Average Girl Reads

NOTE: This post is not sponsored in any way. I signed up for the service mentioned below with my own dollar.


Yesterday I finally took the leap and signed up for Oyster, the ebook service that plugs itself as the "Netflix of books". If you aren't familiar with these services (Scribd and Kindle Unlimited are two others), the premise is that you pay a monthly fee and get unlimited access to their library of ebooks. Oyster charges $9.95 a month, which isn't an outrageous sum but I can't really afford adding that to my budget right now. However, Oyster has a free trial for the summer where you can pay 99 cents for three months and then switch to the full price. That's a cheap way to satisfy my curiosity about the service, so I signed up.

One way that Oyster lives up to its advertising as the "Netflix of books" is in its selection. When you first open Oyster, you will see a lot of popular books. If you look more closely, however, you will notice that not all of them have the tiny "Unlimited" tag on them. Just as Netflix has a huge selection of movies but only a small subsection of those movies are available for streaming, not all of Oyster's books are available to read for free with your subscription. There is a toggle on the website that allows you to see only the free-to-read books, but in my experience it keeps resetting itself when I do a search. At least the one in the iPad app stays set to "Unlimited".

Speaking of the Oyster app, it is pretty but it will take a little getting used to for me. Ever since I started reading ebooks about three years ago, I've done 98% of my reading in the Kindle app. I am accustomed to having the page-turning animation and being able to read in two columns, two settings that are not available in the Oyster app. I can't make the font as large as I can in the Kindle app, either. None of these little quibbles would stop me from using the service; it's just something to get used to. One aspect of the app that I do like, though, is the front page which mimics the website with lists of top books in each category and recommendations like "21 Books to Read With Your Best Friends".

I have a shelf on Goodreads entitled "not at my library" and there are currently about 250 titles on it. I'm going through that list to get the best out of this free trial. I've already found six books from the list, which means I could stop looking now and have my money's worth. I doubt that I will continue using Oyster after my trial expires, though. If I was in the market for this kind of service, I would have to compare Oyster to the other services out there because ultimately, the best service is the one that most titles in the genres that you prefer to read.

Dating a Cougar (Never Too Late, #1)Dating a Cougar by Donna McDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Contemporary romance, slightly steamy
Part of a series?: Yes, Book 1 of 6

Synopsis, from Goodreads:

After several decades of looking for true love and never finding it, aging model and lingerie designer Alexa Ranger has finally given up the search. A couple years ago, she got tired of the game completely and just stopped dating. Now friends and family keep her mostly content, so it’s shocking at 50 yrs old to find herself suddenly wanting a sex life again. It’s even more shocking to be attracted to a much younger man this time. She definitely thinks medically retired Marine Casey Carter is sexy, but can’t get past their twelve-year age difference to even consider a fling. Not that it matters, anyway; anything resembling a normal dating relationship is totally out of the question because Casey is related to and living with her daughter’s boyfriend. The very last thing Alexa needs is yet another talk show-worthy drama in her already complicated life, no matter how amazing Casey’s kisses make her feel.

I read this book right after finishing Carved In Stone, a book from one of Donna McDonald's other series. Both books have aggressive heroes, but I enjoyed Dating a Cougar much more. It had the lighthearted tone that I was expecting from the first book. I felt that the heroine held her own and wasn't really being manhandled by the hero; there was more of a give-and-take in their relationship. One of the relationships in the first McDonald book I read felt like it wouldn't have taken much of a push to shove it into an abusive situation, and it made for uncomfortable reading in what was supposed to be a romance.

Another thing that made me prefer this book was the surrounding characters. This book was another freebie designed to draw the reader into the rest of the series. In this case, it worked. I want to read the rest of the books and find out what happened to the people I met in the first book. This book doesn't end in a cliffhanger, but the hero and heroine's friends are so well drawn that I just know that they have their own stories to tell.



