Thursday, December 25, 2008

Road Trip

Yes, we're heading south tomorrow. Straight shot through Washington, Oregon and California. I think we'll go through Palm Springs on our way to Arizona to visit my dad in Yuma. Then tour Arizona a little, head out through Sedona and points north. Just Bob and me. He has a week of vacation he needs to use up and since I am unemployed right now, this seems like the perfect time. We are both sick of the cold, and snow. Another 2 inches today (Christmas Day).

I'm all packed and ready to go. Of course, lots of books are packed too since I love to read in the car. I can hardly wait to get some sun and stock up on my Vitamin D. Funny thing is during my annual checkup this year they checked my Vitamin D level (along with cholesterol and a bunch of other stuff). My vitamin D is WAY low. Around 20 when it's supposed to be 30 - 150. So this is a sign I must need a vacation in the sun, don't you think?

Here's the books I'm bringing along:

  • Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh
  • Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins
  • Flat-out Sexy by Erin McCarthy
  • Midnight Run by Lisa Marie Rice
  • A Bucket of Ashes by P. B. Ryan (an historical mystery - last in the Nell Sweeney series)
  • Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale (this one has been in my TBR forever)


Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. We had a wonderful time at my sister's. But it was a close call. Almost had to cancel. She lost power around 10 am due to all the heavy snow that was falling but fortunately it came back on. Backup plan was to have it at MY house. Yikes. We also got a couple more inches of snow today and our lights were flickering. But it turned to rain thank goodness and the roads were slick as snot with rain on top of ice/packed snow. I hope it's all melted by the time we get back.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snow!


For those of you who don't know, I live in the Seattle area. Now we typically have very little snow. Some years, none at all. And I can't remember having a white Christmas in all the years I have lived here. Until this year....

Last Thursday we had about 10" of snow at my house. And instead of melting right away, like usual, the temperatures dropped and it has been cold ever since. We had another big snow storm on Saturday night and Sunday with winds 40 - 50 mph and about 6 more inches. Monday got up to about 33 degrees so some of the roads melted, but mostly the roads are covered with packed snow and ice. It's just a real mess driving since we have very few snow plows in this area. But I love my Chevy Trailblazer with 4-wheel drive. I can get around anywhere and driving is no problem.

The snow is supposed to stick around through Christmas Day so we get a white Christmas this year. They canceled church last Sunday (first time ever in the 25 years I have been going there) and may cancel Christmas Eve service. The church parking lot sits in a kind of "bowl" so getting in and out is a nightmare with about a foot of snow uncleared.

Here are some picture of my house with some looking out the back door at the deck:
















Notice the water faucet with the hose attached (next to the watering can at the bottom of the picture). Bob forgot to put the faucet covers on this fall. Good thing that faucet is next to the dryer vent so it stays warm. Another good thing - he's married to me and I noticed and harassed his ass about it. Sheesh!









Here's the pergola Bob built on the back patio:








It's pretty but I know I'm going to get sick of it soon.


Merry Christmas, everyone!

UPDATE: If you click on the top picture of my house and notice a strange object slumped near the left side of the garage (kinda looks like an old blanket suspended on a rope), well, that's the "Grinch". It's one of those blowup characters that are so popular now. The neighbor gave it to Bob last year. Very appropriate. I had to guilt him into putting up a couple strands of lights.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Best of 2008 List

So far. I still have a few more 2008 books to read that are sitting on my nightstand. (I "stole" this idea from DearAuthor).

  • The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne, Grade A
  • Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh, Grade A-
  • Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas, Grade A-
  • Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas, Grade A-
  • Moonstruck by Susan Grant, Grade A-
  • Delicious by Sherry Thomas, Grade A-
  • Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare, Grade B+
  • The Last Twilight by Marjorie M. Lui, Grade B+
  • Sex, Straight Up by Kathleen O'Reilly, Grade B+
  • Tempted by Megan Hart, Grade B+
  • Tall Tales and Wedding Veils by Jane Graves, Grade B+
  • Fire and Ice by Anne Stuart, Grade B+
  • Exposing Casey by Deanna Lee, Grade B+
  • Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin
  • Cutting Loose by Tara Janzen, Grade B+
  • Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase, Grade B+
  • Demon Night by Meljean Brook, Grade B+
Whew. That's quite a lot of books. I still have a few 2008 books to read before AAR's annual poll that may end up on this list. Most notibly:
  • Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh (love every book I have read by this author)
  • Broken Wing by Judith James (Kristie loved this book so this one has possibilities since she and I think alike so many times)

Reading Now: Guess what!? Broken Wing! I just cracked the first two pages. I better get back to reading :)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Recent good reads

I was looking through my book spreadsheet and discovered I have read an amazing number of books so far this year ... 135 (with 30 published in 2008). But I have only reviewed 20 books (8 published in 2008) this year. Pretty pathetic. Another interesting fact ... I have read 81 books from my TBR this year, some of which have been living in my closet for years. A couple of years ago my TBR had over 250 books. Now it's down to 107.

No chance of getting full length reviews done for all of my reads this year but here are some quickies of three 2008 books that are worth checking out:



TITLE/AUTHOR: Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase
SENSUALITY: HOT!

THOUGHTS/OPINIONS:
Chase has demonstrated her genius yet again. Set in 1820's Venice, YSW is a wonderful book full of charm and wit. Francesa Bonnard is an unapologetic courtesan. In fact, she calls herself a "great whore". After she is publicly humiliated and divorced by her husband, she flees to the Continent and becomes a notorious and much sought after woman. James Cordier is a spy for the English government and is anxious to retire and return to England. But his last assignment is to steal a packet of letters from Francesca that are potentially damaging to her ex-husband's political career. Francesca and James are wonderfully intelligent characters, the dialog is witty and the setting was so unusual and realistically portrayed. The humor is wonderfully written as well. This is a very funny book. Here is the first paragraph:
"Penises. Everywhere."
Ha! That caught my interest immediately and the story never let me go. And the sex scenes are nice and steamy. But there is a lot of depth to this story too.

GRADE: A


TITLE/AUTHOR: Death Angel by Linda Howard
SENSUALITY: HOT!

THOUGHTS/OPINIONS: I'm having a hard time figuring out how to describe this book. It has an odd paranormal element to it that kinda freaked me out but overall I think I liked this book.

Drea Rousseau is a mistress to Rafael Salinas, a very dangerous crime lord and malicious killer who hires assassins to do his dirty work. After one such hit job, the assassin asks for a few hours with Salina's mistress as part of his payment so Salinas just gives Drea to him, and they spend some hours in some scorchingly hot sex. Whew! The assassin is a cold blooded killer and the "hero" of the book and we eventually find out his name is Simon Goodnight. Hmmm, so both the "hero" and "heroine" are both thoroughly unlikeable characters. Drea has been playing stupid in front Salinas for a long time but now she is desperate to get out of her situation. She outsmarts him and pulls some sneaky moves and gets away with a mountain of money. But Salinas sends "The Assassin" after her.

I don't want to spoil the story for you so I'll just say that Drea ends up turning her life around and totally redeems herself. Simon eventually realizes he loves her and protects her from Salinas. I really came to like Drea. Now Simon is a total mystery and we never find out who he really is and what makes him tick. The ending was rather abrupt but I liked it anyway. I don't think this book will appeal to everyone but Linda Howard is a must read for me. And the sex scenes alone are worth the price of the book (paperback only - due out in April 2009 - otherwise get it from the library). But then I'm slutty that way.

GRADE: B-


TITLE/AUTHOR: Tribute by Nora Roberts
SENSUALITY: Warm

THOUGHTS/OPINIONS: Roberts is a very consistent author and her skill is evident in this book and I really enjoyed it quite a bit. A lot of her recent books have had paranormal elements with ghosts and whatever but this one had none of that and I was so glad. I think she should stick to straight contemporary because ghosts just don't do it for me.

