A Season to Wed // by Cindy Kirk, Rachel Hauck, and Cheryl Wyatt

After really enjoying the happy little novellas from the first Year of Weddings (set by seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn), I thought that I would give the second year a whirl.  These are still set by month, but the titles don’t reflect it the way the first set did.  I’ve actually read the first three seasons at this point, and I’ve overall been disappointed as these stories are really not up to par with the first set.  This first book in particular was quite weak, and there was one story in the second book that I didn’t even bother finishing.  The third book was more at the level of the first year, though, so I will probably still end up finding the autumn book at some point (it isn’t at the library even though the other three are…??)

Anyway, on to this set of three stories –

Love at Mistletoe Inn by Cindy Kirk – 2.5/5 – this was a story that was almost really good, but was executed so clumsily that I couldn’t get into it.  The premise is that Hope eloped with her high school sweetheart, John, the night of their high school prom.  But right after they got married, she panicked and changed her mind.  The guy who married them said that was fine and he just wouldn’t file their paperwork and everyone could go on with life.  Now, ten years later, John is back in town AND Hope has just found out that they are still legally married even though the paperwork never got filed.

First, I wasn’t convinced that they were legit married.  Isn’t the whole point of getting married so that the government can acknowledge your marriage?  If it’s never filed, the government never knows about it??  So maybe they are ‘morally’ married (or something), but I don’t think they would suddenly be able to just sit down and start filing taxes like a married couple.  I don’t know, I’m not a legal expert, but the the whole thing seemed sketch.

Secondly, Hope goes to John to tell him this whole story.  And… they sleep together!?  Like right then?!  This is ‘Christian’ romance, so there is nothing graphic, and in fact it was so NOT graphic and so incredibly random that I had to read the paragraph multiple times to make sure that that was what had actually happened.  Here’s how it goes down – they’re sitting on John’s couch and share a kiss.  John, of course, has always been desperately in love with Hope through all the years.

This was the woman who held his heart.  Whether she wanted it or not, she had it for all eternity.

John had always felt connected to her.  He’d never forgotten the vows they’d made and the promise given.  In this moment, he saw those same sentiments in her expression.

Several hours later, Hope left John’s bed and headed downtown for an appointment she’d made after speaking with the county recorder.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I have edited nothing!  What just happened!?  It was just SO obvious that Kirk didn’t want annulment to be an option, so she had to make them sleep together right away, apparently.  It was just weird and forced and bizarre.  So even though I actually liked the characters and even parts of the story, that whole bit was just so weird that I couldn’t get past it.

A Brush with Love by Rachel Hauck – 2.5/5 – I really enjoyed Hauck’s contribution from the first round of seasonal weddings, but this was a really weak story.  The whole story was way too melodramatic, and it seemed impossible to believe that Ginger would suddenly and completely do a 180* turnabout and now everything is fine.  The story was just weird and cheesy, and not in a relaxing way.

Serving Up a Sweetheart by Cheryl Wyatt – 3/5 – This one wasn’t too bad and I actually enjoyed most of it.  However, the story was really choppy, and the whole hate-to-love thing happened waaaay too fast to be convincing.

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Rearview Mirror // August 2017

August was kind of a weird month in relation to reading.  I hit a really major reading slump, which is kind of unusual for me.  It just felt like every book I picked up was very meh.  So then I started reading just random fluff books, and all of those were also very meh.  It made for boring times reading and boring times  blogging, and also explains why most of my book reviews this month were two-paragraph minireviews that basically said, “This book was quite meh.”

However, I have had two solid reads in a row, and am working through two books that also have started quite well, so I’m hoping that I am back on track.  It hasn’t helped that I’ve also been working quite a bit, have had a very busy month in my Etsy store, and had my brother come to visit from Seattle for a long weekend.  Lots of life happening!

Still, while I didn’t get a lot of awesome books read in August (or July, if I’m honest), I did work through a decent quantity.  So I am actually six books ahead of my Goodreads goal for 160 books in the year, aided by some shorter reads.

Favorite August Read:

I saved the best for last, I guess – Uprooted was my final August read, and it was FANTASTIC.  It’s made me believe in the concept that there are actually some worthwhile books out there.  It’s a really well-written fantasy novel that I would have gladly awarded five stars to if not for this one random and far-too-detailed sex scene out of nowhere.  Still, with that caveat, I highly recommend this book with great world-building, interesting characters, and a perfect ending.

