It's that time of year again! Happy Holidays to everyone! Or rather, a belated Merry Christmas, as this review came out a few days later than I'd planned. Of course, it also gave me a chance to include my 100th read book this year, Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets.
This is a feature I've been hoping to keep up since 2016, with two posts a year, once at mid-year on the first day of June (my birthday!), and one at the end of the year for Christmas! Whether you like it or not, you're getting a packaged review post!
Meanwhile, in other news, I've been out of touch online, and I hope to get back into more interaction with the holidays winding down. I'll also have a couple more updates about how the rest of the year has gone, and how my new year will start... maybe. I'm also needing to post an update on my progress with 24 Festive Tasks--that'll probably get posted this weekend!
Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1)
by Juliet Marillier
Rating: 3.5 Stars
The only thing I recall describing this book as, when I was talking to my BFF, was how heavy the content matter turned out. I suppose I was more familiar with Marillier's YA books (Shadowfell, Wildwood...). It's not that I didn't know what to expect--I'd read some telltale hints here and there about what happens in Daughter of the Forest--trigger warnings, if you will.
Those moments are fleeting, but still a bit surprising.
Anyway, overall, Daughter of the Forest was a good read, even if there were moments that I wished the story would get on with itself. But Marillier's penchant for whimsical, magical lore and atmosphere more than makes up for those few moments of drag.
by Amanda Quick
Rating: 2.0 Stars
Definitely not one of Amanda Quick's best books, but still had a bit of the same charm I've come to appreciate from her. Unfortunately, the frustration I had with both of our main characters overshadowed that charm. Emily was a walking doormat and Simon was just a typical, broody, Grade A jackass. How this romance is even supposed to work in the long-term will definitely be a miracle.
Meanwhile, I actually found the constant references to the "exotic tastes of the East" a bit distasteful. It reeks of misrepresentation and false ideals. And the repetitive descriptions of the metaphysical plane or transcendental communication or some such bullshit got annoying after a while.
But this is Amanda Quick, and I love Amanda Quick.
I just didn't love this book.
Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park #1)
by Michael Crichton
audio book narrated by Scott Brick
Rating: 4.0 Stars
This book was a "reread," which quite rarely happens, because I'm always worried that reading an old favorite will come back and bite me in the butt. Especially an old favorite from my younger, teen days. My tastes have change a lot since then.
But as we can see, I still ended up really enjoying the heck out of myself with this extremely long audio book. The beginning took a while to start up, but I started getting into the story once the park started getting out of control... though I'd forgotten how bloody and gory this book was. Considering this is about dinosaurs, it's surprising that I was so startled by some of the blood and guts.
Meanwhile, obviously there were some glaring foibles about Jurassic Park that my high school self managed to overlook. At present, I'm still going to overlook them in favor of my enjoyment of this book, but I will still acknowledge said foibles.
A wonderful narration by Scott Brick though, and makes me want to jump on into the next book, The Lost World, if he's narrating that one, too!
Not My Father's Son
written and narrated by Alan Cumming
Rating: 4.0 Stars
This was a wonderful narration and telling by Alan Cumming, detailing a terrible and dark childhood, involving his abusive father and how he has questioned his self-worth his entire life. Aside from that, it's also a very thought-provoking story, as Alan brings a lot of modern issues to light: child abuse, women's rights, LGBTQ rights...
Alan Cumming is truly an inspirational, and wonderful man, and I'm glad he shares so much of his life with us. I also love those little tidbits that shine through the bleakness of his telling, that show the sweetness of his love for his mother, Mary Darling, his brother, Tommy, and his husband, Grant. He doesn't showcase a whole lot of laugh-out-loud humor, but his presentation is more of a "smile warmly to yourself" kind, and I loved it!
The Light Fantastic (Discworld #2)
by Terry Pratchett
Rating: 4.0 Stars
I'm not sure if it was simply the fact that I'm more familiar with the writing style now, or maybe the characters, but The Light Fantastic was certainly more enjoyable than The Colour of Magic had been. While there were still some instances where I found the humor a little odd, there were many points in the book I highlighted because I thought it either chuckle-worthy, or simply a ingeniously inserted one-liner.
Pratchett proves that he can easily reel you into the world of Discworld, and I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the series now.
In fact, the ending of this book kind of gave me a little pang of sadness, in a weird way. I'm going to miss some of these characters... sort of.
Chasing Fire (Colorado High Country #7 / I-Team crossover)
by Pamela Clare
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Pamela Clare never fails to bring out the heart in all of her books. As schmaltzy as some of her dialogue sometimes comes out, she's as equally meticulous about detail and good characterization. One cannot help but to fall in love with the world she's created, surrounding the beautiful characters from both the I-Team world and the Colorado High Country series.
This is a crossover (not the first) between her Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance series, but this time she utilizes more characters from both than simply a guest appearance. From a story plot standpoint, however, this was more a Colorado High Country book than I-Team, as Erik Hawke, chief of the small Scarlet Springs fire department, pretty much takes center stage in fighting for his life as well as the lives of his townspeople to battle a raging forest fire before it burns down his town.
I've always loved the attention to detail that Pamela puts into the goings-on of the Scarlet Springs Search and Rescue team's every tone out. And I am especially appreciative of how well she outlines the way in which the fire fighting team battles the forest fire.
This book is less about character development, but more a story being told of how a community bands together to help each other when something this disastrous unfolds. Man versus nature is a hard battle to fight, really, and I love how she handled this issue.
The truth is, I loved this book enough to give it a full out five star rating. Of course, her tendency towards schmaltz, and her habit of making all of her characters an exposition fairy every couple chapters can really take away from the telling of the story sometimes.
How the Dukes Stole Christmas (anthology)
authors include: Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Joanna Shupe
Rating: 3.8 Stars
I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I had a bias going into this book. I love Tessa Dare, no matter that her heroines are typically not historically accurate in terms of mannerisms and roles. But that's what's delightful about them. And the fact that this is a holiday book helps as well.
The truth is, though, aside from the magical shortbread cookies and the typical Happily Ever After, I don't really have much to say about this book. I enjoyed each story, and that seems to be about it.
Sarah MacLean's The Duke of Christmas Present was probably the most thought-provoking, in-depth romance, but a bit too angst-ridden for my liking. I don't remember much about Dare's Meet Me in Mayfair, sadly, considering it was her name that drew me to this anthology in the first place. I couldn't quite get into Heiress Alone by Sophie Jordan, and thought it was a little hard(er) to suspend disbelief for--as well as having a pretty loosely wrapped up ending. Christmas in Central Park was by far my favorite, if only because of how fiery the heroine was and how lovely her friendships are presented.
There's also a nod to making of shortbread cookies, which my mother and I discovered first-hand this year what "cream the butter and sugar together" actually meant. It was the first time we'd ever made cookies, period. We succeeded after the second batch, and lovely chocolate shortbread cookies were borne!
Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets
an Audible Studios Original
written by John Woolf & Nick Baker
narrated by Stephen Fry
Rating: 3.5 Stars
I'm not sure I know how I felt about this one. It felt like a strange documentary you'd expect to see (or hear) at a theme park, or a random television presentation. It was entertaining, but I don't know if I'd call it enjoyable since I DID somehow zone out several times.
The book itself was outlined in a rather scattered way, and I found myself realizing that we were talking about a new, different historical instance than what was being narrated five minutes ago, without a very clear transition.
Still, I think I'd give 3 Stars just for Stephen Fry's presentation alone. Another 0.5 Stars is for the actual book itself because it was entertaining, and also I might have learned a few new things about Victorians, even if the rest were more open secrets than actual secrets.