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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Deck the Halls by Donna Alward

I'm a big fan of Donna Alward, and particularly liked her Darling, VT series, so when I saw this one, I immediately requested it. I was not so impressed.

Here's the summary:

With shades of It’s a Wonderful Life, one man must face his past to find his future this Christmas.
In the last year, George's life has drastically changed. The formerly homeless veteran now has a job he likes, a family in the residents of Darling, VT, and for the first time in years, a home. But while his present is good, he's still haunted by the past, a past that appears shortly before Christmas when the older sister of his brother-in-arms hunts him down and finds him in Darling, working at the Ladybug Garden Center.
Amy’s looking for closure for her family after her brother's death in the Middle East, but the serious man she finds working in Vermont doesn’t resemble the soldier she remembers from years before. This man is hardened and yet somehow fragile, too, and in her desire to find out what really happened to her brother, she learns more about George than she ever expected.
With a little Christmas magic and the whole town supporting them, can these two bruised hearts make a future together?

So, here's the thing. This book isn't NEARLY long enough to address the issues. George is a homeless veteran. He's only been off the streets for six months. He could barely LOOK at other people nine months ago. Deck the Halls takes place in TWO WEEKS. oh. hell. no. I loved George in the previous books, and when I saw he was the hero of this one I had my doubts, but was still pretty excited for him to find love.  It is in no way realistic and not even a little bit believable. At the beginning of the book he's still hiding from customers in the greenery and by the end of two weeks he's happily in love?

Secondly, while I see that Alward was trying to make their earlier connection a strong one, I found everything Amy did presumptuous and high handed. Yes, George needs help. But you don't just arraign that for someone and spring it on the intervention style. He's not a drunk. It's not rehab. And then to pay for it the way it's done? No.

I really wanted to love this one, and none of it worked for me, at all.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Maybe I Do by Nicole McLaughlin

Maybe I Do was my first book by Nicole McLaughlin and I readily admit that it was the gorgeous cover that drew my attention. I am a sucker for a wedding dress. I was hopeful that the book (and eventually the series) would turn out to be much like Nora Robert's wedding planner series, and yet I am happy to report that it's really not. I love that it's surrounding the MEN at the wedding location, and all of them are quite appealing.

Here's the summary from Amazon:

She doesn’t believe in fairy tales. He’s married to his job. Maybe whiskey is the secret ingredient that will bring them together―and give true love a shot?
Wedding photographer Charlotte Linley loves her work―even though she hates weddings. Sure, she still holds a grudge after being left at the altar by her high-school sweetheart. But today Charlotte is just happy to have complete control over her career, which is flourishing. Especially since she joined forces with one of the three gorgeous owners of The Stag, a boutique distillery that has become Kansas City’s hottest wedding venue.
Dean Troyer, bitter after the end of his own marriage, knows that Charlotte is the real deal―beautiful, talented, and successful. He may flirt with her every time she comes to The Stag but Dean is determined to keep his professional distance. . .particularly now that she’s helping him with his own sister’s wedding. The only problem? The more time Dean spends with Charlotte, the deeper their connection grows. Is this a rom-com cliché or could it be that these two jaded souls in the wedding business have finally found their real-life happily ever after?

This was a really charming story. I love the wedding setting (or really any work setting- restaurant, wedding planners, hotel, etc.) Charlotte and Dean have been flirting for ages, and both assume the other isn't really interested. They have a 12 year age difference, and while this bothers Charlotte not one tiny bit, it bothers Dean quite a lot. They address this issue head on, along with the surrounding issues to being a decade older, and I feel like it is resolved really well.  The tension between them (always my favorite part) is outstanding, and that alone makes me want to read the next in the series.  There's a lot of stuff going on in the plot- Charlotte's ex, Dean's sister's upcoming wedding, a co-worker with pregnancy complications- and somehow none of it feels awkward.  I admit, I stopped reading for a while about 3/4 through when I could see a big horrible thing playing out, something that many authors handle poorly, and was very pleased to see it handled like mature adults.

If you're looking for a new author, with a strong sexy story, I think you won't go wrong here.

Friday, August 04, 2017

5 Things I Love Right Now

1. Leftovers. There's nothing better than going home for lunch and having leftovers waiting.

2. Sitting on my new porch every available moment. Mike and I built a large porch in place of our dinky useless one this spring and I spend time out there looking at the river every single day. I'm already shopping for an outdoor heater for fall.

3. Le Tote. Trish had told me about it, and then Mike heard about it and thought I'd love it, and turns out he was right. I LOVE having new clothes all the time and it's definitely turning me into a snob about quality.

4. Blue Raspberry Spark.  I am trying to find some kind of afternoon snack that keeps me out of the bucket of jelly beans in the office kitchen. I'm the kind of person who can eat the same thing for days on end, so I'm looking for an easy drink mix (so it's more interesting than the water I drink all day) and a smallish food item. I haven't figured out the food yet, but Blue Raspberry Spark is looking like the drink winner.  For the record, I don't like the other flavors so much, so I was surprised to like this one.

5. France. Or rather, Lauren's obsession with Paris, France and the Eiffel Tower. We are going to redo her bedroom for her birthday this month (her 7th, can you believe it???) in a Paris theme.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The No Meat Athlete Cookbook by Matt Frazier and Stepfanie Romine

My running has recently taken a turn for the serious (gulp!) and part of that includes being aware of my diet and not just eating everything that sounds good. This popped up on NetGalley and I thought I'd at least take a look. I have no interest in being vegetarian, but wouldn't mind cutting out about half the meat I currently eat.

