Spring Brides // by various authors

The next season in the year of weddings was not quite as enjoyable as the first (Winter Brides), but still had two good stories – the third I really didn’t care for at all.  However, I can’t necessarily expect to like all twelve stories, written by twelve different authors, so I wasn’t too fussed about one bum.

March Bride by Rachel Hauck – 3.5/5 – I know that Hauck has written a ‘Royal Weddings’ series because it has actually been on my TBR for a while.  This story is set in that world, and is actually listed as Book 1.5 in the series.  However, even though my guess is that I would have enjoyed this story a lot more if I had read Once Upon a Prince, it still held up well as a standalone.  Hauck did a good job of (re)introducing characters from the earlier story in a way that helped me, a new reader, understand their relationships, but also in a way that I don’t think would have bored someone who had already read the first book.

I really liked the characters in this story, and felt that their development was done well.  I also liked the way that the Christian themes were handled – it didn’t feel heavy-handed at all, yet was still a crucial part of the tale.  A very enjoyable little story, and one that has me quite intrigued to read the actual series.

April Bride by Lenora Worth – 3/5 – this was probably my favorite premise so far from these novellas.  The main characters have been engaged to be married for a while, and have known each other all their lives.  However, Mitchell wanted to completely his tour in the Middle East before their wedding, something that Stella fully supported.  When Mitchell comes back, he’s suffered a major head injury after an explosion that killed several of his mates.

I felt like Worth handled Mitchell’s PTSD really sensitively, but I wish that he had shared more with Stella of what was going on.  In the end, this dropped from 3.5 to a 3 because it got just a little too angsty/there were some issues that could have been resolved with one decent conversation, but it was still an engaging story.

May Bride by Meg Moseley – 2/5 – mostly, I didn’t like the main dude for this story, Gray.  I felt like he was really pushy and overbearing.  Ellie definitely had some issues she needed to work through with her mom, but it really seemed like Gray assumed way too quickly that his demands on Ellie’s time should take precedence.  The scene where I was basically over this story was when Gray wants Ellie to come with him horseback riding in two days, and she says that she already has plans to take her mom somewhere.  Gray somehow manages to turn the fact that Ellie is being a kind and responsible daughter into this  being another situation where Ellie’s mom is manipulating her.  Later, he kind of apologizes, but it’s this big ‘turning point’ of their relationship, with Ellie realizing how she needs to ‘stand up’ to her mom, etc., that left me honestly a bit livid.  If it Ellie’s mom is taking up too much of Ellie’s time, she needs to start with not agreeing to do stuff to begin with, not cancelling on plans where her mom is dependent on her help.  Gray’s character throughout was just so unreasonable, and it really felt like Ellie was just trading one annoying, overbearing, bossy person in her life for another.

Ellie’s mom was such a caricature anyway that it didn’t really matter.  Despite the fact that these are supposedly Christian fiction, Moseley managed to make Ellie’s mom the most annoying, hypocritical, ridiculous person, and that was quite frustrating.  To top it off, one of the supposed big ‘character flaws’ was that Ellie’s mom doesn’t drive in Atlanta, where Ellie lives, so Ellie always has to go visit her.  Gray continually acted like this was just completely ridiculous, but as someone whose mom doesn’t drive in our big city (and it’s no where as big or confusing as Atlanta), I never could agree with Gray’s opinion, especially since he grew up in Atlanta and has been driving there his whole life.  Complicated city driving isn’t for everyone, and I would personally prefer someone who is terrified and confused to not attempt it!

Anyway, all that to say I really just skimmed through the last half of this story as it continued to get more and more ridiculous and melodramatic.  2/5 for the story and 0/5 chance of Ellie’s future happiness.

Winter Brides // by various authors

//published 2014//

This is a collection of three novellas, each by a different author, and each for a different winter month.  There are actually twelve novellas altogether for a year of weddings.  In this first collection, I enjoyed each of the stories, although they didn’t particularly inspire me to seek out more of any of the authors’ writing.  (Although I have already read a lot of Denise Hunter’s books.)

December Bride by Denise Hunter – 3.5/5 – this was a really fun fake romance trope story, with characters who were relatable, pleasant, and had good chemistry.  The situation was plausible, and I liked how they both had their doubts, but it didn’t descend into nothing but internal angst.  The story is set in Chapel Springs, where several of Hunter’s other books take place, but was a completely individual story.

