Dragon Slippers Trilogy // by Jessica Day George

  • Dragon Slippers
  • Dragon Flight
  • Dragon Spear

I’m always a sucker for dragons, and I’ve been meaning to read this middle grade fantasy series for a while.  Overall, these were enjoyable for a one-time read, but they didn’t really end up being books that I loved or that I wanted to add to my permanent collection.

The main reason that these books worked was because the main character, Creel, is likable.  Yes, she’s independent, intelligent, determined, and sticks up for herself, but all in a not-obnoxious way.  Authors frequently seem to have difficulty with writing a strong female character who is also NICE, like yes, you can be both strong AND nice and I’m not sure why this is so difficult to grasp.  At any rate, Creel is both strong and nice and I enjoyed traveling with her throughout the series.

In the beginning, Creel has been orphaned and is living with her uncle and aunt and they are all very poor, so Creel’s aunt decides it will be a great idea if they send Creel to the dragon, and then surely someone will feel obligated to come rescue her, and that someone will of course be rich and handsome and single and he will marry Creel and take her and her entire family to live happily ever after in his castle.  Creel thinks this plan is utter nonsense, but what with one thing and another she ends up in front of a dragon’s cave…

As Creel interacts with the dragons, there are many magical and non-magical shenanigans.  The concept was fun and the overarching plot throughout the three books as to how humans should interact with dragons was done really well.  However, things did get rather serious and intense – almost too much so for the age range that would otherwise be enjoying these books.

In the end, that was part of my issue with the series.  It really felt like George would have been better off if she had made these stories actual YA and developed some of the themes more thoroughly.  Instead, a lot of things felt like they were being glossed over in order to be more suitable for middle grade readers, to the sacrifice of the story.

I really did like these books, and if you are into dragons you will probably enjoy them as well – I just didn’t love them, even though I wanted to.

NB: Dragon Slippers was read #14 for #20BooksofSummer!

Simply Quartet // by Mary Balogh

  • Simply Unforgettable (2005)
  • Simply Love (2006)
  • Simply Magic (2007)
  • Simply Perfect (2008)

Every year the library has a big booksale, and since books are only a quarter or so each, I usually end up with several books I wouldn’t necessarily have bought otherwise, which is how I ended up with the middle two books of this quartet.  I found the other two (at the library, ironically) and breezed through the series.  They are pretty typical Regency (” “) romances.

The basic premise of the series is that several years earlier this woman started a girls’ school in Bath.  The series is about three of her teachers finding love, and then of course the headmistress herself.  It was a nice way to tie everyone together without feeling too contrived.

In the first book, Frances is on her way back to Bath after spending the Christmas holidays with her great-aunts, who happen to be her only living relatives.  Bad weather strikes, and she ends up stranded with a random (tall, dark, and handsome) guy named Lucius, who of course is also a duke or viscount or something or other.  I’m sure you’ll be shocked to find that they fall in love!  There are ups and downs in their relationship, but never fear, all ends well.  It wasn’t a bad story, but the author used an annoying plot device where there is SOMETHING BAD in Frances’s past that she won’t tell Lucius but is also the thing that is preventing her from accepting his marriage proposal.  The problem was that >>I<< didn’t get to know what the SOMETHING BAD was either, so I had no idea if Frances was being reasonable or ridiculous, which made it hard for me to bond with her as a character.

The second book was my favorite out of the series.  Anne is a unwedded mother (a big no-no) who teaches at the school, and lives there with her son who is like seven or eight or something.  As the story unwinds, you find out that she was raped, and that the man who raped her isn’t alive any more, and that that guy’s brother and his family know that the dead guy is the kid’s dad, and have all along wanted to acknowledge him/have him be part of his family, but Anne is super determined to be independent despite the fact that they are all super nice.  BUT she finally accepts their invitation to spend a few weeks in the country during the summer break, and there she meets and falls in love with this other guy, who was seriously wounded in the Napoleonic wars.  I really liked Syd and Anne together, and felt like they actually learned to work together as a team.  The marriage takes place halfway through the book, and I always enjoy watching people actually be married, so that was fun for me.

