March Minireviews – Part 4

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.

Heartstone by Phillip Margolin – 4*

//published 1978//

I’m still working my way through Margolin’s back catalogue after the Amanda Jaffe series got me hooked on his writing.  This one was a little darker than I like, but was still just thoroughly engaging writing.  As always, my biggest complain with Margolin’s writing in general is his habit of dumping about 50 names on you in the first 50 pages without really indicating which of those names are going to be important later on.  My bookmark for a Margolin book is always an index card with names/notes on it, which is just a little ridiculous.  It  evens out as I get into the story and the main players emerge, but still.  While this isn’t one I would read again, it was definitely worth the one-time read.

On Equal Ground by Elizabeth Adams – 4*

//published 2017//

We all know that I go through kicks where all I want to read is P&P variations, and I hit a mini-kick at the end of March.  I’ve really enjoyed a couple of Adams’s other variations so I read two more lol  This was one of those ones that’s actually just a different story with the same characters.  While staying with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth catches the eye of a wealthy widower some 20 years her senior.  Adams has them marry and love each other without it feeling creepy or weird.  Of course, the reader knows that the poor man is just a plot device, and probably the biggest drawback of this book was that I actually really liked earl and thought he and Elizabeth were a great match, and I spent the entire first half of the book dreading his untimely death.  Still, it was handled really well, and Elizabeth falling in love with Darcy felt natural and was done well.  Because Elizabeth has married an earl, she actually outranks Darcy in both class and wealth, so the big twist here is a difference in their prejudices from the original.  This wasn’t my new favorite, and it’s definitely a little more thoughtful than a lot of P&P variations tend to be, but I overall really enjoyed this one.  NB, this one didn’t have any explicit sex scenes, either, which was super nice.

The 26th of November by Elizabeth Adams – 4.5*

//published 2018//

A mashup of P&P and Groundhog Day??  Sign me up!  The best part of the Netherfield Ball from Elizabeth’s perspective – when it’s OVER!  So it’s rather unfortunately that, for some reason, she has to keep living that same day, including the dreadful ball, over and over again.  This is a very lighthearted variation, so don’t expect a lot of life philosophy, but I really enjoyed watching Elizabeth try to figure out why she is having this experience, and wondering if she’s supposed to “fix” something so that she can move on.  This was an entertaining way for her to come to grips with some her prejudices and blind spots.  Darcy isn’t living the same day over and over, but because his interaction with Elizabeth is different each time, he also has some changes of character as well.  The ending is the whole final rendition of November 26 from Darcy’s perspective, so it was a little repetitive, but still interesting to see what, from his view, was just one day.  If you’re looking for a low-angst P&P variation with some definite funny moments, this one is totally worth a read.

Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon by Maria Grace – DNF

//published 2016//

Usually I review DNFs at the end of the month, but I feel like I’m on a P&P roll here.  I gave this one up about halfway through the story, despite loving the concept of an England full of dragons, with each estate having a dragon guardian.  However, the story itself was sooooo slow.  Everyone was spending all their time bickering and arguing (including the dragons) and Mr. Bennet was an absolutely GRUMP.  There were random chunks of the original P&P just plunked in here and there, which really disrupted the flow of the story.  I was already getting over the way no one in this version was likable, and threw in the towel when Mr. Bennet very condescendingly told Elizabeth that a man would be able to do her job better.  It was just so completely out of character for Mr. Bennet to say something so derogatory to Elizabeth, and the way he said it was just beyond insulting and rude.  Even my high tolerance for bad P&P variations was over this one.

Darcy Comes to Rosings by Andrea David – 3*

//published 2018//

Technically, this was the first book I finished in April, but like I said, I feel like I’m on a P&P roll haha  This one was a classic tale of two halves.  The first half of the story takes place at Rosings during Elizabeth’s visit to Charlotte.  However, Darcy and Elizabeth end up with a few more opportunities to converse, and Charlotte takes a much more proactive role in encouraging romance between the two.  This part of the story was really engaging and I felt like it actually totally fit Charlotte’s character as well.  But then I hit the second half, after Darcy and Elizabeth get engaged.  All of a sudden, it was page after page of Elizabeth panicking and stressing out that she’s not good/rich enough for Darcy, going on and on and on and on and on despite reassurances from everyone.  It was sooo repetitive and boring and I honestly didn’t feel like it was resolved all that well.  I just found it hard to believe that saucy, self-confident Elizabeth, who was willing to write off Darcy for being a jerk in the original, would spend so much time agonizing about her self-worth.  Lame.

October Minireviews – Part 1

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.

Oh look, it’s November and I’m just starting to review the books I read in October!!! :-D

Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery – 5*

//published 1939//

Some people complain about this book not “fitting” with the rest of the series since this one (along with Anne of Windy Poplars) was written out of order, but I never knew that until a few years ago and I’ve always loved this one. While the focus shifts off of Anne and onto her children for the most part, it’s still a lighthearted and happy book. I really appreciate that Montgomery didn’t find it necessary to give Anne a horrible life, or make her and Gilbert unhappy together later – instead, they continue to grow together, and now have a whole houseful of little ones as well. A thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series.

My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis – 3.5*

//published 2015//

When I started reading Second Chance Summer, I didn’t realize it was the first book in a series, so it took a minute for the second and third books to come in at the library. While I really enjoyed returning to Cedar Ridge, Colorado, I didn’t find this one quite as engaging as the first book, mainly because I was seriously distracted by the fact that the whole reason that Bailey is at the lodge is so she can paint a mural… outside… in the middle of winter… in the Colorado mountains… ????? I don’t feel like any kind of paint would work under these conditions??? There’s even one point where she finishes the mural in the dark???

