May Minireviews – Part 2

Oh no, I already started work at the orchard!  Does this mean I’ll NEVER catch up on reviews??  ::cue dramatic music::

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 Gin O’Clock Club by Rosie Blake – 3*

//published 2020//

Add this one to my long list of books I wanted to like more than I did…  Lottie is caught up in her career and her grandpa, Teddy, is afraid that she’s taking life too fast, especially since Teddy’s wife died.  Teddy has three buddies and together they comprise the Gin O’Clock Club, which gets together for cards, shenanigans, and gin, and he enlists their help in showing Lottie that she needs to slow down and enjoy her blessings while she can, including her (live-in) boyfriend, Luke.  Basically, the guys convince Lottie and Luke to try some “old-fashioned” dates.  In exchange, Teddy agrees to try some “new-fashioned” dates, since Lottie is concerned that Teddy hasn’t really bounced back since his wife passed away.  Throughout the book, we also get letters that Teddy is writing to his wife as part of the way that he is working through his grief, and those letters were absolutely so touching and sweet without feeling over-the-top that they alone almost made reading the book worth it.

There was so much about this book that I liked.  Teddy and his friends were absolutely fantastic – funny without being cutesy – and Luke was a total dreamboat that no woman in her right mind would take for granted.  All the date ideas were great fun without being weird and I just overall loved seeing the older guys working with the younger folks and all of them learning from one another.

The problem – and it was a BIG PROBLEM – is Lottie herself.  There’s no other way to say it: she was a total bitch.  Like, hardcore.  She literally treats everyone around her like disposable trash, while spending her entire internal monologue saying Oh wow I’m treating everyone like disposable trash; I should really stop that.  And then NOT STOPPING.  And at first I was okay with it because she was showing growth, right?  Like she starts going on these dates and realizing how awesome Luke is and how important it is to hang out with her grandpa and how people are more important than things….  And then she literally just goes exactly back to where she started with no hesitation.  It was like the book was starting over!  There was also this big drama where Lottie was stressed out about something Luke was doing but Teddy couldn’t say anything because it involved someone else that he’d promised not to tell and like – the completely obvious solution was for Teddy to ASK this other person if he could tell Lottie??  But instead he just lets it keep going on and on and poisoning everything in Lottie’s life and it was SO unnecessary.

In the end, I honestly wanted Luke to run far, far away.  Lottie was emotionally and verbally abusive to him on more than one occasion.  I’m really over this whole “the female MC is a horrible person, but it’s really the fault of someone else/society, not her.”  Like no, she’s just a dreadful person, and if Luke had said/done half the things that Lottie did, he would have been crucified, but since Lottie is a woman, she gets a HUGE pass and I’m not okay with it.  I really wish that I had liked Lottie better, because I loved everyone else in this story, and everything else about it, including that the story is about a couple trying to stay together instead of breaking up and moving on to someone else.  All the not-Lottie characters were just delightful, but I couldn’t get past how horrible Lottie was.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1953//

For some reason, I never liked this story as much when I was a kid, but I thoroughly enjoyed my reread of it this time around, especially the character of Puddlegum.  It’s just been so much fun to read these again!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – 4.5*

//published 2021//

This was actually one of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year.  I read The Martian last year and had super low expectations for it because I’m not usually a “space story” person, but I ended up really enjoying it.  Consequently, I decided to read his newest book when it came out this spring, and even though it went a completely different direction from what the synopsis made me assume, I honestly was totally here for it.  The pacing here was fantastic, the flashbacks that filled in the MC’s background were well-placed, and I couldn’t believe how much I fell in love with Rocky.  As the book was drawing to a conclusion I didn’t really see how Weir was going to give me an ending that both made sense and didn’t make me completely depressed, but he 100% pulled it off – I absolutely loved the way everything came together in the end.

There is a lot of science-y stuff here.  I have literally no idea if what he’s saying is realistic/true/practical or not.  I just rolled with the adventure haha

Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras – 4*

//published 2021//

Last year I read Island Affairand while it wasn’t my favorite romance ever, it was still a perfectly fun little read, so when I saw the next book in the series was out, I decided to pick it up.  Luis is the male MC from the first book; the female MC of Anchored Hearts is his sister, Anamaria.  Overall this was a pretty typical romcom read with likable main characters and a splash of angst.  I absolutely loved the warm families that both these characters possessed, even if those families weren’t perfect.  Some of the issues with the male MC and his dad dragged out a little too long for me, but overall I ended up liking this one better than the first book, and I would definitely read another book in this series.