The big problem here was that in this book I was suddenly introduced to at least a dozen characters with complicated and intertwined back stories that I was apparently already supposed to know, which is when I found out that this is actually a spin-off series from an earlier series that Balogh wrote!  I really got bogged down on the names (because everyone has like five different names/titles) and remember who was married to who and how they were all related.  Although these people didn’t really appear in the first book at all, they were all involved in the rest of the series.  Whoops.

Books three and four were pretty typical.  My biggest problem with all these books is that everyone has sex before they get married, and the sex in the fourth book felt even more contrived than any of the rest, like we are almost to the end of the book and the author is like, “Wait, I almost forgot to have them have pre-marital sex!  Better wedge that scene in now!” It was kind of ridiculous.  Overall the sex wasn’t a huge part of every story, it was usually just one or two scenes in the whole book, just enough to be really annoying.

While I enjoyed these books and would give the series a 3.5* rating, I didn’t really like it enough to keep the books I got at the book sale, or to bother looking up Balogh’s earlier series with some of the same characters.

August Minireviews – Part 2

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.

This has been a really busy month with a lot of family drama and a lot of working!!  We also have another big remodeling project underway, which takes up a lot of my spare time.  All that to say, I always manage to fit reading into the nooks and crannies of life, but sometimes the reviews get rather behind!!  I’m trying to get caught up by the end of the month, but we’ll see what happens…

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck – 3.5*

//published 2012//

This trilogy of books has been on my radar for a long time.  Who doesn’t enjoy a good wedding story?  In this one, Charlotte owns her own wedding dress shop.  She’s struggling with whether or not she should go forward with her own wedding, afraid that Tim isn’t really the right person for her (or that she’s the right person for him).  She accidentally buys a trunk at an estate auction (if you’ve ever been to an auction, you know it’s not that hard to do haha), and when she opens it, she finds a beautiful wedding dress.  The book jumps back in time to other timelines so the readers learn the dress’s history, even as Charlotte is trying to find out more about it.

Overall, Hauck did a good job balancing the multiple timelines, and created some likable characters.  This is theoretically Christian fiction, but it’s really more supernatural than Christian, in my mind.  References to God/Jesus are oblique, but there is a timeless character (angel?) who is found in all the timelines.  This was actually handled really well and felt like it fit in with the story.

The reason this didn’t end up being a 4* read for me was mostly because of the way that Charlotte and Tim’s relationship was handled.  Basically, in the end Tim takes all the blame for why their relationship wasn’t working, when it was obvious that a lot of the issues were with Charlotte, who was having trouble truly committing herself to being with Tim and being a part of his family.  I felt like Charlotte never really acknowledged that she was at least as much to blame as Tim, so that made me wonder if their long-term relationship was really going to work out.  Still, it was overall a pleasant story, even if it was a little slow in spots.

The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck – 2*

//published 2015//

Sooo reading The Wedding Dress made me interested to pick up the second book – except it isn’t really a second book.  There are ZERO connections between this book and the first book.  They don’t even take place in the same state!  What’s the point of calling this a trilogy if the books don’t interconnect?!  This annoyed me throughout the entire story.

This book basically depressed me the entire time I was reading it.  Because of the dual timelines, the reader already knows early on that Jimmy and Collette are going to spend at least SIXTY YEARS not together, and it’s pretty easy to see that it’s going to be because of some stupid lie that Collette’s jerk sister tells.  So their whole story was just incredibly depressing.  I couldn’t enjoy any of the backstory bits of them meeting and falling in love, because it all felt completely pointless.  Yeah, it’s awesome that the finally get to get married when they freaking almost eighty years old, but it still felt like a big fat waste of life.

