January 29, 2015

book selfie: 'kat fight' & 'scandal with a prince'

Continuing my Cher-style, never-ending farewell tour with unnecessary carbs paired with my reads...

Kat Fight by Dina Silver 
Kat Porter is a consummate romantic, eager for her chance to find love and commitment. But after her boyfriend of four years, Marc, grows apathetic and sends her calls straight to voicemail one too many times, Kat finally musters the courage to confront him. Though she's no fan of ultimatums, she's at the end of her considerable wits, and lobs a massive one his way, completely confident that he'll make the right decision when faced with losing her. He doesn't.  
With radio silence from Marc, Kat's lifelong dream of finding a husband and forging a family is decidedly on the skids. That's when her childhood friend Julie steps in, forcing Kat on a blind date to help her move beyond the break-up. Not only does Kat botch the setup, she instead finds herself in hot pursuit of Julie's love interest, Ryan Sullivan. A man who, in addition to literally taking her breath away, is the living, breathing personification of everything Kat wants in a husband. 
Can Kat connect with the man of her dreams without hurting two of the people she cares most about? At the same time, she must also contend with the quips of her beloved catty coworker Adam, her bi-polar boss Brooke, and a string of unpredictable plot twists. All the while, Kat's cheeky perspective and generous heart will leave readers savoring every moment of her endearing and comedic journey as Kat fights to land the love of a lifetime.
I read (and adored) Dina Silver's One Pink Line almost three years ago (read my review here), and I can't believe it took me that long to read Kat Fight. It's basically been on my to-read list that long.

What made this story so appealing to me as a reader is how deliciously flawed Kat is while still maintaining so much likability. I mean, the girl starts off the book a little it crazy (I know I shouldn't call another woman crazy, but let's face it, most people--men and women--have a bit of crazy in them) when it came to romance. But her reason for overreacting, or ultimately making wrong choices, was for the right reason: because she wanted to find love. Those flaws blended with that overarching sweetness made her endearing and relatable.

A fast-paced read that painted a beautiful portrait of Chicago as told by a twenty-something, Kat Fight was a perfect pairing for that glass of moscato.

Scandal With a Prince by Nicole Burnham
One magical summer, Megan Hallberg met—and loved—Prince Stefano Barrali. But his royal duties took him home, and when she discovered she carried his child, she also discovered he was engaged…to a beautiful, worldly aristocrat. 
Ten years later, Stefano runs into Megan at the grand opening of a Barcelona hotel, and it’s his every sensual fantasy come to life. His memory of the stunning blonde and their passionate summer has haunted his dreams, and a night under the stars gives him the perfect opportunity to reclaim the woman he thought lost to him.  
Megan finds herself torn between passion with a prince and a fierce need to protect her daughter. Can the man who captured her heart so many years ago be her destiny…or her downfall? 
More like scandal with a freshly baked treat from Dunkin Donuts. For serious, donuts. I wish I knew how to quit you.

Scandal With a Prince was a semi-steamy (but nothing to leave you in a state of permanent blush, thank goodness) romantic read that had several surprises. I mean, ultimately it ended the way I expected, but there were quite a few turns that I never saw coming, which is always nice.

Both Megan and Stefano were characters who drew me in right away, and who had extra layers of complexity to explain why each of them had to hold something back from the other. It made watching these two crazy kids figure it out all the more delightfully rewarding.

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January 28, 2015

book shelfie - roy

Blogger's Note: I've organized my books with Dewey Decimal Classification since I learned what it was in from my elementary school librarian. I recently borrowed a page from Pinterest and went with a new scheme--by color--to spice up my literary life. To commemorate the occasion, I'll offer a glimpse of each shelf and what the books and decorations mean to me.

I Saw Red

You by Caroline Kepnes - I received a copy of this book this fall via Klout. It looks like it should be a little scary--or at least thrilling--but I plan to read it at some point.

Mini Shopaholic, Remember Me?, and Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella - I'm a big fan of the Shopaholic series, and these two books fall somewhere in the middle of my favorite or least favorite. As for Remember Me?, it's probably the Sophie K book I loved most. Oddly enough it sat on my bookshelf for a year or two before I ever cracked it open.

Little House on Rocky Ridge by Roger Lea MacBride - After devouring the Little House series as a little girl, I moved on to the auxiliary books authored by others. I read this and the second book in the series, but lost my steam. I guess I just didn't connect with Rose as a protagonist in the way I did Laura. Probably because she didn't have my name. (I can be a vain, fickle reader.) This book does hold the distinction of being the subject of my first official book review (which was featured in this Little Laura post).