As an aside, I think that that cover is gorgeous, but I can’t find anywhere for cheaper than around $60!  I really, really love simple covers without a lot of writing on them.  In my mind, a cover should have the title and the author’s name (preferably with the title in larger letters) and not a lot of other writing.  I hate it when covers are covered in random quotes and reassurances that I will LOVE THIS BOOK or THIS IS NOW AN AWESOME MOVIE – the cover art and title should speak for themselves.  This cover alone would make me way more likely to pick up the book than its current cover with a girl and a bunch of quotes on it.  Anyway.

Most Disappointing August Read:

I think The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler.  I enjoyed the earlier Phillip Marlowe books so much that this one came as a bit of a shock.  Unlike the earlier books, it was almost completely devoid of humor, and instead felt dark, depressing, and hopeless.  Later, I read that it took Chandler a long time to write this book, and his wife was dying (of cancer?  I can’t remember) basically the whole time, so I guess that all makes sense.  But it definitely made me take a break from the Marlowe series.

Other August Reads:

  • The Cat-Sitter Mystery by Carol Adorjan – 4/5 – a old childhood favorite that was still pretty fun as a reread.
  • A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White – 3/5 – I paid $0 for this book, and that’s about how much I got out of it.
  • Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson – 4/5 – if I hadn’t read Uprooted right after this book, Fatal Trust would have been my best read of the month – engaging, perfectly paced, and just twisty enough to keep me guessing.
  • The High Window by Raymond Chandler – 3.5/5 – fun and engaging, but not brilliant.
  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler – 3.5/5 – a little more graphic than the earlier books, but still quite solid.
  • Mail-Order Bride by Debbie Macomber – 3/5 – a good concept that set up well, but then got really sloppy.
  • Mind Your Manors by Lucy Lethbridge – 3.5/5 – an interesting nonfiction book about old-fashioned cleaning methods, but not as practical as I had hoped.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – 4/5 – a really delightful graphic novel that completely engaged me – the artwork is amazing and the setting fantastic.
  • Once Upon a Kiss by various authors – 2/5 – an overall rather weak collection of YA fantasy short stories, several of which I didn’t even bother finishing.
  • The Story of Amelia Earhart by Adele de Leeuw – 3/5 – a nice children’s biography but a bit scattered.
  • Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens – 3/5 – just a little too disjointed for me to really enjoy.
  • This Love of Mine by Miranda Liasson – 3.5/5 – a fun little fake-relationship trope story.
  • This Loving Feeling by Miranda Liasson – 3/5 – a pleasant story but nothing exciting.
  • This Thing Called Love by Miranda Liasson – 3/5 – a decent start to an average contemporary romance trilogy.
  • The Whisky Wedding by Elizabeth Ann West – DNF – just why.
  • A Year of Weddings Novellas:  Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn – overall 3/5 for the collection.  Some were better than others, but only one or two were complete lemons.

In Augusts Past…

Now that I’ve been doing my Rearview Mirrors for two years, I thought it would be fun to see what my favorite and least-favorite reads were from those years.

Interestingly enough, August 2015 was a bit of a reading slump as well, which I was also slowly working my way out of by the time I wrote the Rearview.  My favorite read that month was a Wodehouse gem – Ice in the Bedroom.  My least favorite that month was a book that I think turned out to be my least favorite read of the entire year – the incredibly creepy Zel by Donna Jo Napoli, a book that still makes me a nauseous  if I think about it.

In August 2016, my favorite read was another Wodehouse!  This time Money in the Bank took the place of honor.  And in a weird turn of events, my most disappointing read that month was actually from one of my favorite authors – Agatha Christie’s Destination Unknownwhich had much less plot and much more lecturing than her stories usually do.

TBR Update:

Well, due to the reading slump, an ambivalent attitude towards blogging, and a lot of life craziness, I haven’t done many of my Tottering TBR episodes recently.  But items do keep going on and off the lists, so I’m actually intrigued to see where things stand…

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  802 (up twelve!!!  Oh dear)
  • Nonfiction:  79 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  598 (up two)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  226 (up four)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 103 (holding steady)

Well, could be worse… I think…  ;-)

Awaiting Review:

I’m actually caught up on reviews right now!  Madness!

