Friday, December 31, 2010

You know it's one of those days....

when you open two different bottle of champagne and both are fairly flat.  I've just decided that 2010 decided to go out with a whimper so that 2011 can come in with a bang.  But really?  Bad champagne?!  For anyone that knows me, this is a tragedy of a high degree.  Sigh.   Here's to 2011, flat champagne or not!

Making wine from grapes...

That's my take on the whole making lemonade from lemons saying.  New Year's Eve has NOT gone at all to plan...we were to travel this afternoon to Minneapolis for a friend's wedding this evening.  However, the weather seemed to decide otherwise for us, and ice and snow combined to make us stay home instead.  So with that extra time, I decided to take advantage of this unplanned day at home and wrap up some unfinished projects that had been laying around the craft room for a while.

First I worked on a curtain for our basement didn't turn out quite as "finished" looking as I'd hoped using the serger on the ends, but that's easy enough to fix another day.

After that, I finished up a baby gift - a Hawkeye blanket - that has been sitting around for MONTHS.  It's embarrassing how long this one has been pinned together and waiting for me to finish it.  This was just a comedy of errors today, and while it's not perfect, it's done and will definitely work for the little one who is going to receive it. 

It even got the "Harley Sue" stamp of approval.

Now that those are done, I'm going to sip on some wine (and later champagne), make us dinner, and perhaps do some quilt cutting and crocheting.  While I feel horrible about missing out on the wedding, it is a relief not to have to deal with slippery roads.  And even if we hadn't decided to go, apparently our house decided for us as our garage door appears to have broken and we can't open it to get the cars out!  Hopefully we can get that repaired here soon.

With that, I wish you all a safe and Happy New Year!  Cheers to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

This Week in Books (December 30)

A Big Fat ZERO to end the year!  I didn't read a single book over the holiday (unless you count lots and lots of children's books, read to my adorable niece).  I started a few though, including our massive January book club read - The Hemingses of Monticello...which is not going nearly as quickly as I'd hoped.  Ah well.  Here's to 2011 though, and all the books it brings :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Layer Cake Quilt Along - Block 3

I'm still running about two blocks behind on the Layer Cake Quilt Along and still have hopes of getting caught up here soon.  The 5th block was posted yesterday, I finished block 3 today, sigh.

The basket block was fun!  It took more time to cut I think than to put together, but all was done pretty easily and in less than two hours.  I took a picture of it with the other two I have completed as well, although the color isn't really good in either of these pictures.

Blocks 4 and 5 look challenging, maybe it was good to get an easier one in here to build me up some confidence!

Pink Squirrels - Part Deux

After getting as far as I did with last night's test squirrel, I decided to go for it this afternoon.  The girl in question wanted "pink" and "girly", so I made my fabric choices accordingly.

From there, learning from yesterday's mistakes, I cut and stitched and stuffed and sewed and ended up with a pretty good stuffed squirrel!  It's not perfect, but it's way closer to perfect than the sample one was.  I'm now brave enough to think about tacking other fact I bought a pattern today on sale for dogs and cats.

This here is the only part I really didn't like how it turned out.  It's not horrible, but not nearly as nice looking as I would have liked it to be.  I've been told that the friend it's for thinks it's fine, but I'm still thinking I may do another (and by the way, I LOVE the flying squirrel shot above, ha!)  Definitely a learning experience for me, but a fun one, and I'm thinking more of these stuffed creatures are in my future.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pink Squirrels

I've been slacking on sewing projects lately, so I as excited today when a friend asked me if I could make her soon-to-be stepdaughter a pink stuffed squirrel.  Apparently it was the ONE THING on the Christmas list she really wanted that could not be found.  (sidenote - thinking about pink squirrels for some reason makes me think of that odd part in Dumbo where they get into the fun juice a bit...but I digress :)

So pattern in hand, I set out to make a tester...I've definitely picked up a few things to alter for the one I'll do tomorrow (like reinforcing all seams), but for a work in progress, and my first stuffed animal, I don't think I'm doing too badly!  This one here needs to be stuffed and eyes added, but here it is, my first stuffed squirrel!

Review: Wedding of the Season - Laura Lee Guhrke

I had the pleasure of the opportunity to get an early read of the first two books in Laura Lee Guhrke's New Series: Abandoned at the Alter.  The first is Wedding of the Season.

Wedding of the Season is the story of Lady Beatrix Danbury and the Duke of Sunderland, Will Mallory.  Will and Trix have known each other their whole lives and the story begins as we learn that their wedding is called off a week before the big event and that Will has taken off for Egypt.  An archaeologist at heart, Egypt has always been Will's dream.  Trix, on the other hand, is left back in England to deal with the broken engagement, society, and moving on with life.

The story picks up again six years later as Will returns to England...and as Trix is about to get married to the Duke of Trathen.  The story follows the next few months, focusing on the relationships between Will, Trix,  Trathen, and Trix's cousin, Julia.  Even as Will and Trix realize they still have feelings for each other, the real issues between what each other want out of life remain the problem, with Will planning to return to Egypt and Trix wanting to remain in England. 

There's something about Guhrke's writing style that I just really, really enjoy.  It feels real, like reading conversations that you think you might actually have or overhear.  Now, maybe that means that things are necessarily historically accurate and the characters talk a bit too modern, but that I can't say.  I can say that it makes for a very enjoyable read!  I also love that the series itself it set in a slightly later time than many of the others in this genre that I read.  I think that helps with the dialogue, but it's also great to see a more "modern" time period, with cars and women starting to be much more independent.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book and the story.

