February 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!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

I must be getting super lazy about reviews, because I am actually giving minireviews of entire series this month… those are like mini mini reviews!

Anyone But You series by Jennifer Shirk

  • Fiance by Fate – 3*
  • Wedding Date for Hire – 3.5*
  • Wrong Brother, Right Match – 3.5*

This was my first foray into Shirk’s writing, but I don’t think it will be my last.  While ultimately forgettable, these books were lighthearted, funny, happy, and clean.  They were the perfect fluff bits for a stressful week.  Shirk does a good job of writing tropes in a way that makes them easy and fun to read.  I really appreciated that Shirk wrote happy, believable romances without having to insert a bunch of sexy-times.  There was tension between her characters that worked, but she didn’t have explicit sex, she didn’t have her characters spending absurd amounts of time sexually fantasizing about the other character (tip for writers: there’s a big difference between having someone be interested in someone/find them attractive and having someone go on and on and ON about how they would like to bang someone), she didn’t even leave me with a bunch of cut scenes implying that these characters were having loads of sex off-screen.  Instead, the story was about the romance between the characters.  Consequently, even though these stories were a bit silly and slightly absurd, I really did enjoy them and found myself rooting for the romances even if they were a little on the insta-side.

All in all, these were really fun little stories.  If you’re just looking for something low-stress, I totally recommend these.  Personally, I’ll definitely be checking out more of Shirk’s writing in the future.

Fields of Wrath by Mark Wheaton – 3.5*

This was another free Kindle book I’ve had forever.  There were a lot of things I liked about this story.  The main character is a Catholic priest named Luis Chavez living in a city in California (can’t remember which one).  Through a series of events, he’s drawn into a situation where he believes people are being trafficked from Mexico, so he goes undercover to see what he can find.  Although Luis is a rogue in the sense that he isn’t any kind of official law-enforcement, it never really felt like he was taking the law into his own hands.  Instead, he believes in the importance of justice and protecting the innocent, and is determined to make sure these things happen.  I really liked the way that Luis’s faith was central to his actions.  He actually reminded me a lot of another Catholic character I love – Brother Cadfael.  He had that same sort of earthy wisdom tempered with a strong faith.

However, the story was a bit disjointed.  There were several other (third person) perspectives going on, which made it difficult to remember which characters already knew what.  The body count was extremely high, yet I had a lot of trouble connecting emotionally with this story, so even when people I liked got knocked off, it didn’t really stir me to the depths.  Honestly, Wheaton killed off so many people that it almost felt more emotional when someone lived!

In the end, it was a book that I wanted to like more than I actually did.  Although there are two more books with Luis as their central character, I just wasn’t interested enough to read them.

A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5*

When in doubt, turn to Wodehouse.  He never fails to bring me joy.  Even when I feel like I’m not in the mood for a Wodehouse book, within a page or two, it’s the only thing I want to read.  This one was full of his usual capers and coincidences, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

Alaskan Bride Rush series by various authors (Love Inspired)

  • Klondike Hero by Jillian Hart – 3*
  • Treasure Creek Dad by Terri Reed – 3*
  • Doctor Right by Janet Tronstad – 3*
  • Yukon Cowboy by Debra Clopton – 3.5*
  • Thanksgiving Groom by Brenda Minton – 3*
  • The Lawman’s Christmas Gift by Linda Goodnight – 3.5*

Those of you who have been with me for a while may remember that quite a while back I inherited roughly half a billion romance paperbacks from my great-aunt, the overwhelming majority of which were “Love Inspired,” a Christian romance series that used to be a thing where you signed up and the mailed you a book every month, which is obviously what my great-aunt did for YEARS.  Originally I wanted to try to read them all, but the overwhelming mediocrity of the first few batches I plowed through made me realize that this wasn’t how I wanted to spend my life.  Instead, I packed them off to various book donation locations, except for a few where I actually had an entire series of them.

As you can tell from the series title, these weren’t exactly intensely serious, deep stories.  Instead, they’re just Hallmark movies in book form.  Honestly, they’re probably more like knock-off Hallmark movies in book form if I’m honest.  :-D  Like most of the Love Inspired books I’ve read, these were super relaxing, incredibly forgettable, very quick reads.  I always enjoy series like this where you get to know a place and background characters, and I was impressed at how well the different authors were able to build off of one another’s stories and characters.  Set in a remote Alaskan town, the stories begin because of an article in a woman’s magazine touting all the hunky single guys to be found in Treasure Creek.  The whole thing is a misunderstanding because the journalist who wrote the article was supposed to be from an outdoors magazine and was supposed to write about the wilderness tours in the area, but apparently she was more into the tour guides.  So women start trucking to Treasure Creek to see what they can find, and there you have one of the goofiest settings for a series of romance stories that you can imagine, yet it somehow mostly worked.

