Mini-Reviews–feat. Lettuce, Calvin and Hobbes, and Oxford

Hello friends!

The sun has let up on its merciless attempts to fry us all, the air is turning cooler, children are back chained to sitting at their desks, and there are leaves in the gutter. In short, fall is nearly upon us.* So naturally, I’m here to tell you about a few of the books I read over the summer.

*…Or some of us, anyway. (I SEE YOU THERE, AUSTRALIANS.)

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh https://www ...

My Very Informative Summary: It’s the 16th century (I think? Am I expected to remember these kinds of details??), and Jepp is fairly happy with his life at his mother’s inn. Being a dwarf, he faces some challenges and the occasional People Being Jerks, but his mother is excellent at telling people not to mess with her son. When a stranger shows up at the inn offering Jepp a life at Coudenberg Palace, he leaves his little hometown behind because CLEARLY this is a good idea.

Hey, it’s not the greatest summary, but it’s better than the cover flap that tells you HALF THE BOOK.

I Am Here For:

  • Historical fiction about court dwarfs!
  • (Which is actually quite sad considering that parts of the book are based on things that happened to real people)
  • Jepp being naive and sometimes selfish (because let’s face it: none of us were perfect heroes when we were fifteen)
  • The writing/narrative voice. Sometimes when books try to use old-fashioned language it ends up feeling like, “Look! I’m old-fashioned! Look at all my old-fashioned words and phrases!” But I genuinely believed this was just how this kid talked
  • The unfolding of certain elements
  • …Parts of it reminded me of Four Princes? Maybe just because…there was a castle?
  • (Ok, but it made me want to make the castle in Four Princes actually feel like a real castle)

Not So Here For:

  • I do hate Pim. But then he is a good nasty character–which is what he’s supposed to be. So maybe he does belong up there…
  • The astrology…which was kind of a big part of the book. I’m just not into that.
  • The pacing at the end felt weird…but I can’t really judge it objectively because I got busy super near the end and had to put it aside for a few days before finishing (which is a great way to mess up the pacing XD)

Conclusion: I enjoyed it more than expected, and would recommend it if you would like to read a book with a moose in it.

Calvin by Martine Leavitt

Calvin by Martine Leavitt

My Very Informative Summary: Calvin was born on the day the last Calvin and Hobbes comic was published. He had a stuffed tiger named Hobbes and a childhood friend named Suzy. Now he has schizophrenia. Hobbes won’t stop talking to him, and Suzy may or may not be real, so clearly it’s time to take a long journey across a frozen lake.

I Am Here For:

  • Calvin and Hobbes. Obviously.
  • You know when you know someone well enough that you can picture how they would say things? When he went off into Spaceman Spiff monologues, I could actually picture how it would look as frames of Calvin and Hobbes, and it made me happy
  • …I really like Calvin and Hobbes, okay?
  • Schizophrenia.
  • (Is it weird how much I’m drawn to books about schizophrenia?)
  • Lake Erie. What a vast, haunting, unpredictable setting.
  • Calvin randomly going off on a lecture about neurons or something when he’s avoiding a question
  • Susie. I remember that I liked her sometimes, but I can’t remember specifics…

Not So Here For:

  • …Susie. Sometimes I liked her, and sometimes she bugged me. Taking insult at a guy promising not to let you die when you’re in an extreme survival situation does not make you a Strong Woman. It just doesn’t.
  • Kissing. Blegh.

Conclusion: Calvin and Hobbes+Schizophrenia > My Complaints.

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Read an excerpt: Arnold's 'Kids of Appetite'

My Very Informative Summary: There has been a murder. A suspect has been arrested and two teens are being interrogated in separate rooms…and they’re going to tell the police a story about found family and ice cream before they give any information pertinent to the investigation.

