‘Love Inspired’ // Part 6 // Rocky Mountain Heirs

A while back my great-aunt passed away, and somehow my grandpa ended up with two boxes full of books.  Almost all of them are ‘inspirational’ romances published by Harlequin as ‘Love Inspired’.  At one point (not sure if you still can) you could subscribe and have a new book mailed to you every month.  Aunt Darby did just that, and now I’m in possession of somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 or so of these ‘Love Inspired’ titles.  Most of them are pretty cheesy but alright for a one-time fluff read.  I’m sure that I’ll binge through some of them periodically.  They’re perfect to grab out of the crate when I’m just looking for a quick, no-brainer book.  However, most of them will probably end up exiting this house after that one-time read, because they just aren’t worth the shelf space to me.  So if there’s one that sounds especially appealing to you… let me know, and I’ll be quite happy to mail you a gift!  ;-)

After my last batch of these, back in the spring, I realized that overall I just wasn’t really enjoying them that much and there was no way that I genuinely wanted to read the bajillion that I had left.  So I’ve been handing them off in goodwill shops and anywhere else that will take some books, and the pile is slowly whittling down.

However, I did have a few stacks that were actual entire series of books that all the books in that series had been in the original boxes that Grandpa gave me.  I decided that I would keep those because I can always read the first book and then get rid of all of them if it looks like the whole series is going to be lame.  And this is how I ended up reading the Rocky Mountain Heirs, a series of six books, each written by a different author.

  • The Nanny’s Homecoming by Linda Goodnight – 3.5* – 2011
  • The Sheriff’s Runaway Bride by Arlene James – 3.5* – 2011
  • The Doctor’s Family by Lenora Worth – 3* – 2011
  • The Cowboy’s Lady by Carolyne Aarsen – 3.5* – 2011
  • The Loner’s Thanksgiving Wish by Roxanne Rustand – 3.5* – 2011
  • The Prodigal’s Christmas Reunion by Kathryn Springer – 4* – 2011

It’s kind of fun because these were originally published as part of the mail order deal, where you get a book each months, so they came out six months in a row, and each one was published/distributed in the month that it takes place.

So basically the whole story takes place in a small town in Colorado called Clayton.  The town was founded by a Clayton, but several decades ago there was a kerfluffle between two brothers, George and Samuel.  George ended up with money/property that may or may not have been gotten as an illegal gain from Samuel.  This has set off a feud that has lasted down through the next two generations, with Samuel’s family angry, bitter, and causing trouble with George’s family.

The first book starts when the family is coming together to listen to George’s will.  His six grandchildren (hint: that’s why there are six books) are stunned to find out that while they thought their grandpa was barely getting by, he was actually very, very rich.  He’s left all his money to his grandchildren… as long as they are willing to come back to Clayton and live for at least a full year.  Since all of them except one fled their hometown as soon as they were able to, none of them are sure that they want to make the commitment.  Of course they all end up doing it, and each book is about a different one of the grandchildren and their arrival/adjustment back into Clayton.  It will come to no shock to anyone to learn that each of them discovers love and contentment in the process.

These aren’t the kind of books that you read if you are looking for something exciting or unexpected.  Like a Hallmark movie, these books unfold exactly as you expect them to.  They are perfect if you are just looking for something mindlessly relaxing.  Honestly, there has been a lot of chaos in my life over the last few weeks, so these books were great.

All of these books were a bit melodramatic, and the villains could be a smidge over the top.  I also didn’t really like the way that the authors did just kind of write of Samuel’s descendants as troublemakers and there wasn’t a lot of resolution there.  Despite the fact that the books were each written by a different author, they flowed together well, and recurring characters seemed consistent.  Of course, these aren’t books with a great deal of depth, but still.

I will say that I don’t think these books would have made much sense unless you read them together.  There are a lot of strands that run strongly from one book into the next, so even though they are each independent stories, they still definitely make more sense read in order.

