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Friday, February 27, 2015

Random Friday, The Last 9 Days.

Things have gotten crazy up in here up in here. I'm too tired to do this in any way but bullets. Here we go!

  • On Thursday the 19th, we bought a house. THANK GOD it was the same one we already live in.
    My house is a boring box. FOR NOW.
  • We closed at 1:00, drove through Arby's and then went home and gutted the kitchen. We emptied and took down all the upper cabinets and removed the disgusting carpet. By bed time we had removed all the hardware, patched holes, textured the walls and painted the kitchen. We also took down the ancient screen door on the front of the house.
  • Friday we borrowed a truck and drove 5 hours round trip to buy flooring. Friday night we started rehanging the cabinets, at ceiling level.
  • Saturday we got the cabinets up, took a few down again, and put them back up. (Turns out a 33" cabinet and a 36" cabinet look a lot alike.) I painted all the hardware- from ugly brass to a nice brushed nickel, and put the doors back on.
    Clear winner.
  • Sunday we built some shelving. Let me rephrase that, *I* built some shelving, from plywood and oak tape and stain and I got to use a lot of tools. Mike put up brackets and we installed a row of open shelving under the now higher cabinets. We touched up paint and contemplated 60 year old linoleum. This bullet sounds like not a full days work, but we were busy all day.
    Look! Kitchen carpet AND fancy linoleum!
  • Monday we put down plywood over the linoleum.
  • Tuesday I stained some more wood and Mike worked on the crown at the ceiling level.
  • Wednesday we did a lot of tiny catch up things. Staining small places we missed, tons of little things.
I'll post before and after shots later, I like the big reveal moment.

Tired yet? What else did we do?
  • Aside from Thursday and Friday, we worked our normal jobs. Having no kitchen is much like camping in your own home. You have showers and beds, but want a cup? HAHAHA. Yeah right. This is my kitchen, in my dining room. That's right, the dining room was unusable too for much of the week.
    I should drink some of that liquor. Might help.
  • On Thursday night, my elderly cat Phoebe, the last of my Alabama kitties, died in her sleep. She was 18 and grouchy, but she's the end of an era for me.
    Phoebe. 1996-2015
  • On Monday night our dog Scout got literally deathly ill and had a trip to the emergency vet. She had the doggie flu. (Who knew?? I didn't.) 
  • On Tuesday and Wednesday nights I prepared Boxtops for PTO. To be clear, not just my own, the ENTIRE SCHOOL's Boxtops.
  • We ("Noah") completed his 1st grade science fair project. He melted leftover candy canes in different solutions.
  • On Thursday night (last night), I attended Kindergarten orientation for my baby girl. HOW??
    Two weeks ago, when you could see the floor. Or as I like to call it, Before Chaos.
I. Need. A. Nap.

Book Report!
HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah right.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Random Friday the 13th.

South Dakota has the best sunrises, and sunsets, hands down. Doesn't hurt that we live on the river.

  • This has been a long week, hasn't it?
  • I spent a lot of time this week listening to the adult version of "it wasn't me! and I can prove it with my maturity!" when really it feels so immature. It's exhausting.
  • I have an unexplained calf injury and haven't been able to run even once. Not that the weather cooperated.
  • Book club, our second meeting, got moved to next week. I was really looking forward to that glass of wine too.
  • Next week is crazy every day but Tuesday. I should really double check Tuesday. More on that craziness next week, I don't want to jinx anything.
  • The hexagons continue. I have no idea how many I have left to make, somewhere around 600 I think. And a bunch of flowers. I'm kinda of doing three things at once now- making a few hexies, turning already made ones into flowers, and starting to piece it all together. The variety is nice.

Book Report!