Looking back on it, a few parts bother me here and there.  I feel like the background on Trix's parents was glossed over, and the more I think about it the more I'm left a bit unsatisfied with the ending.  I'm hoping some of those questions and points of concern will be taken care of in some of the other books of the series.  All in all, it's a very fun, very enjoyable read.  Guhrke's characters are believable and enticing, and I was definitely left wanting more and looking forward to the next in the series - Scandal of the Year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: To Have and To Kill - Mary Jane Clark

This was the first of Mary Jane Clark's books I'd read, and it was a quick and enjoyable read.  There was something about the writing style though that just didn't flow well for me, and I haven't quite been able to put my finger on what it was.  I couldn't decide if it was somewhat jumpy, or if we were getting almost too much internal narrative.  After stepping back a bit from it, I'm leaning toward the latter.

Our heroine in To Have and To Kill is Piper Donovan, a down on her luck actress, who on the eve of the holiday season is preparing to move in with her parents in New Jersey since living in New York City is a bit more than the unemployed can afford.  Her mother runs a bakery, and as we go through the book, we learn her mother is struggling with her own issues.  Piper's dad is a *bit* on the "let's be prepared for the end of the world" side and that comes up a lot at various points in the book.  (side note, this was a bit much).

Piper's friend and former co-worker on a popular soap opera is about to be remarried and it appears as though someone might be trying to kill her and prevent the wedding.  There's a host of possible culprits, from the soap opera producer upset that she's not making the move to the west coast, an ex-husband, unhappy soon-to-be-in-laws...and I will say that Clark does a good job of keeping you guessing as you go through the story.  I did figure out the eventual baddie before it was revealed, but that was probably just a bit of lucky guessing on my part.

As Piper does some amateur sleuthing, that brings in the romance aspect of the story.  We meet Piper's friend Jack early on...they are very good friends and Piper's afraid to take things to the next level for fear of ruining their friendship.  Jack however, doesn't have those same fears.  As Jack is an FBI agent in NYC,  this plays in well as we see Piper trying to work through the horrible things happening to her friends and former coworkers (and at various times, not actually trying to do any detecting, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time).

This is the first in a series, and while I wasn't overly enthralled by the book, I found it to be a light, enjoyable read.  I am interested in the later books in the series now, because I want to see what happens with Piper and Jack, what Piper ends up doing career-wise, and how things work out for her Mom.  I think that's a good sign when you can make someone care enough about the characters to read the later books, even if I wasn't quite as sold on some of the writing style itself.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This Week in Books (December 23)

Books Completed the Week Ending December 23
  • Death's Excellent Vacation - edited by Charlaine Harris 
  • Trial By Desire - Courtney Milan
  • Holiday Affair - Lisa Plumley
  • A Highlander Christmas - Janet Chapman
  • Storming the Castle - Eloisa James

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Joy Arrives in the Mail!

I've been remiss in not posting this earlier, but last week I got a package of Christmas joy in the mail!  Melody from Fingers and Prose sent me a fabulous looking package as part of the Holiday Swap...I've been very good to this part because it was so nicely wrapped that I felt like I HAD to wait until Christmas :)  But I have been able to enjoy the awesome book mark that includes a quilted cow (doubly awesome with my interests in quilting AND the fact I practice agricultural law) and a perfect purse-sized notebook and pen. 

Melody has a great blog, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her reviews.  I don't know if they planned it this way or it was coincidence, but she's also interested in quilting, so we have that in common (as well as a love of books!).  Check out Fingers and Prose if you get a chance!

I'm so anxious to tear into the packages, but I'm making myself wait until at least tomorrow.  So thank you, Melody, for sending me some Christmas joy, and I'm so excited to see what you have sent!

UPDATE: I was a good girl, and waited until we got home from our Christmas celebrations with the family to open my book swap packages.  And inside were two books I'm so excited to read: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  Thank you, Melody!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Quilt Along

I'd love to join this Quilt Along as well, but since I'm not even able to keep up with my every other week one, I can't fathom doing one that is two blocks per week!  I'm excited to see ones that people post though, should be fun! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: The Christmas Brides - Linda Lael Miller

Linda Lael Miller's Christmas Brides is two novels in one, set in the rugged Western U.S. in the late 1800s/early 1900s.  My understanding was that these two novels involve character from two long running book series that Miller writes.  It wasn't a problem though, not having read any of Miller's other books, to follow the stories, all that was lacking was perhaps some background on some of the other characters.

A McKettrick Christmas
The first story begins with Lizzie McKettrick on a train, headed home for the holidays, with plans to stay and teach after the first of the year.  She's spent the last few years at finishing and teaching school, and is ready to be home.  With her is her beau, a city boy, who she is taking to meet the family and from whom there is high hopes of a proposal.

However, the train is hit by an avalanche, killing the conductor and stranding the train in the midst of a blizzard.  Lizzie is sure her family will set out to find them when they don't arrive, but the weather is an impediment.  There are a handful of other passengers on the train as well, including Dr. Morgan Shane.  Dr. Shane and Lizzie work together to keep the passengers fed, trying to keep them warm and alive.  Lizzie's beau is no help, turning into a spoiled brat.  While he later redeems himself, it's clear there's no real hope for him and Lizzie.  instead, there's a connection between Lizzie and the good doctor.

