October 2018 // Rearview Mirror

October was a busy but overall good month.  It included my birthday, lots of apples, a long weekend in the mountains, some stupidly hot days, and then a rapid switch to really cold days.  Now it’s chilly and rainy, all the leaves have FINALLY switched over, the time changes this weekend, and all in all things feel like they are trending towards winter.

Reading-wise, while I didn’t read a LOT of books, it felt like the overall quality was much better.  I’ve struggled to choose a favorite read the last couple of months, but for October I actually had trouble choosing between a couple because they were so good!  I also finally read Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, a highly anticipated read for me that, while it didn’t exactly live up to my expectations, still gave me a LOT of feels.

In September’s Rearview, I mentioned that I was way, way behind on reading other people’s blog posts.  I really made it a priority to get through those this month, and am happy to say that I am basically caught up!  However, I’m anticipating a reflective impact on the TBR numbers!!

Birthday Book Haul!

My birthday was super fun, except for the part where we had to go to the BMV to get tags for our new car, but hey, a day can’t be COMPLETELY perfect.  :-D  We had breakfast at IHOP, went to the local gunshow for some A+ people-watching, and then headed up to Columbus for a few hours in an absolutely fabulous independent bookstore, The Book Loft.  As in 2016, I was given a generous allotment of money and turned loose!  My inherent thriftiness always wins, but I did find some good books to add to the ever-growing collection, including a new Wodehouse, two nonfictions, and The Woman in Cabin 10 on the bargain rack which I mostly bought because the cover has embossed water droplets on it and feels amazing haha

Ironically, the book I REALLY wanted to get was Maggie Stiefvater’s All the Crooked Saints, which I still haven’t read, even after going to her AMAZING book tour last year.  So when I got home, I ordered it from Fountain Books, which sells autographed copies.  I’m still eagerly awaiting its arrival.

I also had a smidge of budget left, so I got on ebay intending to purchase a Georgette Heyer book or two… and instead ended up buying an entire box of random Regency romance paperbacks for less than a dollar each!  Most of them look absolutely terrible, but it doesn’t really damper my enthusiasm all that much.  :-D

My last bookish win for my birthday was from my sister.  In April 2017 I read The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge.  That book genuinely changed who I am as a person.  When I was reading it, I KNEW that it would really mean something to my sister, too, so I gave it to her as soon as I could.  She loved it so much that I actually gave her my copy for keeps!  For this birthday, she returned the favor by finding an actual first edition of it that came from England.  It’s absolutely gorgeous, and I can’t wait to reread it!!!

North Carolina Adventures –

My husband had a Monday and a Tuesday off in October, so we took a long weekend to North Carolina.  We stayed in a cabin outside of a small town called Spruce Pine along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It was absolutely beautiful, even when it was foggy.  We had a great time hiking and also driving our new car (it’s the first brand new car either of us have owned, and we’ve been talking about/saving for it for a couple of years now, so we are VERY enamored!) and just hanging out in the cabin reading books and eating popcorn.  I highly recommend finding some mountains if you’re feeling discouraged by life.

 

Favorite October Read:

Persuasion by Jane Austen has to go into this slot, although Young Pioneers was a close second.  But I’ll give you a two-word reason why Persuasion wins out:  Frederick Wentworth.  :-D

Most Disappointing October Read:

I guess Terms of Service by Scott Allan Morrison.  While this book had its moments, it overall was just very so-so, with a convoluted plot and a muddy point.

Other October Reads:

  • False Colours by Georgette Heyer – 4.5* – this was an utterly delightful read that made me snort with laughter a lot.
  • Garden Mysteries by Mary Freeman – 4* – super fun setting and likable characters; rather predictable mysteries.
  • Judy Bolton – Books 11-15 – 3.5* – these are fun and have their interesting moments, but read better in small doses.
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – 4* – a reread worth rereading!
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – 4* – serious and somewhat dark, but still solid storytelling.
  • Utah Lion by James Ralph Johnson – 4* – a childhood favorite revisited.
  • Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane – 4.5* – a slim volume with a strong story.

Other October Posts:

I continued the Shelfie series by moving onto Shelf 2A!