Aside from sketchy connections to reality, it was still a perfectly enjoyable piece of fluff romance. There are a few too many sexy times for me, but otherwise a fun little read.

Nobody But You by Jill Shalvis – 3*

//published 2016//

Sadly, the third book in the series was my least favorite, mainly because it was just… boring. Nothing really happens. Sophie’s divorced and she ended up with her husband’s boat, mainly to tick him off (despite the fact that she didn’t get anything else…) and since she’s broke, she has to live on it. So she’s wandering around in the boat working random temp jobs around the lake while intermittently running into another one of the siblings from Cedar Ridge Lodge, who is suitably hot and awesome. It wasn’t a bad book exactly, just really unexciting. I was never interested to pick it up after I had set it down, but wanted to finish the series itself. I was also annoyed when the big conflict between the main characters is Sophie accusing Jacob of lying to her… when he literally didn’t. When they first met, Sophie thinks he’s a Lake Patrol Officer, but she never actually says that to Jacob, so he doesn’t even know that that’s what she thinks. Later, she gets mad at him for “lying” to her about being an officer??? And his response is to be all apologetic?! My response would have been, Wow this chick is crazy, no thank you.

Not a bad story, but an overall rather apathetic ending to the trilogy.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – 5*

//published 1813// And yes, I totally got the Chiltern edition – SO worth it!!!! //

Since I love reading P&P variations of all kinds, it seemed like I was overdue on a reread of the original story. There isn’t much I can say here that hasn’t already been said – it’s a really fabulous novel with fun characters, an entertaining story, and plenty of romance. I always forget how delightfully snarky Austen is. This classic is definitely worthy of that title, and definitely worth a read.

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie – 4*

//published 1930//

This is the first appearance of Miss Marple, an elderly spinster who lives in the small village of St. Mary Mead. The book itself is narrated by the vicar (who is extremely likable), but Miss Marple drifts in and out of the story a great deal with her habit of observing everything that is going on and drawing out similarities between situations that most people overlook. One of my biggest take-aways from the this read-through was just the reminder of how, at our core, people are basically alike, which is kind of the point of all the Miss Marple-isms. There is one big coincidence in this mystery that always is hard for me to get over, but for the most part this is a great story and an excellent place to start if you’ve never read a Miss Marple tale.

April Minireviews (in May) – Part 2

I’m back, with more exciting minireviews!

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg – 3.5*

//published 2017//

This was a book I read as part of the traveling book club on Litsy (#LMPBC).  It’s the kind of sappy historical fiction that I wouldn’t normally read on my own.  In the present, Doris is super old and weak and struggling to live on her own in………… wow, I’ve blanked.  Sweden, I think.  In the meantime, she’s writing a letter to her niece (Doris doesn’t have any children of her own) telling the story of her life.  The pacing was good, and while I’m not always a fan of the dual timeline, it worked decently here.  I also liked that the story was about Doris while she was still alive, rather than her niece discovering everything after Doris had already died.  It allowed for some actual resolution of some of the things that were happening in the past timeline.

HOWEVER (and there are going to be spoilers in this paragraph) I did NOT buy the true love/star-crossed lovers bit between Doris and Allan.  Allan went on to get married not just once, but TWICE – not exactly the actions of someone whose heart has been broken beyond repair.  Doris dropped everything in her life, abandoning people who actually loved and needed her, on multiple occasions to be with Allan (despite it not working out before).  I especially didn’t understand why she felt like her niece, as a little girl, really needed her, yet never moved back to the US permanently.  It just didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Part of it is probably just that I have a completely different personality type than Doris.  I wouldn’t have made basically any of the decisions that she made, so I found her tedious after a while.  Still, this wasn’t a bad story.  For me, a bit too sappy/plot twists just for the sake of screwing with your emotions, but some people like that kind of thing.

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan – 4*

//published 2013//

I’ve been meaning to read this series for quite some time.  Set in Victorian-ish times except not in our world, Isabella is an aristocrat who yearns to break free of society’s constraints so that she can devote her life to science and the study of dragons.  This book is written as though Isabella is publishing her memoirs at a much later date, which worked for the most part, although she has an aggravating habit of referring readers to other works that, of course, don’t actually exist.  This one started slow with a lot about Isabella’s childhood and whatnot.  Luckily, she has a father who cares about her, so when it’s time for her to find a husband, he gathers together a list of eligible young men who he thinks will allow Isabella to at least somewhat continue her studies.  She manages to marry one of these guys and FINALLY the action begins when she convinces her husband to allow her to travel with him as a group heads to a foreign country to study dragons.

There was a lot to like here, which is why I ended up with a 4* rating.  The overall concept is fantastic and the writing is fairly good.  Once Isabella finally makes it to where the dragons live, the pace picks up a lot, with just enough mystery to keep things rolling.  To me, the biggest negative (besides the absurdly unnecessary death of a beloved character at the end – still mad about that) was that this book needed to be set in an alternate universe of our world.  It’s obvious that Brennan is using large parts of England and Europe as a basis for her world’s geography – why not just USE THEM and then everything would make more sense.  Then there wouldn’t have to be so much time spent on boring backgrounds of politics and government (which got significantly worse int he second book).  It would be obvious how far apart things are, giving a sense of distance and time.  Languages would make sense.  EVERYTHING would make more sense.  Creating a completely different world that is basically just the same as ours except with a bunch of different countries and names just made this story unnecessarily confusing.  Overall a pick, but a somewhat aggravated one.

