Royal Wedding Series // by Rachel Hauck

  • Once Upon a Prince (2013)
  • A March Bride (2014)
  • Princess Ever After (2014)
  • How to Catch a Prince (2015)
  • A Royal Christmas Wedding (2016)

This series has been on my radar ever since I got the first book as a free Kindle book.  Last year, when I was reading through the novella series A Year of Weddings (by various authors), I realized that A March Bride was actually a follow-up to Once Upon a Prince.  I kind of enjoy the concept of modern fairy tales (after all, The Princess is still a go-to fave of mine), and that’s basically what this series does.  Hauck has created a kingdom, Brighton, which is a small island in the North Sea.  Conveniently, English is their first language, so everything works out when, throughout the series, several Brightonian princes fall for American girls.

Overall, I really enjoyed these books.  They were relaxing and fun little love stories, with some good character development and some thoughtful questions.  They are definitely Christian books, with strong (although not misplaced) Christian themes/conversations without, and this also means that they are delightfully devoid of graphic sex.  For the most part, Hauck does a good job of creating likable female characters who are strong and independent without being obnoxious, and creating male characters are kind and thoughtful without being weak and stupid.  There were times that the angst factor was a little too strong (especially in How to Catch a Prince… I mean, COME ON, STEPHEN, MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIFE), but for the most part, the amount of angst felt realistic for the complicated problems!

However, the further along the series went, the more Hauck depended on basically supernatural encounters to further her story – angels, small miracles, etc.  I wasn’t exactly against this, and as a Christian I  believe these things can happen, and I felt like it was consistent with the rest of what Hauck was saying.  BUT it also felt like sometimes she was able to use this as a way to just sort of tidy things up.  This seemed especially evident at the end of Princess Ever After, where conveniently God has apparently just kept this entire barn full of Important Things hidden from human eyes for a hundred years, and now it reappears and has everything they need to fix all their problems.  In that instance, it felt more like a plotline cop-out than proof that God still works in our lives today.  (That book definitely had the weakest ending anyway.  Guy spends the entire book being a political enemy, and then in the end one short conversation means he’s suddenly on the other team??  That didn’t seem likely at all.)

I did appreciate the way that A Royal Christmas Wedding not only told Avery’s story, but also kind of wrapped things up for the other couples I had met along the way.  It had a very happily ever after vibe that I totally could get behind.

This ended up being a 4* series for me for the most part.  I enjoyed reading these books and liked most of the characters.  There were times that they were a bit slow, or where the use of supernatural forces felt a little heavy-handed, but I could usually get behind it.  While I’m not sure this will become a go-to series for me, they were very enjoyable for a one-time read, and I can definitely see myself picking up other books by Hauck in the future.

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‘Love Inspired’ // Part 5

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!  ;-)

I guess the real question is – why do I keep reading these??  I can’t seem to help it.  Somehow, I feel like I owe it to Aunt Darby!  This  batch of five was just as mediocre as the rest, although I’m getting better at just DNFing the really terrible ones.  :-D

Cattleman’s Courtship by Carolyne Aarsen

This one wasn’t too bad, with a likable pair of main characters.  Cara and Nicholas were engaged a few years ago and broke things off due to some misunderstandings.  Now their best friends are getting married, so Cara and Nick are back together for the wedding planning.  All in all, this would have been a pretty decent story, except it went off the rails at the end – Cara is a veterinarian and is trying to decide whether or not she wants to join her uncle’s practice.  In the meantime, her uncle has hired this other guy… who kind of turns out to be arbitrarily a terrible person??  He felt like this really random evil villain who swoops in and decides that Nick’s entire herd has TB and has to be slaughtered.  It just felt like there should have been a lot more research done before making that kind of decision, and the whole thing felt superfluous to the story which was otherwise basically finished.  Still, 3.5/5 for what was overall not a bad story.