Last October…

We also went south for a long weekend – our first out-of-state adventure in the Zeppelin to the mountains of Virginia!  I did a decent amount of reading, but not a lot of reviewing.  I particularly enjoyed a nonfiction read that looked at the different poisons Agatha Christie used throughout her writing – A is for Arsenic.

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:  872 (up… *whispers*… 16…)
  • Nonfiction:  81 (up three)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  675 (down three!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  238 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 107 (down one!)

Awaiting Review:

I’ve mostly been staying caught up.  However, I have read the first book in two different series.  The first one I don’t think is actually going to be a “series” – I think it’s just several books by the same author that I bought in a bundle – so it should get reviewed soon: Accidentally Married by Victoria Lieske.  The other book is the first in one of the crazy Love Inspired series.  It was pretty lame, so I’m going to give the second book a bit of a go, but if it’s just as lame, I’m going to DNF the set.  The one I’ve read already is Blind-Date Bride by Jillian Hart.

Current Reads:

For a while, I was back to reading basically just one book at a time.  I went back to my four-book pattern last week, but honestly I still just don’t have enough reading time to maintain that, so I’ll probably cut back as I finish a couple of these books.  Right now I have four books, plus my bedtime read…

  • Embers of War by Fredrik Logevall – a nonfiction read about the background of the Vietnam War.  It’s super, super interesting to me, especially since I remember literally nothing about the Vietnam War.  I’m hoping to find a good book about the war itself when I finish this one, so let me know if you have one to suggest!
  • Montana Homecoming by Jillian Hart – the second book in the crazy Love Inspired series.
  • Collie to the Rescue by Albert Payson Terhune – his books are so ridiculous that they’re great fun.
  • Saving Mars by Cidney Swanson – a free Kindle book I’ve had for a while
  • Reluctantly Married by Victoria Lieske – my relaxing bedtime book.

Approaching the Top of the Pile…

Honestly not sure why I even do this section, as it never seems to be true! :-D  Although in fairness, I have read/am reading all of the books from last month’s list in this section… they just didn’t happen ::next::

Anyway, here are the “probable” next five reads…

  • Maybe the next book in the Saving Mars series, if this one is any good
  • Early Candlelight by Maud Hart Lovelace – this is the author of the Betsy-Tacy books, which I read a few years ago and LOVED.  I’m interested to read this book geared towards older readers than the Betsy-Tacy books were originally.
  • Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien – I picked this up on the library discard rack for a quarter several months ago, but still haven’t gotten around to reading it!!
  • Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson – the start of another fuzzy romance series that I read about somewhere sometime a while ago.  No clue if it will be any good, as I now don’t even really remember the premise.  I actually think it may have something to do with a hockey team?!  It’s more interesting if I don’t bother to look it up for this post.
  • The Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs – this is a children’s book that my mom read a while back and thought was “super adorable” and loaned to me.  We’ll see what it’s all about.

That’s the update for now – Happy November!!

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October Minireviews (+ #20Booksof Summer … still!)

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.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – 4*

//published 2012//

As I’ve mentioned, a while ago I signed up to be part of a Traveling Book Club, where each member choose a book to share.  The first month you mail your own book to the next person on the list and receive a book from the person behind you on the list.  Each month you mail whatever book you have until you get your own back.  In the meantime, members are encouraged to annotate and make notes in the books, so that when you get yours back it will be full of fun thoughts from its journey.  (You can see the list of these reads here.)  I was excited to get this book in the mail, because it’s one I’ve read – and enjoyed – before, so it was extra fun to see other people’s thoughts and insights.  One of the earlier readers is a computer programmer, so it was especially interesting to see her thoughts on some of the computer-y aspects of the story.

I liked this book just as much the second time around.  Clay is such an entertaining and likable narrator, and while the story does get a bit ridiculous at times, it’s always a good time.  Still an easy 4* read.