Cilla McGowan is a former child star with a lot of baggage. She returns to her famous grandmother's old neglected house in Virginia and decides to renovate it. Cilla is a pro at remodeling houses and I was fascinated by all the details of turning a run down disaster into a beautiful home. Roberts definitely did her homework in that area but if house renovation is not your thing, you should probably skip this book because while the story was good, it wasn't all that gripping. Ford Sawyer lives across the street and writes graphic novels. The story hinges around a mystery involving the death of Cilla's grandmother many years ago and was pretty tame but was so well written I enjoyed it anyway. Cilla is a very strong, smart woman and very likeable. Ford is what I would call a beta hero but yummy in his own way. A pretty good read all around.

GRADE: B



Sorry for the shortness of these "reviews". I have a few more 2008 book to review so those should be coming up shortly.

Reading now: Under the Wire by Cindy Gerard. This is a romantic suspense with a younger man plot line (one of my favorite). Very good so far.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New favorite song

Yeah, I know I promised a post about books (and I working on it - seriously) but this song keeps running through my head thanks to my aerobics class. I may have mentioned this before but anyway I'm a crazy Jazzercise fanatic. I love it. I go three or four days a week. I love the dance the best but it's a terrific all around aerobic exercise program that incorporates stretching and strength training with the dance. When I was a little girl I was a little ballerina (a chubby ballerina). Then in high school (a bit more slimmed down) I really loved gymnastics and modern dance in PE class. Anyway, Jazzercise got me back into dancing since I could never get Bob to dance EVER after we got married. And I get great exercise.

The Jazzercise routine set to That's Not My Name by The Ting Tings is my current favorite and I can't get the tune out of my head.



Here I am at Jazzercise class. Can you spot me?



I'm in the back row near the middle. Chin length blond hair wearing a white shirt.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I still alive

Yes, I haven't dropped off the planet. Just a serious case of writer's block. I would log into a new post and then stare at that blank page until I cried. Another problem... I had a serious obsession with the recent elections, both state and federal. I have many favorite political blogs I would check daily plus the online news sites. And though I'm not a big TV watcher, I tuned into CNN and MSNBC daily. Wow, I got sick of those political ads. So glad the election is over. As a result I did very little checking on my favorite reader blogs (bad Renee).

But October was a beautiful month weatherwise in the Seattle area. I was out in the yard almost daily pulling weeds, raking leaves, trimming perennials, and planting 200 bulbs. I can hardly wait till spring to see all those tulips and daffodils.

I also made some time to do some volunteer work at my church so I'm not a complete slouch. And I just finished painting Angie's old room. Next project... replace the electrical outlets and switches. I bought fabric to recover my dining room chairs and just decided I hated the fabric I picked out. *sigh* Back to the fabric store.

Remember how I had my living room, dining room and entry way redecorated last June (before Angie's wedding)? Well, the designer posted before and after pictures on her website. Here is the link in case you want to take a look. Unfortunately, there was no picture of the dining room which I liked the best.

I'm still unemployed but my elbow is starting to feel better so I'm not in a big hurry to find work. Bob hasn't pushed me out the door yet but I think the time is coming.

Next time I promise to post about some books.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Recent Book Order

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments about my "laid off" news. And for reminding me that other people have it worse than me. I'm pretty lucky. Bob and I paid off our mortgage in 2003 which is probably the smartest thing we ever did. Bob is part owner of a business but he has no retirement so my salary was basically our retirement money. Our biggest worry is the value of our retirement money due to the stock market crash. *sigh* My stomach can't handle any more worry so I choose not to think about it now.

I have been updating my resume, filing for unemployment (I get $541/week... not bad, really), and working on recovering my dining room chairs, and cleaning out some closets.

Plus I bought some new track lighting for the living room. It's just too dark in there and I thought it would brighten it up. Bob put it up yesterday with some help from me. Whew! Man, I can't tell you how many times I heard the f-bomb and other assorted cuss words. The living room has a 12-foot ceiling and he had to crawl up in the attic with all the insulation and pull wiring through the wall while I pushed the wire from down below. I came close to being knocked out when a metal rod fell from the ceiling! Bob came downstairs yelling "Are you OK, I could have killed you!" Nice, honey. Missed me by a whole 2 feet.

Anyway, I have been doing lots of reading too. And I spent my gift certificate money that I won from Cindy. Here's what I bought:


Warrior: The Time Hunters by Angela Knight






Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh






Delicious by Sherry Thomas

Yum! I already finished this one and loved it. Setting is a Victorian Historical with heroine who is a chef and hero who is a MP. Made me hungry and put me in the mood to do some cooking. I may have to write a review of this one.


Reading now: The Marriage Bed by Stephanie Mittman.
This is an oldie (1996) that I just found at a UBS. Can't remember how it got on my list. Somebody raved about it on their blog (maybe Kristie or Cindy? - can't remember). I've only read a couple pages and I can tell it will probably be a tear jerker - which I love. We'll see.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Suckitude

Let me quote the Urban Dictionary: "Something that sucks to a higher level of sucking. This is called suckitude."

Okay, so "why has she been MIA?", you ask. I got laid off on Monday. As you can imagine I have been feeling a tad depressed. I have been complaining about this job and have been meaning to update my resume for a while now, so looking at the bright side, this is a good thing. I'm getting 6 weeks severance pay plus they are paying my insurance through the end of October.

It's just the way they did it that pisses me off. My boss's boss calls me in at about 10:15 am with the HR rep and basically says you are no longer employed as of this very minute. Pack your stuff and leave. Or I could leave right now and come back later to pack. Well, of course, I gave them a piece of my mind. I have the most seniority of all the test engineers, but he sheepishly confessed that lots of other testers were being laid off too. Basically, my job has been outsourced to China. Wonderful, huh? Anyway, I was out the door (in shock) by 10:30 am and will go back to pack my stuff on Friday. Wasn't able to say goodbye to any of my friends.

Turns out they laid off 20% of the employees that day. The company has been making a series of bad management decisions (IMHO) and had a drop in sales last month. Best of luck to them (NOT).

My elbow problem has been much better lately. I have been going to physical therapy twice a week and I think it has helped. My insurance covers the whole thing but now that my insurance will be cut in half (Bob's plan still covers me), I may have to give that up. But then I'm not typing so much now anyway. I took a picture of the brace I have been wearing.




Oh, well, life sucks sometimes. There's some saying about lemons and lemonade I'm too stupid to quote right now. But you know what I mean. I have been making lists of projects I want to work on like painting the spare room, and reupholstering my dining room chairs. After updating my resume and job hunting (yuck). But I have more time for reading and blogging. Say a prayer for me to find job quickly. :)

Friday, September 05, 2008

I'm a winner!

Yes, I won a contest at Cindy's. Woohoo!! $25 gift certificate for online bookstore of my choice. I loved the video she made of the drawing. Cody is so cute. Thanks, Cindy!

I'm on quite a roll lately. I just found out the other day I won a book at LibraryThing. I signed up for their Early Reviews program where you get can get free ARCs. Problem is there are very few romances. I requested this book and won:

I have no freaking clue what kind of book this is or who this author is. Has anyone read her? I should do some research. Some of the tags are "urban fantasy", "vampire", "paranormal". I should check out her website. I hope it has some romance. Oh, well, it's free.










Oh, yeah, and I won this book from Katiebabs in one of their Guess That Book contests: Demon Kiss by Eve Silver. A signed copy! Thanks Katiebabs and Kristie for having these contests.






I also won another book at LT's Early Reviewers a couple months ago:


I have no clue who this author is either. It kind of looks like chicklit. I have it sitting on my nightstand. Part of the expectation of winning the books is that you will write a review and post it on LT or your blog or wherever. I will probably crack it open after I finish my current book.







I can't believe how lucky I've been lately. I enter lots of contests and rarely win anything.

Elbow update: Went to the doctor today and she gave me a referral to an occupational therapist who specializes in hand/arm problems. I think that will be just the thing. It is settling down and feels a bit better but still aches when I type too much. It's now telling me to get to bed.