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - Oh boy. I'm worried about the hate mail I'm going to get with this, but I'm just going to say it. I didn't particularly care for this book, and I thought the movie was better. I don't fault anyone else who loves this book--that's totally your call, and I respect it--but I just remember being so frustrated while reading this ginormous book, because it took forever and it seemed like most of the really good parts were in the movie, which I could just watch in a fraction of the time. Again, I appreciate that this book is considered a classic by most, but it mostly stays on my bookshelf just so I can prove I read it, not because I have any plans to repeat that feat.

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery - Not one of my favorite Anne of Green Gables books, but still part of the series, this one tells the story between when Anne and Gilbert get engaged and when they finally tie the knot. I'm a romance junkie, so I actually was pretty impatient the whole time I read this book, because I just wanted Anne and Gil to get married and have some babies already!

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb - So far this is the only J.D. Robb book I've read, but I promise to do better someday.

Blood Brothers, The MacGregors: Daniel and Ian, The Perfect Neighbor, Valley of Silence, and Tribute by Nora Roberts - Who, red looks good on you Nora. I mean, for real, girl, these are some of my favorite of your books. Particularly Blood Brothers, the first book in the Sign of Seven series, which I stayed up late on school nights to read, because I was so into them. Valley of Silence is my favorite in the Circle Trilogy, Tribute is probably a top-five standalone novel and the remaining two are part of the MacGregor series, which will forever be one of my favorite romance series.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Roric - I loved the web series, and I ordered this book as a 28th birthday present to myself. With any luck, I'll finally give it a read before my 29th birthday rolls around in June.

By the Shores of Silver Lake and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - Oh, Laura Ingalls Wilder. How do I love thee. Let me count the ways... Actually, it's been a LONG time since I read either of these books (my go-to Little House re-reads are still The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years, because I'm an Almanzo Wilder fangirl). But my friend Whitney and I will be re-reading the whole series at some point during the next 17 months as part of our new collaborative blog.

Agent Orange

Foul Play by Janet Evanovich - Confession: This is the only Janet Evanovich book I've ever read, and it's one of her first (potentially published under a different name). It's actually super adorable and a fast read (I found myself re-skimming it over the course of an hour a couple of months ago). I was pretty hot for the doctor (veterinarian) love interest in this story.

Shopaholic and Sister by Sophie Kinsella - This is my least favorite Shopaholic book to date (though I should say I haven't read the two most recent). I don't know, I had a lot of anxiety reading this book, which is good storytelling on Sophie's part, but bad on my poor nerves. (Said like Mrs. Bennet.)

Vengeance in Death by JD Robb - I haven't read this one yet, but I will! I purchased the first five JD Robb books a couple of years ago, deciding it was about time I put a ring on that series, but with so many books in my to-read list, I just haven't made it to this book yet.

Dance of the Gods, The Pagan Stone, Red Lily, and Stars by Nora Roberts - Get used to seeing a lot of Nora Roberts on my bookshelf. To paraphrase my friend Whitney's admiration for Emily Giffin, I worship at the alter of Nora Roberts. That said, with the exception of The Pagan Stone, which is part of the Sign of Seven trilogy, which is one of my absolute favorites, I have lukewarm feelings about the rest of the Nora books in the orange category. Still, I'll forever say that I enjoy an okay Nora Roberts book any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Mellow Yellow

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich - Written by fellow Nebraskan Bess Streeter Aldrich, this book was a recommendation from my fifth grade teacher who knew how much I'd adored the Little House series. I initially read it as a diff reading assignment and made it my project (complete with giving a presentation in my grandmother's prairie woman dress and bonnet from the Nebraska Centennial in 1967) this book will always have a special place in my heart because of the school memory and the Nebraska connection.

In Need of Therapy by Tracie Banister - I'm fortunate to call Tracie Banister a friend, and it's with pride that I have INOT on my bookshelf. I met Tracie back in my book reviewer days when she gifted me with a free digital copy of her book. I fell in love with it (you can read my review here) and so I had to have a print copy for myself. A clever, witty, and well-crafted story, this was one of my favorite reads of 2012. Tracie also has a new book out called Twin Piques, and I'm also a big fan of her debut novel, Blame it on the Fame (read my review here).

This shelf also contains the only two trophies I've received in my life. Both known as "Acrylic Star Awards," they are passed out each semester by the Daily Nebraskan staff. The first is known as the "Outstanding Contributor" award, given to a person of any job title for doing what is deemed as outstanding work (it's not just a clever name, right?). The second is a "Lifetime Achievement" award, given to a graduating senior (or in my case, three graduating seniors).