January Bride by Deborah Raney – 4/5 – this was my favorite out of the three, about an author who ends up writing letters to a fellow she has never met.  The whole story was just adorable fluff.  I loved the misconceptions they had about each other and how that played into their comfort with sharing letters.  I would have enjoyed having more of their letters and less of the drama of the fellow getting over his guilt about falling in love again (his first wife died several years earlier), but all in all a really fun little story.

February Bride by Betsy St. Amant – 3/5 – while this wasn’t a bad story by any means – and I actually really liked the characters – sooo much of this story was just listing to the protagonist internally bemoan how she just isn’t good enough to marry this guy and how their marriage would be doomed to failure if she even tried.  I think this story would have worked better at a longer length, where those internal monologues could have been broken up more with a bit of actual things happening.  Like, she had valid points and important issues she needed to work through, but because so much time was spent on those, the whole story kind of dragged a bit.

All in all, a fun collection of stories, and I’m looking forward to checking out Spring Brides next!

Untold // by Sarah Rees Brennan (+ two short stories)

untold-cover

//published 2013//

So it’s taken me a while to get to this second book in the Lynburn Legacy, which was a little distressing because I freaking adored the first book in the trilogy, Unspoken.  ***Please note that there may be some spoilers for the first book in this review.  Nothing crazy, though.***

In the meanwhile, I read two short stories that Brennnan published between these two books.  The Spring Before I Met You is a glimpse into Jared’s life before he moved to England and met Kami in person.  It was really fun to get a little bit more into Jared’s head, as I feel like we don’t get enough of him in the actual books.

We switch to Kami’s perspective in The Summer Before I Met You, and I could not stop laughing while I was reading this short story that delves into that whole “cricket camp scandal” thing that is mentioned in the beginning of Unspoken.  It was funny and interesting and gave some more depth to the friendship between Kami and Angela, as well as a better concept of how Kami has gone her whole life talking to Jared in her head.

However, there is a third short story, The Night After I Lost You that I simply cannot find.  The links I’ve found for it no longer work, but the reviews I’ve read said that this is a really good follow up to the end of Unspoken, and I would really like to read it so if anyone knows where it can be found, or even if you have the pdf and are willing to email it to me…  that would be fantastic!

In the meantime, I went ahead and delved into Untold.  While I didn’t enjoy this second book as much as the first, and felt like it did suffer from moderate second-book syndrome, it was still an engaging and interesting read, and did a fairly good job of moving things forward from book one, and setting things up for the final showdown in book three.

This book definitely had more angst than the first book, and to my perspective it took a lot longer for Kami and Jared to have an actual conversation than it should have.  It really frustrates me when everyone’s problems are based around the fact that they haven’t bothered to sit down and exchange the three sentences that it would take to straighten out their issues.  I know that a lot of it was because of the mean things Jared said at the end of Unspoken, so Kami was scared to talk to him, but still.  Please.

There was also a little too much time spent on the sexual orientation questions of a couple of characters.  Like basically you have these evil sorcerers who are planning to take over your whole village, but we spent a lot of time with Kami contemplating her feelings towards Jared and Ash, watching Jared thunder around like a spoiled stormcloud, and listening to Angela and Holly wonder if they have feelings for each other, and I just felt like worrying about so many feelings in the face of imminent death made the whole imminent death thing seem like it wasn’t that real.

And to me, that was the second-book syndrome part of this story – a lot of filler time focused on feelings and not enough actually getting something done.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love every character in this book, and I totally enjoyed reading it, but I had a lot more eye-rolling moments in this book than I did during the first.

Also, I understand Kami’s dad being upset about everything, but if her parents don’t work through their issues and get back on the same page by the of book three, I am going to be seriously ticked off, because their marriage made me SO happy in the first book.

All in all, a solid 4/5.  A good progression to the series, and enjoyable read on its own (despite extra angst), and I am totally anticipating the conclusion to the series.

November MiniReviews – Part 1

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just feel rather “meh” about and they don’t seem worth writing an entire post about.  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So, inspired by the way that Stephanie reviews the unreviewed every month, I think that some months (or maybe all of them!) will get a post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

This month I seem to already have accumulated quite a few middling books (or maybe I’m just feeling lazier about writing reviews!) so here is the first batch, and you can anticipate another before the end of the month!

