Mated to the Beast

I’ve been continuing my Interstellar Brides Program reading with the fifth book in the series,mated to the beast Mated to the Beast.

In this book, Sarah Mills has lost two brothers to the Hive. Another brother, Seth, continues to fight the alien menace in deep space.

Sarah promises her dying father that she will bring Seth back to Earth, far away from the Hive Danger. When she goes to the processing center, a mistake is made, and Sarah is processed as a bride. Once Sarah uncovers the mistake, she refuses a bridal match and continues on in her plan to join the coalition army.

Dax is an Atlan Warlord, and like all Atlan men, he has a beast inside. This beast is ready to emerge, whether it is in the heat of battle or in a mating fever. Dax begins to struggle with the beast’s desire to take control, and is matched through the mating program. Unfortunately for him, his mate, Sarah, has refused the match and is on the front lines of the battle with the Hive. Of course, he must have his mate, or risk execution as his beast takes over, so he transports to the heart of the battle to find Sarah.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that this book was far more science-fiction war story than it was romance. There were sexy bits and romance, but that wasn’t the focus.

I noticed that Sarah is still looking for her father’s approval, even though he is dead.

I noticed the camaraderie between Sarah and Seth. I also noticed that her soldiers really respected her. Given how often this series explores themes of dominance and submission, I was kind of surprised by what a good soldier Sarah is.

I also noticed Dax has serious respect for Sarah as both a leader and a soldier. He may be my favorite of the heroes in this series yet.

I wondered . . .

I wondered if Goodwin’s written more about Seth. I really loved him!

I also wandered what life is like on Atlan.

I wondered if the beast, once stated, continues to need care from one’s mate.

It reminded me of . . .

Sarah groaned under her father’s expectations and never seemed to quite meet them. This made me think of the male leads in The Duke and IThe Dating Planand Sweet on You.

I’ve read several books recently with close brother/sister relationships. These include 99 Percent MineWritten in the Stars, and Daring and the Duke.

I also thought about books I’ve read lately where the characters are fighting an overwhelming menace. These include Ring Shout and Devolution.

The books in this series keep getting better and better. This one may be my favorite one so far!

Taken by Her Mates

taken by her matesI decided to continue reading in the Interstellar Brides Program series because these books have become a fun guilty pleasure for me! I feel a little embarrassed confessing that at times because these books are not the most well written books I’ve ever encountered. For good plain sexy fun though, these are great!

This is the fourth book in the Interstellar Brides Program books, and here’s the setup:

As a reporter, Jessica has been investigating a dangerous new drug terrorizing the streets of her city. Her investigation must be striking too close to the truth of the drug trade and those responsible because she is set-up with drugs and charged with a drug trafficking crime that she didn’t commit.

In an attempt to avoid a long prison sentence, Jessica volunteers for the Interstellar Brides Program, agreeing to be mated off-world to an alien. It’s the best of a bad situation, but Jessica is oddly excited about the idea of taking a warrior as a mate. Unfortunately, when it comes time for her to transport to her new world, the transport is refused by the ruler of Prillon Prime.

Feeling rejected, Jessica discovers that this rejection leaves her free to go back to her old life without going to jail. Because of her willingness to volunteer for the program, her crimes have been erased. In this case, she plans to get the evidence she needs to exonerate her name.

Prince Niall is a veteran of the Hive wars. Unfortunately, his capture and “contamination” by the Hive has led to his father deciding that Niall is worthy of neither the throne nor of his matched mate.

When Niall hears his father’s refusal to transport his mate to his planet, Niall and his second, Ander, decide to transport to Earth and claim their mate in person. When they get to Earth, they soon realize that their mate needs them because she is in a world of danger.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that Prince Niall is back! Yay!! this makes this book a direct sequel to the events in Mated to the Warriors. This is the first time that any character other than Warden Egara appears in a second book.

Speaking of Warden Egara, she gets a much longer storyline in this book. We learn a little of her backstory, and we get a little picture of her life on Earth.

I noticed that Jessica is a truly strong and unruly woman–not just outspoken. This, of course, makes her the perfect personality for a queen.

