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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January 20, 2015

preparing for the storm ahead


Rather than working on Book 3 edits or doing more promotional planning for Book 2 over the weekend (hello, procrastination central) I effectively spent my long holiday weekend recovering from the cold I so eloquently (ha) blogged about under the effects of cold medicine.

Translation: I curled up on my couch re-watching old episodes of Bones while reading up on how to create a cleaning schedule and checking customer reviews for vacuum cleaners.

While I don't have a lot to show for my weekend (other than a newly purchased vacuum cleaner and a vague idea of what my cleaning schedule should look like if I ever get around to implementing it) in hindsight I realize I needed this weekend. Not only am I going back for the long stretch of no-holiday work weeks feeling healthy (though not perfect, if I can whine a moment longer), it gave me a chance to re-charge before things get crazy at the day job, in my writing world (for good reasons, of course) and personally.

Sometimes, we all need to enjoy a little calm before the storm.

Quick plug: My friend Whitney and I are launching a new collaborative blog today about our quests to become better, happier, healthier versions of ourselves as we prepare to take on our 30s. You can check us out at Defining 30.

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January 19, 2015

movie monday: 'bridal wave'

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.

Bridal Wave
Original air date: Jan. 17
Starring Jaclyn Smith, Arielle Kebbel, and Andrew W. Walker
As her wedding day draws near, Georgie Dwyer (Arielle Kebbel) has doubts surrounding her plans to marry Dr. Phillip Hamilton (David Haydn-Jones), a dashing and prominent plastic surgeon. Though Phillip qualifies as the "perfect" fiancé, Georgie feels a romantic spark is missing in their relationship. Tensions rise even further when Phillip's sophisticated mother, Felice (Jaclyn Smith), blatantly frowns upon Georgie's working class origins. On the picturesque island, Georgie keeps finding herself in chance encounters with Luke Griggs (Andrew W. Walker), a handsome ex-architect, who walked away from a high-end architectural firm to enjoy a simple, no-frills life. When an undeniable chemistry develops between Georgie and Luke, Georgie must decide if she's going to move ahead with her rapidly approaching marriage to Phillip.
This movie was super cute. I went into it with a lot of hopes and dreams, because I loved Arielle Kebbel and Andrew W. Walker in A Bride for Christmas, and I was not disappointed. I could recap the whole thing for you right now and give you a play-by-play, but fortunately I'd enjoyed just enough wine on Saturday night to provide that to you courtesy of Twitter. (I'd say I should be required to take a breathalyzer before operating Twitter, but then we'd all miss out on my ridiculousness.)

So, yeah, I loved this one. It wasn't super complicated. There wasn't a lot of heavy back story. Just two crazy kids finding each other at the right possible moment and realizing that love doesn't have to be complicated or perfect, it just has to be right.

Did any of you catch Bridal Wave? What were your thoughts?

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January 16, 2015

books i want to read, like, right now

My second novel is due for release next month and my third is in editing. That means I'm in one of those rare, lovely moments when I can binge-watch Netflix, or tackle the ever-growing list of unread books on my virtual and physical bookshelves without guilt.

Though I've read and enjoyed several stories already this year (my Goodreads Challenge list looks so happy) I have found myself craving a few books that aren't on my shelf. Maybe they haven't even been written yet, but I'd still like to see them. In the past, I've seen other authors, readers, and industry experts do a "call for books," telling writers what they'd like to see. So... I figured I might as well give it a shot in case someone wants to make my reading dreams come true.

Here it goes, five books I want to read, like, right now.

1. The Boatmaking Poet. This is less of a story concept and more of a character sketch for the main love interest. He's a boatmaker. He works with his hands making beautiful, custom canoes and whatnot somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. (Maybe on one of those rocky, rainforest-like islands.) He has an Irish setter (probably named Betty), a small cottage on the shore, and a bookshelf full of old leather-bound books. He seems a bit gruff, but that's only to mask the shy poet's soul within. Someone, please write this character, and if possible, write me in as his leading lady. It shouldn't be too hard. Here's all you need to know: Bombshell Nebraska writer with cats seeks adventure and romance on her future husband's handmaid boat.