Reading now: My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne
Good so far. Not quite as gripping as The Spymaster's Lady but I love the heroine. Smart and tough and a real fighter. Hero is a sea captain and very yummy.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Elbow problems

Well, I'm still having pain in my right elbow so, consequently, I'm not typing much. I finally made a doctor's appointment for this Friday. I'm not sure I'll be able to post much this week (not that I've been doing much anyway). I have been wearing a brace and it helped a lot at first but not so much anymore. To top it off I banged my elbow on the door and that didn't do me any good (damn it - I'm a klutzy idiot!)

I'm working on this spreadsheet at work and it's going slow. I'm not setting any speed typing records. And I'm trying to use my left hand for my mouse which takes some of the strain off using my right hand. My left hand has not quite got the knack of left click and right click. My mom was ambidextrous but I am definitely NOT. God, I hate this!

Anyway, I'm still around reading a bunch. And trying to keep up with bloggers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Okay, here I am

I disappeared for a while again. We went camping to the ocean beaches and just got back. We had a lovely time. The weather was nearly perfect and our camping spot was quiet and secluded. We went walking on the beach every day. The water was a little too cold to swim in but it was great for walking barefoot in the waves and sand. We managed not to overeat (which we tend to do when we camp - I get so hungry in the fresh air). But we did find a great seafood restaurant in Westport.

My right elbow started bothering me in June and is getting progressively worse. I think it's called tennis elbow and is caused by a repetitive stress injury which I believe is related to my computer typing. I need to see the doctor but I read up on it on google and I have it iced right now (brrrr). I bought a brace and that really seems to help too. I hate this.

I have done lots of reading out of my TBR (and purged a bunch too - some of those books I know I will never read). I have read 15 books so far in August, 11 of which were from my TBR. Most were in the B range with 2 C's. So I have about 125 books left in my TBR which is truly amazing. At one time my TBR had over 250 books. Alright, making progress.

Will get some reviews ready soon.

Reading now:

Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin
I guess you would classify this one as chick lit with a romantic subplot. This book was recommended by Janine at DearAuthor and since I also enjoyed Giffin's Something Borrowed, decided to give it a try. The heroine's voice is sometimes irritating but most of the time I'm enjoying it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

REVIEW: Moonstruck by Susan Grant


SETTING/TYPE: Science Fiction Romance
COPYRIGHT: 2008
SERIES: Borderland series (Book 1)
SENSUALITY: Hot
SUMMARY:
Peace is for little girls.

And Coalition starship admiral Brit Bandar is one tough woman. A mere intergalactic treaty could never get her to trust the Drakken Horde. There was too much bad blood between the Coalition and the Horde and, for intensely personal reasons, Brit wasn’t sure that she was through spilling it! But now a peaceful accord has made Finn Rorkken, a notorious Drakken rogue, second-in command on her starship – and through some grand cosmic irony – front and center in her thoughts…and her heart.

Warleader. Pirate.

Either title sat easily on Finn’s battle-hardened shoulders. Though second-in-command to “Stone-Heart” Bandar? That would take some getting used to. Peace required as much sacrifice as war, so he’d comply even if his reaction to the gorgeous admiral fell decidedly outside protocol. But would he end up kissing or killing her if the galaxy’s tentative truce turned into all out war?

THOUGHTS/OPINION:

SF Romance is one of my favorite genres but I don't seem to read many of them lately. I'm glad I finally pulled this one out of my TBR pile because I found it thoroughly enjoyable. I have not read the previous series which leads up to this book and had no problem following the story.

This books begins at the end of the Horde war (and the previous "Otherworldly Men" series). After being at war for hundreds of years the Coalition, Drakken Horde, and Earth have united into The Triad Alliance. The transition to peace is a difficult one for any society. Coalition Admiral Brit "Stone-Heart" Bandar has spent her career hunting and killing the hated Drakken. But now she has a new assignment - command a new diplomatic ship called "Unity" and staff it with members of all three societies. Her second in command is her former Drakken enemy, Warleader Finnar Rorkken.

Brit has good reason to hate and distrust the Drakken and she has earned her nickname "Stone-Heart". But she is a complex and admirable character. I was struck by how fair she was to her former enemies trying to integrate them into her crew in leadership roles rather than relegate them to subservient roles. Finn is another well written character. He has had to struggle his whole life to advance to his present position, but he is very smart and loyal to his crew. I admired both the H/H very much. All the characters were 3 dimensional and the action adventure story was fast paced. Kind of like watching an old episode of Star Trek (one of my favorites). Someone is out to sabotage the peace and Brit and Finn must learn to trust each other as they finally explore their attraction. The spicy loves scenes and touches of light humor made this a memorable read ... you'll find yourself laughing, crying and having a hard time putting it down. I look forward to the next book in the series - The Warlord's Daughter - due out in March 2009.

GRADE: A-

Monday, August 04, 2008

REVIEW: Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare

SETTING/TYPE: Romantic Suspense
COPYRIGHT: 2008
SENSUALITY: Hot
SERIES: I-Team series (Book 3)

SUMMARY:
Taken hostage by a convicted murderer while reporting at a prison, Sophie Alton has no idea that the man holding the gun to her head is the bad boy who was her first love in high school. Condemned to life without parole, Marc Hunter finds himself with no choice but to break out of prison after his younger sister disappears with her baby.

Though he regrets what he has to put Sophie through, he can’t let anything get in the way of his stopping the corrupt officials who are set on destroying what’s left of his family. But being near Sophie rekindles memories for both of them. As the passion between them heats up, so does the conspiracy to put both of them in their graves.

THOUGHTS/OPINION:

UC is another book in her series about a team of investigative reporters. However, all of these books stand alone so no need to go back and read them in order. I have long been a fan of Pamela Clare's writing whether it's historical or romantic suspense. Ms. Clare is an auto-buy author for me but I was especially anxious to read UC after reading that she had spent 24 hours in jail as part of her research for this book. And wow, does it pay off for the reader. I found it very realistic and gripping from the first page and had a hard time putting it down.

Sophie Alton is a reporter who has been writing a series about women in prison and is focusing on the story of one prisoner, Megan Rawlings. Sophie has come to care about Megan as she struggles to get off drugs and gives birth to a baby while in prison. After Megan is released from prison Sophie wants to follow Megan and her baby as they adjust to life on the outside through a halfway program. But Megan runs away with her baby in violation of her parole.

Sophie knows that Megan's brother, Marc "Hunt" Hunter, is serving time in federal prison for the murder of a DEA agent. But she is unaware of the fact that she and Hunt have a past history. He is her first love from high school who walked out on her. She requests an interview with Hunt hoping he can help her find Megan. Hunt realizes that Sophie is his past lover but he is a desperate man. When she comes for the interview he uses Sophie as a hostage and flees the prison with her.

Sophie is fearful and angry but quickly discovers Hunt's connection to her past and eventually is sympathetic to his plight. She believes him when he tells her about how he was framed for murder and Megan's disappearance is somehow connected. Sophie and Hunt team up and she uses all her skills in investigative journalism to escape the police and find his sister. What follows is a roller coaster ride with all its twists and turns. This is a story of corruption and betrayal and there are lots of complications. Although I found a few scenes that were not quite believable, UC is a real page turner with some scorching hot love scenes and well done characterizations. Hunt and Sophie are a great couple. I love a good steamy romantic suspense that doesn't skimp on the romance and Clare delivers another one with Unlawful Contact. My favorite RS of the year so far.

GRADE: B+

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wedding Pictures!

The photographer posted a few pictures on her blog.

Here's the link.

Aren't they just the cutest couple? Beautiful location too.

I'll post some of my own soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm baaaaack

The big day was Saturday and I managed to survive it. The wedding went off without a hitch. My daughter was beautiful and the ceremony was wonderful. I get choked up just thinking about it. The outdoor setting was lovely and the weather was perfect - about 75 degrees. Food was good and music and dancing was great fun. We got so many complements from everyone on how well we planned and organized the event and I gave all the credit to my daughter.