I also noticed something kind of funny. I complain that some of these books have too much sex, but this time I was kind of complaining because there was really no sex until halfway through the book. I guess I want it both ways!

I wondered . . .

I wondered what the aftermath of Jessica’s investigation was. What were the ramifications in her town?

I wondered whether or not Warden Egara will eventually find love again. This is the first time we get a really good look at her as a person, and I really liked her!

It reminded me of . . .

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mated to the Warriors since Prince Niall was a character in that book.

I also found that the police corruption at the beginning reminded me of the corruption storyline that is woven through Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. A good one of these for the drug related corruption is The Beautiful Mystery.

Another good book to read for the drug culture and corruption is Long Bright River. This book really gave me a good picture of what the drug culture does to a person who is entangled in it.

 

Longing for More

One of the many things that I have been guilty of is longing for more than what I have. I don’t think that wanting to achieve more or having a goal to become better is wrong. Sometimes dissatisfaction propels us into achievement and personal growth. It can be a key that something is wrong and that we need to make changes.

However, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. I believe strongly that what God has given us to do is a sacred calling for us. When I devalue that calling because I wanted a the quotidian mysteriesdifferent calling, I am guilty of rejecting the good plan God has for my life and complaining against him. I understand that not everyone feels the same way, and I am okay with that.

The problem is not that I feel a lack of calling. It’s that the calling gets hard and monotonous and I seek to escape. When that happens, I find that I need inspiration to take joy in my calling and in the normalcy of my everyday life.

I have often, in this very situation turned to Kathleen Norris for inspiration, both in the spiritual and in the mundane.  (I’m actually almost a Norris completionist. If you only count her prose works, reading this book made me a completionist.)

The Quotidian Mysteries is a tiny book, weighing in at just under a hundred pages. In this book, Norris mediates on the daily life, showing how our daily lives can open us up to experiencing God. If you’ve read her other works, there’s really nothing new here, as this book is based on a series of lectures Norris did in the 1990s. However, I found it a great reminder of the importance of how much my ordinary is important to my faith walk.

There were several things that were meaningful to me as I read this one, and I wanted to share the specific quotes that I found most inspirational. The first quote reminds us that we do not find joy and fulfillment in the pursuit of joy and fulfillment, but instead in living more fully where we are:

We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing, and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were.

She also discusses what we’re really saying when we say we don’t have time for certain things in our lives. 

The often heard lament, “I have so little time,” gives the lie to the delusion that the daily is of little significance.

If we don’t have time for the laundry, the sweeping, and the cooking that make up so much of our daily life, perhaps we’re looking in the wrong place for significance.

So, when I’m longing for more than what God has given men, it doesn’t always mean that I need to search for more. Instead, I need to look at my daily life and see where my joy is coming from. I need to see if I am taking pride and joy in my daily tasks or if I am shoving them aside for a wistful what might be.

If I’m handling my daily tasks and handling them well, then it might be time to start reaching for more. Otherwise, perhaps I should place focus on my daily tasks and do the work that I have to do to the best of my ability.

Don’t Know Much About the 50 States

One of the subjects that we have been covering for school this year is US Geography. Wedon't know much about the 50 states decided to do this as a US state study where we learned about 3-4 new states a week. To organize our study, we used Memoria Press’s States and Captials workbooks, and they recommended Don’t Know Much About the 50 States as a spine for basic information about each state.

This book goes through all fifty states (plus Washington, DC) in alphabetical order. Each state page contains basic information about the state plus two or three fun facts about the state. This makes it a good jumping off place for research.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that so many states have the same state birds. It’s crazy how often they reoccur.

I also noticed that Renee Andriani’s fun illustrations add a bunch of whimsy and information to each page. It’s incredibly engaging for the upper elementary age child.

I wondered . . .

I wondered why Davis puts so much emphasis on listening each state’s motto. The mottos are very curious things, but the actual text of the states’ pages did not usually explain how the state got its motto.

It reminded me of . . .

I was mostly reminded of Homeschool Pops US States videos. We also watched them each day, and found that really helpful.