Current Reads:

  • The Light Between the Oceans by M.L Stedman – so far a really good story, but kind of stressing me out because I hate it when people are living a lie and the consequences are just slowly looming over them like a giant wave and I have to keep waiting for the crash!
  •  The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler – I decided to try the next Marlowe story and see if it was better than The Little Sister.  So far, so good.
  • An Unlikely Duet by Leila Silver – my current P&P variation read.  Alright, but honestly just kind of boring.
  • The Iliad by Homer – technically I’m still ‘reading’ this, but I haven’t actually read much of it at all this month.  I’m hoping to pick this one back up soon.

Approaching the Top of the Pile…

The probable next five reads:

  • Playback by Raymond Chandler – the last Marlowe book he wrote, although someone else has finished his partial manuscript, so I may read that as well.
  • The Noble Path by Peter May – I’ve had this one from the library for a while and read about one chapter of it a few weeks ago and just wasn’t feeling it.  I’m going to give it another go now that I feel more like reading in general.
  • A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup – I read a review for this nonfiction book about the poisons in Agatha Christie’s books a while ago and it really sounds intriguing.
  • Indian Paint by Glenn Balch – my next book in my personal collection is another Famous Horse Story!
  • Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater – Pinkwater has long been a favorite of mine, but he’s a very prolific author so I’m still finding and reading random books of his.  For me, his books are either so funny I can’t stop snickering the whole time, or they make no sense at all, so we’ll see where this one falls.

Happy September!!!

August Minireviews – Part 2

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 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.

I’ve had a lot of meh reading going on, plus a minimal desire for blogging, so this actually the second round of minireviews this month.  Part 1 can be found here.

The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler

//published 1949//

After really enjoying the first few books starring the gritty Californian private investigator Phillip Marlowe, The Little Sister was a bit of a disappointment.  While I was still give it a 3/5 for having a decent mystery, the overall story really lacked the wit and tongue-and-cheek-ness of the earlier books.  Instead, Marlowe is completely disillusioned with…  well, everything, it seems.  It’s a sort of midlife crisis kind of book, and doesn’t really make for uplifting reading.  I struggled to get through it, as it also seemed to lack some of cohesiveness of the earlier books.  It made me give up on these books for a while, but I think I’m about ready to pick up The Long Goodbye and give Chandler another try.

PS Reading the introduction to this book, the introducer stated that The Little Sister was the only one of his books that Chandler never read again – apparently he disliked it as well, and was writing it during a dark time when his wife was dying, so that all makes sense in a very sad sort of way.

The Whisky Wedding by Elizabeth Ann West

//published 2016//

I got this Pride and Prejudice variation for free, which was really the only good thing about it.  It starts with a decent premise – the Bennets receive word of Lydia’s elopement before Elizabeth and the Gardiners leave on their journey.  However, I was already a little leery of the tale when Mr. Bennet, Mr. Gardiner, and Jane go to London while Elizabeth, Mrs. Gardiner, and all the Gardiner children (??!!) head north on the road to Scotland.  Despite the incredibly impracticality of this, I was willing to let it slide for the setting up of the story… except that was only the first in a long litany of absolutely ridiculous actions, including Darcy and Elizabeth eloping while Elizabeth is drunk, Mrs. Gardiner abandoning Elizabeth in Scotland and returning to London by herself, Elizabeth running off with no one but a footman for company, Jane wandering around London by herself looking for Lydia, and Mr. Bennet shrugging his shoulders because Oh well Lydia is a whore now, nothing we can do about it, guess I’ll just read a book.

In between, conversations were nonsensical, characters didn’t remotely resemble their originals, and no one was particularly likable.  Mr. Bennet was ridiculously uncaring (while lazy and selfish, I never get the impression that Mr. B would willingly just stop looking for his daughter after one day of halfhearted searching).  Mr. Bingley was portrayed as a pathetic, whimpering puppy, which always annoys me – yes, in the original he was swayed by his friend, but the arguments that kept him from returning to Jane were Darcy’s reassurances that (1) Jane didn’t actually care for Bingley and (2) that Jane’s mother would force her into a marriage with Bingley regardless of Jane’s feelings.  Thus, Bingley’s non-return to Jane wasn’t completely due to a weak spirit, but also due a misguided attempt to do what was best for Jane.  But in this version he is a completely pathetic wuss, and Jane is instead won over by the manly spirit of Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Point being, I slogged through this for over half the book and then realized that I was just being bored out of my mind (because yes, on top of everything else, it was SO so boring), so this book ended up as a DNF at 67%, with my only regret being that I waited that long.