I Am Here For:

  • The actual best part of the book
  • (They reminded me of three of my own characters in weirdly specific ways…)
  • Found family!
  • Baz being such a wholesome human and big brother/dad of the group, bless him
  • Zuz speaking through snaps and just being a dear
  • Victor’s writing voice–I love that style where the narrator philosophizes about random things (like side hugs and how awkward they are) and then uses them later with no additional context (“Side hug that I am”)
  • The high-pitched screaming part. Absolute gold.
  • Moebius syndrome
  • The framing device of the investigation

Not So Here For:

  • The romance. Because I’m me and I’m generally not a fan. (Though I was squealing over Ashitaka and San just a few days ago, so it’s not like I’m incapable of supporting romance)
  • He kept just staring at her and thinking about how WORLD-CHANGINGLY BEAUTIFUL she was and–just move on with the story, mate.
  • Language and sexual references. Not a ton, but enough to be obnoxious.
  • The whole, “*GASP* This person has antlers and guns in their house. Therefore, they’re EVIL.” *facepalm*

Conclusion: I really liked parts of this. I wanted to like the book as a whole, but the obnoxious stuff was…obnoxious. I think I’ll take Baz, Zuz, and Coco, and leave the rest.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Pica Reads: House of Many Ways & Castle in the Air

My Very Important Summary: Charmain Baker is house-sitting for her Great Uncle William. She hopes this means she’ll have a quiet house to herself where she can read without being interrupted, but Great Uncle William is a wizard, which means his house is bursting with magic and chaos. And sooner or later Charmain is bound to run into some familiar faces (not familiar to Charmain, that is. Familiar to the reader who is jumping up and down on the sofa).

I Am Here For:

  • I know this is supposed to be Charmain’s book, but let’s be honest: I’m just waiting for a certain chaotic magical family to show up
  • Though I relate to Charmain’s desire to neglect housework and wander off to read a book
  • And I enjoy a good space-bending-secret-passage-ridden house
  • Oh, I suppose I liked Peter too
  • I will always be here for Sophie.
  • CALCIFER. I adore Calcifer.
  • Morgan
  • Twinkle–how does Sophie handle him?
  • Sophie screaming “I TOLD YOU SO!” as she and Howl both charge down the stairs. GOLD.
  • The whole idea of Sophie and Howl as parents just makes me happy

Not So Here For:

  • Eh, it was a little slow.
  • Charmain and Peter were fine, but I never got very attached to them. Charmain could be kind of annoying, and Peter felt like the not-as-interesting version of Michael
  • The Lubbock. Blehhhhh. It reminded me of Alien–even though I’ve never seen it. It reminded me of the one thing I know about Alien, and I was not a fan.

Conclusion: It was no Howl’s Moving Castle, but what is? I didn’t care about the new characters enough to be truly invested in their story, and ended up spending half the book wondering when it was going to talk about Sophie and her family again. Read it once for a few great moments, but otherwise you’re better off re-reading Howl’s Moving Castle.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

To Say Nothing of The Dog | Berkeley Mystery Fiction

My Very Informative Summary: Ned Henry has been to far too many jumble sales in the past week–particularly considering that Ned is from 2057, and the jumble sales are in the 1940s. Severely time-lagged, he is sent back to the Victorian era to get some rest and return…something? To someone? He’s a bit too time-lagged to remember that part of the instructions. Which could cause problems with the space time continuum.

I Am Here For:

  • Time travel can be (and has been) done terribly. But it can also be done excellently and the result is delightful.
  • Time-lag. Particularly the bouts of poetical speech XD
  • Ned Henry
  • Verity Kindle
  • Yes, I’m supporting a romance. SHOCKING, ISN’T IT?
  • They’re so adorable though
  • Cyril. I’m not even a dog person, but Cyril is a dear.
  • Princess Arjumand. I am a cat person, and I fully support prominently featured cats in books
  • All the Victorian England humor
  • Baine (What a guy)
  • Lady Schrapnell whose very name strikes fear in the hearts of every historian at Oxford
  • How completely ghastly the Bishop’s Bird Stump is

Not So Here For:

  • *crickets chirping*
  • …Was there anything?
  • I suppose it was a little long and a tad slow at times (certainly a drawback when the busyness of life comes to hunt you down *distant screaming*)

Conclusion: It’s a delightful comedic British time-travel romp. You should all read it.

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis

The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time Part 13 ...

