March Minireviews – Part 2

I’m back, with another lightning round of minireviews!!

Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter – 3* – read February 22

//published 2019//

Hunter can be hit or miss for me, and this one was mostly a miss.  SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THIS REVIEW.  The main thing that frustrated me about this book was that every single guy in the story was a jerk except for the main romance.  I found it ridiculous that the main character finds out that not only was her dad a serial cheater, but her grandpa was, too.  I mean, seriously?  And what exactly did that add to the story??  The reason her sisters don’t get along is because back in college they both fell in love with the same guy – guy was engaged to Sister A, but then leaves her and marries Sister B, which pretty much puts him in the jerk category, too.  Then we think that at least Sister A eventually found love – but no, her guy is a white collar thief who’s in jail now.  Sister B’s marriage is on the rocks, too, although at least he shows up at the end and they seem to be getting back together.  I’m just really over the “all guys are cheating jerks trope.”

On the other hand, the story had its moments.  I liked the grandma and her sneaky way of bringing her granddaughters together, and I did like the build of the romance between the two main characters.  However, I got frustrated by the sisters, who both needed their heads smacked together on more than one occasion.  All in all, this was a so-so read for me, that I would have enjoyed more if there had more than one nice guy in the entire story.

How to Save Your Child From Ostrich Attacks, Accidental Time Travel, and Anything Else That May Happen on an Average Tuesday by James Breakwell – 3.5* – read February 24

//published 2019//

I follow Breakwell on a few different social media platforms and really appreciate his humor.  I highly recommend subscribing to his newsletter – I think that length is the absolutely best for his humor.  How to Save Your Child is his third “parenting” guide, and probably my least favorite of the three.  While there were some entertaining moments and quotes, the overall book got a little repetitive.  Still, if you’ve enjoyed his other books, you’ll like this one, too.  Below, my three favorite quotes:

If your child falls off the bed and hits their head, you might wonder if you need to take your kid to the emergency room.  You don’t.  If it were a real emergency, you would know, because you would be on your way to the emergency room instead of wondering if you could keep your kid home to save some money.  In a real crisis, your survival genes override your cheapness genes.

When Godzilla starts a rampage, calmly move your child away from the destruction zone and head out to the countryside.  Godzilla is mainly concerned with demolishing tall buildings.  That’s why there’s no footage of him pointlessly stomping around empty farm fields.  If you already live in a rural area, congratulations:  Nothing in your life is worth destroying.  Sit back and watch as those condescending city-dwellers get their comeuppance.  Not that it will bother them.  Like crime and traffic, radioactive monsters are just a part of city life.

The world of Harry Potter is filled with dangers.  I’m talking about the version described in the books and movies, not the version J.K. Rowling retroactively changes on a daily basis to confuse and annoy the internet.  By the time my book goes to print, Dumbledore and Grindelwald could have an entire secret family together and the main character of books one through seven might be a frozen treat from Dairy Queen.  You’re a Blizzard, Harry.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – 4* – read February 25

//published 2019//

Wow, I don’t even know how to review this book.  Overall, I liked it, although I sometimes felt like it was trying a little too hard to be clever, with all the layers upon layers and stories within stories.  I also don’t feel like I should have to read a 500-page book twice to “get” it, but because of the way that all the stories are interconnected and the way time flips around, I was definitely left feeling like I would have to read it a second time to really grasp what was going on.  While much of the world-building and description was fantastic, I weirdly never felt particularly connected to any of the characters, and really didn’t buy the romance between the two main characters, which was definitely quite insta-love-y.  There also was basically not an actual plot, which added the dream-like feel of the whole thing.  Overall, there were a lot of things about this book that I really loved, but it still felt a little flat.  Worth reading, and I’ll probably even read it again sometime, but definitely not the instant winner that The Night Circus was.

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie – 4.5* – read February 27

//published 1925//

Christie rarely lets me down, especially in her pre-1930’s books.  A group on Litsy is reading and discussing one Christie book per month, and this was February’s book.  I’ve read all of them before, so this was obviously a reread, but it had been quite a while and I couldn’t remember all the details of what was going to happen.  This is one of her spy thriller-ish books, so strong on humor with a dash of campiness, but still a fun romp.

For a more detailed review on this one, check out my review from when I read it back in 2016.

Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck – 3* – read February 29

//published 2011//

I read this series several years ago and remember finding them entertaining if a bit too YA (even though the main character is 18).  Since then, Houck has published another book in the series, so I thought I would give it another go.  However, I found this really difficult to get through this time.  Kelsey, who narrates the books, is just too annoying for words, and I had also forgotten how the love triangle really plays a very prominent part in the plot.  So even though I really do want to read a story with handsome princes who are cursed to be tigers, I just couldn’t handle wading through 2000 pages of Kelsey dithering about which perfect brother she loves the most.

*****

Okay!!  That brings us to the end of February’s reviews!  I think I’m going to write a February Rearview post – despite the fact that it’s basically April – and then start minireviewing March’s books in a continued effort to catch up!

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!

