July 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.

Some more July reviews in August!!

Mystery Mountain by Florence Laughlin – 3*

//published 1964//

Regular readers here will know that I’ve collected a lot of random books over the years at yard sales and library discards and antique shops and flea markets and just wherever I can find them.  What this also means is that I have a LOT of super random unread books. This one I purchased all the way back in 2003 and only just now managed to read!  While this wasn’t a bad story exactly, it wasn’t that great, and it definitely hasn’t aged all that well over the years.  Even I, who am pretty old-fashioned, got tired of the way the boys were treating Karen, who is only allowed to join them on their adventure if she does a bunch of extra chores i.e. all the cooking and clean-up!  When they finally solve the mystery of what happened to their grandpa all those many years ago, it literally made no sense.  I’m going to spoil it for you in the next paragraph, because really, what are the odds of you finding this obscure not-that-great book from 1964 and reading it??

So the kids’ grandpa disappeared back in the day when he was on his way to his gold mine that no one else knew where it was.  Everyone suspects he was murdered, and probably murdered by some wily Indians (another reason this book felt a bit dated).  The kids do find his remains in a cave, along with a journal that conveniently explains exactly what happened (and also means he died a long, lingering death of starvation, which makes no sense because everyone looked for him everywhere and if he was in a blocked up cave right next to where he disappeared, why wouldn’t the rescuers have heard him calling for help…????) and what happened was he got jumped by a wily Indian and managed to escape into this cave, and then the Indian rolled a big rock in front of it to block him in.  Except… why?!?! If the wily Indian was after the gold, why would he kill this guy BEFORE the guy got to the gold mine???????  There was literally no motive for murdering this guy, so the entire story made zero sense!

Honestly, 3* is kind of generous for this one, but it did have some fun moments and it wasn’t horribly written – it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the end!

Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey – 3*

//published 2002//

A retelling of Sleeping Beauty, this one was pretty firmly in the so-so category.  It was perfectly fine for a one-time read, but I’ve noticed with every book I’ve picked up in this “Once Upon a Time” series that it almost always feels like an outline of a story instead of a fully-fledged story itself.  The way this one concluded felt rather odd, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella – 3.5*

//published 2012//

In this romcom, we meet Poppy desperately searching for her missing engagement ring – it’s gotten lost while she was at a hotel for a conference, and while she’s searching for it, her cell phone gets stolen, too.  When she finds a perfectly good cell phone in the trash, it’s almost too good to be true.  Poppy immediately begins using it to call and text her friends to see if they know what happened to her ring.  So when the guy who owns the phone – which happens to be a business line – tries to reclaim it, Poppy convinces him to let her borrow it, since she’s already given that name to the hotel workers who are hopefully going to find her ring.

The set-up sounds convoluted, but Kinsella makes it work.  Poppy is a likable featherbrain, constantly getting herself into what Anne Shirley would call “scrapes,” but she is so warm and friendly that it works just fine with the story.  She impulsive, but usually because she’s trying to help someone, and her character really carried the story.

My main issue?  She lies to her fiancee the entire time, and since the reader literally knows she’s going to end up with the other guy……!!!!!  As I’ve noted with several other romcoms lately, I just do NOT understand WHY there is another guy!  That tension could be created soooo many other ways besides putting us in a “grey” area of cheating.  (Is it cheating to be texting/calling/hanging out with a guy that your fiancee doesn’t even know exists?)

All in all, as usual, a fun one-time read but, yet again, not one I see myself rereading.



by Helen Lowe

Published 2008

You don’t have to follow my blog very long to know that I really enjoy fairy tales, and retellings of fairy tales.  I’m always interested to find a new perspective on an old story (or old perspectives in new stories :-D).  Thornspell purported to be the story of the PRINCE from Sleeping Beauty.  And since that is actually one my favorite fairy tales (both in the original and, actually, Disney’s animated version), I thought I would give it a try.

Unfortunately, the main word that comes to mind is just dull.  The story never really engaged me at all.  The characters, especially Prince Sigismund, never really stirred a lot of sympathy in me.  I didn’t really care a lot about their successes or failures.  I’m not sure why, though, because the premise is promising.

I think part of it was that it felt as though Lowe was sort of making up rules for the world as she went along – and that’s a totally different feeling from an author who tells you different rules as you go along.  For instance, someone like J.K. Rowling may tell you a new rule in the third book, but, in retrospect, you can see how that rule has actually been operating throughout the earlier stories; you just weren’t consciously aware of it at the time.  But with Lowe, the introduction of new rules or parameters consistently felt a bit jarring, a sort of, “Oh, I guess I’d better tweak this so I can make this happen” kind of feeling.  Personally, I feel like this is the big difference between fantasy writers who really make a story believable, and ones who just write an alright story.  (Rowling, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Robin McKinley, Patricia Wrede – I could go on, but those are the ones who immediately come to mind as authors who have mastered the ability to build incredibly real worlds, ones where the rules seem so natural that everything flows beautifully.)