This was a good study, and this book is just enough information about the states for a nine year old!

Kristy and the Snobs

kristy and the snobsThis month, I went back to reading The Baby-Sitters’ Club books with my nine-year-old daughter. We’ve been reading kind of randomly around the graphic novels that she owns, and Kristy and the Snobs is the eleventh book in the series.

Kristy’s mom got married over the summer (in book six if I’m remembering correctly), and Kristy’s family has moved into a new neighborhood. They’ve moved into Watson’s home, which is really a mansion, and now Kristy’s having to adjust to the bigger houses, rich neighbors, and snobby kids. The kids in Kristy’s neighborhood go to ritzy private schools, make fun of Kristy’s plain clothes, put down the idea of The Babysitters’ Club, and even insult Kristy’s aging dog, Louie.

Louie’s condition, when Kristy stops to think about it, is concerning. He’s suddenly struggling with arthritis, going blind, and spending more and more time at the veterinarian’s office.

As worrying as Louie is, Kristy is more concerned about her new neighborhood. After all, she’s starting to get babysitting jobs in her new subdivision, and she’s worried that the kids she babysits for might be as snobby as the teenagers she’s met.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that Kristy is totally the person who started the unfriendliness with the girls in the neighborhood. She’s the one main character in this series who drives me crazy because she’s just such a petty and confrontational person. I think, but am not sure, that she’s the one who did the first prank as well.

I also noticed that Louie’s slow decline is heartbreaking. I was starting to get a little worried I might cry as I read this aloud to my daughter. She hasn’t lost a pet yet, and I hope she doesn’t have to for quite some time.

I also noticed that most of Mallory’s family has the chicken pox. Can you imagine having seven kids with chicken pox? What an exhausting time. No wonder the parents needed to get a sitter for an evening out!

I also noticed that Martin is setting the stage for a big drama with Dawn’s little brother. He misses his native California and his Dad, and if I’m remembering correctly, this is a theme that continues over several books.

I wondered . . .

I wondered why Kristy is so prejudiced against people with money. It’s an ongoing theme with her, and I find it a little exhausting. Is it defensiveness about having a single mom?

I also wondered why Kristy’s mom and Watson tortured Louie with so many treatments for his arthritis. I felt really sorry for him, but they can’t let him go, and so his pain continued much longer than it should have.

I wondered if we will see Shannon again in any upcoming books. One of the things I like about The Babysitters’ Club books is how Martin keeps bringing back the families that they babysit for. I’d love to see Shannon and Kristy’s relationship grow.

It reminded me of . . .

There were several books that this book made me think of. The first one was The Love Story of Missy Carmichael. Missy suffers pet loss, just like Kristy’s family does.

I was also reminded of my recent read, 99 Percent Mine. The female lead in this book has a difficult personality, and Kristy reminded me of what the little girl version of that personality might look like.

The snobbery and feeling of social hierarchy of the girls reminded me of The Princess GameAnother book in this category is Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education. The social structure is quite rigid.

I was also reminded of Austenland. The main character feels looked down on because she wasn’t rich like the other women staying at Austenland. Kristy often seems to feel looked down on from coming from a less wealthy family.

Overall, this was a quite touching book, even if Kristy was an irritating character.

Strengthening Marital Intimacy

My marriage counseling class started at the end of January, and one of the first books I hadstrengthening marial intimacy to read was Ronald Hawkins’ Strengthening Marital Intimacy. I wasn’t really looking forward to it, but found this book to be a pleasant surprise. I imagine that I may have more to say about this book later, but here are a few thoughts in my usual format.

Hawkins theorizes that good marriages are built on intimacy or “oneness with healthy separateness.” The foundation of this healthy marriage is commitment or “an unconditional acceptance of the other partner.” Hawkins defines seven areas of commitment that each spouse needs to attend to if the spouse wishes to have a healthy marriage. Hawkins spend the majority of the book fleshing these areas of commitment out.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that Hawkins takes a dim view of the current church preoccupation of submission. I liked him better for that.

I also noticed that, ultimately, a good marriage comes down to having good companionship, and desiring each other’s company.

