Mini-Reviews–in which I have at least one crisis and throw out a cheesecake

Hello, friends!

I’ve been terribly busy lately with Life (booooo), but I somehow managed to scrounge up some mini-reviews (“somehow” meaning I sat on the couch and silently screamed at my laptop and–oh, dear I’ve skipped lunch, haven’t I? *resolves to got eat something as soon as I finish this*).

Apparently January was a very Angsty reading month for me. Prepare yourself for a great deal of incoherent screaming.

The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday

My Very Informative Summary: Poxl isn’t actually Eli’s uncle, but he might as well be. When Poxl publishes his autobiography about being a Polish Jewish pilot during WWII, Eli thinks it’s the actual greatest book ever to exist on this planet. But some people…do not agree (myself included).

(It’s been a while since I wrote Very Informative Summaries. I believe I’m a little rusty.)

I Am Here For:

  • Dual narrative! The majority of the book is Poxl’s autobiography, but we also get sections from Eli’s perspective in “the present” (which is…the 80s, I believe?)
  • SOME people know how to RESEARCH
  • I read a lot of WWII books last year, so there kept being things that reminded me of them. Incendiaries falling on St. Paul’s? *tossing my hair* Yes, well I know St. Paul’s won’t burn down because I read Blackout. Mentioning the perspex dome in a bomber? *suddenly sits up straighter* That reminds me of the Enigma Game, which reminds me of JAMIE BEAUFORT-STUART
  • (I guess it would be more impressive if I remembered things from actual history, but you know, I’ll take what I can get)
  • Cousins! There wasn’t a lot of cousin content, but there was some and it made me happy
  • That one part where the grad student asks, “Don’t you think we have enough of these kinds of stories?” Because people do that to authors nowadays and…and… *flips over a table* THESE STORIES MATTER, OKAY??
  • Morally grey decisions, idolization of people, being failed by your idols–all those flawed pictures of humanity. (The bit about the acknowledgements was so human it made me laugh and cringe at the same time)
  • Simple beautiful sentences like this: She wasn’t much of a dancer and neither was I, but when Glenn Miller came on I took her hand and we did the best we could.

Not So Here For:

  • *distant maniacal laughter–or is that screaming?* Oh boy
  • WHY
  • Who decided what a book needs to be in order to be considered “an adult book” and “contemporary literature”?? Because I HATE IT
  • This book checks all the boxes to earn the aforementioned titles. Existentialism. Ends with everyone being depressed (including the reader). Lots of language and Content and UGH
  • There was so much Content, guys. So. Much.
  • The Brauns. I HATE THEM, UGH
  • (And it’s even worse because I don’t know if you’re supposed to, but they are SO DISTURBING AND AWFUL)
  • The ending. The ENDING. That is NOT HOW YOU END A BOOK

Conclusion: Yes, there were things I really liked about it, but let’s put it this way: I love cheesecake. I do. But if you dump the contents of an entire trashcan onto a cheesecake, am I going to say, “The trash is unpleasant, but the cheesecake is worth it”? NOPE. The cheesecake has been compromised. GOODBYE CHEESECAKE.

The Guardians Series by William Joyce (Reread)

My Very Informative Summary: In the town of Santoff Claussen there is a girl named Katherine and a bunch of boys named William and also a wizard named Ombric who lives in a very large tree with lots of owls. They all live happily until a threat comes in the form of Fearlings and an ally comes in the form of Nicholas St. North, and everything snowballs until people are journeying to the center of the earth and flying to the moon.

Nailed it.

Clearly, after reading an Adult Book, I needed to read an entire series of Middle Grade to recover.

I Am Here For:

  • Mash-up of….oh gosh, what are they called? Not fairy tale characters exactly. Mythical persons? Holiday mascots??
  • I don’t know what they’re called, but they’re here. They interact. It’s jolly good fun.
  • (In case you still don’t know what I’m talking about: Santa Claus. Sandman. Tooth Fairy. Etc.)
  • The ILLUSTRATIONS. William Joyce is a master of whimsical beautiful pencil drawings and I adore them
  • North being the Russian sword-wielding pistol-firing Santa Claus we all need
  • North essentially being a big brother to Katherine (because SIBLINGS)
  • Nightlight. Nightlight is a dear.
  • Making daggers out of the tears of the people you love so you can PROTECT THEM. What a jam
  • Toothiana having such an angsty backstory and being so intense
  • Emphasis on the power of stories
  • THE MOONBEAM. I love this little moonbeam
  • Pitch’s backstory
  • Actually ALL the golden age backstory
  • Considering how small these books are, William Joyce packs in so much lore it’s impressive
  • The bit about the earthworms in book 5. First class writing.

