August Minireviews – Part 3 – #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!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Final wrap-up of August reads!

The Royal Treatment and The Royal Wedding by Melanie Summers – 3*

//published 2017//

The first book was close to a 3.5* read for me, so I was willing to give the second a try, especially since it was on Kindle Unlimited.  However, I just genuinely was bored by The Royal Wedding and didn’t bother with the third book.  These books had a fun concept and fairly likable characters, but I was somewhat turned off by their – for lack of a better word – crudity.  Told in dual POVs from both the male and female lead, I felt like I heard way more about Arthur’s libido (albeit in weirdly euphemistic terms) that I ever wanted to know, and the method Summers used to make Tessa a “regular” person was by having her swear – a lot.  Tessa also has several brothers, all of whom basically treat her like trash, to the point that I really didn’t understand why Tessa was still willing to spend time with them.  If my family treated me like that, I would NOT hang around!  In the second book, there was this really strong message that if men ever, in any way, attempt to care for/protect/help the women in their life, they are just sexist, horrible people, and that really grated on me.

However – these books were also very funny, and the scenario was great fun.  I actually liked Arthur and Tessa a lot, as individuals and as a couple, which is what kept me reading as long as I did.  Not a total waste of time, but not really books I would recommend either.

Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery – 3.5*

//published 1910//

It had been a long time since I had read this slim book, and while I enjoyed it, I was reminded of how some of Montgomery’s books just feel a little flat to me – this is definitely in that category.  First off, Kilmeny is mute, and it’s always hard to really portray that in writing, since I’m reading what she says whether she says it out loud or writes it down.  Secondly, the amount of prejudice Kilmeny faced/put on herself for being mute was really an interesting testament of the times, as she literally felt like her “defect” made her “unworthy” of being a wife.  This book also reflects its time in its discussion of Neil, the hired hand/son of Italian immigrants.  It’s definitely something that wouldn’t be written that way a hundred years later!

Still, all in all, this book only reflects the thoughts/culture of its time.  And while this story doesn’t have the magic that some of Montgomery’s other works do, it’s still a nice little story.  Incidentally, this is #11 for my #20BooksofSummer challenge.

Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins – 4*

//published 2011//

This was my first foray into Higgins’s writing, but it won’t be my last.  There were a lot of things that I really liked about this book.  The characters were well-written, and I loved the way that while yes, the main story is a romance, there are a lot of secondary stories going on that add a great deal of depth to what was going on.  There was a strong theme about parent/child relationships that I thought was done quite well, and I really loved the way there were so many adopted kids!  I also appreciated the lack of explicit sex scenes and the minimal swearing.  While this book didn’t become an instant classic for me, I definitely see myself exploring some of Higgins’s other books soon, as she had a great balance of romance, humor, and serious issues.

This is #12 for my #20BooksofSummer challenge, and probably as far as I am going to get this year!

Unwilling Bride by Marnie Ellingson – 4*

//published 1980//

Several years ago I purchased The Wicked Marquis by this author (secondhand, in a thrift store).  It has become one of my favorites, so I was excited to pick up Unwilling Bride when I had a few hours of enforced downtime last weekend.  While I didn’t love it was much as Marquis, it was still great fun.  The story was lively, the characters engaging, and everything was just a good time and thoroughly enjoyable.  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of Ellingson’s works, all of which appear to be out of print.

The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts – 4.5*

//published 2011//

This nonfiction story of the champion horse jumper, Snowman, was really an excellent read.  I knew the bare bones of this story thanks to C.W. Anderson’s Twenty Gallant Horses, but it was so much fun to get more details about a horse of unknown (but very poor – probably plow horse) lineage, purchased off the dog-food wagon by a poor Dutch immigrant, who went on to become a champion show jumper competing – and winning – at Madison Square Gardens.  Letts does a great job of giving the right amount of background information without bogging down the actual story, and I love it when nonfiction books work photographs into the text instead of putting them all in a big block of pages in the middle of the book.