False Colours by Georgette Heyer – 4.5*

//published 1963//

I know that I have read this Heyer before, but apparently I never reviewed it at that time!  This is an especially fun one – when Kit comes home from his diplomatic job abroad to check in with his widowed mother and his twin brother, his twin is missing.  His mother, a rather capricious but likable lady, persuades Kit to take his brother’s place at an important dinner – just for that night.  Needless to say, and entire tangle ensues.  The whole story is just absolutely delightful.  I really like Kit a lot, and it was fun to have a character who isn’t the oldest son and doesn’t want to be!  Even though it seems like the whole thing should be ridiculous, Heyer somehow makes it feel plausible.  I will say that the ending felt a little too tidy, with everyone planning out how they were going to fix things, but the story ends before things are actually fixed!  It would have been nice to see things actually play out.  Still, a very fun and lighthearted read.

Terms of Service by Scott Allan Morrison – 3.5*

//published 2015//

This is one of those Kindle books I’ve had forever, and now that I’m committed (ha) to getting through my Kindle backlog, I finally got around to reading it.  While this was a decent one-time thriller, the plot was rather scattered and convoluted, and the message wasn’t super clear.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to trust social media or never use it again.  It was weird because this was written in 2015, but the whole story is about a presidential election that gets influenced by social bots.  What honestly blew my mind about this story was the number of people who let themselves be completely swayed on huge, important issues by total strangers on the internet.  Like, if they present a convincing argument that’s worth looking into, that’s one thing.  But just being persuaded by things like, “Wow, this guy really has some good things to say!” seems completely ridiculous to me, but apparently is exactly what people do in real life.  (See: Reasons I Don’t Do Facebook)

I think I would have liked this whole book better if the overall message had been a little clearer, but Morrison’s conclusion is basically like, “Yeah, people in charge of social media pretty much control what the masses think and do, but we’re all way into it and the positives outweigh the negatives so…”  Overall, this book had its engaging moments, but it wasn’t really the kind of thriller that made me want to rush out and see what else Morrison has written.

Utah Lion by James Ralph Johnson – 4*

//published 1962//

My great-grandma was an elementary school teacher, and when she passed away back when I was in middle school, I inherited some of her fiction books she used in her class.  I kind of wish she was still around so I could ask her if she actually used Utah Lion for teaching purposes or if it was just a book that the kids could read if they wanted to.

The story, as the title implies, is about a wild mountain lion in Utah, presumably around the time this book was published in the 1960’s.  It has a very Jim Kjelgaard feel to the overall story, including the verging-on-polemic message about the importance large predators play in the overall balance of nature.  Johnson weaves an interesting tale, although ironically he was so convincing about the dangers (from men) that lions face, that I wasn’t genuinely convinced that Blue Tom and his mate were genuinely going to survive and help repopulate the lions in Utah.  At the end of Johnson’s story, nothing had really changed to make life any easier for mountain lions, so it just seemed like they would keep getting hunted until they were dead, which was kind of discouraging.

Still, this was overall a solid read if, like me, you enjoy random outdoorsy stories.  Unlike most of Kjelgaard’s books, this one focused on the lion and not on a parallel human, which definitely meant that all of my sympathies were with the lion!

NB Utah Lion was originally a selection I made for #20BooksofSummer.  I didn’t finish reading my list by the end of summer, but I am trying to finish it by the end of the year!!

Young Pioneers // by Rose Wilder Lane (and kind of #20BooksofSummer !)

//published 1933//

This slim book packs a very emotional and inspiring story into its short length.  It had been many years since I last read this book, and even though it didn’t take me long to read, I’ve still been thinking about it since I finished it.

I loved the book from its opening line – While they were children playing together, they said they would be married as soon as they were old enough, and when they were old enough they married.  Although, as the story progresses, we do find out that what they considered “old enough” was a bit on the young side for our modern lives – David is only 18 and Molly 16 when they not only marry, but head west in a wagon, leaving behind everything and everyone they’ve ever known, at a time when that leaving meant that you would, more than likely, never see these loved ones again.

Molly is the quiet, thoughtful one of the pair, while David is confident and exuberant.  His favorite hymn includes the lines –

Let the hurricane roar!
It will the sooner be o’er!
We’ll weather the blast, and land at last,
On Canaan’s happy shore!

The original title of this story was Let the Hurricane Roar, and despite the complete lack of actual hurricanes (although we get a healthy dose of blizzards), the theme of standing firm and confident in the face of extreme adversity is really the foundation to the entire story.