I wondered . . .

I wondered if marriage is truly as simple as Hawkins maintains. I also wondered how to apply his principles to my own marriage.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of all the marriage seminars and books I’ve attended and read that only discuss a woman’s role in marriage as being submissive. They’re such junk that I don’t want to even mentions them because of the tremendous burden that these books place on a relationship.

Claimed by Her Mates

claimed by her matesDesperate to escape an abusive fiancee, Leah decides that the only way to escape is to get off the planet. So, she signs up for the Interstellar Brides Program. Leah is matched with a warrior from the planet Viken, a planet on the brink of civil war.

On the planet Viken, there are three princes–Drogan, Tor, and Lev. The prince regent of their planet has combined their matching profiles to find the one perfect woman who will be bonded to all three men. If all three men mate with her, their child can unite the planet. This unity is imperative for the future of VIken as Viken is about to be expelled from the protective international treaty for not sending enough brides and troops off-planet.

Leah is shocked by the idea of three mates, shocked by her need for each of them, and shocked by the punishing spankings they give her when she disobeys them.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that, after spending the past two books on Prillon warships, Goodwin is carrying readers away from the heart of the Hive battles and focusing on a smaller, more planetary tale. This one seemed only slightly related to the previous stories.

I also noticed that Viken is a very medieval feeling planet. They have space technology, but in the words of one of the characters, choose to live simply. I’m not positive how interested I am in this, but I guess diverse planets are okay.

I wondered . . .

I wondered if the brothers will be able to remain united as their focus turns from mating to uniting for rule. I imagine there are serious philosophical differences between them, and I would kind of like to see that aspect of things.

I wondered if Viken will actually be able to unite or if they are too divided.

I also wondered if Viken will modernize? After all, their queen can adjust to the medieval atmosphere of the planet.

I also noticed that Goodwin describes the atmosphere as medieval, but also makes direct references to pioneer times. I’m a little confused about the actual atmosphere on the planet Viken. Maybe a future book in the series will help with that.

It reminded me of . . .

They spend a lot of time in this book hiding out at a Bride education facility where women are trained in the arts of love and mating. This reminded me of elements of Anne Rice’s The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. That’s a book I used to love, so perhaps this is one of the reasons why portions of this book were fun to me.

I also found the atmosphere, including the references to bows and arrows to remind me of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. I could not even tell you why, but I thought of the woodsy atmosphere of this movie as I read portions of this book.

This is the third book of the Interstellar Brides Program books. This one had some real differences in setting, actions, and even menage group sizes. It’s kind of wild, and there’s a lot of sex, including elements of BDSM. It’s fun, but not for everyone.

Commonplace Book

Feeling like God is far away, disinterested, or dead to you is part of our Bible and can’t be brushed aside–and that feeling–no matter how intense it may be, and even offensive as it may seem–is never judged, shamed or criticized by God. Worshipping other gods or acting unjustly toward others gets criticized about every three sentences, but not this honest talk of feeling abandoned by God.

–Peter Enns, The Sin of Certainty

Commonplace Book

I started reading Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead several months ago, and I have never finished it. However, this quote has stuck with me, and I keep revisiting in my thoughts.

People who feel any sort of regret where you are concerned will suppose you are angry, and they will see anger in what you do, even if you’re just quietly going about a life of your own choosing.

Anyone else have that kind of regret?

Anyone else have people they suspect have those feelings toward them?

January Wrap-Up

This month was a difficult reading month. I read a lot of books and enjoyed a lot of books, but I struggled to concentrate, so I only read the most engaging and lightest of books for most of the month. That led to a little more romance than I usually read, but you’ll see it in the wrap-up. I was kind of surprised, but by the end of the month, I actually read 33 books and over 6,000 pages. That’s called starting the year off with a bang!

