Oof, I was doing so well and then, as always, fell off the bandwagon!! Things got really crazy around here as we decided to jump into the exciting project of putting down vinyl plank flooring all over pretty much our whole house!! Ourselves!! So yeah, that was lively, but we are DONE and it looks FABULOUS! But it took two full weekends and some evenings and here we are haha
And, more importantly, here are some FEBRUARY reviews!!
Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik – 4*
I liked the second book in this series better than the first, mainly because Laurence isn’t as much of a prig. Still, the story is rather dense, with a lot of characters to track. I had to print off a character list – it really annoys me when authors have huge, complicated worlds with a zillion characters but don’t bother giving any kind of information. This series desperately needs a glossary, a drawing of how the dragon battle harnesses work, explanations about the different kinds of dragons, and character lists. I think the main reason it annoys me is that I know the author has to have these things in order to write the story, so why not share so the rest of us can get our heads around what you’re writing??? A solid story, and I am planning to continue the series, but I do keep kind of putting off book three, so that may be an indication of how much I am really enjoying these haha
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart – 4*
I really love The Secret Benedict Society books, and this story (by the same author) has a similar vibe. Reuben and his mother are on their own, and struggling financially. Reuben’s mother has to work two jobs, which means Reuben spends a lot of time on his own, exploring the city even though he’s supposed to stick to approved areas. One day, he discovers a mysterious device. While trying to find out what it is and how it works, he gets drawn into a complicated plot as it becomes apparent that he isn’t the only person who wants this item. There were times that this story dragged a little, or that Reuben made such a cloth-headed decision that I wanted to bop him on the head, but overall this was a fun middle grade read with a likable protagonist and plenty of excitement to keep the pages turning. And nothing like a villain who can go invisible to keep things scary!
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – 4*
I thoroughly enjoyed my reread of this one. As a kid, I remember thinking it was exciting and full of adventures. As an adult, I was absolutely terrified by everything they went through! And sometimes frustrated with the parents who made some decisions that I found a little questionable, all things considered. It was very interesting to read this with the Litsy group, as a few of our fellow readers were so inclined to take offense at everything that I was a smidge confused as to why they were reading this book to begin with. While yes, Ma especially had a strong prejudice against the Native Americans in the region (and I realize that they were illegally homesteading in Indian Territory), I was honestly amazed at how callous some of the modern readers were about the very real dangers and fears the family faced. In particular, there is one chapter where Pa has had to ride to the nearest town, a multi-day journey, leaving Ma and three small girls all alone in their cabin. Two Native American men come into the house, force Ma to cook them dinner, stead multiple things from the home, and leave. Several of our readers had the audacity to think Ma had overreacted by being absolutely terrified by this event! Setting aside race, in what world is it not absolutely horrifying to imagine two strange men, who don’t even speak the same language as you, coming into your home where it is just you and your three small daughters and no way of protecting yourself?? Personally, I think there is simply a great deal to discuss and learn from in this story, as from other historical pieces. The Ingalls’s story is only one side of the story, yes, but it IS a side and still worth understanding, as is the perspective of the native people whose land was being stolen at the time. Both are valid and both are a real part of our history. All I know is that I would have spent all of my time perpetually petrified by all the dangers to be faced!
Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts – 4*
Wow, this was kind of a tough one. It’s a great story and I really grew attached to the characters. However, the material is tough to get through – the story starts with a terrifying killing spree, with three teens shooting up a busy shopping mall. This part of the story is handled well – it didn’t feel unnecessarily gruesome, but it did capture the absolute horror and helplessness of the victims. The story then jumps forward in time, focusing on the lives of two of the people who lived through the event – one young man who went into law enforcement because of his experience that night, and a young woman who was one of the first people to call 911 during the shooting. The biggest reason that I don’t see myself rereading this one is because the whole point is that the mastermind behind the shooting wasn’t actually there that night – and now is going on to kill people who survived that night who “should” have died. The shooting itself was pretty horrific, but then to watch people who survived and changed their lives after living through it still get senselessly murdered – that was just so hard to read. It made for a great, suspenseful story, but parts of it were just so incredibly sad. In some ways, this was one of my favorite of her books that I’ve read, just because it was written so well, with the sensitive material handled deftly, but I doubt it’s one that I’ll revisit.
The Provincial Lady in London by E.M. Delafield – 3.5*
In completely contrast to Shelter in Place are the lighthearted adventures of the Provincial Lady. In this, the second volume, the PL has come into some money from selling her first book (Diary of a Provincial Lady) and is convinced by her friends that she should rent a small flat in London where she can escape from the daily cares of life and focus on writing her second book – except every time she goes to London, she seems to get more distracted than ever! I read the first volume of this series with the Traveling Book Club, and because the same group of us decided to read together again for another round, we chose this second volume as one of our books. However, this one fell just a little flat – some of the situations felt a little forced, and it’s obviously that the PL has learned nothing when it comes to things like living with her budget, appreciating her life, and not trying to impress others by exaggerating her accomplishments! I did enjoy parts of this – there were some very fun little shenanigans and whatnot, but it lacked some of the sparkle that the first volume had, and the little undertone of bitterness and discontent that would flash from time to time in the first book felt even more prevalent here. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the third volume – although in it the PL does come to America! – and even though I’m reading with this same group of ladies for another round of Traveling Book Club, we decided not to continue the PL’s adventures together.