One of the train passengers is a Mr. Christian - or as the children on the train take to calling him, Mr. Christmas.  He turns out to be the Christmas angel of the group, in more ways than one.  As they are eventually rescued by Lizzie's family, we see Lizzie come to a decision about her suitors and then a bit about her story after the rescue.

A Creed Country Christmas
Talk about a whirlwind romance.  This was the epitome of the times and marrying for necessity.  Juliana is stranded with four young Indian children after the Indian School she taught at was shut down, She can't bring herself to abandon the two youngest, and the two oldest have family who want them back.  Her brother in Denver refuses to provide Juliana with any of the money she inherited to help the children.

A the moment the Grinch-like shop keeper is about to kick them out, Lincoln Creed enters and ends of taking Juliana and the kids back to his ranch when he finds out they have no where to go.  It's just a few days before Christmas, and Juliana and the kids settle in at the ranch, where Lincoln's daughter, Gracie, is ecstatic to have them there (especially when she learns that Juliana is a teacher).

Within a matter of days, the two are married, the evil Indian affairs man is dealt with, and the issues with all four children are settled.  The story in between of how it all gets settled, Lincoln dealing with issues surrounding his deceased wife, Juliana coming to terms with her family, is heartwarming and makes the marriage of necessity so much more. 

A nice, feel-good set of stories, it's light-hearted feel-good book perfect for the Christmas season.  I don't typically read this type of book, but for a holiday read, it was perfect.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Enter the World of Jane Austen

Today is Jane Austen's 235th Birthday - Happy Birthday!  In honor of her birthday, Sourcebooks is offering special ebook editions of her classics today for FREE!  Yes, that's right FREE.  They are available for any number of different e-readers and formats, so check it out here.  The picture included here is their cover of Pride and Prejudice, isn't it fabulous?!)

In addition, Sourcebooks is apparently the number one publisher of Jane Austen sequels, and they are offering a number of them for free today as well.  I just loaded up my Kindle for the holidays with all sorts of fun reading!

(Hat tip to Book Soulmates for their post this morning tipping me off to the fun to be had!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This Week in Books (December 16)

Books completed the week ending December 16
  • Scandalous - Candace Camp (ebook)
  • Kiss At Midnight - Eloisa James
  • The Christmas Brides - Linda Lael Miller (ebook)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spreading Holiday Cheer - Holiday Swap!

I participated in the 2010 Book Blogger Holiday Swap this year and had the fun of sending a box of cheer to Katie at Book Love.  She posted today about her package, and I'm so glad she enjoyed it!  I love the holidays and this was a great way to share in the holiday fun and make new blog friends.  I'm already looking forward to participating next year :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Layer Cake Quilt Along - Block 2

Don't you just love the holiday season?  It's a great excuse for falling behind in things like the Layer Cake Quilt Along.  Today here in Iowa, the weather is just miserable...which means it's a good day to do some sewing and crafting.  Working like a busy little bee this afternoon, I managed to get Block Two finished today...and it was both deceptively easy and difficult!  The pieces were fairly easy to cut and put together...however squaring up was a pain!  It's a skill I definitely need to work on.  All in all though, it turned out nice and I'm excited to get a start on the Basket Block tomorrow!  I'm hoping to be close to being caught up before Block 4 is released on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This Week in Books (December 9)

Books completed the week ending December 9
  • When Harry Met Molly - Kieran Kramer
  • A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
  • Once Bitten - Clare Willis
  • Enchanting the Lady - Kathryne Kennedy
  • Love Me If You Dare - Carly Phillips
  • Impulse - Candace Camp
  • To Have and To Kill - Mary Jane Clark

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This Week in Books (December 2)

Books completed the two weeks ending December 2 (a double list since I didn't post with the Thanksgiving Holiday!)
  • Unveiled - Courtney Milan (ebook)
  • Scandal of the Season - Christie Kelley (ebook)
  • A Chesapeake Shores Christmas - Sherryl Woods (ebook)
  • Mistress by Midnight - Nicola Cornick (ebook)
  • How to Wed A Baron - Kasey Michaels (ebook)
  • The  Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie - Jennifer Ashley
  • A Season of Seduction - Jennifer Haymore

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: How to Wed A Baron - Kasey Michaels

How to Wed A Baron - Kasey Michaels 

Justin Wilde is a man happy to be back in his beloved England after many years of exile due to a duel gone wrong.  However, the price of his return has damaged his sould, and left him at the mercy of the Prince Regent.  Alina is traveling to England for the first time, the land of her mother, to meet the man to whom her King has arranged for her to marry.  Her plans to find her mother's family and to take the country by storm are disrupted though when she meets her betrothed.  Little does she know, that in addition to a potential marriage on her horizon, she also must deal with unknown dangers and politics that have made both Alina and Justin targets.

I absolutely adored the first three books in this series and was excited for Justin's story, an intriguing character we'd met in previous books. We start with Justin being called before the Prince and being told he was to be married.  Being at the mercy of the Crown is part of Justin's pennace and the bargain struck for being pardoned and allowed to return to England.  This is after he made himself "useful" to the Crown during the war.  There's a lot of backstory interspersed with the current story as Justin travels to meet his new bride, some of it tragic, but all of it playing a part in developing the man Justin has become.