The Stats:

  • Books Read: 33
    • Library–
    • Kindle–9
    • Hardcopy–14
    • Audio–10
  • Re-Reads: 3
  • Goodreads Challenge Progress: 33/200 (17 books ahead of schedule)
  • New Books vs. Backlist:
    • New Books: 13
    • Backlist: 20

The Books:

the princess gameI was reading through the Amazon Faraway collection at the end of last month, and I started this month with the third book in that series, The Princess Game. High school girls are dying and two detectives go undercover to attempt to figure that out. In their undercover positions, rookie cop, Callum Pederson is getting caught up in the complex high school social web. This was an interesting listen, told mainly through interviews with suspects and through conversations between the two detectives. I think the story would have been more better and vivid if Chainani had changed perspectives and went with a broader perspective beyond the actual interviews into the investigation. Still, the story was only 53 pages long, so Chainani is already doing quite a bit of work.

I continued the Faraway collection with The Cleaners. This short story reminded me of Eternal the cleanersSunshine of the Spotless Mind due to the desire to cleanse oneself from negative memories. I’ve read a couple of books in the last year or two that dealt with the memories attached to objects, and it made me think of the objects that I keep because of the memories attached to them. It made me think of the memories I would like to get rid of and how it would be nice if it were as easy to get rid of them as scrubbing the memories away. This was a thoughtful work.

the wickedsThe final book in the Faraway collection was a fairytale retold from the perspective of the wicked stepmothers. It was warm and delightful. I really enjoyed the perspective of the stepmothers and the details that they added to my “understanding” of the classic fairy tales. My only complaint is that I felt like Forman rushed the story, and it could have stood a little more build up to the ending.

Once I finished listening to the Faraway series, I moved on to kind of hinduthe Nothing Like I Imagined Series. This is a memoir styled series of essays by Mindy Kaling. The first book in the series is called Kind of Hindu, and it discusses Kaling’s changing feelings about her religion and heritage after the birth of her daughter. I related deeply to this one because I have found myself walking down paths in my religious heritage that I never dreamed of walking down, all in the name of not screwing up my children. 

please like meThe second book in the Nothing Like I Imagined Series tackles a topic that is near and dear to my heart. In Please Like Me (But Stay Away), Mindy discusses her own struggles making friends and her social anxiety. She sounds very classic introvert–like me–and I completely get the feeling of wanting to have friends and not be lonely, but also wanting to stay at home and watch Netflix. It wouldn’t have been as funny, but I could have written this book.

The next book I picked up was one from a series that I had the alien's matestarted last year. I read Assigned a Mate in November, and I knew that I wanted to get back to that series. The sex scenes had been hot, and I had a lot of questions about the sci-fi world that seemed so primitive and so advanced at the same time. So, I looked on the author’s website for the chronological reading order of the series, and decided one of my reading goals for this year is to read through this series chronologically. So, I picked up The Alien’s Mate. Where Assigned a Mate was heavy on the sex and light on the romance, I was pleased to find that The Alien’s Mate was completely opposite, and set in the 1840s. I am really looking forward to exploring the universe of these novels over the next few months.

relicThe next book I picked up was the first of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Pendergast series. This book, Relic, concerns murders at the New York Museum of Natural History. Two boys are murdered and then a security guard. It looks like they’ve been ripped apart by animals, but could be a serial killer. Amidst all this, a new exhibition is about to open and it is rumored that the items in the exhibition have a curse on them. After all, the team that collected the artifacts all died in mysterious circumstances. This book is fast-paced, fun, not totally believable. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Next, I finished a read-aloud that i had been reading with my my side of the mountainfourteen year old. We read My Side of the Mountain, where Sam runs away from home to live off the land, and he succeeds. Also highly improbably and completely page-turning for a read. While reading it, my daughter said that if she ever ran away from him that she was taking this book to help her figure out what to do. It’s the first read-aloud we’ve done in a while that she really liked. I ordered the second book in the series because I want to find out what happened next.

help is on the wayThen, I went back to Nothing Like I Imagined and listened to Help is on the Way, which is all about Mindy’s decision to hire a baby nurse. This decision turns out to a great one because the nurse becomes a surrogate mother to Mindy during this time. Mindy has so many questions about motherhood, and since her own mom has passed away, she had no one to truly answer and give advice until Rose became a part of her life. It’s a funny essay, but also touching.