We'd live somewhere like here
(taken in Summer 2012 in Port Angeles, Washington).

2. Couch Cuddles. A young woman spends her nights and weeknights curled up with her two cats binge-watching old episodes of Criminal Minds and Bones (she's on an inexplicable kick) when suddenly, through a glitch in her Netflix or Primetime on Demand accounts, she magically meets the man of her dreams. I don't know how or why it happens--that's the author's job. All I know is he's totally into watching Galavant, Downton Abbey, and Total Divas with her every Sunday night to give the Roku a break. Also, he always brings fresh tuna treats for the kittens and makes exceptionally good mug cakes for their mama.

I'll let you place a Skype call to my own kittens if you need inspiration.

3. Subscribed to Love. A former YouTube star finds love and happiness somehow. This is a spin on the classic former child star finds love premise, but more modern. I figure YouTube has been around since I was in college, which makes this totally plausible in 2015. (If possible, the YouTube star should be someone who did hair and makeup tutorials, because I'm still trying to learn how dutch braid my hair like Katniss Everdeen.)

4. The Linebacker Highlander. A Clay Matthews-like professional linebacker (Go Pack Go) is magically transported back to the Scottish Highlands in the year 1206. (Again, I'm not sure how, because I'd like to be a little surprised when I read this book.) One of the most powerful lairds in all the Highlands mistakes his football uniform as the plaid of a rival clan and declares war. Our football player's life is in danger until the laird's only daughter, a beautiful and spirited young woman, throws herself in front of him and begs for mercy. Naturally they're forced into marriage, he tosses her over his shoulder and carries her to bed a time or ten, and they begrudgingly fall in love only to have time and some other major obstacle stand in the way of their happiness. Let's see if Clay Matthews would be available to do the cover photo shoot. Something like this, please:


Only his plaid needs to be green and gold. I insist.

5. Beautiful Burritos. I don't care if it's a book about a cute, but quirky young woman who owns a small burrito shop that's being run out of town by a man who owns a franchise burrito shop or it's just about a couple who eats a lot of burritos, let's make this happen. Oh, and as a special twist, this book is served with a burrito. (Maybe I just want someone to pick me up some dinner, tonight. I'm still feeling pretty drained from my cold recovery.)

If you have read or seen a book fitting any of these descriptions, please notify me immediately (no substitutions, please). If you haven't, well, go ahead and leave a comment sharing what kind of story you'd most like to read this weekend. Feel free to be specific like me or vague. This is a safe place.

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January 15, 2015

tis the season

Bingley is an expert at sick day couch lounging.

Being sick sucks. There's really no other way to put it. If you're like me, than the beginning of the new year means more than setting goals and trying to eat more veggies (which I'm totally doing--high five!). It also means the very real probability that at some point I'm going to end up sick. The head-full-of-boogers, body-aching-every-time-I-move, someone-please-come-and-mother-me type of sick.

After spending the first weekend of the new year nursing a cold, this past weekend (and week) I graduated to a delightful sinus infection. I'm running a humidifier in bedroom at night, carrying enough medicines in my purse to put a pharmacy to shame, and considering buying stock in facial tissues (or toilet paper at the moment) because I'm going through it at an exceptional rate.

When I was little, being sick was actually kind of awesome. Sure I felt like hell and wished I could eat something other than soup and crackers, but I also had permission to drink 7-Up or Sprite like it was my job. It also meant getting to stay home from school to re-watch or VHS copies of The Princess Bride, The Little Mermaid, or Look Who's Talking (yeah, I went through a phase with that one). It meant spending the day cuddling with my mom and rearranging the stuffed animals in our pet net while I was supposed to be napping. Like I said, being sick as an 8-year-old is pretty much everything.

Sick days at twenty-eight are a whole different game. I woke up on Tuesday feeling like someday had smacked me with a sheet of plywood across my face and chest. After Googling "Should I stay home from work" (because I don't have my mom sitting there telling me what to do or the ability to make my own decisions) I came to the conclusion that I needed to take a day. But it isn't as much fun as it was when I was a kid.