Both awards meant a great deal to me, because I received them from my peers. I know you shouldn't live your life waiting for awards or other people to validate your work, but it does feel nice when it happens.

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January 27, 2015

book selfie: 'the right design' - 'baby be mine'

While bidding my beloved carbs and sugar farewell before I got a little more serious about continuing my quest to drop a few more l-bs this year, I paired up these treats with some equally delicious reads.

The Right Design by Isabella Louise Anderson
Interior designer Carrie Newman could not have envisioned a more perfect life for herself. She had a great job doing what she loved, wonderful friends, and a close relationship with her sister and brother-in-law. Add in an amazing man who she’d hoped would soon become her husband, and her life was perfect. Until one devastating decision ruins her relationship and changes the course of her life. 
Determined to make a new start, Carrie leaves Texas and heads to Palm Beach to pick up the pieces of her shattered and broken life. The last thing she expects is to find herself attracted to her first client at her new job--Brad Larson, who has proven himself time and time again to be caddish. 
But there’s something beneath the surface of Brad’s arrogant exterior that keeps her craving more of him--something almost sweet that Carrie can’t seem to resist.
Is Carrie ready to take another chance on romance? And will this new design of her life prove to be the right one?
I had a chance to beta read this book more than a year ago, and it was a lot of fun to revisit the characters and see the changes Isabella made. While keeping the point of the story--one about a young woman out to take control of her life and make a big change--I was so proud of how polished the finished product was.

A cute and romantic story, I particularly appreciated the way each scene and character was described. Without being too wordy, I could almost perfectly imagine what each location and person looked like like I was there with them.

Isabella also did a good job of conveying the emotions. Carrie goes through a bunch of them in this book, and the description and depth of each took this reader on a roller coaster ride.

And paired with this little bit of heaven--chocolate peanut butter mug cakes--I had a nice couple of evenings with this read.

Baby Be Mine by Ginny Baird
When hearts are on the line...  
Nobody else will do!  
Nikki Constantino has a big problem. Her Great-Aunt Mallory left her with a wad of cash, which she'll inherit under two conditions. The first one is she's got to marry within eight weeks. With family pressures mounting and her job on the line, Nikki's just desperate enough to want to honor her late aunt's wishes. Lucky for her she can enlist the help of her best friend. But as she sorts through the candidates, could it be that the guy for her is the one she least suspects?  
Jack Hudson has secretly had a crush on Nikki forever. So when she asks his help in securing a last-minute groom, he's conflicted. But where Nikki's concerned, Jack would do almost anything to ensure her happiness. So Jack reluctantly goes along with her plan while trying to put thoughts of them being together out of his mind. With her Valentine's Day deadline approaching, will Nikki settle for another man - or will she start seeing Jack in a new light? 
I'm such a sucker for a story like this--two best friends finally admitting they're in love. Maybe it's because that's what I'd most like to find for myself, and I'm definitely one to project myself into whatever I'm reading, but there's something so sweet about finding that the one is a person who has always been there for you. Someone who understands your baggage and drama without explanation. It's a nice thought isn't it?

A quick-read (this is a novella) that fit perfectly into the time between Christmas and Valentine's Day, I overall enjoyed my experience reading this book. I did find myself more than a little frustrated with Nikki and Jack from time to time, but that angst was the point of the story, right?

Perhaps my favorite part of the story, aside from the premise itself, were Nikki and Jack's family members who played an important role as secondary characters. Their dynamics with the lead characters gave the story more layers than one might expect in such a brief read.

I'll also say I laughed a lot about the dairy farm introduced in the first couple of chapters. I know farming is serious business, but the humor in a city slicker finding herself in charge of cows was so real and nicely done. I appropriately selected a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake to accompany it.

I'll be back on Thursday with two more carbs and two more reads from recent weeks.

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January 26, 2015

movie monday: 'love by the book'

Blogger's Note: It's no secret I devote much of December to following the latest (and past-time favorite) Hallmark movies. So I was thrilled to learn the channel would count down to Valentine's Day with a new movie each weekend leading up to the holiday. Naturally, I couldn't resist watching, live-tweeting, and ultimately blogging about my take on each new flick.

