GOAL DAY

So the inspiration for this blog is partially due to my mom and to my husband Kris. For 2013 I had made a goal to read 50 books and I ended up reading 60. So for 2014 I challenged myself to once again read 60 books. And I also encouraged my mom to challenge herself with her quilting and set a goal for the year on how many projects she would like to accomplish. In order to track her progress through the year with her goal, I suggested creating a quilting blog. My husband Kris then encouraged me to start my own blog and write about the books I read and related topics. In case you are interested, you can read my mom’s quilting blog here: http://joanne94w.wordpress.com/

In setting our goals for the year, we decided to pick one Saturday a month that we would set aside to work on our goals together. While it is a day meant for accomplishments, it is also one of the few relaxing days my mom and I get. We try to make healthy and nutritious meals in our effort to be healthier this year. I usually exercise a little bit to help towards this goal as well. And while we did not do it today, we also sometimes spend time cleaning out parts of the basement downstairs since that is one of mom’s goals this year.

Most of her time is spent quilting and most of my time is spent reading. We put on movies that we enjoy and I get to spend time all day with my kitty Toni. All in all it is a fabulous day that I find myself looking forward to every month. Especially during tax season, there doesn’t seem to be any extra time to read and that seems to wear me down easily. As my mom says, on these goal days we are “feeding our souls with our hobbies.” I find this to be very true, when I don’t have enough free time to fit in any reading it seems to hurt my soul a bit. Reading and escaping to that fictional world helps me to deal with the stresses I have to deal with in life. I guess it helps me find my center and find peace.

Reading has always been a big part of my life. I have been a bookworm ever since I was small and that’s definitely been no secret. I got scolded almost every day in history class in my junior year of high school because my teacher always caught me reading instead of taking notes on the lecture. I’ve been teased continually that I always have my nose in a book. I even read in a movie theater while I wait for the movie to start sometimes. I worked in a library all through high school and on breaks from college, which I think only fueled my addiction to books. I carry one or more books with me at all times. I’m pretty much the definition of a bookworm.

So today was goal day and I finished book #10 for this year and started book #11. My mom is working on a cool quilt in some kind of snail pattern but it ends up looking like cats with entwined tails. Overall so far its been a great day šŸ™‚ And Toni of course is the princess of the day!!

IMG_0169

2014 – Book #10

Image

The tenth book I finished in 2014 was Where the Heart Leads by Stephanie Laurens. I finished this book on 2/22/14 (today). This book actually is the link between 2 series of books by Laurens. The first is discussed in a couple of my earlier posts, the Cynster family series. And the second is the series chronicling the detective cases of a Mr. Barnaby Adair (the hero in Where the Heart Leads). This is the first in the series of the Casebooks of Barnaby Adair. I rated this book 4 stars out of a scale of 5.

This book is about Penelope Ashford and Barnaby Adair. Penelope runs the Foundling House, which is a schoolhouse for orphans from the poorer areas of London. Some of her charges have disappeared and she enlists Adair’s help to try and recover them. Penelope’s sharp intelligence in this story makes it hard not to fall in love with her, and for a man like Barnaby Adair, Penelope’s unconventional nature makes her the perfect match for the son of an earl who solves mysteries in his spare time. The issue, however, is that Penelope has declared herself never to be married as she believes it would mean giving up all sense of her independence. As the two fall deeper and deeper in love with each other though, Penelope comes to see that marriage to the right man doesn’t mean a loss of independence but the gaining of love and support from a partner who can share in your happiness, your trials, and everything in between.

The mystery involved in the story was very good as well. Barnaby and Penelope work together with a police detective (Stokes) and a milliner’s shopkeeper (Griselda) to solve the mystery of the missing boys. In the process the four of them become good friends despite the difference in their stations. For those of you who don’t know, a milliner is a term for a hatmaker. This is obviously very popular in England as the English just lover their fancy hats:

Image

To learn more about millinery, you can read about it on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatmaking

So anyways, Griselda and Stokes are actually a cute sub-story included in this novel as they are the stars of their own budding romance.The combination of the main love story, the substory, and the mystery kept any piece of the story from being too slow or dry. Was a great historical romance! Overall this was a very good story and kept the reader interested throughout. I would highly recommend!