The next Nothing Like I Imagined book was Searching for Coachsearching for coach taylor Taylor. This essay is all about husbands, how it feels to be a single mom with no husband, the good things about husbands, the bad things about husbands, and why her ideal television husband is Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. This one, quite honestly, feels like one of the more shallow essays in the collection. I felt like she was deflecting by laughing about husbands, and that she also might feel a little defensive. I imagine why she doesn’t have a husband is a question she’s fielded more than once.

one upon a time in silverlakeThe next Nothing Like I Imagined that I read was Once Upon a Time in Silver Lake. This essay tells an incident with a drifter that B.J. and Mindy had on a trip out to get dinner. Usually I like Mindy’s stuff, but this one fell flat for me. The situation was absurd, but also kind of sad, and I think Mindy was going for funny.

The final Nothing Like I Imagined was called Big Shot. Mindy big shotgets really obsessed with paying for other peoples’ meals. This is great and she loves it until she pays for a big name celebrity’s meal and the celebrity fails to acknowledge her gesture. This leads Mindy to ponder why she’s making the gestures in the first place. This was thoughtful, reflective, and it made me think about why I do the good things that I do.

the chicken sistersThe next book I chose was The Chicken Sisters. This was my first five-star read of the year. It’s a strong tale of two sisters who are at odds with each other and a daughter finding her way back into healing with her whole family. And there’s a reality show involved! Yay!! I love food competitions, so this book was just perfect.

The next book I finished was a read-aloud of The Porcupine Yearthe porcupine year with My 10 and 9-year-olds. It’s the third of The Birchbark House novels, and it chronicles that time where Omakayas is slipping from girlhood into young womanhood. We also got the backstory on one of my favorite characters, so I was pleased with that. We decided to go straight into the fourth book upon finishing this one. If you love the Little House on the Prairie books, I suspect that you’d love this series too.

99 percent mineThe next book I chose was Sally Thorne’s 99 Percent Mine. I had bought it as a Kindle deal, and hadn’t read it, but after I read The Hating Game last month, I knew I wanted to quickly slide this one into my current reads. It’s not as magically good as The Hating Game, so the book suffers when you compare the two books. The story is fun. I enjoyed the drama between the twins. I found that the main character, Darcy, is just not as likable as I prefer my romance heroines. To me, that drags the whole story down. Since Darcy and Tom have been friends since childhood, I wonder if I might also have liked to have seen more flashbacks in their relationship as children and into their relationship with Darcy’s twin brother. As it was, I couldn’t quite understand what Tom sees in Darcy.

Next, I read The Lost Love Song, which was a romance, but it was also a tale of grief. The malethe lost love song romantic interest is getting over his lost love and learning to love and to trust again. Grief is a tricky process though, so there are lots of stops and starts. I thought this was a beautiful book, but maybe not for me. I enjoyed it, but it was not a book I could see myself reading again, especially as the two romantic interests were not introduced to each other until over halfway through the book. I think it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

a connecticut yankee in king arthur's courtThroughout December and January, I had been listening to an audiobook with my children, and we finished it about a third of the way through the month. This book was a classic, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I really found myself enjoying this one far more than I had imagined I would. Twain had a gift fo social commentary. I kind of wish I had followed along on this one with a physical book as well just so I could take notes from the book. His observations felt fresh and relevant to today’s social structures.

I’ve been comfort-reading some romances lately, so it is no surprise that I picked The Dating the dating planPlan as my next read. This was perfection. I loved the Marvel-loving introvert, Daisy, and I found her love story with Liam to be beautifully done. I also loved Daisy’s close and loving Indian family. I thought this was a five-star romance, and I plan on going back and reading Desai’s romance before this soon. BTW, this ended up being both fake dating to real dating and second-chance romance, my favorite and least favorite tropes combined in one novel.  I found that amusing.

mastered by her matesNext, I read Mastered by Her Mates. This is the sixth of the Interstellar Brides’ Program novels, and this one is actually a “prequel” to the series. Amanda is the first bride to be matched from Earth. She’s matched to a warrior of Prillon Prime, and all warriors mate in pairs (primary and secondary mates) so that, if the warrior is killed, his mate is still taken care of. So, in other words, Amanda gets two mates. This book is actually very nice. There’s a lot of sexy stuff, but there’s a lot of character development and science fiction story going on as well. These books kind of remind me of a dirtier, lightly BDSM version of the Sherrilyn Kenyon books that I’ve always loved (of course Sherrilyn Kenyon can be pretty  sexy too).