I wish I had more space to review this book, as it really was quite fascinating.  The horse on the cover is Snowman himself, who enjoyed jumping so much that he would do it without a rider if the jump was in the ring.  If you like horses, or just a really fun rags-to-riches kind of story, I definitely recommend this one.

Chasing Ravens by Jessica Paige – 3.5*

//published 2014//

This was a decent fantasy story with Russian vibes.  While I liked it just fine, it didn’t really have the magic a story needs to become one I return to again and again.  It felt like the entire beginning of the story should have been eliminated, as it didn’t really do much to the main thrust of the story, and then more time could have been spent on the actual adventure.  It also felt like the story could have used either no romance, or more romance.  As it was, there was just enough to be distracting but not enough to actually fell like a part of the story.  Still, a perfectly nice read, and definite kudos for nice cover art.


Modern Conveniences series // by Leah Atwood

These books were a Kindle set that I got inexpensively at some point because I am a HUGE sucker for the marriage of convenience trope.  While these are listed as a series, they are only loosely connected (other than book 2.5 being a novella connected to book 2) and could easily be read as individual stories.  However, I enjoyed them quite a bit, so I definitely recommend giving all of them a go!

  • Love in a Fix
  • Calling Love
  • Waiting on Love (novella)
  • Lost in Love

These are clean, Christian romances, and the religious themes are done very well, as they come through as just a natural part of the characters’ lives, rather than something shoehorned in to make a point.  While prayer, churchgoing, and talking about God’s will/purpose aren’t a constant refrain, they are definitely a part of the story, so if that sort of thing bothers you, these books aren’t for you.

All four stories had fairly plausible reasons for the characters to get married, and I enjoyed watching them grow in their feelings and affections.  Negatives for the series as a whole, though – they weren’t particularly humorous, and they were also very straightforward: you know exactly how they are going to end from the beginning, and there aren’t a lot of twists.  (Have I been reading dark books?  I kept expecting something terrible to happen at some point and then they would have to overcome it together.  Like at one point in the first book, the male character goes up in the attic and I legit thought, “Oh, this is where the tragedy happens!” and was wondering if he was going to fall down the steps or have a heart attack or what.  Well guess what – nothing happens to him!  He just finds the box of Christmas decorations like he was supposed to!  Is something wrong with me that I was little disappointed??  These books just needed a little spice!)

//published 2016//

In the first book, Love in a Fix, a widow with a young son marries her (now-dead obviously) husband’s best friend, who has also been widowed.  One thing I really liked in this story is that the characters never acted like their original marriages were a bad choice, or that they wouldn’t have lasted.  They didn’t spend a lot of time comparing their new spouse to the old one.  I’ve read other stories with a similar set-up, and it bothers me when the characters act almost grateful that the original spouse died so they could have this great relationship with a new person.  This felt much more natural.

//published 2016//

Calling Love felt like the need to get married was the most questionable, but I really liked the main characters as a pair, so I went with it.  One interesting aspect of this story was that Archer is a mechanic, and I appreciated the way that Atwood discussed the way that many people looked own on him because of his blue collar career.  As a college graduate who married a blue collar worker with no college degree, I’ve also had to endure snide comments insinuating that my husband somehow isn’t “good enough” for me… because I have a piece of paper and he doesn’t??  College has no bearing on how intelligent or industrious you are, and I know plenty of blue collar workers making more than their college-degree counterparts so.   The concept that being a blue-collar worker means you’re a barely-competent high school dropout needs to seriously die.   Anyway, I thought that was an interesting side story to put in there.

//published 2016//

The novella in the series, Waiting on Love, was actually my favorite story out of the four.  It’s about the sister of one of the characters in Calling Love.  She got pregnant in high school, and the father of her baby took off for college and left her behind.  In this story, it’s several years later, and Scott has recently become a Christian.  Part of his examination of his life has made him realize that he wants to make things right with his old girlfriend and the daughter he’s never  bothered to meet.  I really enjoyed this story of reconciliation a lot, especially the way that Atwood shows how God has changed Scott’s life in a very tangible way.  Becoming a Christian is so much more than just going to church or whatever, and this story really illustrates that.