I hosted a brunch the day after (Sunday) in my newly decorated living room so everyone could watch the newlyweds open their gifts. Weather was again magnificent. I took them to the airport on Monday where they flew off to Hawaii for their honeymoon. Whew! I'm exhausted. I'm just getting my house back in order. We still have one guest (grandpa from North Dakota) and he'll stick around until Thursday. There are some odds and ends to tie up (like return vases, bowls etc to florist), but otherwise I'm starting to feel halfway normal.

Lots of pictures were taken but I don't have any right now but I will soon.

I don't know how I did it but I managed to read some good books in my "spare" time (especially when I woke up at 5:00 AM and couldn't go back to sleep - this happened pretty much every day). Here's my list:

Tempted by Megan Hart (B+)
Strangers in Death by J. D. Robb (B+)
Pursuit by Elizabeth Jennings (B)
Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas (A-)
Tall Tales & Wedding Veils by Jane Graves (B+)
Moonstruck by Susan Grant (A-)
Fire & Ice by Anne Stuart (B)

I hope to get into the swing of writing reviews soon. Let me know if you have a request.

What's been happening in the romance reading world? Any new really good books out I should check out?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Birthday and ... time for a break

Yeah, it's my birthday. I'm really trying not to have them anymore but they keep sneaking up on me every year. In fact I completely forgot about it until my daughter called me around 9 am and wished me happy birthday. What? Oh! Yeah!

In other news... I've decided to take a break from blogging for awhile. I don't have many people stopping by anymore because I don't post that often. My life is just too hectic. The wedding is only a month away and I have been working non-stop trying to get the house ready.

I have two big projects going now. Project #1 is refinishing my kitchen cupboards. We talked about replacing the cupboards but that's a huge expense and I'm not sure how much longer we will be in this house. The cupboard doors are solid oak and after 18 years of buildup of oils from your hands, they look pretty gunky. Never knew we should have put knobs or handles on the doors. So Bob took them all off and I carted them off to The Furniture Spa where they dipped them in tanks of stripper. When I got them home I lined them up for a coat of varathane. Wow, what a difference. They look brand new. Just need to put on one more coat, then Bob gets to put on the new antique brass knobs and drawer pulls.

Project #2 is redecorating my living room. I finally broke down and hired a decorator. I have been trying for months to do something but I would go to furniture stores, lighting stores, etc. etc. and just wander around and come home with nutin'. I just can't do it. I have no artistic talent. So I hired a decorator and it's a great relief. She came up with a plan and I will do all the shopping. I have most of the major furniture ordered and it will be here soon. Then I get started on the small stuff (rugs, artwork, lighting, drapes). She has assured me that we will be able to get it all done before the wedding.

If I get a chance I'll post pictures. Oh, and I may get a review out for TBR day. Otherwise, I'm going to be AWOL for a while.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

REVIEW: Hidden by Eve Kenin

SETTING/TYPE: Futuristic Romance
SENSUALITY: Warm
COPYRIGHT: 2008 (release date July 2008)

THOUGHTS/OPINIONS:

Hidden is the sequel to Driven (which was one of my favorite reads from 2007). It's not necessary to read Driven first because Kenin again provides some first rate world building. This story is set in a futuristic post-apocalyptic world called the Northern Waste - like a Mad Max movie only set in the frozen tundra.

Tatiana (or TTN081) is the product of genetic engineering and the prologue (set in 2088) gives the reader an idea of the horrors of her early life. She was born in an underground laboratory and has spent her life being subjected to torturous medical experiments (like something out of Nazi Germany) along with her two siblings, Wizard (hero from Driven) and Yuriko. Duncan Bane is her tormentor along with Dr. Gavin Ward. These two are truly evil and creepy. They supposedly conduct the experiments to test her ability to heal and to make her stronger but I never really understood their main purpose.

Fast forward to the year 2093 and we learn that Duncan Bane is dead. Tatiana has recently escaped and is trying to keep one step ahead of Gavin Ward who now controls the New Government Order. She has come to Abbott's General Store to buy information when she meets a rag swathed settler named Tristan who intrigues her. The store owner is a slimy individual but Tatiana has been hired to recover a stolen ring and she thinks he has information. And she wants to find Tolliver, a scientist specializing in genetic and infectious diseases who works for Ward in a hidden lab where she believes he is testing a horrific plague he had created from her genetic code. She doesn't learn anything about Tolliver but does get a lead on the ring. And does recover it from a couple of Siberian ice pirates in a gruesome scene.

You see, Tatiana is one kick-ass heroine. Since her escape her dormant genetic enhancements have begun to gradually bloom. She finds that she can withstand extreme cold, read minds, heal from almost any wound, and has enhanced telescopic vision. When she confronts the ice pirate about the ring, she surprised herself (and me) when she severs his hand with just her fingers.

After recovering the ring and returning it to it's rightful owner, she makes her way to the Maori Talisman, a mountain of ice and rock, which she thinks may be a linked to Tolliver somehow. But instead she encounters a very odd scene. A group of settlers on snowscooters are chasing a lone man on a scooter across the ice and snow. When they catch him, it appears to be a case of vigilante justice but Tatiana has a hard time figuring out what is going on at first. But Tristan is one of the group. In the tussle with the culprit, Tatiana doesn't realize that she has been exposed to a deadly plague. Tristan invites her back to their underground compound with the promise of hydrogen fuel for her snowscooter.

What follows is a fascinating action adventure laced with some science and blended well with the romance. Tristan is an enigmatic character at first. Kenin likes to keep secrets about her characters and only reveals information on a need-to-know basis, thus keeping the reader in suspense. It was hard for me not to peek ahead (a bad habit of mine). One particular scene is incredibly tense when she and Tristan find their only route to escape the underground compound is through an elevator shaft protected by deadly laser beams. I was chewing my nails on that one. Tatiana is a good strong heroine although a little too trusting of Tristan when she first meets him. Both of them are rather tortured characters due to events in their past but Tristan's sense of humor lightened the mood on occasion. The romance builds slowly along with the trust between them. There is a very romantic and sexy love scene which takes place in an underground hot spring/pool which was well done.

Although the story dragged a bit through some of middle, I really enjoyed it overall. I liked Driven a tad better, but Hidden is a solid read with good characters, a mostly fast moving plot and a great romance. If you liked Driven, I'm sure Hidden will be worth picking up when it's released in July.

GRADE: B

Saturday, May 31, 2008

REVIEW: The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

SETTING/TYPE: Regency Historical
PAGES: 373
COPYRIGHT: 2008

THOUGHTS/OPINIONS:

Last year I swore off reading any more books with Regency spies after reading one that really bored and annoyed me (I can't even remember the title right now). So I resisted reading this book for months. But all the high acclaim and reviews filled with glowing praise finally wore me down. I am a notorious spoiler-reader and usually I pore over reviews before finally making my decision. But this time I only skimmed the reviews (because, heck, the title had the word "spy" so I wasn't going to read it anyway). What a ding-dong I am because this book just blew me away. Just goes to show you can't stereotype a book by it's cover OR title.

So I picked up this book not knowing a thing about the plot, and became immediately immersed in the story. Annique Villiers is French and a spy for France since she was a small child. As the story begins she has been captured by another spy named Leblanc, and has landed in a French prison because it is believed she has the Albion plans which detail Napoleon's plans for the invasion of England. Two British spies share her prison cell, Robert Grey and Adrian, who is seriously wounded.

Grey is the Head of Section for the British Service, otherwise known as the Spymaster of England. Annique is brilliant, clever and cunning and no prison can hold her for long. She escapes and decides to help the two British spies to escape as well, hating to leave anyone in the hands of Leblanc. Grey is anxious to capture her himself since he suspects she has a part in the death of some of his men at Bourges. Annique knows how to play the "Game" and Grey has a difficult time with her but he gets lucky. But it takes 3 men and he has to drug her to do it which I thought was thoroughly despicable. But Annique never makes it easy for him even when he thinks he has won. She shows him that intelligence, wit and craftiness eventually wins out over physical strength. The tension between Annique and Grey was palpable and I adored every scene with them. All the characters were multi-layered and well-defined.

