Average Girl Reads
Simple book reviews and commentary from the girl next door.
If you read enough romance novels, especially the historicals, then you will eventually come across the name Georgette Heyer. From what I understand, she was the mother of the Regency romance. Although my preferred setting for historical novels is the American prairie, I've seen enough references to Heyer's work that I was beginning to think I was missing something. So when I ran across April Lady on the NC Digital Library site, I figured I'd give it a shot.
April Lady is about a husband and wife who each think that their spouse married them for convenience, but actually they are in love with each other. Between listening to bad advice and dealing with the messes that their family members make, the couple is pulled farther apart before everything is righted in the end. I was attracted to this plot because the couple is already married at the beginning of the novel, which is different from most of the romances I read.
How did I like my first Georgette Heyer novel? My feelings are mixed. I expected the language to be a bit formal and difficult for me to understand, but parts of the dialogue had the rhythm of 1930s movie slang and was quite enjoyable to read. Unfortunately, the characters spend a lot more time thinking about their situations instead of talking to each other. The plot goes around in circles for quite a while and I was tempted to stop reading the book a few times. It reminded me of those thin Harlequin romances that all my classmates were reading when I was in junior high, the type of story that would end on page 10 if the husband and wife would just talk to each other. However, the final scenes of the book were amusing and made me decided to try another Heyer book.
The thought occurred to me that perhaps April Lady isn't from Heyer's heyday, and the reviews on Goodreads seem to bear this out. Several Heyer enthusiasts on the site note that this is, in their opinion, an inferior reworking of an earlier Heyer novel, The Convenient Marriage. Based on this, I may try another romance from the earlier part of the author's catalog.
Waiting for Summer's Return by Kim Vogel Sawyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: After moving to the Kansas prairie, Summer Steadman loses her husband and children to typhoid fever. She has no job and no family to go back to, so she accepts Peter Ollenburger's offer to tutor his convalescing son in exchange for room and board.
This is the first book in a series, but it doesn't end in a cliffhanger. It is one of those series where all the books stand alone fairly well. The main connecting thread seems to be life on the Kansas prairie. I didn't even realize that I had read the sixth book in this series until after I finished this one.
I categorize romance novels as either "sweet" or "hot". This one is definitely sweet romance with the Christian element front and center. There is not a single scene that would make a reader blush. The couple gets together in a realistic manner, and they are given time to resolve their individual issues without the solutions felt hasty or forced. The heroine is dealing with heavy grief in the beginning of the book, and I appreciate the author not trying to brush past it quickly to get to the romance. I would definitely pick up another one of her books the next time I am in the mood for a gentle heartwarming story.
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Rain Shadow by Cheryl St.John
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Rain Shadow is a white woman who was raised by the Lakota Sioux after her parents were killed. She is also a single mother traveling with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show when their train gets derailed and her son is injured. This forces her to stay with Anton, a widower with a son. Everyone around them sees that they should be together, but will they figure it out?
This is not a full review, but rather a few thoughts:
--This story is the second in a series, but I don't feel that I missed anything by not reading the first book.
--One of the main plot lines was the heroine looking for her family, and I felt that it was wrapped in an unsatisfactory manner with a few lines at the end of the book.
--There was one of those minor obstacles between the hero and heroine that make a reader say, "Really? That is keeping them apart?". Luckily, there were also more major and believable obstacles that are the main focus of the plot so the minor one isn't too annoying.
--The name of the series, Dutch Country Brides, made me think it was what I would call a sweet or clean romance. However, it was more of a hot romance; not as hot as full-on erotica, but it might make a reader of Christian romances blush.
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When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked this book up because Hallmark is running a TV show based on the series. Since I had already watched the first three episodes of the show, I figured reading this book would be like a review. Boy, was I wrong! I don't know if the plot points from the show were pulled from later books in the series or created specifically for TV, but they aren't anywhere in this book. From what I know of Janette Oke's writing, I think the TV scriptwriters adding twists to try to make the story more exciting.
The one thing the book and TV show have in common is that the main character Elizabeth is a privileged young teacher who leaves her family to teach on the other side of the country in a small town. The book is a quiet year-in-the-life sort of story told in first person. You follow Elizabeth from settling in to the teacherage at the beginning of the school year until she leaves at the end of the school year, with all her little adventures in between -- getting supplies, ridding her house of mice, and such.
Overall I did enjoy the book, especially the fact that the main character isn't quite as helpless as she appears on the TV show. There is a Christian aspect to the book, but it isn't as front-and-center as in some Christian romances. Also, the story ends with what I think is the right balance for a book that is part of a series. You could stop at the end of this book and be satisfied that the story is wrapped up, but reading another book with these characters would also be nice.
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Recently I was preparing for a relaxing getaway, and nowadays that means loading my iPad with entertainment options that don't require internet access. I usually make sure I have one or two e-books on my device, but there are times where I want to flip through a magazine while chatting with my husband. That's when I remembered that my library offers access to Zinio for Libraries.
I said that I wasn't going to do the traditional year-end wrap-up post this year because I haven't done much reading or posting on this blog. However, I am a person who genuinely feels energized by the start of a new year. I've been cleaning house and organizing and making plans. Even though I know that three months from now I will have thrown all my plans out the window, I still embrace this period of energy and extra optimism. Who knows? This might be the year that I actually accomplish a few of my goals.
To look back at my reading in 2013, I didn't have to go any further than Goodreads. I joined the site's reading challenge last March and set a goal of 25 books for the year. Sadly, I only completed 19. When I wasn't busy with my full course load of online classes from the local community college, I fell victim to my usual triad of temptations: computer, iPad games, and TV.
Another weakness of mine is planning instead of doing. The way this relates to my reading in 2013
is that I downloaded 90+ ebooks from Amazon last year but have only read two of them so far. Yet I keep downloading free ebooks whenever I see them. Going through my lists on Goodreads falls into this category, too. I can spend hours reading through my TBR list, deleting books that I no longer want to read, and cross-checking the library to see if they have gotten in any of the books I put on my "not at my library" list. All of this is reading-adjacent behavior and fools me into feeling like I've actually read a book.
Enough of the look back -- onto the look forward! I've mentioned several times before that setting goals is a fruitless endeavor for me, but at this time of year I can't resist doing it. So here are my reading goals for 2014:
--To read 25 books by the end of the year.
--To read at least five of the ebooks on my iPad.
I could think of a whole lot more, but with my history of not sticking to goals I thought I should keep the list short. The ebooks goal should be easy to meet since the majority of the books are romances, which tend to be quick reads. Considering I am taking classes again this semester (which starts in a week) and possibly starting a new job, I don't think I will have time to read any dense literary fiction. Wish me luck!