What I read this week:

  • Fire Me Up by Kimberly Kincaid. Reviewed here.
  • The Cowboy's Valentine by Donna Alward. Reviewed here.
  • Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs. It's no Mercy Thompson, but it was still excellent. I love Anna.
  • Trade Me by Courtney Milan.  I've just barely started.
What I Got This Week:
  • Still the One by Jill Shalvis (NetGalley) WOOHOO!
  • Unfair by Adam Benforado
Looks like I'm the Queen.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Cowboy's Valentine by Donna Alward

As I sat down to write my review of The Cowboy's Valentine by Donna Alward, I found myself going back to reread my review of Her Rancher Rescuer, which was the first Alward I read. It seemed, in my head, that these two books had a lot of similarities, even tho the plots were very different. When I read my review tho, I realized that they really had nothing in common, except that they FEEL the same. Both sets of characters deal with real issues in a grownup way. (And they are both on a ranch.)

So what's The Cowboy's Valentine about?
Coming home is hard enough without ranch manager Quinn Solomon making Lacey Duggan feel like an unwanted guest. She's only here until she figures out what to do with her one-third ownership of Crooked Valley. But Quinn's irresistible daughter is giving Lacey ideas about being part of a family. And though they don't even like each other, Lacey's having crazier notions about the widowed single dad. 

Does Lacey think she can waltz in and turn Quinn's life upside down…only to leave again? The pretty accountant knows nothing about running a ranch, yet she's making the Montana homestead feel like a home. Quinn isn't looking for love again. Until a woman who's all heart and a determined little girl help one lovestruck cowboy see the light.

Lacey has recently returned to the ranch that she now owns 1/3 of with her brothers. She's lost her husband, her job and her home, and she's slightly mortified to be coming home to a ranch she doesn't even want. She's planning to lick her wounds for a few days, spruce up her resume, and get back to her life. She's not counting on sharing the house with Quinn, the ranch manager. Quinn has his own struggles, he's the single father to a 4 year old girl and he's desperately trying to keep their live as stable and predictable as possible.  He had a great relationship with his dead wife (while she was alive!) and is reluctant to let that go. He and Lacey spar constantly, and fight their obvious attraction.

Of course, this being a romance novel, things eventually explode in a very realistic way. The two are unable to keep their hands off each other, but like adults sit down to talk out what should happen next. Surprisingly, Quinn is starting to realize that while he misses Maria, and he does mourn her, it's more of a comfortable habit than a deep pain. He's shocked to discover that he doesn't have to mourn her, he can choose to fall in love with another woman. Unfortunately for him, Lacey feels that her secret, and the reason for the end of her marriage, is too great a burden to share with Quinn and attempts to walk away. Outwardly she insists that she's trying to save Quinn from heartache, but Quinn is able to recognize that she's scared inside. And here's where the story gets great, Quinn doesn't storm off or write her off. He backs off a bit and waits. Wait what? That never happens in a romance novel! Usually the spurned half goes off to lick wounds and we need a big grovel scene to make up for it.  That doesn't happen at all here. The reader still gets a satisfying resolution/ reunion but no one's pride gets injured. I admit it, I cried.

Alward's Harlequins have a way of tackling serious, believable issues in a adult way. I thought she handled Lacey's emotions around her secret (sorry, spoilers) very well. I could clearly see why Lacey would feel like she did. I could really see how grief could become a habit. I really enjoy this aspect of her books.

Were there any problems with the book or was this perfect? Of course there were problems, but they were minor. There was the problem with Quinn's wedding ring, which is in the way until it's never mentioned again, and the last sentence of chapter 13 threw me so far out of the story that I had to stop reading in the middle of an emotional part.  It felt so out of character and out of place and such a stupid stereotype that that ONE sentence is the most memorable one in the entire book.  I also firmly believed that Quinn would react in a completely different way to Lacey's secret- a much much worse, but I think plausible, way. I was so happy that he didn't, because it would have changed my opinion of Quinn as a reasonable person. Final verdict, not 5 stars, but still very very close.

The Cowboy's Valentine was published on February 3rd.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fire Me Up by Kimberly Kincaid

Last fall I read Kimberly Kincaid's Stirring up Trouble, and while I wasn't quite sold on it I was pretty sure I'd try another by the author. This winter Fire Me Up appeared on NetGalley and since I remembered loving the brief glimpse of Adrian we had in the first one, I requested it. While the two books take place in the same town, there is very very little overlap, and in fact neither of the main characters from Stirring up Trouble appear. There were two other books in the series, which I have not read, that tie them together.

