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.

‘The Murder at the Vicarage’, ‘Thirteen Problems’, and ‘The Body in the Library’ {introducing Miss Marple}

by Agatha Christie

published 1930, 1932, 1941

Sometimes I just need to read some good mysteries, ones where the bad guys are always appropriately punished, and the hero is unlikely but brilliant.  And so I turn to Agatha Christie yet again.  :-D

All the way back in early 2012 (before I was even on WordPress!  Back when my main book blog was on tumblr!  Ah, those were the days!  Not really; WordPress is a much better format for this blog.  Anyway) I started reading the Hercule Poirot books in their published order.  It took me a while to work through them, but it was well-worth the effort to see his character (and those of various secondary characters) unfold and build.  While Miss Marple does not star in nearly as many works, I’m still intrigued about following another character through her progression.

I’ve never liked Miss Marple as well as Poirot, but she is still a fun character in her own right.  She is much smarter than I am, as I never see what she’s driving at with her village connections, but I do love to see how she explains how, exactly, a body in the library ends up being like the little boy who put the frog in the clock.

The Murder at the Vicarage is narrated by the vicar himself.  While Miss Marple had appeared in a short story previous to this (“The Tuesday Night Club”), this was her first full-length novel.  I actually really liked the vicar and his wife, and their relationship made a nice second level.  As always, Christie’s strong morals and droll sense of humor lend a flavor to her books that I greatly enjoy.

“Will you tell me exactly what it is that has upset you?”

“Tell you that in two words, I can.”  Here, I may say she vastly underestimated.

Her humor is so dry, and she frequently makes me giggle.

On the other hand, she can also give me pause –

“If you catch him on the wrong side of the law, let the law punish him.  You agree with me, I’m sure.”

“You forget,” I said.  “My calling obliges me to respect one quality above all others – the quality of mercy.”

“Well, I’m a just man.  No one can deny that.”  I did not speak and he said  sharply, “Why don’t you answer?  A penny for your thoughts, man.”

I hesitated, then I decided to speak.

“I was thinking,” I said, “that, when my time comes, I should be sorry if the only plea I had to offer was that of justice.  Because it might mean that only justice would be meted out to me.”

Thirteen Problems is a collection of short stories that were published at various times throughout the late 1920’s and compiled into one book in 1932.  The first chapter is “The Tuesday Night Club,” Miss Marple’s original appearance.  Several friends are gathered together for dinner, and decide that every week a different one will tell a story and see if the others can solve the mystery.  Miss Marple, of course, never ceases to astound those around her with her intuition and common sense.  Although even Miss Marple can be distressed at times –

I was more disturbed than I can tell you.  I was knitting a comforter for old Miss May at the time, and in my perturbation I dropped two stitches and never discovered it until long after.

As I discovered when reading through the Poirot books in order (and actually the same thing happened when I read the Bertie & Jeeves books in published order as well), many of the secondary characters reappear, and getting to know them through multiple stories really increases the depth and interest for each subsequent tale.  The Body in the Library was a much stronger read this time around because I already knew the Bantrys and Sir Henry and Inspector Slack – even the vicar’s wife pops back in – the names of various gossip-mongerers match up with personalities from Murder at the Vicarage, and everything just ties together so much more completely.

Miss Marple is a fun character, and her little insights do actually give the reader a better chance of solving the mystery herself, so that’s an added bit of fun as well (although I’m notoriously bad at mystery solving).  I can’t help but admire her strong sense of practicality that enables her to strip human drama down to its basic form –

Everybody is very much alike, really.  But fortunately, perhaps, they don’t realize it.