August Minireviews – Part 2

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.

This has been a really busy month with a lot of family drama and a lot of working!!  We also have another big remodeling project underway, which takes up a lot of my spare time.  All that to say, I always manage to fit reading into the nooks and crannies of life, but sometimes the reviews get rather behind!!  I’m trying to get caught up by the end of the month, but we’ll see what happens…

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck – 3.5*

//published 2012//

This trilogy of books has been on my radar for a long time.  Who doesn’t enjoy a good wedding story?  In this one, Charlotte owns her own wedding dress shop.  She’s struggling with whether or not she should go forward with her own wedding, afraid that Tim isn’t really the right person for her (or that she’s the right person for him).  She accidentally buys a trunk at an estate auction (if you’ve ever been to an auction, you know it’s not that hard to do haha), and when she opens it, she finds a beautiful wedding dress.  The book jumps back in time to other timelines so the readers learn the dress’s history, even as Charlotte is trying to find out more about it.

Overall, Hauck did a good job balancing the multiple timelines, and created some likable characters.  This is theoretically Christian fiction, but it’s really more supernatural than Christian, in my mind.  References to God/Jesus are oblique, but there is a timeless character (angel?) who is found in all the timelines.  This was actually handled really well and felt like it fit in with the story.

The reason this didn’t end up being a 4* read for me was mostly because of the way that Charlotte and Tim’s relationship was handled.  Basically, in the end Tim takes all the blame for why their relationship wasn’t working, when it was obvious that a lot of the issues were with Charlotte, who was having trouble truly committing herself to being with Tim and being a part of his family.  I felt like Charlotte never really acknowledged that she was at least as much to blame as Tim, so that made me wonder if their long-term relationship was really going to work out.  Still, it was overall a pleasant story, even if it was a little slow in spots.

The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck – 2*

//published 2015//

Sooo reading The Wedding Dress made me interested to pick up the second book – except it isn’t really a second book.  There are ZERO connections between this book and the first book.  They don’t even take place in the same state!  What’s the point of calling this a trilogy if the books don’t interconnect?!  This annoyed me throughout the entire story.

This book basically depressed me the entire time I was reading it.  Because of the dual timelines, the reader already knows early on that Jimmy and Collette are going to spend at least SIXTY YEARS not together, and it’s pretty easy to see that it’s going to be because of some stupid lie that Collette’s jerk sister tells.  So their whole story was just incredibly depressing.  I couldn’t enjoy any of the backstory bits of them meeting and falling in love, because it all felt completely pointless.  Yeah, it’s awesome that the finally get to get married when they freaking almost eighty years old, but it still felt like a big fat waste of life.

I was more invested in the story of the younger couple, Jack and Taylor, but literally all of their drama was because they didn’t know how to sit down and have a conversation like adults.  Instead, they both just kept worrying that the other person didn’t really love them and going in circles and it was incredibly aggravating.  The whole book was a serious downer for me.

In the end, I started to read the third book, The Wedding Shop, except I didn’t care any more since these books aren’t actually connected to each other, and I had been so put off by The Wedding Chapel that I really didn’t want to start a whole other book following the same pattern.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – 3.5*

//published 1978//

This is a middle grade mystery that I remember reading back when I was in middle grades, and thought I would revisit.  It’s an intriguing story with a fun premise, but was a little slow in spots.  The epilogue also felt ridiculously long, as Raskin fills us in on everyone’s lives after the end of the Game.  As an adult, I fount myself skeptical of some of the things that Westing was able to pull off, and some of the connections felt rather tenuous, but it’s overall a fun story, that I can see someone around the ages of 12-14 really enjoying.

This was read #12 for #20BooksofSummer!

