Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Biggest (and Best) Project of 2011

As we move into 2012, I thought I'd share what I consider my biggest and best project from the past year.  Born just this past week, our new addition to the family has blessed us already in so many ways.  Did I get many of the projects on my to-do list crossed off this year?  Not really, but I figure my excuse is good :)  Instead, I have this sweet, wonderful bundle of joy, who I'm sure will keep me so busy he will become my new excuse for not completing projects!

May 2012 bring you all much happiness, joy, peace and love.  Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae

The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae
The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae by Stephanie Laurens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Three heroes, three rescues, three weddings.

We joyfully request your attendance at the wedding of Miss Angelica Cynster

...but not until she and her hero confront a devious enemy and lay to rest an ancient grudge in the Scottish Highlands!

Headstrong Angelica Cynster is certain she'll recognize her fated husband at first sight. And when her eyes meet those of a mysterious nobleman across a candlelit ballroom, she knows beyond doubt that he's the one. But her heart is soon pounding for an entirely different reason--when he hero abducts her!

The eighth Earl of Glencrae has no choice but to kidnap Angelica, the one Cynster sister with whom he hadn't wanted to tangle. But to save his castle and his clan, he must persuade her to assist him--and he's prepared to offer marriage to seal the deal.

My Thoughts: For some reason, I much more enjoy Ms. Laurens' writing when she does Cynster novels than any of her other books. Even though a few of the quirks that bother me remain, overall the characters and the stories are what shine through. The first two books in this series did a great job of setting up the third and final installment, and it didn't disappoint. There was never any doubt that the Earl and Angelica were going to be quite a pair, and the only real mystery was how they would make their HEA happen. I felt like the ending was a bit rushed and that there was story missing when it came to the villains here, but overall, I enjoyed the story and look forward to seeing the next of the Cynster cousins use the necklace to find her hero!

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Review: The Duke Is Mine

The Duke Is Mine
The Duke Is Mine by Eloisa James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Tarquin, the powerful Duke of Sconce, knows perfectly well that the decorous and fashionably slender Georgiana Lytton will make him a proper duchess. So why can’t he stop thinking about her twin sister, the curvy, headstrong, and altogether unconventional Olivia? Not only is Olivia betrothed to another man, but their improper, albeit intoxicating, flirtation makes her unsuitability all the more clear.

Determined to make a perfect match, he methodically cuts Olivia from his thoughts, allowing logic and duty to triumph over passion…Until, in his darkest hour, Tarquin begins to question whether perfection has anything to do with love.

To win Olivia's hand he would have to give up all the beliefs he holds most dear, and surrender heart, body and soul…

Unless it’s already too late

This sexy, witty version of The Princess and the Pea turns the classic fairy tale into an enticing, funny, and moving romance

My Thoughts: Another fun novel from Ms. James with a spin on a fairy tale classic. I wasn't sure the first few chapters how the story would progress, but I should have known better, as it spun into a fun tale involving a host of spirited characters who were all perfect, yet imperfect, in their own ways. Olivia is what I like in a heroine...she's witty, funny, loyal yet doesn't quite fit the mold of the perfect heroine and not your typical beauty either. Quin bears a few scars, but you can tell from the start that there was more to him than the stuffy, formal Duke. Once they get their HEA, the ending and epilogue leaves me hoping that we'll get the stories behind Georgiana and Justin's briefly mentioned future lives!

View all my reviews

Review: The Bracelet: A Short Story

The Bracelet: A Short Story
The Bracelet: A Short Story by Mary Jane Clark

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Piper Donovan adores her brother. Her sister-in-law is another matter. Self-centered, greedy, and completely annoying, Zara is, inexplicably, the love of Robert’s life. Piper puts up with her to maintain peace within the family.

When an exquisite gold bracelet goes missing, all the evidence points to Zara as the thief. Piper knows she should go to the police, but she’s torn. Is finding justice worth risking the happiness of her entire family?

My Thoughts: I have to say, calling this a short story might be a bit of a stretch. It took me all of about 10-15 minutes, start to finish. Essentially a chance for Piper to learn a quick lessor about not making snap judgments, there wasn't a lot to the story overall. Perhaps there's a set up to the next Piper book here, but on its face, it wasn't obvious.

