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 ;)