Shelfie by Shelfie // Shelf 1A

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

Luckily, my husband is pretty awesome at building shelves, and about three houses ago we had a really long, wide hallway that seemed perfect for bookshelves – and it was.  Except we were renters, which meant we were moving pretty much annually at the time.  The shelves have come with me for every move since then (and since we own this house, here’s to hoping they stay where they are for many years to come!), but haven’t always fit together in the same order as they did in that original hallway.  Still, they are pretty awesome, designed for both books and knickknacks.  So I’ll post a picture of the overall bookshelf, and then focus on just one of those shelves – hence the 1A.  ;-)

You’ll have to excuse the clutter – we’re still doing renovating (neverending) and this room is the current catch-all.  I’m sure taking these pictures will also inspire me to organize the clutter a bit, right??  (ha!)

Okay, here is today’s shelf – on to the questions!

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

The majority of my fiction books are shelves in alphabetical order by author’s last name, with some exceptions here and there.  I look at amazing pictures of people shelving books by size or color or other aesthetically-pleasing methods and I’m jealous, both of their creativity and the fact that if I did that I would never be able to find a book again because there are just TOO MANY.  :-D  So yes, alphabetical – and this shelf takes us from Adjordan to Alexander.

However, there are some exceptions to my alphabetical rule, and the three books under the moose are an example – those are three of the four Bayern books by Shannon Hale (the first one seems to have wandered off to introduce someone else to the magic of this series).  Sometimes books just fit in certain spots in the shelves!

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

I think I’m going with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (by Joan Aiken) for this one.  I have so many memories of reading this with my Mom!  We used to read it together every winter, and even when I was too young to really ‘get’ the story, I still loved the feelings it invoked.  This is the first book I can remember reading that really had an ‘atmosphere’ – just reading it made me feel cold and made the room seem a little darker!

It’s a tough question, though, because I also have a deep attachment to all of the Louisa May Alcott books, especially Eight Cousins and its sequel, Rose in Bloom.

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

Well, it seems like the logical answer would be “one of my many copies of Little Women,” especially since the two copies on that shelf are not actually the only copies of that book that I own.  But that’s not the answer at all, because every copy of Little Women that I own has its own story and its own special place in my heart!  :-D  I suppose I would ditch one of the two Ginny Aiken books, mainly because I haven’t actually read them yet – picked them up at booksales somewhere along the line – so I don’t have an emotional attachment to them (yet).

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

Probably Rose in Bloom, which teaches me something new every time I read it.  That particular copy, as you can see from its rather battered condition, has been with me many a year.

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

I’m going to interpret that as “Which book have I owned the longest?” since they’ve all been there since I moved here.  I’ve had most of these books a long time, but the red copy of Little Women (illustrated by Jesse Wilcox Smith – gorgeous) – I received from my mom for my 13th birthday, so it’s been with me for over 20 years!

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

It’s actually the skinny blue book to the left of Jane Fairfax.  The blue book is a sequel to The Cat-Sitter Mystery (which I’ve owned forever, maybe even longer than Little Women), The Copy-Cat Mystery, which I just recently purchased when I was rereading The Cat-Sitter Mystery – I didn’t even know there was a sequel until this year!

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

Wow, this shelf actually has a lot of favorites, as I really love Louisa May Alcott’s works, and the Bayern books are fantastic – Dominion was also a gripping read, of course Wolves of Willoughby Chase is always perfect, and the last book on the shelf is actually the third book in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, which I also dearly love!  But if I really, really had to choose, probably Little Women as it has actually been quite a while since I’ve read it, and it’s a book that means a great deal to me.

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

These actually do tend to be knickknacky shelves as well, so there are indeed non-book objects…  the jar contains rose petals from various momentous events in my life; the stuffed bunny was a childhood favorite; the white dish has a cow on it because I collect cows; I also collect giraffes; the glass jars seem to have just appeared from nowhere as I honestly have no recollection as to where they came from or why I have them (apparently I just like dusting things); the framed motto was a gift from my mom; and the moose (which is incredibly soft!) was purchased on our trip to Colorado in 2015, when Tom and I saw our first wild moose!