View all my reviews

Finishing Projects, One At A Time

I haven't exactly been good about finishing any of my major projects this year.  My quilt has a lot of work to go, I keep starting new projects and the pile grows and grows.  But, I'm happy to report that I can at least cross ONE item off the to-do list!

I managed to get one project done for Baby Z on the crafting side.  Months and months and months ago, I took a baby blanket crochet class.  I started the blanket and then set it aside about 80% of the way done in order to start on one for my youngest niece.  One thing led to another, and I never got back to it, and I haven't exactly been full of energy and crafty these last few months.  Last month though, I FINALLY got the blanket done, and it felt so good to cross a project off the list. Now I'm working on a few Christmas presents, and then it's back to the several other blankets I have that are works in progress :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: An O'Brien Family Christmas

An O'Brien Family Christmas
An O'Brien Family Christmas by Sherryl Woods

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Dating Matthew O’Brien-a playboy and a younger man-cost Laila Riley her career and her parents’ respect. A high price, even for love-and when Laila decides it was just a fling, she breaks it off, despite Matthew’s objections.

It’s a great time to get away from it all, but Laila has reservations about joining the O’Briens for a Dublin holiday. Matthew’s bound to be there, and she’s far from immune. What if she can’t resist temptation?

Meanwhile, the O’Briens are in an uproar over matriarch Nell’s unexpected romance with an old flame. Will she follow her heart despite the risks? And will Laila discover that some risks are actually once-in-a-lifetime opportunities?

My Thoughts: The O'Brien books are ones that hook me in, especially at the holidays. They are just such feel-good books with this almost-too-good-to-be-true set of family characters that you can't help but finish the book with a smile on your face. Every time I read one of Ms. Woods' novels, I am left with a good feeling...her first was the O'Brien Christmas story last year, and I have to say both books do a good job of helping keep that happy holiday spirit going. Even without having read all of the O'Brien stories, don't be afraid to pick this one up. You might miss a bit of the backstory, but not enough to be problematic.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: My Ruthless Prince

My Ruthless Prince
My Ruthless Prince by Gaelen Foley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: His brother warriors fear the Earl of Westwood has turned traitor, but Emily Harper knows this is impossible for the man she has loved since childhood . . . as impossible as a marriage between them could ever be—she, the gamekeeper’s daughter and he, a bold and adventurous nobleman.

Driven by hatred and revenge, Westwood is playing a deadly game of deception, bent on destroying the enemy’s dark conspiracy from the inside, and he’s furious when Emily plunges herself into danger for his sake. Forced into close quarters, their long-suppressed desire explodes into all-consuming passion.

Emily knows her love can save him . . . but Westwood is a man who doesn’t want to be saved.

My Thoughts: Westwood's and Emily's story is one I'd been waiting for since starting the Inferno Club series, and I have to say I wasn't disappointed. Having suffered along with Westwood over the previous novels, I think the author did a good job of not glossing over the trauma inflicted on him, what he was tryin to deal with and how even in the end he didn't just go back to being the same person he was portrayed to be prior to all this. Emily was a great heroine too...loyal, strong, resourceful and even amazing at times! It's hard to talk about the story too much without giving important parts away, but the story is strong, the characters even better, and seeing the lines between good and bad shift and blur (in some ways) as we work toward the happy ending was well done.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

My Thoughts: Having heard so much good about this book, I went in with extremely high expectations, which is always dangerous. (in fact it was my book for book club this fall). It took me a while to finish it, just because it was not at all what I expected. The format, though, was helpful in that respect, as it made it easy to put down and pick up at a later date, with each chapter almost being a short story in and of itself. I can't say I disliked the book at all, and I think Ms. Egan has a great writing style and tells a good story. I think what threw me off was that it always felt like I was left with something missing after each chapter/story. While each was loosely connected, and built upon each other to an extent to a larger picture, it wasn't your typical novel where you end up with some sort of conclusion. Once you get past that, I found it to be a book that I liked more after time had passed than I did right after immediately finishing it.