His Good Opinion by Nancy Kelley – 4*

//published 2011//

This is a super straight Pride & Prejudice variation – it’s literally just Darcy’s perspective of the whole book.  It’s done really well and is a nice companion piece, but it lacks Austen’s sparkle.  Part of it is Darcy himself – he’s kind of the straight guy, so to speak, so his inner dialogue isn’t exactly full of jokes, but I always get the impression that Darcy has a lot of snark under his stiff exterior, and that wasn’t in this book at all.  The other big thing this book lacked was any kind of background about Darcy – the author had a great opportunity to show us how Darcy became the man that he is, even if it’s through flashbacks or something, but no – this book starts with Darcy discovering Georgianna’s almost-elopement in Ramsgate and goes from there.  While I’m sticking with my 4* rating for solid writing, this book had a lot of potential that it just didn’t capitalize on.

Washington Wolves Series by Karla Sorensen

  • The Bombshell Effect (4*)
  • The Ex Effect (3.5*)
  • The Marriage Effect (4.5*)

Let me just preface this one by saying these books are kind of trashy.  There’s a decent amount of sex in them and they’re overall pure brain candy.  But sometimes I NEED some pure brain candy, and although these were sexier than I prefer, I really enjoyed the characters and stories, and liked the way the trilogy came together as a whole.

The stories focus on a (fictional) professional football team, the Washington Wolves.  In the first book, the owner of the team dies and his daughter ends up inheriting it.  Of course, some of the team members are nervous about having a random woman in control of their livelihood, especially the star quarterback.  For anyone who reads romance, it’s not going to be a surprise that the quarterback falls for the new owner, but Sorensen does a great job of writing this enemies-to-loves trope and I totally enjoyed it.

The second book was my least favorite of the three, mainly because the main character was my least favorite of three and tended to make what I considered to be dumb decisions, but it was still a good time.

The third book was my favorite, possibly because it employed my all-time favorite trope, marriage of convenience.  It’s done super well here, and there was actually a decent amount of depth concerning the children involved and trying to make things work together.

There’s also going to be a spin-off series from this one. So far only one book has been published (Focused), which I of course also read and enjoyed.

Like I said, these aren’t stellar, thought-provoking reads, but if you’re looking for plain old zone-out relaxation, and don’t mind the sexy times, these were pretty fun.

March Minireviews – Part 1

Wow, friends, it has been over a month since I posted here!  I would love to be able to give you some dramatic reason why, but the truth of the matter is that my brother introduced me to the joys of playing Stardew Valley and I have become a total addict.  So most of my extra computer time is spent doing chores on my computer farm that I also do in real life.  I may need help! :D

Anyway, I have been reading, even if I haven’t been reviewing.  I’m going to see if I can get a few batches of minireviews out the door and get somewhat caught up.  I never even got around to doing a February Rearview, and now it’s time for March’s!  I haven’t READ a single blog post in weeks!  I really miss all of you and am sad that I have no idea what is going on in your lives!

Since I last posted, all the corona craziness began.  At this point, I’m still considered an “essential” worker (agriculture) so I have been super busy at work.  We aren’t exactly sure what is going to happen with all the plants we are transplanting (most of our business is wholesale and thus dependent on what our customers decide/are required to do) but we are still transplanting them like crazy!!  Despite the stress of everyday life right now, and even though working in a greenhouse can sometimes be stupidly hot and frustrating, I still really like it there and love coming home smelling like basil and lavender, since the majority of the plants we raise are herbs.

Anyway, that’s the skinny.  Here are some book reviews, and maybe I’ll post some more soon…

Well Met by Jen DeLuca – 4* – read February 8

//published 2019//

This is a happy little piece of chick lit, although it’s a bit obvious that it’s a debut as well, as there were places where the story dragged a bit.  The setting – a Renaissance fair – was fun, unique, and done well.  Anyone who has ever worked behind the scenes for an event even somewhat similar to this will find plenty to relate to.  Emily was a likable character, although a bit slow on the uptake at times.  However, I had mixed feelings about Simon.  The idea is that he’s a bit strict and cranky in real life, but when he is playing his character he becomes more more relaxed and dashing… okay, except that still leaves him being a bit of a jerk the rest of the time, and I wasn’t ever quite convinced that the relaxed and dashing version was the “real” Simon, if that makes sense.  I also get annoyed when a female character complains about men “ogling” women, but then proceeds to go on and on and ON about how attractive a man is.

Still, this was overall a great deal of fun, and I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel.

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead – 2.5* – read February 11

//published 1999//

This is a book I picked up for Litsy’s #AuthoraMonth challenge – each month all the participants try to read at least one book by that month’s author.  I hadn’t read anything by Colson before, but was rather attracted to the premise of an elevator inspector, simply because of the complete randomness of it.  However, I just never really got into this story.  Long stretches of it were incredibly boring and wordy.  The whole things feels like an overwrought allegory, with Whitehead trying to make some kind of point about racism but never actually getting there.  Also, I’m not sure if it’s just because of my ignorance about elevators, but it was really hard to tell where reality stopped and Whitehead’s made-up world began, which added to the confusion of the story (for me, anyway).  I also always get aggravated when people mix up racism and classism – was the character really being ignored because she was black, or was she being ignored because she was a waitress?  Because whenever she was dressed in her professional suit/office attire, everyone paid attention to her as much as anyone else, so it seems like the difference was the societal position, not the color of her skin.