Fresh-Start Family by Lisa Mondello

This is one of those tales where there is an emotionally wounded man who meets a sweet widow and her son.  All in all, I really liked Tag and Jenna, but felt like their relationship was really choppy.  Another 3.5/5 for a decent story.

Their First Noel by Annie Jones

DNF.  Not even sure why exactly.  Just boring.  I skimmed the rest to see what happened.

The Marine’s Baby by Deb Kastner

DNF.  This actually seemed like one I should enjoy, where a dude inherits a baby and needs help taking care of it, but I was immediately put off by Nathan’s family, and there were already these huge jumps in logic in just the first couple of chapters.  (e.g. the baby is running a really high fever and instead of “rush her to the hospital,” Jesse is like, “oh, let’s just try to bring her fever down ourselves” – huh??)

Rocky Point Reunion by Barbara McMahon

Not a bad little story, although sometimes it really just felt like these two needed to sit down and talk.  I understood why Marcie was wary of Zack, but it felt like that part just went on and on.  Like did she really think he couldn’t change at all in ten years?!  3/5 for a story that was alright for a one-time read.

April Minireviews // Part 2

I keep thinking that I’m through my blogging funk and am ready to write some solid full reviews… and then I start to write and realize I just don’t wanna!  :-D  So here’s another batch of minireviews from this month…

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

//published 2011//

Before I picked up this book and read the introduction I didn’t realize that it’s actually a book based on a movie.  I’m not completely sure I would have bothered checking it out of the library if I had known that before, as it’s not something I generally enjoy.  And, like other movies-to-books that I’ve read, this one felt a little flat.  There wasn’t a lot of character development, and the third person POV jumped around between characters in a manner that was very choppy and confusing.  There was a lot of potential with this story, but instead it just felt like it dragged on and on and created more questions than it answered.

Why have the villagers been offering sacrifices to the werewolf for years but now all of a sudden decide that it must die?  That was the biggest one for me.  These people have been living with this situation for decades, but all of a sudden it’s this huge emergency/crisis and everyone is flipping out about killing the wolf.  I hated the blend of religion/paranormal in this book, as the “good” guy, who is a bishop or something, is also a total jerk + arrogant + stupid, and goes around proclaiming how he is “working for the power of God” etc etc and it really felt like he could have been the same character minus the constant blathering about God and wouldn’t have been nearly as offensive.  The main character, Valerie, basically sucked and was completely passive and also inconsistent and we had to spend WAY too much time listening to her dither about which guy she should be with; she and everyone else just kind of ran around like a bunch of sheep, making every stupid decision possible.

THEN, the final kicker – there’s no last chapter!  The book just stops!  Apparently, the book came out just before the movie, so they didn’t want the ending spoiled and didn’t post the lats chapter until after the movie appeared.  Now you can go online and read it (and I did, and it genuinely was a terrible ending that STILL didn’t really make the story make sense), but it seems like a pretty obnoxious marketing device to not put the ending in a book.  All in all, a 2/5 for this one – I did want to see how things came out, so I feel like I can’t justify only 1*, but it’s close.

The Foundling by Georgette Heyer

//published 1948//

It had been way too long since I had indulged in the sheer joy and relaxation of a Heyer book, and I was excited to read this one for the first time.  I genuinely loved the main character, Gilly, and laughed out loud on more than one occasion at his ability to get tangled in some genuinely ridiculous situations.  It was funny to read a Heyer that was more about a guy than a girl, but Gilly was so completely likable that I really enjoyed it.  I wish there was a sequel to this book that was nothing except Gilly and his new wife and all of their adventures because I shipped them SO HARD.  4/5.

Ride Like an Indian by Henry Larom

//published 1958//

A while back I read the Mountain Pony series by Larom and really enjoyed it, so I checked to see if he had written anything else.  I found a copy of Ride Like an Indian on eBay and took the $5 splurge.  This was aimed at younger readers than the Mountain Pony books – it’s almost a picture book – but it was pretty adorable, even if it wasn’t very exciting.  I enjoyed the reading, but it wasn’t really an instant classic for me.  3.5/5.