//published 2016//

The final story was probably the most melodramatic out of all of them, and was the only one that really used a miscommunication between the two main characters to further the story, a method that I always find annoying.  (USE YOUR WORDS.)  Still an enjoyable story nonetheless.

All in all, these were easy 4* reads.  A little more humor and action would have been nice, but they were still very readable and relaxing, with likable characters and fairly believable scenarios.  I’ll be looking out for more of Atwood’s works in the future.

Update:  As I was writing this, I went ahead and checked Atwood’s other books, and she has several series, most of which are available on Kindle Unlimited……

The Wedding Pact trilogy // by Denise Grover Swank

NB: I was working on this post the other morning, and then had to go do real-life work so I left, but apparently instead of hitting “Save Draft” I actually hit “Publish,” which means a partially-completed post went live… whoops!  I didn’t realize this until several hours later.  Obviously, the completed post isn’t going to be that much more amazing, but it should at least have a conclusion.  Sorry for the confusion!

  • The Substitute
  • The Player
  • The Gambler

//published 2014//

I got The Substitute a while ago as a cheap/free Kindle book and started reading it the day before we left on vacation.  I was about 30% finished by Friday night, so I went ahead and bought the other two books in the series, as I was quite enjoying the first book.  On the whole, I really enjoyed these books and would give them probably a 3.5* rating as a trilogy, although I did find a lot more to aggravate me in The Player than in the other two books.  I really liked the characters, the dialogue, and the scenarios, although there was a bit too much sex/talking about sex.  Gram also sometimes was a bit too over-the-top to be believable.

The trilogy focuses on three friends, Megan, Blair, and Libby.  When they were little girls, they made a pact that they would all be married by the age of 30.  They happened to make this pact while standing in line at a fair – a line to see a fortune teller.  The fortune teller informed them that they were all three cursed: they would all have a wedding, not marry their intended groom, and instead their true groom would rescue them.

Fast-forward 20 years, and they’re all adults now, who don’t really believe in curses or in pacts made when one is merely 9 years old.  Still, there’s no doubt that Megan is on her way to a wedding… even though she no longer has a groom.  She found out her fiancee was cheating on her a few weeks before the wedding and broke things off, but hasn’t had the courage to tell her parents, because her overachieving Mom has been planning The Wedding of the Century, and spending thousands of dollars to make it happen.  Through a complicated, yet fairly believable, series of events, Megan ends up pretending that her fiancee is Josh… who happens to actually be a total stranger that she just met on the plane.

The fake relationship trope is done pretty well in this story.  Megan and Josh keep digging themselves deeper and deeper, and while it’s all kind of ridiculous, it’s also fairly believable, especially since Josh is playing an angle of his own.  About halfway through the book, though, they start having sex, and to me it kind of felt like their relationship switched to being more physical/attraction than it was about actually getting to know each other.

Still, all in all a fun and rollicking kind of romance that had a lot of humor and likable characters.

//published 2015//

The Player is about Blair, the hard-headed/hearted friend out of the trio.  A divorce attorney, Blair is pretty cynical about marriage and love.  She’s engaged to get married to a doctor, believing that the best a person can look for is a practical relationship of mutual respect that benefits both parties… until her old boyfriend shows back up in her life.

This was my least favorite out of the three books.  Blair was really just verging on obnoxious with her anti-love stance.  I’m not this fluffy rainbow girl myself (I didn’t date in high school because it seemed absurdly impractical, and spent a lot of college comparing guys to my Husband Requirement List, so like I get it haha), but Blair took it to the next level.  She was basically rude to her friends because they did believe in love, and all in all just came through as a very abrasive character.  Her doctor-fiancee was a total jerk, to the point that it seemed impossible that Blair couldn’t realize what a terrible guy he was.  Her blindness to his faults seemed at odds with her hard-headed practical personality.  I also don’t have a lot of patience for people who don’t allow someone at least ONE chance to explain a situation before blowing them off completely, so I felt like a lot of Blair’s long-time issues were self-created because she had never allowed Garrett even one opportunity to tell his side of the story back in the day.