Oh sure, my sick day still involved some time on the couch watching TV (I hit up Netflix and decided to refresh my memory on the early seasons of Bones, because when you feel like death, you might as well watch shows about people dealing with it) and getting cuddles from the kittens (though both Jane and Bingley were quick to give me the stink-eye every time I coughed and disturbed their peace).

But it also comes with having to make your own runs to the store to buy medicine and supplies. It means having to figure out how to work the new humidifier on your own. It means eating a can of soup with a box of Wheat Thins (which I assume are healthy because they contain the words "wheat" and "thin" in the title), because that's all you have energy to assemble. It also means never being able to completely relax and focus on getting better, because you're worried about the projects awaiting you at work. And if you're also balancing a writing career, it means feeling like you have to at least spend a few minutes messing around with your current manuscript so you can pretend you accomplished something with your day.

The other big difference between being sick at eight and twenty-eight is how much less resilient I am, and how much more I like to whine about feeling unwell.

Speaking of wine... Foolishly thinking I was on the mend, I stocked up my supply of wine during the weekend. And now I have a wine rack taunting me, calling my name, begging to be consumed. But according to WebMD (and whatever else I read while searching "how to treat a cold/sinus infection/allergies"), wine (and alcohol) are apparently bad when dealing with upper respiratory issues because of some sort of nasal lining conflict (or something like that. I'm highly medicated and not a doctor, so I don't really know what I'm talking about).

So what am I getting at with all of this? Honestly, I don't remember. I'm sure I started scribbling this post with every intention of talking about playing hurt or making the best of a bad situation, but I seem to have gotten off topic. Go figure.

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January 14, 2015

book shelfie - think pink & seeing red

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.

Beginning on the first shelf at the start of the rainbow...

Think Pink

Body Movers: 3 Men & a Body and 2 Bodies for the Price of 1 by Stephanie Bond - So... I know I haven't read the third book in the series, but I did read and enjoy the second. Book 2 (and Book 1, which will be mentioned in the future) were given to me as review copies while I worked at my college newspaper. I was the first reviewer in recent history to tackle romance novels, and a local RWA chapter contacted me to see if I'd give the series a try. I was also invited to attend a workshop led by the author. While I don't stick to all of the lessons I learned from Bond, I do keep them in mind to this day.

Daydreamer by Brea Brown - I actually haven't read this copy of the book, but I bought it after devouring the e-book version of it. When my sister was looking for a book to take with her on vacation to Belize last summer, I sent this copy along with her, so it's a well-traveled copy.

Mrs. McGinty's Death by Agatha Christie - I rescued this, and all of the forthcoming, Agatha Christie novel when my mom was reducing her book collection. I fully intend to read these mysteries someday.

Daisy's Back in Town by Rachel Gibson - I bought this book at a time when I would pick up any and everything written by Rachel Gibson. Though not my favorite of her books, I enjoyed it well enough. SEMI SPOILER ALERT (though this all comes out pretty early on): It features a theme I like (old love revisited years later) with a couple I don't (overly douchey MMC and secret child).

On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn - I'll admit, I don't remember what this book is about, but I do recall picking up this book on my way out of town for a business trip. I'll use the excuse that 2009 was a crazy, crazy year in my life as explanation for why I don't have particulars. Given that it's by Julia Quinn, it's safe to say it's a witty regency romance. And I'm sure I enjoyed it.

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts - The fourth and final book in Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet, I loved and read this book in the span of one-sitting. On an airplane ride between Houston and Omaha. I had a conversation with one of the flight attendants about how much we loved Nora's books and how she hadn't realized that the new book was out already. She joked about needing to confiscate it for official business, but fortunately it didn't actually turn out to be a TSA mandate.

O'Hurley Born by Nora Roberts - Another book picked up for pre-flight entertainment, this book contains two stories from the O'Hurley quartet. These ones are fine. I mean, they're by Nora Roberts so you can count on them being well-written and enjoyable. But it's not my favorite Nora.

On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder - This tells the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder's final migration from De Smet, South Dakota, to her future forever home in Mansfield, Missouri. Told from her actual journal entries, it's an interesting read for fans of the series.