While the Rocky Mountain Heirs series isn’t going to win any awards for being groundbreaking literature, they are still peaceful and enjoyable stories with likable characters.  The Christian themes throughout are presented in a gentle and natural way, and I enjoyed seeing each of the grandchildren find their true love.

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The Alpha Girl series // by Aileen Erin

  • Becoming Alpha (2013)
  • Avoiding Alpha 2014)
  • Alpha Divided (2014)
  • Bruja (2015)
  • Alpha Unleashed (2015)
  • Shattered Pack (2017)
  • Being Alpha (2018)

Ever since I accidentally read Shiver and its sequels (by Maggie Stiefvater), I’ve been on the lookout for some more decent paranormal stories.  Most of them are weird excuses for erotica (honestly weird), so those are out.  I’m always coming across them for free or cheap as Kindle deals, but usually the synopsis doesn’t really sound that great, or the synopsis lies to me, which is obviously within the first few pages.

All that to say, I didn’t really have a lot of high expectations for Becoming Alpha.  I like to have a fluff book to read a chapter or two of before bedtime, and thought that I would give this one a try – I’ve been attempting to sift through the gajillion Kindle books I have and actually get rid of the ones that I’m really never going to read.  I soon realized that just reading a chapter or two every evening wasn’t going to be enough – I was completely drawn into the story, characters, and world building.

Tessa is not your average teenager.  Her entire life, she’s been having visions that she can’t control, visions that are sparked when she touches something, or someone, and gets a “read” from the emotions left behind.  At the beginning of the story, her family is moving from California to Texas, where Tessa’s mother still has some family.  They are hoping for a new start and also hoping that Tessa’s mother’s family may be able to help Tessa learn to have more control over her visions.

But things only get more crazy when they arrive in Texas.  Tessa’s dad’s boss seems very strange, and the whole neighborhood feels off.  Tessa tries to fit in at her new school, but things go badly awry at a party one night, and Tessa’s whole life gets turned upside down.

After Tessa gets turned into a werewolf, the series builds from there.  Tessa narrates most of the books, but a couple of them are told by/focus on other characters, which was also a lot of fun.  I really can’t explain why I so thoroughly enjoyed these, but I did.  Most of them were 4* reads for me, and they overall managed to keep the YA angst level reasonable.  (Except Alpha Divided, if I’m being honest.)

Although they aren’t as big of players in the later books, one of the reasons I initially got hooked on this series was because of Tessa’s parents.  It was SO FANTASTIC to see kind, loving, supportive parents who also love each other.  Tessa has a great relationship with her brother as well, and I loved that!  It was also really nice to read a series where there wasn’t any extra-marital sex.  Despite the fact that Tessa and Dastian are “true mates” (and there are other pairs in other books), they don’t just jump in the sack.  There were a lot of layers going on that went way beyond mere physical attraction, and I really liked that.  Even after they are married, all sex takes places 100% off-screen so THANK YOU.

There was definitely more swearing than I like to read, and I felt like there was more as the series went on as well.  I could definitely have done with about 99% fewer F-bombs.  They just feel basically unnecessary to me.

As the books progress, the werewolves get involved with a local witch coven.  I wasn’t honestly that comfortable with the witch/religion combination that Erin was using, but as the story developed I was more willing to work with it.  It’s definitely a New Age feel with lots of good vs. bad vibes/energy that aren’t exactly Scriptural, but in some ways the dangers of tampering with powers you don’t understand (i.e. calling on demons) is emphasized.  I guess I didn’t really feel like these books were actually encouraging witchcraft in real life, any more than it was encouraging people to be werewolves.  Instead, it just felt like this whole story was taking place in a different world, and while I wasn’t thrilled with the way religion was involved, I didn’t really find it offensive.

These weren’t perfect stories.  Sometimes the action was too slow or felt choppy, and I definitely could have used way less swearing.  But overall they were good fun with likable characters and an engaging plot that carries through the whole series, even while each books tells its own story.

If you’re like me and you enjoy some YA now and then, and also don’t mind a good dose of paranormal, these are definitely fun reads.  I’m already excited about the next book.