At any rate, this was an alright read, but not one that remotely encouraged me to pick up another of Whitehead’s books, despite glowing reviews for several others that I saw on Litsy, especially for his most recent release, The Underground Railroad.  I’m really just not a fan of serious novels that work too hard to make a point, and this definitely fell into that category.

Particular Intentions by L.L. Diamond – 4* – read February 12

//published 2016//

We all know that I love P&P variations.  In this one, Elizabeth overhears Darcy and Bingley discussing the Bennett family, and Darcy actually defends them, rather than insults them, meaning that Elizabeth becomes much more open to Darcy as a person.  This was a fun little romp of a variation.  However, there was a lot of missed potential with the Wickham angle – instead, Diamond decides to create all her drama with some random chick who is desperate to marry Darcy, and that all felt unrealistic and melodramatic.  Overall, though, the characters were likable and the story not too terrible.

Particular Attachments by L.L. Diamond – 3.5* – read February 13

This is the sequel to Particular Intentions, set after Darcy and Elizabeth are married, and focusing more on Georgianna.  This one was a lot slower than the other.  Basically, this fellow shows up whose family has known the Darcys for a long time and he has always secretly been in love with Georgianna.  However, his life-long devotion seemed a little unbelievable since he hasn’t really seen her much since she was basically a little girl.  I could have understood him wanting to get to know her better, but to immediately jump to “We were meant for each other and I’ve never loved another!” just made me roll my eyes.  A lot.  The middle of the book dragged, with Georgianna dithering about telling Nathaniel about Wickham – because obviously Nathaniel isn’t going to actually reject her no matter what she says, so that all felt a tad overwrought.  Still, a perfectly pleasant sequel, even if it wasn’t anything groundbreaking.

Falling for Mr. Darcy by Karalynne MacRory – 3.5* – read February 17

I tend to read multiple P&P variations in a row, and this one was on Kindle Unlimited so I picked it up, since I had read another MacRory variation before and enjoyed it.  This one was fine, but not particularly memorable.  Elizabeth hurts her ankle while on a walk, and Darcy is the one who finds and rescues her, which means they actually have a conversation like adults.  It also means that Elizabeth doesn’t walk into town and meet Wickham.  This was fine for a KU read, but one I was glad I hadn’t spent any money to read.

The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy – 4* – read February 20

//published 2012//

I don’t exactly remember where I heard about this book, but I ended up being quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Part of my enjoyment was because I really enjoy animal stories (think Black Beauty, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, etc.).  Set in India, this story is about a clan of stray cats who live there.  Cats can communicate with one another even over a reasonable distance via the “whisker network” but every once in a while a cat is born who is called a Sender, who can communicate not just with other cats, but with all other animals, over far great distances.  At the beginning of the story, a Sender appears in the clan’s territory, causing much consternation, especially since the legend is that Senders are only born during times of great needs – and the clan is actually experiencing a time of great prosperity.  Meanwhile, there is a creepy house in the middle of the territory where an old man lives with his band of house cats, who are all terrifyingly evil.  Roy does an amazing job pacing this story, and while her cats may talk with one another, they never behave in any way other than how cats would behave, which makes the story believable at some level.  I was completely caught up in this adventure, and actually have the sequel on my shelf to read very soon.

Lucky Caller by Emma Mills – 3.5* – read February 21

//published 2020//

While I have enjoyed a lot of Mills’s other books, this one didn’t really spark anything for me.  It almost felt like Mills had an idea for a story, but then rushed to finish it and left some stuff just dangling.  A lot of the concepts were really disjointed, and the whole point of the story – the radio program – was really underdeveloped.  Even the tie-in to the title was a little weak, and there was a whole side story with Nina’s sister that just kind of … was there.  This is probably my least favorite of her books so far.  It wasn’t bad, it was just pretty meh, and even the moments of friendly banter – the reason I always come back to Mills’s books – wasn’t quite enough to bring this up any further in my ratings.

Also, as a side note, I was also sad to see a departure of the cover style of all of Mills’s other books.

September Minireviews – Part 2

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.

Still trying to catch up on at least SOME of the books I read this month!!

Three Fates by Nora Roberts – 4*

//published 2002//

This book had excellent pacing and interesting characters, although it was a little slow to start.  I liked the thriller aspect of it, with everyone dashing around and trying to find the statues.  It’s a little heavy on coincidences, but Roberts honestly weaves that into the story, as I really liked the way she incorporate the concept of fate and also the story of The Fates (the myth) into what was happening.  There was one quote in particular I liked – ” [The Fates looked at me.] The first, who held a spindle, spoke. ‘I spin the thread, but you make it what you will.’ The second held a silver tape for measuring and said, ‘I mark the length, but you use the time.’ And the third, with her silver scissors, told me this. ‘I cut the thread, for nothing should last forever. Don’t waste what you’re given.’ “

Engaging Mr. Darcy by Rachel John – 4*

//published 2018//

This was a fun little modern adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that I quite enjoyed.  I really liked the way the author decided to update some of the situations, especially with why Mr. Bennet is a lax father, Lydia’s behavior, and how Wickham played into everything.  For some reason, the author decided to randomly change the first names of the some of the characters from those in the original, but not all of them, which felt a little jarring at times.  Overall, though, this was a fun little romp.

Arabella by Georgette Heyer – 4.5*

//published 1949//

This was a reread from quite a while back, so I didn’t really remember any of the story.  However, it was just as delightful as I’ve come to depend on Heyer being.  I loved Arabella and all of the other characters.  I was on vacation while I was reading this one, and it was just perfect.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – 3*

//published 2016//

This book totally had me hooked while I was reading it, but left me feeling a little disappointed and confused.  The whole thing was just way, way too elaborate.  I was mostly left wondering why, if you were going to murder someone, you would EVER choose this way of going about it?!  The ending was quite jumbled and depended entirely upon luck.  So while this was fun while I was reading it, it definitely didn’t blow me away.  I’m still planning to check out more of Ware’s work, though.