The young couple find a homestead, which, according to law, they must live on and improve for five years, and then the land will be deeded to them.  At first, all is going well in their snug dugout, as the wheat crop is beautiful.  But tragedy strikes so completely that David has to go back east to find work.  Molly is determined to stay behind on their claim so that they don’t lose their year’s work.

I’d forgotten how much of this story that Molly actually spends alone, with an infant, in the wilderness.  Despite her quiet nature and inherent timidity, she is amazingly steadfast and inspiring, determined to do what has to be done to claim their homestead and build their life.  The writing is somewhat sparse, but it honestly reflects the overall feeling of the vastness of the prairie and the miles and miles of emptiness.

Because this book was initially published as a serial story in Saturday Evening Post, it is told in four long chapters.  Usually I much prefer short chapters, but because the book itself is so short, the long chapters made me feel like I was galloping through the story!

Rose Wilder Lane is, of course, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the beloved Little House books.  When Lane published Young Pioneers in 1933, only Little House in the Big Woods had been printed.  So the tragedy with the grasshoppers, later recounted by Wilder in On the Banks of Plum Creek, does sound familiar to those who have read the Little House books, as Lane is obviously drawing a great deal from family history for her writing.  Lane’s characters were also originally named Charles and Caroline, which are the actual names of Lane’s grandparents (Wilder’s parents).  When the book was republished and renamed in the 1970’s, the character names were changed as well, probably because by that time Wilder’s entire series had been published and was very popular.

Although this is a book of hardship, it is also a book of hope and strength.  It’s a wonderful reminder of the struggles and obstacles that people were facing a mere century or so ago.  Molly herself is a true heroine, perhaps especially because she doesn’t do anything particularly heroic.  She doesn’t save anyone’s life or change the tides of a political upheaval.  Instead, she just lives – steadily, bravely, doing the best she can under incredibly difficult circumstances.  Molly is the kind of heroine who truly inspires me, a reminder that we don’t need a grand stage to do our part to make the world a better place.

NB: This book was originally chosen for my #20BooksofSummer challenge.  Even though I failed to read all 20 books this summer, I am still planning to read them!!

Persuasion // by Jane Austen

//published 1817//

I’m positive that I read Persuasion somewhere back in the mists of time, but it had been years, and possibly decades, since I read it.  So, when my sister asked if I wanted to read it along with her, I said sure!  Especially since I had a shiny new copy that I’d purchased for my birthday back in 2016 and never got around to reading!

Persuasion is actually my sister’s favorite Austen, mainly because it employs one of her favorite tropes – lovers reunited after a space of time.  Funnily enough, that’s one of my LEAST favorite tropes.  Mary Rose (my sister) sees the romance in two people still loving each other after that time apart.  I just see the years wasted because someone, or both someones, weren’t willing to fix the problem – which probably illustrates the differences between our personalities haha

At any rate, I quite enjoyed my reread of this one.  It had been so long since I had read it, that I couldn’t remember exactly how events unfolded.  In brief, in case you, like me, don’t really remember, the story is about Anne Elliot, who lives with her father and her older sister.  Her father, a baronet, is rather a silly man, quite stuck on himself, and the older sister, Elizabeth, fits the same mold.  Lady Elliot passed away several years before the story opens.  There is a younger sister, Mary, who is married and lives a couple of miles away.  The Elliots’ neighbor and close friend is Lady Russell, who is especially fond of, and influential over, Anne.  In general, Anne is rather underappreciated and overlooked by her family, as she is a quiet, unassuming, helpful person past the blush of her first youth.

When Anne was but 19, she fell in love with a young sailor, Frederick Wentworth.  Frederick wanted Anne to marry him, but Anne allowed herself to be persuaded by Lady Russell, and by the overall sense of disapproval of her father and sisters, to say no.  Frederick left in a huff, and in the intervening eight years has gone on to become successful and moderately wealthy, and is now a Captain.

The story opens with Sir Walter being somewhat in debt and having to lease out their ancestral hall.  Sir Walter and Elizabeth decide to stay in Bath, but Anne goes to stay with her sister Mary for a few months.  Meantime, the individuals who lease out the house turn out to be Frederick’s sister and her husband – which means that, after all these years, Anne and Frederick will come together again!  *cue dramatic music*

This is a rather quiet, domestic tale.  Unlike some of Austen’s other stories, there are no moments of grand drama (like Lydia’s elopement or the betrayal of Willoughby), yet I was still completely drawn in by the entertaining characters and subtle humor.  I didn’t find myself laughing out loud like I did while reading Northanger Abbeybut there were still plenty of entertaining moments.