I was more invested in the story of the younger couple, Jack and Taylor, but literally all of their drama was because they didn’t know how to sit down and have a conversation like adults.  Instead, they both just kept worrying that the other person didn’t really love them and going in circles and it was incredibly aggravating.  The whole book was a serious downer for me.

In the end, I started to read the third book, The Wedding Shop, except I didn’t care any more since these books aren’t actually connected to each other, and I had been so put off by The Wedding Chapel that I really didn’t want to start a whole other book following the same pattern.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – 3.5*

//published 1978//

This is a middle grade mystery that I remember reading back when I was in middle grades, and thought I would revisit.  It’s an intriguing story with a fun premise, but was a little slow in spots.  The epilogue also felt ridiculously long, as Raskin fills us in on everyone’s lives after the end of the Game.  As an adult, I fount myself skeptical of some of the things that Westing was able to pull off, and some of the connections felt rather tenuous, but it’s overall a fun story, that I can see someone around the ages of 12-14 really enjoying.

This was read #12 for #20BooksofSummer!

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson – 3*

//published 1981//

This is the third of Ibbotson’s books that I’ve read, and I’m concluding that she just isn’t an author for me, despite the fact that every time I read the premise of one of her books I think it sounds delightful.  This one was the best of the three, but that isn’t saying a whole lot, as the other two made me want to bang my head against the wall regularly.  The main problem with this one was that the dude has two choices for whom he should marry, and Ibbotson makes Anna SO perfect and Muriel SO dreadful that it seems absurd to think that that the dude, whose name I can’t remember and that I failed to write down, would consider Muriel for even a second, even if he feels “honor bound” to her.  There are a LOT of coincidences in this book as well, and in the end the wedding must be prevented, and the way that occurs just was completely over the top.  I was also frustrated with the dude the entire time – he was SUCH a passive character.  I honestly didn’t feel like he deserved Anna, because he did basically nothing to fight for her and to change his life so that he could marry her – he just lucked out that Muriel changed her mind after all.  Lame.

Read #13 for #20BooksofSummer!

A Promise of Home by Wendy Vella – 3.5*

//published 2015//

This was a Kindle book I’ve had for a long time and finally got around to reading.  It wasn’t a bad story, but it was what I was reading at night before bed, so it took me a while to get through it.  I’m not sure if the writing was genuinely choppy, or if it just felt that way because of the way I was reading it.  It was also weird because I felt like there were some continuity issues as well – like in the beginning Branna is so terrified of doctors and hospitals that she can’t even stay one night at the clinic with her best friend there as the nurse, but at the end there is no mention made of her fear even though she has to stay in the hospital for a few days.  There were little things like that throughout the story that low-key bugged me.

The ending was a smidge rushed and easily tidied, but overall this was a relaxing read (although a bit too sexy at times for me).  I wouldn’t mind reading some of the other books in the series because I did like the background characters and this is one of those series that just meanders around the town pairing people off, but they aren’t at the library and they’re $5 each on Kindle, and I’m not THAT interested haha

August Minireviews

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.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss – 4.5*

//published 2003//

I first read this book when it was published, and it’s one of those rare nonfiction books that I find myself returning to every few years.  Truss is just  so funny.  She tells you in the beginning how to tell if you’ll enjoy her book (have  you ever felt an overwhelming compulsion to add a missing apostrophe to a sign??) and goes on from there.  This isn’t an in-depth study of punctuation, but it is a delightful scamper through the high points of punctuation history and usage.  I always especially love the way she compares commas to border collies (gently herding phrases and words where they need to go), and her passion for apostrophes (so simple to use, yet so frequently maligned).

If you are even a bit of a punctuation freak, this is definitely worth a read.

