Rearview Mirror // August 2018 + #20BooksofSummer

Summer is over?!  How did that happen??

Well, it doesn’t feel like summer is over, as it is still hot and muggy here.  We had a glorious week of autumn weather – cool, dry, clear – and then rushed back into 90* and a billion percent humidity.  It’s been good garden weather, though, and the tomatoes and other veggies are finally rolling in.  I froze 12 quarts of tomato sauce yesterday, and will hopefully be able to can some more pickles this weekend.  I’ve also been freezing peppers and onions – such fun!!

August’s big adventure was a trip to Wyoming, which was amazing.  My aunt and uncle bought a cabin just outside a very, VERY small town called Centennial, about 30 miles west of Laramie.  They were kind enough to loan the cabin to us for the week, and it was sooo relaxing and happy there.  We spent the week hiking, exploring, and sitting around reading.  It was the most restful vacation I think I have ever taken, and I read so many books while sitting on the front porch in perfect weather soaking up that thin mountain air (Centennial is at a little over 8000′) and watching the neighbors’ horses.  We saw antelope, moose, fox, and jackrabbits.  We almost didn’t come back…

But we did, and are back in the swing of things now.  I’m working at the orchard again, and have spent the last few weeks sorting and selling peaches three days a week.  It sounds silly, but the peach crowd is totally different from the apple crowd.  I thoroughly enjoy it, even when it’s stupidly hot.  The early apples are also coming in, so we’ve been grading apples in the afternoons and getting things geared up for fall.  Hopefully I will start driving my delivery truck soon – we are pressing cider now!!

In the reading world, I have read a LOT of fluff books this month.  I spent vacation luxuriating in reading books that were comprised completely of cotton-candy-like substance, and regret nothing!  I’ve done a lot of minireviews this month – way more time for reading than reviewing!!  I’m also going to fail my #20BooksofSummer challenge – more on that below – but I’m totally cool with it, so it’s all good.  On the other hand, I’m crushing my Goodreads goal for the year – I’ve read an almost-embarrassing 218 books this year so far…

Favorite August Read:

Oh wow, hard to say yet again.  I mean, it’s obviously Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehousebut I hate to choose a reread!  Honestly, my second-favorite was probably The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts.  It’s unusual for a nonfiction book to grab the top spot, but this one was really well done, and I just thoroughly enjoyed learning about Snowman and his triumphs, and also about his owner and his whole background.

Most Disappointing August Read:

I didn’t read anything horrific this month, but I did find Holiday Wishes by Nora Roberts to be a bit more of a letdown than my other 3* reads, just because I have really enjoyed some of her other books in the past.

Other August Reads:

  • Alpha Girl series by Aileen Erin – 4* – I enjoyed these way more than I should have – and as an aside, the entire series is on sale for September with the first two books free.  So if you think you might like them, it’s a great time to try them out!!
  • The Arm of the Starfish by Madeline L’Engle – 4* – a children’s spy book?  Totally my cup of tea.
  • Chasing Ravens by Jessica Paige – 3.5* – enjoyable and interesting, but somehow not magical.
  • Chosen Child by Linda Huber – 3.5* – basically the reading equivalent of watching a train wreck (the story, not the writing).
  • The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – 4* – not my favorite Heyer tale, but still had plenty of funny moments.
  • The Five-Minute Marriage by Joan Aiken – 4.5* – a rollicking good tale with a great heroine.
  • Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery – 3.5* – a nice little story, but not one of Montgomery’s best.
  • Modern Conveniences series by Leah Atwood – 4* – plausible marriage-of-convenience tropes with likable characters.
  • Mystery Over the Brick Wall by Helen Fuller Orton – 3* – a nice but rather boring children’s book.
  • Rocky Mountain Heirs series by various authors – 3.5* – a collection of fun if slightly predictable stories.
  • The Royal Treatment and The Royal Wedding by Melanie Summers – 3* – alright, but just not interesting enough for me to pursue the third book.
  • The Temporary Wife by Jeannie Moon – 3* – a nice but basically unmemorable story.
  • Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins – 4* – really enjoyable with a surprising amount of depth.
  • Unwilling Bride by Marnie Ellingson – 4* – genuinely delightful little Regency romance.
  • The Wedding Pact trilogy by Denise Grover Swank – 3.5* – funny and entertaining, but just a bit too much sex and swearing.
  • When It’s Real by Erin Watt – 4* – fake relationship trope done very well.
  • When Patty Went to College by Jean Webster – 4* – not exactly what I was expecting, but still enjoyable.

Last August…

I was going through a major reading slump this time last year with a lot of very meh reads.  However, I ended August strong with what became one of my favorite books of the year – Uprooted by Naomi Novik.  I LOVED THIS BOOK.  I actually really want to reread it soon.  I’m also excited because Novik just published another book, Spinning Silver.  I haven’t gotten around to that one yet, but hopefully soon!!

#20BooksofSummer Update!

So we all know that I read an absurd amount of books because of who I am as a person, so just simply reading twenty books this summer wasn’t actually a challenge.  (I also always feel vaguely embarrassed by this, but I’m going to refrain from apologizing because it really is just the way my life works!)  So instead I chose twenty of my own, personally-owned books, and wanted to try and read them while still keeping up with my regular reading schedule of books from tons of other sources.  What with one thing and another I have NOT accomplished my goal, having only completed twelve of the twenty (full list here), but in some ways it’s still a win because I did read over twenty of my own, personally-owned books… just not the ones I originally picked!

The rest of the twenty are still in my queue for reading, so I should get to them this fall.  The challenge was a mixed success for me this year, but it’s always tons of fun, and I quite enjoy finding other book blogs by checking out other people’s lists and reviews!

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:  858 (up five, but I am way behind on reading other people’s posts, so this number will probably jump yet again!)
  • Nonfiction:  76 (down one!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  681 (down eight, and I can’t believe it isn’t more!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  234 (up four!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 108 (holding steady)

Awaiting Review:

Right now, just Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey, which is also a reread, and And Both Were Young by Madeline L’Engle, which I liked a lot more than I anticipated.

Current Reads:

  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – a decent read so far, but  not one that has wowed me.
  • Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey – the final  book in this series, and I am anxious to see all the storylines wrapped up!!
  • Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy by Patricia McKillup – so as the title says, this is actually three books in one, and I just started the second book.  McKillup is a master of not explaining anything, which makes her writing both magical and aggravating all at the same time.

Approaching the Top of the Pile…

The probable next five reads:

  • Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch (and then probably Frost Like Night as long as the series is worth it!)
  • Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn – a library discard find
  • The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola – I’ve heard mixed reviews, so we’ll see what it’s all about
  • The Accident by Chris Pavone – I really liked The Travelerseven though I had some issues with it, so I thought I would give another of Pavone’s works a whirl
  • Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen – I can’t even remember why I added this one to the TBR, so a surprise read here!

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


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.