November 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.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

The Voyage to Magical North and The Journey to Dragon Island by Claire Fayers

//published 2016//

I have to say that I actually really, really enjoyed these books, so the whole “meh” feeling doesn’t really apply here.  I gave them an easy 4/5 and completely enjoyed joining Brine on her unexpected pirate ship adventure.  Fayers did a great job with world-building – as an adult, I still found interesting and engaging, but I think that the target audience (middle school) would still easily be able to follow the simple yet involved rules of Brine’s world.

//published 2017//

Brine herself is a very fun heroine, and I felt like her character was balanced out well by Peter, and later Tom.  All in all, I enjoyed how the characters didn’t really fall into stereotypes, but also didn’t feel like they were trying to not fall into stereotypes.

I would definitely recommend these fun and magical little books, and will be looking out for further adventures of Brine & co. in the future.

Cinchfoot by Thomas Hinkle

//published 1938//

Another Famous Horse Story, I found this one to be a bit boring.  Cinchfoot just sort of meanders about but there isn’t a really strong plot or story that feels like it is pulling things along.  Not a bad read, but not one I see myself returning to again.  3/5.

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater

//published 1979//

While this wasn’t my favorite Pinkwater book ever, it still had some very funny moments.  I also think that Pinkwater’s thoughts/views on the educational system are brilliantly insightful and cutting.  I also loved the way that Lionel realized that if he wasn’t learning things, it was his own fault at some level.  Some of the adventures the boys have are quite ridiculous, but the ridiculous is exactly what Pinkwater writes so well.  3.5/5 and I do recommend it, but only if you’ve read some of Pinkwater’s stronger works first.

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

//published 1946//

This was a pretty adorable little Heyer tale.  I did find Carlyon a bit too overbearing at times, but Elinor was just too adorable, as was Carlyon’s younger brother.  I quite enjoyed the way that the love story was secondary to all the ridiculous spy tales.  Fun and frothy; classic Heyer.  4/5.

The Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

//published 2017//

So I purchased this edition because of the amazing illustrations by MinaLima.  My husband gave me some money for my birthday that he said was specifically for books, and, more specifically, I must purchase at least one book that I’ve been not purchasing because of its unreasonable expense!  This one fit the bill – but it was worth every penny, as the book itself is absolutely gorgeous. The illustrations are amazing – not just the big, fancy, interactive ones, but all the details on every page.

It was also interesting to read the original version of B&B – it’s a great deal more convoluted and involved than the traditional version we see these days, as Beauty has eleven (!!!) siblings, and there are multiple chapters devoted to a complicated backstory with fairy feuds.  It was still a very engaging story, although I can see why it has evolved the way that it has, getting rid of some of the extraneous characters and building more personality among those that are left.

Anyway, this was definitely a worthwhile purchase and read, and I can see myself returning to this gorgeous book many times in the future.

The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner by Ann Larkin Hansen

//published 2017//

This is another Storey book, and another addition to their Backyard Homestead series.  While this book did have some interesting information, and I did like the format where things were laid out by season, it was definitely an outline type of a book.  There wasn’t really a lot of depth about anything, making this more of a starting-point reference rather than an end-all tome.  It makes a nice addition to my collection, but definitely wouldn’t be the book I would choose if I could only have one homesteading manual.  Still, excellent formatting and very nicely put together, as I’ve come to expect from Storey.

The Little Nugget by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1913//

This was a fun little tale of a very obnoxious little boy who is worth a great deal of money, and so has multiple people attempting to kidnap him for various reasons.  While there were several funny moments and it was overall an enjoyable tale, it wasn’t as developed as most of Wodehouse’s later works, and lacked that sort of bubbly perfection.  It was an easy 3/5 read and one that I do recommend, but not if it is your first foray into the world of Wodehouse.

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The Wicked Marquis // by Marnie Ellingson

Thrift stores are rather awesome, and not just because you can get gently used clothes and furniture on the cheap.  They also tend to have a corner devoted to various types of media, with books, VHS tapes, battered DVDs, and scratched CDs all piled together.  I love rummaging through thrift store books, because sometimes, under the Readers’ Digest condensed versions and scads of romance paperbacks with scantily clad heroes and heroines in fond embrace – I find a little treasure.  And one of those, purchased for a quarter a few years ago, is The Wicked Marquis.

//published 1982//

This isn’t a book of high adventure or intensity, but it’s a fabulous go-to for a happy, relaxing, funny little story.  This definitely has echoes of Georgette Heyer, with a strong-minded but lovable heroine who is determined to rescue her cousin from a marriage of convenience (but no love), and in doing so, embroils herself with the Wicked Marquis himself.  It’s one of those wonderful little stories where there isn’t really a villain, where misunderstandings are minimal, and where you know that everything will come together in the end for a happy ending.

Esme is a wonderful protagonist.  She is intelligent, interesting, and contented with her lot in life.  She isn’t afraid to stand up for the people she loves, but never comes across as obnoxious or ridiculous.  And despite the fact that she is adventurous and not particularly fussed about all of the societal regulations, she’s still feminine and even girly at times, enjoying a good chat about clothes and handsome young men.

All in all, I definitely recommend The Wicked Marquis, with a strong 4/5 rating.  And despite the fact that I’ve owned this book for several years and have read it several times, this was the first time that I bothered to find out if Ellingson wrote anything else.  I did find one of her books on eBay secondhand, and hope to read Unwilling Bride soon, although not in public, as the cover is absolutely ridiculous.