I loved Alina when we first met her, and that continued throughout the rest of the book.  In fact, I loved all the characters, and enjoyed seeing the main characters from the prior books being involved in Justin and Alina's tale.  The story of Justin and Alina is interesting, yet I can't decide if it's because things move so fast or are a bit jumpy, that I wasn't totally absorbed.  Justin's feelings of being unworthy are well developed and play a key part in the story, yet I think the story of Luca, Alina's "Secretary"/Guard should have been more of a factor.  I liked the fact that Justin's "work" is dealt with matter of factly.  It is what it is, he is who he is, and the story is really his coming to terms with that and being able to form a relationship with Alina.
I think perhaps part of the reason I wasn't as absorbed into the characters, despite liking them, this book was that while we'd met Justin in the others, it wasn't like the first three in the series which focused on one family.  Because all three were about one family, we saw all of them in a variety of ways and learned a bit more about each as time went on.  That's true to some extent with Justin, but there wasn't the same sense of attachment to Justin and Alina as with the others.

I enjoyed the story, but this book didn't grab me quite the way the first three did.  All of that aside, it's a lovely story of two wonderfully independent and unique characters meeting their match in each other. While not my favorite of the four books in the series, it was enjoyable and I look forward to seeing more from Kasey Michaels.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Mistress by Midnight - Nicola Cornick

Mistress by Midnight is the third in Nicola Cornick's Scandalous Women of the Ton series.  I thoroughly enjoyed the previous Brides of Fortune series, and was excited for the new series.  I read the first, Whisper of Scandal, last month, and while I enjoyed the story, I wasn't fascinated by it or overly taken with the main characters.  I never did connect with Joanna and Alex, the hero and heroine of Whisper.  However, I did really like what I read about some of the other assorted characters and wanted to continue on with the series.

I skipped over book two for the moment and was excited for Mistress by Midnight.  This is the story of Lady Merryn Fenner (sister to Joanna, heroine of book one) and Garrick, Duke of Farne.  There is a long and sordid history between these families.  Merryn's brother, Stephen, was killed in a Duel with Garrick, after seducing Garrick's wife of a month or so.  Or so Merryn (and the majority of England) believes.

We meet Garrick as he is first assuming the title of Duke upon his father's death.  In arriving at the Ducal house in London, he is shocked to find a mystery woman hiding under his bed.  The mystery woman is Merryn, who manages to escape.  The Duke is intrigued though, and tracks Merryn down.  Despite himself, Garrick is fascinated with Merryn, despite the fact that it is clear that she despises him.

In fact, Merryn has been leading a secret life.  While making everyone think she is nothing more than a bluestocking, bookish young lady, she actually works, secretly, for an investigator.  Her employer has tantalized Merryn with enough facts for her to determine that all was not as it seemed with her brother's death, and she is determined that Garrick pay for what she believes was murder.  Little does she know that her employer has his own reasons for bringing Garrick down.

I found myself much more enticed by Merryn and Garrick.  Both have their faults, both are imperfect, but both are likeable characters stuck in difficult situations.  After a disaster strands them alone together in a life-threatening situation, their mutual attraction is impossible to deny.  Unfortunately, that leads to a whole other host of issues when they are discovered.

Despite blind stubbornness on the part of Merryn and (perhaps) misplaced loyalty on the part of Garrick, it's lovely to see how they come together and with some help, manage to put things to right and break down the walls of mistrust and hidden facts that are between them.  I wish that the side story with Tom Bradshaw, the inquiry agent that Merryn worked for, had been developed a bit more.  I was left feeling like there should have just been more there, but it wasn't a huge distraction overall. 

I liked this tale much more than the first, and I will definitely go back and read Lottie and Ethan's story.  There are more in the series to be released as well, and I suspect (hope) that one of them is Teresa's story, the third Fenner sister.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Big Ten Champs!

Today, my Michigan State Spartans secured a share of the Big Ten title!  Here's to being Big Ten Champs!!!

and because my niece has a different idea of what makes one happy to watch, I'll share a video that makes her happy...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Time To Give Thanks

I have so much to be thankful for as we celebrate this Thanksgiving holiday.  Family, friends, wonderful career opportunities, the list could go on and on.  I wish you all a wonderful holiday and ask that as you celebrate and enjoy many blessings that you consider those less fortunate and how you can share the joy of the holiday season with others.  For those in the Des Moines area, consider joining me in adopting a family through the Boys and Girls club (I am happy to provide more information if you are interested).  If you are outside of Des Moines, there are similar groups in every community working to ensure that every family has something to celebrate this year.  I wish you all a blessed holiday season and a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Neverending Wish List...

If you are a fabric freak (ok, fabric lover, sounds much kinder) like me, there is a never ending wish list of fabrics and patterns and projects.  Normally these are all in my head, but the folks over at Above All Fabric now have a fabulous "wishlist" feature on their website!  Now I can track all the fun stuff I see on there, maybe even use it as gift ideas when people ask me what I want...

I had a lot of fun over there just now checking out the wish list feature...layer cakes for quilts, patterns and fabric for some clothes for my niece, soon to be niece or nephew and myself...purses...argh, there's just too much cute stuff!  I REALLY want to try out some of the velveteen on the site, I think it's just gorgeous.  And I found some great skirt patterns on there that I may have to add to my project list so I'm prepared for next summer.  Good thing Christmas is I just need to convince Santa I've been good this year :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: A Chesapeake Shores Christmas

The second book I finished as part of the Holiday Reading Challenge was A Chesapeake Shores Christmas by Sherryl Woods.  This is apparently the fourth in this series, although the first that I have read.  While it might have helped for a bit more background on some of the characters in the story, I don't think it was by any means necessary to have read the previous books to enjoy this one.