I especially enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the time when Anne is staying with Mary, who lives next door to her in-laws.  Here, there is a whole lively cast of characters all virtually living together, despite their differences in personality and hobbies.  Honestly, this little paragraph reminded me so strongly of my own (large and lively) family that I couldn’t help but laugh –

It was a very fine November day, and the Miss Musgroves came through the little grounds, and stopped for no other purpose than to say, that they were going to take a long walk, and therefore concluded Mary could not like to go with them; and when Mary immediately replied, with some jealousy at not being supposed to be a good walker, “Oh, yes, I should like to join you very much, I am very fond of a long walk;” Anne felt persuaded, by the very looks of the two girls, that it was precisely what they did not wish, and admired again the sort of necessity which the family habits seemed to produce, of everything being to be communicated, and everything being to be done together, however undesired and inconvenient.

I, too, have a family in which “everything being to be communicated, and everything being to be done together,” and honestly long walks are a frequent event.  And no matter how much you’d rather not have the entire family along, there seems to be some compulsion to invite everyone!

At any rate, Anne’s story unfolds gently and steadily.  She’s a very likable and relatable heroine, and I was glad that she eventually landed her happily ever after.  I do feel that she and Frederick have a very good chance of making a go of it, having tested their love through separation, and having matured past the impulsiveness and sensitivity of a younger age.  It did seem that once Anne and Frederick did finally talk it out, that everything immediately fell into place and then the story was over – it felt like I didn’t get to see very much interaction between the two of them.  But Frederick’s letter is everything swoonworthy for sure – You pierce my soul.  I am half agony, half hope.  

I also very much liked that, in the end, Anne realized that, despite her sufferings, she didn’t really regret telling Frederick no originally.  She had followed her conscience, and had she gone against it, hers was the type of personality that would have always felt residual guilt over going against the advice of everyone else she loved.  Frederick also acknowledges his own folly and pride as being part of the problem, asking her if she would have accepted him if he had come back after his initial success on the sea.  Anne says that yes, she most certainly would have, and Frederick realizes that while Anne’s refusal separated them originally, it was his pride that kept them apart for so long.  The balanced blame is part of what makes me so confident in the overall success of this match.

While Persuasion isn’t my favorite of Austen’s tales, it was thoroughly enjoyable and a worthwhile read.  It’s also on the shorter side, and I was surprised at how quickly I flew through the pages.  4.5* for this classic, and highly recommended.

Spinning Silver // by Naomi Novik

//published 2018//

Although published in 2015, I didn’t get around to reading Novik’s first book, Uprooteduntil last year.  It was incredibly magical, and was one of my favorite reads of the year.  This also meant that I didn’t have to wait very long for Novik’s sophomore novel, Spinning Silver, which came out this summer.  While this book didn’t quite live up my expectations (which were very high, thanks to Uprooted), it was a stirring and  beautiful story in its own right – just not exactly what I had been expecting.

I think the biggest difference between the two books, and the reason that I just can’t rate Spinning Silver as highly as Uprooted, is that Spinning Silver just isn’t a very happy book.  Every single one of the narrators (and there are three main ones, plus several chapters from a handful of others) has had a terrible, difficult life, and they’re basically convinced that they have nothing else to look forward to.  While the narrator of Uprooted was essentially an upbeat lady, always trying to make the best of her situation and always convinced that there was a way to save everyone, the narrators in Spinning Silver come from desperately difficult situations and are resigned to the fact that sacrifices, even of lives, will have to be made for the greater good.  The three main characters each betray someone in the course of the story, and while it can definitely be argued that they owed nothing to the people they betrayed and thus were justified, it doesn’t change the tone of the story, which is that betrayal and sacrifice are sometimes just what has to happen.