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson – 3*

//published 1981//

This is the third of Ibbotson’s books that I’ve read, and I’m concluding that she just isn’t an author for me, despite the fact that every time I read the premise of one of her books I think it sounds delightful.  This one was the best of the three, but that isn’t saying a whole lot, as the other two made me want to bang my head against the wall regularly.  The main problem with this one was that the dude has two choices for whom he should marry, and Ibbotson makes Anna SO perfect and Muriel SO dreadful that it seems absurd to think that that the dude, whose name I can’t remember and that I failed to write down, would consider Muriel for even a second, even if he feels “honor bound” to her.  There are a LOT of coincidences in this book as well, and in the end the wedding must be prevented, and the way that occurs just was completely over the top.  I was also frustrated with the dude the entire time – he was SUCH a passive character.  I honestly didn’t feel like he deserved Anna, because he did basically nothing to fight for her and to change his life so that he could marry her – he just lucked out that Muriel changed her mind after all.  Lame.

Read #13 for #20BooksofSummer!

A Promise of Home by Wendy Vella – 3.5*

//published 2015//

This was a Kindle book I’ve had for a long time and finally got around to reading.  It wasn’t a bad story, but it was what I was reading at night before bed, so it took me a while to get through it.  I’m not sure if the writing was genuinely choppy, or if it just felt that way because of the way I was reading it.  It was also weird because I felt like there were some continuity issues as well – like in the beginning Branna is so terrified of doctors and hospitals that she can’t even stay one night at the clinic with her best friend there as the nurse, but at the end there is no mention made of her fear even though she has to stay in the hospital for a few days.  There were little things like that throughout the story that low-key bugged me.

The ending was a smidge rushed and easily tidied, but overall this was a relaxing read (although a bit too sexy at times for me).  I wouldn’t mind reading some of the other books in the series because I did like the background characters and this is one of those series that just meanders around the town pairing people off, but they aren’t at the library and they’re $5 each on Kindle, and I’m not THAT interested haha

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.

A Season to Wed // by Cindy Kirk, Rachel Hauck, and Cheryl Wyatt

After really enjoying the happy little novellas from the first Year of Weddings (set by seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn), I thought that I would give the second year a whirl.  These are still set by month, but the titles don’t reflect it the way the first set did.  I’ve actually read the first three seasons at this point, and I’ve overall been disappointed as these stories are really not up to par with the first set.  This first book in particular was quite weak, and there was one story in the second book that I didn’t even bother finishing.  The third book was more at the level of the first year, though, so I will probably still end up finding the autumn book at some point (it isn’t at the library even though the other three are…??)

Anyway, on to this set of three stories –

Love at Mistletoe Inn by Cindy Kirk – 2.5/5 – this was a story that was almost really good, but was executed so clumsily that I couldn’t get into it.  The premise is that Hope eloped with her high school sweetheart, John, the night of their high school prom.  But right after they got married, she panicked and changed her mind.  The guy who married them said that was fine and he just wouldn’t file their paperwork and everyone could go on with life.  Now, ten years later, John is back in town AND Hope has just found out that they are still legally married even though the paperwork never got filed.

First, I wasn’t convinced that they were legit married.  Isn’t the whole point of getting married so that the government can acknowledge your marriage?  If it’s never filed, the government never knows about it??  So maybe they are ‘morally’ married (or something), but I don’t think they would suddenly be able to just sit down and start filing taxes like a married couple.  I don’t know, I’m not a legal expert, but the the whole thing seemed sketch.

Secondly, Hope goes to John to tell him this whole story.  And… they sleep together!?  Like right then?!  This is ‘Christian’ romance, so there is nothing graphic, and in fact it was so NOT graphic and so incredibly random that I had to read the paragraph multiple times to make sure that that was what had actually happened.  Here’s how it goes down – they’re sitting on John’s couch and share a kiss.  John, of course, has always been desperately in love with Hope through all the years.

This was the woman who held his heart.  Whether she wanted it or not, she had it for all eternity.

John had always felt connected to her.  He’d never forgotten the vows they’d made and the promise given.  In this moment, he saw those same sentiments in her expression.

Several hours later, Hope left John’s bed and headed downtown for an appointment she’d made after speaking with the county recorder.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I have edited nothing!  What just happened!?  It was just SO obvious that Kirk didn’t want annulment to be an option, so she had to make them sleep together right away, apparently.  It was just weird and forced and bizarre.  So even though I actually liked the characters and even parts of the story, that whole bit was just so weird that I couldn’t get past it.

