April Minireviews

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 Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge

//published 1964//

I really can’t believe that I never came across any of Goudge’s books as a child.  I had a very old-fashioned reading list, as my mom is an avid collector of old books (I come by it honestly), and I remember distinctly coming to a realization somewhere around middle school that nearly all of my favorite authors were long deceased.  This whole concept of finding an author who is still producing new things for me to read is kind of a crazy concept to me, actually.  :-D

Anyway, Goudge completely seems like someone my mother would love.  Her books are incredibly magical and perfect – gentle and kind.  There is no rush or slapdash action, but instead perfectly placed scenes and conversations, filled with characters one cannot help but love wholeheartedly.  I feel in love with every single person in The Runaways, even the bad guys.  This isn’t a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat, or leaves you frantically turning the pages at 1am, but it is definitely a book I see myself returning to time and again, to immerse myself in the gentle and beautiful world of the young Linnets.  4.5/5

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

//published 1946//

Read The Runaways made me want to reread this one.  I had only read it once, a couple of years ago, and it was my first introduction to Goudge’s work.  (Her second book for me was The Scent of Waterwhich is one of the few books that I genuinely felt changed me as a person when I read it.)  The Little White Horse was just as delightful the second time around, with a heroine who isn’t quite perfect, and just enough magic to keep you wondering if this could really happen. 5/5

The Princess by Lori Wick

//published 1999//

I’m not going to lie.  This is one of my go-to books when I am in need of something relaxing.  This is definitely a love story that has very strong Christian themes throughout, but the story itself is strong enough that I think that even if hearing about prayer/God’s plan/etc. isn’t your thing, you would still enjoy it.  I love stories where people get married first, and then fall in love, and this is an all-time fave. 4.5/5

Come On, Seabiscuit by Ralph Moody

//published 1963//

This is one of those random books I’ve had on my shelf forever, that I probably bought as a kid because it was about horses, especially since I went through a stage where I fascinated with racehorses in particular.  But somehow, I’ve only just gotten around to reading it – and it was actually a total win!  I was completely invested in Seabiscuit’s life. It’s hard to believe that Moody wasn’t just making things up, as this horse’s life was incredibly dramatic and full of excitement.  I had genuine tears in my eyes when Seabiscuit finally won the Santa Anita Handicap.  I know that just a few years ago someone else wrote a book about Seabiscuit that was made into a movie.  I never got around to either of those, but after reading this book – a somewhat brisk biography, since it was aimed at children – I think I’ll definitely find the newer book and see what other details there are to read.  Overall a surprisingly fun and fascinating read about a horse who overcame some amazing obstacles and the people who loved him.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

//published 1941//

Reading the book about Seabiscuit made me want to pick up this childhood classic right away.  The real-life build up of the race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral (grandson and son of Man O’War) reminded me a LOT of the race build-up between Sun Raider and Cyclone (and later the Black) in Farley’s tale.  Interestingly enough, the real race took place in 1938, while Farley’s book was published in 1941 – so it’s quite possible that the similarities between the two match races wasn’t just in my imagination!

The Black Stallion has always been a favorite of mine, for reasons that I can’t even fully explain.  The characters aren’t terribly well developed and the whole plot is rather ridiculous, but I still love this book.  I love Alec and I love Henry and I love the Black and I love Tony and I love Alec’s parents and this whole book just makes me happy from beginning to end.  I reread this entire series several years ago, back when I was still on Tumblr, and the books sadly got progressively worse as the series went on (culminating in The Black Stallion Legendwhich was unreasonably depressing), so I don’t see myself doing that again any time soon, but this original story is, and always will be, a definitely favorite.

February 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 Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg

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//published 2007//

So growing up, Konigsburg’s The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of my favorite books.  As an adult, I discovered her book The View from Saturday and loved that one, too – a lot (I even read and reviewed it again!).  But for me, The Mysterious Edge just didn’t work the way her other two books did.  The plot is disjointed and strange, the characters inconsistent and unrealistic, and the entire premise centers around a lot of coincidences.

I really wanted to like this book – two kids becoming friends while helping an elderly lady clean out her house that’s full of interesting stuff – doesn’t that sound like fun??  But the old lady, Mrs. Zender, is really weird, and so are both of the boys – and not in the realistic, quirky way of some of Konigsburg’s characters in Saturday – just weird, weird: the kind of weird that leaves you scratching your head in puzzlement.

A lot of the story centers around a picture that one of the boys finds, a drawing of a naked woman.  Now we’re informed that this is art, so this is a “nude” which is different from just someone being naked.  But…  it still felt really inappropriate for the age of the characters and the intended readers, and, once again, was just kind of weird.  Like why does the picture have to be of a naked person??

There are almost some good discussions about how people perceive us and how we perceive ourselves, about people who are rich and people who aren’t, about whether or not a government should be able to decide what is or isn’t art.  But none of those conversations really go anywhere, so the whole book feels awkward and stunted.