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge – 4*

//published 1949//

I’m still slowly working my way through all of Goudge’s books. While Gentian Hill is probably my least favorite of her books that I’ve read so far, it was still beautifully written.  It’s historical fiction, so it’s a bit different from her other books, and it was rather fun to read a book set during the Napoleonic Wars that focused more on “regular” folk instead of the aristocracy.  The language throughout was beautiful as always, and there were many wonderful themes.  The main reason I wrestled with this book is because of how young Stella is when Zachary meets her and knows that she is going to be his wife someday.  I’ll grant that Zachary is also young(ish), but it still felt weird, even though it wasn’t completely unusual for women to get married in their mid-teens at the time.  Still, Goudge handles that all deftly – it never felt like Zachary was a creeper in any way, and I honestly did want them to end up together.  I just felt like the whole story would have read better if Stella had been a couple of years older when they met.

Overall, I still did enjoy this book a great deal, even though I didn’t find it to be an instant classic as I have with many of Goudge’s other books.

Gentian Hill was read #10 for #20BooksofSummer.

You Don’t Own Me by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke – 4*

//published 2018//

This is the latest installment of the Under Suspicion series, which I read last year.  The series centers on Laurie, who is the producer for a television show called Under Suspicion.  Each episode of the show looks at a cold case, inviting the people involved to tell their part of the story.  The concept is that the unsolved aspect of the story means that people close to the victim are still shadowed by the possibility that they could be the murderer.  I really enjoyed this series when I read it last year, mainly because Laurie is a great main character, and the authors have done an excellent job with the secondary characters as well.  In this book, I was glad to see Laurie’s romantic relationship progress happily.  The mystery was solid, although there was a weird secondary thing going on where Laurie was being stalked that felt superfluous to the main thrust of the story.

One of my biggest complaints about this story last year was how the host for Laurie’s show, Ryan, was the only stagnant character in the series.  The authors just made him into one giant stereotype and seemed to think that was good enough.  Consequently, I was delighted to see actual character growth in Ryan in this installment!  Brilliant!

Overall, these are great mysteries, and I’m hopeful that they will continue coming.

The Story of a Whim by Grace Livingston Hill – 3.5*

//published 1903//

Like most of Hill’s stories, this one was pretty predictable, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  I will say that I found it funny that I had just recently read Strawberry Girlset in early 1900’s Florida, and then it turns out that that was the same setting for this book as well!

This was my #11 read for #20BooksofSummer.

Shamed by Linda Castillo – 4*

//published 2019//

Earlier this year I devoured the entire Kate Burkholder series.  Set in Ohio’s Amish country, this is a great mystery series.  Kate grew up Amish and then left the community and eventually entered law enforcement.  When the series starts, Kate is the sheriff of the small town where she grew up, and also a sort of bridge between the Amish and non-Amish (“English”) communities.  I really, really like Kate a lot, which is a large part of why this series works for me.  Castillo also does a really excellent job in her portrayal of the Amish community, and I love the way that Kate is working through her heritage as well.

This particular installment was solid.  A woman is murdered and her granddaughter kidnapped – I loved the way that each chapter started with how many hours the girl had been missing; it really intensified the urgency of a missing child case.  Overall, the pacing was solid, although it felt like this book didn’t have as much of Kate’s personal life as some of the others have had, and I rather missed it.  All in all, I hope Castillo continues to write these books forever, as I really like them.

Fairfield Orchard series // by Emma Cane

  • At Fairfield Orchard
  • A Spiced Apple Winter
  • The Apple Blossom Cafe

These were the sort of happy, relaxing romances that are super low-stress to read, but aren’t quite at that brain-melting level of predictability.  I’m always partial to stories about siblings working together, and that’s the foundation of this series.  The Fairfield parents have been running the orchard for years, but have decided that they would like to take some time to travel and relax, after a recent cancer scare for Mom Fairfield.  The six Fairfield siblings agree to take turns coming back to run the orchard while the parents head out to enjoy life in their RV.  Each book focuses on a different sibling – the third book was just published at the end of last year, so I’m assuming that there will eventually be at least three more books to round out the family.