My Very Informative Summary: It’s 2060, and things are a bit chaotic at Oxford. Assignments are being rearranged at the last minute, historians are frantically trying to prep themselves, and wardrobe doesn’t have a low-profile jacket for Mr. Dunworthy. But things are about to get even more chaotic for Polly, Eileen, and Mike–three historians on separate assignments in WWII–in this story that will make you wish cell phones existed in the 1940s.

(Could I write a less informative summary?)

For anyone who’s confused, this is essentially one big book that was chopped in half by publishers, so I’ll be referring to it all as one book.

I Am Here For:

  • Oxford Time Travel AGAIN
  • I love this world, okay?
  • This one has a much more serious tone than To Say Nothing of the Dog. Different from what I was expecting, but still excellent.
  • Fantastic blend of sci-fi and impeccably researched historical fiction
  • (I’m talking Elizabeth Wein level research here, folks)
  • Polly, Eileen, and Mike–the wholesomeness of this friendship
  • The Hodbins. I adore the Hodbins.
  • Eileen’s relationship with the Hodbins
  • You know when an author gives you a piece of the story and you’re like “…what is this?” And then 300 pages later your brain goes “BA-BOOM” and????
  • That moment where one of the characters briefly mentioned Ned and Verity. They weren’t even there, but it said their NAMES and that was enough to make me happy 🙂
  • MR. DUNWORTHY. He’s so protective of his students and he needs a nap.
  • Colin. Just Colin.
  • FEELINGS. They happened.
  • The plot (did I mention non-linear storytelling??)

Not So Here For:

  • The sort of romance between P and G? It didn’t really go anywhere, but it was still kind of weird…
  • ENSA. Not a fan.
  • Sometimes everything is going wrong for the characters in a book, and it’s great. And sometimes its stResSfUL. I don’t know what it is that makes the difference. In this case, I think it was partly that the characters kept jumping to conclusions about things being resolved. For a while it felt like every chapter ended with the characters thinking, “It’s the retrieval team!” and me screaming, “It is NOT the STINKIN’ RETRIEVAL TEAM, GUYS”. Stress.
  • ‘Twas rather long (over 1100 pages all together, methinks). Did it need to be that long? I honestly don’t know. [It made it a tad inconvenient when I knew I was about to be Busy with Life things, but I couldn’t just sit down and knock the second half of the book out as I sometimes do with wee 200 or 300 page tykes. (*distant screaming reprise*)]

Conclusion: Read it. Read it for the impeccable research and the non-linear storytelling and the wholesome friendships. And Mr. Dunworthy. Read it for Mr. Dunworthy ALONE.


That’s it for today! When will I be back again? Who can say? I’m dreadfully busy at the moment, doing my best to be Useful in All the Ways to the production team of the fall musical, so it might be a while. Still, I’m hesitant to actually say I’m going on hiatus, because I would like to still post if I can make time… (but I’ll have to find the recipe for time first because I have quite forgotten how to go about making it)

What was the best book you read over the summer? What are you reading now? Do you like time travel stories, or can you not stand all the inconsistencies and paradoxes? Do you like Calvin and Hobbes? Do you have any non-linear storytelling recommendations for me? Do tell!


14 responses to “Mini-Reviews–feat. Lettuce, Calvin and Hobbes, and Oxford”

  1. I hate books that are over a thousand pages, unless they are books that I like very much.

    I’ve got some family members who are schizophrenic! It’s always nice to see representation.

    HOWL AND SOPHIE HAD KIDS? Aww, I had no idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How is it that whenever I see one of these, I end up with more books on my reading list?? HALP. WHY do you DO this to me? XD

    Um, Calvin sounds AMAZING except that I am terrified to death of schizophrenia, so I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to read it? Maybe? Hm. I do adore Calvin & Hobbes, though, SO much, so I’m putting it on my reading list, and if I don’t like it I can DNF it, I suppose.

    WAIT interrogation that hinges around found family before the crime sounds? So? Good? WHAT? Even though the obnoxious stuff does sound obnoxious…I think I might need to read it anyway.

    House of Many Ways is so fun! I agree that it’s not as good as HMC, but I still like it. 🙂

    Um, I hate time travel, but To Say Nothing of the Dog sounds so good? What? I might need it?