Diary of a Mad Mom-to-Be by Laura Wolf - The second of two diary-style books, I picked up this one after reading and loving the first book (which you'll hear about later). This is a perfect example of a random bookstore find turning into a much-loved staple in my collection.

Seeing Red

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - This was one of the few books I was required to read in school that I actually enjoyed. Masterfully written, imaginative, and actually quite terrifying, this book pulled at me, begging to be read. If only every required read had been so gripping, I would have done a lot better with my homework.

The Elite by Kiera Cass - The second, and my favorite, book in the Selection series, this was pitched to me as a cross between the Bachelor and the Hunger Games. And I suppose it is, though I'd say it's more of the first than the last.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - The second and best book of the famed Hunger Games series. I actually haven't read this copy either (I read the series on my Nook, but wanted the series on my shelf, because I loved them so much). I picked up the hardcover trilogy from Indigo Bridge Books, a local bookstore.

The Scottish Bride and The Sherbrooke Bride by Catherine Coulter - Two Catherine Coulter books about brides--from the same series--and one is well-loved and read multiple times, and the other has been on my shelf waiting to be read for about 10 years. This is what happens when you go on book buying binges on summer vacation and end up having zero time to read in your free-time thanks to college and the alleged need to study.

The Lost World and Rising Sun by Michael Crichton - I read and enjoyed Jurassic Park when I was in middle school, and I always meant to check out more Michael Crichton reads, and I still do. But it hasn't happened yet. I received both of these from my mom's "read" pile.

For the Roses by Julie Garwood - Man. I feel like I've said this before, but this is another book I only kind of like by an author I love. There must be something about this shelf. Yikes.

True Love & Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson - Okay. Now this is a book by an author I love that I also truly enjoyed. Part of the beloved Chinooks hockey team, this one had plenty of steam and a happy ending for more than one reason.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - I picked up this book for two reasons. One: I wanted to read it before the movie came out, and I wanted to see the movie, because I had a thing for Robert Pattinson at the time. Second: I'd just finished participating in my first National Novel Writing Month. Gruen wrote this book during her own previous NaNoWriMo, and I figured it would inspire me.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris - Getting to finally watch the movie, The Silence of the Lambs, was a big rite of passage for me. It was on the short-list of films I was forbidden to see until I was at least 13. After finally seeing the movie and deciding it wasn't as horrifying as my parents had led me to believe it would be. I'm not saying it's a pleasant story, but after growing up on procedural crime dramas, I was okay. That said, I liked the movie, I liked the book.

About a Boy by Nick Hornby - I meant to read the book and go see the movie, but neither happened. Instead, my mom read the book and passed it on to me to read during breaks at my movie theater job. Someday. Someday I'll read the book and see the movie. And maybe I'll watch the TV show. (Is it even still on air? I'm so out of the loop on the TV world.)

The Cider House Rules by John Irving - This is another example of a movie coming out and me wanting to read the book first. Only in this instance, I succeeded at doing both. Watching the movie felt like seeing a completely different story from the one I'd read. And the one I read was much better.

Ralph's Party by Lisa Jewell - This was the second chick lit novel I ever read based on the advice of a friend who knew I enjoyed Bridget Jones's Diary. Who knew I'd be starting a new past-time?

And on this particular shelf you'll find two of my favorite treasures. The Ariel and Belle bells were gifts from friends. Knowing me and my love for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, they picked up these gifts from me in Disney World. Though I've lived in four different places since receiving these bells, they always find a place of honor on my shelves.

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January 13, 2015

book selfie - 'the last single girl'

After finishing my first read of 2015 during the day on Jan. 1, I needed another story to close out the first day of the new year. During the final days of 2014, I discovered I have a ridiculously high number of unread books hanging out on my Nook, Kindle, and bookshelves. Determined to resolve that, and in the market for a short, fun read, I turned to Caitie Quinn's romantic comedy novella, The Last Single Girl.

With the dregs of New Year's Eve champagne in my holiday wine glass sippy cuppy and my Christmas tree lights still stubbornly on, this seemed like the perfect set-up for a night curled up on the sofa.
One month. 