Not So Here For:

  • Bunnymund. I just…don’t like him
  • Fixing your problems by chanting “I believe, I believe, I believe”
  • So many exclamation marks. Less so in the later books, but in the first book I was like, “Whoa, son.”
  • Sometimes a bit juvenile, but eh

Conclusions: It’s not perfect, but I love it in spite of its flaws. It’s delightfully whimsical. I mean, come on, there are warrior librarians who fight using onomatopoeia.

King Rat by China Miéville

My Very Informative Summary: Saul and his father may have had issues, but he certainly didn’t MURDER him. Unfortunately, the police aren’t so sure. When a super sketchy stranger shows up to break Saul out of his jail cell, he does what any sensible person would do: says, “Sure! Why not? And I’ll go with you across the city because this is obviously a great idea.”

This one is…wild.

I Am Here For:

  • Pied Piper spin off
  • To quote my aunt who gave it to me for Christmas: “It’s sort of a Pied Piper retelling, but…” *indescribable face that says I don’t even know how to describe it or Well anyway, just read it or possibly It’s just a really weird book*
  • (It is a really weird book, guys)
  • Gallivanting across the roofs of London
  • Just…the wildness of it all. King Rat and the whole new side of London Saul has never experienced
  • Sketchy people making sketchy decisions
  • Tenuous alliances and self-preservation
  • The use of music and reworking the pied piper story
  • The Piper is SO SCARY, GUYS. I don’t know if I liked it or not, but he was effectively terrifying

Not So Here For:

  • …It was really violent. I can only handle so many brutal murders in one day
  • There was so much language. I don’t mind some, and I wasn’t scandalized or anything, but it was just obnoxious. Every single character used the F word almost every time they spoke (often more than once) and there are other words in the English language, son
  • There were twisted, morally gray-ish characters that were awful but also complex and interesting to a point where you could empathize…until you couldn’t. At a certain point the author went, “Nope, they’re just evil.” It would have been more interesting if we had been able to keep caring about them and grappling with their decisions and flaws
  • The ending. It felt unnecessarily depressing.

Conclusion: …I don’t even know. Did I enjoy it? Yes, to a point. It was a wild ride, but it left sort of a bad taste in my mouth. I can read books like this occasionally, but not all the time.

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

My Very Informative Summary: Janner, Tink, and Leeli live with their mother and grandfather in a little cottage outside Glipwood township. Their lives are reasonably happy and everything is fine–except it is not fine, because Fangs are occupying the village, you know. In the course of events, things become really not fine. So not fine that a good deal of fighting and hiding and running for their lives is required.

If that’s not a good summary, I don’t know what is.

(And yes, I know it is in fact not a good summary, but–as I said–I don’t know what is. So we’re stuck with this)

I Am Here For:

  • You don’t understand how much I love this man
  • Tink (MY BOY)
  • Tink’s Angst (someone hug this child for me)
  • Siblings. We support siblings here.
  • Musical sibling telepathy because why not??
  • Okay, but did I mention how much I love Peet
  • Quirky footnotes
  • Lore and songs
  • Artham and Esben. It’s backstory, and there’s not much of it, but every time they are mentioned I want a whole book about them
  • It’s really hard to write a book with God in it without making it cheesy and preachy…but for the most part this one pulls it off okay? *tips hat in respect*
  • The song of the ancient stones (I mean, it’s awful, but it enables so much angst!)
  • Janner in his Excellent Moments (like the end of book two)

Not So Here For:

  • I don’t know what to do with this series
  • I don’t know what to do with Janner. I don’t. He’s flawed, but he’s supposed to be? But he’s more flawed than the author thinks he is? Or the author is trying too hard to show that he’s flawed, but then forgives him for his disproportionate flaws really quickly and easily??? I can’t articulate WHAT the issue is, but it’s an issue
  • *flips over a table in rage*
  • I’m an older sibling, okay? I get it. Sometimes you get mad at your younger siblings. If a younger sibling messes up really badly and isn’t sorry, you’ll probably be mad at them. But if they are sorry? GENUINELY sorry? If they’re actually in tears telling you they messed up really badly and now they can’t fix it and everything is their fault and they’re terrified and feel awful and they are SORRY? What older sibling in their right mind is going to say “Yeah, it is all your fault” and then look at them with DISGUST and hope that their younger sibling can SEE how completely DISGUSTED they are with them?????
  • *slams the door on my way out*
  • *shuffles back in because I have more to say*
  • Like I said, most of the time having God in there worked. But sometimes it got really preachy with the author’s worldview/opinion on a certain subject shoehorned in there and…it didn’t work for me
  • …Why are all the girls/women so Perfect?
  • WHY did one of my favorite characters fall off the face of the earth for the second half of the last book??
  • The ending
  • Because there was a beautiful metaphor happening and then SOMEONE just wrecked it and doomed their own character arc
  • Also the writing at the end was just WEIRD. The tone? What was happening??? Someone’s like, “Oh, look, my girlfriend. Let’s kiss,” and??? After what just happened????????