Rearview Mirror // July 2018

I feel like every time I do a post like this I start by talking about how swiftly time is moving.  Is this because I’m getting old??  I think it’s because I’m getting old.  It IS weird to think that I’m very possibly past the halfway point of my life.  What even.

The garden is growing like crazy!  I love spending time down there, just soaking it in and wandering around killing bad bugs (I have what the husband calls my “killing bucket” of soapy water… I think he finds my single-minded ruthlessness towards evil beetles rather entertaining) and pulling weeds.  I’ve been freezing green beans and peppers, tomatoes are starting to come on, and there are sunflowers blooming everywhere.  I’m a big believer of mixing flowers in with vegetables.  My garden is a bit messy but completely happy.

Peaches are ripe, which means that my summer of unemployment has come to an end.  I started working at the orchard this morning, although my happy little delivery route won’t start until the orchard is pressing cider around the first of September.

We’ve decided to take a trip to Wyoming in mid-August.  My aunt and uncle bought a small cabin in a very small town in the southeast part of the state, so we are going to stay there and spend a week hiking and hanging out at high altitudes.  It takes us almost as many days to drive there and back as we will have to SPEND there, but it’s still worth it.  Tom and I actually love road-tripping together and I’m already creating playlists to while away our time.  Soooo excited.

In the book world, I’m somehow only eight books away from completing my 2018 Goodreads reading goal (possibly due to that whole “unemployed” thing) and am on track to read around 300 books this year.  Whoops.

The trend for reading books-I-like-but-don’t-really-love continues.  I’ve read a lot of books this month that I’ve described with words like “solid”, “interesting”, “decent”, and “enjoyable”, but not really with anything more enthusiastic than that.  I’m also reading a LOT of series for some reason, which really throws my reviewing schedule into whack, as I like to review series as a whole rather than individual books.

Favorite July Read

I had some solid contenders for this slot, including a couple of rereads that I quite enjoyed, but I think I’m going with The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit.  It was just so sweet and funny, and I loved the way that the children kept getting into all kinds of scrapes.

Most Disappointing July Read

There were a couple of lame ones, too – especially the Paper Magician series, which I wanted to love – but I think I’m going with Fairest by Gail Carson Levine.  This one was extra disappointing because Ella Enchanted is such an old favorite.  This book, by the same author and set in the same world, had so much potential but instead was so boring and lame.

Other July Reads

  • After Dark by Phillip Margolin – 4* – a twisty and enjoyable thriller.
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – 4.5* – a reread that was even more enjoyable this time around.
  • The Chance of a Lifetime by Grave Livingston Hill – 3.5* – solid story that wasn’t too preachy.
  • Frederica by Georgette Heyer – 4.5* – delightful, frothy Heyer at her best.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – 4* – a book whose sly humor kept me reading.
  • How to Cheat at Everything by Simon Lovell – 4* – nonfiction that gives the ins and outs of all kinds of scams, games, and cons.
  • The Infinity Trilogy by S. Harrison – 3.5* – interesting premise that got a little too violent for me at times.
  • Judy Bolton, Books 6-10 by Margaret Sutton – 3* – fun but not amazing.
  • The Midnight Kittens by Dodie Smith – 2* – choppy and confusing children’s (?) story.
  • The Moon by Night by Madeline L’Engle – 3.5* – a little too YA angsty for me.
  • Meet the Austins by Madeline L’Engle – 4* – a surprisingly enjoyable book even though not a lot happens.
  • The Paper Magician trilogy by Charlie Holmberg – 2* – the setting was amazing, but the characters and plot really annoyed me.
  • Scotty by Frances Pitt – 3.5* – an interesting book about a Scottish fox.
  • The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham – 3.5* – gripping, but questionable moral decisions.
  • Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley – 3* – not a bad story, except the ending sucked so much that I almost rated this 2*
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – 3.5* – an enjoyable book, but I’m not sure why everyone goes on and on about it.