Mail-Order Bride by Debbie Macomber

//published 1987//

Something quite strange is the fact that The Whisky Wedding isn’t the only book I’ve read lately that involved a drunk bride!  I was trapped at the doctor’s office once day and finished my current book.  This Macomber book was a freebie I had picked up recently, and since I really enjoy the trope of marriage first and then love, I knew I had to at least give it a try.  Despite the fact that Macomber is incredibly prolific, I actually don’t particularly remember reading any of her books, although I probably have at some point.  This is one of her earliest books, recently released as an ebook for the first time.

Unfortunately, the story just wasn’t that great.  The trope itself was done well – the events leading up to the  marriage are completely believable and I was pretty pleased that the story was actually going to be plausible.  Carolyn’s aunts give her a trip to Alaska to help Carolyn recover from the breakup with her fiancee… except that they’ve actually answered an ad for a bride, placed by Paul who lives in a remote Alaskan village but yearns for companionship and a family.  Of course, Carolyn is upset when she finds out that she’s married to Paul (the drunk thing is actually done in a way that is mostly believable), but it felt like Macomber just cut a big chunk right out of the middle of this book, as we go from Carolyn being angry and trying to escape to Carolyn being desperately in love with Paul and super jealous of his past.  There never felt like there was a time where they were just becoming friends and learning about each other’s pasts.

I really wanted to like this book, but in the end it was just another 3/5 meh read with a decent set-up followed by a pretty sloppy plot.  I’m sure I’ll end up reading another of Macomber’s books one of these days, but Mail-Order Bride didn’t really inspire me to hunt any up.

Mind Your Manors by Lucy Lethbridge

(British title: Spit and Polish)

//published 2016//

I think the problem I had with this book was that I was a bit misled by the synopsis, which says, “Lethbridge reveals these old-fashioned and almost-forgotten techniques that made British households sparkle before the use of complicated contraptions and a spray for every surface. A treasury of advice from servants’ memoirs and housekeeping guides…”  Going in, I think I just thought that this would be somewhat of a reference book, when in fact it is more of just a book full of little tidbits that were interesting, but not necessarily for practical application.  (The ‘practical application’ part was basically ‘use vinegar and baking soda!’)

So while I did enjoy this book and find it interesting, it was much shorter and less practical than I anticipated.  I also couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the American edition, which not only changed the title, but even the subtitle from ‘Old-Fashioned Ways to Banish Dirt, Dust and Decay’ to ‘Tried-and-True British Household Cleaning Tips’ because apparently Americans didn’t clean things the same way as British servants, so we need to clarify that these are going to be British tips, not American tips!  Why, publishers, WHY?!

Overall, while this book was a pleasant read, I didn’t feel any need to add it to my personal reference library.

Autumn Brides // by Kathryn Springer, Katie Ganshert, and Beth Vogt

So this is the final season in the first Year of Weddings novellas, and I felt like it ended well.  I really enjoyed all three of these stories.  There is apparently a second Year of Weddings, which do sound quite appealing to me, as they are all supposed to be stories that focus on people who help make weddings happen – so caterers, florists, photographers, wedding planners, etc.  I love stories that work with people in the hospitality industry (random but true), so I definitely do want to get through those one of these days.  I’ve reserved the first couple of collections at the library.

September Bride by Kathryn Springer – 3/5 – This was a cute story with a fun premise, and I really liked the characters.  However, I felt like Jesse went from super-suspicious of Annie and her motives to over-the-top in love really quickly.  And when he pulled some strings to find out more about Annie’s background, he just assumed that she had been unjustly accused and was suddenly on her team, even though just a day before he had been the one who asked about her background to begin with because he thought she was up to something!  So while it was a really fun little story, it still seemed lacking in the ‘logical conclusions’ department.

October Bride by Katie Ganshert – 4/5 – Possibly because it involved the well-loved fake-relationship trope, this was probably my favorite of the three.  Plus, Jake was just a 100% perfect hero for this story.  I loved his relationship with Emma, and really wanted this story to be a full-length novel.  Emma’s family was just so much fun, and the small-town vibe was completely  believable.  I really enjoyed watching their fake relationship spiral out of control.  All in all, I have put some of Ganshert’s other books on the list to see what else she has gotten into.