The next book I read in the Interstellar Brides Program was very similar to Mastered by Her mated to the warriorsMates). This book was Mated to the Warriors. This book was again an Earth woman volunteering for the program, being matched to a primary and secondary mate from Prillon. It’s set aboard a space ship. There’s some story development with the world and the Hive to this one, and that’s interesting.  This book, unlike some though, is really focused on sex. There are a lot of scenes, and this one goes more into detailed scenes and BDSM than the one I read before this one. It also seems a little more amateurish than Mastered by Her Mates. While I enjoyed the book, if this one had been the only one in the series that i had read, I probably would not feel any desire to read more from this author.

claimed by her matesI continued my reading with the next book in the Interstellar Brides Program series, Claimed by Her Mates. This one takes place on one of the allied planets, Viken. The planet is on the brink of civil war and the royal princes (identical triplets) are receiving a match to share to unify the planet with one ruler from all three men. The goal is for them to not know who the father is, and for it to be their child together. The brothers don’t like each other very much, but they are unified in their pull towards their mate. This was actually a good story with a good plot. There was also a lot of sex, possibly too much. And I felt like the magical sperm might have pushed this one just a little over the edge of cheesiness.

Next, my marital and premarital counseling class began, and Istrengthening marial intimacy was required to read Strengthening Marital Intimacy. This was a fairly good Christian book about marriage without so much of the submission junk that is common in Christian writings. Most of the advice was common sense, but as I thought through it, it really made sense for me. For Hawkins, marriage is founded on a base of commitment, and there are seven commitments that Christians need to make in their marriages. Ultimately, the test of the strength and longevity of marriage though is whether or not they are good companions of each other. Food for thought, and I think, as I ponder what I’ve read, it will make me a better spouse. Not bad for a required book for a class. 

kristy and the snobsNext, I read Kristy and the Snobs with my nine-year-old. This is one of the better Baby-Sitters Club books that we’ve read so far. On the surface, it’s a story about Kristy adjusting to her new neighborhood and learning to make friends. However, underneath, it’s a painful story of pet loss as Kristy’s family has to say goodbye to their beloved dog, Louie. Both situations are tough for Kristy, and Kristy, as usual, makes things worse with the girls in the neighborhood rather than better. Her abrasive personality gives her fits!

The next book I finished was Don’t Know Much About the 50don't know much about the 50 states States. We used this as a spine for US geography. We read a page a day, watched a coordinating US states video on YouTube, and did a little map work and notebooking. There’s nothing special about this book, but it really helped to organize our study. I’m still looking for the right study for us to do next because I want to do something science, but haven’t found the right spine yet.

taken by her matesThen, I decided to go back to the Interstellar Brides Program novels. I’m really struggling with a little bit of low level depression, and these books have been a nice escape for me. I read Taken by her Mates, and I was really enamored with it. I really liked the heroine, and I liked Prince Niall. I’ve complained a little bit that these stories have too much sex in them, but this one doesn’t actually have any until almost halfway through the book. There’s some nice plot development throughout. These books are all insta-love, fated-mates variety books though, and I know some will find that irritating.

I continued reading the Interstellar Brides Program books with Mated to the Beast. This ismated to the beast probably my favorite of the Interstellar Brides books so far. Sarah is going enlisting in the interstellar army in order to bring her brother Seth home. However, a mistake is made in the processing center and she’s processed as a bride. She goes on to war, but her matched mate has other ideas. This is really good for so many reasons, including the camaraderie between Sarah and her troops, her love for her brother, and the gentlemanly beast that Sarah is mated to. I could have read a story twice as long on Sarah and Dax. Also, I would love for Seth to have his own installment in the series, even though he’s a human.

reliquaryThe next book I read was Relic’s sequel, Reliquary. This book starts with two headless bodies being found in a New York River. These bodies have certain genetic abnormalities that catch Lieutenant D’Agosta’s eye, and he brings in Margo Green and Whitney Frock to help in the investigation. As FBI Agent Pendergast hears of the investigation, he decides to join in as well, running down some rumors that seem to originate from the homeless communities living in underground New York. The book was interesting enough that I never put it down, but parts of reading it felt like work to me.

