August Minireviews – Part 1

I’m SO determined to actually catch up on reviews!!!

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 Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley – 3.5*

This is a really fun, although honestly pretty straightforward, variation of the Robin Hood story that I overall really enjoyed.  However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the way McKinley decided to end her story, so it left me with mixed feelings on the whole.  This was one of her books that I read a really long time ago and couldn’t really remember, but I don’t particularly see myself revisiting it again any time soon.  It just didn’t have any zing.

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson – 4*

I read this one for the traveling book club and loved it!  It definitely had some eye-rolling moments, and got a little melodramatic at the end, but on the whole it was just delightfully fun fluff with main characters that I totally shipped.  And this one was super swoony without being sexy, which I really appreciated.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens – 3*

This one sounded fun but just didn’t pan out, mainly because multiple murders plus a lot of discussion about illegitimate children felt inappropriate for the middle-grade age range for which this book is written.  The main character, Daisy, is a bit of a bully (in my opinion) and I didn’t feel like she treated Hazel, the narrator, very well, often making rather snide comments or pressuring Hazel to do things that made her uncomfortable.  Daisy is one of the popular girls at the boarding school, so a lot of Hazel’s hero-worship felt awkward to me, like she was willing to let a lot of Daisy’s actions slide so that Daisy would keep liking her.

On the other hand, this is the first book in a series, so maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t enjoy this one – nine books off the TBR with minimal effort!!

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling – 4.5*

This is actually one of my favorites (maybe even THE favorite) of the series. I absolutely love world-building and backstory, which is a huge part of what this book is all about. I love learning about the horcruxes and Voldemort’s background.  It’s a sort of calm-before-the-storm book that I really enjoy reading every time.

Sail Away by Lisa Jackson – 2.5*

This one and the next book, Million Dollar Baby, were in one volume that I got in a big box of mystery and romance books that someone on Litsy sent to me a while back.  Sail Away was pretty terrible.  Marnie’s dad really wants her to marry this dude named Kent, and Kent and Marnie were even engaged for a while.  Marnie broke it off when she found out that (surprise surprise) Kent was cheating on her.  The problem is, she never told her dad so he keeps going on and on about how Kent is perfect for Marnie and blah blah blah and like Marnie’s dad really loves her a lot and made zero sense for her not to just tell her dad that Kent is actually a secret sleezeball and she’s never going to marry him, because her dad would have totally been on her side if she had just told him the truth!  So that just super annoyed me the entire time that she wouldn’t just have this one basic conversation with him.  Meantime, the “good” love interest, Adam, was just really pushy and annoying as well.  In romance novels I can usually give a little leeway to the “he grabbed her and kissed her” routine, but I felt like Adam was just too far.  He was constantly forcing her to “submit” to his kisses, like she would be mad and he would just start kissing her until she gave up – it felt really uncomfortable to me.  In the end, a combination of annoying characters and not really being able to ship Marnie and Adam meant that I didn’t really enjoy this one all that much.

Million Dollar Baby by Lisa Jackson – 3.5*

But did not enjoying Sail Away keep me from reading the other book in that volume, Million Dollar Baby?  No, no it did not, because I have a problem haha  This one was more regular cheesy romance, with a woman with a mysterious past finding an abandoned baby in her barn, which forces her to connect with the local (ruggedly handsome) ER doctor.  This one was a bit melodramatic for my personal taste, but not a bad one-off read.

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan – 3.5*

Quite a while ago I read The Joy Luck Club by this author, which was one of those books I wasn’t exactly expecting to enjoy but then did, so I’ve had a few of Tan’s other books on my TBR since then.  Like The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetter’s Daughter explores themes of motherhood/daughterhood in a way that feels poignant and realistic.  I found myself drawn into this story and genuinely concerned about LuLing, and felt that the dual timeline aspect of the story was handled really well.  While I did find this one to be really well-written, it was soooo sad that I can’t exactly say that I enjoyed it.  It was a worthwhile read, but left me feeling a bit depressed.

Persuasion by Jane Austen – 5*

I really love this novel so much, and rereading it was a delight.  I’m not always a huge fan of the “second chance” romance just because it seems so sad that so many years have been wasted on misunderstanding each other, but Austen’s story just brings me a lot of happiness.

Persuasion // by Jane Austen

//published 1817//

I’m positive that I read Persuasion somewhere back in the mists of time, but it had been years, and possibly decades, since I read it.  So, when my sister asked if I wanted to read it along with her, I said sure!  Especially since I had a shiny new copy that I’d purchased for my birthday back in 2016 and never got around to reading!