November Bride by Beth Vogt – 3/5 – This was a really fun and lighthearted little story, even though I did just want to shake some sense into the main couple every once in a while (USE YOUR WORDS!).  Still, they had good chemistry and it was a happy little story without too much angst.

In conclusion, the Year of Wedding novellas have been fun and relaxing.  While they weren’t these mind-blowing stories that left me pondering life’s deeper meaning, they were fluffy and fun and got me through some really slow reading times and introduced me to a few new authors, which I’m sure was the point!  Overall recommended if you like relaxing, clean, happy little romance tales.

 

Ramblings

I’ve been in one of my rather rare reading slumps lately, still reading (of course) but halfheartedly and without a lot of awesomeness to show for it.  In turn, reviewing also seems unappealing when I’m  basically just saying, “Eh, it was alright” over and over again.  I’m sure that someday I’ll stumble into the next book that really gets me going again.  I am, quite literally, surrounded by piles of books right now, so it seems like there should be something out there for me…

*****

Possibly I’ve been a bit depressed by the discovery that I’m suddenly a white supremacist.  I didn’t realize it before, because I thought to be one you had to believe that all Caucasians are inherently better than all other skin tones (which I don’t think is true), but apparently the actual definition is anyone who doesn’t completely conform to the beliefs and opinions of Black Lives Matter and Antifa.  So it’s a bit awkward to find out that believing that it’s wrong for any public monuments to be destroyed by a mob is apparently the moral equivalent of wanting to enslave people and slaughter Jews.  Ah well.

*****

In happier news, I went to a concert on Tuesday night that was so good it was almost a spiritual experience.  Several months ago my brother-in-law told us to check out a single released by a band of teenage guys from a small rural town in Michigan.  The first time I heard my husband play it, I thought he was playing another one of those previously unreleased tracks from Led Zeppelin – not only does the lead singer for Greta Van Fleet sound eerily like Robert Plant, the other band members have captured a lot of the depth, creativity, and joy of that band.

The group, consisting of a set of twin brothers, their younger brother, and a high school buddy, have since released a four-track EP that Tom and I have been listening to on heavy rotation ever since.  When we heard that they were going on tour and that their first stop would be here in Columbus, we bought tickets the first day they went on sale – a mere $10 a pop for general admittance to a small venue called The Basement.  (It’s literally a basement and kind of my least favorite place to ever go to a concert, as it’s small, dark, stuffy, and crowded; has terrible acoustics; and is nearly impossible to actually see the band.  But, you know.)  After we purchased our tickets, the band kind of exploded in popularity, and their original single, ‘Highway Tune‘, has been playing on the radio quite a lot.  At the concert, we overheard some people talking about purchasing scalped tickets for over $100!  (And seriously, no matter how much I wanted to see them, I’m not convinced I would pay that much for a general admin ticket…)

Tom and I went with his brother and the brother’s wife.  It was one of those perfect summer evenings and had been a while since Tom and I had gone out to do something (we’re very contented introverts as a rule), so it was fun to get out and people watch for a bit.  The Basement was, of course, a million degrees and stuffed full of people, so we took our drinks back outside to the patio and pretended to be smokers.  (I mean seriously, there’s something wrong with your venue when it’s easier to breathe in the smoking area than it is inside.)  There was a bench along the stairwell railing, and while we were sitting there, the opening band began to play – and we realized we could actually see them!  So we ended up staying there for the entire evening.  We could hear, breathe, and see better than we could inside, so it actually worked great.

The band itself was a joy to hear.  Like I said, they’ve only release four tracks so far, so I was a bit leery of listening to a concert where I wouldn’t know most of the songs.  However, they are so talented that I could have listened to them all night.  I’m kind of in love with their bassist, who also plays the keyboards – he’s absolutely brilliant.  Lots of bands have a good singer and a good guitarist, but the quality of the bass and percussion in GVF really gives them a boost.  It means that their music is interesting on multiple levels, well worth listening to time and again.

If you like classic rock, I can’t recommend checking out these guys highly enough.  While yes, their music definitely has Zeppelin undertones, they are still their own thing.  Tom says he thinks they sound similar because they’re ‘mining the same musical vein’ – Zeppelin would talk a lot about the importance of the blues and how much that influenced their sound, and GVF has said the same thing.  Their encore was a blues medley that was just so much fun.  These guys have a confidence playing together that only comes from a lifetime of jamming together.  I love seeing siblings working together like this.  Despite how young they all are, their music has such a full, mature sound.