The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillup

//published 1988//

I’ve had kind of mixed results from McKillup’s writing.  Everything I’ve read has been good but they have not all been magical.  That was the case with this book.  The story was a pleasant and engaging one, but didn’t have that magic that made me want to add it to my permanent collection.  3/5.

Don’t Believe a Word by Patricia MacDonald

//published 2016//

I read about this book over on Fictionophile’s blog a while back, and thought I would give it a whirl.  While I enjoyed reading it and definitely wanted to see how everything came together, it wasn’t a book that I loved, and it didn’t particularly inspire me to find more of MacDonald’s writing.  For some reason, this book just had a negative vibe for me, and I’m not even sure exactly why.  There is also this weird plot twist where it turns out that two of the characters are actually half-siblings and have been having an incestual relationship.  That was never really addressed as a negative thing and it made me kind of uncomfortable that the conclusion was just that it was basically their business and they should be able to do whatever they feel is right.  Still, that was a minor part of an otherwise decent story.  3.5/5.

April Minireviews

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me…

The Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge

//published 1964//

I really can’t believe that I never came across any of Goudge’s books as a child.  I had a very old-fashioned reading list, as my mom is an avid collector of old books (I come by it honestly), and I remember distinctly coming to a realization somewhere around middle school that nearly all of my favorite authors were long deceased.  This whole concept of finding an author who is still producing new things for me to read is kind of a crazy concept to me, actually.  :-D

Anyway, Goudge completely seems like someone my mother would love.  Her books are incredibly magical and perfect – gentle and kind.  There is no rush or slapdash action, but instead perfectly placed scenes and conversations, filled with characters one cannot help but love wholeheartedly.  I feel in love with every single person in The Runaways, even the bad guys.  This isn’t a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat, or leaves you frantically turning the pages at 1am, but it is definitely a book I see myself returning to time and again, to immerse myself in the gentle and beautiful world of the young Linnets.  4.5/5

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

//published 1946//

Read The Runaways made me want to reread this one.  I had only read it once, a couple of years ago, and it was my first introduction to Goudge’s work.  (Her second book for me was The Scent of Waterwhich is one of the few books that I genuinely felt changed me as a person when I read it.)  The Little White Horse was just as delightful the second time around, with a heroine who isn’t quite perfect, and just enough magic to keep you wondering if this could really happen. 5/5

The Princess by Lori Wick

//published 1999//

I’m not going to lie.  This is one of my go-to books when I am in need of something relaxing.  This is definitely a love story that has very strong Christian themes throughout, but the story itself is strong enough that I think that even if hearing about prayer/God’s plan/etc. isn’t your thing, you would still enjoy it.  I love stories where people get married first, and then fall in love, and this is an all-time fave. 4.5/5

Come On, Seabiscuit by Ralph Moody

//published 1963//

This is one of those random books I’ve had on my shelf forever, that I probably bought as a kid because it was about horses, especially since I went through a stage where I fascinated with racehorses in particular.  But somehow, I’ve only just gotten around to reading it – and it was actually a total win!  I was completely invested in Seabiscuit’s life. It’s hard to believe that Moody wasn’t just making things up, as this horse’s life was incredibly dramatic and full of excitement.  I had genuine tears in my eyes when Seabiscuit finally won the Santa Anita Handicap.  I know that just a few years ago someone else wrote a book about Seabiscuit that was made into a movie.  I never got around to either of those, but after reading this book – a somewhat brisk biography, since it was aimed at children – I think I’ll definitely find the newer book and see what other details there are to read.  Overall a surprisingly fun and fascinating read about a horse who overcame some amazing obstacles and the people who loved him.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

//published 1941//

Reading the book about Seabiscuit made me want to pick up this childhood classic right away.  The real-life build up of the race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral (grandson and son of Man O’War) reminded me a LOT of the race build-up between Sun Raider and Cyclone (and later the Black) in Farley’s tale.  Interestingly enough, the real race took place in 1938, while Farley’s book was published in 1941 – so it’s quite possible that the similarities between the two match races wasn’t just in my imagination!