When trying to figure out how to describe the book, I just kept thinking to myself...what a nice story.  And really, that's what it is.  It is the story of Mick and Megan, a couple with 5 grown children, who were married, divorced, and have now found their way to reconciliation.  It's their story, but it's also the story of their family, especially their son Connor who has never forgiven his mother for leaving initially, and carries a lot of scars.

Megan has been living in New York, but we start the book at a time just before Thanksgiving when Mick has asked Megan to marry him (again) and they've set New Year's Eve as the date, with the wedding to be just the family and held at the in their daughter Jesse runs. As the story progresses, we see Mick and Megan trying to move forward with their relationship while still dealing with putting all the issues that drove them apart before to rest.  We see how the family reacts to the wedding announcement as well, which is largely positive, but Connor is the true exception.  His reaction is the first in a series of events that causes Megan to want to postpone, which is a whole new set of issues for her and Mick to deal with.  Throw in a baby essentially showing up on the family's doorstep on Thanksgiving, that turns out to be Connor's 9-month old son he's told no one about, and you've got plenty for a family to deal with.

It really is just a nice story, a heartwarming family tale set during the holidays and incorporating the holiday sentiments and feelings and atmosphere and all that go along.  I enjoyed the book, and at some point will likely try to check out the first three books (and likely the next three that are said to be forthcoming) from the library.  The first three books appear to follow the relationships of 3 of Mick and Megan's children, and I suspect they would provide the background on the beginnings of their reconciliation.  A nice holiday read, and one I'm glad to have read as part of the Holiday Challenge - especially since it was a new author and not likely one I would have found otherwise.

Review: Scandal of the Season

Thanks to a bout with insomnia last night, and to having downloaded this book to my Kindle just hours before, I sped through the first of my Holiday Reading Challenge books in no time.  Scandal of the Season, the fourth book in a series by Christie Kelley, is a wonderful read set during the holiday season.  Even if I hadn't been unable to sleep last night, I doubt I would have been able to put the book down until I was finished.

Of the group of women that make up the core heroines of the series, this book focuses on Victoria.  Victoria hides many a secret from her friends, all that is except Sophie, a medium who knows more about her friend than Victoria realizes.

We also have Anthony, Viscount Somerset, who is troubled by an encounter with an unknown woman ten years ago.  That same night he uncovered some shocking truths about his family, and the events of that night led to the man we've met in the previous that appears hard, callous and on the fringe of acceptability. Sophie is his illegitimate half-sister, and previously he's been her accomplice in her matchmaking schemes.  However, his participation was built in large part on Sophie's agreement at some point to tell him who the mystery woman he has so much guilt over is.  In addition, we learn that Tony hates Christmas and December.  In his mind, nothing good EVER happens during the holiday season, and when he lists all the reasons why he thinks so, it's not hard to really see why. 

And that's where we find Victoria and Tony, ten years later.  I loved their story.  Full of mistrust yet passion and fiery interactions, the story just seemed real in the sense that it was the emotions and interactions that I can see these two strong, independent characters engaging in.  The supporting cast was also well done, as we follow Tony's and Victoria's story.

The basic premise, in addition to the history between Tony and Victoria, is that Tony is also an agent for the Crown who enlists Victoria's help, somewhat unwillingly and unknowingly, for his final mission -- unraveling a plot to murder the Prince.  Posing as his mistress at a house party, we see the relationship between the two develop, even though both believe there is no future.  Tony needs to wed someone respectable and from high society in order to repair his reputation in society.  Victoria (or Anne as we come to find out) does not fit that description for a variety of reasons.  Yet of course, that does not keep them from falling in love.

The story itself is fabulous.  There is a dark turn at the end, that while shocking and horrifying, is well-done in the sense that it truly is a continuation of the story up to this part.  While some of the basic premises of the tale might have been foreseeable, the details certainly were not and kept me engaged all the way through.

In addition to the story of Tony and Victoria, there is the underlying drama surrounding Tony's family, which is still playing out ten years later, and unknown to both of them, ties the two of them together in additional ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed Scandal of the Season and very much look forward to the next in the series, which I hope, is Sophie's story.

100 Books

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Instructions: Copy this. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomlas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

After going through this list, I want to go back and finish all those ones that are in italics (ok, most of them) and start in on some of the others!

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Week In Books (November 18)

Books completed the week ending November 18
  • Happy Ever After - Nora Roberts
  • Scandal of the Year - Laura Lee Guhrke (ebook)
Somehow it doesn't seem possible I read only two books this whole week!  It's making me wonder if I forgot one...

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    2010 Holiday Reading Challenge

    I'm not usually one to read an abundance of holiday books during the holly jolly time of year, but every year there are a few that sneak into my TBR pile (although granted, I'm usually reading them in March).  I saw a blog post about the 2010 Holiday Reading Challenge and thought I'd join in and maybe try to read a few holiday books during the actual holiday season.  I'm not aiming TOO high between the other books in the pile and the various holiday projects/gifts on tap, but this should be fun!  I've already enjoyed taking a look at what others are reading. Nely, who hosts the challenge each year, has all the details on her site, so go there for more details!

    Here's my reading list:
     A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

     A Season of Seduction - Jennifer Haymore

     Scandal of the Season - Christie Kelley (Review)

    The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg 

    *It's on my list since it is Christmas-themed, but I have to admit that I read this back when it was first released and not for the challenge :)

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Layer Cake Quilt Along - Alabama Spinner

    The 2010 Layer Cake Quilt Along kicked off November 2 with the posting of the first block - the Alabama Spinner.  The second block will be posted this week, but I'm pretty darn excited to say that so far I'm keeping up and I got my first block finished this week!