    Liked by 1 person

    • I’M SORRY, SAM, I DIDN’T MEAN TO (…except maybe I did) In the future maybe I should only write mini-reviews of books that are incredibly dull and boring 😉
      The fact that your love of Calvin and Hobbes overcomes your fear of schizophrenia is an inspiration XD (But definitely stop reading and hide it in a bush if it gets too terrifying)
      Ack, I know! It’s such a great set up. It’s so frustrating when books don’t live up to my expectations XD If you do end up reading it, I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts 🙂
      House of Many Ways IS quite fun. I just get caught up on the fact that it’s not HMC. It’s really not fair to the poor thing to judge it based on whether or not it measures up to its uncommonly excellent predecessor XD
      I totally understand hating time travel, but… *slyly slides To Say Nothing of the Dog across the table, whispering* …you should give this one a try.
      *frantically gathering stalks of bamboo to prop your TBR up before it falls on you*


      • Ok, I just wanted to let you know: I just finished reading Calvin and IT WAS SO AMAZING thank you for the recommendation, and now I will simply scream about it forever.
        It. Was. Brilliant.
        (And I wasn’t even that scared. XD)
        The Calvin & Hobbes everything, the way Calvin’s brain worked, the relationship between him and Susie, Hobbes’s hilarity, EVERYTHING.
        So. I appreciate your inflation of my TBR, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. XD

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I adore Calvin and Hobbes and am rather interested in schizophrenia, so “Calvin” sounds like something to add to my tbr. However, “To Say Nothing of the Dog” is what’s really catching my eye and you’ve convinced me to try and hunt it down somewhere and read it.
    Wonderful post, I always love reading your mini-reviews! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love these review formats! (And I’m really enjoying your blog, too! 🙂 )

    “Taking insult at a guy promising not to let you die when you’re in an extreme survival situation does not make you a Strong Woman. It just doesn’t.” Uh. Yes. He’s promising NOT TO LET YOU DIE. *facepalms* It’s demonstrates a strong character when you DON’T get offended at every single thing.

    Oh, my goodness, those Connie Willis books sound amazing! I’m a sucker for good time travel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Ugh, yes. It really is a much better indication of strength when a person doesn’t take offense at every opportunity. Haha, I’m a little obsessed with Connie Willis right now. I’m a bit of a sucker for time travel myself when its done well, and I quite like what Connie Willis does with the concept 🙂
      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have read and want to read exactly none of these books, but reading this was still SO ENTERTAINING. May I please know your secrets?

    I love Calvin and Hobbes so much. Recently I read one over the phone to my dad and sister because it was so good and I just had to (and I kind of did my best to narrate the pictures too) and even though narration-over-phone is NOT the ideal way to read a Calvin and Hobbes comic, they both still laughed. Because it’s just GOOD.

    Getting offended at someone promising not to let you die indeed does not make you a Strong Woman, but I think (I don’t know, but I think) it does make you an Idiot.
    (But like, dude. I’m an independent sort of girl and I can take care of my myself and all that, but if I was IN DANGER, I would NOT be mad if some guy came sword-swinging to my rescue. PLEASE come sword-swinging to my rescue. XD)

    Guns and antlers = evil. This is always hilarious to me. It is probably the dominating decorative scheme in Gaston’s house, though, so it must be a true measure of one’s character.

    Have you read Doomsday Book, also by Connie Willis? It always sounded really cool to me, and I never read it because I actually can’t stand time travel, but these other Connie Willis books sound similarly cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, thank you! If I knew my secret, I would absolutely tell you, but apparently it’s a secret even to me *disappears in a mysterious swish of my cape*
      *reappears because I have more to say*
      CALVIN and HOBBES. Calvin and Hobbes ALL DAY. So good it’s even still funny over the phone XD
      Honestly though. If I’m about to die, I have zero problems with a guy sword-swinging to the rescue. (Or even if I’m not about to die. Like if I have to walk back to my car alone at night when there are college guys around who have had a little too much to drink?? And a guy friend offers to walk me to my car?? Yes PLEASE do. I am so far from being insulted.)
      I think we should all judge peoples characters based on their interior decorating choices XD
      I haven’t read Doomsday Book yet, but I would like to! (Because MR. DUNWORTHY IS IN IT)

      Liked by 1 person

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