Barefoot Summer

//by Denise Hunter//published 2013//

51QInb3eE4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Sooooo guess what!  This is my first book I am reviewing that I read on my phone!  This is a big deal for me.  Still not super into not having a physical book, but I have to admit that it is very convenient to always have a book in my pocket.  It means I don’t have to carry around 3-7 back-up books with me everywhere I go!  I mostly read books on my phone that I don’t end up reviewing, because they’re terrible Pride & Prejudice retellings and whathaveyou, but the other day there was a perk and Barefoot Summer was free, so I downloaded it.

Back in the summer I read Dancing with Fireflies.  While it wasn’t the best book ever, it was a happy little piece of chick lit.  Of course, turns out that, go figure, it’s a sequel.  Seriously, people, why is it so hard to note that a book is part of a series?!?!?!?!?!?!  So Barefoot Summer is actually the first of the Chapel Spring romances, and now I kind of want to read Dancing with Fireflies again, because I wasn’t really paying much attention to Beckett and Maddy when I read it the first time – now I am way more vested in their future lives.  ;-)

In this story, 26-year-old Maddy is determined to win the annual boat race.  Her twin brother died when they were 17, but he dreamed of becoming the youngest winner of the race, and had just purchased a boat to race.  But if Maddy wants to live her brother’s dream, it has to be this summer – the current youngest winner was 27.  Of course, it’s a bit awkward because not only does Maddy not know how to sail a boat, she’s terrified of the water completely.  Still, she’s taking lessons from one of the town’s most accomplished sailors…  or at least, that was the plan.  At the last minute, Evan is unable to make it, and sends his friend Beckett instead.  Of course, Maddy and Beckett have some history, and there is lots of romantical tension between them, and just enough misunderstandings to keep things going along, and then there is a super happy ending that everyone saw coming.

So I actually liked this book better than the sequel.  The motivation for the characters felt more believable, and I really liked Maddy a lot.  Beckett, of course, is a total dish.  Maddy’s family is a strong part of why the book is so readable; they were my favorite part in Dancing with Fireflies as well.  There were a few minor ???? kind of issues (mostly because one sister has dashed off to no-one-knows-where but even though this book seems to be set in current 2010’s, she has no cell phone?????), but overall the story flowed well.

While Barefoot Summer isn’t a book that I want to read again and again, it’s definitely a warm and fuzzy chick lit, a super relaxing read for a quiet day at home.  3/5.

Dancing with Fireflies

005

by Denise Hunter

published 2014

So I’ve read several of Denise Hunter’s books, and they’re usually decent fluff. The Convenient Groom is my favorite (because, as I’ve mentioned, I’m a sucker for a story where people are already married when they fall in love).  Dancing with Fireflies is her newest book.  It was a pretty comfortable 3/5, almost a 4.  While the story was plausible and the characters likable, there was a lot about the main character that confused me.

Jade grew up in a sleepy town on the Ohio River.  The story opens with a prologue – Jade is living in Chicago with a close friend, and getting ready to have a guy over for a first date.  However, the friend gets called into work.  Instead of postponing the date, Jade goes ahead and (not a spoiler because this all happens before the first chapter), he drugs her drink and rapes her (one of those cut-scene rapes where she’s sleepy and then it’s the next morning).

First chapter fast forwards – Jade moves back home because she’s pregnant and needs the support of her family (who doesn’t know any of this).  (As an aside, women in books always seem to be super fertile.  I’ve been married four years and don’t have a baby, but in books it only ever seems to take one chance!)  Enter our hero, tall, dark, and handsome (actually, I can’t remember if he’s dark so that part might be a lie), Jade’s almost-brother, Daniel, who also happens to be the mayor of said small town.  Guess who’s going to end up married??

Like I said, I actually enjoyed the story just fine.  I really liked Jade, Jade’s family, and Daniel.  I also enjoyed the references to the Midwest of which I am oh-so fond.  ;-)  But the reason that this story just didn’t quite do it for me was Jade’s motivation.  Throughout the story, Jade is emotionally withdrawn and interested in a relationship that will be comfortable and workable, but not passionate.  This seems understandable because, you know, she was raped.  But instead of that event being the primary motivator, her reasoning keeps going back to a relationship she had in high school/just after.  She was engaged, and her fiancee died in a car wreck.  Consequently, Jade is terrified of loving anyone ever again.  While this makes a perfectly fine motivator for her actions/emotions/fears, it just didn’t fit with the rest of the story.  We didn’t know Jade when she was engaged to this guy, so it lacks the emotional impact to really make her attitude make sense.  On the other hand, while she doesn’t really just completely brush aside the being raped thing, she does, in a weird way, act like it wasn’t a big deal in that it doesn’t really come up when she’s thinking about why she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with Daniel.  In the end, it feels like Hunter just used the rape as a convenient way to get Jade pregnant (as a victim of circumstances beyond her control), when it feels as though it should be a lot more of a big deal.

Still, the story was a lot of fun, and Hunter does a good job of manipulating circumstances so that Daniel and Jade keep ending up leaning on each other (and of course Daniel’s been in love with Jade for years, so there’s that).

If you’re looking for a relaxing read with happy endings all around, Dancing with Fireflies just may fit the bill.