//published 2016//

Amy and her twin, Tyler, are the first siblings to return home.  (A third sibling has been working the orchard her entire adult life and has also decided to take a break.)  Amy is recovering from a bad long-term relationship and trying to decide what she really wants to do with her life.  Only a few weeks after her arrival at the orchard, she’s approached by a professor from a nearby college who is writing a paper about Thomas Jefferson, who sold the land to Amy’s multi-great grandparents.  The professor, Jonathon, wants to spend some time learning more about the history of the orchard to tie into the theory for his paper.  I’m sure you can all guess what happens from there…

So yes, overall a relaxing and happy story.  There was a little too much angst at times – Amy tended to blow her own mistakes significantly out of proportion, which got on my nerves, but I really did like her and Jonathon together, and also liked seeing Amy’s relationship with her brother mature and change as well.  Amy has spent a lot of time more or less hiding from her family because she’s been ashamed of sticking with her ex-boyfriend, so while the focus of the book was romance, a lot of the story was also Amy reconnecting with people from her childhood, and I thought that was done really well.

The second book focuses on Tyler.  He’s a minor celebrity from a role he played on a soap opera, but he isn’t sure what is going to happen next since the show was cancelled.  He’s re-learning about orchard work, but doesn’t think he wants to stay there forever.  In the meantime, since he’s been back it also means he’s spending more time with Amy’s best friend, Brianna.  Tyler and Brianna had a little fling several months earlier, and he’s starting to wonder if it should be more than that.

//published 2017//

Part of the backstory for these books is that throughout much of the Fairfield siblings’ childhood, their dad was a working alcoholic.  While he wasn’t abusive, he was distant and more interested in drinking than any of them.  Over a decade before these books open, he had a scare and almost killed several people in an accident because he was too hungover to operate the equipment correctly.  Since being scared straight, he’s been on the wagon and working hard to make amends for his past mistakes.  All that to say, a lot of what happens in these books is the various siblings dealing with that part of their past in their own ways.  Throughout all three books, I felt like this was handled extremely well, with forgiveness coming more easily to some than others, and with each of them having their own particular reasons for feeling hurt by the past.  I really enjoyed the aspect of the family making peace with one another, based on the sincere regret and sorrow that their dad has for his past.

For Tyler, growing up he felt like his real dad was Brianna’s dad, who was always there for them.  Now that Brianna’s dad has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Tyler and Brianna are both struggling with that, as well as their confusion over where their relationship should go from here.  I really loved the genuine kindness and love that Tyler showed towards Brianna’s dad, and it made Tyler’s relationship with Brianna seem more realistic – you don’t just marry your person, you kind of marry their entire family, and I liked that part of the story.

At first I thought there were only two books in this series, because that’s all that’s listed on Goodreads, but I happened to see the title for the third book and realized it was also part of this series – no idea why it isn’t on the series list!  The third sibling is Noah, who is a chef, and has taken his sabbatical to come and start a café at the orchard.  Part of the drama of the second book was one of Tyler’s old soap opera co-stars, Gabby, coming to stay for a while, and she becomes Noah’s love interest in this book.

//published 2018//

This story was a little grittier than the other two.  Part of Gabby’s backstory is that she gave up her baby for adoption when Gabby was a young, unmarried mother.  Years later, she’s still wrestling with her feelings from that decision, and whether or not it was the right choice.  This was all done extremely well – I had a lot of empathy for Gabby and her situation both in the past and the present.  Meanwhile, Noah is still very embittered towards his dad, and watching him come to grips with that and realize that his refusal to forgive and move forward was hurting himself as much as it was hurting his dad, was a really good story.

These books definitely had more sexy times than I personally prefer, but as it wasn’t the main point of the story, I was able to skim through those bits pretty easily.  While these weren’t as humorous as I like my romances to be, they were still good stories with likable characters who felt sturdier than the cardboard stereotypes these kinds of books so often contain.  I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out to see if Cane continues the story of the Fairfield siblings and their orchard.

Also, side note, aren’t these covers lovely??  I don’t understand why they can’t give romance novels pleasant covers like this.