View all my reviews

Review: Trouble at the Wedding

Trouble at the Wedding
Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: What happens when a woman is determined to marry the wrong man? When she just won’t listen to reason and rushes forward with wedding plans? When she just doesn’t care that she’s marrying a fortune hunting scoundrel who doesn’t love her? What’s her exasperated family supposed to do about it? Hire a different scoundrel to talk her out of it, of course.

American heiress Annabel Wheaton knows what she wants and love isn’t it. Born in a Mississippi backwater, with a twang as wide as the Delta, she wants respect to go with the millions her daddy found in a Klondike gold mine. But respect isn’t easy to come by in the closed Knickerbocker society of New York, and when the fortune-hunting Earl of Rumsford shows up, it seems like he’s just the ticket to make all Annabel’s dreams come true. When he proposes marriage, she happily agrees. That’s when the trouble starts.

Christian Du Quesne has always been trouble—a rake, a gambler, and when he was younger, a fortune hunter. He married once for the sake of the decaying family coffers, but he won’t do it again. When his older brother, the Duke of Scarborough, dies without issue, Christian become the duke and inherits a whole new pile of family debt with no way to pay it. When Annabel’s family hires him to show Annabel just what she’d be getting by marrying into Britain’s aristocratic class, he knows he’s the perfect person to talk her out of matrimony. Problem is, he only has four days to do it. Can he cause enough trouble in those four days to get her to call off the wedding?

My Thoughts: Trouble at the Wedding is the third in Ms. Guhrke's most recent series, Abandoned at the Altar. While I enjoyed it overall, it was probably my least favorite of the three. I continue to enjoy her strong, independent, and unique female heroines, in fact that's probably one of my favorite aspects of her stories. I expected there to be more of a tie between book three and books one and two though, why I'm not sure. It was still an enjoyable story, and it was pleasurable to see our hero, Christian, finally come around and realize there was more than 1) money and later 2) duty involved in his relationship with Annabel. Ms. Guhrke manages to spin good stories around unique aspects of traditional storylines, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the near future!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: Brazen

From Goodreads: The young and beautiful Lady Fairhaven is Brazen…which is why she is willing to resort to blackmail to coerce a brave, if troubled, captain into helping her rescue her endangered brother. The incomparable Margo Maguire follows the success of her Romantic Times Top Pick, Seducing the Governess, with the second in her two-book historical romance mini-series set in England’s colorful Regency Era, about the lost—and found—granddaughters of a powerful duke.  As every fan of the exciting, emotionally rich historical romance of Liz Carlyle and Julia London will be thrilled to discover, Margo Maguire’s unabashed mastery of the Regency romance is unsurpassed…and downright Brazen!

My Thoughts:  Overall, I found this to be an ok read.  Parts of it I liked...for example the characters, but I found the story to be a bit unsatisfactory.  As the second (and final) in the series, I felt like there were parts that were not satisfactorily completed, others that were probably unnecessary, and then there were others that worked well together.  I'm glad I finished the series, and liked the basic premise of both stories, and I think the author did a good job of describing and creating the characters.  Just a bit more work on the story would probably have made it an even better read.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Another Quilt Along - Moose On The Porch Fat Quarter Quilt Along

While one of my goals was to ACTUALLY FINISH a quilt this year, I still have a ways to go on the Layer Cake Quilt Along I started in 2010.  I'm totally blaming the kid for my procrastination and lack of sewing at all these past 6 months...probably not totally true, but convenient :)

All that aside, I am going to TRY to do another quilt along...I'll probably get 1/2 way through this one too, maybe I should just combine the squares for a quilt at some point!  Moose on the Porch Quilts is hosting another Quilt Along this Fall/Winter, this one wth Fat Quarters.  I have a ton at home and this will let me do some stash-busting too, which is an added bonus.    Block One was posted today, and it looks challenging...pretty, but challenging.  So off we go on another sewing adventure!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: In Pursuit of Miss Eliza Cynster: A Cynster Novel

In Pursuit of Miss Eliza Cynster: A Cynster Novel
In Pursuit of Miss Eliza Cynster: A Cynster Novel by Stephanie Laurens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads:

Three heros, three rescues, three weddings.

