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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

Miracle on 5th Avenue is the 3rd and final book in Sarah Morgan's From Manhattan with Love series. As I mentioned in my review of Sunset in Central Park, I found the first book to be a bit mediocre but the second book picked it up. Happily, the series finishes strong and my love for all books Sarah Morgan continues.

Here's your summary, from Amazon:

It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

This is a rare series that I think is a bit strengthened by reading in order. While starting here wouldn't really hurt your appreciation for the romance, you'd have a much fuller picture of Eva if you'd read all three in order. Eva is a romantic to the bone and was raised to believe in a happily ever after, as well as to always be the happy one, the cheerful one. She was always taught to hide her feelings if they might be depressing to someone else, and so when Eva is sad and lonely following the loss of her grandmother she keeps that bottled up. When her job sends her to an empty apartment away from her friends during the holidays she leaps at the chance to cry in peace.  Unfortunately for Eva, the apartment turns out not to be empty at all.

Lucas Blade is also holing up for the holidays. He has told his family that he's off to a writers' retreat in Vermont so that they will leave him alone while he struggles with the third anniversary of his wife's unexpected death. He's suffering from a severe case of writer's block and his very near to missing his deadline with nary a word written. When Eva shows up at his apartment to transform it into a picture of holiday cheer, he wants no part.  Eva has the upper hand though, because if he sends her away she will report back to his grandmother that Lucas is hiding in the apartment. A sudden blizzard means that the decision is taken out of their hands, and they are thrown together for a few days without a choice. During the storm, Lucas finds inspiration in Eva and his writer's block is lifted and he becomes fairly desperate to keep her around.

This is one of those romances that happen really quickly, with the entire book taking place during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You might need to suspend disbelief that two people with so many fairly major issues can overcome these things to be together so quickly. While Eva is ripe to fall in love, and does so easily and quickly, Lucas has much darker things to overcome, and as expected it does not come easily.  Eva has to admit how hard the holidays are and how lonely she is, and weigh this against her feelings for Lucas to be sure it's real and not just a placebo and Lucas will need to really examine his relationship with his wife and her sudden death. It is a bit rushed but the story still works. The romance is both sweet and hot, with several over the top scenes worthy of a romantic movie (as fitting when one of your main characters is a gazillionaire author.) This is really a perfect Christmas romance with a highly romantic setting full of balls, snowflakes, snowmen, happy puppies, and of course, Tiffany's.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Hold Me, Cowboy by Maisey Yates

Hold Me, Cowboy is the continuation of the Copper Ridge series. The series seem to circle around a couple groups of people, so I'm not clear on if this is the end or not. Sadly, I missed the one before this, and it's the one I'd most like to know the story on!  I started Hold Me, Cowboy several weeks ago, and through no fault of the book, set it aside and forgot about it. Occasionally, I like to go through and finish up anything I've started, and swept this one up again.

Here's the summary:
Oil and water have nothing on Sam McCormack and Madison West. The wealthy rancher has never met a haughtier—or more appealing—woman in his life. And when they're snowed in, he's forced to admit this ice queen can scorch him with one touch…

Madison had plans for the weekend! Instead she's stranded with a man who drives her wild. A night of no-strings fun leaves both of them wanting more when they return to Copper Ridge. His proposal: twelve days of hot sex before Christmas! But will it ever be enough?

So I didn't really like Madison in the previous books, and the other book with Sam (his brother's book) is the one book in the series that I DNF, so going into this my expectations were not high. Madison is just a total bitch, and she knows it. Amazingly, Yates is able to take her from a bitch to someone you can understand, who is a bitch for good reason. Madison learns early that men can't be trusted and that even if they were equally complicit in scandal that the blame will be unevenly places (very Scarlet Letter.) She's ready to start enjoying life again after a decade of playing the ice queen, and the first man she finds is Sam.

Sam doesn't like Maddy, because he buys into her persona. Sam doesn't like to admit that he has emotion, and as an artist he's completely blocked without admitting he is feeling things. He's determined to fight his way through artist's block without thinking about the things he's pushed down. When he starts this 12 day affair with Maddy it forces him to realize that by ignoring what he feels, he'll be in the same place looking in forever. I liked Sam quite a bit. He's bluntly honest about everyone's life but his own, and doesn't take anything from Maddy.