This story is a rousing adventure and there are so many twists and turns and mouth-dropping surprises that I had a hard time catching my breath sometimes. Bourne reveals each secret when the reader needs to know it and each one blew me away.

I have read many other reviews that describe this book as a triumph in dialog and language dialects and I have to agree. Annique is French and although every word Bourne writes is in English, the reader knows she is French from every word, every phrase, every sentence she speaks or thinks. Grey is English and he sounds like upper crust British. Every language has its own rhythm and cadence and translating that into English is quite a feat. In fact, sentence tags aren't necessary for us to figure out who is speaking. It takes quite a bit of writing talent to pull this off, and Bourne has got it.

This book is a delight from cover to cover. I'm betting that it will appear repeatedly in my 2008 AAR Reader poll. Go forth and read!

GRADE: A

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

TBR Day: REVIEW: Sex, Straight Up by Kathleen O'Reilly

SETTING: Contemporary - NYC
TYPE: Category Romance (Harlequin Blaze #388)
COPYRIGHT: April 2008
SERIES: Book #2 in "Those Sexy O'Sullivans" miniseries

THOUGHTS/OPINION:
This is my first book by this author and I was so pleased with it, I'm sure it won't be my last. I picked this up because of a glowing review over at DearAuthor. I don't read many of the new categories much anymore because most of them are pretty light on plot with very little sex. Harlequin Blaze are supposed to be sizzling hot and they generally are but most of them have silly or unbelievable plots (like virgin sex therapists - please, give me a break).

This series is about three brothers who own a bar in NYC. SSU is Daniel's story, the oldest brother, who is an accountant. Now if you are one of those (like me) that think that a book with an accountant for a hero would be boring, you'd be wrong. Daniel is an incredibly sexy, but tortured hero. Not angsty, but more sad and his story broke my heart. Six years ago his wife was killed on September 11th. They had both worked at an accounting firm in the twin towers and he had stopped that morning to get that special latte she liked at her favorite coffee shop. He was still inside the coffee shop when he heard the first boom. Now he stills suffers from survivors guilt and can't get over the pain of her loss.

His brothers pressure him into attending a weekend party at the beach in the Hamptons. But he doesn't want to be there so rather than participate in the partying, he sits on the beach instead. Next door in her grandfather's beach house, Catherine Montefiore observes a lonely but sexy man sitting on her beach motionless for hours and gets the urges to draw him so she pulls out her sketchpad and sits on the deck to draw. Catherine loves to sketch but she's not an artist. Her real job is assistant appraiser at Montefiore Auction House which is owned by her grandfather. Eventually they introduce themselves. Later that weekend they spend an incredibly hot evening together but it ends badly when Catherine catches him putting his wedding ring back on and doesn't realize he is widowed. Daniel and Catherine eventually meet again when a serious problem arises at the auction house involving commissions which could destroy their business. So Daniel's firm is called in to perform an audit.

Daniel and Catherine are wonderful 3-dimensional characters and the plot was handled very realistically. So many Blazes have silly plots but I found this one was refreshingly believable and heart wrenching. There were many sizzling sex scenes but they were integral to the plot and not just tacked on to up the heat level. Their relationship and growing love for each over develops slowly which was very believable. When Daniel is finally able to remove his old wedding ring we know that he is finally healing. Catherine is a special character and is no doormat. In the end she comes to believe in herself when she helps Daniel solve the mystery about the commissions. The dialog and plot move along very smoothly and I found it very easy to read but deeply emotional as well.

Book #1 (Shaken and Stirred) and Book #3 (Nightcap) maybe worth looking into.

GRADE: B+

Friday, May 16, 2008

REVIEW: Netherwood by Michele Lang

SETTING: Futuristic Romance
PAGES: 303
COPYRIGHT: 2008

THOUGHTS/OPINION:

It's taken me a long time to write this review because Netherwood is one of the most unusual and unique books I have read in quite awhile. This book takes place in the future where the lines between the real world and virtual reality are blurred. Talia Fortune is the heir apparent and major shareholder of FortuneCorp, a mega-conglomerate that acts more like a government than a business. She has just been appointed sheriff of Fresh Havens, a planet colonized by FortuneCorp employees, and dispatched to Fresh Havens to catch the rebels who have sabotaged computers on the "grid", a kind of intergalactic internet, which is used to communicate and distribute information to all humans across the galaxy.

Talia has a secret passion to participate in virtual reality role playing games in the cyber-world called Netherwood. In this world her avatar is Amazonia and she battles with Avenger, her cyber-lover. Kinda cool! But she suspects that Avenger is Kovner in the Real world and is responsible for the sabotage on Fresh Havens. I'm a little unclear as to how she knew this but that's a minor quibble. Another peculiar thing about this world is that a person can download their consciousness onto a chip to become a part of the computer hive mind and thus attain "immortality". Talia's grandmother, Violet, did this before she died and Talia carries around her consciousness on her handheld PC.

Lieutenant Robert Kovner is a rebel and freedom fighter on Fresh Havens. He knows that the FortuneCorp computers are trying to take over the galaxy and get rid of humans (Singularity) and it is imperative that he gain Talia's trust and convince her that the Singularity has started.

I'll stop right there in my description of the plot and let you all find out what happens. The blend of science fiction and non-stop action made this book a real page-turner. The world building was very well done and I wouldn't mind visiting it again if Lang ever writes a sequel. Kovner and Talia are good strong characters and it takes awhile for him to convince her that the FortuneCorp is completely evil. Their romance blended with the action very well. The secondary characters were also well developed. This was a fast read and the first person POV never slowed me down. If you like SF/Futuristic, this book is a great one to try.

GRADE: B

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Dress



Another wedding update.... I bought a dress! I posted a picture of it here (it's dress #1) but I wasn't crazy about the color selections that Nordstrom online carried. So I kept searching and found the exact same dress at Macy's online in the exact color I wanted (aquamarine).

It's a silk halter dress by Maggy London which leaves my back partially bare. I may chicken out and try to find some kind of jacket or sweater to wear over it. Also I'll need to go buy a halter bra since my boobs aren't quite as perky as they should be (never have been even when I was a young thing). Also need shoes.... *sigh*.... the shopping continues....

Thursday, May 08, 2008

REVIEW: Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

COPYRIGHT: 2008
SETTINGS: Contemporary - Texas
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Sequel to Sugar Daddy
SENSUALITY: Very hot!

REASON FOR READING: Loved Sugar Daddy. Love Lisa Kleypas.

SUMMARY: [From the Publisher]
MEET THE BLUE-EYED DEVIL
His name is Hardy Cates. He's a self-made millionaire who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. He's made enemies in the rough-and-tumble ride to the top of Houston's oil industry. He's got hot blood in his veins. And vengeance on his mind.
MEET THE HEIRESS
She's Haven Travis. Despite her family's money, she refuses to set out on the path they've chosen for her. But when Haven marries a man her family disapproves of, her life is set on a new and dangerous course. Two years later, Haven comes home, determined to guard her heart. And Hardy Cates, a family enemy, is the last person she needs darkening her door or setting her soul on fire.
WATCH THE SPARKS FLY....
Filled with Lisa Kleypas's trademark sensuality, filled with characters you love to hate and men you love to love, Blue-Eyed Devil will hold you captive in its storytelling power as the destiny of two people unfolds with every magical word.
THOUGHTS / OPINION:

I was prepared not to like this book. In Sugar Daddy, Hardy was a real jerk sometimes and not exactly hero material. He grew up dirt poor living in a trailer park in the small town of Welcome, Texas. His main goal in life was to get out of town and make something of himself. Liberty Jones (heroine of SD) was desperately in love with him but he leaves her behind to face her troubles alone after her mother died and never looked back. Liberty goes on to find her own HEA with Gage Travis although Hardy tries to screw that up (but doesn't succeed) at the end of SD.