Link to author website: http://www.stephanielaurens.com/

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Where-Heart-Leads-Casebook-Barnaby/dp/0061243388/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393084573&sr=8-1&keywords=where+the+heart+leads

2014 – Book #9

Image

The ninth book I finished in 2014 was Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins. I finished this book on 2/8/14. I rated this book 4.25 stars out of a scale of 5.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Higgins’ books are those rare kind of stories that are able to make you laugh out loud and cry your eyes out. Her stories draw emotions so easily from the reader and its impossible not to get swept up in the tension and the heartaches of the characters. This novel definitely didn’t disappoint as I found myself lost in the characters and the journey of our heroine as she falls in love with her hero.
And in this story hero is the right word for it as our lead male character, and most of the other male characters in the book come to think of it, are firefighters. Chastity is the only girl in a family of 5 siblings, who falls in love with a family friend, Trevor Meade. The only thing that bugged me about this story was that if they could’ve just communicated better they probably could’ve gotten together a long time ago. Of course, realistically men and women don’t communicate well at all so it probably makes more sense than if the guy could magically know what the girl was thinking all the time.

The family in this story reminded me a lot of my family. Chastity had 4 brothers who were all married with small children and many times in the story it talks about her interacting with the little kids. And while I am an only child, my family is very close and I see my cousins, who are all married with small children, quite often. The way Chastity described her family dinners at her mother’s house reminded me a lot of family dinners at my grandfather’s house, kids running around screaming and what-not. What the author was describing was a house full of love and it made the story all the more wonderful to read.

Overall this was a very sweet and touching love story and I would highly recommend. As I said in my earlier post on another of Higgins’ books, if you’re looking for steamy you’re not in the right place. But if you’re looking for a reminder of what being vulnerable to love and what real love is, you’ll find it.

Link to author site: http://www.kristanhiggins.com/

Link to Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Just-One-Guys-Kristan-Higgins/dp/0373777035/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1393023904&sr=8-2&keywords=just+one+of+the+guys

2014 – Book #8

Image

The eighth book I finished in 2014 was No Longer A Gentleman by Mary Jo Putney. I finished this book on 2/2/14. It is the fourth book in the Lost Lord series by this author (the third was discussed in an earlier post this year – 2014 Book #3).Ā  I rated this book 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5. The book is about a French woman working as a spy for England (Cassie) who goes in search of one of the Lost Lords who disappeared in France after the Treaty of Amiens.

This actually leads me to one of the main reasons I like historical romance novels. I’ve never been a big history fan, I always found it very boring and dry and impossible to remember all the dates and the facts. But I’ve discovered that reading historical romance novels gives me just the right dose of history and honestly gives it to me in a concept I can remember – a love story. This book was a perfect example. I doubt that I’ve ever even heard of the Treaty of Amiens (though to be honest I may have learned about it in high school and just have no memory of it), but after reading this fictional novel I can now tell you that the Treaty of Amiens was in the early 1800’s (no one really needs to remember exact years) and that it granted a temporary peace between England and France during the French Revolutionary War. I can also tell you that the French used to call the English “goddams” and that after the Treaty of Amiens ended, all the English men who were partying it up in France were captured and held in France so that they could not fight with English forces against the French in the war. Point is, historical romance novels are slowly helping me learn little bits of history and I find it fascinating. If you’d like to learn more about the Treaty of Amiens, you can read about the subject on a variety of websites. The easiest for me to link here though is wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Amiens

So back to the story. Cassie, the French woman working as a spy for England, travels to France to find Lord Wyndham, who has been a prisoner in France for the past 10 years following the end of the Treaty of Amiens. While rescuing him and transporting him carefully back to England, they fall in loveĀ  obviously. Its hard to see how they couldn’t fall in love, Wyndham (“Grey”) has been imprisoned for 10 years and then gets rescued b a female, I can definitely see how he would grow attached. But anyways, they fall in love and when they get back to England they receive a message from Grey’s captor that makes them return to France and Grey is finally able to face his captor and save one of his friends. Carrie and Grey’s story was filled with vulnerabilities and insecurities, as many true life love stories are.

Overall was a very good book, one of the better ones in the Lost Lords series I think. I would recommend!

Link to author website: http://www.maryjoputney.com/

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Longer-Gentleman-The-Lost-Lords/dp/1420117238/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392923198&sr=8-1&keywords=no+longer+a+gentleman

2014 – Book #7

ImageThe seventh book I finished in 2014 was Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins. I finished this book on 1/22/14. I rated this book 4.5 stars out of a scale of 5.