The other problem was that Lowe wanted to somehow build a relationship between the prince and the sleeping princess, except, of course, she’s sleeping.  She she creates this sort of ethereal ghost-person-girl who comes along and happens to save the prince multiple times.  But since we aren’t actually told that this is the princess until the very end, it left me, as the reader, feeling a bit conflicted.  Yes, it’s awesome that he really likes this fairy-girl, but we’ve already learned that he has to marry the sleeping princess so…???  It also felt as though this aspect of the princess was created simply so the princess could be a strong, independent woman; even though the story was technically about the prince and his perspective, this strange girl kept inserting her story line – it felt jarring.

Overall, the characters felt stiff and unnatural, which was in keeping with the entire world.  While a good concept, the writing didn’t flow in a way that actually engaged me, and finishing it was more of an exercise in the desire to not have a DNF than any real interest in the conclusion.

Spindle’s End


by Robin McKinley

Published 2000

The magic in that country was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk-dust and over floors and shelves like slightly sticky plaster-dust.  (Housecleaners in that country earned unusually good wages.)  If you lived in that country, you had to de-scale your kettle of its encrustation of magic at least once a week, because if you didn’t, you might find yourself pouring hissing snakes or pond slime into your teapot instead of water.  (It didn’t have to be anything scary or unpleasant, like snakes or slime, especially in a cheerful household – magic tended to reflect the atmosphere of the place in which it found itself – but if you want a cup of tea, a cup of lavender-and-gold pansies or ivory thimbles is unsatisfactory.  And while the pansies – put dry in a vase – would probably last a day, looking like ordinary pansies, before they went greyish-dun and collapsed into magic dust, something like an ivory thimble would begin to smudge and crumble as soon as you picked it up.)

This is another well-loved book.  It’s a vacation book – I always buy at least one book on vacation; this one was purchased in Traverse City, Michigan, in September of 2003, and has probably been read at least ten times since then.  I think I fell in love with this book because almost the entire first paragraph is a parentheses.  As a parentheses addict myself, I love it.  If parentheses annoy you, steer clear of this book, as it is riddled with them.

What I love about McKinley is her ability to create a completely different world, yet one to which I can relate and one that I can understand almost immediately.  Although new rules reveal themselves as the story wends on, she doesn’t make any giant illogical leaps.  I also love the way that this story encompasses the entire 21 years of Sleeping Beauty’s life pre-spindle, but does it in a way that flows and is easy to read.  The book starts focused on Katriona, who becomes Princess Rosie’s foster-mother, but seamlessly flows into a focus more on Rosie when she is old enough to think interesting thoughts.  McKinley also does a wonderful job with the animals – although some characters can understand what animals are saying, it doesn’t make the animals less animal-like – it almost makes them more so.  (Like the movie Up where we can hear the dogs talking, and what do they say?  Exactly what we would expect dogs to say!)

I am not a 100% fan of McKinley; some of her stories aren’t my style.  But Spindle’s End is one of my very favorite books, and if you’re a fantasy fan and haven’t read this one, I highly recommend it.

When Rose Wakes



By Christopher Golden

Published 2010

Okay, so I could really use some new book recommendations, especially for some decent YA/fantasy/fairy tale kind of reads, because I have definitely been picking some lemons (most through GoodReads).  When Rose Wakes, while definitely not as torturous as Sovaywas yet another book with so much potential that just sort of fizzled out into a “Whaaaat???” at the end.

The premise was interesting.  Rose awakens in a hospital in modern Boston to find that she has been in a coma for the last two years.  Now, finally awake, she has amnesia and can remember nothing of her past life.  Her only relatives are her two aunts.  As Rose regains strength, she starts high school, and tries to rebuild a life.

But she keeps having these dreams–creepy, very realistic dreams.  In the dreams, she is a princess in a castle, and her country is  besieged by war.  And Rose herself is being pursued by an evil witch.  Her aunts shrug off her dreams, and Rose tries to, too.  But she can’t help but notice that so much of her life seems to be…  unusual.

Okay, so, so far, so good, right?  Good set up, and the story could go so many different directions.  There’s just loads of potential.  Except–Golden decides that the best direction for this story to take (SPOILERS SPOILERS) is for Rose’s curse to have been, instead of pricking her finger on a spindle and dying, that having sex with her husband on their wedding night would be the death stroke…!??!  So Rose’s aunts are all obsessed with her not having boyfriends so of course Rose decides that she has to go about snogging this random dude that she’s only known, you know, three days.  And then people are actually leaves because the evil with is making people out of forest materials and there are these crows going around protecting Rose except they really creep her out and then there’s this huge battle scene at the end and the one aunt gets killed really grotesquely and just…  bleh.

So the whole story was just really unnecessarily dark and depressing, the plot got super confusing and disorienting, Rose herself isn’t particularly likable, and there are just way too many references to sex (especially for a 16-year-old heroine) for me to be comfortable with the story.  The word that kept coming to mind when I was reading this book was crude.  Not necessarily the writing style, per se, but the language and story: swearing, sex, violence–all in a way that just jolted into the story without really moving it along.

Yet another 1/5.  And I’m seriously about sending me some book recommendations.  Comment or email me (itsthegoodlife15@gmail.com).  I’m always looking for something new!