March Minireviews – Part 2

I’m back, with another lightning round of minireviews!!

Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter – 3* – read February 22

//published 2019//

Hunter can be hit or miss for me, and this one was mostly a miss.  SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THIS REVIEW.  The main thing that frustrated me about this book was that every single guy in the story was a jerk except for the main romance.  I found it ridiculous that the main character finds out that not only was her dad a serial cheater, but her grandpa was, too.  I mean, seriously?  And what exactly did that add to the story??  The reason her sisters don’t get along is because back in college they both fell in love with the same guy – guy was engaged to Sister A, but then leaves her and marries Sister B, which pretty much puts him in the jerk category, too.  Then we think that at least Sister A eventually found love – but no, her guy is a white collar thief who’s in jail now.  Sister B’s marriage is on the rocks, too, although at least he shows up at the end and they seem to be getting back together.  I’m just really over the “all guys are cheating jerks trope.”

On the other hand, the story had its moments.  I liked the grandma and her sneaky way of bringing her granddaughters together, and I did like the build of the romance between the two main characters.  However, I got frustrated by the sisters, who both needed their heads smacked together on more than one occasion.  All in all, this was a so-so read for me, that I would have enjoyed more if there had more than one nice guy in the entire story.

How to Save Your Child From Ostrich Attacks, Accidental Time Travel, and Anything Else That May Happen on an Average Tuesday by James Breakwell – 3.5* – read February 24

//published 2019//

I follow Breakwell on a few different social media platforms and really appreciate his humor.  I highly recommend subscribing to his newsletter – I think that length is the absolutely best for his humor.  How to Save Your Child is his third “parenting” guide, and probably my least favorite of the three.  While there were some entertaining moments and quotes, the overall book got a little repetitive.  Still, if you’ve enjoyed his other books, you’ll like this one, too.  Below, my three favorite quotes:

If your child falls off the bed and hits their head, you might wonder if you need to take your kid to the emergency room.  You don’t.  If it were a real emergency, you would know, because you would be on your way to the emergency room instead of wondering if you could keep your kid home to save some money.  In a real crisis, your survival genes override your cheapness genes.

When Godzilla starts a rampage, calmly move your child away from the destruction zone and head out to the countryside.  Godzilla is mainly concerned with demolishing tall buildings.  That’s why there’s no footage of him pointlessly stomping around empty farm fields.  If you already live in a rural area, congratulations:  Nothing in your life is worth destroying.  Sit back and watch as those condescending city-dwellers get their comeuppance.  Not that it will bother them.  Like crime and traffic, radioactive monsters are just a part of city life.

The world of Harry Potter is filled with dangers.  I’m talking about the version described in the books and movies, not the version J.K. Rowling retroactively changes on a daily basis to confuse and annoy the internet.  By the time my book goes to print, Dumbledore and Grindelwald could have an entire secret family together and the main character of books one through seven might be a frozen treat from Dairy Queen.  You’re a Blizzard, Harry.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – 4* – read February 25

//published 2019//

Wow, I don’t even know how to review this book.  Overall, I liked it, although I sometimes felt like it was trying a little too hard to be clever, with all the layers upon layers and stories within stories.  I also don’t feel like I should have to read a 500-page book twice to “get” it, but because of the way that all the stories are interconnected and the way time flips around, I was definitely left feeling like I would have to read it a second time to really grasp what was going on.  While much of the world-building and description was fantastic, I weirdly never felt particularly connected to any of the characters, and really didn’t buy the romance between the two main characters, which was definitely quite insta-love-y.  There also was basically not an actual plot, which added the dream-like feel of the whole thing.  Overall, there were a lot of things about this book that I really loved, but it still felt a little flat.  Worth reading, and I’ll probably even read it again sometime, but definitely not the instant winner that The Night Circus was.

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie – 4.5* – read February 27

//published 1925//

Christie rarely lets me down, especially in her pre-1930’s books.  A group on Litsy is reading and discussing one Christie book per month, and this was February’s book.  I’ve read all of them before, so this was obviously a reread, but it had been quite a while and I couldn’t remember all the details of what was going to happen.  This is one of her spy thriller-ish books, so strong on humor with a dash of campiness, but still a fun romp.

For a more detailed review on this one, check out my review from when I read it back in 2016.

Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck – 3* – read February 29

//published 2011//

I read this series several years ago and remember finding them entertaining if a bit too YA (even though the main character is 18).  Since then, Houck has published another book in the series, so I thought I would give it another go.  However, I found this really difficult to get through this time.  Kelsey, who narrates the books, is just too annoying for words, and I had also forgotten how the love triangle really plays a very prominent part in the plot.  So even though I really do want to read a story with handsome princes who are cursed to be tigers, I just couldn’t handle wading through 2000 pages of Kelsey dithering about which perfect brother she loves the most.

*****

Okay!!  That brings us to the end of February’s reviews!  I think I’m going to write a February Rearview post – despite the fact that it’s basically April – and then start minireviewing March’s books in a continued effort to catch up!

The Secret of Chimneys // by Agatha Christie

//published 1925//

//published 1925//

So I think that I neglected to mention, when I reviewed The Man in the Brown Suit last month, that I am embarking on another Christie kick.  A long while back, I was seized with a great desire to read all of Christie’s books.  I started with my favorites, Tommy and Tuppence.  Then I went on to read all of the Hercule Poirot books in published order, which was absolutely brilliant.  Even though they don’t really “build” on each other, I got so much more out of them by reading in order and watching different background characters come in and out.  (I had a very similar experience reading all of P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie and Jeeves books in published order.)  Miss Marple was next, and now I’m down to the “leftovers” – her miscellaneous books.

download (4)As with the Poirot, Marple, and T&T books, I’ve read many of these before.  But I know that there are definitely several I’ve never read, so that’s exciting.  I also happen to have a great fondness for her “spy” novels (which may be why Tommy and Tuppence’s first appearance in The Secret Adversary is one of my all-time favorite reads).  These are the books that aren’t really cozy mysteries – they lack the motive-based murder and the narrow set of potential murderers.  Instead, they scramble all over the world, with all sorts of overly-dramatic cloak-and-dagger moves.  There are dark, mysterious men, and beautiful  heroines, and it’s all just fabulously great fun, even if it’s completely impractical.  Throughout, Christie’s witty dialogue and snide observations are at their best.

the-secret-of-chimneys-agatha-christie-1The Secret of Chimneys opens in Africa, where our hero, Anthony Cade, is leading a rather tired tour of British citizens.  Cade runs into an old friend, Jimmy.  Jimmy tells Cade an involved story, the upshot of which is –  he wants Cade to run back to Britain and deliver a few items that have been entrusted to Jimmy: Cade agrees.  Of course, the items end up being of great political importance, and it isn’t long before Cade finds himself entangled with all sorts of questionable characters.  Christie does a great job keeping the waters muddy as to who is on whose team.  Cade is wholly likable, as is our heroine, Virginia Revel: independent and intelligent, but still quite womanly (and not obnoxious).

THE_SECRET_OF_CHIMNEYS_fsThe pacing is excellent, the interactions between the characters is great fun, and even Christie’s caricature characters are still done well.  My only complaint is that she definitely withholds some critical information – Cade knows more than we do throughout – so there’s no real way for us to be able to figure things out, although we can come up with some decent guesses.

Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard makes his first appearance here – he crops up in a few other books as well.  Intelligent and imaginative – but appearing rather stolid and unexciting – Battle is actually a favorite of mine: a man with good instincts, and whom Christie never leaves out to dry as the fool, which is nice.

All in all, The Secret of Chimneys is a very fun romp, and highly recommended.  4/5.