The pleasure of your company is requested
at the wedding of Miss Eliza Cynster

...but not until she's rescued from a daring abduction by the most unexpected of heros!

Brazenly kidnapped from her sister Heather's engagement ball, Eliza Cynster is spirited north to Edinburgh. Desperate and determined to escape, she seizes upon the first possible champion who happens along - gentleman scholar Jeremy Carling.

Villains and rescues are a far cry from Jeremy's expertise, yet he cannot abandon a damsel in distress. But danger lurks and hurdles abound in their race to escape the mysterious laird, until a final confrontation on a windswept cliff reveals what their future life could hold - if both are bold enough to seize and own the unexpected love they now share.

My Thoughts: The second in a trilogy (of which I have yet to read the first), Ms. Laurens reminded me of why I first started reading her books. Continuing the Cynster series, but with brief appearances from other characters as well, the book was a fun read. It was missing many of the issues I had with some of her most recent books, particularly in her other series. The characters were entertaining, and I especially enjoyed the "bookish" hero, as opposed to heroine. I am very much looking forward to going back to read the first sister's book, and will await the third impatiently.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Unclaimed

Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Her only hope for survival…

Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London—and he's known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check...until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he's waited for all his life.

Is to ruin the man she loves…

But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to be free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark's enemies make her an offer she can't refuse: seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she's sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs…and the love she knows is impossible.

My Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoy Ms. Milan's books, and Unclaimed was no exception. I love that her heroes and heroines are very nontraditional and unique...and the stories maintain that same level of novelty as well. The books are fun, and keep you interested throughout. Mark's story (the second of the Turner brothers' books) is unique in that it's not often the hero is the virgin of the story. That could have gotten old fast, but Milan does a good job of creating a story that works with characters that don't get annoying. It's fun to see the interaction of the brothers here again, I wish there was even a bit more of that, and perhaps a bit more backstory. If I had one complaint is that it took me a bit to figure out that this begins several years after the first book ends, which may have just been me not paying attention. Another success from Milan, and I look forward to reading Smite's story next.

View all my reviews

Review: Elizabeth, The Enchantress

Elizabeth, The Enchantress
Elizabeth, The Enchantress by Lavinia Kent

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Regency England just got real(ity)

Episode 4: How to Succeed in Marriage without Really Trying

Elizabeth, the Countess of Westhampton, has found her husband. Unfortunately, she’d have preferred it if he’d stayed lost! How is she supposed to react when the man who married her and then abandoned her without a wedding night suddenly reappears? Obviously, she’ll have to plan her revenge very carefully…

My Thoughts: I've read a couple of these novellas now, all are fun quick reads. If they were full-length books, I'd probably go back and try to read the ones I've missed, but as I don't normally read novellas, I may have to just try to let my imagination fill in the blanks. They're enjoyable for a number of reasons, but mostly because Kent does a good job of ensuring that even in a novella length that there's a story and character development. This was a fun one, as the "evil" one of the group of women who make up the heroines had her turn in the spotlight. The redemption of the bad girl is essentially the theme...finding out why she is the way she is, and then how she moves forward. Another fun, quick read from Kent, so far I'd recommend this whole series.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: One Night in London: The Truth About the Duke

One Night in London: The Truth About the Duke
One Night in London: The Truth About the Duke by Caroline Linden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: A bargain that was all business . . . and pure passion.

Neither wealth nor beauty will help Lady Francesca Gordon win custody of her young niece Georgina, saving the girl from a cruel stepmother; she needs London’s top solicitor for that. But when Edward de Lacey, son of the powerful Duke of Durham, hires away the one man who can do the job, Francesca decides Edward himself must champion her case . . . if only she can melt the dashing lord’s stony heart.

Edward has reason to be guarded, though. London’s tabloids have just exposed a secret that could ruin his entire family. When Francesca offers a unique chance to undo the damage, Edward is forced to agree to a partnership . . . and now, each moment together feeds the flames of his scandalous longing for the passionate widow. But when Georgina disappears, fate will test them both . . . and leave their love hanging in the balance.

My Thoughts: I read the "intro" novella to this series, and was excited to see what the first book would offer. There were parts I really liked, but one thing that struck me was that the "mystery" that runs throughout the series was hardly a part of the story at all. Instead, the story really focused on Francesca and her search for her niece.