First & Then by Emma Mills – 3.5*

//published 2015//

It’s ironic, since this was Mills’s first novel, but if I had read this first, I’m not sure I would have bothered to pick up her other books, all of which I’ve loved.  It’s not that this one is bad, because it’s actually a perfectly nice book.  However, it doesn’t particularly stand out – just kind of regular YA lightly-angsty story, lacking the delightful snark and close group of friends that has drawn me to the author’s stories.  Still, this was overall a well-written and thoughtful story that I did enjoy, with characters that I liked.  I appreciate the way that Mills manages to create high school characters who basically learn to look beyond themselves, recognizing that they are actually a small piece in a much larger puzzle.  To me, that should be the lesson you learn in high school – that life doesn’t revolve around you – and Mills manages to do that in each of her stories, yet in a different and engaging way each time.

Pride & Prejudice Variations (again)

Greetings, friends!  Spring is busy as always, which means that blogging takes a bit of a backseat to the rest of my life.  Yesterday I bought some more plants, not because I have an addiction, but because it’s spring and I have to buy plants.  ::shifty eyes::  In case you’re interested (you know you are), I was mainly buying some little bedding annuals to go into containers – verbena, impatiens, salvia, lobelia.  I also got some floating plants for the fish pond, a critical part of keeping the pond at least somewhat clean.  This is both great and also sad because now it means I need to take a day and empty the whole pond and clean it and then refill it.  Funny story, ever since I started getting floating plants every year, I’ve never had to feed our fish.  The fish eat the roots of the floating plants, the floating plants eat all the fish waste, and our pond is just a mini circle of life!

ANYWAY did you actually want to hear about some books??  Spring always makes me feel like reading some fluffy stuff, so here are a few P&P variations I read recently.  All three of them are available on Kindle Unlimited if you’re interested – I like to get KU for a month or so at a time and soak up the P&P haha

Duty Demands by Elaine Owen – 4*

//published 2016//

So I actually really enjoyed this variation (although the cover is rather dreadful).  It starts while Elizabeth is visiting Charlotte in Kent.  Before Darcy’s proposal, Elizabeth receives word that her father has fallen very ill.  He dies before she gets back home.  A few days later, Darcy, via Uncle Gardiner, offers his hand in marriage.  Elizabeth accepts, knowing that this is probably the only way that her family can stay together.  However, she has no idea that love was the motivation behind Darcy’s offer.  Her uncle says he assumes that Darcy is pleased to find a quiet country miss who will basically do his bidding and not make too many demands on his time or purse.  So their marriage begins with Darcy in love – and assuming that Elizabeth at least likes him, since he didn’t receive a severe set-down in Kent, and Elizabeth still completely prejudiced against Darcy and assuming the worst of his motives at every turn.

What I liked here was that the angst felt realistic instead of overly-dramatic.  There weren’t a bunch of horrific villains lurking around every corner.  Instead, Darcy and Elizabeth have to find their way through their misunderstandings together.  This was also a clean retelling, so while there are mentions of the marital bed, there is nothing detailed, which was nice.  All in all a surprisingly pleasant retelling, although a bit towards the soap-opera end of the spectrum.

Miss Darcy’s Companion by Joana Starnes – 4*

//published 2016//

I’ve read a couple of Starnes’s other retellings with mixed results (quite enjoyed The Falmouth Connectionbut The Second Chance was SO boring).  This one was overall enjoyable, although it’s more of an alternate storyline than an actual variation, as nothing really happens the way it does in canon.  Instead, Mr. Bennet has already died before the story opens and through a series of events, Elizabeth ends up working for Darcy as Georgianna’s companion.  I really enjoyed watching the friendship between all three of them grow, and the love story between Elizabeth and Darcy felt natural.  This series of events meant that there wasn’t really a time where Elizabeth didn’t like Darcy, but it did also mean that there was more of a class distinction between them to make things awkward.

Eventually, Darcy goes to London to wrestle with his feelings and decide what he should do about Elizabeth.  While he’s gone, an old family friend begins dropping by and being super smarmy – our old buddy Wickham.  All of the Wickham drama actually felt completely natural for once, and I was genuinely caught up in the WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN bit.  There was a little bit of over-the-top-ness, but overall this was a fun and engaging story with likable characters.  It was also another G-rated version, which, I may have mentioned, is always nice.

Mr. Darcy Dances by Sophie Lynbrook – 3.5*

//published 2017//

A few of Lynbrook’s other variations have also come my way – Lizzy’s Novel was a great concept that felt like it needed a bit more meat to it, and An Odd Situation was also a likable story, although one that really needed more of Elizabeth’s perspective to round it out.  In Mr. Darcy Dances, the story opens with the assembly, except instead of standing around being a snob, Darcy dances every dance!  Throughout the evening, we know that Darcy is determined to annoy Miss Bingley as much as he can, but we aren’t sure exactly why…

This story was a fun play on Elizabeth’s dislike of Darcy, as here she thinks him a rather obnoxious fop.  While I did quite enjoy a lot of things about this version – it was quite fun to have a version that takes place entirely in Hertfordshire with the entire Bennet crew – I was never able to quite buy Darcy unbending to extent that he did during that first evening.  This was another clean version, so it’s good to know that more of those are taking over this genre.

