Point of Danger // by Irene Hannon

Eve Reilly is a conservative talk-show host on a radio station in St. Louis. She’s used to getting threatening letters and angry on-air phone calls from listeners who disagree with her, but when a ticking package is left on her doorstep, it appears that someone has decided to up the ante on the threats.

//published 2020//

While I overall enjoyed this romantic suspense (it comes to no surprise that the detective assigned to Eve’s case is broody, handsome, and a perfect match for Eve), it wasn’t really a stand-out read for me. The pacing was somewhat uneven, and I found the conclusion/big reveal to be a little unbelievable. However, I really liked both Eve and Brent, and also enjoyed Eve’s close relationship with her sisters. (This book is supposedly the first in a trilogy, so I’m assuming the sisters will star in the other two books.) The concept was also done well, and the faith/Christian aspects of the story felt natural instead of forced. The book was written in third person (always my preference), which enabled us to see some different threads coming together, of which Eve and Brent are unaware.

For me, the biggest weakness was in the conclusion. I just couldn’t quite buy that the person who turns out to be the villain was the villain. I had some suspicions but honestly thought, “No, that would be completely ridiculous”… except then that’s who it actually was. It wasn’t 100% unbelievable, but it did feel a little weak/”Bet you didn’t except the least likely person to be the bad guy!!!! GOTCHA!”

Still, this was a book that I enjoyed reading. Like I said, Eve is overall a likable person (although I did get tired of hearing about her “spinning” classes… like okay, I get it, her favorite method of exercise is going to a spinning class) and I thought that she and Brent made a good match. While this wasn’t a new classic for me, I’m definitely planning to read the next book in the series when it arrives.

NB: This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

July Minireviews – Part 1

Hey friends!!  Here I am with book reviews in July for books I actually read in July!!  Will wonders never cease!

Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene – 3*

//published 2018//

For a week or two in early July I was trying the thing where I read multiple books at once.  It worked at the time to get through a few books I was struggling to finish (“rewarding” myself with chapters from the books I actually like weirdly helps me haha), but I’ve noticed that when I do this thing where I read one chapter at a time and then read a chapter from the next book, and then a chapter from the next book, I frequently end up finishing books I would normally just bail on.  Amber & Dusk was a great example.  This book was DEADLY slow.  Like, indescribably slow.  Literally NOTHING was happening except for the main character whining.  But part of me didn’t completely notice because I was only reading one or two of the very short chapters at a time.  But I got about 2/3 through this book and suddenly thought, What has actually happened in this story, anyway?!  And the answer was… basically nothing!  The last handful of chapters were suddenly jammed with action, incredibly rushed, didn’t really make a whole lot of sense, and then suddenly the book was over?!  I was, frankly, incredibly underwhelmed by this story.  The world-building itself was also very weak, I never really got any sense of where they were or what life was like for regular people.  This whole “overthrow the evil ruler” bit was… okay?  I guess?  But there is literally no real direction on what’s going to happen once she’s gone, and I wasn’t particularly impressed with the queen’s replacement, who spent basically the entire book whining and complaining about how she “deserved” so much more from life… not exactly qualities I look for in a rebel leader.  So.  Whatever.  Originally I went ahead and checked the sequel out of the library thinking I would just see what happened, but when that book actually got here I realized I literally didn’t care, so I just sent it back.  Three stars is somewhat generous, but I mean I did actually finish the book, and there were a few characters that I liked, and moments of creativity, so I decided to round up a little.

Finding Home by Irene Hannon – 4*

//published 2012//

This one is a loose sequel to Seaside Reunionand since I happened to own both, I went ahead and read this one.  Set in the same town with some overlapping characters, Finding Home was a perfectly happy little romance, even if it wasn’t particularly groundbreaking.  Honestly, I didn’t take any notes on this one and can’t remember much about it… so, pleasant but forgettable apparently haha

We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome – 5*

//published 1937//

Book Seven of the Swallows & Amazons series did not disappoint in any way.  I’m better than halfway through this series now, and honestly am already thinking about rereading them whenever I’m done.  I love these books!  In this one, the four original Swallows accidentally end up in the North Sea, in a manner that actually feels like it could really have happened.  This one was a bit more action-oriented than some of the others, and even though there was a giant coincidence that helped bring everything together, even the coincidence didn’t feel terribly unlikely, so I was willing to roll with it.  Another absolutely delightful addition to this series.

As a side note, I’m only missing one book to complete my set of Jonathan Cape editions.  I absolutely love these hardcovers – they are a pleasure to read and have the most delightful endpaper maps!!

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie – 4.5*

//published 1929//

This was a reread for me, but it’s one of my favorites.  It’s a little over-the-top, but that’s part of the reason that I love it.  A loose sequel to The Secret of Chimneysseveral of the characters overlap, including the intrepid Bundle, who makes a lovely, no-nonsense heroine.  This is more of a spy thriller than a straight mystery, so if you don’t like Christie’s campier style, this one isn’t for you.  However, I found it to be an absolutely delight – her humor is so strong throughout this one that it almost feels like a Wodehouse!

I also read this one back in 2016, so if you want a few more thoughts, that review can be found here.

