 50¢.  I’ve accumulated a lot of them at book sales over the years.  While they aren’t super deep, they are fun for younger readers, and this one was no exception.  Janice and Tommy go to stay for the summer with their aunt Annabelle (a widow) and their cousin Hubert.  Aunt Annabelle has just purchased an old house in upstate Maine that she is renting as a hotel/bed & breakfast, but many of the locals believe that it’s haunted, and she is having trouble getting guests to stay.

The kids solve the mystery, and all is well in the end – even Aunt Annabelle finds new love with her hunky neighbor who works for the Border Patrol.

It was interesting to read a book that involved illegal immigration, but written about back in the day when it was a much more cut-and-dried issue than it has been made into during modern times.  At one point, one of the kids asks the Border Patrolman why the illegal immigrants can’t come into the country.

“Many of them could,” Mr. Grant replied, “if they would go about it as they are supposed to do.  If they sneak in, we never know how many men among the ordinary laborers may be dangerous enemies who are using this as a way to get into the United States.”

I just find it interesting that in our current culture, if anyone says that they don’t believe that illegal immigrants should be immediately granted citizen-level rights, it’s because we’re racist and cruel – no one seems to consider that perhaps it is simply unfair to the thousands of people who are trying to enter the country legally, by following the rules – and that those rules have been created for the safety of everyone already living here.

Anyway.  A fine little book, although nothing out of the ordinary.

Wait for What Will Come by Barbara Michaels

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//published 1978//

Another 3/5 so-so read from Michaels.  I’ve almost given up on her, despite my unfailing love for the Amelia Peabody series.  The Vicky Bliss series was pretty meh, and so have the independent novels of hers that I’ve read – and there have been quite a few that I’ve gotten from the library and then sent back because they just didn’t capture me.

Wait for What Will Come had a fairly intriguing story, with Carla returning (from America) to her family’s old home in Cornwall.  She meets like five guys, all super hot and available, within 24 hours of her arrival, though, so I was already doubting the credibility of the entire story.  But despite being ardently pursued by basically all of them, Carla is no missish heroine.  Even though her crazy housekeeper keeps telling Carla about the curse on her family that will strike if Carla stays until Mid-Summer’s Eve, Carla refuses to be bullied out of the home she is growing to love.

Overall, it wasn’t that bad of a book, and much of the adventure kept me avidly turning pages.  However, the ending felt very rushed – I even had to go back and read a few pages to make sure I understood exactly what was happening. While plausible, it wasn’t necessarily a natural ending.

Tales of St. Austin’s by P.G. Wodehouse

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//published 1903//

Another one of Wodehouse’s very early works, this book is a collection of short stories that all take place at a boys’ school called St. Austin’s.  As with most short story collections, there were some that were quite funny and others that fell a bit short of the mark (mostly due to cricket).

On the whole, while Wodehouse’s school stories aren’t terrible reading, they aren’t thoroughly engaging, either.  St. Austin’s was basically forgettable.  While worth a one-time read, it isn’t one that I see myself returning to time and again.

 

September MiniReviews

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.  (And yes, I realize that that is what I’m supposed to be using GoodReads for, but I just can’t really get into GoodReads.  I just don’t have time to update fifteen different places with reviews/thoughts of the same book.  It’s a combination of reading a LOT of books and not having a great deal of spare time – since most of said spare time is spent reading – and it’s also part of the reason that I don’t really like reading ARCs all that much, because publishers expect reviews in multiple locations.  Anyway.  Where was I?  Oh yes, meh reads.)  So, inspired by the way that Stephanie reviews the unreviewed every month, I think that some months (or maybe all of them!) will get a post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia McKillup

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//published 2010//

This was a story set in this alternate Britain-like place, where magic is somewhat a thing, but there are already steam-engines and some technology of that sort.  The tale is in the capital city where the royal family lives, and where there is a school for bards.  One of the young bards, who is almost set to graduate, is writing his final paper on an ancient legend.  The book alternates chapters – one set in the current time, while the other chapter begins with a few paragraph’s from the young bard’s paper, followed by the rest of the chapter that tells what really happened back in the day.

There were a lot of things about The Bards that I really enjoyed.  McKillup weaves and engaging story with likable characters, and the tension between the two timelines was plotted really well.  The writing reminded me a lot of Diana Wynne Jones, where I had troubled putting the book down, despite the fact that I was confused a lot of the time.  I can’t tell if I genuinely am not clever enough to understand these kinds of books, or if it’s a case of Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone pretends like there is a lot more to get out of them than there is so that they look clever.