A Brush with Love by Rachel Hauck – 2.5/5 – I really enjoyed Hauck’s contribution from the first round of seasonal weddings, but this was a really weak story.  The whole story was way too melodramatic, and it seemed impossible to believe that Ginger would suddenly and completely do a 180* turnabout and now everything is fine.  The story was just weird and cheesy, and not in a relaxing way.

Serving Up a Sweetheart by Cheryl Wyatt – 3/5 – This one wasn’t too bad and I actually enjoyed most of it.  However, the story was really choppy, and the whole hate-to-love thing happened waaaay too fast to be convincing.

Spring Brides // by various authors

The next season in the year of weddings was not quite as enjoyable as the first (Winter Brides), but still had two good stories – the third I really didn’t care for at all.  However, I can’t necessarily expect to like all twelve stories, written by twelve different authors, so I wasn’t too fussed about one bum.

March Bride by Rachel Hauck – 3.5/5 – I know that Hauck has written a ‘Royal Weddings’ series because it has actually been on my TBR for a while.  This story is set in that world, and is actually listed as Book 1.5 in the series.  However, even though my guess is that I would have enjoyed this story a lot more if I had read Once Upon a Prince, it still held up well as a standalone.  Hauck did a good job of (re)introducing characters from the earlier story in a way that helped me, a new reader, understand their relationships, but also in a way that I don’t think would have bored someone who had already read the first book.

I really liked the characters in this story, and felt that their development was done well.  I also liked the way that the Christian themes were handled – it didn’t feel heavy-handed at all, yet was still a crucial part of the tale.  A very enjoyable little story, and one that has me quite intrigued to read the actual series.

April Bride by Lenora Worth – 3/5 – this was probably my favorite premise so far from these novellas.  The main characters have been engaged to be married for a while, and have known each other all their lives.  However, Mitchell wanted to completely his tour in the Middle East before their wedding, something that Stella fully supported.  When Mitchell comes back, he’s suffered a major head injury after an explosion that killed several of his mates.

I felt like Worth handled Mitchell’s PTSD really sensitively, but I wish that he had shared more with Stella of what was going on.  In the end, this dropped from 3.5 to a 3 because it got just a little too angsty/there were some issues that could have been resolved with one decent conversation, but it was still an engaging story.

May Bride by Meg Moseley – 2/5 – mostly, I didn’t like the main dude for this story, Gray.  I felt like he was really pushy and overbearing.  Ellie definitely had some issues she needed to work through with her mom, but it really seemed like Gray assumed way too quickly that his demands on Ellie’s time should take precedence.  The scene where I was basically over this story was when Gray wants Ellie to come with him horseback riding in two days, and she says that she already has plans to take her mom somewhere.  Gray somehow manages to turn the fact that Ellie is being a kind and responsible daughter into this  being another situation where Ellie’s mom is manipulating her.  Later, he kind of apologizes, but it’s this big ‘turning point’ of their relationship, with Ellie realizing how she needs to ‘stand up’ to her mom, etc., that left me honestly a bit livid.  If it Ellie’s mom is taking up too much of Ellie’s time, she needs to start with not agreeing to do stuff to begin with, not cancelling on plans where her mom is dependent on her help.  Gray’s character throughout was just so unreasonable, and it really felt like Ellie was just trading one annoying, overbearing, bossy person in her life for another.

Ellie’s mom was such a caricature anyway that it didn’t really matter.  Despite the fact that these are supposedly Christian fiction, Moseley managed to make Ellie’s mom the most annoying, hypocritical, ridiculous person, and that was quite frustrating.  To top it off, one of the supposed big ‘character flaws’ was that Ellie’s mom doesn’t drive in Atlanta, where Ellie lives, so Ellie always has to go visit her.  Gray continually acted like this was just completely ridiculous, but as someone whose mom doesn’t drive in our big city (and it’s no where as big or confusing as Atlanta), I never could agree with Gray’s opinion, especially since he grew up in Atlanta and has been driving there his whole life.  Complicated city driving isn’t for everyone, and I would personally prefer someone who is terrified and confused to not attempt it!

Anyway, all that to say I really just skimmed through the last half of this story as it continued to get more and more ridiculous and melodramatic.  2/5 for the story and 0/5 chance of Ellie’s future happiness.