I mean seriously?!

Charity Girl

by Georgette Heyer

published 1970

3486146   Alrighty, first things first:  Is this cover creepy, or is this cover creepy?  I mean, seriously.  Everything about the girl in this picture is completely disturbing, and (surprise) not at all like what happened in the book.  (You know, it’s bad enough that movies destroy good books without the covers getting in on the game).

Anyway.  So life has been crazy per usual.  If you want to know what I’ve been doing with my life, feel free to check out the house blog…  my kitchen is currently very much under construction!

Today I’m off work.  A really bad head cold is giving me the excuse I need to hang out on my bed surrounded by my computer, books, and a cat.  I’m slowly getting caught up on emails and reading people’s blogs, and am already planning my post-lunch nap.  A head cold is really only a pain when you have to leave your house.

So – on to Charity Girl.  I’m slowly working my way through all of Heyer’s regency tales, and Charity Girl was a new read for me.  While it was a fine little story, it’s not my new favorite or anything.  A pretty solid 3/5.  The characters are likable but not memorable, and it lacks that witty dialogue that so often makes Heyer’s books delightful.

Lord Desford aka Ashley Carrington (probably aka something else…  I mean, really, why does everyone in the Regency period have to have fifteen names apiece?  I understand the technically why, but it certainly can make a story  hard to follow at times, sheesh) has a very good life.  Well off, good looking, kind, with loving parents, a nice home, a pleasant family, and, of course, the prospect of the earldom heading his way sometime in the future.  Although Desford’s parents hoped he would marry his friend and neighbor, Henrietta Silverdale, even that danger was navigated, leaving them both still single yet good friends, just the way they claim to like it.

Well, in our story (which picks up a few years after the avoided marriage), Desford heads off to visit an aunt.  While there, the family attends a party at a neighboring estate.  During the party, Desford happens to come across Cherry Steane.  Abandoned by her family, Cherry is living one step above a servant with her aunt and cousins.  Though a lovely young lady, she suffers the fate of most poor relations – love and money are showered on her cousins, but Cherry will never even get a Season.

Desford is sympathetic towards her plight, but knows of no real way to be of assistance.  (This conversation, by the way, takes place through the stair railings, hence the creepy cover picture.)  Next day, however, as he is driving back to London, whom does Des discover walking along the road??  Yep, Miss Cherry, who has run away from home.  By agreeing to give Cherry a lift to London to meet up with her grandpa (who, by all accounts, is a miserly rapscallion), Desford finds himself entangled in Cherry’s drama.  Her grandpa isn’t home, so Cherry ends up at Henrietta’s while Desford dashes about the countryside seeking Cherry’s missing grandpapa.

The story is, frankly, a bit slow.  It’s rather obvious that Desford and Henrietta are going to end up together, despite their earlier-aborted courtship, yet we don’t get much of an opportunity to see the development of that relationship, or the realization that they want to be more than friends after all.  Cherry is a bit too innocent to be interesting, and while there are a few funny scenes here and there, the whole story feels a bit impractical.

Also, while Heye’s use of Regency slang/terms is often what makes her stories enjoyable, she does sometimes go a bit over the top, and this book was stuffed with “cant” phrases –

“…if my lord ain’t cut his stick I’m a bag-pudding!  Which I ain’t!”

“You may not be a bag-pudding, but you’re one of the worst surly-boots it has ever been my ill-fortune to encounter!  …  I know very well what made you turn knaggy …”

Or –

“I am neither a noddicock nor a souse-crown, young man …  I perceived, in the twinkling of a bedpost, that he was under orders to fob me off! …  Do not be mislead into thinking that because I am not, thank God, a muckworm, I am lobcock!”

While entertaining read in short spurts, this book seemed to have more than its fair share of slang (maybe because the book focused more on a man than a woman?), which sometimes bogged me down a big.  Plus, reading any Heyer book makes me spout phrases like “I say, doing it a bit too brown!” in my general conversation, which can be awkward.

In the end, while I felt that Desford and Henrietta would, as they say, deal well together, I was disappointed in the overall lack of a love story, especially since the two main players had been separated throughout the majority of the book.  While the story was fun, it was a bit too fluffy, even for Heyer, to become a favorite.

Bath Tangle

004

by Georgette Heyer

Published 1955

Whoa, a picture of the book!?  Madness!

It had been a while since I’d picked up a Heyer novel.  Recently, I added every book she’s ever written on my TBR (yeah, we don’t want to talk about the length of the TBR, or the fact that I add more books than I read to it every week).  While her Regency books are rarely innovative, they are super relaxing, and often entertaining.

Bath Tangle was quite typical, really, with everyone ending up engaged to the wrong someone, but magically coming together just right by the end.  One of the things that I enjoy about Heyer’s novels is that there is rarely a villain, or even someone you dislike.  Serena, the heroine, was delightfully imperfect.  Fanny, her mother-in-law (and also her junior by a few years… welcome to the Regency era lol), was as sweet and adorable as she could be.  The gentlemen were great fun and oh so gentlemanly (mostly).  Overall, Bath Tangle was all froth and bubbles, but in a happy, contented kind of way.  While this wasn’t a favorite read, like Friday’s Childit was still a great deal of fun and an easy 4/5.