April Minireviews – Part 3

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.

More minireviews… apparently I’ve been reading a lot of books that don’t inspire strong feelings.  Or the weather is so perfect that I’m spending way more time outside in the garden than I am inside blogging.  :-D

Solace Island by Meg Tilly – 3.5*

//published 2017//

In my mind this was going to be more thriller than romance, but it’s more romance than thriller.  There are also several scenes of sexy times, which I wasn’t expecting either.  The romance part was pretty happy, and I liked both of the main characters, although they were pretty instalovey – and in some ways it wasn’t even the instalove that bothered me as much as Maggie just telling Luke everything about her horrible ex-fiancé on basically their first date.  The thriller part kind of spiraled from the realm of slightly unbelievable to completely unbelievable, but it did move everything along.  All in all, not a book I want to reread, but I enjoyed it enough to read the sequel about Maggie’s sister, which is coming out sometime this spring.

Six Months Later by Natalie Richards – 3.5*

//published 2013//

Chloe, an average student with an average life, falls asleep in study hall one May afternoon.  When she wakes up, it’s November and she can’t remember the last six months.  But somehow, during that time she’s started dating one of the most popular guys in school, has turned into a star student, and scored ridiculously high on her SAT, meaning that she’s being courted by several fancy colleges.  Unfortunately, Chloe’s best friend is no longer her friend, Chloe likes the resident bad guy more than her perfect boyfriend, and nothing about the missing six months seems to match Chloe’s personality…

This book had a really fun premise and was overall done well, but there were some clunky parts that left me feeling like this book could have used one more round of ruthless editing to really make it shine.  There were some parts where the motivation of various characters stuttered a bit, and the ending seemed very rushed.  But overall I really liked Chloe and I also appreciated when she frequently told people about her problems instead of just trying to do everything/figure everything out by herself.  I think a little more time spent before she falls asleep and loses time would have helped to emphasize how different her life was when she woke up, especially regarding Adam, the “bad boy” – like I know nothing about this guy, so I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t just dump the other guy and start dating Adam.  One sentence about him being a troublemaker isn’t really enough to give me a feel for the relationship Chloe and Adam had before all this started.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun thriller-esq read, Six Months Later fits the bill.  But if you’re looking for a story where everything is polished and flows perfectly, you may want to give this one a pass.

The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal – 3.5*

//published 2011//

This wasn’t a bad story, but it never really felt magical to me.  I liked the concept – basically, just after her sixteenth birthday, the princess is told that she isn’t actually the princess.  Instead, the real princess has been hidden in a convent her entire life because of a prophecy that said she may be murdered before she turned 16.  So the girl who has thought she was the princess is now just plain Sindra.

I think part of the problem was it never really felt like this book knew what it wanted to do.  Sindra herself wasn’t particularly coherent, and she really exasperated me a lot.  She had a bad habit of just saying mean things to people whenever she was feeling frustrated with life, and frequently had a very woe-is-me attitude about things.  So while this was a perfectly pleasant one-time read, it wasn’t one that made me want to dash out and see what else O’Neal has written.

Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts – 3*

//published 2012//

I really enjoy fluffy chick lit series that focus on a group of people or place, where I can get to know and enjoy different characters, so I’m always on the lookout for new ones.  I can’t remember when Icicle Falls came to my attention, but the premise of the first book is that three sisters are putting on a chocolate festival in their small town to help save their business, and it sounded like fun.  However, the execution was very choppy and scattered.  I found the main character, Samantha, to be alright at best – most of the time she was just plain obnoxious, and literally only cared about the business and not her family.  And while she spent time thinking things like “Oh I’m a terrible person who only cares about this business and not my family,” I never really felt like she changed at all.  Like in the end, the business was still the most important thing to her.

There was also supposed to be an enemies-to-friends aspect in the romance, which I usually really enjoy, but it was done quite poorly here, with basically no conversation between the two other than “You suck” and yet in the end I’m supposed to buy not just that they are happily ever after, but that the dude is loaning Samantha a crapton of money with no ulterior motives, despite the fact that she immediately falls into his arms after that…????  It felt really weird that he gave her the money to save her business and then suddenly she started dating him.

At first I was going to go ahead and try the next book in the series, but I honestly realized that I didn’t really feel that attached to anyone in this story enough to see how things go for them next.  Plus, I was really put off by the way this book ended, which lowered the entire book to a 3* rather than 3.5*.  There are a lot of chick lit series out there, so I don’t think I’m going to bother finishing this one.

Miss Lucas by A.V. Knight – 3*

//published 2018//

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I go through random, arbitrary times in life where the only thing I want to read are terrible Pride & Prejudice variations.  I just started one, and I’m here to assure that the overwhelming majority of P&P variations are, in fact, terrible.  Still!  So addictive!

This one actually focuses entirely on Charlotte Lucas – Elizabeth’s story, in the background, is following canon almost completely.  In this story, Mr. Collins doesn’t quite bring himself to propose to Charlotte – at the last minute he decides that he ought to have Lady Catherine’s permission first, since technically she sent him to propose to one of his cousins, not some random woman in Hertfordshire.  A few months later, instead of Elizabeth and (Charlotte’s sister) Maria going to visit the already-married Charlotte, Lady Catherine via Mr. Collins invites Elizabeth, Charlotte, and (Elizabeth’s sister) Mary to stay basically so she can look them over and decide who Mr. Collins should marry.  This means that Charlotte is still single when she meets Colonel Fitzwilliam…

While I did enjoy this story and really liked the overall idea (I’ve always shipped Charlotte and the Colonel), the execution was rather mediocre.  I never quite bought the romance between Charlotte and the Colonel, and the ending of the story felt very rushed.  There were also instances where it felt like the author was trying to shoehorn Charlotte into Elizabeth’s story so that we would still know what was going on with that part of the action, even implying that Charlotte and Elizabeth were closer than Elizabeth and Jane, which I think is categorically false.  So a decent little story, but one that really lacked some spark.