That's all Sarah has to find a date for the Big Night or earn the honor of being the last single girl in her inner circle. Actually, in all her circles. So with four weeks to find Mr. Right and a frienemy already counting her out, Sarah joins eLove.com hoping that - just like the perfect purse - the internet and online dating can help her find the perfect man. 

The problem is, love isn't always where you think you'll find it and Mr. Right may not be the one with the shiniest profile.
Fast-paced with a witty and concise writing, The Last Single Girl was everything I was looking for in a light evening read. Dropped into the story at precisely the right moment, I understood and related to Sarah's predicament, empathized with it (particularly the wenchy frenemy), and wanted to see how her attempts at finding a New Year's Eve date via online dating would go.

I was also quickly smitten with one of the men who comes across Sarah's path and found myself cheering for him almost as much as I was rooting on Sarah.

The "villain" of this story, who happens to be Sarah's frenemy, was also just irritating enough for me to want to slap a few times, but not bad enough that I couldn't understand why they were friends.

As a fellow last single girl, this was a particularly nice read to start my new year. It left me feeling like love really could be just around the corner, and maybe it's somewhere you wouldn't suspect immediately. That's not such a bad thought.

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January 12, 2015

movie monday: 'a novel romance'

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.

A Novel Romance
Original air date: Jan. 10
Starring Amy Acker, Dylan Bruce, and Charles S. Dutton
Romance novelist Liam Bradley (Dylan Bruce) has already found massive success with three books written under the pen name Gabriel August, but he's mysteriously unknown to his legions of readers. With his first book written as a way to heal after a broken relationship, Liam has slowly become disheartened with writing strictly for romantic fantasy, something evident to a sweet, but honest, journalist who reviews books, Sophie Atkinson (Amy Acker), whom he meets by chance on a plane. The two begin a tentative relationship in Sophie’s home town of Portland, Maine, where Liam has come to find inspiration for his newest entry. 
Liam’s agent puts him on the spot with a long-planned reveal of Gabriel August’s true identity, but Sophie doesn’t know of his public persona. The longer Liam avoids telling her the truth, the deeper a hole he digs for himself. Will their romance survive once his true identity comes to light?
Overall a cute story, A Novel Romance was missing a lot of the spark and humor I adored in last week's movie. More sweet than sparkling, the best part of the movie was the character development.

I particularly enjoyed Liam, an adorkable and shy man with a lot of history and a big secret. I'm a sucker for the guy who has it all going on, but needs a little push to realize how much potential he has.

By comparison, his love interest, Sophie, drove me a little crazy. I imagine that was the point, but there were several moments of the movie when I wanted to flick her on the nose and tell her to get it together already.

I don't always like the supporting characters in these movies, but they were some of my favorite parts of this particular film From Sophie's BFFs who recently discovered that they were in love after years of friendship (a totally adorable back story for any character let alone supporting) to Liam's meddling literary agent, the supporting characters were a lot of fun to watch.

The production on this movie had me scratching my head a few times. Everything filmed outdoors was great, but whenever there was something with a background out the window (like a New York City skyline or a city street), it looked way too green screen. I wouldn't say it ruined the movie for me, but I did find it distracting.

I also had a bit of difficulty suspending my belief on a few components of the film, which I can't really share on here without being spoilery. They're parts that come from my history of having worked at a newspaper, maintaining a blog/website and being a writer. Again, it didn't ruin the movie for me, but it usually seemed a little too good to be true. (I suppose I'm just a cynic.)

Though not my favorite Hallmark movie ever, this one had a pretty big cute-factor going for it. Even with me rolling my eyes at Sophie a time or five, Liam's dishiness made up for it. It makes me wonder if I shouldn't have looked for books written by attractive, witty, single men back in my book reviewing days. Maybe I'd be hanging out on a boat in Portland right now instead of sitting on a couch wearing sweatpants. (It's the weekend as I'm writing this. Don't judge me.)

While I won't be adding this to my re-watch list, I enjoyed watching it this time well enough.

Who watched A Novel Romance? What did you think?

And in case you missed it, here's my look from last night's Golden Globes viewing. I naturally had to work the smokey eye, big hair and pouty look.