Rose & Thorn by Sarah Prineas

20652096

//published 2016//

Uggghhh this is the sequel to Ash & Bramblea book that gave me a lot of mixed feelings – and Rose & Thorn did the same.  In the end, I guess it’s a 2/5.  Once again, it’s more because of the overall tone/message of the book than it is because of the story itself, which is alright but fine.  But the message can be summed up from this paragraph on page 25:

“You and the Penwitch had a story together, didn’t you?  Some kind of adventure …  Something terrible, and also wonderful.  And after it you lived happily together?  Maybe you even had children, and you were a family.  But not forever.”  No, there was no ever-after.  Shoe had taught me that.  Even if the adventure ended, the story went on.

I think the reason that this book gave me a gag reflex wasn’t because of the concept that stories don’t really end, it’s the insistence that that means that there is, ultimately, no happiness to be found.  Even if you have it right now, that’s only going to be for a moment because it doesn’t last, love doesn’t last, you can never be together forever.  It was just super depressing, and also felt like it meant the whole story had no point.  Like, if you aren’t going to find happiness, what are you even fighting for?  The chance to choose your own misery?  That just didn’t seem inspiring to me.

I dragged through this book and didn’t really like it.  Thankfully it was in past tense, which was definitely an improvement.  However, the story itself had so many logical gaps that I just couldn’t buy it.  They started in the first chapter with the fact that we’re calling Owen “Shoe” after half the point of the last book was finding his true identity and giving him his name back.  It felt like the whole first book was kind of pointless also – which I suppose is true when all you’re trying to do is make sure people understand that if they have a happy ending, it’s because they are letting someone else write their story: happy endings don’t happen when we have the power to make our own stories.  BLEH.

The Ghost Rock Mystery by Mary C. Jane

3477402

//published 1956//

This is one of those happy little Scholastic Book Club books that they used to print back in the day and sell for 50¢.  I’ve accumulated a lot of them at book sales over the years.  While they aren’t super deep, they are fun for younger readers, and this one was no exception.  Janice and Tommy go to stay for the summer with their aunt Annabelle (a widow) and their cousin Hubert.  Aunt Annabelle has just purchased an old house in upstate Maine that she is renting as a hotel/bed & breakfast, but many of the locals believe that it’s haunted, and she is having trouble getting guests to stay.

The kids solve the mystery, and all is well in the end – even Aunt Annabelle finds new love with her hunky neighbor who works for the Border Patrol.

It was interesting to read a book that involved illegal immigration, but written about back in the day when it was a much more cut-and-dried issue than it has been made into during modern times.  At one point, one of the kids asks the Border Patrolman why the illegal immigrants can’t come into the country.

“Many of them could,” Mr. Grant replied, “if they would go about it as they are supposed to do.  If they sneak in, we never know how many men among the ordinary laborers may be dangerous enemies who are using this as a way to get into the United States.”

I just find it interesting that in our current culture, if anyone says that they don’t believe that illegal immigrants should be immediately granted citizen-level rights, it’s because we’re racist and cruel – no one seems to consider that perhaps it is simply unfair to the thousands of people who are trying to enter the country legally, by following the rules – and that those rules have been created for the safety of everyone already living here.

Anyway.  A fine little book, although nothing out of the ordinary.

Wait for What Will Come by Barbara Michaels

51w0uqick0l

//published 1978//

Another 3/5 so-so read from Michaels.  I’ve almost given up on her, despite my unfailing love for the Amelia Peabody series.  The Vicky Bliss series was pretty meh, and so have the independent novels of hers that I’ve read – and there have been quite a few that I’ve gotten from the library and then sent back because they just didn’t capture me.

Wait for What Will Come had a fairly intriguing story, with Carla returning (from America) to her family’s old home in Cornwall.  She meets like five guys, all super hot and available, within 24 hours of her arrival, though, so I was already doubting the credibility of the entire story.  But despite being ardently pursued by basically all of them, Carla is no missish heroine.  Even though her crazy housekeeper keeps telling Carla about the curse on her family that will strike if Carla stays until Mid-Summer’s Eve, Carla refuses to be bullied out of the home she is growing to love.

Overall, it wasn’t that bad of a book, and much of the adventure kept me avidly turning pages.  However, the ending felt very rushed – I even had to go back and read a few pages to make sure I understood exactly what was happening. While plausible, it wasn’t necessarily a natural ending.

