November Minireviews – Part 1

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.

So I’ve been slowly working my way through a brick of a book about Vietnam before “our” Vietnam War – basically, it covers the history from the beginning of World War II through the beginning of the Vietnam War, most of which the Communists spent fighting with the French, with the US and China getting more and more involved in the background.  It’s genuinely fascinating, but that book weighs a literal three pounds and is over 800 pages long, so while I don’t mind lugging it places if I’m going to sit and read for a while, it’s not really an ideal book to throw in my bag if I think I’m only going to have time for a few pages.  So all that to say that I have also been reading quite a few fluff books, and I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on some of them…

Accidentally Married by Victorine Lieske – 3.5*

//published 2014//

Lieske apparently wrote several of these “modern marriages of convenience” stories, all of which are clean, a bit absurd, and good fun.  They are together in a boxed set on Kindle, so I thought they would kind of intertwine, but they appear to all be completely independent of each other.  Stephanie reviewed a few of these (although, ironically, not this one haha), which is how I first found them.  Anyway, this story was pretty fun, with a decently plausible scenario.  It seemed like the ending did drag a little bit because Madison and Jared wouldn’t just USE THEIR WORDS so they did that thing where they both assumed the other person wasn’t interested and went home and pouted instead of just having a conversation.  I mean, if you think this person is going to break up with you and never see you again anyway, what in the world do you have to lose by telling them how you really feel first??  Despite that, it was still a super relaxing little chick lit read, and I’m always a fan of fake relationships/marriages of convenience, so there is that.

Blind-Date Bride by Jillian Hart – 3*

//published 2009//

This is the first in a series of the crazy Love Inspired books.  Thanks to Great-Aunt Darby I have all the books in this series and thought I would give it a go.  This one was barely a 3* read, though, as virtually nothing happened in this book except listening to the two main characters angst about how they weren’t good enough for the other person, which was overall quite boring.  Weirdly, I did like the characters in this book a lot, and the small town setting was done well, so I decided to still give the second book a go, even though this one wasn’t really my thing.

Collie to the Rescue by Albert Payson Terhune – 3.5*

//published 1928//

I do love a good Terhune every once in a while, and this one has been on my shortlist ever since it came up in my random drawing for my #20BooksofSummer reads, which I am still trying to complete by the end of the year!!  This one is quite melodramatic but still a good time, although unlike most of Terhune’s books, this one is definitely way more about Brant than it is about his collie.  This one was also interesting because it was published back in 1928 (under the title Loot!), but a big part of the plot is about smuggling and selling drugs.  It’s just funny to me because we act like that is such a modern problem, but here’s a story from a hundred years ago where that was still playing a big part.  While this was a perfectly interesting and entertaining story, it wasn’t my favorite Terhune, with just a smidge too much drama.

Montana Homecoming by Jillian Hart – 3*

//published 2012//

This was the second  book in the series, and because it was just as meh as the first, I decided not to bother with the rest.  Again, the characters were very likable, but there was virtually no plot, and honestly Brooke’s “dog training” skills bordered on miraculous, because apparently all she had to do was keep saying the command and the dog just magically started doing what she wanted, which seemed pretty handy.

Reluctantly Married by Victorine Lieske – 3.5*

//published 2015//

This one was also just completely ridiculous but so fun that I couldn’t stop reading it.  I really liked both the main characters and liked the way they kept getting more and more tangled up in their situation.  Again, I felt like the ending dragged out a little too much, which took away from my overall enjoyment of the book, but it was still a good time.  I’m definitely planning to read some more of these books soon.  (Currently, the boxed set is available on Kindle Unlimited if anyone is interested.)

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer – 5*

//published 1953//

When all else fails, turn to Georgette Heyer!  It had been quite a while since I read this one, so I couldn’t quite remember how everything played out.  The dialogue is absolutely hilarious, and Freddy is honestly one of my very favorite Heyer heroes, because he’s so regular.  It was also fun because Jack is honestly more like the usual Heyer hero – older, brooding, a bit of a rake – but here we get Freddy, who is younger and just so ridiculously nice that it’s impossible not to root for him.  Kitty is lively and fun without being obnoxious, and all of the secondary characters are just as delightful, especially Freddy’s sister Meg – honestly, Freddy’s family really made this book, and I realized while I was reading it that one of the things I like about Heyer’s books is her ability to write families, especially siblings, so well.  At any rate, this book is a complete delight, and if, by some miracle, you haven’t picked up a Heyer book before, this one is a wonderful place to start.

