November 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.

Still trying to catch up. Conveniently, November was a terrible reading month for me so it shouldn’t take as long to get through those books!! Part of my issue in November, besides being insanely busy and somewhat depressed, was that I was doing two buddy reads on Litsy – one of Northanger Abbey, which was a delight, and one of Moby-Dick, which was not. Moby-Dick especially interfered with my other reading time, as I was determined to read each day’s chapters from that book before picking up anything else to ensure that I actually got through it. My plan worked, but it definitely colored a lot of my other reading throughout the month!

Complete Home Landscaping by Catriona Tudor Erler – 4*

//published 2005//

This is one of those book that I got a book sale or Half-Priced Books or someplace like that eons ago but never actually picked up. While there wasn’t anything groundbreaking here, it was a well-organized and interesting book that broke down the concept of landscaping your entire property into bite-sized chunks. Sometimes I like to read books about gardening and landscaping because even when it goes over the same stuff as a different book, it just helps make it stick in my brain. This book was also full of really useful photographs and drawings that I really liked.

The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Katie O’Neill – 4*

//published 2020//

The latest in the Tea Dragon stories, these continue to be almost painfully adorable. I do wish that there was more emphasis on friendship instead of romantic relationships, which are almost entirely comprised of homosexual pairings, especially between the two main girls in the story – I feel like their relationship would have been so much more meaningful as friends instead of girlfriends. It’s not like this is all super explicit or anything, but the overall vibe of the book is that if you find someone who is a friend, you’re meant to be romantically involved, and it just feels somewhat awkward, especially in a story geared for younger readers.

However, the story itself is very enjoyable and the artwork is just amazing.

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie – 4*

//published 1931//

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one (my 2016 review is here) so even though I kind of remembered who did it, I couldn’t remember how it was done or how some of the red herrings played out. The one is also known as The Murder at Hazelmoor which makes so much more sense since the murder actually takes place at Hazelmoor, not Sittaford, but whatever. Anyway, this is one of Christie’s standalone mysteries. The pacing is great and there are a few twists that I never seem to remember are coming. Great fun as always.

Entwined by Heather Dixon – 3.5*

//published 2011//

I read this one a long time ago (before WordPress days) and vaguely remembered liking it but not much more, so I chose it for my traveling book club book this time around. Unfortunately, November was just not a good reading month for me so I think that colored my enjoyment of this story as my reading opportunities were really choppy and difficult. Parts of this book just felt like they went on forever. The sisters in the story are mad at their father pretty much the entire time, and I’ll agree that he’s a jerk at first, but later he starts trying to make amends and they are mean to him for way too long. I did appreciate that the author did not give the sisters a bunch of names that sounded alike and even went so far as the alphabetize them, with the oldest starting with A and going down from there which really helped keep all the sisters straight. I had a few minor continuity issues with this one, especially with the supposed ages of a few of the sisters versus their actions/attitudes. Overall, I didn’t dislike this story but I also didn’t love it.

The Wild Path by Sarah Baughman – 3.5*

//published 2020//

I 100% picked up this book because of that gorgeous cover. This one is a middle grade story about a girl named Claire who lives with her parents in a rural area of Vermont. Claire’s older brother has recently been admitted to a full-time rehab clinic after having issues with a drug addiction formed when he started taking painkillers after an accident. Claire’s parents have announced that they are going to have to sell the family’s two horses in order to save money, but Claire is determined to find a way to save them. The story deals with Claire learning more about her brother’s situation and coming to grips with the way that some parts of our lives are out of our control, and that we can’t make other people “better.” It was actually a lovely story with likable characters, but it did feel a little preachy at times. Somehow, it just never kicked me in the emotions like it seemed like it should. However, this may be a good book for a younger person in a situation similar to Claire’s re: a family member with an addiction (especially if read together with a caring adult) as that was handled sensitively and in a way that felt approachable. In part, that was kind of why I didn’t connect with this story – in some ways it seemed like it was written to specifically be used as a discussion tool more than it was written to tell a story, if that makes sense.

The Sittaford Mystery // by Agatha Christie

//published 1931//

//published 1931//

AKA The Murder at Hazelmoor (a much more sensible title since the murder takes place at Hazelmoor, not Sittaford, but whatever)

Our story opens during a snowstorm in Dartmoor, where the residents of the tiny village of Sittaford are gathering in “the big house” for an evening of quiet socialization.  The hostesses are Mrs. Willett and her daughter, Violet, who have rented Sittaford House for the winter.  The house’s actual owner, Captain Trevelyan, has moved the six-or-so miles down the hill to the larger village of Exhampton for the season.  However, he has retained a close friendship with his long-time cohort, Major Burnaby, who lives in one of the small cottages near Sittaford House.  It is the residents of some these little cottages who are gathering in Sittaford House this snowy evening – Major Burnaby, Mr. Rycroft (an elderly bachelor), Mr. Garfield (a young man staying with his elderly, bed-ridden aunt because she holds the purse-strings), and Mr. Duke (a man of middle-age and slightly mysterious background: possibly from trade, but the neighbors have decided that what they don’t know for sure won’t hurt them).

Throughout the course of the evening, the party decides to try a little table-turning, wherein those present sit around a small table and call for spirits to appear and give messages.  Most everyone knows it’s rather nonsense, but that’s part of the fun.  At first, the messages are lively and silly, but things take a more serious turn when the table tells everyone that Captain Trevelyan has been murdered.  It is 5:25.

Everyone is quite distressed by the message and the game breaks up. Major Burnaby determines that he must go to Exhampton to check on Trevelyan, and he will have to walk since the roads are impassable by car due to the deep snow.  Despite everyone’s protests, he bundles up and heads out.

Well, as you  might have guessed, Burnaby arrives to find Trevelyan dead, and the story goes from there.  Who killed him?  How did the message get through the “spirit world” to the guests of Sittaford House?

As the story progresses, the police make an arrest – one of Trevelyan’s nephews, who stands to inherit a great deal of money (and who definitely needs it).  From here, we get two major perspectives.  One, we follow Inspector Narracott, who is officially in charge of the investigation.  Secondly, we follow a news reporter, Charles Enderby, who joins forces with Emily Trefusis.  Emily happens to be the financee of the accused.  She is positive that he is innocent and is determined to clear his name.

The Sittaford Mystery  is pretty classic Christie.  There are some really likable characters and plenty of red herrings.  I really liked Narracot, Enderby, and Emily.  However, at times I felt like some of action was a little too coincidence-based.  Still, the story rolled right along and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  While not my favorite Christie, it was still a solid read.