It wasn’t exactly that every page was drudgery, but there was just a lot of heavy stuff to deal with. Horrific poverty, prejudice, cruelty, abuse, demon-possession, kidnapping, murder, forced marriage, etc.  Adding tot he mix that the main narrator, Miryem, is Jewish, it kind of read like historical fiction with a bit of magic thrown in, and the historical fiction part wasn’t very happy.

My understanding is that Novik is Jewish, and I’m sure she is very well qualified to write Miryem’s character, but somehow the Jewishness of Miryem didn’t exactly fit with the tone of the story in my mind.  Miryem herself was an excellent heroine, and her Jewishness was a part of that and it was fine, but it was also the only thing really anchoring this story into my world versus setting it someplace completely fictional, and I think maybe that was why it felt strange??  I’m just not sure.  It may have also been because Miryem’s character felt like Novik was not-completely-subtly trying to constantly make a point about the persecution of Jews through the ages.  Again, not a bad point to make, and it’s a point that is completely true and justified, but it didn’t always fit with the flow of the story.

The multiple-narrators aspect of the story mostly worked.  Honestly, the voices between the characters weren’t super different – where they were and what was happening was what set them apart from one another, not necessarily the way they talked/thought.  One of the characters is supposedly very uneducated and poor and comes from a horrifically abusive background, yet her voice sounds basically the same as Miryem’s, who comes from a loving family and is much more widely-traveled and well-read.  The third main narrator is the daughter of a lord and has grown up in a much more refined setting, yet again she sounds basically the same as the other two girls.  I guess most of the time, if there need to be more than two narrators to keep the story flowing, it just seems like the story ought to be written in third person instead.

I’ve spent a lot of time whining about this book, yet it was still an easy 4* read for me.  The story itself is good, and the writing is excellent.  I genuinely felt cold while I was reading this book about the ever-lengthening winter.  And while I would have preferred to hear from the main characters in the third person, I still found them likable.  Despite their horrible backgrounds and current situations, all three of the main heroines are strong and determined to do what is right, no matter the cost.  They have a strong loyalty to family and community and are willing to do whatever it takes to protect the ones they love.

I would have liked to have had an epilogue of some kind.  While it’s implied that everyone’s lives are going to be a bit better going forward, it would have been nice to have seen that, at least briefly, considering how long I had to spend wallowing in their misery.  The love story aspects of the tale were definitely a bit rushed.  Towards the end of the book, Novik skips a multiple-month period, glossing over it in just a few paragraphs.  Yet that’s the exact time frame that two of the characters are genuinely coming to know and love each other.  Consequently, the lovey conclusion between the two feels a bit thin.

All in all, I do recommend this book.  And I think that I’ll actually like it better on a reread, now that I know where things are going.  Part of my discontent with this story was definitely because of the overall tone being so much darker than Uprooted, and I wasn’t ready for that.  Now that I know what to expect, I think that I can appreciate the other aspects of the story more fully.  While Spinning Silver wasn’t an instant classic for me like Uprooted was, it is still a solid, well-written tale with sympathetic characters and an engaging story that I fully intend to reread in the future.

Random Romance Reads

Whenever life gets busy and/or stressful, I turn not just to ice cream, but also to fluff books that don’t really make me think.  The last couple of months have been pretty busy, and, combined with some other weird stuff going on, I’ve just been in the mood for reading some lighthearted romance.

I also seem to have accumulated roughly a billion books on my Kindle, so this summer I finally created a spreadsheet to actually make some sense out of them.  While I realize spreadsheets aren’t really the answer to ALL of life’s problems, I’ve found that it’s always a great place to start.  :-D  Anyway, this spreadsheet has helped me actually start reading my Kindle books, because now I can tell at a glance if the book is part of a series or not (I hate starting in the middle of series) and go from there.  It also gives me a place to make a couple of brief notes after I’ve read a book, because I can’t always remember whether or not I liked something.

All that to say, I had three different boxed sets, by three different authors, consisting of the first three or four books of three different series, that had at some point been purchased for less than a dollar or possibly even for free.  While enjoyable, none of them quite warranted spending more money to continue/finish the series, so here are a few notes!