Conclusion: …I don’t know what to do with it. My sister was having an existential crisis after she read it and I was kind of rolling my eyes and now….I get it. I have no idea how to feel about it. I both love and hate it very intensely.


There you have it!

I got a bit carried away with the vehement screaming. I hope I haven’t offended anyone too deeply. *skips around in a circle in an attempt at levity after all my sleep-deprived grumpiness*

*skipping turns to sprinting as I bolt out of the room in search of long overdue lunch*

What have you been reading lately? What’s a book you have an intense love-hate relationship with? Do you have a favorite retelling/spin-off? Why do you think Adult Books tend to be so depressing? What’s a book that made you metaphorically shout “Goodbye, Cheesecake”? Do tell!


13 responses to “Mini-Reviews–in which I have at least one crisis and throw out a cheesecake”

  1. Mmm. Well, you know how I feel about Janner. (Guess it’s time for another essay-length post!) I know I never finished responding about that subject on your earlier post, but I will say that I get what you’re saying, and your reaction is completely reasonable (even if I don’t completely agree). You’re definitely right that his response sometimes goes way out of proportion, usually because before that he’s trying to repress his reaction to avoid hurting people’s feelings, and then it reaches the bursting point (usually at the worst possible moment) and everything comes pouring out. You do have to remember that in that particular scene, *slight spoiler alert* he’s been desperately trying to protect his brother from bullies and worse for the entire book, and is now realizing that the freedom, perhaps the lives of his whole family is in danger because of Tink’s actions… and of course, he doesn’t understand Tink’s real reasons (not that Tink does, either). While his reaction wasn’t fair to Tink, I almost feel that his restraint was admirable under the circumstances. At least he kept most of what he was thinking in his head. Janner does seem to have some parts of his cognition and reaction that don’t make sense, though, especially in the first two books. I have to keep reminding myself that humans don’t always make sense. 🙂 I do agree about parts of the ending. I mean, I get why he did it that way, but I think it could have been much more effective if he’d reworked it differently. And Peet! Yes!!! I think what I love most about Janner is how much he can be like Peet at times. Anyway, I really found your point of view thought-provoking, and I might have to think about this some more again. 🙂
    I’ve been reading some of the other books you’ve reviewed at your recommendation–the Murderbot series, at the moment–so thank you! And let me say one more time that I have really enjoyed our discussion on this issue and I very much appreciate seeing this series from your viewpoint.

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Hey, Anna! I’m actually the one who had the earlier Janner discussion with you. But these mini-reviews were done by my dear sister, and our Janner viewpoint is very nearly identical, so I understand why you thought we were the same person! I really enjoyed reading this comment and I am curious what my sister will say in response to the points you made. 🙂 I still don’t think that Janner’s flaws were handled very well, but I’m learning to appreciate his admirable points a bit better than I did.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I think you’re confusing me with my sister, The Story Sponge! I just read these books and this is the first time I’ve talked about Janner (or the books in general) on my blog. It’s an understandable mix-up though since my sister and I had a lot of similar opinions on the series
      I get what you’re saying about Janner. I have a lot of issues with his character, but honestly, at his core, I think I really like him (especially moments when he’s like Peet, yes!!<3). I get what you're saying about the chicken coop scene, and it's true that he restrains himself from saying everything he's thinking, but the part where he wants to make sure Tink knows how disgusted he is with him…that just crossed a line for me XD
      Thanks for reading! I love hearing your opinion on this!


  2. I know, I know. I’m sorry! I realized soon after I posted that it was probably The Story Sponge I responded to on this question before. 🤦‍♀️ (Perhaps it would have been smart to check first…) You can just take this as a response to both of you. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts on the subject! And I have had to rethink or reorganize my opinions on the structure of Janner’s character since discussing it with you both. Thanks for the wholesome conversation!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, my good Hyde, I must admit, I skimmed this post in a hurry, as I’ve not been doing much blog reading during my “Abrupt and Thankfully Going to Be Much Shorter Than Expected” hiatus, ha. But I gotta say, your Very Informative Summaries never fail to be delightful. And the idea of a Pied Piper spin off in novel form is something quite fascinating to me. I’ve considered writing one several times, actually…didja know about the stain glass window where the original story came from? *shudders* Yeah. I want some elaboration on that story somewhere. Unfortunately, I’m not fond of cursing, so I think I’ll pass on that particular one, but if you ever run into a cleaner one let me know lol. Anyways, God bless you Hyde!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so pleased to hear your absence will be shorter than expected! I once had an idea for a Pied Piper retelling short story myself (I never finished it, but perhaps I’ll revisit it someday…) I’ll be sure to let you know if I ever find a cleaner spin-off than King Rat. In the meanwhile, I hope you’ll write your own novel spin-off of the story so that I can read it someday 🙂