June Minireviews – Part 3

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!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West – 3*

//published 2013//

I’ve read a couple of Kasie West books, and I really like them.  They’re everything YA chick lit should be – fluffy, funny, a little bit ridiculous, and overall just happy.  They aren’t full of ridiculous amounts of angst or sexual dilemmas, just straightforward little stories with likable characters.  That said, this wasn’t really my favorite book, mainly because I got so tired of Cayman constantly assuming that she already knows what everyone is thinking/what their motivations are… and she’s wrong a LOT.  Consequently, all the misunderstandings seemed like they could have been avoided easily if Cayman would just USE HER WORDS and have some conversations.  Despite my aggravation with her at times, I still liked Cayman and basically everyone else as well.  Perfectly happy for a one-time read, and I really need to delve into some more of West’s back catalog.

Elizabeth Bennet’s Deception by Regina Jeffers – DNF (#20BooksofSummer)

//published 2015//

I don’t usually worry about updating you all on DNF books, but since this was on my original list for my #20BooksofSummer challenge, I thought I would let you know that it was SO terrible that I didn’t even bother finishing!  If you’re interested in the full rant, be sure to check it out on my P&P blog here.  Meanwhile, I’ve selected another book to finish out the 20 Book challenge!

The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley – 3*

//published 2016//

This was a free Kindle book that I got a while back.  This summer, when we’ve been taking the Zeppelin out for the weekend, I’ve been loading some super fluffy Kindle books so I have plenty of spares, and this one totally fit the bill.  Two friends have two bad romantic situations and decide to switch homes for a few weeks.  While I enjoyed this story while I was reading it, it didn’t really inspire me to find more of Stoneley’s books, and I don’t really see myself going back to this one.  It was a little too heavy on the “finding the right man fixes all your problems” (and I say this as someone who is happily married), and so it ended up feeling like neither of the women really grew that much – they just switched out their loser boyfriends for nice ones.  It also seemed like it ended kind of abruptly – this is definitely a book that would have benefited from a little epilogue from a few years later talking about how happy everyone is.

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle – 3*

//published 2013//

Yet another book that I really wanted to like more than I did.  While this was a perfectly pleasant sequel focusing on Mary, it was just rather unexciting.  Lydia shows up with a new scandal trailing behind her, but somehow the story just didn’t quite click together.  Many of the characters seemed rather stagnant, and I felt like Henry, in particular, was inconsistent.  I did like Mary and it wasn’t a terrible story, but not one that I particularly see myself returning to.

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse – 4*

//published 1919//

In my quest to read all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, this collection of short stories, many of which feature the Bertie/Jeeves combo, was next on the list.  While Jeeves and Bertie made their debut in another short story collection (The Man With Two Left Feet), it is here that they begin to genuinely become the individual characters that are so beloved.

Overall, this collection was much more up to classical Wodehouse levels.  While the Bertie tales were my favorites, there were some other solid little tales in this collection.  This was the first collection where it felt like Wodehouse genuinely decided that all of this worrying about being serious stuff was really nonsense, and instead just embraced the joy of happy chaos.

Swamp Cat by Jim Kjelgaard – 3.5*

//published 1957//

It had been a while since I picked up a Kjelgaard, and this was another one that I hadn’t read as a youth – so apparently our library didn’t have it!  From the title, I assumed that the story was going to be about a Florida panther or a bobcat or some other type of wild cat – but it was actually about a regular domestic cat!  Of course, Frosty isn’t really a REGULAR cat, as he learns to survive, and thrive, in the wilds.  He of course adopts a young man who lives off the land, and I quite enjoyed the parallel story of Andy and the beginnings of his muskrat farm (right??).  All in all, this was a surprisingly engaging tale.  I read it as a free Kindle book, but I would definitely like to add it to my hard-copy collection if I can find a copy.

June Minireviews – Part 2

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!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Second Chance by Joana Starnes – 3*

//published 2014//

In this P&P variation, the characters from that classic also meet up with the characters from Sense and Sensibility.  This was a book that I really wanted to like, but just didn’t.  It was boring, there wasn’t really any kind of villain, Darcy spent way too much time wandering around being morose, and the whole book was just kind of choppy.  It wasn’t horrible, but it definitely wasn’t great.

For those who are interested, there is a more detailed review over on my P&P blog here.

Planting With Perennials by Richard Bird – 3*

//published 2002//

This is a really basic introduction to perennials.  If you literally aren’t even sure what a perennial is, this would be a great place to start.  However, if you’ve worked with them at all, you probably already know most of the information in this book.  There are a lot of photographs and some nice charts.  And since this book doesn’t claim to *be* anything other than an introduction to the topic, I can’t really fault it for being just that.

Ring of Truth by Jaclyn Weist – 3*

//published 2015//

I love a good fake-relationship trope, but I have to admit that this one wasn’t really very good!  While it would have made decent sense for these two people who just met to pretend they were dating, pretending that they were engaged made legit no sense and just created all sorts of unnecessary drama.  I was also confused about why they both acted like they couldn’t make their relationship real…  like… nothing to lose??  You were total strangers a week ago, so even if the other person thinks dating for real is stupid, oh well??  Finally, in the end, they go straight into being really engaged, even though they’ve only known each about three weeks!  What?!