All in all, 1/5 for a book that I wanted to like but just couldn’t.  I’m still planning to read some more of Konigsburg’s books because I have enjoyed a couple of them so very much, but I don’t see myself ever revisiting this one.

American Gardening Series: Container Gardening by Suzanne Frutig Bales

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//published 1993//

This is one of those random books that I picked up for a quarter at a library book sale at some point.  It’s not a terribly thick book, but it does have a lot of photographs and plenty of good information about choosing plants for container gardens and then keeping them alive after you’ve planted them!  Bales has a lot of enthusiasm for container gardening as it is very flexible and can be done in almost any amount of space.

I’ve been working through several gardening books this month, and I always glean some new tips and ideas.  This one is well worth the shelf space as a great reference book.  I especially enjoyed the chapters that focused on planning container gardens – I think that a lot of times people go into container gardening assuming that you just sort of jam some plants in and it will look great, but this book spends some time talking about not just the color of the plants you are planting, but texture, size, and growing requirements.  Definitely recommended if this is a topic you’re interested in learning more about.

The Princess by Lori Wick

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//published 1999//

This is a (multiple time) reread for me, and I have a more detailed review here.  Sometimes I just need some happy fluff, and this book always fits the bill.  It involves my favorite trope (marriage than love), and just is a happy, gentle little tale that I have read many times and yet always find enjoyable.  I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump here at the end of February, what with starting my new job and being super tired all the time, so The Princess helped get me through!

The Princess

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by Lori Wick

Published 1999

Gah, I am SO BEHIND ON BOOK REVIEWS.  The tragic part is that I don’t even review every book I read – somehow, no matter how busy life gets, it never gets to busy to actually read (yet the TBR list grows incessantly nonetheless), even when I’m too lazy to write about them.  Ah well.  After last night’s post, I realized that I actually had even more books that I’d teased you with!  Ridiculous!

But the hubby’s working late tonight, so I’m reverting to my bachelorette days by hanging out on the computer in my pajamas, eating canned ravioli, and pretending that I’m somehow being productive.  :-D

Okay, so The Princess.  

Sometimes I get in a mood where I just want to read a fluffy, happy, romantic little story.  The Princess is a classic feel-good read for me, and one of my few “favorites” that I don’t actually own (I really need to remedy that!).  Set in a small, imaginary, European country (think Genovia from Princess Diaries) named Pendaran, this is the story of Prince Nikolai, who doesn’t want to get married.

In the Land of Pendaran, Shelby Parker lives a humble but good life. Her special qualities are eventually noticed by the king and queen of the House of Markham, who seek a new wife for their widowed son, Prince Nikolai.

To uphold the tradition of their country, Shelby and Nikolai agree to an arranged marriage. But while Nikolai is a perfect gentleman in public, he remains distant at home, leaving Shelby to wonder what is in his heart. Will the prince ever love her as he did his first wife? Can the faith they share overcome the barriers between them?  (via Goodreads)

So I’m a huge sucker for books where people fall in love after they get married.  I’m not sure why that’s the ultimate romantic for me, but it is.  I think it’s because there’s no tension there, no wondering whether they’ve gone too far – every step forward is a good step.  I love the reminder of how marriage is commitment, even when love/feelings ebb and flow.

Shelby is really great character.  She’s not perfect by any means, but she is someone who has really embraced the season of singleness in her life.  Part of the reason that the king and queen are drawn to her as a bride for their son (who has asked them to find him a suitable bride as he is still struggling with emotions from the death of his first wife, even though she’s been dead several years) is because Shelby is living life.  She’s doing work that she finds fulfilling, she is volunteering and serving those around her, she spends time with her family, and she just in general is industrious, intelligent, and thoughtful.

Nikolai is nice hero, too.  He’s the dark, brooding type, but with good reason.  While he isn’t thrilled with remarrying, he accepts it as part of his role, and begins to work at knowing, and eventually loving, his wife.

This is definitely an unapologetically Christian book, but it really works with this story.  Shelby and Nikolai agree to marry in part because they believe that it is God’s will for their lives, and their faith helps them to overcome many of the obstacles in their relationship.  Wick does a good job of weaving faith throughout this story.  While it may be a bit much for those who don’t embrace the tenants of Christianity, I think that the overall story is strong, and that the faith part flows naturally, instead of feeling as though it’s been stuffed in as an afterthought as in so much Christian fiction these days.

One of the things that I really love about this story is that it’s set in modern times (well, in the 90’s, anyway) – so fun to read a princess story with cars and telephones!  Pendaran still retains a sort of old-fashioned feel – sort of Mayberry-esq.

It’s a love story, and it’s a beautiful one, and definitely a favorite that I highly recommend if you’re looking for something completely relaxing and very likely to spawn “Awwwwwws” throughout.  ;-)