    It's not quite perfect...once I was done I realized that I'd accidentally reversed two of the triangles in one of the squares, but you don't really notice that unless you're looking for it I don't think!  There is also supposed to be a red circle in the very middle, but I haven't decided if I'm going to attempt that yet.  My machine is being a bit wonky and I think I'll wait until after I have it serviced to do anything more to this block for fear I'll mangle it.

    That being said, I'm pretty darn happy with how it turned out, and I'm excited to see the next block this week!  Click here for more info on the Quilt Along, and clicking here will take you to the flickr group if you'd like to see more photos!

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    This Week In Books (November 11)

    Books completed the week ending November 11
    • One Touch of Scandal - Liz Carlyle
    • Kiss Me If You Can - Carly Phillips
    • Whisper of Scandal - Nicola Cornick
    • Wedding of the Season - Laura Lee Guhrke (ebook)
    Not too many this week, I'm getting started on a number of holiday sewing and crochet projects!

      Thursday, November 11, 2010

      Book Blogger Holiday Swap

      I just signed up for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap.  I read about it today and thought it sounded like fun and a good way to find interesting book blogs to follow!  For more information on the holiday swap, or to sign up (deadline is November 14), click here.

      Friday, November 5, 2010

      This Week in Books (November 4)

      Books completed the week ending November 4 (seriously, who comes up with some of these titles...)
      • Mischief of the Mistletoe - Lauren Willig (Pink Carnation Series)
      • Wicked Delights of A Bridal Bed - Tracy Anne Warren
      • A Hellion In Her Bed - Sabrina Jeffries
      • An Indecent Proposition - Emma Wildes

      Wednesday, November 3, 2010

      Crochet Book Giveaway is giving away a copy of Crochet Now! on its website/blog.  As someone new to this craft, I'm excited about the DVD, and the illustrations in the book.  I need some good illustrations to try to figure out what it is the words are trying to get me to do! Click here to check out their review of the book and get the details on how to enter to win! 

      And doesn't the cover just suck you in?!  I think the socks on there look so warm and cozy!  Of course, that could be in part because I'm freezing cold at the moment...

      Monday, November 1, 2010

      A New Hobby

      I really need a new hobby like I need a hole in my head.  In fact, it's my dear husband who needs a hobby to occupy his time through the winter, but that's a story for another day.  While I don't NEED a new hobby, I've been wanting to learn this one for a long to crochet.

      Each of the past two Thursdays, I've taken a couple hours out of the afternoon and attended a "Learn to Crochet" class at a new store in town - Knitting Next Door.  The first class did NOT go well.  I went home afterward and tried to practice, and ended up with some pretty sad looking balls of yarn.  However, something sort of just clicked the second class, and now I'm crocheting up a storm!  I finished my first project yesterday and I'm so excited.  It's modeled here by the adorable Miss Harley.  It's not perfect, by far, but it's so much improved from the initial attempts that it's amazing.  I'm now officially "hooked" (teehee) on crocheting, and have hit up Michaels and Jo-Ann already for supplies (hooks in all sizes, yarn sales, oh boy).

      I'm still only working with two basic stitches, the single and the double, but I figure that will keep me busy for a while as I work to perfect those!  I'm hoping there will be a few more basic classes through the winter that will expand my skill set too.  And in the meanwhile, friends and family should be aware that a scarf may be in their future...color requests are accepted ;)

      Thursday, October 28, 2010

      This Week In Books (October 28)

      Books completed the week ending October 28
      • How to Beguile A Beauty - Kasey Michaels
      • How to Woo A Spinster - Kasey Michaels
      • Midnight Crystal - Jayne Castle
      • Hot Finish - Erin McCarthy
      • Sinful in Satin - Madeline Hunter
      • Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing A Lord - Sarah MacLean

      Monday, October 25, 2010

      This Week in Books (October 21)

      Books Completed the Week Ending October 21 (a double week due to a pause in reading/blogging during a fabulous (but busy) visit from my parents!)
      • One Perfect Rose - Mary Jo Putney
      • Precious Jewel - Mary Balogh
      • The Paid Companion - Amanda Quick
      • Lord Lightning - Jenny Brown
      • Glitter Baby - Susan Elizabeth Phillips
      • What I Did For Love - Susan Elizabeth Phillips
      • How to Tempt A Duke - Kasey Michaels

      Tuesday, October 19, 2010

      Quilt Along

      A couple of weeks ago I squeezed out a few hours into a crazy day and snuck over to the American Quilters Society (AQS) Show that was here in Des Moines.  Wowsa.  It was awesome!  Just seeing the beautiful work by others was inspiring, but it was dangerously fun to spend so much time in the trade show where there were tons of booths from various quilting-related suppliers and stores.  I picked up tons of projects and ideas.

      With the soon-to-be-completed craft room downstairs coming ever-closer to reality, I've decided to try an online Quilt Along that I learned about after reading about it on a post on one of the many quilting/sewing blogs I follow - Hooked on Needles.  I'm a bit worried it might be too much for a true beginner here, but it's a good excuse to make myself do some cutting and sewing -- and it's great practice.  So starting in a few weeks, I'm going to get started on the Moose on the Porch Quilts Layer Cake Quilt Along 2010! It runs through May 2011, with new blocks posted every other week.