Advertisements

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!!

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!

September 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.

I realize that it’s now October, but September really flew by!  I had most of this post already written up, and they are books that I read last month – so here are a few quick paragraphs just to try and get somewhat caught up!!

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola – 3.5*

//published 2016//

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this book.  I had read a couple of good reviews of it (by Books for the Trees and also Cleopatra Loves Books), so I knew that it was a historical crime book – and that was about it!  The setting was fantastic and the characters were well-drawn.  However, while I found this book compulsively readable, it never really captured me.  There was a twist at the end that I had guessed almost from the very beginning, and it made me feel rather out of sorts with a few of the characters along the way!  So while I did overall enjoy this read, it didn’t really make  me want to rush out and see what else Mazzola has been up to.  I think part of it was that I was expecting to experience some terror while reading this, and that just never really happened.

The Accident by Chris Pavone – 3.5*

//published 2014//

A while back I read The Travelers by this author.  I liked the book enough to want to try another of his works, and while I enjoyed this one as well, it didn’t really blow me away in any sense.  It was a good plot and good pacing, but it just felt like loads of people got knocked off unnecessarily.  The ‘villain’ of the piece was a big vague – like we know who he is, but he’s really just sort of a shadow man; there is never anything from his point of view or anything.  I think the book definitely would have benefited from having him be a little more concrete.  The other problem was that I didn’t like anyone in this book, so while I wanted to root for the ‘good’ guys, they weren’t super likable either, so in a way I kind of didn’t care. However, there was a really good twist towards the end of the book that suddenly made everything come together, which bumped this up half a star.  Pavone isn’t a super prolific writer, so I’ll probably still check out his other couple of books.  They’ve  been fun for one-time reads, even if they aren’t instant classics.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – 4.5*

//published 2015//

After reading SO MANY 3-3.5* books, I really wanted to read something that I knew I would love.  Ever since I finished Uprooted last year, I’ve wanted to reread it, so I picked it up the other day and enjoyed it even more the second time around.  This was one of my top three books from 2017, and my reread only cemented that opinion.  This book is incredibly magical, with fantastic world-building and engaging characters.  I absolutely love the terror inspired by the Wood, and the ending is just so, so perfect.  I’m still not a fan of the sex scene, because it makes me feel uncomfortable recommending this book to younger teen readers, but other than that this book is really just a complete delight.  I’ve ordered Novik’s second novel, Spinning Silver, and am really looking forward to it!

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1940//

We were camping this weekend, so I grabbed this one for a quick read.  Heyer never disappoints, and this book was full of all sorts of lively adventures and genuinely funny moments.  Heyer’s writing frequently involves a somewhat-older male lead with a somewhat-younger female lead.  I have mixed feelings about this, and I realized when reading this book that it really depends on the female’s situation.  In a lot of her books, the girl has been out and about in the world (Frederica and Deb from Faro’s Daughter come to mind), and then I don’t mind an age difference so much.  But other books, like this one (and actually the last Heyer I read, The Convenient Marriage), the girl isn’t even ‘out’ yet, so having an older (and by older I mean late 20’s/early 30’s, not like her dad’s age or something) fellow sweep her off her feet feels a little weirder.  I realize that it’s a product of the time, where (upper class) men frequently waited until later in life to marry than women, but it still sometimes feels a little strange to have a 29-year-old man who has been out and about in the world marry a 17-year-old girl who hasn’t even had a Season.

HOWEVER all that to say that despite that, this book was still great fun with some very likable characters and some hilarious hijinks.  Heyer is so reliable as an entertaining and fun writer.  I can’t believe that I am still working my way through her bibliography, but I’m grateful that she was so prolific!!

September Minireviews – Part 1

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.