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

Umm…  well, probably that I like things to be somewhat orderly, I have a love for Louisa May Alcott, and I don’t mind owning more than one copy of the same book.  :-D

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

Hopefully many of you will choose to participate in this fun book tag – and make sure you tag Bibliobeth (and me!) when you do!

For a free question – Which of these books do you think everyone should read?

I think I am going to go with An Old-Fashioned Girl for this one.  Polly’s adventures have gotten me through a lot of my life, and especially gave me encouragement and challenged me when I was single.  I love how she is independent and industrious, but still so kind and womanly.  And of course Polly ends up with a Tom as well.  :-D

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Irish Legacy Trilogy // by Nora Roberts

  • Irish Thoroughbred
  • Irish Rose
  • Irish Rebel

Over the last few months, I’ve been reading four books at a time, on a rotating basis.  This method has its pros and cons, but it’s been working for me lately because it helps me to actually finish reading nonfiction books.  But right now, I actually have two nonfiction books in the rotation.  One is so challenging that I can hardly read it, and the other has such tiny print that I practically need a magnifying glass to get through it.  So my overall reading pace has somewhat slowed.  Plus, I figured out how to play a Solitaire version of Dominion, so that’s been keeping me busy, too.  :-D

Point is, the other night I wanted a relaxing book to read before bed.  Tom was working on some crazy project across the street with his dad, and I just wanted to cuddle into our soft, flannel sheets and veg.  A while back, I inherited a box of books (“oh you like to read, here are some books!”), a lot of which were by Nora Roberts.  She’s so prolific that I’m not sure I can say that I’m a “fan” as I’ve read only a small percentage of her books, and a lot of the ones I’ve flipped through don’t actually look like they would be my cup of tea.

Still, I have read a few of her series, and the Bridal Quartet in particular has become a favorite of mine.  Since the random box of books happened to include one complete trilogy, I thought I would start there.

//published 1981//

The foreword to Irish Thoroughbred stated that this was Roberts’s very first novel.  It was interesting to see her earlier writing style, which was definitely not as developed as it is now.  While Thoroughbred was a perfectly fine tale, it definitely followed many romance-novel cliches.  I liked the main characters, but it felt like Travis was a little too far into the stereotype of the domineering male.  Even though Dee wasn’t a meek little miss, I still felt like Travis’s protective nature sometimes crossed the line to bullying.  Even though this book isn’t that old (about my age, actually!), it was still interesting to see how it felt like it fit more with the times – no sex between these two until after they were married, and then it was all properly off-stage, as it should be (and as it isn’t always in Roberts’s later books, sadly).  I really liked that bit.  I’m not sure why it’s so difficult for authors to write romance books where there is good tension between the two characters without actually describing in detail all of their interludes.

//published 1988//

Somehow, it only took me like a day and a half to read Thoroughbred, and I just dived right into Rose, because why not?  Written – and set – almost ten years later, this book focuses on Dee’s cousin, Erin, who comes from Ireland to work for Travis and Dee’s neighbor, Burke.  One thing that I loved about this book was getting to see Travis and Dee later on – happily married, raising a family.  I thought it was hilarious that Roberts gave them so many kids (they end up with five or six).  It was also obvious that Roberts’s writing style had made some progress in the intervening years between these two books – Burke and Erin are better developed, as are the secondary characters.  Burke was still a bit too stereotypically tall, dark, handsome, silent male, but I was willing to roll with it.

//published 2000//

Irish Rebel was published quite a long while after the first two books, and focuses on Travis and Dee’s oldest daughter, Keeley, who falls in love with Travis’s new horse trainer, Brian.  I liked both these characters a lot and felt like they had more depth than the main characters of the first two books.  I really, really liked Keeley’s relationship with her family – she gets along with them so well, and has such a great relationship with her mom, even goes to talk with her about her feelings towards Brian instead of keeping them a secret.  Brian was a bit obnoxious at times, but I felt like his character did make some growth throughout the story.  The ending was a bit weird and rushed, like suddenly all the barriers between them just magically disappeared, and that felt a little strange.  And while there wasn’t a lot of sex in this book, there was definitely more than the first two books – another (sad) sign of the changing times.