All in all, it was the sheer joy that came through their music that made this concert one of the best I’ve ever attended.  They love to play, and they love their music.  It’s something you just can’t fake, and these guys don’t have to.  Their camaraderie and contentedness sounded in every note.  They’re definitely a band to watch, and one I’m positive I’ll have to pay more than $10 to see next time they’re in town.

*****

I’ve also been working quite a lot, which is taking time away from reading/reviewing time.  In the last month I’ve helped pick, sort, and sell several hundred bushels of peaches, and it actually hasn’t been as bad as you may think.  I really love the people I work for at the orchard, and it’s only about two minutes away from my house, so I can come home at lunch and that sort of thing.  The peaches are almost done, but the guys are picking apples already, so we are basically going to be rolling right into the busiest part of the season.  It won’t be long before I start driving my little delivery truck again – I get the joy of running the wholesale route.  I’m kind of like Santa Claus, except with apples and cider and I come every week for an entire season.  ;-)

*****

This week, I made my first attempt at canning – and it worked!  I canned some pickles, and it was very exciting.  The pickle recipe itself needs a little bit of adjustment as it came out quite dill-y, but the canning process was successful and not as difficult as I feared it would be.  I don’t think I’m quite ready to do jams and jellies or anything that complicated, but the pickles are pretty straightforward.  I also cooked down tomatoes into a sauce that I froze, and have more of those to put up this weekend sometime.  And now that the apples are coming on, I’ll be making applesauce, too – also quite easy to make and freeze and SO delicious!

My mom was never really into growing veggies or putting up food, so a lot of this is self-taught for me.  Of course, I have lots of books to use as reference material!  My favorite for food preservation is one published by, of course, Storey Publishers – Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton.  It has tons of practical advice and recipes, plus step-by-step instructions for different preservation methods, like canning, freezing, and drying.  I love the way that it’s divided by produce type, so whatever you have a pile of on your counter, it’s easy to find a recipe and method for dealing with it!

*****

My little Etsy shop is keeping me busy as well.  I’ve been making lots of notebooks, and have ideas for some different items to add to my shop. I also ordered some wholesale washi tape that I am going to try to sell, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m expecting it to take another month to get here, since I ordered it from some crazy place in China somewhere.  As long as it comes at some point, I’ll be content!  In the meantime, it’s pretty fun to make notebooks, especially when people tell me they need them for special occasions – one lady just ordered some to take with her on a vacation to Denmark and Sweden!  It’s kind of exciting that my notebooks get to go off and have adventures, even if I’m still just chillaxin’ in Ohio!

*****

We’re mostly hanging in Ohio because we have sooo many ongoing house projects right now.  We closed in our back porch to make a sun room (or, as we like to call it, the Conservatory), and Pop has been busy finishing up the outside of that, a project that has involved several unnecessarily complicated trips to Menard’s.  We are FINALLY almost done fencing in the vegetable garden, which is also a run for the dogs and an extra run for the chickens (although not at the same time).  One of these days we are also going to finish the pantry project, at which point all of our food, currently in neat stacks and crates in the lower room, will be able to go to its new home, which will definitely help make this house feel less cluttered!

*****

My brother is coming in town from Seattle next week, so that will probably lead to several more hijinks.  We already have many plans.  His visits are always a crazy whirlwind of excitement and adventure, so hopefully we all survive.

*****

In a bit of actual bookish news, I did purchase the Hufflepuff edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  The binding itself is fantastic – honestly, it’s a perfect book: wonderful size, pages just the right weight, lovely font, delightfully bound – and the Hufflepuff facts not as lame as I feared they might be.  It’s also very nice to have the British edition – it’s amazing to me how much changes between the two, despite being written in (theoretically) the same language.  I went ahead and ordered the other house editions as well – weirdly, the four oldest siblings in my family each belong to a different house, so I’m excited about distributing them properly.

*****

In conclusion, one of these days I’ll get back to book blogging, and it will be fantastic.  I used to feel a little stressed when I went through these down phases, but I’ve since realized that I blog for myself and my own enjoyment, so if I’m not enjoying it, why bother?  The urge to express my bookish opinions always returns eventually.  And when it does, you all will be the first to know.  ;-)

Happy reading!

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!