      • 1 Layer Cake (or 12 fat quarters)
      • 1 1/2 yards accent fabric
      • 1 2/3 yards outer border 
      • 4 yards backing 
      • 2/3 yards binding
      I have quite a few fat quarters, but I may see if Layer Cakes are on sale anywhere that catch my eye...seems like a good excuse to buy some fabric (like I need an excuse...).  The rest of it I'm thinking I'll pull from my stash or pick up as needed. 

      So keep an eye on the blog for quilting action shots!  We'll see if I can put that new craft room to good use...

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

      The holidays are always challenging fir me when it comes to food...generally involving failed attempts not to overeat each meal.  However, since I've had to start watching/avoiding my gluten intake, holidays pose an additional challenge.  With that in mind, I owe a big thanks to my friend Amanda over at Stitch to Stitch, who directed me over to The Thrifty Mama who had a link to a helpful guide for the upcoming holidays.  There I found a coupon code for a free download of the ebook: Jules' Gluten Free Thanksgiving. 

      It's a book, it's free, and it'll help with a gluten free holiday...what more can you ask for!?  Even if you yourself aren't gluten-free, your friends or family may have this on their do-not-eat list.  The book provides lots of recipes and ideas for the holiday meal (and surrounding meals) that provide options for all.  Check it out here and use the coupon code "thanks10" through October 14 to download your free copy.

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      This Week in Books (October 7)

      Books Completed the Week Ending October 7
      • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (re-read) - J.K. Rowling
      • How to Tame A Lady - Kasey Michaels
      • Chains of Fire - Christina Dodd
      • Lessons From A Scarlet Lady - Emma Wildes
      • Wait Until Midnight - Amanda Quick

      Monday, October 4, 2010

      This Week in Books (September 30)

      Books completed the week ending September 30
      • On the Steamy Side - Louisa Edwards
      • The Devil Wears Plaid - Teresa Medieros
      • All I Ever Wanted - Kristan Higgins
      • The Confessions of A Duchess - Nicola Cornick
      • The Scandals of An Innocent - Nicole Cornick
      • The Undoing of A Lady - Nicole Cornick

      Friday, September 24, 2010

      National Sewing Month

      I never realized how awesome the month of September was before...not only is it National Library Card Sign-up Month (which relates to my favorite hobby - reading), I just learned today that it is also National Sewing Month

      According to the website:
      The observance of National Sewing Month began in 1982 with a proclamation from President Ronald Reagan declaring September as National Sewing Month “In recognition of the importance of home sewing to our Nation.”
      Sewing is a new hobby of mine that I've only picked up in the past couple of years, but it's quickly risen to near the top of the list (about the only store I love more than a fabric store is a book store!).  I have more fabric and projects that any reasonable person needs in my house...but it's just so much fun!  For some reason, out of the blue, during the winter of 2007/2008 I decided to buy myself a sewing machine and sign up for weekend classes at the local store.  It was wonderful.  I was quickly hooked and loved the thrill of completing a project.  I'm still fairly basic, but I'm slowly expanding into a few more novice projects (hopefully to be showcased here soon) and am even trying my hand at quilting.

      I've been slacking lately, waiting and waiting for our basement to get done so that I could make myself a true crafting space, rather than working out of various other rooms in our house.  It's getting closer, and hopefully within the next week or two I'll be able to get my space put together.  In the mean time though, knowing it's National Sewing Month may inspire me to break out the machine yet this weekend and get some of my smaller projects done!

      There are a TON of sewing and fabric-related blogs out there if you're interested.  Check out my blog roll for just a few of my favorites.  Happy Sewing!

      This Week in Books (September 23)

      Books completed the week ending September 23
      • Shakespeare's Counselor - Charlaine Harris
      • Bit the Jackpot - Erin McCarthy
      • Bled Dry - Erin McCarthy
      • A Lady Never Tells - Candace Camp
      • Sucker Bet - Erin McCarthy
      • A Gentleman Always Remembers - Candace Camp
      • Heiress for Hire - Erin McCarthy
      • Can't Stand the Heat - Louisa Edwards

      Friday, September 17, 2010

      This Week In Books (September 16)

      Books completed the week ending September 16
      • Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris
      • Ill Wind - Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon #3)
      • Chains of Ice - Christina Dodd
      • Sins of A Duke - Suzanne Enoch
      • Ooh Baby! - Ann Roth
      • Sins of A Wicked Duke - Sophie Jordan
      • Quinn's Woman - Susan Mallery
      • Shakespeare's Champion - Charlaine Harris
      • Troublemaker Book #1 - Janet/Alex Evanovich
      • High Stakes - Erin McCarthy
      • Shakespeare's Christmas - Charlaine Harris
      • Shakespeare's Trollop - Charlaine Harris

      Thursday, September 16, 2010

      National Library Card Sign-Up Month

      September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month.  I LOVE libraries.  LOVE LOVE LOVE.  In fact I don't think I can say that enough.  I hadn't been visiting my local library system much the past year or two, but over the past six months I've rediscovered how awesome they are.  All those books!  Free!  Available for the borrowing...ahh, it's wonderful.  I have to admit, the Des Moines library system rocks for any number of reasons.  My favorite though, is the pure convenience.  I can go online and request a book (place a hold) and they will pull that book and reserve it for me at whichever location I choose.  Then, when I get a chance, I just swing by and pick up my book(s).  When I am spending a lot of time downtown, I reserve over at the Central branch.  Up at Drake, the Forest Ave. branch.  It just doesn't get more convenient than that. 

