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.

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‘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.

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.

Brightwater Trilogy // by Lia Riley

  • Last First Kiss
  • Right Wrong Guy
  • Best Worst Mistake

Sometimes I don’t really want to think when I’m reading.  This time of year can get really busy, plus I’ve spent way too much time being sick lately, so I’ve been doing a lot of fluff reading.  I started this series because I had the first book as a free Kindle book, and even though it was a pretty average read, I found myself wondering what was going to happen with the other two brothers, so giving me a free Kindle book and persuading me to buy the other two actually worked, even though I knew it was a gimmick.  :-D

All three stories take place in a small town in California, Brightwater.  Recently, Brightwater has become a popular destination because of a movie that was filmed there, so there are a lot of fancy rich people buying second homes here, even though the town still has that small-town rural vibe.

//published 2015//

In the first story, Annie is moving back to Brightwater after her divorce.  She has her young son (like around 5) in tow, and is here to get the family ranch ready to sell.  Because of the rich yuppies moving in, property values have skyrocketed, so she and her dad and sister are confident they can get a good price.  Her dad has always been a crazy hippy, and when Annie was in high school, she and her sister were made fun of by everyone for being “Kooky Carson’s” daughters.  Annie is stressed about being back in that environment, blah blah blah.

So this was a super stereotypical story, with a hunky cowboy next door who JUST SO HAPPENS to be Annie’s old high school flame.  But despite its predictability, it was still an enjoyable story, despite the fact that Annie was way over-the-top helicopter parent, like to the level that I had no idea what she was going to do when her son when to kindergarten, like she couldn’t handle having him out of her sight at all and seemed to think her only purpose in life was to be his mom, and it felt really strange.  She also was a little too vegan for me.

Still, I did like her romance with the hunky sheriff, whose name I am too lazy to look up, and felt like they had actually worked through their issues and were going to make a go of it.

//published 2015//

The next book is about the hunky sheriff’s brother, Archer, (I remember his name!), who has always been the wild guy.  We learn more of the backstory for the brothers in this book as well – their parents died in a house fire when the boys were really young, so all three of them came to live with their grandma, who is a crazy grumpy old lady who still runs the ranch.  But in this book, Grandma admits that she isn’t as young as she used to be, and she wants Archer to settle down and help her run the ranch.  Luckily, Archer ran into the woman of his dreams and is ready to actually settle down, once he convinces said woman that he is no longer going to be the wild guy.

Love interest Edie was really likable – she moves to Brightwater to escape a cheating fiancee who is also trying to blackmail her, and opens a little cafe.  I liked her and Archer as a couple as well, and really enjoyed the side story of Archer and his grandma.  Of course, it was nice to see the couple from the first book in the background.  (Sawyer??  I think his name may be Sawyer.)

//published 2015//

Finally, book three is about brother three, the oldest, whose  name is Wilder.  (I remember that one because I think it’s an awesome name.)  Wilder has been fighting wildfires in Montana for years, but at the beginning of the book has a terrible accident where he loses part of his leg.  Forced to return home to recover, and faced with the fact that he’ll never be able to fight fires again, Wilder holes himself up in a small cabin and becomes a hermit.  With nothing else much to do, he orders books from the bookstore in town and has them mailed out to his cabin every week.

Of course, the love interest works at the bookstore.  Through a series of events, she ends up stranded at Wilder’s cabin during a snowstorm, and their romance blossoms from there.  I felt like Wilder really had the most to work through, and liked the way that the whole story with the brothers’ parents’ deaths was resolved.  The series wrapped up nicely, and it seemed like everyone was definitely going to live happily ever after.

Overall, a 3/5 for each of these books and for the series.  They were pleasant for a one-time read to wile away the hours that I was stranded on the couch with a low-grade fever and a sore throat, but I don’t see myself returning to them again – not a lot of depth to these stories, and also wayyyyy too much sex, like I skipped large portions of each book.  I almost didn’t read the second book because it starts with Archer waking up with a total stranger in Las Vegas, and the whole scene was really uncomfortable.

It also made me sad that while each of these couples had plans to get married, that that wasn’t really how they ended.  I just don’t feel like moving in together is really a romantic way to end a book.  Romance books should end with weddings!  Not vague commitments and more convenient shagging.  Still, they were fun little stories even if they were incredibly predictable.