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Carved In Stone (Art of Love, #1)Carved In Stone by Donna McDonald
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Genre: Romance with a bit of steam
Part of a series?: Yes, Book 1 of 4

Synopsis, from Goodreads:

Even though his sons tease him about not dating, and his ex-wife thinks he is still hung up on her, 53 yr old retired principal and stone sculptor, William Everett Larson, is glad he waited to date until he found 47 yr old high school art teacher, Jessica Daniels. He admires Jessica for her courageous art and for how she has dealt with her life. As far as Will can tell, the only part of Jessica damaged by her past is her heart. Jessica assures Will she is incapable of lasting love, but Will refuses to believe it’s true. 

This book was one of those free offers that abound now in the day of the e-book reader. It caught my eye because the heroine and I were the same age. Most of the romances I read feature women who are barely out of high school, so I figured reading about the love life of an adult with a bit more life experience would be a change of pace for me.

Reading this book has highlighted, yet again, the fact that I am not very good at judging the tone of a book from its synopsis. I was expecting this book to have a light comic tone. While there were moments like that (especially at the end), much of the plot was heavier than I expected. There was also an aggressiveness on the part of the male characters that was slightly off-putting to me. One character in particular has the attitude of "I will make her love me!" that felt almost stalker-like. I know that a lot of romances have that whole brusque alpha-male thing going on, but in the ones I've read the heroine puts the alpha-male in his place pretty quick. The second book in the series follows the character that I thought was stalker-like, so maybe the author softens him up a bit.

Another thing I expected from this book was that the hero and heroine would look like normal people. When I read romances with characters in their 20s or even 30s, I expect descriptions of tight abs and flowing locks. With the characters approaching 50, I was hoping for a little more softness and sagging. Instead I was treated to repeated descriptions of how hot they were for their age. I'm not that crazy about the books where the hero has to convince the fat chick that he loves her curves, either. I'd just some balance between the two extremes.

Did this book convince me to buy the next one in the series? No, but if my library has it, then I might check it out.



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The Edge of Town

The Edge of Town is set in 1922 and it follows the residents of a small Missouri town. The main family, the Joneses, is pretty much being held together by the eldest daughter Julie. She is a 20-year-old who quit school at 16 to take care of the household for her father and her siblings when her mother died. She has a budding romance with Evan, the son of the local foul-mouthed drunk. There is a subplot involve a man who has been raping young girls in the town for years and getting them pregnant.

I tried hard to stick with this book, but I finally gave up. I've read that there is also a murder in the plot which I didn't get to because having romance and rape in the same book was jarring for me. I don't consider myself a prude, but reading a scene about happy family life on the farm and then having it followed by a character expressing his sexual preference for little kids in rather crude language was a bit much for me. When the book switched back to the sweet scenes, I couldn't enjoy them. Having the mystery of the rapist still hanging out there cast a shadow over the romance for me.

While it is fun for a book to have some surprises, I like to have a feeling for what type of book I'm reading from the start. Although I read a lot of Christian historical romances, I also sprinkle in modern romances, magical realism, literary fiction, memoirs, and lots of other genres. Foul language and difficult subject matter isn't quite as unsettling if I chose to read that kind of book.

Spring for SusannahSpring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary, from Goodreads:

When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a cut above many Christian romances I have read, as far as the depth of the main characters. Although there was one major incident that precipitated Susannah's move to the Dakota Territory, the story is really about her overcoming her shyness and two strangers getting to know each other.

The author did a great job of showing the passage of time so the reader can believe how the couple fell in love. In some books the courtship seems to be rushed which makes the happy ending less believable, especially if the plot involves a mail-order bride. I want to feel like the couple have gone through several events, big and small, that draw them together.

This book moved me enough that I was disappointed to find that Catherine Richmond has only written one other stand-alone book. If there ever was a book that I wished was part of a series, it's this one. I wanted to spend more time with the main couple and the other characters in the small community. I definitely want to get my hands on a copy of Richmond's other book, and I hope she writes more soon.

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I just read that poet Rod McKuen died this week. When I was going through my poetry obsession in my teens, Rod McKuen was one of the poets that I read repeatedly. So much poetry was difficult for me to understand; it was just a collection of pretty words. I enjoyed the rhythm but didn't really get the overall meaning. McKuen's work seemed more down-to-earth to me. Running across his obituary today makes me want to revisit his work and poetry in general to see if 30-odd years of life experience will bring me more understanding.

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