All in all, while these three didn’t strike me as books I would want to visit time and again, they were still enjoyable as a one-time read, especially as a break from my rather boring “official” books that I have going on right now.  3/5 for all three books.

Beauty & the Beast // by K.M. Shea // Guest Post

Despite the fact that my sister loves Shea’s books, I still haven’t gotten around to reading them quite yet.  *guilty look*   However, she is rereading them yet again, so I will be posting her guest reviews as they come along.  Mary Rose is my best friend, my sister, and my neighbor, so we hang out together a lot, and ranting and raving about books is kind of a hobby of ours.  :-D  Here is her review – enjoy!

******

//published 2013//

Fairytale retellings are my favorite, I’ve read a lot over the years and I have yet to come across a series as perfect as K.M. Shea’s. Her books continually stick to the heart of the story, pulling out the key concepts and factors, strengthening the characters, adding backgrounds that make sense, all while respecting the original tale. She also has kept a good balance of each of her stories being enjoyable stand-alone reads while also weaving them into an interlocked storyline.

This is my fourth re-reading of all her currently available fairytales so I figured it was finally time to write a review for each as I finished them: 

Beauty and the Beast is a comfortable and classic retelling of the tale, original without being overly fantastical in leaving out the needed aspects. Shea shows a respect for understanding the roots of the story and in so doing crafts an enjoyable retelling. 

Severin is cursed (through no particular fault of his own) and can only be saved by falling in love/being fallen in love with. His servants have been cursed along with him but are overwhelmingly loyal. Our heroine, Elle, falls through the roof of his Chateau, breaking her leg, and so has to stay until she is fully healed. This leads to classic fairytale/Hallmark movie story telling in which love slowly unfolds, drama ensues, but in the end everyone is happy and together (as they should be because this is a Fairytale). 

There were quite a few things I appreciated about this story, and since Beauty and the Beast is a popular story to retell, I’d liked to explain some, hopefully without any real spoilers: 

Severin isn’t cursed through any fault of his own. He is a good person with normal faults and pitfalls, but overall isn’t this terrible “beast on the inside” that deserved to be punished. It makes it much easier, for me at least, to understand why his servants would be loyal enough to be cursed along with him, and why they would care for him so deeply from the start. Also this means he doesn’t magically become a Changed Man when he meets Elle, he is simply still who he is, but improves (as everyone does) as he falls in love with her because that is what love does: improve our true selves. 

Elle is sharp, smart, and quick witted. She’s strong, self reliant, and extremely confident. It is a common theme throughout all of Shea’s books (that I’ve read, which is 90% of them) that she gets female characters right: they are characters, just like everyone else. She does not worry about “gender roles” or “making a statement for the feminists” but instead respects that people are people and allows a character to develop organically regardless of their sex. Elle is no exception. She is still feminine, she still has her own insecurities (as is human), she enjoys using her looks to get at the prince on occasion (well done scene), and she never shies from the fact that she is a woman. HOWEVER, neither does any of that detract from who she is either, because she is strong, focused, determined, and not at all thinking of Severin as a prince who will save her, but merely the love of her life. I appreciate Shea’s writing of women, it will be a common theme in any review I do of her books because she writes women as they aught to be written- not as though they’re struggling against The Man, but as they are: Humans, with pitfalls and strengths, weaknesses and abilities, and it’s so refreshing. And in the end I think we see Elle grow due to her love for Severin as well. 

Love: Shea has the perfect handle on what love truly is. In all the fairytales she underlines it accurately, but in this, the first book, she really sets the tone for what true love is, “You young maidens now days get misty-eyed thinking about true love and the fathomless adoration you will share. It’s not like that. Real love is looking at someone and knowing you wouldn’t mind waking up to their bad breath for the next century, and you are fine with them seeing you before you brush your hair and fix your face for the day. …. Loving a person isn’t a magical, sparkly passion. It’s hard work. It’s putting the other person before yourself. It’s companionship and being able to trust and depend on each other. That loquacious true love everyone spouts about is really finding a partner who will go through the heartbreaks and joys of life with you.” 