Sometimes you just want to read some stories that follow simple, predictable lines.  They’re the comfort food of books.  While I don’t ever see myself returning to Treasure Creek, they weren’t bad for a one-time read.  So if someone else wants these, you should let me know before I drop them off at Salvation Army next time I’m in town…

November Minireviews – Part 1

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!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

So I’ve been slowly working my way through a brick of a book about Vietnam before “our” Vietnam War – basically, it covers the history from the beginning of World War II through the beginning of the Vietnam War, most of which the Communists spent fighting with the French, with the US and China getting more and more involved in the background.  It’s genuinely fascinating, but that book weighs a literal three pounds and is over 800 pages long, so while I don’t mind lugging it places if I’m going to sit and read for a while, it’s not really an ideal book to throw in my bag if I think I’m only going to have time for a few pages.  So all that to say that I have also been reading quite a few fluff books, and I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on some of them…

Accidentally Married by Victorine Lieske – 3.5*

//published 2014//

Lieske apparently wrote several of these “modern marriages of convenience” stories, all of which are clean, a bit absurd, and good fun.  They are together in a boxed set on Kindle, so I thought they would kind of intertwine, but they appear to all be completely independent of each other.  Stephanie reviewed a few of these (although, ironically, not this one haha), which is how I first found them.  Anyway, this story was pretty fun, with a decently plausible scenario.  It seemed like the ending did drag a little bit because Madison and Jared wouldn’t just USE THEIR WORDS so they did that thing where they both assumed the other person wasn’t interested and went home and pouted instead of just having a conversation.  I mean, if you think this person is going to break up with you and never see you again anyway, what in the world do you have to lose by telling them how you really feel first??  Despite that, it was still a super relaxing little chick lit read, and I’m always a fan of fake relationships/marriages of convenience, so there is that.

Blind-Date Bride by Jillian Hart – 3*

//published 2009//

This is the first in a series of the crazy Love Inspired books.  Thanks to Great-Aunt Darby I have all the books in this series and thought I would give it a go.  This one was barely a 3* read, though, as virtually nothing happened in this book except listening to the two main characters angst about how they weren’t good enough for the other person, which was overall quite boring.  Weirdly, I did like the characters in this book a lot, and the small town setting was done well, so I decided to still give the second book a go, even though this one wasn’t really my thing.

Collie to the Rescue by Albert Payson Terhune – 3.5*

//published 1928//

I do love a good Terhune every once in a while, and this one has been on my shortlist ever since it came up in my random drawing for my #20BooksofSummer reads, which I am still trying to complete by the end of the year!!  This one is quite melodramatic but still a good time, although unlike most of Terhune’s books, this one is definitely way more about Brant than it is about his collie.  This one was also interesting because it was published back in 1928 (under the title Loot!), but a big part of the plot is about smuggling and selling drugs.  It’s just funny to me because we act like that is such a modern problem, but here’s a story from a hundred years ago where that was still playing a big part.  While this was a perfectly interesting and entertaining story, it wasn’t my favorite Terhune, with just a smidge too much drama.

Montana Homecoming by Jillian Hart – 3*

//published 2012//

This was the second  book in the series, and because it was just as meh as the first, I decided not to bother with the rest.  Again, the characters were very likable, but there was virtually no plot, and honestly Brooke’s “dog training” skills bordered on miraculous, because apparently all she had to do was keep saying the command and the dog just magically started doing what she wanted, which seemed pretty handy.

Reluctantly Married by Victorine Lieske – 3.5*

//published 2015//

This one was also just completely ridiculous but so fun that I couldn’t stop reading it.  I really liked both the main characters and liked the way they kept getting more and more tangled up in their situation.  Again, I felt like the ending dragged out a little too much, which took away from my overall enjoyment of the book, but it was still a good time.  I’m definitely planning to read some more of these books soon.  (Currently, the boxed set is available on Kindle Unlimited if anyone is interested.)

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer – 5*

//published 1953//

When all else fails, turn to Georgette Heyer!  It had been quite a while since I read this one, so I couldn’t quite remember how everything played out.  The dialogue is absolutely hilarious, and Freddy is honestly one of my very favorite Heyer heroes, because he’s so regular.  It was also fun because Jack is honestly more like the usual Heyer hero – older, brooding, a bit of a rake – but here we get Freddy, who is younger and just so ridiculously nice that it’s impossible not to root for him.  Kitty is lively and fun without being obnoxious, and all of the secondary characters are just as delightful, especially Freddy’s sister Meg – honestly, Freddy’s family really made this book, and I realized while I was reading it that one of the things I like about Heyer’s books is her ability to write families, especially siblings, so well.  At any rate, this book is a complete delight, and if, by some miracle, you haven’t picked up a Heyer book before, this one is a wonderful place to start.