The Black Stallion has always been a favorite of mine, for reasons that I can’t even fully explain.  The characters aren’t terribly well developed and the whole plot is rather ridiculous, but I still love this book.  I love Alec and I love Henry and I love the Black and I love Tony and I love Alec’s parents and this whole book just makes me happy from beginning to end.  I reread this entire series several years ago, back when I was still on Tumblr, and the books sadly got progressively worse as the series went on (culminating in The Black Stallion Legendwhich was unreasonably depressing), so I don’t see myself doing that again any time soon, but this original story is, and always will be, a definitely favorite.

March Minireviews – Part 3

Still not feeling the whole blogging thing, so here are some more notes on recent reads.  Part 1 for March can be found here, and Part 2 can be found here.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

//published 2012//

I honestly have a lot of mixed feelings about this book.  It was definitely more horror than fantasy, which I wasn’t exactly expecting.  However, it’s still a children’s book so while it was more gruesome than I personally prefer, I personally prefer the most minimal amount of gruesomeness possible, so I may not be an accurate judge.  I think part of my issue with this book was that the central theme seemed to be that the pursuit of perfection is inherently bad, but I’m not sure I agree with that.  If the pursuit of perfection is an obsession that causes you to be cruel or harsh to those around you, then it’s bad.  But I’m honestly a little distressed by a recent trend that I see of taking the “you are wonderful just as you are” to a level that turns it into “you are wonderful just as you are, so don’t bother trying to be better,” and I am not convinced that that’s healthy.

ANYWAY philosophical questions aside, the story itself was engaging from the beginning, although it was slow in spots and had an intriguingly ambiguous ending.  At the end of the day a 3.5/5, and still not completely sure if I would purposely seek out another book by Legrand or not…

I originally added this book thanks to a review by The Literary Sisters, so check their review out for a more overall positive vibe!

The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn

//published 2014//

I read another of Bunn’s books not long ago and found it interesting enough that I thought I would give another of his titles a go.  However, The Patmos Deception ended up as an incredibly bland read to me.  The book was very slow in spots and had this strange love triangle that made almost no sense.  Everything fell into place exactly when and how it needed to, and consequently the ending felt unrealistically tidy.  The epilogue was completely pointless, leaving everything even more open-ended than before (including the love triangle).  The plot was disjointed and rather directionless, with smuggling, counterfeiters, stolen artifacts, and a potentially world-changing ancient scroll all muddled together with the economy crash in Greece.  While it earned a 3/5 from me for moments of interest, it definitely wasn’t a book that made me want to find another of Bunn’s works.

Uneasy Money by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1917//

I was completely in love with the simplehearted Bill, who just wanted everyone to get along.  This was an easy 4.5/5 – not quite as perfectly funny as some of Wodehouse’s other stories, but still an absolute delight.

Adorkable by Cookie O’Gorman

//published 2016//

This story was a lot of fun, and I always like a good fake relationship trope, especially since Sally and Becks have been friends for so long.  However, Sally’s mom and Sally’s best friend were so obsessed with Sally having a boyfriend that it honestly kind of weirded me out, and I found it really frustrating that they acted like there was something wrong with Sally because she didn’t really want a relationship right then.  Not having a significant other should never be portrayed as meaning you are a less valuable person, especially in high school where I think serious romantic relationships are basically a waste of time and energy anyway.  So even though the romance bit was adorable and fun, I never actually felt like things changed with Sally’s mom and best friend – like it still felt like every time Sally was single in her life, they were going to be hounding her about it, and that was aggravating.