In the end this is possibly one of my favorite retellings of Beauty and the Beast, and honestly I give it a 4/5 (only misses being a full five because there’s minor unnecessary drama, like seriously, in real life I feel like there would have been COMMUNICATION, but that’s just me apparently, and honestly it’s not that bad, I just feel like it wasn’t fully accurate to the personalities of the servants at the very least.).

Overall Shea’s fairytales are… simplistic. But in their simplicity they clearly show the depth of each story and its original intent. As a whole the series is definitely a 5/5, please stay tuned for the next review, Wild Swans, a retelling of the Seven Swans. In the mean time- go read Beauty and the Beast by KM Shea! 

‘Love Inspired’ // Part 3

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!  ;-)

Here is the next round of five for this project – a slightly better outing this time around!

A Time to Heal by Linda Goodnight

//published 2008//

I actually enjoyed this story, where ER doctor Kat returns to her hometown, completely burned out from her work in a big-city hospital.  She’s determined to give up her career and try something new.  Of course, she runs into her old flame, Seth, and the inevitable sparks fly.

There was a bit more grit to this story than these books sometimes have, as Kat and Seth were pregnant back before Kat left.  I think that this book would have read better if Kat had gotten an abortion back then instead of having a miscarriage, as her level of guilt didn’t really seem to fit something that wasn’t actually her fault, although I could still follow the “I really wished this baby was dead and then it was dead and now I feel horrible” logic to some extent.  It also felt really obvious that Kat should continue being a doctor, she just shouldn’t be an ER doctor in the middle of a city, so I appreciated that the author addressed that early on by explaining that opening a small-town clinic was just too cost-prohibitive.

Overall, while the story had its weaknesses, I still found it to be a fairly enjoyable read, although not enjoyable enough to keep on my shelves for another time.  :-D  3.5/5.

Safe in His Arms by Dana Corbit

//published 2011//

Six months ago, Lindsay and her sister were in a terrible car accident.  Lindsay’s sister died, and Lindsay is still recovering from her injuries.  On top of all of that, Lindsay has also inherited her sister’s daughter, who is just a toddler.  (Later we find out the sister was a widow, so the niece is now an orphan.)  When our story begins, Lindsay is seeking out the state trooper who was first on the scene, Joe, to ask him for more details about the accident, as she can’t remember the event.

I actually liked this story, and liked both Joe and Lindsay.  Joe is struggling with a lot of guilt because he was only able to save Lindsay and not both women – the car burst into flames before he could return for the sister.  Parts of the story felt a little weak on logic, and Lindsay’s parents are just so obnoxious, but overall a decent 3/5 read.

The Cinderella List by Judy Baer

//published 2010//

This book was actually a lot of fun.  Marlo is a caterer, and at a big event, she meets Jake, who is super rich.  But Jake also happens to fit a lot of Marlo’s husband requirements – a list that she and her sister started a long time ago.  While Marlo isn’t sure that she can really fit into Jake’s life, she of course does.

I really liked how Marlo was an adult living with severe dyslexia – I feel like these types of problems are only found/discussed in children’s books and YA, but they aren’t things that you outgrow.  It doesn’t define Marlo, but it’s a big part of her life that felt natural in this story.  Another part of the book is Jake trying to set up a program on his horse farm to help children with physical and mental disabilities, which also tied in with Marlo’s nephew, who was oxygen-deprived at birth.  There were just a lot of threads going on in this story, and they actually came together well and mostly made sense.

Things got a bit melodramatic, but were readable on the whole, and this was another 3.5/5.

Deadly Safari by Lisa Harris

//published 2014//

As a bonus, some of the “Love Inspired” titles are actually “Love Inspired SUSPENSE,” although this is the first one I’ve come across in my little project.  Meghan makes wildlife documentaries for a living, and is on assignment at a wildlife refuge in South Africa following the life of some young lion cubs.  Her father is a diplomat, and has been receiving threats made to Meghan if he doesn’t do something-or-other.  Meghan always blows this sort of thing off, so her dad hires Alex to come be her bodyguard without Meghan knowing it.  Of course, there are tons of near-misses that bring the couple together.