Byrony & Roses by T. Kingfisher – 3.5*

//published 2017//

As you may be able to guess from the title, this is a retelling of Beauty & the Beast.  In this version, there is no father – the story opens with Bryony getting lost and finding herself at the castle.  She personally bargains with the Beast to come back and stay with him.  This was an okay version – some of it was interesting and different – I loved the malevolent magic hovering over everything.  However, Bryony adjusted to the fact that the Beast was a Beast basically immediately.  The Beast himself is a victim, rather than someone who needs to learn a lesson, so he doesn’t really have a lot of character development and is always studiously polite and helpful, making it difficult to even picture him as a Beast.  But my biggest beef with this story is that Bryony is obsessed with her garden to an unhealthy degree – as in, when she goes back to visit her sisters, she spends a few hours “fixing” her garden before going in to see her sisters?!?!  Like, oh she’s been gone for weeks and weeks and weeks and has no idea what’s going on with her actual family, but she’s sidetracked by weeds in the garden and decides to take care of them first?!?!?!  And that was not the only instance of her literally thinking that a garden was more important than people.  It felt strange and unnatural, and did not particularly endear me to Bryony – and I say this as someone who really enjoys gardening!

So, in the end, like so many other books I’ve read lately, a perfectly fine one-off read, but not anything that made me want to rush off and see if Kingfisher has written anything else.

June Minireviews – Part 5

Part 5?!  Oh my gosh.

Five Children & It by E. Nesbit – 4*

//published 1902//

Nesbit’s work is just classic – children having magical adventures and everything is perfect.  In this story, a group of siblings discover a magical being (the “It” of the title) who grants them one wish a day.  Of course the wishes don’t always play out the way the children anticipate, and sometimes saying “I wish—” without intending it to be your wish causes extra complications as well.  All in all just good, clean fun.

Seaside Reunion by Irene Hannon – 3.5*

//published 2012//

This is a gentle and rather uneventful romance that takes place in a small town in northern California.  A young widow has moved back to town several years ago to help her dad with their family store.  When the story opens, a guy who lived there for just a year or so when he was little comes back for a visit – it was the happiest place of his difficult childhood, and he wants to see it again.  While nothing particularly ground-breaking happens, it’s a nice story to while away some time.

Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren – 4*

//published 2017//

This is a borderline 3.5* and I keep going back and forth.  There was a lot about this book that I really enjoyed, most of which can be categorized as “snark.”  The idea is that both the main characters work for competing companies that represent actors, so despite the fact that they hit it off really well, they aren’t sure that their high-pressure jobs will let them date.  Things get even worse when their companies unexpectedly merge – and Evie’s boss – now also Carter’s boss – announces that the company can only afford one of them, so they’re going to have to basically duke it out to decide who stays.  So their flirting turns into pranking (some of which felt a little ridiculous for two adults) with an undercurrent of seriousness.  My main problem with this book was that the boss was SUCH a horrible jerk.  I literally had to flip to the end of this book to make sure that he got some kind of comeuppance because he made my teeth hurt every time he was on the page.  That plus a little too much sex is what kept this book from being a hearty 4*.  In the end, another fun and fluffy read, but not one that I truly fell in love with.

The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit – 4*

//published 1904//

The sequel to Five Children & It, this book takes place the next year when the children are back to living in town.  They get a new carpet for the playroom, and an odd rock falls out of it – which turns out to be a phoenix egg.  The rest of the book is taken up with regular Nesbit shenanigans, with many wishes not quite going the way one would hope.  Nesbit’s books are always happy and fun, and so relaxing.

‘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.

Rainbow’s End

by Irene Hannon

Feeling sooooo lazy today, so no cover picture.  I’m honestly a terrible blogger, lol.

Anyway.  With all the chaos going on around here, I’ve seized the excuse to be even more laid-back with my reading than ever.  Steeple Hill publishes happy little paperback Christian romances that are as sweet and fluffy as marshmallows, with just about that much plot.  They’re perfect reading for when your brain is tired, or if you’re feeling stressed.  Happy endings tied up with a bow are 100% guaranteed, and sometimes that’s exactly what I need.

Rainbow’s End is a classic example.  Jill lives a semi-hermit life since a bad fire killed her family and left her face severely scarred several years ago.  Keith is wandering ever since tragedy struck his life two years earlier.  Through a series of events (coincidences are strong in these little books), Keith ends up renting the cottage on Jill’s land.  Bet you can’t guess what happens next!!!

With stories like these, the fun obviously isn’t in being surprised by the ending – the fun is in watching the story unwind to achieve that end.  Hannon’s writing is actually very readable, and while her story was somewhat heavy on coincidences, she still managed to pull things together to leave me feeling warm and fuzzy and not too incredulous.

Obviously, with a Christian romance you can expect some Christian conversations, but I felt like Hannon handled these with grace.  She had a story with two people who had suffered tragic events in their lives.  Jill had made her peace with God, while Keith was still searching.  The conversations were natural and thoughtful, propelling the story forward rather than bogging it down.

While not a great literary work, or a piece of intense depth and intrigue, Rainbow’s End is a pleasant read with likable characters, a reasonably possible storyline, and a happy ending.  And really, what more could someone want from a relaxing summer read?