      Even beyond the books and the opportunities to lose yourself in the pages of a new author or new genre, libraries offer amazing services and programs.  Libraries are too often overlooked for the many services they provide to the community, and are dramatically underfunded.  If you don't have a library card for your local library, swing on by and check it out!  It's free, it's easy, and you'll be surprised at all the library has to offer.

      Friday, September 10, 2010

      Ape House

      I'm so excited for Sara Gruen's new book Ape House.  Released just this past week, it's been getting some good reviews (see here and here and here).  The book's inspiration is located right here in good old Des Moines...the bonobos at the Great Ape Trust.  Gruen launched her book in Des Moines, with a free event as part of the Des Moines Public Library's AVID Series.  It was nice to get a chance to hear an author talk about her book, the work that went into it, and to learn more about the fascinating and amazing bonobos.  My book club had previously read Gruen's Water for Elephants, and a group of us went to the release event.  I picked up a copy there of Ape House to add to my TBR pile.

      More than anything, I'm looking forward to reading about the bonobos.  The video we saw of the Great Ape Trust was my first real insight into what the Trust does.  Even though I knew it was here in Des Moines and has been for several years, it's not something that we hear about often.  I hope that the book helps bring some much needed support for the Trust, and for protecting and learning from the Great Apes.

      This Week In Books (September 9)

      Books completed the week ending September 9
      • Shadow Zone - Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen
      • The Dead Travel Fast - Deanna Raybourn
      • Flat Out Sexy - Erin McCarthy 
      • Hard & Fast - Erin McCarthy
      • The Wild Marquis - Miranda Neville
      • Undead and Unfinished - MaryJanice Davidson

      Wednesday, September 8, 2010

      This Week In Books (September 2)

      Books completed the week ending September 2
      • Ravished - Amanda Quick (audio)
      • The Duke's Night of Sin - Katherine Caskie
      • deeply, desperately - Heather Webber
      • Dead Over Heels - Charlaine Harris
      • A Fool and His Honey - Charlaine Harris
      • Last Scene Alive - Charlaine Harris
      • Poppy Done to Death - Charlaine Harris

      Sunday, August 29, 2010

      Review - Duke's Night of Sin

      Last week I was lucky enough to win an advance e-galley of The Duke's Night of Sin by Katherine Caskie.  Thanks to Bev at The Season, I was able to have an early read of the third in Ms. Caskie's "Sin" series.

      The series focuses on the Sinclair siblings who have been banished from Scotland by their father for epitomizing each of the seven deadly sins - each as adopted one as their own.  Suisan's story is told in the third installment, following her path to redemption and (hopefully) path to love and return to her father's good graces.  While a bit overly-dramatic/self-sacrificing at times, Suisan is a likeable heroine as she eventually learns to become a person she can be proud of.  While there isn't as much backstory on our hero, the new Duke of Exeter,as I might of liked, he comes off as a hero deserving of our heroine.  A brief mention is made of historical events that I would have liked to have read more about, and I would also have liked a bit more on the family relationships of the Duke (what's done is passing left me somewhat wanting).  The bulk of the story between the hero and heroine takes place outside of London.  Suisan's remaining siblings play only a minimal role in the story, but we do learn that Grant's story will be next, in 2011.

      A light, quick, entertaining read, it was perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

      This Week in Books (August 26)

      Books completed the week ending August 26 
      • Wicked Intentions - Elizabeth Hoyt
      • Don't Tempt Me - Loretta Chase
      • Last Night's Scandal - Loretta Chase
      • All Night With a Rogue - Alexandra Hawkins
      • Till Dawn With the Devil - Alexandra Hawkins
      • A Bone to Pick - Charlaine Harris
      • Three Bedroom, One Corpse - Charlaine Harris
      • Julius House - Charlaine Harris
      • One Dance With A Duke - Tessa Dare
      • Twice Tempted By A Rogue - Tessa Dare
      • Three Nights With A Scoundral - Tessa Dare
      • Siren Song - Trish Albright
      • Firestorm (Anna Pigeon #4) - Nevada Barr (audio)

      This Week In Books (August 19)

      Books completed the week ending August 19
      • A Superior Death - Nevada Barr
      • Bullet - Laurell K. Hamilton 
      • The Secret Duke - Jo Beverley
      • A Bone to Pick (Aurora Teagarden #2) - Charlaine Harris

      Wednesday, August 18, 2010

      Going to the Chapel...

      Three years ago today, in a little chapel in on the lake, I said "I Do" to my wonderful husband.  It's hard to believe it's been three years already..yet sometimes it seems like we've been together a lot longer than that too (I mean that totally in the best way possible)!  I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world, so here's wishing a Happy 3rd Anniversary to my dear husband and I look forward to celebrating many, many more!

      Friday, August 13, 2010

      This week in books (August 6)

      Books completed the week ending August 12

      March of the Elephants

      I'm so in love with the fabric that arrived in my mail this week!

      Isn't is adorable?!  I only wish I could have gotten it in some of the other fabulous colors.  I saw the fabric on the most excellent Hawthorne Threads blog, which is a fabulous blog for everyone interested in fabric and sewing and the related subjects. I immediately went to order, and most of the colors were already sold out.  I was able to get a yard in each of these though (this is the medium weight cotton, it also comes in a canvas).  They arrived within just a couple days -- super fast turn around time from Hawthorne -- and the fabric is just as cute as I hoped it would be.  I know my friend over at Stitch to Stitch ordered some as well, so it's a hot commodity!

      Now I just need to figure out what to make that will live up to the awesomeness of this fabric...