The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn – 3*

//published 2005//

This was a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and while it was okay, it was rather choppy and the entire story revolves around literal INSTA instalove, which definitely led to some eye-rolling moments for me.  I really loved the setting – Weyn chose to have this story take place just after the death of King Arthur, with the hero one of his knights trying to fulfill a promise to the king to return Excalibur to the Lady in the Lake.  This mean that even though the story was short, the world-building didn’t feel too compromised (since the reader already has the basic gist from Arthurian lore).  All in all, a pleasant one-off, but not a new fave.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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by C.S. Lewis

Published 1950

Gaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh where do I even begin?!?!  The Chronicles of Narnia are very, very high on my list of all-time favorite books.  (It’s a mental list, by the way.  That way I can make it be whatever I want whenever I want.)  I first read these books when I was pretty young, probably 8 or 9 I started reading at a tender age, not to bore you with personal history, but the point is that I was reading legit chapter books by about the age of 5, and while overall I think this was positive, I think that it also sometimes meant that I read books that I wasn’t really mentally ready for even though I was capable of reading them, if that makes sense.  That definitely happened with the final book in the Chronicles, The Last Battle.  As a young child, I hated that book, so much so that even though I would read the other books frequently, I didn’t read that last book again until probably ten years later – and now I think it may be my favorite.  But that’s a different story for a different time.

Point is, the Chronicles are fantastic.  They are humorous, exciting, fun, and, somehow, plausible.  I know for a fact that I’m not the only person who’s wondered about the existence of Narnia.  :-D  The traditional, original drawings by Pauline Baynes are fantastic overall (although every now in again I get exasperated because it’s not how imagined it!), as well.

Okay, I think we’ll start by getting my rant out of the way.  My rant has to do with the fact that the  book pictured above has a “2” on the spine.  UNACCEPTABLE.  I am SO ANGRY at the fact that these books are now published in the wrong order.  Narnia should NEVER be read chronologically (at least, not the first time that you read them!).  You miss SO MUCH reading them chronologically instead of in published order, especially when people read the chronologically-first book, The Magician’s Nephew, before reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I don’t even understand how The Magician’s Nephew makes SENSE when you read it first.  I am EXTREMELY PASSIONATE about this.  Some people drag up a supposed quote from Lewis in response to a letter written by a young reader of his, but it’s pretty apparent that the reader is asking if the books can be read chronologically and he says yes, that makes sense, but not in a AND OH HEY PLEASE REPUBLISH ALL MY BOOKS IN THIS ORDER FOREVER.  My gosh.  Ridiculous.

Okay, so, anyway, if you’ve never read the Chronicles, or if it’s been a long time, please read them in their published order:

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  2. Prince Caspian (Which, by the way, is subtitled Return to Narnia, which doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense if the book isn’t, you know, the return to Narnia, instead of the third time around.)
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  4. The Silver Chair (These four books, by the way, are chronological to each other, and have many of the same characters.)
  5. The Horse and His Boy (Which takes place during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, so somewhere towards the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
  6. The Magician’s Nephew (Which is about the creation of Narnia, and truly would be super confusing if you didn’t already know about Narnia.)
  7. The Last Battle

Alrighty, so The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe…  there has been loads of stuff written about this book.  It’s been made into movies.  I’m not going to tell you anything about it that you don’t already know, other than my own opinions.  The Chronicles aren’t books of incredible depth and description like The Lord of the Rings.  These stories are for younger readers, and are somewhat simple in scope.  However, there are many layers, and even if you aren’t a Christian and don’t like the allegorical aspect to the tales, I think that that overarching story, of a god willing to sacrifice himself for someone completely undeserving, is still an excellent tale.

I’m not sure that I can explain what has drawn me back to Narnia time and again, but I know that these are books that have withstood the test of time for me – I have easily read them twenty or more times, and they never disappoint me.  I never fail to find something new, to underline some different sentence that hadn’t struck me before.  The redemption of Edmund is so beautiful (Edmund is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time), the resurrection of Aslan, the battle with the Witch – I love it all, down to the best advice for running a country that I’ve found yet:

And they made good laws and kept the peace and saved good trees from being unnecessarily cut down, and liberated young dwarfs and young satyrs from being sent to school, and generally stopped busybodies and interferers and encouraged ordinary people who wanted to live and let live.

If only all rulers were so wise!

In conclusion: if you’ve never read these books, you absolutely must do so.  If you haven’t read them since childhood, pick them up again, because they will not disappoint.  They are just as magical for me at the age of 31 as they were when I first read them as a very young child.  Return to Narnia – just make sure you do it in the correct order.  ;-)