Other July Posts

I have reinstated the Tottering TBR Episodes, mainly because I enjoy letting people know when their reviews have inspired me enough to add something to the TBR!  This month I did a pretty good job of getting them out weekly:

I’ve also been continuing my Shelfie by Shelfie series!

Last July…

I had a great round of stomach flu and then started working at the orchard in mid-July – the peaches came on much earlier last year.  My favorite book of the month was Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin – which is kind of funny, because After Dark was a top contender for this month’s favorite book.  My most disappointing read was Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.  I have enjoyed Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel so much that this one – so so so so so depressing – was a real disappointment.

#20BooksofSummer Update!

My challenge of reading 20 books that I own while still keeping up on all my other “scheduled” reads is definitely adding some zest to this challenge for me.  So far I have read nine and reviewed eight of my chosen books.  I’m currently reading two more.  It really may come down to the wire!  I also changed out another book – I read the first few chapters of Everblue and found it just incredibly boring, so it’s been dropped and Along Came a Spider by K.M. Robinson has been added.  The updated list can be found here.

TBR Update:

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  853 (up by the embarrassing number of 17!  Mostly due to adding a bunch of Phillip Margolin books…)
  • Nonfiction:  77 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  689 (up eleven… free Kindle books…!!!!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  230 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 108 (up two)

Awaiting Review:

Most of the books waiting for review are parts of series (although a few aren’t).  Hopefully I’ll be getting to these reviews soon…

  • The entire Alpha Girl series by Aileen Erin – I just finished the last one today.  Why did I enjoy these books about a teenage werewolf so much?!  I’m worried about myself.
  • Devil’s Trumpet and Deadly Nightshade by Mary Freeman – the first two books in a mystery quartet centered around a woman who runs a landscaping business.  I’ve actually really enjoyed these, but it’s been slow work getting a hold of them, as my library only has books 1 & 3, so I had to get 2 & 4 secondhand, and by the time I got 2, the library wanted 3 back, so now I’m waiting for it to show up again!
  • The first three books in a “Love Inspired” series written by various authors – they actually haven’t been too terrible, so I’m finishing the series.
  • The Arm of the Starfish by Madeline L’Engle – I think I am going to read all of these.  This one was this crazy spy-thriller kind of thing, so completely different from the others!
  • Mystery Over the Brick Wall by Helen Fuller Orton – a children’s mystery that I’ve had forever that was pretty meh.

Current Reads:

  • Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery – I haven’t read this one since high school!
  • When Patty Went to College by Jean Webster – the author of two of my favorite books, so I have high hopes for this one.
  • The Cowboy’s Lady by Carolyne Aarsen – the next book in that crazy Love Inspired series.
  • Chosen Child by Linda Huber – I haven’t actually started this one yet, so we’ll see if it’s any good.

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • Until There Was You by Kristin Higgins – another #20BooksofSummer read!
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – the first in the next series I am hoping to read
  • The Loner’s Thanksgiving Wish by Roxanne Rustand – the next book in the Love Inspired series.
  • Chasing Ravens by Jessica Paige – not even sure how this got on the TBR, so no idea what to expect!
  • Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey – the final book in the Chesapeake Valor series… it came in at the library today!!  Super excited to see how this series wraps up!

 

July Minireviews – Part 2 – #20BooksofSummer

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!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley – 3*

//published 2016//

I really struggled with rating this book.  There were a lot of things I liked about it, including the main characters (for the most part), the concept of the bookstore with its letter room, and the way the book explored grief and healing.  But I hated the way this book ended so much that I almost gave it zero stars.  It was never going to be a 5* read, but it definitely could have rated higher if the ending hadn’t been so incredibly cliched and stupid.  Plus, there was tons of swearing – it felt excessive for a YA book, especially since people are just, you know, hanging out having regular conversations.  Sorry, I don’t need f-bombs every three paragraphs.  Honestly, the further I get away from finishing this book, the more I can only remember the things that annoy me, and I’m already thinking about dropping my rating another star…