Romancing Wisconsin Series by Stacey Joy Hetzel

These stories definitely felt a lot shorter than full-length novels.  I actually really enjoyed these stories and the way that the characters from the different books interconnected, but the next boxed set was like $10 and it just wasn’t worth it to me.  Even though the first story is in July, and the rest take place within the next couple of months, all of them actually were Christmas-themed, starting with a “Christmas in July” field trip to the zoo, and they all had a cute mistletoe theme to them.  However, there was definitely too much sex, and the books were just too short for me to justify spending the money to continue the series.

Cupid’s Coffeeshop Series by Courtney Hunt

I have a total weakness for stories that are set in restaurants/coffee shops/hotels/basically anything in the hospitality industry.  I co-owned a coffee shop in the past, and have spent a lot of time working in the those types of settings, and it always makes me happy to be “behind the scenes” of events.  (I think that may be part of why I love Nora Roberts’s Bridal Quartet so much.)  This series was supposedly about three cousins who inherit a coffee shop (with strings attached, of course) and have to work together to make it work.  Which is why I was super confused when, about three chapters into the first book, the story abruptly departs from the cousins and focuses on two completely random people who happened to have met in the newly-reopened coffee shop.

So these were perfectly fine little romances, but the whole series would have made much more sense if the author had focused on the cousins as the beginning of the series and given a base to build from.  Instead, these were four books about completely random individuals who sorta kinda cross paths in the same coffee shop, with about two or three chapters in each book about the cousins and how things are actually going with them.  It made the stories feel disjointed, and I just couldn’t get into them enough to pay for the rest.

Summer Lake Series by S.J. McCoy

When I got done with the first boxed set, I was startled to discover that, somewhere along the line, I had also purchased the second boxed set!  So I actually had the first six books of the series to read – and wouldn’t you know it, that’s still only halfway, and it looks like the rest are $4 each, so even though I actually am quite interested in these characters and where everyone is going, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to justify the budget needed to finish this series!

These books start out by being focused on a group of four friends – Emma, Missy, Pete, and Ben – who all grew up together in the same small town in northern California.  Throughout the series, they find themselves being drawn back to their hometown, and of course finding love and happiness along the way.  The problem is that McCoy has a habit of introducing new characters all the time, and then going off and telling their story in the next book, until the connections to the original group are rather tenuous.  So Emma gets together with Pete’s business partner, Jack.  Then Pete gets together with Emma’s best friend, Holly.  Then Missy matches up with Jack’s brother, Dan.  So far, so good.  But I’m actually really interested in Ben, who has a mysterious back story that we still haven’t heard.  But INSTEAD, we get a story about Jack and Dan’s cousin, Laura, who gets together with their pilot, Smoke (seriously).  Then, meantime, another old friend has returned to town, supposedly one of the original gang – Michael.  So the next story is about him falling in love with Megan, who isn’t related to anybody, and then the NEXT book is about Megan’s sister!  So now we’re through Book #6 and still no Ben story!  And I suppose a normal person would just skip to the book that has Ben’s story and buy just that one, but I’m not one of those wild and crazy individuals who is capable of dipping in and out of series at will: it’s in order or nothing!  :-D

While I really did enjoy the characters and stories, these books had a LOT of sexy times, which is the other reason I just don’t want to purchase the rest.  While I don’t mind skipping stuff sometimes, in a few of these books it was just excessive.  It also started to feel like McCoy was using good sex to equal a good relationship.  Because all of these relationships got so physical so fast, I wasn’t always completely convinced that the characters were actually going to be good together long term.  I don’t think that you have to shag someone to know whether or not they are going to be a good life-partner, and McCoy’s books seems to say just the opposite – that the ONLY way to tell whether or not someone is going to be a good life-partner is to shag them!

So yes, overall too many mixed feelings over these books to invest another $24 or so into finishing the series!

Shelfie by Shelfie // Shelf 2A

Shelfie by Shelfie is a book tag started by Bibliobeth.  You can see her original post here (and her most recent Shelfie here) – and I’ve nabbed her image as well.  :-D  The concept is that you take a picture of a bookshelf, and then answer ten questions about the books on it.  I have about a billion bookshelves, so I thought that I would give it a go!

Well, it’s been several months since I did a Shelfie, as things have been a bit crazy around here!!  But today I have a bit of extra time, so I thought I would look at another shelf!