  4. What do you mean your Very Informative Summaries aren’t good synopses? They are the best synopses I have ever laid eyes upon.

    (Okay, but, for real, I wish every book I ever picked up had a Very Informative Summary as the back cover blurb. It would give me a much better idea of what I was getting myself into than the actual blurbs usually do…)

    GOODBYE CHEESECAKE. *laughs* *but also cries because it’s so accurate for some things I’ve read* Like…hmm. The Three Musketeers. Or Big Red Tequila. Or Brideshead Revisited. Or, heck, even Six of Crows…though I guess that one wasn’t cheesecake to begin with, to my palate (I just was REALLY REALLY hoping it would be), nor was a garbage truck dumped on it, but I did get quite tired of the continual trickle of garbage. Yeah. I’ve read plenty of GOODBYE CHEESECAKE books, and it’s really quite distressing.

    I don’t think I’ll read King Rat, for reasons listed in your post, but I kind of want to because it sounds WEIRD and COOL and also I have a thing for Pied Piper retellings. Like, I haven’t read any, but I /want/ to. I need to pull mine out and start working on it again, I guess.

    I have wondered too why Adult books have to be so Depressing. I think it partly has to do with the complicated relationship between what you believe and what story you choose to tell? Like, what you believe always slips in /somehow/. I think for authors who don’t believe in, like, God or anything, there’s no real meaningful or HOPEFUL alternative to believing in God, so if they write MG, that belief in lack of ultimate hope or meaning tends to show itself in a lack of real depth (even if the story is otherwise charming), and if they write Adult, it tends to show itself as depressing endings or depressing vibes in general. That may be a really oversimplified way of looking at it, but ’tis the Thought I had.

    May your lunch not long evade you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, I do wonder what books I would have steered clear of/picked up if I had been able to read Very Informative Summaries of them instead of normal cover blurbs…
      *cries with you* Oh, interesting. I’ve been meaning to read The Three Musketeers for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to it–and now I am wary. Dare I ask what made it a “Goodbye Cheesecake” book for you? Six of Crows as a “not really cheesecake to begin with, with a continual trickle of garbage on it” is sadly accurate. *shakes head in disappointment* [Every once in a while when I say something about how great Inej is or Kaz’s tragic backstory, my sister is like, “…Do you want me to read this?” To which my response is always along the lines of, “No, because Garbage. Just let me tell you all the best parts.”]
      If you ever find a Pied Piper retelling that’s cool and not so glaringly an “Adult” book, DO let me know. (And if you ever finish your own retelling, REALLY DO let me know)
      Oh oh OH. I find these thoughts fascinating indeed. I’ve thought about the fact that part of what makes adult books so depressing is the worldview/lack of hope, but somehow I never connected that to the MG counterpart–even when it’s not depressing (because let’s make it happy for the kiddos who are naive and still believe in hope and happy endings), it still lacks that depth. [Which plays into a whole concept surrounding MG/children’s literature that I’m fascinated by (and very passionate about) that C.S. Lewis talks about–where authors write things they themselves wouldn’t want to read, but they think it’s “what children want” and it’s condescending and always falls flat and– *jumps up and down because, like I said, I’m VERY passionate about this subject and could talk about it forever*]
      *captures lunch* *evil laughter*