//published 2016//

I really enjoy trilogy/short series of this nature, because I love getting to know the characters and seeing the previous books’ couples interacting in the background of the later books, so I was anticipating that The Gambler would be my favorite of the three.  However, I felt like these books really kind of fell down a bit regarding the relationship between the three friends, and a lot of this book was Libby “realizing” that her friends didn’t really “get” her.  While there was some resolution regarding their friendship in the end, I didn’t feel like the series really encouraged/bonded them like it could have.  The Gambler also went completely over-the-top with Gram’s character – she honestly didn’t feel like a real person any more in this book.  Despite that, I actually did overall enjoy this story, and it definitely had its funny moments.

All in all, this was an enjoyable and entertaining trilogy, with a bit more sex/language than I prefer, but with likable characters and plenty of humor.  I wish that there could have been more resolution between some of the secondary relationships throughout the stories – Meg with her Mom; Josh with his brother; Libby with her friends – this was there somewhat, but not really in a way that left me feeling confident that those relationships were also on the right track.

Even though I read these because I already owned The Substitute, I thought I had a vague memory of Stephanie reviewing these as well – and my AMAZING memory served me well haha.  Here is where she reviewed the first two books (she didn’t like Blair, either!).  I don’t think she reviewed the third book (that I can find) but it may be there somewhere…

August Minireviews – Part 2 – #20BooksofSummer

Still plowing through a pile of back-log reviews!!!

When Patty Went to College by Jean Webster – 4* – #20BooksofSummer

//published 1903//

This was a funny sort of book because there really wasn’t a plot.  We don’t get any character background or explanations – instead the reader is just dumped right into Patty’s senior year of college.  Each chapter is a little adventure, but other than Patty herself, nothing really ties them together.  In that way, this book was a little bit of a disappointment, and I definitely didn’t love this one as much as the Daddy Long-Legs books (especially Dear Enemy… gosh, I love that book SO MUCH).  Still, the stories were funny, and Patty and her friends very likable.  This is also #10 for #20BooksofSummer, so I’ve made it halfway through the list!

The Temporary Wife by Jeannie Moon – 3*

//published 2013//

This was a fun little story, although ultimately unmemorable.  I do love a marriage of convenience trope, and usually can’t resist them even if they sound terrible.  While I enjoyed this one while I was reading it, I didn’t quite enjoy it enough to pony up $4/ea for the rest of the books in the series.  Overall, this one had some likable characters and an interesting premise, but was a bit choppy on the execution and had a bit too much shagging for my taste.

Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse – 5*

//published 1947//

What holiday is complete without a Wodehouse??  This is one of my very favorites, and I read it in almost one sitting this time around.  There is nothing I can say about Wodehouse that hasn’t been said before.  If you haven’t read him yet, you need to find one immediately!

“One prefers, of course, on all occasions to be stainless and above reproach, but, failing that, the next best thing is unquestionably to  have got rid of the body.”

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1934//

While this story was engaging and had its funny moments (the whole scene where they are trying to be highwaymen is quite, quite funny), it really wasn’t one of my all-time favorite Heyer stories (even with my favorite trope).  The main female character speaks with a stammer, something that doesn’t bother me at all to listen to in real life but g-g-g-grates on m-m-m-my nerves v-v-v-very m-m-much when reading.  It also seemed completely unnecessary.  Still, a happy one-off read, even if it isn’t one that I intend to add to my permanent collection.

The Five-Minute Marriage by Joan Aiken – 4.5*

//published 1978//

On the theme of marriages of convenience, I reread this one while on vacation as well.  While not quite as perfect as I remember (how could I possibly have forgotten how ridiculous it was that the entire family had names related to Arthurian legend??  Did I just not notice it the first time around??  The evil cousin’s name is Mordred??  Really??) this was nonetheless a truly delightful and fun romance, with a strong-minded and independent heroine who isn’t obnoxious.  It’s a bit on the melodramatic side, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the read.