The next book was Parenting Forward: How to Raise Childrenparenting forward with Justice, Mercy, and Kindness. The information was good in this book, but it was mostly things I have either seen in blog posts or heard the author podcast or tweet about. It felt very basic, and I think I prefer to listen to her podcast to actually reading a full length book from her. This one is for those looking for a way to engage with their children from a more progressive form of their faith, so there are some evangelical parents who might find this book to be deeply offensive. I have always been a more attachment-based, unschooling, crunchy kind of parent, so this felt very intuitive to me. I think I would recommend it to friends who have left the evangelical church and are trying to figure out how this translates into parenting.

claudia and the new girlI read another Babysitters Club book with my nine-year-old next, and we read Claudia and the New Girl together. This one is frustrating to me because of how easily the babysitters all seem to give up on their friendship with Claudia. It was good to be able to read this one with Ellie because I was able to talk to her about the girls’ mean behavior. When friends get mad at each other, they talk. They don’t write mean notes and leave it under the other girl’s pillow. Other than that, this was a fairly good book, and it really makes you think about how serious a 13-year-old should be about her interests.

The next book I read was the seventh of the Interstellar Bridestamed by the beast Program books. I read Tamed by the Beast, and I really liked it. These Atlan beasts are certainly my favorites right now in the series. This one starts with a man on death row, wondering if a mate could be his salvation. It’s directly related to the last Atlan book in the series I read, and Dax and Sarah are prominently featured in the book. This made this book a really fun read and entry into the series. I’m having a lot of fun with these books because I’ve always been a fan of series like Star Wars and Star Trek. Alien smut is right up my alley. I just don’t know what’s going to be my next series after I finish all of Goodwin’s books. I still have a ways to go for Goodwin though.

a vow so bold and deadlyNext, I jumped straight into A Vow So Bold and Deadly. I’ve been waiting for this one to come out for a while, so I dropped everything else and read straight through this one in around forty-eight hours. It was a  great third book in the series! Kemmerer finished up the main questions of the trilogy, but she also left herself plenty of room to return to this world with another book if she chooses to. I was pleased with the story and with the resolution to the trilogy. I had to hand this one immediately over to my fourteen-year-old, and I look forward to seeing what her reaction to the book is too.

Next, I read a backlist book that has been on my list for a every note playedcouple of years. Every Note Played is the tale of the descent of a famous concert pianist into ALS. He’s not really very likable, and he’s a bit self-absorbed to begin with, so he has little support. Eventually his ex-wife Karina gets involved in his plight, and becomes a rock of support for him, giving them both a chance to pursue forgiveness and to forgive each other for the many failings of their lives together.  The descriptions of ALS were an education to me, a realization of what a horrific and terrifying disease ALS truly is. I found this one fascinating and well written, but not as emotionally satisfying as I had hoped.

color of compromiseThe final book I read his month was Jemar Tisby’s excellent The Color of Compromise. This history of racism in America, with specific attention given to racism in the church, was quite interesting. It was discouraging though because, when given the opportunity to choose between integrity and compromise, the church has most often chosen compromise. Tisby gives some practical ideas for ways that we can become less racist in our own lives and in our political advocacy. I liked it so much that I plan to use it in my high school history curriculum for my teens this year.

I liked most of what I read, but two books stand above all others. If there are any two books that I read this week that you want to try, I would suggest you make them The Chicken Sisters and The Dating Plan. They were both nearly perfect. A third selection, for non-fiction, would be The Color of Compromise.

I’m kind of excited about how my reading month ended up. Here’s hoping February is a great reading month too!