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Three Musketeers:
        CHEESECAKE: friendship between fellow soldiers! wit! mysterious tragic backstories! impulsive heroes! gallivanting across the countryside in ridiculous adventures fueled by political intrigue! swashbuckling!
        (Note: there was not actually nearly as much swashbuckling as there should be in a book called The Three Musketeers. But anyway.)
        GOODBYE FOREVER, SWEET CHEESY CREAMY FILLING WITHIN NUTTY GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST: they had like, no morals??!? I was a little scandalized, not gonna lie, not because I’d never read anything like it before but because this was before I realized that “classic” doesn’t necessarily equal “unobjectionable in content.” So yeah a lot of people sleep with people who aren’t their wives (also one of them is gonna be a priest or something like that I think. and WHAT.) and it’s…okay…but then the main character’s love interest is a married woman???? *blinks* I’m sorry, did I miss something? Why? Are we pretending this is completely normal and fine? Couldn’t she have just not been married since it would have changed NOTHING about the story? And then also the main character isn’t even faithful to HER because he’s all enchanted by how incredibly sexy (apparently????) the villainess is. So right as he’s trying to seduce this married lady he sees ANOTHER lady and sleeps with HER. And she is just. The most annoying and over the top villainess ever. Like the fact that she outwits them all? They are IDIOTS??? And THAT’S not to mention poor what’s-his-name, the English Puritan guy who I totally thought Dumas was mocking for being…Puritan. A Christian who took his faith and moral principles seriously and was therefore OBVIOUSLY the most naive little easily-taken-advantage-of fool EVER. Yeah. You get it, at this point, I think. Goodbye cheesecake.

        “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” is the BEST THING EVER.
        And I just. Agree SO MUCH. Like, guess what my favorite books were as a kid, anyway? The ones I still love today!! Kids are not stupid! Kids are people! Kids have brains and hearts (I mean…what? hearts? Forget I said that. Peter Pan has not taught me nothing. Kids don’t have those.) and they deserve good literature! And you will never write good literature for someone you think you’re above! *does not jump up and down because she is, in contrast to you, clearly not at all passionate about this subject and didn’t have to cut herself off before she went on a long rant or ANYTHING like that*

        Wow so I was rooting for you before but now I’m kinda worried I should’ve been rooting for your lunch. I hope your lunch wasn’t named Jack and that evil giant laugh I heard from the clouds up above that beanstalk over there as you said that was just a coincidence…

        Liked by 1 person

      • BOOOOOOOOOO. I do believe you’ve just saved me a great deal of time, outrage, and frustration. Your reasons for throwing out the Three Musketeers cheesecake are truly appalling (by which I mean, of course, it’s appalling that the reasons existed, not that they were your reasons [does that even make sense, wow]). There are some morally questionable things that I’ll let go sometimes for the sake of a story, even if they bother me, but WE DO NOT CONDONE OUR PROTAGONISTS HAVING AFFAIRS. It is NOT NORMAL AND FINE. And just generally sleeping around and going from seducing one lady to sleeping with another, just blehhhhhhhh. No indeed. Oh and Christian Who Takes their Faith and Morals Seriously and is Therefore a Naive Fool is something I’ve seen FAR too much of, and it bugs me SO MUCH. Many a rant has been made. Many a cheesecake has been flung from a 22nd story window. All that to say, I think I’ll pass on the Three Musketeers cheesecake (and I’m glad to know all this before I went and took a bite of it).
        YES. YES IT IS SO GOOD. I’ve always had very strong feelings about children’s literature, and when I read that essay I was like, “C.S. LEWIS FEELS THE SAME WAY.” (Oh, indeed children are heartless. I was just thinking the other day about how judgemental the narrator of Peter Pan is of the characters and, oh it’s SO GOOD)
        Nah, my lunch wasn’t named Jack. It was named Bradley, so it’s all good, yes?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am happy to have saved you from garbage-infested cheesecake! Boo indeed.

        This is only kinda related, but have you read C. S. Lewis’s essay “On Stories”? It’s not talking about the same stuff as 3 Ways (“romance,” in the Anne Shirley meaning of the word, rather than kidlit), but I had a similar experience reading it of like “someone else feels this way too???? and PUT IT INTO WORDS???? and this someone else is C S Lewis??? O frabjous day!” So yeah, now I’m curious.

        (Narrators who are super judgmental of the characters are the BEST. I just finished reading a book, Plain Tales from the Hills, where the narrator is incredibly judgmental, and I loved it. Why is this not a more common thing??) (I mean. Both these examples are Victorian. Maybe the Victorians, being all about Moral Tales For Children and such, were just naturally inclined to write judgmentally. XD)

        *a moment of silence for Bradley*

        Liked by 1 person

      • (I told the Sponge about the garbage infested cheesecake this morning and–by her appalled expression–I think you’ve saved her too XD)
        Oooh, I know I’ve heard the title of that essay, but I don’t think I’ve actually read it? WHY haven’t I read it yet?? *resolves to read it posthaste*
        (Victorians just had such fun with their narrators [I mean, I assume they had fun. I have fun reading them at any rate]. The judgy ones? The sarcastic ones? *cough cough Charles Dickens cough* Someday I want to write a book set in Victorian times with a Victorian style self-aware narrator. My canon of work will not be completed until I have written such a book)
        *disrespects moment of silence by chuckling*

        Liked by 1 person

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