Is the romance believable? It is very fast (WHAT IS WITH FAST IN EVERY BOOK???) and the climatic ending is fairly anti-climatic. It is true that they have known each other for a long time, and the 12 days are very emotionally intense so I suppose it is entirely possible. Is it a satisfactory ending to the Copper Ridge series? No, I really need to see Daddy West get his, but as everyone pairs up and has babies it seems that the end is nigh without that bit of resolution. Would I recommend the series as a whole? Yes-- but only to someone who has already developed a love for a small intertwined town. I would not recommend this one to a new reader as it is very hit or miss.

Hold Me, Cowboy comes out on November 8th.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Pile on the Miles in November.

I have failed miserably at working out lately, so when Trish asked me if I wanted to go for 4 days a week in November I reluctantly agreed. Then when I saw this November challenge, I decided that maybe being accountable in TWO places would help...

So let's do this, November.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

October Reading Update 2016

It's a good thing I did so well in September, but October was awful for both new books and getting things read.

What I read in October:

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. This was good, but not as good as I expected. I saw a lot of my relatives in it though, which was eye opening.

Do you Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare. This was so so good.

The Underground Culinary Tour: How the New Metrics of Today's Top Restaurants are Transforming how American Eats by Damian Mogavero. I'm at 63%. It feels pointless.

And uh, that's it. Which makes this next bit even worse....

New to My Kindle:

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, from a daily deal, and I read it immediately!

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare. FULL PRICE on Kindle, but also read immediately.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. (Kindle)

Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers. (Kindle)

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (Kindle) And no, I haven't read Hamilton yet.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastain (NetGalley)

Molly's Mr. Wrong by Jeannie Watt (NetGalley)

Tempting the Best Man by Tanya Michaels (NetGalley)

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle (NetGalley)

Princess in Black Takes a Vacation by Shannon and Dean Hale (NetGalley)

Let it Snow by Jeanete Grey (NetGalley)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Lauren Layne's Wedding Bells series

Anyone who's been around here for a while knows how much I enjoyed Lauren Layne's New York's Finest series last winter. When I saw that she was writing a series that was about wedding planners, set in NYC, I couldn't snatch them up quick enough. But then I had them all on my Kindle, and they titles are so similar that I couldn't keep straight what order they were supposed to be read in, and I'm way too lazy to look it up, so I just read other stuff. A couple weeks ago I decided that I'd just read them out of order, but I needed to dive in, and I did.

First up is a little novella called From This Day Forward, which I really didn't like at all. This one is about two wedding photographers, who have a history (which is a plus in a novella) but the entire story was about sex between two childish people who couldn't just use their words. This really didn't leave me wanting to move on, but I reassured myself that it was just the novella length and kept going.

The first full length book in the series is To Have and To Hold and it is definitely better than the novella. Brooke Baldwin is a rock star wedding planner on the West Coast, who has just planned the wedding of the decade-- her own-- when she is horrified to find out that he fiancee is a con man. She flees to New York and joins the Wedding Belles, where her first job is the plan the wedding of rich heiress Maya Tyler.  Maya's older brother, Seth, is certain that there's something fishy going on with the groom, and attempts to enlist Brooke's help in uncovering it. But how do you convince a wedding planner to sabotage the wedding she's planning?

One thing that Lauren Layne does really well is sexual tension and this book is no exception. Seth and Brooke are on fire from the first moment they see each other. I love seeing them deal with this, in the middle of client negotiations and planning that thwarts each other. Seth is impossibly wealthy and accustomed to getting this way in all things, and occasionally  pouts badly when he doesn't get what he wants, but his love for both Maya and Brooke shines through very clearly. It's hard to pin down the time line, so it doesn't feel rushed, but at the same time the book is lacking the falling in love that I enjoy so much. This one goes right for the physical, which to be honest is also a good book, but it doesn't really make me close the book with the same type of satisfaction that a good love story does.

The second book in the series is For Better or Worse, and features the assistant wedding planner and her sexy next door neighbor. Heather has never really been in love and believes it's not for her. She's from small town Michigan and her entire life's goal has been to be a wedding planner in New York City. She doesn't have time to fool around or look away from her goal. Josh has recently overcome a bout with cancer, and can't take life seriously-- he knows how short it can be and refuses to add anyone else to the list of people who would be devastated by his death.

This one hit almost all of my sweet spots. The dialogue is truly excellent, the plot is believable, Josh is terrific. I believed that these two could fall in the love, and the romance itself is much better than in the previous book. The ending isn't tied with a pretty bow- Josh IS a cancer survivor- but so realistically handled that you can believe that these are real people and you close the book with complete satisfaction. (If you can ignore Josh's extraordinary wealth, but hey, everyone needs a superpower.)