I liked the hero and heroine and the extended cast of characters. Edward is all he was raised to be, but has hidden depths (like and good hero). Francesca, who is strong, independent and not afraid to walk the edge of propriety at times, is fortunate enough to go beyond her initial opinion of Edward and see what more he has to offer. I liked seeing the two of them grow closer and come together, getting past a few obstacles in the way.

I never expected the "mystery" to be solved in the first book of the series, after all there are two more to come, but I did expect to get a bit more background or information on the old Duke and the potential scandal, perhaps a bit more to advance the story in the current time too. Needless to say, that makes me wonder what we'll find in Book 2, the youngest brother's story. All in all, the first book was a fun read.

View all my reviews

Review: Linnette, The Lioness

Linnette, The Lioness
Linnette, The Lioness by Lavinia Kent

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Regency England just got real(ity)

Episode 2: The One with the Fake Baby

Rumors abound – everyone has heard that Linnette, the Dowager Duchess of Doveshire is pregnant. Beautiful, young, with more freedom than any respectable woman should want, Linnette is no stranger to a little gossip. But her friends can’t help her brave the fallout, because this time Linnette has done something naughty…

My Thoughts: Another of the Avon Impulse line of novellas, this is a quick read that continues Kent's "Real Duchesses" series. Having not read the first, I did feel as though I was missing out on some backstory, but it was manageable to keep moving forward.

For a novella, there was decent character development, but I think the biggest downside to not reading the first installment was learning about the characters. While a novella, since this is a series you learn a lot about each of the women more and more in each book I think.

This is a take on the separated lovers theme and it was interesting, I just didn't feel like I got enough of the story to really get into and feel for the characters. That's nothing to do with the story or writing, which are both good,but more to do with the novella format I think. However, if you have a short amount of time, this is an enjoyable, quick read, and I do look forward to reading the next in the series to see how it continues.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: I Love the Earl

I Love the Earl
I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: A single lady in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a suitor

Margaret de Lacey has accepted her unmarried state with dignity, if not delight. She had no suitors when she was young and starry-eyed, though regrettably poor, and it’s unlikely any man will court her now that she’s older, wiser, and still just as penniless. Until, that is, her brother unexpectedly inherits the dukedom of Durham and settles an enormous dowry on her, making her the most eligible heiress in town.

No gentleman in London is more in need of a wealthy bride than Rhys Corwen, Earl of Dowling. He contrives an introduction to Margaret because of her dowry, but she swiftly sets him right: no fortune hunter will win her heart or her hand. Far from put off, Rhys is intrigued. Interested. Entranced. And soon the only thing he needs more than Margaret’s fortune…is her love.

My Thoughts: For a novella, I found I enjoyed the story in this book. I think that's because it actually felt like there was a story, just condensed into under a 100 pages. A sort of prequel for Linden's upcoming series, the book introduces us to the Duke that causes the drama for his three sons (the heroes of the upcoming series). While we meet the newly titled Duke, the story focuses instead on his sister and her HEA. Linden did a nice job of telling a story in a condensed format that didn't feel like huge parts were missing or that it was completely rushed. More than that, I was left wondering about the Duke and his future, which is a great way to lead in to the next release. For a novella, an enjoyable read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thinking Blue...

My most recent project has been taking up most of my energy these past few months.  I haven't been reading much at all, haven't been crafting, haven't been sewing.  But it's ok, because it's well worth it...the newest member of the family is due January 1, and we're pretty excited here. 

It's our first little one (not counting my adorable scarf model and fur-baby) so there's been lots of planning and thinking and just general enjoyment here and throughout the family.  I'm feeling a bit more energetic and less nauseous than I was earlier in the pregnancy, but I still find it amazing at how quickly the energy can go and how much I truly can enjoy just sitting in the chair with my feet propped up doing absolutely nothing but staring into space.  I figure I better enjoy it while I can.  I'm hoping to start to get a little more crafty, but I'm playing that one by ear.  After yesterday's appointment though, I need to start thinking of sewing some outfits for a sure-to-be-adorable little boy :)