The thing is, despite the fact that this book was thoroughly implausible, I completely enjoyed it!  It was just so innocent and happy.  No sex, no swearing, just purely relaxing and adorable.  I actually really liked the characters a lot, and would have been willing to forgive a lot of the story if they had just started dating in the end (and then an epilogue where they are happily married a year later or something), but leaping straight into being engaged felt ridiculous given the short time frame.

For now, I’m giving the rest of this series a miss, but if I find myself yearning for some quietly innocent romance, I may pick the next one up!

This is Book #2 for #20BooksofSummer!

The Child by Fiona Barton – 3.5*

//published 2017//

I recently read and enjoyed The Widow by the same author, so when I saw she had another book with some overlapping characters, I checked it out from the library.  I picked up this book coming off a bit of a slump wherein I basically was reading nothing but terrible P&P variations, so it took me a little bit to get into it, but once I did, I found it engaging but not electrifying.  While I wanted to find out how things were going to come together, there was never really any sense of urgency.  There were also some reveals that felt just painfully obvious but took forever to get to.  In many ways, it felt like it didn’t really matter if the mystery was ever solved or not.

The reporter from The Widow, Kate, is the main recurring character, and I liked her even better in this book.  And while it was fun to read this story with the background of The Widow in my mind, this could definitely be read as its own book with no trouble.  All in all, a 3.5* read.  It looks like Barton is going to publish a third book early next year, so I’ll probably pick that one up as well.  Hopefully it will have a little more zip.

The Possible by Tara Altebrando – 3*

//published 2017//

This was a book that came in a book box, so it was a totally random read for me.  I kind of like picking up the book box books, because they get me a little out of my comfort zone.  This one was engaging, but the story was a bit scattered at times, and there was some inconsistency with the characters.  (For instance, the lady doing the interviews is presented in the end as though she is a “good guy,” but at one point earlier in the story she had obviously manipulated what people had said to make things more dramatic/imply things that weren’t true… and that’s never addressed, she just goes back to being a good guy…)  The conclusion was decent, and I definitely was kept unsure throughout the story as to whether or not the ability to control things with the mind was a real possibility.  All in all, I didn’t mind reading this book, but it didn’t inspire to find out what else Atlebrando has written.

 

Pride and Prejudice Variations

Sometimes my brain wants nothing but fluff, and during these times of brain vacation I frequently turn to terrible Pride & Prejudice variations.  Actually, it’s such an addiction that I have a separate book blog just for ranting about them.  :-D  I went through a whole batch of them at the end of May/beginning of June.  If you want the full reviews (which include a spoiler section with extra ?!?!?!), feel free to click through on the title to the P&P blog.  Below, I’ve just listed titles, authors, star-rating, and what makes this variation different from the original…

Unequal Affections by Lara Ormiston – 4.5*

Instead of giving Darcy what-for during the Hunsford proposal, Elizabeth keeps her temper in check and, eventually, decides to accept Darcy.  Lots of good conversations and interesting interactions.

An Unpleasant Walk by C. Rafe – 3.5*

If you consider a stroll where you are assaulted and almost raped to be merely “unpleasant”, your life may have some serious issues.  Anyway, instead of proposing at Hunsford, Darcy ends up extricating Elizabeth from a difficult situation.  Turns out he isn’t as bad of a guy as she thought, especially compared to a potential rapist.

Rain & Retribution by L.L. Diamond – 3.5*

Mr. Bennet decides Elizabeth actually should marry Mr. Collins when he proposes.  Elizabeth skips town and ends up trapped at an inn with Mr. Darcy, who turns out to not be as terrible as she originally thought.

Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackaroy – 4*

If Lydia is the main reason you don’t like P&P, this is the variation for you, as she gets killed off in the first chapter.  Elizabeth receives this news while at Hunsford, so instead of proposing, Darcy helps Elizabeth to get back to her family, where everyone rallies ’round and they all become better people as they work through their tragedy.

Remembrance of the Past by Lory Lilian – 2.5*

Have you ever wished that you could read Pride and Prejudice, except there would be this other random character who was super, super obnoxious and interfered in everyone’s lives but was viewed as a paragon by all who met her?  Then this is the variation for you!

Mr. Darcy & Mr. Collins’s Widow by Timothy Underwood – 3*

When Elizabeth is but 15, her father dies and she marries Mr. Collins.  When he dies less than a year later, everyone feels only relief.  Several years later, Darcy and Bingley arrive at Netherfield, and Elizabeth strikes up a friendship with the intelligent and handsome Mr. Darcy.  Both of them struggle against falling in love for different reasons, but who can resist fate?!

Alone With Mr. Darcy by Abigail Reynolds – 3*

Darcy and Elizabeth get trapped in a cottage together during a blizzard, which gives them a chance to talk things out.  But thanks to Mr. Bennet being an annoying brat in this version, they’re still kept apart through a bunch of miscommunications that I thought were never going to get ironed out.  Bonus: Darcy has a stepmother, and that whole side-plot makes zero sense!

Mr. Darcy’s Letter by Abigail Reynolds – 3.5*

Elizabeth refuses to read Darcy’s letter of explanation at Hunsford, and returns to Meryton still believing that Darcy is a jerk and Wickham is a darling.  Good concept, but Bingley was even more obnoxiously indecisive in this version than ever.

An Unwavering Trust by L.L. Diamond – 3.5*

If you’re going to ruthlessly slaughter most of the characters from the original, is it really a P&P variation??