Kristan Higgins is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Her books always make me laugh out loud while I am reading them. They’re definitely not what I would call a steamy romance novel but the stories she writes are very sweet love stories. And many of her books remind the reader that love is not perfect, that not all love stories involve two perfectly chipper loving people. Sometimes love involves people who are cranky but they find that one person who can make them laugh. I guess what I’m trying to say is that her idea of love and romance is a little more realistic than some of the other romance novels I read. And maybe because of that they are truly touching love stories that reach deep inside the reader and grab a hold of your heart and squeeze.

Too Good To Be True is the story of a woman named Grace who is trying to move past the fact that her fiancee dumped her for her younger sister. She’s on the hunt for a new man in her life when a very attractive man moves into the house next door to her. She soon finds our however that he is an ex-convict (don’t fret, he did two years for a white collar-crime that, well, read the book and find out I guess). All of the characters in this story (in my opinion even the characters with smaller parts) are well-developed and draw emotions from the reader. While a tad slow in a couple parts, overall this book is a great read. Higgins is one of the few who can make me laugh out loud and cry my eyes out in the same book. Great author and a great book!

Link to author website: http://www.kristanhiggins.com/index.html

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Too-Good-Be-True-Hqn/dp/0373777914/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392852081&sr=8-1&keywords=too+good+to+be+true

2014 – Book #6

Image

The sixth book I finished in 2014 was The Perfect Lover by Stephanie Laurens. I finished this book on 1/19/14. This is the 10th book in the Cynster family series (previously referenced in post about The Promise in a Kiss). I rated this story 4 stars out of a scale of 5.

This story is about Simon Cynster and his romance with Portia Ashford. Simon’s older sister and Portia’s older brother were featured in an earlier Cynster novel (#9 – On a Wicked Dawn). Simon and Portia find themselves at the same house party in the country. During their stay, the hostess is murdered and they, along with an inspector Stokes, work together to solve the murder. All the while Simon and Portia develop deep feelings for one another. As usual, Laurens draws us in to the emotions of the characters and makes it very easy to connect with the plot and lose yourself in the story. Overall I thought it was an excellent novel.

Link to author website: http://www.stephanielaurens.com/

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Lover-Cynster-Stephanie-Laurens/dp/0060505729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392768831&sr=8-1&keywords=the+perfect+lover

2014 – Book #5

StartMeUpWithText

The fifth book I finished for 2014 was Start Me Up by Victoria Dahl. I finished this book on 1/17/14. It is the 2nd book in a connected series of friends from Tumble Creek Colorado. This story is about mechanic Lori Love and her relationship with Quinn Jennings (Lori is best friends with Quinn’s sister Molly, who is the heroine in book #1 of the series, Talk Me Down). I rated this book 3 stars out of a scale of 5. It was a steamy story and the ending was very sweet but the heroine of the story was pretty mean to the hero in some parts. Overall was an ok story but definitely not one of my favorites. The first book in the series though (which I read in 2013) I rated 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5 so if you are interested in reading the series I would recommend reading this one as part of it.

Link to author website: http://www.victoriadahl.com/

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Start-Me-Up-Victoria-Dahl/dp/0373773900/ref=tmm_mmp_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1392595938&sr=8-1

2014 – Book #4

Image

The fourth book I finished for 2014 was The Promise in a Kiss by Stephanie Laurens. I finished this book on 1/13/14. This book was a a “special” book published as part of the Cynster series written by Laurens. I discovered the Cynster series last year and started from the first book and read through to the 9th in the series before the end of last year. Laurens is very talented at developing the characters in each of her stories and drawing the reader into the emotions of the book. I especially like the series because it follows a family tree and catalogs the story of each of the members of the tree. I very much enjoy a series like that as characters pop up all over the place from previous books or future stories and they are all connected. The Cynster family tree is quite extensive, so thereĀ  are many stories to read! The family tree from Laurens’ website is included here:

Image

The Promise in a Kiss tells the story of Sebastian, the Duke of St. Ives, and Helena Rebecce de Stansion, Comtesse d’Lisle. Helena made appearances in many of the early books of the series as she and Sebastian were the head of the family that is catalogued throughout the series. This “special” book is essentially telling the back story of how the family came to be. It was a very touching love story with a suspenseful side to it as Helena tries to free her sister from her uncle’s evil clutches. I rated this book 4 stars, I thought it had a good plot with interesting characters and was well-paced.