At any rate, it was an enjoyable story, but not one that spoken to me at a deeper level, and one that still left me with some questions unanswered at the end.  I’ve already read a couple of McKillup’s books that I liked, and think I will still try to read some more.

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

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//published 2016//

This is definitely a fluff book.  But I enjoy reading fluff from time to time, where things are romantic and impractical and everyone gets happy endings all around.  Evie’s mother died of cancer when Evie was a little girl.  Before she passed away, Evie’s mother wrote her letters, one for every birthday (although one wonders how far ahead Evie’s mother planned?  Did she write a letter for Evie’s 70th birthday, for instance??).  And during her senior year of high school, Evie received another letter from her mother, this one the first letter of a quest.  And the first step of the quest was for Evie to leave Seattle and go to school at Oxford.  That is where the book begins, Evie’s first day at university.

While parts of this book were enjoyable and entertaining, it overall made my eyes roll so hard that it was, at times, difficult to read.  It felt like the author really blurred the line of what was improbable and just plain ridiculous.  With these kinds of books, you basically already know the ending within the first couple of chapters, so if there isn’t a good story leading us to that end, the whole thing is pointless.  While I really liked Evie, I was genuinely annoyed by her relationship with Edmund.  Even though Edmund was a super nice guy, it came back to that whole USE YOUR WORDS thing, and there were just tooo  many misunderstandings that dragged on and on, when about three sentences of conversation could have straightened everything out.

All in all, an alright fluff read, but not one that left me feeling like Alrbight’s books are something I need to find more of in the future.

The Pothunters by P.G. Wodehouse

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//published 1902//

So I believe that I am going to start on a quest that I’ve been thinking about for a while – reading all of Wodehouse’s books in published order.  (!!!)  I realize that this means that I’ll have to wade through some of his earlier works that were basically school stories.  The Pothunters, Wodehouse’s first published novel, was not, if I’m honest, particularly engaging.  However, there are brief glimpses of things that will eventually become Wodehouse hallmarks – a butler “trying to look like a piece of furniture,” or, my personal favorite line of the whole book – “…an expression on his face [that was] a cross between a village idiot and an unintelligent egg.”

The story was originally a serial before it was a novel, as are many of Wodehouse’s early books, and it was intended to appeal to younger audiences.  The story’s heroes are all school-aged boys, and the entire plot revolves around various happenings at their school.  There is a lot (LOT) of cricket and other sports and slang and far too many characters, many of whom have multiple nick-names, making it quite difficult to track them all.

I’ll admit to skimming parts of this book as it just didn’t completely hold my interest as an actual story – I was reading it more for the background, and it was interesting to see where Wodehouse’s published works start.  Many of his earlier works are out of copyright now and are available for free as ebooks, which is how I read this one.  While this wasn’t a particularly engaging book (to me), there are definite glimpses of the droll humor that I know Wodehouse continued to develop throughout his writing career.

Misty’s Twilight by Marguerite Henry

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//published 1992//

This book isn’t really a sequel to the other Misty books, but I went ahead and read it after those first three, because it is about a descendant of Misty.  Unfortunately, this story wasn’t nearly as good as the other three.  Twilight was very disjointed and unfocused, without a clear story or goal, or even main character.  Part of the problem is that this story covers almost two decades of time, which is a lot of ground to go over in a children’s book.

In Twilight, Sandy Price has always dreamed of owning a Chincoteague pony, ever since she was a little girl and read Misty.  As an adult, she takes her two children – who are completely uninterested – and drives to Chincoteague where they attend Pony Penning Day and buy four ponies, including one of Misty’s granddaughters, Sunshine.  Back home in Florida, the ponies who were purchased are basically ignored in the story until Sunshine is bred and foals – Misty’s Twilight.  Twilight is trained for a few different things over her lifetime, but Sandy doesn’t really do any of the training, and much of the time Twilight is off having her own adventures – but the narration is stuck at home with Sandy who just receives letters or phone calls with updates on Twilight.  I think the story would have been much more interesting if we had focused on Twilight instead of Sandy.

Published in 1992, I think that in some ways this book was an effort to introduce a new generation of readers to the Misty books.  This was one of the last books that Henry ever wrote – she was 90 years old at the time.  By this time, Wesley Dennis, the illustrator of so many of Henry’s books, had already passed away, so I think this book also somewhat lacked in that area.  Dennis’s illustrations are so amazing, genuinely bringing so much of the story to life.  While Karen Haus Grandpre’s illustrations are standard, they lack the magic of Dennis’s.

All in all, a 2-star read, and not particularly recommended – just stick to the original three.

