Just Like A Dream By Eileen Stacy

Kari knows it won’t be easy, and she has to do something before her true love rides off into the sunset!

Just Like a Dream

I never pass up the opportunity to pick up Tempo’s Caprice romances when I see them- for whatever reason, they are much harder to come by than the similar Sweet Dreams, First Love and Wildfire titles.

However, this time I probably should have taken a pass.

The Plot: Reading this book is exactly like getting assigned that girl who never shuts up about horses as your lab partner.

While I am glad that specific demographic has a book written specifically for them, I personally struggled to stay awake while reading it.

High school senior Kari Stewart is dating rich and popular Tim (who never gets a last name). But unsurprisingly, he’s a really turd who doesn’t understand her love of horses or passion to become a veterinarian. Kari meets handsome, horse-loving John Garrett, and breaks up with Tim.

That’s basically it, folks!  There is zero conflict or plot complications. There are many, many pages of descriptions of the equipment involved in grooming and showing horses.

So maybe it is not surprising that when it comes to descriptions of humans and their interactions, the prose sounds like a manual for robots trying to pass as people:

Kari towel-dried the extra moisture from her hair and plugged in her blow dryer.

Donna took a sip of the hot liquid and set it down on her desk.

Obviously, this is even more pronounced when the author is trying to describe romantic or sexy situations:

She couldn’t help but notice how his jeans molded to his lean hips and the cotton of his shirt strained across his broad shoulders. She paused and waited for his long, swinging strides to bring him to her.

John’s dark lashes closed over his eyes and he lowered his head to meet Kari’s. His lips feathered kisses on her eyelids, her cheek, and then found her mouth.

“Where is this head-hole you humans call ‘mouth’?”

There is also a full page describing the various choices of ribbons Kari can choose from as the head of the awards committee for her horse club, but I’m already feeling my hand cramp just thinking about typing it out. So, just imagine all the different ways ribbons can be.

Kari is thrilled to get a weekend job assisting at the vet clinic where John works, which involves a highly detailed description of how to sterilize surgical implements in an autoclave.

This also gives them an opportunity to flirt by accidentally-on-purpose touching hands while covered in horse blood:

As Kari laid the roll of bandages in his outstretched hand, their fingers touched. Again, this brief encounter sent shock waves through her body. She yanked her hand back as though her fingers had been burned by a flame. John didn’t seem to notice as he secured the bandages on Poco’s leg.


It is repeatedly hinted that John has a deep, dark secret. It is eventually revealed that he has won a scholarship to veterinary school and that his father had tractor fall on him, but I’m not sure which one was supposed to be the big secret.

Similarly, it is also constantly foreshadowed that Tim is planning some sort of retribution against Kari…

Tim slammed his fist on the dashboard.

“No girl breaks up with me. I’m the one who decides that. You’ll regret this, Kari.”

…and then his big revenge turn out to be dating a girl just because she can help him with his math homework and trying to get Kari’s best friend to go out with him, which she refuses because FILLIES BEFORE BILLIES! MARES BEFORE PLAYERS!

I don’t know, that sounds like something they’d say in this book. Her friend isn’t even tempted, so it’s not like it even results in any dramatic tension.

After at least 100 pages detailing all of the rules for showing one’s horse in the categories of Horsemanship and Western Pleasure, Kari finally wins one of those thoroughly-described first place ribbons. KARI + JOHN 4EVA, etc.

Sign It Was Written In 1985:

“I don’t believe what I’m hearing. Isn’t this the day of women’s lib?”

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It Could Happen to Anyone By Margaret Maze Craig

To be a senior and to be going steady with Andy Decker was to have all of life’s finest at one and the same time…

It Could Happen to Anyone

Uhhhhhhhh…. come on, fictional teenagers! I know that you truly believe platitudes such as “love is a gift fraught with hazards,” but you are literally freaking out about two separate things that did not even happen! Continue reading

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Nothing’s Fair In Fifth Grade By Barthe DeClements

When fat Elsie Edwards walks into Jenny Sawyer’s fifth grade class, she’s the last person Jenny expects to be friendly with…

Nothings Fair in Fifth Grade

I was on the fence about whether this one was “lost” enough to be considered a “lost classic” (35 years later it’s still in print, now with a cover featuring the heroine yakking into a cell phone); but after being reminded last week about Amy Treloar’s randomly terrible mother, I thought we’d revisit the meanest mama of them all…

The Plot: Jenifer Sawyer’s 5th grade class reacts with visceral revulsion when Elsie Edwards joins them halfway through the year. It’s not like the school’s administration helps any, since the principal announces in front of the whole class that Elsie is on a special diet, which consists of broth and carrot sticks, and her classmates are forbidden from sharing any snacks with her. DON’T FEED THE FATTIES, KIDS!