There was also this weird thing about Sally’s dad – like I don’t even know why he was in the story??  She hates him and apparently he’s a jerk, but she never spends any time with him and her parents have been divorced since she was really little, so that felt kind of arbitrary, like the only version of her dad that she has is the one her (presumably somewhat bitter) mother has given her.  I just didn’t get why he was there, he would just pop up every once in a while so Sally could be angsty about him, and then he would leave, and it was kind of pointless.

Even though I’m complaining (like usual) I actually did overall enjoy this story.  While I don’t see myself going out and hunting down more books by O’Gorman, I wouldn’t mind reading one if it came my way.  I originally added this book because of a review by Stephanie, but I have to say that she also felt pretty lukewarm about Sally’s best friend!

Sing by Vivi Greene

//published 2016//

I got this book in a subscription box, and it was so fluffy and devoid of any deep thought that it almost gave me a cavity just reading it.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it definitely was another one that emphasized that necessity of romance in order to make life worth living.  Lily’s character just didn’t really grow or change, and the whole story felt kind of stagnant.  It did have it’s funny, sweet moments and I didn’t hate it, but it’s not one that I’m keeping for my permanent collection.

‘Love Inspired’ // Part 4

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 we have the next five titles.  I’ve been a bit more harsh about just not bothering with books if the premise doesn’t really appeal, so a better selection than some of the past rounds!  Remember, these are basically all going into the give-away pile, so I am genuinely serious about letting me know if you would like some of these books to become your own – otherwise they are all getting posted on Paperback Swap!

The Heart’s Song by Winnie Griggs

//published 2010//

I wasn’t completely sure how a premise was going to play out that included the phrase helping with “his new neighbor’s request that he lead the handbell choir,” but this ended up being a decent, if somewhat cheesy, little love story.  Graham is a widower whose wife and unborn baby died and left him bitter and angry with God.  He decides to move to a random little town in the south where no one knows his Tragic Backstory and he can move on with his life.  His new neighbor, Reeny, is a widowed mother of two, and is an exuberantly friendly and outgoing person.  She recently inherited some money earmarked for creating something in memory of her husband, who died several years ago.  Reemy has decided to use the money to start a community handbell choir (right?).  It all sounds extremely hokey and it is, but it also worked.  I liked watching Graham and Reemy come together, and weirdly enjoyed the handbell choir part of the story.  My only really beef with this story is that throughout Graham is angry with God, etc., and then suddenly in the end he does a completely 180… but we never really get to hear about why, or how he now feels about his Tragic Backstory.  It would have been a lot more meaningful if more of Graham’s journey to peace had been explored.  Still, 4/5.

The Road to Forgiveness by Leigh Bale

//published 2010//

I really liked the setting for this story, which was a wholesale greenhouse.  I liked the characters and enjoyed the Hispanic flavor of the whole story.  While I was cool with Joel and did ship him with Mari, I still felt like he was pushy at times about her needed to “follow her dreams” – like encouraging someone is one thing, but going behind their back and basically forcing them into it no longer sounds supportive as much as it does manipulative.

(Spoiler Paragraph)
There’s also this whole big long thing where Joel is so helpful, like part of the family, promises to never leave, etc.  He confesses his love to Mari, but she doesn’t have time to respond before a Great Tragedy strikes.  But somehow Joel interprets that as she doesn’t love me and never will – and tries to skip town, even while someone is still in the hospital??  It didn’t fit his character, or the flow of the story, at all, so it felt like a 100% contrived way to create a dramatic reunion at the end and really annoyed me.

3.5/5 for a decent little story that at least involved a lot of plants.

Mistletoe Reunion by Anna Schmidt

DNF on this one.  Norah was driving me absolutely crazy.