So, what's it about?
Here's the summary:
If You Can't Stand The Heat. . .
Teagan O'Malley can handle a crisis. She's a paramedic, it's her job. But she never expected to land in the kitchen of her father's pub, with no notice, no cash, and no room for error. The kitchen is not her favorite place. Lucky for her, she just scraped a bad-boy chef off the pavement after a motorcycle accident--and something about him says he can turn up the heat in more ways than one.
Adrian Holt has had a rough few years, and he's not eager to get tangled up in anything more complicated than a good risotto. But with a broken arm and a head full of bad memories, he needs a challenge to keep him sane. Teagan's dare-me attitude and smoldering mess of a bar are just what the doctor ordered. And the two of them together might cook up some even better medicine. . .

The entire series revolves around a restaurant in a small resort town. Adrian is  sous chef there, except now he isn't since he broke his arm and is temporarily off work. His best friend and boss not so gently forces him to take an extended time off to get his life on an even keel, but on the way home he crashes his motorcycle and meets Teagan. Adrian is big and bad and has made some mistakes in his past. He is currently walking on a very tight straight and narrow and can not afford to take one step to mess it up. With the (temporary) loss of his job and now his broken arm, he despairs of keeping his sanity. When he meets Teagan a second time at her father's bar he knows this is a bad, bad idea.

Teagan is strong, resourceful and determined. She's completely unexpectedly thrown into managing the bar on a more than full time basis, and while she's in way over her head, she's never anything more than focused on fixing the problems. She holds it all together for a very long time. She trusts Adrian immediately, not that she has a choice, and works hard with him. As it turns out, there's more to the problem than simply a failing bar, and Adrian's past makes things delicate in more ways than one. I thought this line was very well written.

I could so easily see Teagan fall in love. I'd have fallen in love. I might have asked for more explanation of his willingness to help, but I'd have loved him for his strength and determination. The attraction between them was solid, if not explosively so, and by the end I could completely buy the romance. Any quibbles I'd have had were with some minor details in his past, and the degree of seriousness of the bar's trouble (I can't say more, it's not even hinted at in the synopsis!)

With this second book, Kincaid has earned herself a place on my list. I'll certainly be looking for more of  the Pine Mountain series. I really hope we get to see the two other bar employees soon.

Fire Me Up was released on January 20, 2015.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Random Friday, Pippi and podcasts

My very own Pippi Longstocking.

  • This is the season of the podcast for me. I have become addicted to them.Unfortunately, while I am in the car several times a day, none of my drives are more than a couple miles so it takes a very long time to listen to anything. I'm loving Books on the Nightstand; Another Mother Runner; How to do Everything; Dear Bitches, Smart Authors. Anything else I should be listening to?
  • We had Parent Teacher Conferences last night. The boys are both doing great, but I have to brag a bit on the Bug- he struggles a lot with emotion and behavior, but is incredibly smart. You know how when they do really well on standardized tests they get a little dot in the 99th percentile area? One of his dots was an arrow pointing off the chart. And half way through first grade he's figuring out 3rd grade math unassisted. And I didn't expect the Pirate's teacher to say that she was constantly having to take books away from him in class so he would do his work. I'm thrilled to hear it, wish he'd read more at home!
  • I started training for another half marathon this week. Unfortunately, between sub-zero temps and work obligations I only managed two of the four runs. Here's hoping the weekend and next week will be better. Mike bought me these cool ice cleat things for my shoes, so that should help.

Book Report!

What I Read This Week:

  • The Man Who Killed Kennedy. I finished this one. I need to review it, but I'm waiting until after Book Club.
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson. This was a very eye-opening look at the prison system and death row and something very cool happened as I was reading it, more on that in my review.
  • Is This What You Just Put In Your Mouth? by Patrick Di Justo. I've only started this collection of essays, but I think I'm going to enjoy it.

New books on my e-shelf:

Up next:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Random Friday, Nothing but the books.

This week was incredibly uneventful and I like it that way. So I really have nothing to report besides the books I'm reading. Let's get on with that, shall we?

Book Report!