November Minireviews

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.

The Voyage to Magical North and The Journey to Dragon Island by Claire Fayers

//published 2016//

I have to say that I actually really, really enjoyed these books, so the whole “meh” feeling doesn’t really apply here.  I gave them an easy 4/5 and completely enjoyed joining Brine on her unexpected pirate ship adventure.  Fayers did a great job with world-building – as an adult, I still found interesting and engaging, but I think that the target audience (middle school) would still easily be able to follow the simple yet involved rules of Brine’s world.

//published 2017//

Brine herself is a very fun heroine, and I felt like her character was balanced out well by Peter, and later Tom.  All in all, I enjoyed how the characters didn’t really fall into stereotypes, but also didn’t feel like they were trying to not fall into stereotypes.

I would definitely recommend these fun and magical little books, and will be looking out for further adventures of Brine & co. in the future.

Cinchfoot by Thomas Hinkle

//published 1938//

Another Famous Horse Story, I found this one to be a bit boring.  Cinchfoot just sort of meanders about but there isn’t a really strong plot or story that feels like it is pulling things along.  Not a bad read, but not one I see myself returning to again.  3/5.

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater

//published 1979//

While this wasn’t my favorite Pinkwater book ever, it still had some very funny moments.  I also think that Pinkwater’s thoughts/views on the educational system are brilliantly insightful and cutting.  I also loved the way that Lionel realized that if he wasn’t learning things, it was his own fault at some level.  Some of the adventures the boys have are quite ridiculous, but the ridiculous is exactly what Pinkwater writes so well.  3.5/5 and I do recommend it, but only if you’ve read some of Pinkwater’s stronger works first.

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

//published 1946//

This was a pretty adorable little Heyer tale.  I did find Carlyon a bit too overbearing at times, but Elinor was just too adorable, as was Carlyon’s younger brother.  I quite enjoyed the way that the love story was secondary to all the ridiculous spy tales.  Fun and frothy; classic Heyer.  4/5.

The Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

//published 2017//

So I purchased this edition because of the amazing illustrations by MinaLima.  My husband gave me some money for my birthday that he said was specifically for books, and, more specifically, I must purchase at least one book that I’ve been not purchasing because of its unreasonable expense!  This one fit the bill – but it was worth every penny, as the book itself is absolutely gorgeous. The illustrations are amazing – not just the big, fancy, interactive ones, but all the details on every page.

It was also interesting to read the original version of B&B – it’s a great deal more convoluted and involved than the traditional version we see these days, as Beauty has eleven (!!!) siblings, and there are multiple chapters devoted to a complicated backstory with fairy feuds.  It was still a very engaging story, although I can see why it has evolved the way that it has, getting rid of some of the extraneous characters and building more personality among those that are left.

Anyway, this was definitely a worthwhile purchase and read, and I can see myself returning to this gorgeous book many times in the future.

The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner by Ann Larkin Hansen

//published 2017//

This is another Storey book, and another addition to their Backyard Homestead series.  While this book did have some interesting information, and I did like the format where things were laid out by season, it was definitely an outline type of a book.  There wasn’t really a lot of depth about anything, making this more of a starting-point reference rather than an end-all tome.  It makes a nice addition to my collection, but definitely wouldn’t be the book I would choose if I could only have one homesteading manual.  Still, excellent formatting and very nicely put together, as I’ve come to expect from Storey.

The Little Nugget by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1913//

This was a fun little tale of a very obnoxious little boy who is worth a great deal of money, and so has multiple people attempting to kidnap him for various reasons.  While there were several funny moments and it was overall an enjoyable tale, it wasn’t as developed as most of Wodehouse’s later works, and lacked that sort of bubbly perfection.  It was an easy 3/5 read and one that I do recommend, but not if it is your first foray into the world of Wodehouse.

‘Love Inspired’ – Part 2

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’s the next round of five for this project – the first five can be found here.

The Pastor Takes a Wife by Anna Schmidt

//published 2010//

This was a pleasant little story where single-mom Megan falls for the new pastor, Jeb.  There was actually a little bit of grit to this story that I liked, but I just wasn’t feeling the chemistry between Megan and Jeb.  I’m always annoyed when a story spends the majority of the time talking about why two people aren’t suited for each other – and then magically, at the end, they are!