August Minireviews – Part 1 – #20BooksofSummer

Well, friends, I just got back from an AMAZING vacation to Wyoming, where the husband and I spent a week with minimal cell phone signal just hanging out in my aunt and uncle’s cabin.  We spent literal hours sitting on the porch reading, in between taking hikes in the mountains and going for drives up dirt forest service roads.  It was truly fantastic.

When I was deciding what books to read, I originally thought that I should take the rest of my #20BooksofSummer list, because otherwise I’m probably not going to achieve the goal.  But then I decided that was dumb, and I was going to take whatever I wanted, so instead of being productive, I spent the whole week reading ridiculous chick lit and lots of fluffy romance and it was delightful.  But now I’m wayyyyy behind on reviews, so there will probably be a couple of minireview batches!!

The first couple of minireviews in this post were written before I left.  I currently have 16 books to review…!!!!!  So here we go!

Mystery Over the Brick Wall by Helen Fuller Orton – 3*

//published 1951//

This is a random children’s book that I’ve had around for a while.  It was an alright read, but nothing particularly memorable.  While I enjoy many of the simpler children’s stories from the 1950’s, whose basic messages are about being kind and helpful, this one just didn’t stir the imagination.  However, it is #9 for my #20BooksofSummer, so at least I am making some minimal progress there!!

Chosen Child by Linda Huber – 3.5*

//published 2016//

This one was first brought to my attention by Cleopatra when she reviewed it back in February 2016.  While I enjoyed this domestic thriller, and found it to be very readable, it wasn’t a book that blew me away.  It was definitely in the category where you kind of more or less know how things are going to turn out, but you still can’t stop watching the train wreck.  Huber did a great job making everyone tangled up in the situation be likable and aggravating by turns – it didn’t exactly feel like there were good characters vs. bad ones.  However, I also found myself being overall annoyed – and somewhat horrified – at how all of the tragedy could have been avoided if two adults had actually honored their marriage vows instead of justifying themselves and seeking attention elsewhere.  So if nothing else, a book to read if you are thinking about embarking on an affair – this one SHOULD warn you off that dire path!

The Arm of the Starfish by Madeline L’Engle – 4*

//published 1965//

I’m still not completely convinced that I am going to try and read all of the entangled L’Engle books (see what I did there??), but this one was quite readable with a very thriller/spy novel tone to it.  I felt like some of the science was kind of weird (starfish can grow new limbs, so obviously horses can, too!  …????) but it was such a fun story that I just went with it.  (And it’s also possible that I’m the dumb one, because I don’t really know much about starfish or limb regeneration so.)  I have a huge pile of L’Engle’s books sitting next to my shelf and am trying to decide if I want to continue reading them or not.  I’ll probably at least give the next one a go just to see what happens.

When It’s Real by Erin Watt – 4*

//published 2017//

This book was added to the TBR over a year ago, thanks to a review by Stephanie.  Recently, the Kindle version was on sale for 99¢, so it seemed like a good time to give it a go!  And while Kindle books frequently languish for long periods of time before I get around to them, I was in just the right mood for this one when I bought it.

I really enjoy the fake relationship trope, and this one was done quite well.  The characters were really likable, and I especially enjoyed Vaughn’s family.  I thought that the way that the two main characters had to overcome their initial prejudices against each other was really realistic (well, as realistic as something this crazy can be haha), and the dialogue was good.  There was a little more swearing/sex than I like (which, just to be clear, Stephanie didn’t like either lol), but overall this one was definitely a great read if you are looking for something a bit more fluffy than thoughtful.  I’ll definitely be checking to see what else Watt has written.

Holiday Wishes by Nora Roberts – 3*

//published 1994//

Honestly, I can barely even remember the two short stories in this volume.  They were pretty bland romance tales, wherein the tension was created because the two main characters spent more time misjudging each other’s motives than they did actually conversing.  While I’ve enjoyed a lot of Roberts’s writing in the past, these stories were too short to really get into the characters, so everything felt a little flat.  While not bad, they definitely weren’t memorable.

‘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.

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!