A lot of this story was fun, but it was really short in the logic department, so I couldn’t fully enjoy it.  (Like the whole point of the documentary is they are waiting for the big moment when the mother lioness introduces the cubs to the rest of the pride, and it could happen any minute, but they seem to spend an incredibly minimal amount of time actually watching the lions.)  But Meghan and Alex were overall likable and the suspense part did add a spark of interest to the story overall.  My actual notes say that this book was ridiculous but fun, and that’s a pretty good sum-up.  3.5/5.

Montana Hearts by Charlotte Carter

//published 2010//

Sarah Barkley was the recent recipient of a heart transplant, necessary because her heart was so weakened by childhood cancer treatments.  Of course, these are always anonymous, but Sarah has done some research and believes that she has found the family of her donor.  She’s traveled from her home in Seattle to a small town in Montana, with a vague idea that she might be able to find some way to anonymously give back to the family who gave her another chance at life.

But a series of events means that she starts working as a housekeeper for Kurt and his two children, and guess what two people fall in love with each other?!?!  Despite its predictability, I still enjoyed this story that actually dealt well with some difficult subjects.  While some things were tidied up a little too easily in the end, it was still a pleasant, 3.5/5 read.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore // by Robin Sloan

//published 2012//

This was the third book I received for my Mr. B’s Book Emporium subscription, and it was yet another book I already had on my TBR, making them 3/3!  I really enjoyed this book a great deal.  It had some fun adventures, some great characters, and a satisfying ending.

Our narrator is Clay, who begins the book unemployed in San Francisco.  Through a bit of serendipity, he walks past a Help Wanted sign in the window of a musty bookstore – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, in fact.  When Clay begins working as the night clerk there, he realizes that there is a lot more going on besides selling books.

It’s hard to tell a lot about this book without giving things away, so I’ll leave it at that.  Clay ends up on some rollicking adventures with some old friends and some new ones, and it’s a really good time.  There were so many things about this book that I really enjoyed.  I liked Clay himself, and loved basically all the other characters as well, so I was really invested in their discoveries.  I loved the way that Sloan works in Clay’s favorite epic fantasy series and uses it as a catalyst for so much of what happens.  Clay is just enough of a geek to make this book super fun.

“Besides,” I say, “I’m the rogue in this scenario.”

Kat raises an eyebrow and I explain quietly, “He’s the warrior, you’re the wizard, I’m the rogue.  This conversation never happened.”

For the most part, I enjoyed Clay’s narration, although the tenses didn’t always seem to flow right.  However, there were moments when the line between what Clay is thinking and what Clay is saying out loud gets blurred and it happened just often enough to annoy me.

We are in the Gourmet Grotto … It’s downtown, right next to the cable-car terminus …  The Gourmet Grotto is its food court, probably the  best in the world: all locally grown spinach salads and pork belly tacos and sushi sans mercury.  Also, it’s below-ground, and it connects directly to the train station, so you never have to walk outside.  Whenever I come here, I pretend I’m living in the future and the atmosphere is irradiated and wild bands of biodiesel bikers rule the surface.  Hey, just like the Singularity, right?

Kat frowns. “That the twentieth-century future.  After the Singularity, we’ll be able to solve those problems.”

So at what point did the first paragraph stop being Clay’s narration/explanation for the reader, and start being something he was saying out loud to Kat?  It really isn’t clear, and for some reason got on my nerves, especially since it happened pretty regularly.

But overall this book was just so much fun that I wanted it to keep going forever.  4/5 for a really happy, fun, thought-provoking book – recommended.

December Minireviews

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry

//published 1951//

This is an easy 4/5 read, and a childhood favorite – it just isn’t very long, so I don’t have a lot to say about it.  It’s an oversized book full of gorgeous illustrations by my fave, Wesley Dennis.  Each chapter is about a different breed of horse.  I love how Henry usually manages to tell a little story or anecdote about each breed.  She even says in the afterword that writing this book inspired her to write several of her other stories, because the little mini-story she was writing in Album just got way too involved and interesting!  If you have a young horse lover in your life, this is a perfect gift book.  The illustrations are amazing, and it’s just the right amount of information to get them going.