The Chance of a Lifetime by Grace Livingston Hill – 3.5*

//published 1931//

A lot of GLH’s books are way too preachy or saccharine, but every once in a while she writes one that’s just a nice story with characters whose faith is very central to their lives, and that’s where this one falls.  I actually really liked the people in this book, and felt that the central theme about what a “chance of a lifetime” really means was developed well.  While there were times that the plot was over-simplistic, on the whole it was really an enjoyable book.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – 3.5*

//published 1962//

I was going to wait and review this book after reading some more of L’Engle’s books, but I’m realizing that even though they are loosely connected, they aren’t all exactly a series in the traditional sense.  I’m reading all her books in their published order that have crisscrossing characters.  Which means I actually should have read Meet the Austins first, but didn’t realize until it was too late…

Anyway, I hadn’t read Wrinkle since probably junior high.  I remember having a vague feeling of not-liking it, but this is considered a classic, and I’ve heard so many people talk about how much they love this book, plus it’s a Newbery Award winner… so I thought I would give it another whirl.  At the end of the day, I just felt kind of ambivalent towards it.  It was a decent and interesting story with likable characters, but it didn’t really have that intensity that made me love it or feel like I urgently needed to keep reading.  I didn’t mind having a lot of “God talk” in the story, but the religious message felt a little vague to me, and it also seemed like the entire point of saving Earth from this “darkness” was really rather left open-ended.  Like, is Earth still under attack or….???

So all in all, not a bad read, but not one that I loved.  I still found it interesting enough to want to try some of L’Engle’s other books.  As for this one, a good read and also #5 for #20BooksofSummer!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – 4*

//published 2008//

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve joined a “Traveling Book Club” where each member chose a book to mail out, and each month receives/mails the next book in the circle.  Eventually, I should get my original book back, complete with annotations from all of its travels.

Funnily enough, this month’s book was another Newbery Award winner.  I had only ever read one other Gaiman book before, quite a long while ago, so I was interested to pick up another of his stories.  I still hear so much about him around the book blogging world, and have several of his books on my list.  This one was quite enjoyable – an engaging story with a unique setting and memorable characters.  It didn’t capture me completely, but I still really enjoyed it, especially the gentle humor throughout (“he had died of consumption, he had told Bod, who had  mistakenly believed for several years that Fortinbras had been eaten by lions or bears, and was extremely disappointed to learn it was merely a disease”).

While I’m not racing to find my next Gaiman book, I’m still interested to read more of his works as I come across them.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – 4.5*

//published 2011//

I initially read this book back in October 2016, and was pretty excited when it came up on my random draw for my #20BooksofSummer list, as I’ve been wanting to reread it.  Honestly, this book was even funnier and more perfect than I remember it being.  Lincoln is such a wonderful character and I love the way that he doesn’t necessarily have to change himself, but change his perspective of himself in order to become more content and comfortable with his life.  You can read my old review for more details.  For here – a genuinely funny, happy, yet thoughtful read that I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting.

#8 for #20BooksofSummer!

Meet the Austins // The Moon by Night // by Madeline L’Engle

//published 1960//

I’m currently reading all of L’Engle’s books that seem to have crisscrossing characters from what generally seemed to be referred to as her “Chronos” and “Kairos” books – the Austins, whose stories move through time chronologically; and the Murrys/O’Keefes, whose stories move through time in a more wibbly-wobbly manner.  I’m coming into these more or less completely unfamiliar with them.  I read A Wrinkle in Time and at least a couple of its sequels back in middle/junior/high school sometime and felt rather ambivalent towards them.  This time around, I’ve taken all the books listed as Chronos or Kairos and am reading them in publication order.  I’ve mentioned it before, but published order is, generally speaking, my favorite way to read a series for the first time – it seems more organic to read them in the order the author created them.

And so, here we are.  I didn’t realize that there were multiple interconnected series until after I had already read A Wrinkle in Time (which is being reviewed in July’s minireviews).  Technically, I ought to have read Meet the Austins first, then Wrinkle, then The Moon by Night.  But I think I’ll manage to muddle through despite reading Wrinkle first.