A Daughter’s Legacy by Virginia Smith

//published 2010//

So in this story we start by meet Kelli at her mother’s funeral.  Come to find out that Kelli and her mom have been estranged for eons, and in fact Kelli didn’t even know her mom was sick, because her mom never bothered to let her know that she had cancer and was dying.  Kelli’s mom leaves this stupid will that means Kelli has to “face her fears” by accepting a zookeeper position for six months (Kelli’s mom was a head zookeeper).  I kept waiting for there to be this moment that explained Kelli’s mom, but the more I learned about her, the more of a jerk it turns out she was.  (All spoilers from here on out, fyi.)  Kelli’s dad is killed in front of Kelli’s face by a lion (her dad was a zookeeper, too).  Instead of like being a mom, Kelli’s mom switches so that she is now a zookeeper for the lions as well, despite the fact that Kelli is super scarred by this whole situation and terrified that her mom is going to be killed, too.  In the end, Kelli’s mom ships her off to Kelli’s grandma, because Kelli isn’t really able to emotionally recover from this trauma.  So instead of actually taking care of her own child, she just sends her off so she (the mom) can continue pursuing her zookeeping dreams and “deal with her grief” in her own way.  And to compound it all – that’s it!  She never reaches out to Kelli, not even when she knows she’s dying.  Instead of giving her daughter an opportunity to reconcile, she manipulates her from beyond the grave.

While I liked Kelli and enjoyed the romance part of the story, the whole thing with Kelli’s mom made me so angry that I couldn’t really like this book.  1/5.

Child of Grace by Irene Hannon

//published 2011//

Usually these Love Inspired titles don’t really have a lot of grit to them, but this one did, and I liked it.  Kelsey is single and pregnant, and it isn’t really a surprise to find out that her pregnancy is a result of being raped.  This whole situation was handled so gently.  I loved the way that different aspects of Kelsey’s decision to not have an abortion were explored – like that decision wasn’t the only one she had to make, and making that decision didn’t automatically  mean that everything else was going to work out.  It wasn’t preachy, but it was still such a positive prolife message, and a strong reminder that killing a child doesn’t fix anyone’s problems.

I liked the romance as well, and the way that Luke wasn’t automatically all happy about Kelsey’s baby.  He had to work through some emotions as well, and that felt really realistic.  All in all, a really decent read.  4/5.

February Minireviews – Part 3

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.

I seem to have a lot of these this month (plus, it’s just been a month of bad weather so lots of extra reading time!) – Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

//published 2016//

Honestly, it’s just been a while since I finished this book, and it isn’t super memorable to me.  It was a decent read that kept me interested, but even after I found out the answers I wasn’t convinced that the villain’s motives made a whole lot of sense.  Still, it was engaging while I was reading it, and while I’m not planning to hunt up more of Kubica’s books, I’m open to reading another one if someone has a recommendation.  For this one, 3.5/5 and kinda recommended.

NB: This book was originally added to the TBR thanks to two separate reviews – one from Cleopatra Loves Books and another from Reading, Writing and Riesling – be sure to check them out!

Psmith, Journalist by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1915// or possibly 1911//

I’m attempting to read all of Wodehouse’s works in published order, but it’s made somewhat extra difficult by the fact that Wodehouse published both in the US and the UK, sometimes at the same time, or sometimes earlier in one place or the other.  Sometimes books have the same title in both countries and sometimes different titles.  And then to keep things really interesting, some books didn’t get published in other country at all, and instead Wodehouse would recycle part of a book from one country and incorporate it into a book that was only published in the other.  Of course now, a hundred years later, I can get all the books no matter where they originated, but pinning down an official and definitive “order of publication list” has been difficult, although I am doing my best.

All that to say that the original list I am working from listed The Prince and Betty as being published in 1912 and Psmith, Journalist being published in 1915.  Except a huge chunk of Betty is actually the entire plot of Psmith.  And it turns out that Psmith was actually published in the UK in 1911 (and in the US in 1915), while Betty wasn’t published there until some time later.  WHY.

But really, that’s all just rambling side notes.  The actual point is that Psmith, Journalist is one of my favorite Wodehouse titles.  I just love this story so much.  A lot of people find Psmith to be obnoxious, but he’s one of my favorites, and this entire story with Psmith helping another fellow run a newspaper makes me laugh every time I read it.  Definitely recommended – “Cosy Moments will not be muzzled!”