BED begins at Liberty and Gage's wedding which Hardy has crashed. He is a millionaire now and since he failed to win Liberty back, he can't resist showing up at her wedding as an unwelcome guest to poke a stick in the eye of the wealthy Travis family. He escapes to the wine cellar where he has a memorable encounter with Gage Travis's sister, Haven. The story is told in the first person POV of Haven. She is embarrassed to discover that the man she had shared passionate kisses with is not her boyfriend Nick, but the scoundrel Hardy, her brother's enemy.

Haven has two sides to her character that seem to get her into trouble at different times. She is supposed to be the rebel of the family but she is also a pleaser, which seem like opposite characteristics. Being the youngest of the family and the only female with domineering brothers and overprotective father, I could buy how she was always trying to please everyone. But when pushed too far she would eventually rebel. Her father disapproves of her choice of husband so she elopes with Nick and her father cuts her off without a cent. Things go drastically downhill from there. Her life with Nick was extremely painful to read. The rebellious side of Haven is beaten down (literally) until she doesn't trust her own judgment anymore. She eventually escapes the abuse thankfully with the help of her brothers. But she has a long road ahead to get her self confidence back.

This is Haven's story and Hardy doesn't make another appearance until the last half of the book. But I really came to care about her and cheered her on when she makes progress in her social and business life. And I yelled at her (yes, right out loud) when I saw how wimpy she behaved sometimes. Her progress was agonizingly slow, two steps forward and one step back. It takes Haven a long time to learn to trust again. But Hardy is very patient with her. When Hardy and Haven finally make love the sex was very steamy but touching. Kleypas writes wonderful hot sexy love scenes that you want to read over and over. Yum!

This book is not an easy read and the characters were realistically portrayed. I think Kleypas has done her research on abuse victims and how they recover. Hardy has his own demons to overcome since he was physically abused by his drunken father who he is still dealing with. This is a story about the healing power of love. So run, don't walk, to get your hands on a copy. Mine was from the library (I don't buy hardback) but when it comes out in PB, I'm adding this to my Kleypas collection.

GRADE: A-

Saturday, May 03, 2008

REVIEW: All or Nothing by Claire Cross

COPYRIGHT: 2007
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Straight Romance
PAGES: 372
SERIES: Coxwell family series

REASON FOR READING: I read and enjoyed one of her previous books, Double Trouble. In fact, it was a keeper for me. OK, I admit it, I also loved the dog on the cover.

SUMMARY:
Jen Maitland never had any use for handsome guys with easy charm until she met Zach. He's the perfect fake date to end her mother's matchmaking scheme before it starts. The only problem is that Zach isn't as predictable as he appears...

Zach Coxwell hates commitment, but loves a challenge. Like the pretty bar waitress who turned him down flat for a date-only to invite him to her family's Thanksgiving dinner. Zach knows he can make Jen smile, and he's betting that he can unravel her mysteries.

Despite Thanksgiving dinner becoming a familial nightmare for Jen, Zach has the time of his life and finds that Jen may be worth a commitment after all-even if he has to convince her by any means necessary.
THOUGHTS/OPINION:
Both Jen and Zach have serious issues but AoN manages to avoid sinking the reader into a dark depression by dealing with them in a realistic and yet upbeat way. Although Jen is young she is a breast cancer survivor. Naturally this fact has had a profound effect on her and she finds herself unable to make any long term commitments because she's afraid she has no future.

Jen's family loves her and wants to see her happy. Her matchmaking mother is determined to set her up on a date unless she finds one herself for Thanksgiving dinner. Her plan is to bring someone she knows her mother will hate. Jen meets Zach at the restaurant where she waits tables and figures he fits her requirements perfectly. So she invites Zach to Thanksgiving dinner for a 'fake' date.

Zach has serious commitments issues of his own, so a 'fake' date sounds fine to him. Zach is the black sheep of a wealthy family and was wild and reckless in his youth. He did some pretty bad things (some involving illegal drugs) and when his father committed suicide, he blamed himself.

The relationship between Jen and Zach develops slowly and there are some painful scenes when they both reveal their hangups due to their past. Jen and Zach are likable characters and the other characters were well developed. This story about the healing power of love is one of my favorite themes. The plot moved a bit slowly in places but overall the humor and characters made this book an enjoyable read.

GRADE: B

Friday, May 02, 2008

New template

Here's my new look. Different configuration than my last one. Main-Sidebar-Sidebar, instead of Sidebar-Main-Sidebar. It's very plain and simple which is all I want for now. Let me know if you have problems loading it (like my last one) but I'm hoping this one will load faster.

Update: Hmmmm, I noticed I need a bit of padding between the main column and the sidebar over there ---->. Must go tweak some code.

Update2: Yup, that's better. Damn, I'm getting better at this :)

I credited the blog designer at the bottom, but I tweaked it with an different image and changed some text colors. Some of my 'widgets' may be lost temporarily but I backed them up so I will slowly be adding them back. Blogger needs to fix this issue because you cannot save some widgets like HTML/Java code and Link Lists and that's kinda irritating for non-programmers and programmers alike.

I found several websites to get free excellent blog header images. I found the image above at Dreamstime.com and cropped it to a reasonable header size using Paint.NET (love this free program - much better than MS Paint).

There are also lots of tutorials and information out there on creating and editing blog templates. If anyone wants me to share links to websites for free templates, blogger tips and tricks and free images, let me know and I will write a post on them.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

What I have been doing in my spare time

Hi, I'm still alive.

In my last post I told you I was looking for a new blog template. Well, that set me off on a loooonnnnggg adventure in blogland. I found hundreds of free blogger templates but none of them were exactly right. Too dark, too narrow, only two columns, etc. Somewhere along the way I came up with the brilliant (?) idea of writing my own template. My revised plan was to find a simple template with the basic structure I wanted and revise the code to add a custom header and change fonts and colors.

After much searching I found a simple template that had three columns and was easy to widen. All of the templates out there required some math to widen each element of the blog structure (i.e., outer-wrapper, header, content-wrapper, sidebar-wrapper, etc.) and the more I delved into it the more complicated things got with all attributes that needed adjusting. But this new simple template only required adjusting one attribute. The rest of the elements had widths in percentages thereby keeping everything correctly proportioned automatically. Okay, I won't bore you with more technical details.

Anyway with this new template, I can swap out the header whenever I get the urge for change (which is often) to overhaul the look of my blog without a completely new template. I also discovered something else.... I really enjoy coding. I found several very helpful websites on learning how to create and change template CSS and XML code. I confess, I'm a geek. I got my degree in computer science about 10 years ago and loved computer programming. But since I test software now I get no time to write code.

My only complaint about my new template is that the two sidebar columns are both on the right side of the main post column, but one website with blogging tips says that having your posts on the left makes your blog much more 'searchable' by search engine robots.

So I have the template mostly tweaked with a pretty header and I will publish tomorrow.

Blogger Update News:
Scheduled post publishing has now been implemented in Blogger. Woohoo! I have been using this feature through Blogger in draft and it's really cool. You can publish a post for a future date and it will be published when that date arrives. This is great if you want to post while you are on vacation or can't get access to a computer. You can get a bunch of posts completed and pick the date in the future that you want them published.

Wedding Update: Last Saturday was the bridal shower! Very fun. I have pictures that I haven't downloaded. Must go look for my camera. I helped Angie finish stuffing wedding invitations in envelopes and putting on stamps. We are already getting the RSVP cards back. I still have to finish the favors. Time is running out.

Reading now: I got an ARC for a hot new book and it's good so far. I know lots of you get ARCs all the time, but I rarely get them so I'm excited.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I need a change

I feel the urge to change my blogger template again. Anyone have any suggestion where to find some good free blogger templates?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mary Balogh rocks!

I have been a fan of Mary Balogh's since the early 1980's when I stumbled upon her traditional regency romances accidentally. I started hanging onto her books when I realized I couldn't part with them.... my first author glommed. Her books were probably the most sensual regencies out there but still mostly subtle compared to today's historical romances. I was happy when she eventually started writing regency historicals with much warmer sex scenes which include her usual writing style that I love.