Today is a VERY EXCITING Shelfie, because we are actually moving on to a completely different bookshelf!  All of my earlier Shelfies the list of posts can be found here) have been from Shelf #1, but today we are actually moving on to Shelf #2!!

Here is the actual entire bookshelf – it’s part of the same original set of shelves that my husband built for me multiple houses ago.  At the time, we had a long, wide hallway that just begged to be filled with bookshelves (and books!).  He built them so they would go around and under the windows in the hallway, and would have plenty of room for books and for knickknacks (which I also have a lot of).  Although we’ve moved multiple times since then, we’ve always found a way to make the shelves work.  In our current house, they run along a wall in our lower room, framing the fireplace and then the big on (Shelf #3) on the other side of a picture window.

As an aside, we were just talking yesterday about expanding our bookshelves, so these are probably going to be built up to the ceiling and over the fireplace at some point this winter… somehow I seem to be running out of bookshelf room again!?

 

Anyway, here is the specific shelf we are looking at today – Shelf 2A!

And the questions!

1 – Is there any reason for this shelf being organized the way it is, or is it purely random?

As usual, these are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the author, as I do with the majority of my fiction books.  It makes it easier to find them!!

2 – Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you; i.e. how you got it, a memory associated with it, etc.

Hidden behind the other books in this picture is a very slim, very battered paperback called The Treasure is the Rose by Julia Cunningham.  This book was originally published in 1973, when my mom was 11, and she fell in love with the story.  I can remember reading this book with her, and was so touched when she gave it to me.  The whole book is kind of falling apart, but I still love it, and have such warm memories of the gentle Ariane who loved her roses and her husband so much.

3 – Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

Honestly, this shelf has a lot of books I feel kind of so-so about.  I think the top one to ditch would be the random play about Robert E. Lee that I’ve never even read – why do I even HAVE that book?!  Where did it come from??  My life is full of mystery.

4 – Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

I would probably keep Time to Go House by Walter Edmonds (which I reread back in 2013).  I have a lot of memories of reading this with my mom when I was growing up and really love it.  So much so that this actually her copy, which I pilfered at some point (I believe I’ve mentioned that book pilfering is almost a sport in our family! :-D)

5 – Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

Oh wow, if it’s not Time to Go House, it’s probably Mandy, which I have owned for so long that I just scrawled “SARAH W” in huge letters inside of it with no date or other information haha  I was completely fascinated with that book as a child – I loved the concept of having a special, secret hideaway – maybe because I’m the oldest of six!!  (And I actually reread this one in 2013 as well, if you’re interested in more details!)

6 – Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

Actually, I think Senior Year by Anne Emery.  I already owned a couple of the books from this series, so in order to read it properly, I of course needed to purchase more books!!  :-D

7 – Which book on this shelf are you most excited to read (or reread if this is a favorite shelf)?

This shelf is a weird collection of books that I’ve owned for a long time, but haven’t necessarily read lately – or ever!  I’ve been really wanting to reread The Robe for a long time now, but it’s such a big block of a book that I keep kind of putting it off, even though I remember really liking it when I read it back in high school.  It’s a fictional account of the soldier who helped crucify Jesus and ended up winning his robe when the men gambled for it while Jesus was dying on the cross.  The story itself was full of excitement and was very intense, as the early days of the Church weren’t exactly known for their relaxation and luxury!

8 – If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There is a small decorative box on this shelf that I’ve owned for so long that its origins are lost in the mists of time.  The little stuffed cow came from my mom – I loved cows and have collected stuffed cows for years now.  This one is so tiny and adorable AND it’s brown and white: a Guernsey, my favorite!!

9 – What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

That I collect books that I may or may not ever read!  Out of the five Lloyd C. Douglas tomes, I’ve only read one!

– Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

Everyone should participate in this book tag as it is great fun!!

For a free question:

10 – Which of these books was the most fun to read?

I never got a chance to mention The Wicked Marquis, which is possibly my favorite story on this shelf.  It’s just so lighthearted and fun, with a truly delightful heroine and likable characters all around.

Special thanks to Bibliobeth for coming up with this fun tag!  Next time – Shelf 2B, where we see more of my tendency to collect lots of books by the same authors!  :-D