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January 9, 2015

reading in the kitchen - oyster soup

Last year I set a goal for myself: make one recipe a month from Barbara M. Walker's The Little House Cookbook and revive the Reading in the Kitchen series I'd so enjoyed doing a couple of years ago. As way leads to way, that didn't happen, but I figure it's never too late for a second chance at meeting a goal.

So here we go. First up, oyster soup, which gets a shout-out in On the Banks of Plum Creek (when Pa stays alive on oyster crackers during a sudden blizzard) and By the Shores of Silver Lake, when Ma makes it for Christmas dinner.

I'll admit, I had reservations going into this dish. I love cream-based soups like this, and clam chowder is a personal favorite. I adore seafood. But oysters kind of freak me out. I know oysters on a half shell are supposed to be a delicacy (and an aphrodisiac), but the slimy texture grosses me out. I hoped this dish would prove me wrong.

The ingredients for this are pretty simple. (You can find the full list and detailed directions in the cookbook pages 29-30.)

I started by draining the liquid from the oyster cans into a measuring cup.

I poured the cup of oyster juice and a cup of water into a pot on the stove, which I set over a medium heat. While that warmed up, I crushed up some of the oyster crackers as finely as I could

I poured those and the butter into the pot and waited for it to boil.

And I stirred.

Once the pot was boiling, I dumped the oysters in. This was the point during cooking when I wondered if I'd actually be able to eat this dish. Those canned oysters just looked so slimy and gooey and gross. Blech.

I poured in the milk and only a fraction of the cream (because the soup already smelled good enough and the recipe book said the cream and butter might make it a little rich for the tummy).

While the pot returned to a boil I added some ground pepper, mace, and nutmeg.

After everything simmered together for a few minutes, I removed it from the heat and poured myself a serving. The recipe book says this will make six small servings. I found it yielded four portions that worked well as the main dish at lunch.

I'm happy to report that though the oysters looked gross going into the pot, and weren't exactly super appetizing to look like after cooking, the whole soup was delicious. It was actually pretty easy, too, so I may try this one again.

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January 8, 2015

a few of my favorite things day

It doesn't get much better than The Princess Bride
on TV and macaroni and cheese in a bowl. 

I'm fortunate to have a day job that gives me a week (or more) off at the end of the year. While I've approached each of these winter shutdowns with a plan to be super productive and change my world, that doesn't always pan out.

Case in point, this winter break I had every intention of spending my week and a half off:
  • Doing a round of edits on The Marrying Type (I did that)
  • Having a conference call about TMT with my publisher (Also did that)
  • Writing a holiday novella (Not even close, but I did make some nice notes)
  • Taking a first read-through of Book 3 (I didn't even get through the first chapter)
  • Stockpiling a bunch of blog posts (I was moderately successful with this, but only managed a fraction)
  • Organizing and cleaning my apartment to get my life together in time for the New Year (That's where this post comes into play)

Though I had high hopes for essentially changing the world during my time off, I also approached this year's break with one overarching goal: Have a nice time and no regrets.

With that charge in mind, I took one day of last week and dubbed it, "Do a Few of My Favorite Things While Simultaneously Managing Some of My Not-So-Favorite Things Day." What does that mean? Basically, I watched a few of my favorite movies, ate a couple of my favorite foods, and essentially enjoyed myself while also doing some of the necessary evils, like taking down and packing up my Christmas decor, washing and sorting the laundry, and organizing and cleaning my apartment.

When I couldn't be near my TV to do things like organize my bedroom closet and clean the bathroom, I used the waiting TV to motivate me to work that much faster.

My favorite foods included hazelnut coffee and waffles for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for lunch, and more pasta for dinner. (I also ate a box of Milkduds, which probably wasn't necessary given the carbs I'd already consumed, but whatever.) My TV played some of my all-time favorite movies, including The Little Mermaid, The Princess BrideWhen Harry Met Sally, and Beauty and the Beast. Then I finished off the night be reading through the first few chapters of my novel, which was due back to the editor over the weekend.

Bingley even got in on the laundry action.

I checked a lot of items off of my to-do list that day, had a nice time, and was able to greet the end of my vacation feeling like I'd achieved my main goal and enough of my secondary objectives.

What would go into your favorite/not so-favorite things day?

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