What I Read This Week:

  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. (Scribd) You know, I loved some, hated some. I don't plan to write a full review, but if you liked the blog you'll probably enjoy the book. I loved the parts about her depression (wow, I'm a jerk!) but some of the parts were just too dense and introspective for me. Also: PARP!
  • The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ by Roger Stone. This is our book club book. I'm endlessly sidetracked by having to go look up things like the Zapruder film.
New on my e-Shelf this week (the library is foiling all my reading plans and giving me all my ebook requests at once. Thanks library! Looks like I'll be reading those two next):
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson (library e-book) It was on one of those "If you enjoyed the Serial podcast, you'd enjoy..." lists.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by (library e-book) Why did I never notice this was 500+ pages??
  • Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs (NetGalley) Ah, I almost made it to Friday with no new NetGalley books! One of my very favorite authors, I can't wait to dive in.
  • You by Caroline Kepnes. (Amazon) I heard a review of this and could not resist. I'd really like to listen to it tho, so am debating also buying the audio.
  • Her Highland Fling by Jennifer McQuiston. (Amazon) Some authors are just really good at self-promotion.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Echo Lake by Carla Neggers

One of the best parts about NetGalley is that it allows me to try authors that have been on my radar but maybe not had any priority for me. Since the decline of Mallery's Fool's Gold series and the end of Jill Shalvis's Lucky Harbor series I've been throwing my net out looking for a good small town replacement. Over Christmas I read Neggars's Christmas novella and enjoyed it enough to move on to the next in the series, Echo Lake.

Here's the summary:
In snowy Swift River Valley, unexpected romance is just around the corner… 
Heather Sloan has landed her dream job—the renovation of Vic Scarlatti's stately 1912 country home overlooking the icy waters of Echo Lake in Knights Bridge, Massachusetts. It's the perfect project for the family business, but for once, Heather is in charge.  

Diplomatic Security Service agent Brody Hancock left Knights Bridge at eighteen, a few steps ahead of arrest and the wrath of Heather's older brothers. Though Brody had never planned to return, Vic, a retired diplomat and friend, needs his help.  

Staying at Vic's guest house makes it impossible to avoid running into a Sloan at every turn—especially Heather. Seeing her again has affected Brody more than he wants to admit. But Heather is wary of Brody's sudden interest in her, and she suspects there's more to his homecoming than he's letting on….  

Set against the scenic backdrop of a New England winter, Echo Lake is a captivating tale of family, friends and the possibility of new love.

Sounds promising enough, right? While I enjoyed it enough while I was reading it, in the time between finishing it and writing this review, I've found a few holes. I think that while I'm not ruling Neggers out, I'm probably also not going to rush to read the next one.  The romance has little to hang on, they barely knew each other as teens and they barely spend any time together in the book. I couldn't quite put my finger on when and how they fell in love. It certainly wasn't in this book. That said, the attraction between them is clear enough, and the scene of their first kiss was really terrific, with just enough heat and romance to make it memorable for me.

Heather is really the central figure of the book, well overshadowing Brody, who does little but hang around and has little to recommend him. Heather is fairly fleshed out and I love that she doesn't shrink under the observation of her five older brothers. She's happy working for the family but she also knows she wants more than that, and is willing to chase those dreams, even before it makes a convenient bow at the end.

I did have some problems with the book. First, there's no real explanation for why Brody left town, aside from some references to a fight involving Heather's brothers. They are wary of each other, but the animosity I'd expect from the summary just isn't there. I understand there's a fine line between making a believable bad boy and making him irredeemable and Neggers just doesn't nail it for me. It was lame. Second, the entire plot with Vic needing Brody's help? Also lame. Third, Heather is renovating this giant house, but she spends 90% of her time in the cellar. And last, winter? Seriously? I live in South Dakota. We have winter and snow and ice. If there's too much ice on the ground to walk to your car, waiting an hour or two for fresh snow to fall on top of it is NOT going to make it safe for you to drive home in.

Would I read more Neggars? Sure, but I'd probably wait to read a review of a spectacular one first, another mediocre one would convince me to move on, too many books, too little time.

Echo Lake was released today.

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