Persuasion is actually my sister’s favorite Austen, mainly because it employs one of her favorite tropes – lovers reunited after a space of time.  Funnily enough, that’s one of my LEAST favorite tropes.  Mary Rose (my sister) sees the romance in two people still loving each other after that time apart.  I just see the years wasted because someone, or both someones, weren’t willing to fix the problem – which probably illustrates the differences between our personalities haha

At any rate, I quite enjoyed my reread of this one.  It had been so long since I had read it, that I couldn’t remember exactly how events unfolded.  In brief, in case you, like me, don’t really remember, the story is about Anne Elliot, who lives with her father and her older sister.  Her father, a baronet, is rather a silly man, quite stuck on himself, and the older sister, Elizabeth, fits the same mold.  Lady Elliot passed away several years before the story opens.  There is a younger sister, Mary, who is married and lives a couple of miles away.  The Elliots’ neighbor and close friend is Lady Russell, who is especially fond of, and influential over, Anne.  In general, Anne is rather underappreciated and overlooked by her family, as she is a quiet, unassuming, helpful person past the blush of her first youth.

When Anne was but 19, she fell in love with a young sailor, Frederick Wentworth.  Frederick wanted Anne to marry him, but Anne allowed herself to be persuaded by Lady Russell, and by the overall sense of disapproval of her father and sisters, to say no.  Frederick left in a huff, and in the intervening eight years has gone on to become successful and moderately wealthy, and is now a Captain.

The story opens with Sir Walter being somewhat in debt and having to lease out their ancestral hall.  Sir Walter and Elizabeth decide to stay in Bath, but Anne goes to stay with her sister Mary for a few months.  Meantime, the individuals who lease out the house turn out to be Frederick’s sister and her husband – which means that, after all these years, Anne and Frederick will come together again!  *cue dramatic music*

This is a rather quiet, domestic tale.  Unlike some of Austen’s other stories, there are no moments of grand drama (like Lydia’s elopement or the betrayal of Willoughby), yet I was still completely drawn in by the entertaining characters and subtle humor.  I didn’t find myself laughing out loud like I did while reading Northanger Abbeybut there were still plenty of entertaining moments.

I especially enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the time when Anne is staying with Mary, who lives next door to her in-laws.  Here, there is a whole lively cast of characters all virtually living together, despite their differences in personality and hobbies.  Honestly, this little paragraph reminded me so strongly of my own (large and lively) family that I couldn’t help but laugh –

It was a very fine November day, and the Miss Musgroves came through the little grounds, and stopped for no other purpose than to say, that they were going to take a long walk, and therefore concluded Mary could not like to go with them; and when Mary immediately replied, with some jealousy at not being supposed to be a good walker, “Oh, yes, I should like to join you very much, I am very fond of a long walk;” Anne felt persuaded, by the very looks of the two girls, that it was precisely what they did not wish, and admired again the sort of necessity which the family habits seemed to produce, of everything being to be communicated, and everything being to be done together, however undesired and inconvenient.

I, too, have a family in which “everything being to be communicated, and everything being to be done together,” and honestly long walks are a frequent event.  And no matter how much you’d rather not have the entire family along, there seems to be some compulsion to invite everyone!

At any rate, Anne’s story unfolds gently and steadily.  She’s a very likable and relatable heroine, and I was glad that she eventually landed her happily ever after.  I do feel that she and Frederick have a very good chance of making a go of it, having tested their love through separation, and having matured past the impulsiveness and sensitivity of a younger age.  It did seem that once Anne and Frederick did finally talk it out, that everything immediately fell into place and then the story was over – it felt like I didn’t get to see very much interaction between the two of them.  But Frederick’s letter is everything swoonworthy for sure – You pierce my soul.  I am half agony, half hope.  

I also very much liked that, in the end, Anne realized that, despite her sufferings, she didn’t really regret telling Frederick no originally.  She had followed her conscience, and had she gone against it, hers was the type of personality that would have always felt residual guilt over going against the advice of everyone else she loved.  Frederick also acknowledges his own folly and pride as being part of the problem, asking her if she would have accepted him if he had come back after his initial success on the sea.  Anne says that yes, she most certainly would have, and Frederick realizes that while Anne’s refusal separated them originally, it was his pride that kept them apart for so long.  The balanced blame is part of what makes me so confident in the overall success of this match.

While Persuasion isn’t my favorite of Austen’s tales, it was thoroughly enjoyable and a worthwhile read.  It’s also on the shorter side, and I was surprised at how quickly I flew through the pages.  4.5* for this classic, and highly recommended.