I will say that, rereading as an adult, I was intrigued by how some of the chapters did actually feel dated.  Album was published in 1951, and she says things about various draft horses still being used to plow fields, which was in fact still happening in the 1940’s, but has disappeared pretty much completely almost 70 years later.  However, rather than detracting from the book, I felt that it gave it even more charm!

Bronco Charlie by Henry Larom

//published 1951//

This children’s book is about a boy who becomes the youngest rider ever for the Pony Express.  It seems like a completely improbable tale, but I looked it up, and most of it is actually true!  I picked this up at a booksale eons ago, but hadn’t read it in years.  Of course, I was attracted to it because of the illustrations…  by Wesley Dennis!  Have I mentioned that he was an artistic genius??  :-D  In all seriousness, his pencil drawings really do add so much to this story, and made me want to saddle up right along with Charlie.  This is an adorable story, and definitely deserves a slot on the children’s bookshelves here at my house.

A Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

//published 1972//

Another 4/5 read – the perfect combination of fun, frothy, and witty that Heyer always presents, even if it is in a rather predictable pattern!

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

//published 2015//

I’ve never actually read a book by Hoover before, but Stephanie mentioned reading this one a while back, so I thought maybe it would be a good place to start.  In this story, Fallon meets Ben right before she moves from California to New York.  They have an instantaneous connection, but Fallon doesn’t want to start a relationship at that moment.  Instead, they agree to meet on November 9 for the next five years, but to have no contact with each other – not even through social media – in between.

This book has a fun concept and I did enjoy it for the most part, but it began to feel kind of same-y, since we only get the story on November 9 each year – nothing in between.  Fallon and Ben are super insta-love-y, which I would have been okay with, except it began to translate into the sexual, so now the November 9 dates not only don’t have a lot of story, they do have a decent amount of sex, which also felt kind of weird since they don’t actually know each other all that well.  There was also a decent amount of swearing, and there is nothing like a string of completely unnecessary f-bombs to put me off a book.

Part of the problem was that I never liked Ben, like not even a little. I thought he was obnoxious and pushy and kind of a creeper. And while I did think the twist was clever, it didn’t really make me like Ben even more. He’s still kind of a self-centered whiner.

I did like the ending and felt like things came together well, and I really did want to see how things turned out, but overall I felt pretty meh about the whole book, and not particularly inspired to look up more of Hoover’s works.

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

//published 2005//

This story is about a woman who opens an agency that helps men get their lives together – she’ll help them shop for the right clothes, purchase nice gifts for people, redecorate their apartments, etc.  She’ll also provide herself as a date to various events where a plus one is needed – basically, she’ll help you with girlfriend stuff – but “no laundry, no sex.”  I really liked this concept and thought that this book would be about Melissa having various misadventures helping befuddled bachelors.  But this book turned out to be surprisingly boring.  Melissa aggravated me to no end, with her complete lack of self-confidence and the way she always knuckled under to her dad.  Her relationship with her long-time friend/flatmate (who is a guy) seemed extremely weird and confusing to me, especially since she was supposedly falling in love with this other guy.  Her dad was so horrifically obnoxious that I could hardly stand reading the scenes where she had to deal with him.  I was also confused about how Melissa was supposedly starting her own business but seemed to have no concept of how much money she had/was making/was spending…  I feel like I keep better records for my small, part-time Etsy shop than Melissa was keeping for a business that is supposedly becoming her livelihood.

I will say that I appreciated the lack of sex in this book.  While there were some romantic scenes, there was no shagging, and Melissa doesn’t sleep with anyone for the entirety of the book!  This was so refreshing and made me frustrated that I didn’t enjoy the book more overall.

The biggest problem was that this book wasn’t remotely funny.  There weren’t any humorous scenes at all, and there was so much potential!  Instead, it was basically just listening to Melissa waffle around and be stressed, which got kind of old after a while.  The next biggest problem was that there was not a single happily married person in the entire story.  Everyone who was married was miserable.  And I honestly didn’t feel like Melissa’s guy was going to make her happy, either.  It really put a damper on the overall tone of the book.