The Cynster series is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite series, partly because the women are all so strong and willful characters, the men are so devoted and protective of the women they fall in love with, and all the characters in the stories are so well developed it is hard not to feel as if you’re living the stories as you’re reading them. If you like historical romance novels, this is definitely a series to read. As you can see from the family tree, the first book is titled The Devil’s Bride and tells the story of the son of Sebastian and Helena. I can’t wait to continue with this series and read about more of the happy endings in store for this family.

Link to author’s website: http://www.stephanielaurens.com/

Link to Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/The-Promise-Kiss-Cynster-Novels/dp/0061031755/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392594263&sr=8-1&keywords=the+promise+in+a+kiss

2014 – Book #3

Image

The third book I finished for 2014 was Nowhere Near Respectable by Mary Jo Putney. I finished the book on 1/11/14. It is the third book in the Lost Lord series by this author (the first 2 in the series are Loving a Lost Lord and Never Less Than a Lady, both of which I read at the end of 2013). I rated this book 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5. The book is about the Indian daughter of an English duke (Kiri) who was brought up to be a warrior princess. She becomes involved with Damian Mackenzie, the bastard brother of another of the “Lost Lords.” Damian also turns out to be an English spy during the war with the French, which he covers up by running a gaming house. The book tells the story of this couple teaming up to stop the French’s plot to kidnap an English princess. Their story was very interesting, though the ending was a bit too neat and slightly unbelievable/unrealistic. Overall it was a good book though!

The Lost Lords series is a good historical romance series. The Lost Lords are a group of boys who attended the Westerfield Academy, run by Lady Agnes Westerfield. All the boys who attended this school were not quite manageable and some had behavioral issues. Lady Agnes became a second (or sometimes first) mother figure to the boys when they attended the school. She makes an appearance in each one of the Lost Lords novels. If you like historical romance novels, I would recommend this series.

Link to author’s website: http://www.maryjoputney.com/index.html

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Nowhere-Near-Respectable-Lost-Lords/dp/142011722X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391693738&sr=8-1&keywords=nowhere+near+respectable

2014 – Book #1 and #2

The first book I finished for 2014 was Shades of Temptation by Virna DePaul. I finished the book on 1/1/14 and it is the second in a connected series by this author (the first was Shades of Desire which I read in 2013). I rated this book 3.25 stars out of a scale of 5. The book is about two Special Investigations detectives who are hunting a serial killer and fighting their growing attractions for each other. The plot is filled with danger and suspense, but was a little hard for me to stay focused on at certain points. My favorite books are the ones that I get so focused on the story I completely lose touch with reality and get lost in the plot and the characters. And while this book didn’t do quite that, it was a very interesting story and was worth the read.

The second book I finished for 2014 was Shades of Passion also by Virna DePaul. I finished the book on 1/9/14 and it is the third in a connected series by this author (the second is discussed in the first paragraph of this post). I rated this book 3.5 stars out of a scale of 5. The book is about a character introduced in the first two books in the series. He is another Special Investigations detective and he was more involved in the end of the second book in the series. The hero in this book has recently suffered a significant loss and he heals during the book through his relationship with the heroine. Like the first two books in the series, the hero is hunting for a serial killer and the plot is filled with mystery and suspense. And underneath the thriller/suspense there was a sweet love story involved. Something I also thought was interesting about this story was the underlying message about therapy and about people’s attitudes towards seeking therapy. This really stood out to me because one of my friends is currently getting her Masters degree in psychology and we’ve had many discussions about this very topic. Overall though this was a good story and a good continuation of the series.

By the way, anyone who reads any of my review posts please feel free to disagree with me (politely though please)! I love a good discussion about a book and I would love to hear other people’s opinions on the books I read.

Link to author website: http://virnadepaul.com/

Link to Amazon for Book #1: http://www.amazon.com/Shades-Temptation-Hqn-Virna-DePaul/dp/0373776748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391630691&sr=8-1&keywords=shades+of+temptation

Link to Amazon for Book #2: http://www.amazon.com/Shades-Passion-Hqn-Virna-DePaul/dp/0373777426/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391639558&sr=8-1&keywords=shades+of+passion