Both of these books focus on the same family and have the same narrator.  Vicky Austin is part of a rambunctious, happy, close-knit family growing up in a small town in Connecticut.  In the first book, their family peace is somewhat disturbed by the arrival of a new foster sister.  In the second book, set two years later, things are changing as the children all get older, and the family takes a long road trip around the country as one last hurrah before the oldest child heads off to college and the rest of the family moves to New York City for Vicky’s dad’s new job.

I really enjoyed these stories – Meet the Austins more than The Moon by Night – mostly because it was so enjoyable to read about a family wherein the members of said family actually like each other.  Vicky’s parents are happily married and work together to parent their children as best they can.  They are patient and understanding.  The children have their squabbles, but are ultimately very loyal to one another.  I also grew up in a tight family, and still consider my siblings to be my closest friends.  It was really pleasant to read about a family that more closely matched my own than all these broken, angst-riddled families in more modern YA, with angry, bitter parents who hate each other and whiny, selfish children who only think of their own problems and no one else’s.  I was quite in agreement with the majority of the Austin parents’ parenting decisions, which is more than I can say for most modern writing.

We seem to watch a lot less television than most of our friends, partly because our parents limit our watching, but largely because there’s so much else to do.

It was also fun to read Meet the Austins from Vicky’s perspective.  She’s the next-to-the-oldest in the family.  When Maggy comes to stay with their family, she’s closest in age to Vicky’s next sister, Suzy.  I feel like a lot of time, this story would have been told from the perspective of either Maggy (freshly orphaned, struggling to fit into a new home) or Suzy (suddenly sharing a room and life with a new sister almost her exact same age).  Instead, the story is told by one of the more ‘regular’ characters, an interesting reminder that a tragedy touches many more people than those closest to it.

There is a lot of “religious talk” in both these books.  On the whole, I was okay with it.  I didn’t always agree with L’Engle’s theology, but I appreciated the way that she created a family who believed in attending church and saying prayers, without making a huge fuss out of it.  Vicky’s grandpa is a retired minister, but that doesn’t turn him into a hypocritical monster.  Instead, he’s a wise and gentle old man who loves his family dearly and is always there for advice and compassion.

//published 1963//

I did feel like the religion part was a bit more preachy in The Moon, and it was part of the reason that I didn’t enjoy that book quite as much as Meet the Austins.  In The Moon, Vicky is going through a “rebellious” phase, which mostly seems to consist of her complaining about her super amazing life.  I got a little tired of her internal whining and her condescending attitude towards her family’s religion.  There was a lot more philosophizing and contemplation in The Moon, and it didn’t always make for exciting reading.

Meet the Austins had much more of a story than The Moon.  While there wasn’t this big mystery or anything, there were interconnected vignettes of daily life that painted a picture of how life was changing for the family.  In The Moon, swaths of the story felt much more like a travelogue, with Vicky describing specific state parks in detail, including what types of restroom facilities were available and how nice the fire rings were, and reiterating repeatedly about how different different parts of the country were from others.  It’s also hard to get a grasp on how much time is passing in The Moon – I assume they were gone all summer??  And their route seemed incredibly meandery, as they kept popping up into Canada and then back down into Wyoming and that sort of thing.

However, it was really interesting to read a book so firmly set in the Cold War.  There was a lot of talk about evacuation routes and emergency school drills and bunkers.  It’s just intriguing how that was so much a thing on the mind all the time.

One weird thing about The Moon that I’m not sure if it was originally published this way purposefully, or if something got messed up when they were printing the edition that I was reading, but during dialogue, instead of entire words being italicized, it would just be a syllable.  This genuinely drove me crazy.  While I definitely feel like people talk with italics (“This genuinely drove me crazy!”), I don’t feel like people only emphasize one syllable most of the time??  Here’s an actual sentence from the book to show you what I mean:

I know, Mother, that’s exactly the point.  It doesn’t matter if a baby isn’t housebroken.  He wears diapers.