MiniReviews

So I’m sitting here looking at the pile of books I need to review, and I’m thinking to myself that most of them are a bit… unmemorable.  So I think I’m going to take the lazy route and combine some of these 3-star reviews into one post.  I’d like to get a bit caught up on these reviews so I can start reviewing closer to the finish date!

The Eternal World by Christopher Farnsworth

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//published 2015//

This is one that I read about on Amazon or Goodreads and thought sounded interesting.  The premise is that there is this group of guys who, back when the Spanish conquistadors first started conquering the Americas, discovered an actual fountain of youth.  Since then, they’ve been able to keep themselves alive through the centuries, accumulating wealth and power.  Now, in the modern world, their source of the Water is being threatened and they have to try to find a way to replicate it.  They hire David Robinton, who is basically a scientific genius, to attempt this.  Of course, Robinton has no idea what he is actually getting into.

Meanwhile, the conquistadors have one enemy, someone else who has access to the Water.  Shako is the daughter of the chief of the American Indian clan the Spaniards slaughtered to gain access to the fountain, and she has been haunting their footsteps for the last few hundred years, determined to avenge her people.  Robinton finds himself entangled in the feud, without even a clear understanding as to what the feud is about.

On the whole, The Eternal World was engaging and exciting.  There was a good pace to the story, and Farnsworth does a really good job of muddying the waters concerning who is a bad guy vs. who is a good guy.  He also examines some concepts regarding immortality, money, and power that are thought-provoking and interesting.  The whole idea of something that can instantaneously heal people, and go on to keep them alive indefinitely – on the surface, it sounds brilliant, something that is obviously a good idea.  Robinton believes in the concept wholeheartedly.  His sister died of cancer when she was a little girl, and Robinton has devoted his life to pursuing a medical breakthrough that would prevent such tragedies.  But as the actual practicalities of what such a formula would mean begin to play out, Robinton starts to question everything he has always believed.

For me, what kept this book from pushing up to the 4-star level was the ending, which felt rushed and a little weird, and while it wrapped up most of the physical aspects of the story, never really gave any kind of genuine resolution to all the moral questions it raised.  There was also a lot of violence in this book, and some of it felt gratuitous and unnecessary, like having the one conquistador be this super creepy murdering rapist.

Still, on the whole, it was a decent read, even if its not destined to become one of my favorites.

Any thoughts on any of Farnsworth’s other works?  This one didn’t really inspire me to seek any of his other books out, but if someone had one they especially thought was awesome, I would be willing to give it a try!

Belle by Cameron Dokey

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//published 2008//

This was a fairly average retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  While a pleasant story with nice characters, the “twists” to the tale weren’t really interesting enough to push this book’s star-rating any higher.  I do like Dokey’s writing, though, and it is always nice to have a B&B retelling where Beauty’s family is actually super nice.

As an aside, does anyone else have a favorite Beauty & the Beast retelling?  It’s one of my favorites, and I love seeing all the crazy ways it has been reimagined!

Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl

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//published 2001//

This was one of those books that I wanted to like a lot more than I actually liked it.  Alexandria is a lovely heroine and a nice narrator, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into this story all that much.  Given the gift of beauty, dandruff that turns into gold dust, and tears that turn into diamonds – all because she shared her lunch with an old crone – Alexandria goes from poor and uninteresting to being sought after by the rulers of two neighboring countries.  Locked in a tower for her “protection” until she decides which of them to marry, Alexandria doesn’t really know what she is going to do.  When Alexandria’s geese come to rescue her, her adventures really begin, but it just kind of felt like there wasn’t a lot of point to the story.  It’s always awkward to have an escape with no real plan as to where they are heading, so the whole book felt a little random.  There were a lot of characters that I really liked, and some funny moments, but it wasn’t the type of book that I felt like I should bother reading again.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie

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//published 1944//

For this novel, Christie set out to show that humans are human through all the ages – and murder is murder.  Set in Egypt around 2000 B.C., our mystery centers around a family whose patriarch works as a ka-priest, a man who is paid to maintain tombs and perform certain religious ceremonies at different times.  The story begins with Renisenb, a young widow who has returned to her father’s home after the untimely death of her husband.

Christie weaves an excellent mystery here, with suspicion and motivation abounding.  It’s an interesting mystery because there is no detective or person leading an investigation, other than the suspicions of Renisenb’s grandmother.

While I really enjoyed this book, as I do all of Christie’s mysteries, I wasn’t particularly attached to any of the characters, and I had a strong suspicion of the murderer’s identity from the beginning.  Still, a solid read with an interesting setting.