Tales of St. Austin’s by P.G. Wodehouse

5396400-_uy200_

//published 1903//

Another one of Wodehouse’s very early works, this book is a collection of short stories that all take place at a boys’ school called St. Austin’s.  As with most short story collections, there were some that were quite funny and others that fell a bit short of the mark (mostly due to cricket).

On the whole, while Wodehouse’s school stories aren’t terrible reading, they aren’t thoroughly engaging, either.  St. Austin’s was basically forgettable.  While worth a one-time read, it isn’t one that I see myself returning to time and again.

 

A Gift of Dragons // by Anne McCaffrey

87a58419b0c8851f1370c0435135a497

//collection published in 2002//

This small, illustrated book is a departure from the norm for the Pern series.  It includes three short stories that were previously published elsewhere, and one that appeared in this book for the story’s first time in print.  Three of the stories are set during the latest (chronologically) books (which were among the earliest published…), while “Ever the Twain” was set during the second pass (after the events of Red Star Rising).

Overall, while the collection was enjoyable, it did not add as much to the world building as the last collection of short stories, The Chronicles of Pern.

“The Smallest Dragonboy” (published originally in 1973) is the first, and follows the story of Keevan, whom we know as K’van in other books.  Smaller and younger than many of the other candidates for dragon impression, Keevan is determined that he will Impress a dragon and prove to the other candidates, especially bully Beterli, that size doesn’t matter.  While a pleasant  and engaging story, it wasn’t particularly thrilling.

The second story, “The Girl Who Heard Dragons” (originally published in 1994) was much longer than “The Smallest Dragonboy.”  However, it really just felt like a deleted chapter that should have been in The Renegades of Pern.  It was about Aramina, who, because of her ability to hear all dragons, is the target of attempted kidnapping by the holdless thief, Thella, throughout Renegades.  In this short story, we learn more about how Aramina and her family initially escaped from Thella.  However, if I hadn’t read Renegades, I would have had literally no idea what was happening with this story.  In my mind, a short story should stand on its own (somewhat), and this one doesn’t.  I really think that McCaffrey was going to originally include it in Renegades, but since that book is a million pages long, decided to cut it.  A good story, but I kind of wish I had read it closer to Renegades so I would have had the characters more organized in my head.

There was a similar “deleted chapter” feel from the third story, “Runner of Pern” (initially published 1998).  In The MasterHarper of Pernthere is a minor secondary story about a runner (runners literally run around the continent, on foot, delivering messages) named Tenna and her relationship with one of the sons of the Lord Holder of Fort Hold.  In “Runner of Pern,” we get Tenna’s back story, how she became a runner, and how she met Haligon.  It was actually probably my favorite of the four stories, because learning more about runners was really interesting, and I quite liked Tenna.  While I think this would have worked well as a chapter in MasterHarper, it stood as an independent story much better than “The Girl Who Heard Dragons.”

The final story, “Ever the Twain” (published in 2002)felt the most random.  It is about a pair of siblings, twins, who are chosen to come to the Weyr for a hatching.  It was a perfectly nice and engaging story, but didn’t really add anything, in my mind, to the overall story of Pern.  (Although it’s possible that Nian and/or Neru are characters in Dragonseye that I don’t remember.)

On the whole, a decent little collection of shorts that were quick and easy to read, but not as critical to understanding Pern as the collection found in Chronicles.  3/5.

 

The Map // by William Ritter

//published 2015//

//published 2015//

This novella takes place between the first and second Jackaby novels.  While it was an enjoyable read, novellas generally just leave me wishing the author had taken the time to develop a full-length book.

In The Map, Abigail wakes up half-hoping that her eccentric employer has forgotten her birthday.  However – no such luck.  With some magical time-and-space-traveling party crackers, Abigail and Jackaby find themselves scampering around both the seen and unseen worlds.  Jackaby’s ability to see all things as they are – including magical creatures – aids the pair throughout their adventures, but I love that Abigail’s ability to see the ordinary is so necessary to balance Jackaby’s viewing of the extraordinary.

The relationship between these two protagonists develops throughout the story, leaving the pair good friends at the end instead of merely coworkers, and I liked that.

The story was a little thin in my mind, leaving some gaps with a sort of Well what do you expect from a novella attitude, which I think is unfair to short stories, as they do have the potential, when crafted correctly, of delivering a full and well-rounded tale.  The Map was a pretty solid 3/5 read.  While enjoyable for someone pursuing the series, it doesn’t really have a great deal to offer as an objective book in its own right.