Recently I joined her Yahoo!Group for her fans MaryBaloghFans. They discuss lots of topics related to historical romances not just MB's books. Mary visits there often and is happy to answer questions from her fans. Last week she posted that she had visited a local UBS where she found a shelf full of her old traditional regencies... about 20 of them. All were on sale for low prices. Amazing. These books are very collectible and you sometimes see prices for them from $20 - $30, maybe more. So she offered them for sale at $5 each and did a drawing to pick a winner for each book.

And guess what?? I won one! The Ungrateful Governess. I just got it in the mail along with a leather Mary Balogh bookmark. And both were autographed to me! What a classy lady. Did I mention that she's Canadian (I have a great fondness for Canadians) which explains her coolness :)

For those MB fans, I learned from her Yahoo Group that The Ideal Wife is being reissued this year and A Precious Jewel next year. She says "There should be a new contract for more backlist books in the near future. I'll pass on details then." I hope some of those really rare traditional regency books (The Notorious Rake, etc.) get reprinted so others can enjoy them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TBR Day: Lots of old categories

I made a concerted effort this month to pare down my TBR. While standing in front of the shelves that contain my TBR, I noticed that there were way too many old categories that I had picked up over the years and just never got around to reading so I decided to start with those. My intent was to read at least 2 chapters of each book and if it didn't keep my interest, toss it away into the "post on PBS" pile. If I liked it (or it wasn't too horrible), then I figured I could finish it in no more than 2 days. Great plan, huh? Anyway, I read 11 categories and not one DNF in the bunch.

So here are mini-reviews of the best of them:

Call Me by Alison Kent (1996)
This book was a real surprise. It's a short (only 216 pages) Harlequin Temptation that had been languishing in my TBR for over 4 years. It was funny, had great sexual tension and the plot was tight and characters are well written. I loved the hero (a Texas rancher - yeah, I'm into cowboys lately) and his teenager brother is a hoot too. The heroine is quite uptight at first and is still hurting from the divorce from her cheating husband. But she warms up rather quickly and things got cooking. The sexy banter and spicy love scenes were worth the price of the book alone.
My grade: A


A Wedding to Remember
by Emma Darcy (1994)
This was a troubled marriage story which is one of my guilty pleasures if done right. The H/H are divorced and the heroine, Joanna, is considering remarrying but she is unsure. She decides to visit her ex, Rory, at his office to see if it's well and truly over and get on with her life. Rory is stunned to see her and after talking her into a goodbye kiss, is blown away and impulsively he scoops her up in his arms and 'kidnaps' her for a weekend of pleasure. OK, I know, not realistic. at. all. But I went with it and I'm glad I did. They have some misunderstandings to work out and Joanna learns to believe in Rory rather than vindictive gossip (although I was a bit irritated with her for not believing in him in the first place).
My grade: B+


The Return of Eden McCall by Judith Duncan (1995)
JD is one of my favorite category writers and I have several of her books in my keepers. This book is #3 in the series (Wide Open Spaces) and all of them have been wonderful. TRoEM is no exception. Eden returns to her hometown to take care of her dad who has had a heart attack. She runs into her former boyfriend (and lover), Brodie, who is angry and hurt that she left town. I love how the POV switches to Brodie in several chapters and we really get inside his head. This is a highly emotional and well written book and Brodie is a wonderful hero. Duncan is a talented author who should be writing full length romances but unfortunately she hasn't published anything since 2002. What a shame she dropped out of sight.
My grade: B+


Cattleman's Promise by Marilyn Pappano (1999)
This is book #1 in the Heartbreak Canyon series. I read book #3 a few years ago and liked it so much that I bought the rest of the series, but I'm just finally getting around to reading them. Olivia's husband has just died saving her the trouble of divorcing the rotten scoundrel. She now has the care of her twin 5-year-old daughters and not a penny to her name since the ex gambled it all away. Except she finds the deed to a ranch in Heartbreak, Oklahoma. When she travels to Heartbreak on her last dime she finds out her husband had been swindled since Guthrie owns the ranch. Guthrie is a good, decent, and kind man so he offers to let her stay in a cabin on his property. In exchange she will cook and clean his house. I loved Guthrie. I loved Olivia. And I loved the twins, Elly and Emma. Wonderful plot and characters are so real. I hate cutesy or bratty kids, but Emma (good twin) and Elly ('bad' twin) were absolutely perfect. I found myself laughing at their antics and fell in love with them.
My grade: B+


Reading now: Horseman's Bride by Marilyn Pappano (1999)
This book follows Cattleman's Promise. Very dark, slightly depressing book that I almost gave up on. Features a tortured hero (Easy) with horrendous physical disabilities caused by a serious car accident. Top that with his feelings of loneliness and tremendous guilt caused when he ran off 12 years ago with his best friend's (Guthrie from Cattleman's Promise) fiance (Shay) a few days before their wedding. To make matters worse he abandoned Shay 6 years ago because of his feelings of guilt and worthlessness over his treatment of Guthrie, expecting she would go back to him. Shay went back to Heartbreak, Oklahoma where all three of them grew up together but she never got over Easy. Now Easy is back in Heartbreak, angry and depressed and a tad full of self pity. But Shay won't let him give into it and with Shay's help comes out of it little by little. I'm a few pages from the end and can hardly put it down (late for work this morning trying to squeeze in a few more pages). Update: Just finished it and it had a great last chapter and epilogue.
My grade: B

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

REVIEW: Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh

COPYRIGHT: 2008
SETTING: Alternate Reality
TYPE: Paranormal Romance
PAGES: 328
SERIES: 4th book in Psy-Changling series

REASON FOR READING: This is my favorite paranormal series so picking this one up was a no-brainer.

SUMMARY: [from Publishers Weekly]
Earth of 2080 continues a cold war with the chilling aliens the Psy in Singh's fourth fierce installment of the Psy-Changeling series (after Caressed by Ice). Half-human, half-leopard changeling Clay Bennett is shocked when lovely Talin McKade, wracked with illness and similarly half-changeling, returns to his life, having disappeared from his childhood 20 years before. Talin works at San Francisco's Shine Foundation, dedicated to helping gifted but needy children, and a growing number of her missing charges have been turning up sans brains. There's plenty of purring passion to keeps things hot as the Leopard shape-shifters Clay and Tally fall breathlessly in love, while the Psy continue to use children as guinea pigs for developing a hive mind. While this is paranormal romance at its best, newcomers are advised to check out the earlier adventures first.

THOUGHTS/OPINION:

This book captured my attention from the very first page. In all the other Psy/Changling books, the h/h were either Psy or Changling. In MtP the hero, Clay, is a changling leopard and incredibly yummy. But the heroine, Tally, is just a plain ordinary human so I was a bit leery about how strong a character she would be matched with such an alpha male. The previous heroines in this series have been matched with alpha males and have been very strong and alpha in their own right. But I had no reason to worry. Tally was a good mate for Clay.

Clay and Tally were childhood friends who became separated after an extremely traumatic event. Tally was an abused child and when Clay finds out, he mauls and kills her abuser right in front of her. Tally associates Clay with fear and blood and death and when he tries to find her after the incident Tally has her guardians tell him that she is dead. This was the only instance in the book where I wasn't sure if I would like Tally. But she was just a child when this happened and I think her reaction was understandable after such a traumatic event.

It is now 20 years later and Tally works with street kids. When several missing kids turn up dead, she knows she needs Clays help and goes looking for him. Clay has never forgotten Tally and is haunted by his memories of her. When he finds out she is alive he is understandably angry and one particular scene was incredibly intense and emotional. But he is also very loyal and protective of Tally so they pair up and discover some very sinister motives by a group of Psy. While they work together along with the Changling packs to rescue the children, Tally and Clay must face their past and confront their feelings for one another. Tally must learn to overcome her fear and trust Clay. And Clay must learn to forgive her for her deception and her sexual past.