Love By the Book
Original air date: Jan. 24
Starring Leah Renee and Kristopher Turner
After a childhood filled with reading fairytales, bookstore owner Emma believes in handsome princes and happily ever afters.  Unlike her happily married coworkers Marilyn and Phil, or her sister Jane and Jane’s fiancĂ© Greg, Emma has yet to be swept away in her own fairytale romance. Trying to find the time to both pursue an idyllic love life and to impress her store’s investor, Frank, Emma must balance dating the romantic Landon with working at her store with Frank’s nettlesome son, Eric.
Although Landon demonstrates real prince charming potential with his romantic overtures, he doesn’t understand her priorities or support her passions like Eric does.  As Emma considers her future, can she take on the challenges of real love instead of storybook romance?
Probably my third favorite (so far) of the new Hallmark movies being premiered to countdown to Valentine's Day, Love By the Book has a lot to offer a Jane Austen fan (or an Austenite if you will) like me. As you'll notice in my Twitter commentary, I kept looking for the parallels to Austen's works, particularly with the male suitors.

While I stand by my assessment that Eric--or as I affectionately dubbed him during the viewing, Prince Eric--is a mixture of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley (the former, because he comes in seemingly pompous, but we learn first impressions aren't always the most important; the latter, because he's quick to offer constructive, though not always welcome, criticism to a woman named Emma)--I'm still trying to figure out a few of the other male roles.

Initially, I assumed his rival would be a Wickham/Churchill character, but he never went bad boy enough. Which I get, and all, but man, that could have been a lot of fun to watch the good boy go bad. I also wondered who Emma's potential future brother-in-law might be, but I didn't see a strong enough likeness to Mr. Bingley or Mr. Martin to make that association. (For a moment it seemed like he might be heading the way of a Mr. Collins or a Mr. Elton, but luckily that was a save.) And I suppose with Emma's sister being named Jane, I could call her man-friend Bing, but I don't know.

So the guessing game was definitely the most fun part of this movie for me. While I enjoyed the relationship between Emma and her sister, I would have liked to see more of that. It might have made Emma a bit more sympathetic initially, though I suppose that's very much like the book Emma. In the book, our heroine isn't always the nicest person, and she drives you a little nuts, but you ultimately love her.

A cute movie I wouldn't mind watching again, Love By the Book was an overall enjoyable way to spend two hours on a quiet Saturday evening. (Now I feel like I need to say something like "capital, capital" or "splendid" to feel adequately Austenesque.)

Did any of you catch Love By the Book? What were your thoughts?

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January 22, 2015

the bing is back

Blogger's note: While I was trying to tackle a few items off of my to-do list last night, my furry associate, Mr. Bingley, took it upon himself to write you his first new post in 2015.

Hey, humans!

Long time no see. (Apparently my mom hasn't felt the need to let me weigh-in on any important topics as of late, but whatever.) Now that I have the floor (or office chair, as we call it in this house) I have a few topics I'd like to cover. They're little lessons I've picked up along my road of awesome. Maybe they'll speak to you.

1. Sometimes you have to treat yo' self. Okay, I stole that from one of Mom's favorite TV shows, but it still works. I like freshly poured water in my bowl each morning and the little tuna-flavored treats that are shaped like little balls and roll around the floor before I can eat them. (I also like most other treats, except for the super fancy, expensive healthy ones my mom tried to force on us last month. NO THANK YOU.) My mom likes to take bubble baths and binge-watching Netflix. And that's okay. (Though you should always treat yo' self in moderation.)

2. You're never too busy to take a few minutes connecting with the people who matter most. Even though Mom is in mega project mode getting book two ready for publication (it's happening next month, can you believe it?!?) and editing her third book, she still manages to sneak in some serious cuddle sessions with my sister and I. Sometimes she has to do that while checking her emails or doing some sort of other nonsense, but she's doing a much better time of adding playtime into the mix. She calls it work-life balance. I call it awesome.

3. Sometimes you need to take a break. Sure this is coming from a guy who spends a good chunk of his time napping (though you wouldn't guess it if you saw me at 4 and 6 a.m. when I give Mom her unsolicited wake-up calls), but we all need a little rest. It's easy to get run-down in this day and age, and if you need a little nap to make yourself feel better, go for it. If you need to spend a whole Saturday parked in front of your TV watching Bones (ahem, MOM!) so you can do a bunch of cleaning, writing, editing, and planning on Sunday, go for it.

4. If you keep your faith, have a little patience, and do you best, you'll be rewarded. In my world that means waiting for my baby sister to get tired of eating her treats so I can swoop in to eat her leftovers (high paw anyone?), but I bet this works for other things, too. You just have to believe, my friends!

5. Focus on you. Stop worrying so much about what everyone else is doing and focus on doing your best. Mr. Rogers (who is apparently different from the Mr. Rodgers my mommy likes to get all googly-eyed about on Sundays in fall) once said, "There's only one person in the whole world like you." So be that best you possible.

Thanks for letting me hang with you today. Hopefully I'll be talk to you again soon!

- >^.^< 

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