In short, this book didn’t make me feel happy to read, which is the whole purpose of chick lit.  It honestly made me feel low-grade stressed because I disagreed with so many of Melissa’s decisions.  And without anything funny to leaven the story, it just sort of dragged on with an overall dark gray tone to life.  3/5 for being fairly readable, but not particularly recommend.  At least I can mark this series off the TBR without bothering to read the other two books.

The Man Upstairs & Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1914//

Honestly, this was my least-favorite collection of Wodehouse stories that I’ve read to date.  While they weren’t terrible, they really lacked that sparkle and wit that I think of as trademark Wodehouse.  If I hadn’t known that these were Wodehouse stories, I wouldn’t have guessed it.  They were just rather flat, several with abrupt endings.  Not terrible for a one-time read, but rather disappointing on the whole, as I’ve come to expect more from Wodehouse, even with his earlier works.

The Rose-Garden Husband // The Wishing-Ring Man // by Margaret Widdemer

I read a review for The Rose-Garden Husband over on The Captive Reader, and I must say that while Claire said she enjoyed the book, she also admitted to being frustrated by it – probably because everything works out for the book’s heroine with much greater ease than it ever seems to in real life!

//published 1915//

Phyllis is a librarian in the early 1900’s (the book was published in 1915), and her life is rather a hard one.  Long working hours, low wages, a lonely boarding house – most of the time Phyllis’s natural optimism is able to help her through, but on the dreary day in which our story begins, she is feeling rather low and frustrated.  What she really wishes, she realizes, is for a lovely home with a rose garden, and a husband.  And because this is a story instead of real life, her wish is granted almost immediately!

Widdemer manages to marry Phyllis off to a young man who was in a bad automobile accident several years earlier and is now unable to walk.  An invalid, his mother has cared for him ever since, but now she is very sick and dying, and is afraid that no one will care for her son when she is gone.  Believing that a wife would have more commitment than mere hired nurses, she asks her old friend and attorney to find a proper young woman to care for her son when she is gone.  While the premise sounds rather far-fetched, Widdemer actually pulls it off rather well.

Of course, Phyllis brings light and sunshine (and roses) into Allan’s life, and there are happy endings all around.  The story is nothing if not predictable, but was still told in such a warm and happy tone that it was just a delight to read.  Phyllis isn’t perfect, but she seemed like she would make a wonderful friend to have, and I was very glad to see her happy ending.

//published 1917//

The Wishing-Ring Man is a loose sequel, taking place several years later.  The heroine of this story is Joy, a young orphan who has lived with her grandparents her entire life.  Her grandfather is a famous poet, so Joy has had a rather strange upbringing – he considers her his muse, and writes many poems dedicated to her, and Joy wears rather ridiculous flowing clothes and has to attend all of his literary gatherings.  I’m making this sound a little weird and creepy, but it isn’t presented that way at all.   Joy’s grandfather is definitely pompous and self-centered, but not at all creepy.

Still, Joy is beginning to realize that her life isn’t exactly normal, and she wishes that she could have some ‘regular’ adventures.  Through a series of events, she and her grandparents end up spending a summer in a little cabin-camp in the mountains.  There, she meets our old friends Allan and Phyllis, now the happy parents of two adorable children.  When Phyllis invites Joy to come stay with them for a month, Joy’s grandpa won’t let her – he has always said that the only way she could leave his care was if she was safely engaged.  So… Phyllis announces her engagement to a man she has never met, which seems like a brilliant plan… until he shows up!

Honestly, once I got through the rather weird beginning, I actually liked The Wishing-Ring Man even better.  Joy and John are so adorable together, and I loved the fact that the ‘fake relationship trope’ has apparently been around a very long time.

Both of these stories were completely predictable and completely enjoyable.  I actually enjoyed the relationship between Phyllis and Allan even more in the second book as well – they are so happy together and their family is adorable.  I just wanted to be friends with everyone!

These books are both available as free Kindle books, so there is no reason not to read them as soon as you can.  They are perfect stories for relaxing on a wintry evening.  Easy 4/5 for both and definitely recommended.