At least the only thing that 11 year olds hate more than having a fat kid in their class is being told what to do, so Elsie soon lasers in on Marianne, “the littlest girl in the room. She isn’t very smart, but she’s nice to everyone” and is now up a slice of cake. At least until teacher Mrs. Hanson makes her spit it out into the waste basket in front of the entire class and GOD WE GET IT ADULTS ARE JUST THE WORST! Continue reading

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The Dollhouse Murders By Betty Ren Wright

The old dollhouse was trying to tell Amy something…

The Dollhous Murders

Just in time for Halloween: ghosts, an unsolved double murder and AN INAPPROPRIATE BURDEN OF RESPONSIBILITY!

The Plot: Amy Treloar, just weeks away from her 13th birthday, struggles with her feelings regarding her 11 year old sister, Louann, who suffers from non-specific brain damage. While Amy is fiercely protective of Louann, and always at the ready to come to her defense when anyone treats her unkindly, she is also starting to break under the burden of constantly having to “babysit” her sister after school, as both of her parents work late.

Amy tries to stifle the resentment she feels, but when it seems that the responsibility she has for Louann has messed up her budding friendship with New Girl In Town Ellen Kramer after an embarrassing incident at the mall, Amy finally has it out with her mother: Continue reading

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Wrapping Up The Imaginary Summer Book Club: The Bad Seed By William March

(Click here for information on the 2015 edition of Molly’s Imaginary Summer Book Club Featuring Classics of Women’s Literature. As all of the four selected titles have filmed adaptations, we will be looking at the movie versions as we go along. This month, the September selection, William March’s The Bad Seed.)

The Bad Seed

The Bad Seed is March’s best-known novel, published just weeks before his death in 1954. In light of the popularity of the 1956 film version (itself an adaptation of Maxwell Anderson’s hit Broadway play) it has acquired something of a camp reputation. Modern readers might be surprised to find the book is both deadly serious and fairly cumbersome in its storytelling. Continue reading

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The Long Shot: A Kim Aldrich Mystery (#4) By Jinny McDonnell

It’s an adventure Kim will never forget, when she and Kevin, an attentive boys’ camp counselor, stalk a vicious kidnapper-killer through the mountain wilderness…

The long Shot

Time to wrap up this year’s month-long look at vintage girls series published by Whitman in the 50s, 60s, and 70s; and this time we come to the final volume in the Kim Aldrich series.

Written by Whitman house writer Virginia Bleecher McDonnell (her other credits for the publisher include titles for the Trixie Belden and Nurses Three series) as “Jinny McDonnell”, the brief  series is packed with action, danger and romance, as 20-something Kim investigates various crimes in an unofficial capacity for the World At Large insurance company (WALCO), where she works as a secretary and strives to be promoted to a claims adjuster.

The Plot:  I am genuinely saddened that this is the final book in the series, as Kim Aldrich, equal parts Nancy Drew and Helen Gurley Brown, has become one of my favorite Whitman heroines. Solving kidnappings, busting drug smugglers, auto theft rings and getting entangled in the occasional murder, both on the mean streets of mid-70s New York and more exotic locations, WALCO’s busiest secretary seems like she’s about due for that promotion she’s after… Continue reading

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Donna Parker: A Spring to Remember (#4) By Marcia Martin

Donna had no way of knowing that things would happen before graduation that would completely change her feelings toward her friend.

Donna Parker A Spring to Remember

Whitman-o-rama month continues with Marcia Martin’s extremely pleasant series on junior high school life in the 1950s-60s.

Background: When last we left 14 year old Donna and her BFF Ricky West (“called Fredericka only by her mother”) they had over the course of a 6-month period restored the faith in humanity of a disposed French count (and earned an electric sewing machine for doing so!); won a scholastic journalism award and thwarted a group of communist spies; and kept house while Donna’s parents set off on a whirlwind tour of Europe and India. More strictly serialized than most contemporary girls’ series, it is now almost summer in the suburb of Summerfield and a lot of old plot points are coming home to roost.

The Plot: By this point, Martin has pretty much dropped the pretense of being a mystery series, and thank God for that because there is enough going on without even the nominal mysteries of the first few volumes! In rapid succession Donna finds romance, tragedy, a rivalry with her best friend, her comeuppance when she tries putting on airs and finally graduates from Junior High. Continue reading

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