Here's the description, from Amazon:

A Sports Illustrated Best Health and Wellness Book of 2017

From the founder of No Meat Athlete: plant-based recipes packed with nutrition to help athletes perform better and recover faster

A fast-growing global movement, No Meat Athlete (NMA) is inspiring everyone from weekend joggers to world-class competitors to be healthier and fitter and perform better on whole plant foods. Written by NMA founder Matt Frazier and longtime health coach, yoga teacher, and nutrition writer Stepfanie Romine, The No Meat Athlete Cookbook features 150 whole food, vegan recipes that are affordable and quick to get on the table, even on busy nights. Here are:
Breakfasts to power you up (Almond Butter–Banana Pancakes), mains that aid recovery (Beet Bourguignon), and natural sports drinks, portables, energy bites, and bars (V9, Umeboshi Electrolyte Drink, Calorie Bomb Cookies) to take you further and help you get the most from every workout
Minimal gluten, soy, and sweeteners, plus oil-free options throughout (ideal for followers of the Forks Over Knives diet)
Meal-planning guidelines, nutritional info, adaptable “blueprint” recipes—and more!

I had to download this one as a .pdf, which was in itself a pain in the rear, but once I had it found it to be great cookbook. I made a few notes in my bullet journal, as well as jotting down a couple recipes to try later. (That darn time limit on NetGalley .pdfs practically guarantees the book will be gone by the time I am ready to try the recipe!) My notes are in bullet form, as they are below.

  • The pictures are really pretty, and actually make me want to try the food. It's not just one plate of greens after another!
  • All the recipes contain a vegan option, but the book is very clear that the way to get there is slowly. Cut out one product at a time, going cold turkey on all animal products is hard. This is totally a non-preachy style intro to vegetarian meals. I hate the cookbooks that lecture me first.
  • Most recipes do have a lot of ingredients, which is a turn off for me. That said, almost all of look like something I'd be willing to eat, and not nearly as "weird" as most vegetarian books are.
  • I loved the "Blueprint Meals" which are more of a general guideline than an actual recipe. For example "A grain, a green and a bean" following by examples of potential combinations.
  • There is an entire chapter devoted to fuel and recovery from workouts. I loved that.
I wrote down three recipes to try: Caribbean Coconut Collards & Sweet Potatoes (I can't resist coconut or sweet potatoes),  Smoky Potato Salad (no mayo!) and Cucumber- Lime Electrolyte Drink.  I'm hoping that I'll try them out sooner rather than later, and I'll let you know what I think.

The No Meat Athlete comes out on May 16, and while I haven't seen a print copy, I have no problems recommending it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Wow, I've been gone a while. I've been otherwise occupied in my free time. 

Five more running things I'd really like

These Brooks Chaser shorts. I prefer shorts that will hold my phone and I'd love to try these. That price tag tho!

A pair of Oofos sandals. They are ugly, but word is they are the best, and my feet need the best after these long runs.

A new Spibelt. I have a Flipbelt, which I love, but it doesn't always play well with my hydration belt. Some runs I need more pockets!

Yet another pair of bluetooth earbuds. The ones I have work fine and sound fine, but the controls are really heavy and pull the speaker on that side out of my ear every step.

A second pair of these arm warmers. I have the purple ones and wear them all the time. Sometimes the purple clashes badly with everything else. I highly recommend these for days that the run starts around 40F, much better than a long sleeved shirt over your tank.

Are you a runner? What gear are you wanting?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Seduce Me, Cowboy by Maisey Yates

My reading ruts are nearly paved they are so predictable. Maisey Yates? Yes, please.

From Amazon:

When a rebellious rancher meets the pastor's daughter, it's a match made in…Copper Ridge! From New York Times bestselling author Maisey Yates!

Sheltered from her own desires for so long, Hayley Thompson wants to experience life. A new job at Gray Bear Construction is a start. The work she can handle. It's her boss—reclusive, sexy Jonathan Bear—who's scrambling her mind and her hormones…

No matter how successful he becomes, Jonathan's reputation will always precede him. And his type of woman is usually nothing like prim, innocent Hayley. Yet he can't resist unleashing the fire beneath her pent-up facade—even if seduction means losing his heart…

Ok, tbh, this one wasn't a winner. I loved Jonathan. He's proud and strong and not at all ashamed of who he is- a man who is self-made, rich, and loves his stuff. He knows he's an ass and he still can't help wanting Haley, who is all allll ALLLLLLL wrong for him. Haley is innocent, sweet, pure- all those words that just don't happen in 2017. She's played it safe and sheltered as the pastor's daughter. She's pretty unbelievable. I didn't dislike Haley, but her character would be much better pre-internet days. (That said, I do know a 22 year old woman who has many of these qualities. She wraps herself in her innocence like a martyr and holds it in front of her like an excuse. "I'd rather never have a date than date boys like that!" Riiiiight.)

What I didn't buy, and what ultimately weakened the book for me tho, was the speed at which Jonathan went from "Jerk of the top most level who will never love" to "madly in love with the virginal heroine". We're talking hours. Minutes.  I got whiplash. I feel like the proportion of people in Copper Ridge who were abused/abandoned/orphaned as kids is WAY above the national average, but I'm too lazy to go back and count. That said, I go back to Maisey Yates and Copper Ridge over and over, even with a few serious duds, because even when the plots are flawed, the writing is strong and the characters are interesting, but this one isn't her best.

Seduce Me, Cowboy came out on March 7th.

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