The last book in the series,To Love and to Cherish, has SO much potential. Alexis, owner of the Belles, is a bit of an ice queen. I never really liked her through the whole series, so I was hoping that all would come to light in her book.  Her hero is Logan, who is the Belles accountant. Logan has been madly in love with Alexis since the moment he laid eyes on her, eight years ago. Eight years is a long time to patiently wait, and Logan is ready to make his move.

This one is really hot, and the plot outline is equally good, but both Logan and Alexis were misses for me. Alexis has a standoff personality, that could have been good but I didn't feel was very well written. Logan would be my ideal beta hero turned alpha, but he "knows what Alexis really wants" way way too often. He's not abusive, but very high handed and not always in a sexy way.  Plus, his sudden ability to BE an alpha at all, after years of being the polite accountant, isn't really believable.While I didn't dislike this one, and it doesn't finish the series nicely, I would not recommend it.

Overall, it's very hard not to compare the series to Nora Robert's Bride Quartet. Both feature a cast of women planners, and while this one doesn't break it down the same way, both feature a complete badass-in-control leader (Alexis here, and Parker for Roberts). Unfortunately, Roberts does it much better. I'm still a fan of Layne, but the New York's Finest series beats this one hands down.

To Love and To Cherish will be out on October 18th.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Crazy Horse, One Year Later

So remember last year when I ran my first half marathon- the Crazy Horse Half Marathon? I'd hoped to run it again this year, but training mostly got away from me, and while I had run up to about ten miles, I knew I wasn't strong enough for a good showing. However, my BRF (best running friend) Jennifer WAS running Crazy Horse, and while I didn't do ALL her long runs with her, I did run quite a few of them, and I wanted to be supportive... so I ran my own private half marathon at home this weekend.
You got this!

I plotted out a route that I expected to be right at 13.1 and decided that if I were hurting at any point after ten that I would walk.  I got to the gates leading out to one of the islands on our trail, which I expected to be at 5 miles, and it was dead on 5 miles. This is what running all over all summer will do- it will build a perfect map of your frequent mileage in your head.

After hitting the island my pace slowed down a good bit. I realize around mile 7 that I was not going to be well fueled and I let myself take a couple of walk breaks. I could not have asked for better running weather, and it was beautiful out in the woods alone. There were very few other runners and only a handful of dog walkers. I hit the gates to leave the island at 8.2, and knowing I had 5 miles to go made me happy. Such good math!

I struggled a bit until around 9.5 where I ate my second and last Gu, and then perked up at about mile ten. Ten miles down, only a 5K to go! At mile 12 our theme song come on, and I stopped to take this picture of me in "Beast Mode" (wow, this is incredibly cheesy to tell non-runners!) and then kept on running. My last three miles were nearly as fast as my first three miles, and this made me really happy.

I learned that running your own private half marathon is really hard. There's no one around to cheer you on, and the miles feel fairly endless. I thought it would kill me to have this internal map of just how far I had to go, since I was running in familiar trails, but in the end it was nice to be able to not wonder at all. I bought myself a new running watch this week, and it's fairly big compared to my old one. I thought it might be hard to learn to use it, but turns out it was excellent, and I LOVE being about to change music tracks from my watch and review texts I don't need to reply to immediately.

My time ended up being slower than Crazy Horse (2:36) but faster than the River Rat Half in April (2:52). I suspect that if I'd done Crazy Horse that the crowded energy would have brought me a nice PR, but not nearly as well as Jennifer, who ran an amazing 2:17!!


Monday, October 10, 2016

September Reading Update

Ok, technically through October 4th, but who's counting?

I read a LOT in September. I'm not really sure how.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. I started this one in August, and finished it up fairly quickly. Everyone is right, it is excellent.

Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts are so Easy to Look Up by William Poundstone. Still only at 20%. Interesting, but feels a bit political.

Hold Me, Cowboy by Maisey Yates. This one turned out pretty good, if a bit fast.

From This Day Forward by Lauren Layne

For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne

To Have and to Hold by Lauren Layne

To Love and to Cherish by Lauren Layne.  (I see a series.) It was good, not excellent. Book 3 is by far the best. Review of the entire series to come.

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck. I started this one on the plane to Philadelphia and while it is interesting, it was wasn't what I was in the mood to read.

Hamilton: The Revolution. Yes, I've succumbed. This is beautiful, a must for any fan. More on Hamilton later.

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn. Reread.

New On My Kindle, for once this list is shorter!!

Christmas with the Sheriff by Victoria James.

Completely Yours by Erin Nichols

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I can't help it.

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