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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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