NB: At Fairfield Orchard is my ninth read for #20BooksofSummer!

Rearview Mirror // July 2019

Summer continues to race by!  We had some super hot weather in July, but things are back to regular-hot now.  I’m getting ready to go back to work at the orchard next week, so things will get much busier.  In the meantime, the garden is going crazy, and I’ve been getting caught up on random projects around the house.  We’re also gearing up for a big westward trip in early September – I just came home from the library with a dozen travel guides!

Reading wise, things are pretty normal.  I didn’t really have any huge wins or losses this month – it was mostly just regular, enjoyable books.  I’m still really active on Litsy and thoroughly enjoying the community there.

Favorite July Read:

I think I’m going with The Eyes of Tamburah by Maria V. Snyder.  Although the book definitely had some pacing issues, overall it was just an incredibly fun romp with a main character that I liked a lot.

Most Disappointing July Read:

Probably The String by Caleb Breakey.  I thought this book had a lot of potential, but broke down in the details.

By the Numbers:

In July…

  • I read 26 books for a total of 7308 pages – down from last month by over a thousand pages!!
  • My average star rating was 3.6, which is alright, but not great.  It’s also down from 3.7 last month.
  • I read way more of my own books this month than I did books from elsewhere – 19 of my 26 books were from my own shelves or Kindle library.
  • This month’s oldest book was The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse, published in 1922.
  • My longest book was Winner Takes All by Nora Roberts at 537 pages, while the shortest was The Haunted Fountain by Margaret Sutton at 92.

July DNFs:

  • I gave up on K.M. Robinson’s The Siren Wars at 38% of 340 Kindle pages.  The story just wasn’t holding my interest, and it felt like the plot was never going to go anywhere.
  • I read almost a hundred pages of I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella before throwing in the towel.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book, but Fixie was driving up the wall, and I just wasn’t in the  mood to deal with her.  I may pick this one up again at some point.


As usual, I’m reading plenty of books, but not necessarily the chosen twenty!  This month I’ve finished five more off the list, although I haven’t reviewed them all yet.  Both my DNFs were also on the original list, so I’ve updated it to include a few different ones – you can see the full list 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:  430 (up two)
  • Nonfiction:  90 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  658 (down six!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  234 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 114 (holding steady)

Awaiting Review:

  • The Fairfield Orchard series – happy little romance books – a trilogy so far, but I think there may be more to come someday.
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss – the best book about militant punctuation that you’ll ever find.
  • Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge – a little different from her other books I’ve read, as this one is historical fiction, but still an excellent read.
  • You Don’t Own Me by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke – a new addition to the Under Suspicion series that I read and really enjoyed last year.
  • The Story of a Whim by Grace Livingston Hill – what are the odds of me reading TWO book set in early 1900’s Florida practically in a row?!

Currently Reading:

I’m getting ready to start The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck.  I’ve had mixed experiences with her writing before, so this may or may not end up being a DNF.  I’m also working through the pile of Yellowstone travel guides! :-D

The Probable Next Five(ish) Reads:

  • The Wedding Dress is the first in a trilogy, so I may read all of them if the first is any good.
  • Lord Brocktree by Brian Jacques – I have mixed feelings about continuing the Redwall books as they are somewhat samey, but I really like the badgers the best so I may give this one a go.
  • A while back I picked up two books in a quartet from the library booksale for a total of fifty cents, and it’s about time to see if they are any good.  The first is Simply Unforgettable by Mary Balogh, and they appear to be romance of some type.
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – a book I read a really, really long time ago and remember nothing about.
  • A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson – despite the fact that I’ve had some serious issues with the other two Ibbotson books I’ve read, someone commented on one of those reviews and insisted that I give this one a try.  It’s my FINAL chance for Ibbotson!

That’s about it for July!  I genuinely can’t believe it’s August already.  I’m way behind on reading other people’s reviews (as usual) so don’t be surprised if you see me popping up on your older posts. :-D Hope everyone is well – Happy August!