???  Is it just me, or does this seem extremely strange?  I try to read that as it’s written and it sounds very strange to me.  It was like that ALL THE TIME.

All in all, 4* for Meet the Austins and 3.5* for The Moon by Night.  I got impatient with Vicky’s teenage angst in The Moon, and the kid she likes, Zachary, was a real tool.  But I’m looking forward to reading some more of these books.  As always, I’ll keep you posted.  :-D

The Infinity Trilogy // by S. Harrison // #20BooksofSummer

  • Infinity Lost (2015)
  • Infinity Rises (2016)
  • Infinity Reborn (2016)

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have an unfortunate addiction to getting free/very cheap Kindle books even though I know – know! – that most of them are terrible.  Recently, I took the time to actually sort through the gajillion Kindle titles I own and get them into some semblance of order so I can start actually reading them.  Because I have OCD about reading books in order if they are part of a series, it’s been important to me to find out of if books I own are actually part of something bigger or not.

Anyway, I have a complicated rotation schedule that I use to decide which books to read next, and Kindle books are now part of the rotation, reading through them oldest to newest.  Infinity Lost was an early Kindle purchase, and since I have owned it since October 2015, I thought it was time to finally give it a read!

These were weird books in that they were a bit hard to categorize.  They were kind of pre-dystopian in a way – a story of someone trying to prevent the worldwide catastrophe from happening.  It’s not too far into the future, but technology is doing so much more for humanity.  Many of the advances have been made by a specific company owned by a guy named Richard Blackstone.  The series is about his daughter, Infinity aka Finn.

The story starts when Finn is 17 and away at school.  She’s started having these really weird dreams where she dreams about something that happened in her childhood, except in the dream, it’s completely different than what she remembers happening in real life.  The dream version is usually much stranger and more violent than the reality version.  Except now Finn is starting to wonder which of the versions is actually reality…

Finn’s best friend and roommate is Bit, a computer genius.  When the announcement is made that a field trip has been scheduled for the remote and rarely-visited Blackstone Technologies HQ, Finn has a sneaking suspicion that Bit may have had something to do with it.  No one else at school knows who Finn’s father is, because she is there under a different name for security reasons.  Finn has never met her famous father and was raised on a fancy estate by servants and a military commander named Jonah.

At first, the field trip is awe-inspiring and exciting.  But things quickly go south when the technology is hijacked by a rogue force that seems intent on killing Finn – and doesn’t care who else is in the way.

This was a really engaging story, and I was definitely hooked in while reading the first book.  I wanted to find out about all of Finn’s mysteries, including this strange alternate ego who seems to be lurking within her.  Although this book had a few spots of violence that was more gruesome than my usual fare, I was willing to skim over those bits to get to the story.  The first book was a 3.5* read and left me intrigued to read the next story.

Full disclosure is that the next two books were around $4 each, and even though I was interested in Finn’s life, I’m not sure I was $8 interested, which may say something about my true level of engagement with the story.  However, they were also available on Kindle Unlimited, so I decided to embrace another free month’s subscription and read them that way.

I was very glad I had not paid $4 for the second book, as I don’t see myself ever rereading it.  It definitely suffered from second book syndrome.  A lot of what was happening definitely felt like filler.  There was tons of violence – people don’t just die, they’re shredded or liquefied or get their faces melted or are torn apart, all in full detail.  I skipped loads of paragraphs.  The actual story part wasn’t bad, but it was confusing, because for some reason Harrison decided to have the book start with Finn getting dragged into a bunker almost dead, and then tell what led up to that through a bunch of weird flashbacks, which also involved some other flashbacks, interspersed with conversations of the people trying to bring Finn back around in the present (?).  The timeline was very confusing and disorienting.  I think Harrison was trying to emphasize the differences between Finn and the anti-Finn, Infinity, but it was overly complicated.

Infinity Reborn was a bit better.  Now that we finally had most of the backstory filled in, the narrative actually proceeded in a somewhat orderly manner.  There was still too much violence for my taste, but by this time I was completely committed to finding out how everything wrapped up.