This is another highly emotional, sexy, and fascinating addition to this series. Singh writes the best alpha males... and really, who would not love a leopard for a mate! They are highly possessive and protective without being overbearing. Tender, sweet, sensual and just plain sexy. OK, I'll stop now. I'm looking forward to Hostage to Pleasure (love this title) due out in September 2008.

GRADE: A-

Friday, April 11, 2008

My shopping day

I had a great day today. Took the day off of work to go shopping for a MOB dress. I started the day by weighing in at Weight Watchers. I'm down 20.8 lbs. and have reached my goal. So I set off for Nordstrom in Bellevue Square Mall (which is enormous) and started in the Special Occasion dresses section and wandered all over until I reached the designer dresses in the back corner. The sales lady tries to help me out and she is coming up with zip that appealed to me.

Then she pulled out this dress that was exactly the style and fabric I wanted but the color was all wrong (swirls of pink and purple ... ). But I thought, what the hey.

So she looks me up and down and says "Size 6?"

I'm thinking "WTF, no way" but I say "uhhhhh, no, maybe 8 or 10"

She says "No, you're a size 6."

How do sales ladies do that? I think there is some serious size inflation going on with today's dress makers. Anyway, I try the dress on (it fits perfectly and I look pretty good) but the color is still wrong. I look at the price tag. $895 !!!! Uh, no. N.O. No, no, no. The most expensive dress I have ever tried on. Well, that was fun. Needless to say I didn't buy it and I didn't find anything else in the store I liked. But that's OK. It was fun shopping. I will buy something online.

I also stopped at the used bookstore but I didn't buy any books. Go figure :) I did buy some used DVDs though. Since it was a beautiful sunny warm day, I bought an ice cream and sat and read in the little outdoor courtyard.

I also stopped at Seattle Lighting and looked at light fixtures. Nothing appealed to me.

Bob has been wanting a hot air popcorn popper so on a whim I stopped at Fred Meyer and bought him one.

I did order something online...new Levolor Wood Blinds for our bedroom window. They were 25% off so I was happy.

Reading now
: An oldie I heard about somewhere (probably AAR RtR board)... The Same Last Name by Kathleen Gilles Seidel (copyright 1983)
I love the heroine who is a forest ranger but hero is kinda an idiot. I like Seidel's writing style though. Almost to the end (on page 177 of 255 pages) so we'll see if the hero redeems himself.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

REVIEW: Creation in Death by J. D. Robb

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 352
SETTING: Futuristic NYC (2060)
TYPE: Mystery/Romantic Suspense
SERIES: #26 (of full length books) in the In Death series
SENSUALITY: Warm

SUMMARY: [from the publisher]
NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas keeps the streets of a near-future New York City safe in this extraordinary series. But even she makes mistakes, and is haunted by those she couldn't save-and the killers she couldn't capture. When the body of a young brunette is found in East River Park, artfully positioned and marked by signs of prolonged and painful torture, Eve is catapulted back to a case nine years earlier. The city was on edge from a killing spree that took the lives of four women in fifteen days, courtesy of a man the media tagged "The Groom"-because he put silver rings on the fingers of his victims.

When it turns out that the young brunette was employed by Eve's billionaire husband, Roarke, she brings him in on the case-a move that proves fitting when it becomes chillingly clear that the killer has made his attack personal. The victim was washed in products from a store Roarke owns, and laid out on a sheet his company manufactures.

With the Groom's monstrous return, Eve is determined to finish him once and for all. Familiar with his methods, Eve knows that he has already grabbed his next victim. Time is running out on another woman's life.

And chances are he's working up to the biggest challenge of his illustrious career-abducting a woman who will test his skills and who promises to give him days and days of pleasure before she dies: Eve.
THOUGHTS / OPINION:
CiD is another excellent book in this series and probably one of the better ones in my opinion. I read this a few months ago and I've had to think about it a while before I could figure out why I liked it so much

My favorite part about this series has been the development of the relationship between Eve and Roarke. In each book they seem to grow and evolve and their marriage gets stronger in little tiny ways as they learn more about each other. But in CiD no further insight into their relationship is revealed. Again Roarke gets involved in the murder investigation as usual, this time because the murder victim was one of his employees and he insists on being involved.

The other reason I love this series so much is the wonderful characters. In previous books Eve's team of detectives works tirelessly to solve the crime while everyone else provide some lighter moments. But in CiD, every character has an integral role in finding out the identity of the serial killer before he selects his next victim. Trina helps with her knowledge of personal skin care products, Somerset provides clues due to his knowledge of the Urban Wars, etc. And of course, Peabody, McNab, Feeney, Mira, Baxter, et al, do what they do best. A true team effort and everyone had a hand in it. The tension builds higher and higher as they get close to finding the killer (spoiler: and his latest victim who is still alive) and I was on the edge of my seat and biting my nails. And the ending did not disappoint. I loved it. Eve kicks ass. Love, love, loved it. I had to skip a bit of the gruesome details but that didn't stop me from enjoying the rest of the book. I don't know how Roberts never fails to entertain me with this series, but really she must be a goddess.

MISCELLANEOUS:
If you haven't read Marianne Stillings' Epilogue in Death, go over to AAR right now and read. It's hysterically funny.

GRADE: A-

Friday, March 28, 2008

March Madness

March Madness is upon us and my team (well, actually my daughter's since that's her alma mater) was Washington State (Cougs) just got knocked out so my interest is the whole thing is nil.

I am participating in the Romance Madness at DearAuthor (DABWAHA) 2nd Chance Pool because I totally missed the first one due to the fact that I couldn't figure out what the HELL was going on. Wow, I really suck at it too. I only have two picks left in the Elite Eight.

One of my favorite sites is GoFugYourself.com. They are doing Fug Madness and it's a riot. Go check it out. They have the Madonna Bracket, Charo Bracket, Bjork Bracket, and Cher Bracket. Go laugh yourself silly.

Wedding Update: MOB dress

Woohoo, just got back from my Weight Watcher meeting and I lost 2 lbs. this week (which included Easter). I was pretty amazed because I was expecting that I had gained weight because of Easter breakfast and dinner. Although I didn't eat any candy, I did have the lasagne, garlic bread, salad, and dessert. In small portions... that must have done the trick.

I had my checkbook out to write a check for the $12 meeting fee and they told me I had made my goal!!!! So no checkee for mee :)

So now I can go buy my MOB dress. I have done a little shopping online at nordstrom.com and I saw a few I liked. I really liked the grecian style with a high waist. Now I find out the MOG bought that exact type of dress. GRRR.

I'm very picky about what I want and don't want:

No spaghetti straps
No satin (if possible)
Length: Short (outdoor wedding - don't want dress to drag in the grass)
Color: some shade of blue or turquoise (complementary color for red) - not too dark
Fabric preference: chiffon
Style: Grecian or A-line (compliments pear shape - yeah, I've got the hips to spare)

All but one of these dresses from Nordstrom, the other one from J. Crew. Okay, so let's go shopping ladies....

Dress #1
Not sure about the halter. My bare back might gross people out :)

Dress #2
I love this color on me. But I'm not sure about the bow on the side. This is a fake wrap dress style.












Dress #3
I like the color and hemline is unusual.



Dress #4
I love the style of this one but the color is too dark I think. I am really trying to find some color more like the others shown here.









Dress #5
Love the color (periwinkle blue) but satin shows every bulge.


Dress #6
I love everything about this dress except the color. If it came in some shade of blue, I would be done shopping. GRRRRRRR!




Dress #7
Love the style and color but again, don't like satin. Can you see her little belly bulge? Well, I have an even bigger one.







Dress #8

This one is from J. Crew and has definite possibilities. Color (aquamarine), style (grecian a-line), and fabric (chiffon) are perfect. But it's only available online so I can't try it on. I may be ordering this one. I can always return it if I have to.





OK, that's what I have so far. I haven't actually tried anything on. I really need to take a day off of work and go shopping at Bellevue Square Mall.

I'll let you know what I come up with.

Wow, I haven't touched my blog in over 6 years and I'm still logged in!  Good thing because I have no idea what my password is.  In ...