September is buzzing by at a frightening clip.  We’ve been quite busy at the orchard, so I haven’t had as much time for reading or for writing reviews.  Plus, once again, I haven’t been reading anything that’s really excited me, although I’ve had several reads that get described with words like “solid” and “decent.”  So here are a few of those decent reads…

Update:  It’s now 28 September, and I haven’t posted a single thing this month…!!!  As mentioned before, the orchard has sort of taken over my life, plus there have been a lot of random family things going on.  Still, I’m hoping to at least complete THIS post before the end of the month!

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – 3.5*

//published 2017//

I read the first three books in this series a while ago, when I got Blind Spot as an ARC.  This summer, the fourth (and final) book was released.  I got it from the library and started to read it, but realized that I really couldn’t remember what all was happening with the terrorist plot line, so I decided to give this one a quick reread.  While I did like this book, I was nagged by the same things that mildly aggravated me the first time around.  The main one is something that annoyed me about this entire series – that Pettrey would have two completely separate plots in the book, and they never tied together.  Consequently, one of those always ended up feeling like filler to me, like she was writing to parallel series at the same time or something.  In this case, there’s the terrorist plot (main) and then a random murder (secondary).  Not only does the murder feel shoehorned into the story, it seemed completely ridiculous to me that the characters in this book were allowed to process/be in charge of the crime scene since they actually knew the victim/possible criminal, and there were questions as to whether or not the dead guy had killed other people and then committed suicide, or been murdered and set up.  I just still can’t believe that friends of his would be allowed to process the crime scene.

But despite this, I still overall enjoyed the book and I really do like the characters.  I was intrigued to see how everything was going to get wrapped up in Dead Drift.

And Both Were Young by Madeline L’Engle – 3.5*

//published 1949//

I’ve gotten a bit off track from my L’Engle reading, dashing off on tangents with random books of hers as I keep drifting further and further backwards in time through her bibliography.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one, but I’m always drawn to stories that take place in boarding schools, so I thought I would go ahead and give this one a whirl.  While I wasn’t blown away by it, it was a really enjoyable story.  I loved the way that Flip’s discontent with her situation was due to both her actual circumstances, which are kind of lame, but also her own attitude.  As she grows the realize this through the story, she is able to start changing the parts of her life that she actually can change – so while some of the lame parts are still there, she’s overall happier and more contented because she has started to learn how to be proactive in her own life.  This story also had an interesting setting, being in Europe just after WWII in a boarding school with girls of all different nationalities.  While most of them were small children during the war, they have all been touched by it, and L’Engle did a really excellent job of weaving that background in very naturally.  Although this story was sometimes a bit melodramatic, it was overall a really pleasant read.  I don’t see myself going back to it again and again, but I still think I would recommend it, especially if you enjoy thoughtful, character-driven stories.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – 3.5*

//published 2014//

This is actually the first book in a series, and I’ve heard some good things about it – and who wouldn’t be drawn to that gorgeous cover art??  However, while I found this to be an alright read, I didn’t really find it compelling.  The world-setting was interesting, but didn’t really make practical sense to me – I mean, seriously, four kingdoms, and each one is always the same season?  How does that even work?  What does it mean to always be Autumn – a perpetual state of harvest?  The whole idea just confused me a bit when I started trying to think of what it meant to actually live there.  While this was an okay read for me, I didn’t like it well enough to bother with the other books.  Not a bad read, just kind of boring.

Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey – 3.5*

//published 2018//

This is the final book in the Chesapeake Bay series, and I definitely enjoyed seeing everything get tied up, especially Jenna’s murder.  I still think that this entire series would have benefited from having just one story line, as they consistently felt rather choppy and disconnected, but I still did like them and would read something else by Pettrey if it came my way.  I really liked the characters in these books, and it was fun to see them all get some closure with all the stuff that had been happening throughout the stories.

Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn – 3.5*

//published 2009//

I’ve read a couple of Bunn’s books before and found them to be decently interesting, so when I saw this one for a quarter on the library discard shelf, I went ahead and picked it up.  It kind of made me realize that while Bunn’s writing is alright, it doesn’t really grab me all that much.  This book did definitely have me turning the pages by the halfway point, but it didn’t really make me want to pick up the sequel.  Not bad for one-time reads, but not interesting enough to keep returning to time and again.

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.

 

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.