While the ending was satisfying for the most part, I still did have some unanswered questions, and I definitely felt like the future was still in jeopardy.  The biggest threat had been removed, yes, but there were still a lot of ??!?! situations floating around.  Like what’s happening with all the Blackstone tech, and why Zero’s identity had been kept a secret and is he still a real person underneath all of that, and why Finn’s dual personality situation was just magically fine now, and what’s going to happen with the technology that made Finn who she was, and whether or not the Infinity project is still considered military property, and a lot of other things.  The big issues were concluded, but a lot of the smaller questions were just kind of swept under the rug with a “everyone lived happily ever after” kind of conclusion.

All in all, I did enjoy these books as a one-time read and would give the trilogy a 3.5* rating overall.  However, they aren’t books I see myself rereading at any point in the future, and they didn’t make me desperate to search out more of Harrison’s writing, either.

Infinity Lost is Book #7 for #20BooksofSummer (#6 is A Wrinkle in Time, which I have read but won’t review until I read a few more L’Engle books and review them together).  The current list can be found here.

The Secrets She Keeps // by Michael Robotham

//published 2017//

I first read Robotham two years ago when I picked up Life and DeathI really liked his writing style (except for the present tense, although he at least does it decently) so I picked up the Joseph O’Laughlin series several months later.  I really grew to love the characters in those books, and some of them were so intense I could barely put them down.  Robotham generally does a decent job of keeping things high stakes without devolving into lots of violence and sex.  While I haven’t found him to be a perfect writer, the quality has been consistent enough to keep me working through his back log (as well as looking forward to the new O’Laughlin book coming out this month!!).

The Secrets She Keeps is told in alternating viewpoints between two women, Meg and Agatha.  Both women are pregnant and due around the same time.  Agatha works in a shop and admires Meg from afar – she sees Meg as having the perfect life: a handsome husband, two other children, a lovely house.  However, Meg’s narrative tells us that everything isn’t as amazing as it may appear.  She and her husband are having some disagreements (what a shock) and Meg has made a big mistake that is eating away at her peace of mind.

Here’s the thing:  this book doesn’t have a big twist.  By about a quarter of the way in, I had a pretty solid idea of how the whole story was going to unwind – but I kept reading.  Robotham created a situation where the tension was so heightened that I couldn’t look away.  The train wreck kept getting closer and closer and I had to keep watching.  I loved it.

I also really appreciated how Robotham was able to make Agatha such a sympathetic character despite the fact that everything she was doing was super wrong.  He did a great job putting me in a position where while I couldn’t quite justify Agatha’s actions, I could still definitely understand them, and even feel empathy for her situation.

This book would have been an easy 4* read, but I had some very serious issues with the way Meg’s story wrapped up – not in a narrative way, which was quite satisfying, but morally.  As usual in fiction these days, there is a very clear double standard presented, with the female in two scenarios getting a completely different conclusion than the males.  This casual assumption that the woman is right about this just genuinely infuriates me. The non-spoiler is basically I’m tired of women acting like they can have an affair or have complete control over a child’s parentage. Husbands and fathers deserve the same rights as wives and mothers. They aren’t second-class citizens. Cheating on a husband is just as horrible as cheating on a wife. And a man absolutely deserves to know whether or not a child belongs to him. Refusing to allow him to find out the truth is WRONG. If you’re interested in a spoilery rant, see below.

I will also say that it felt like this book had a bit more sex than some of the others (although in fairness, so did Watching You – I have delicate sensibilities), but it wasn’t like it was every chapter or anything.  It was actually kind of interesting to see how both women, at some level, used sex as a tool to get what they wanted (another double standard to rant about on another day haha).

At the end of the day, an easy 3.5* read.  While not the twistiest thriller I’ve come across, it was still thoroughly engaging.

And while I probably would have gotten to this book someday anyway, as I’m slowly reading all of Robotham’s books, this one got an extra boost from a couple of reviews – Cleopatra and Stephanie both had interesting things to say about this one.

Spoiler rage below :-D

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