Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Mini-Review Roundup

Mini-Review Roundup

I read and loved The Wicked and the Just, and so I was expecting something similar here. I both did and didn't get it, but I'm very happy overall. In TW&TJ, things were brutal. I appreciated that level of in-your-face brutality that drove home the situation and made it feel palpable. This book is much more middle grade and so it wasn't nearly as brutal.

Instead, what this evoked was Little House on the Prairie, and I mean that in a good way. It had adventure and the excitement of traveling into the untamed unknown. It had the warmth of family, friendship, dreams, and belonging. It had the hardscrabble disappointments and learning how to live in a new environment. It had scenery and a sense of place. It had so many things I love and I'm so glad I read it.

I loved the first book in this series, put down the second one (I'll finish it, it's just... Henry III is annoying) and so I thought I'd jump ahead to this book and learn more about one of my favorite kings (Edward I), one of my least favorite kings but exciting time periods (Edward II), and a king I know little about (Edward III). I got about as much as I was expecting: A fun and engaging narrative from an author I like a whole lot.

The Edward I part was fun, but left me wanting as it focused far more on William Wallace and the Scottish squabbles and not nearly as much as I wanted on Edward the man and his family. That's to be expected, but ever since reading (and absolutely loving) Cashelmara I've been pining for another book that focuses on the people.

The Edward II part was also to be expected. Solid. The Edward III part was interesting and gave me a lot more insight into The Black Prince, who has always been this figure of legend and not much substance to me. Joan the Fair Maid of Kent, John of Gaunt, and Alice Perrers all made appearances, naturally, and they all took on a little more shading and depth than my cursory knowledge up to this point. It also, of course, gave more insight into Edward III himself, though he still feels more shadowy. I almost feel like I know the other players more. Perhaps I'll try to find a historical fiction book that puts some personality into his character.

I still wasn't sure if I was going to continue with this series right away, but it tugged at my mind and I decided to continue on with the third book. It was...mostly as good as the first two. This one felt a little disjointed. The first part of the book was the same pattern as the first two books and I enjoyed it. Then she finally went to America and I lost steam. The new group of characters didn't grab me the way the old bunch did and I couldn't help but feel like her whirling adventure around the US was a distraction from what I really wanted to read, which was her life with her family, friends, and foes in England. It wasn't bad, but I wasn't nearly as into it as I was previously and it was easy to put the series down after this book. I still want to read the final book, but I don't feel the need to do so any time soon.

The Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott

I absolutely adore Kilpack's book A Heart Revealed. I keep reading her other books in the Proper Romance series hoping to hit gold again, but every other book I've read has been just okay. This one included. I did not really like the main character and the story with his love interests was predictable and tortured in the execution. I mean, it wasn't bad and I think if a reader clicks with Walter then they'll enjoy it more than I did. It wasn't badly written, but I really disliked Walter and Mina and their parts were so long and so predictable. I did like Charlotte, but even her charm couldn't balance out the Walter and Mina parts enough to save this one for me. I own a print copy of this book, but I'll be passing it on.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Mini-Review Roundup

Mini-Review Roundup

I liked these books. They're short reads and each chapter is about a page or two long. So, they're super easy to read. I read them in the background, so to speak, where I might pick it up, read a chapter or two, and put it down again for a few days. I return to it when I want a moment of peace, rest, or to re-find my composure. For that, they're nice. Not every chapter is profound and sometimes they don't really stick, but often enough they do and they give me something to ponder or something that causes me to stop and pause or shift my mindset.

Elizabeth Norton has long been on my TBR bu this is the first book of hers I've read. It won't be my last, but...I'm not rushing out to read more of her books either. The pros? When she got into the groove, her writing was easy and enjoyable to read. I got into it. I liked reading about the queens I knew just as much as reading about the queens I didn't know, which tells me that her narrative style was accessible and provided enough information that I was entertained even if I was already familiar and enough information that I could follow along even if I'd never read about the queen before. That's all good and why I would read another one of her books.

Now, the downsides? First minor quibble: typos. A few times Henry VI was used when it should have been Henry V, or vice versa or similar. Not a big deal if you know the history, but super confusing if you don't.

More importantly, there was too much repetition and telling and not enough showing. The "thesis" of this book is essentially that history blames strong women and unfairly judges them for actions that are justifiable and wouldn't have been considered wrong if a man had done them. Okay. A little annoying, but fine. I could have gotten on board with this had the author focused on giving examples of what the women did and let me come to my own conclusions that they were 1) badass, 2) justified, and 3) wrongly maligned (which I would have determined on my own had she made a strong case in the examples for 1 and 2).

Instead, the author glossed over the examples so I could only sort of come to these conclusions on my own and she used more page time just repeating the tired thesis. The chapters fell into a similar pattern of: State thesis, give brief overview of queen's life that somewhat demonstrates her strength and how her actions were justified, and then repeat thesis...a few more times. Had these repetitive "telling" parts been removed, it would have been a solid, if not amazing, book.

I wasn't sure if I was going to continue with this series right away, but it tugged at my mind and I decided to pick up the second book. It was just as good as the first. Same quirky style, same funny and relatable situations, and the characters continued to grow on me. Not much else to say except if you liked the first book, then definitely pick up the second. 

Please Don't Eat the Daisies

I stumbled on this through Goodreads while looking up Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages (below). It was reviewed well and only 142 pages so I figured, why not? And started reading it right then and there. It was...okay. It was worth reading to the end, I guess, since it was so short. There were some funny parts. I didn't really like the narrator though, and the whole thing had a mean edge to it that I think was supposed to be funny but didn't appeal to me. The humor sometimes hit the mark exactly, but more often than not I felt like I was supposed to find it funnier and wittier than I actually did. 

While quite a departure from the Shirley Jackson I'm familiar with, I may even like this side of her writing more. At least, it hit the spot. This is another one of those "humor through commenting on mundane life" types of books, but unlike Please Don't Eat the Daisies, this one felt nice and relatable. I didn't feel like the author was sneering at me, rather, I felt like we could sit across a worn kitchen table together sipping sub-par coffee and splitting a chocolate bar. It was a quick read and ended nicely, so while I don't need to read the sequel right away, I'd like to pick it up soon.

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