The Viking’s Chosen by Quinn Loftis

//published 2018//

This is a book I would never have picked up on my own, but because it came in a book subscription box, I thought I would give it a try.  It ended up being an engaging read that I overall enjoyed, but it ended on such a major cliffhanger that it basically felt like the book had just stopped in the middle of the book.  This probably wouldn’t annoy me quite so much if book #2 had already been published, but it HASN’T so I suppose I will just have to bide my time.

Still, overall an interesting story with decent characters, and a pleasantly not-full-of-sex-and-swearing plot.  3.5/5.

NB: This was published by Clean Teen Publishing, which I had never heard of.  What’s nice is that they actually have a content rating for the book, showing the level of swearing, violence, and sex you can expect in the book.  I honestly wish all books would do this!

The Mystery of the Empty Room by Augusta Huiell Seaman

//published 1953// I didn’t feel like this book had nearly as much drama or terror as the cover led me to believe //

This is an old Scholastic Book Club paperback that has been on my shelf for years.  I thought I had read it once, but reading it this time did not ring any bells, so it’s possible that either had never read it before, or found it completely unmemorable!  It’s not really a book that sticks with you, although it’s perfectly entertaining.  There was a lot of fun and intrigue, but I did feel like a lot of the story revolved around the fact that the characters weren’t actually communicating with one another, so everyone had a piece of the puzzle and things didn’t come together under everyone finally collaborated.  Still, an easy 3.5/5 for a somewhat dated but still pleasant story.

Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki

//published 1903//

I picked up this collection of 22 traditional Japanese fairy tales as a free Kindle book a while back.  I really enjoy reading fairy tales from different cultures, and was intrigued to see what kind of stories would emerge from an eastern culture.  Like all short story collections (and, let’s be honest, fairy tale collections), there were some stories that were stronger than others, but they were all interesting in their own right.  None of them emerged as stories I loved, but I could definitely see some of them turning into longer and more involved tales.

Like most western fairy tales, there were a lot of evil stepmothers (apparently they are universally hated) and a lot of random – and sometimes quite violent – deaths.  Also talking vegetables, children who arrive inside of various pieces of produce, evil badgers, and a dragon king who rules under the sea.

While I don’t see myself returning to these stories time and again, they were fun for a one-time read.

An Odd Situation by Sophie Lynbrook

//published 2018//

In this P&P retelling, Darcy is thrown from his horse on his way to Netherfield.  Because he has a head injury and is in a coma, he is moved to the closest house – Longbourn.  Despite the fact that he is an unknown stranger, the Bennetts take him in.  The doctor recommends that he not be left alone, and that people talk to him/in the same room as him because some studies have shown that people with these types of injuries respond well to outside stimulation.  The doctor also tells them that Darcy (at this point a John Doe) may or may not be able to hear what everyone is saying.

Of course, Darcy can hear what everyone is saying, and this story involves him listening to all of the many conversations that swirl around his sickbed.  Throughout, he comes to realize that he’s a bit of a snob, and also comes to value the various members of the Bennett family, even the obnoxious ones.

Overall, this was a pleasant and engaging retelling, although weirdly passive.  The entire story is from Darcy’s (third person) perspective, and since he’s in a coma most of the time, there isn’t a lot of action.  It would have been nice to get some idea of what Elizabeth is thinking/doing as well.  And while I liked the way Darcy has a lot of self-realizations and makes good resolutions to be a better person going forward, the implication is that Elizabeth is already perfect and has no lessons to learn.  In the original, it’s important for both of them to recognize their shortcomings, and a large part of what makes the story so excellent is seeing them both grow as people.  In this version, only Darcy has to change.

Still, a 4/5 for an enjoyable (and completely clean) variation, and recommended to others who may be addicted to these types of stories. :-D