Still, overall a nice little tale that was pleasant for a one-off read – 3/5.

A Mother’s Gift by Arlene James and Kathryn Springer

//published 2010//

This is actually two novellas in one volume.  The first, Dreaming of a Family, could have been an alright read, but Dixie was just over-the-top rude to Joel at the beginning.  I found it impossible to believe that an adult woman would say the things she said to a comparative stranger, especially making fun of his physical handicap.  It was just absurd.  2/5.

The second, The Mommy Wish, was better, but Julia of course has this deep, dark secret that if Nick knew about it, it would change his whole perspective of her, and she’s kept herself locked away and never goes out to see people and it’s been years of angst… and then the ‘terrible’ thing just really wasn’t that terrible.  I mean sad, yes, but worth years of agony?  Not remotely.  Still, 3/5 for an otherwise fun story that did have some nice moments.

Triplets Find a Mom by Annie Jones

//published 2012//

This one was so bad that I had to DNF about halfway through.  I just can’t put my finger on what wasn’t working with this story.  It was like chunks of it were missing.  The story wasn’t bad, but the writing was honestly just kind of terrible.  The characters didn’t make a lot of sense, and everyone was just sort of milling around.  The concept was engaging and the setting was nice, but it was just so random and abrupt that I couldn’t get into the story at all.  It was just…  I don’t know.  For instance, Sam is a widower and he has triplet daughters.  Polly meets these girls for literally like 30 seconds.  She sees them the next day, and knows which one is which, despite the fact that they’re identical.  Like, just because Polly herself is a twin didn’t make me buy the concept that she magically can tell these identical girls apart immediately.  Sam has this weird thing about dogs that made zero sense, so when Polly finds a stray, she is determined to find another home for it because she doesn’t want to ‘bother’ the girls…???  It was just stuff like that all the time.  It felt like something was going to happen, and then there is just some weird thing out of nowhere instead.

Close to Home by Carolyn Aarsen

//published 2009//

Probably my favorite out of the batch (although that isn’t saying much).  Jace and Dodie were a good couple, and I appreciated the way that some sensitive topics were handled well.  However, it took waaaaaaaayyyyyyy too long for Dodie to freaking TALK TO JACE.  Like ONE CONVERSATION is all that needs to happen, and it dragged out way too long before that took place.

I was also a little uncomfortable with the concept that Dodie was ‘wasting her life’ because she hadn’t gone to college or pursued a career.  As someone who did go to college but has not pursued a career, and has worked part time random jobs very contentedly my entire life, I felt vaguely insulted.  Guess what, gang?  A career isn’t the only way to find validation and purpose in life!  Anyway – 3/5.

The Marriage Mission by Pam Andrews

//published 2010//

This was actually a really pleasant, nice little story.  I liked Mac and Jenny a lot and thought they made a great couple.  However, I was so bothered by the message of this book.  I kept reading because I thought it would actually get resolved in the end – but it really didn’t.

Basically, Mac has been working in foreign missions throughout his adult life.  He has come stateside to a small West Virginia town to accept a year-long post at a local church while he recovers from an improperly-set broken ankle.  There is the possibility that the church will call him to stay on permanently, and there is also a possibility that the mission he’s worked for will call him to another foreign post.  Mac falls for Jenny almost immediately, and the feeling is mutual.  But then it turns into this whole angsty thing about Mac feeling like he can’t ‘impose’ on Jenny by dating her when he isn’t sure if he is going to go back overseas, and Jenny feeling like she isn’t ‘worthy’ to go with Mac if he does go back overseas, yadda yadda yadda.  And what bothered me was that neither of them ever acted like, I don’t know, that if they were a couple they would actually be a team and could work through these things together?!  It was also never explained why Jenny couldn’t go with Mac if he did go overseas.  I feel like basically all the missionaries I know are married, and not all of the spouses went to seminary?  It seemed like Jenny’s compassion, hard-working attitude, and general common sense would make her an excellent missionary’s wife.

In the end, it’s all resolved because Mac decides not to go overseas – which didn’t feel like real resolution to me at all.  Mac never had a conversation with Jenny about whether she would be open to going overseas.  The insistence on the either/or scenario meant that so much of the tension in the book felt entirely contrived.  So 2.5/5 for this one.