Showing posts with label TBR Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TBR Challenge. Show all posts

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: Completed Challenges & Fun Events

The TBR Challenge 2012 hosted by Wendy of The Misadventures of Super Librarian was definitely a fun challenge. Not only did I read one book every month to complete this challenge, but throughout the first half of the year found myself buying and reading books recommended by my fellow participants. Then, during the second half of the year, while searching for THE book of the month, it became addictive to read, read, and read a few more of those books lingering in that old TBR pile. I read some great books this year and found some *favorites among them because of this Challenge -- one of them even made it to my 2012 Top Reads list.

Here is a list of the books read and reviewed:

Monthly Review Dates And Theme Suggestions:

January 18 - Light the Stars by RaeAnne Thayne: Category romance
February 15 - Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie: Recommended Read*
March 21 - Dalton's Undoing by RaeAnn Thayne: Series Catch-Up
April 18 - Almost a Gentleman by Pam Rosenthal: Not on theme
May 16 - The Charm School by Susan Wiggs : Published prior 2000*
June 20 - Logan's Outlaw by Elaine Levine: Western
July 18 - Open Season by Linda Howard: Free Pick Month (Romance/Suspense)
August 15 - Dirty by Megan Hart: Erotic Romance*
September 19 - Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher: Genre besides romance
October 17 - On Thin Ice (Ice #1) by Anne Stuart: Romantic Suspense
November 21 - The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey: All About The Hype*
December 19 - Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas: Holiday Theme

Thank you Wendy!


The 2012 Science Fiction Experience hosted by Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings, was not a challenge but a two month experience worth of discussions about science fiction reads, movies and well... anything to do with science fiction. It took place from January 1st through February 29, 2012, and I had a blast participating in this super cool event!

You can read a list of books read, movies watched and posts shared for this event in my closing post here. But I can tell you that as a result of this event, I ended up reading and enjoying more science fiction (including post-apocalyptic, sf/mystery, sfr, science fiction opera, and more) in 2012 than I have in a long time!

Thanks Carl V.!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TBR Review: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor #1) by Lisa Kleypas

I had a tough time choosing a Christmas themed book to read for the TBR Challenge this month. I have quite a few, don't get me wrong, but most of them are by Mary Balogh and I've already reviewed enough Balogh books to make a salad!! So, in the end I settled in with a contemporary Christmas romance novella by another favorite writer, Lisa Kleypas. A novella that has been lingering in my TBR pile for quite a while.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor #1) by Lisa Kleypas

One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is the first book in Lisa Kleypas' Friday Harbor contemporary romance series. The novella introduces the three Nolan brothers as well as the beautiful setting, the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest. This novella focuses on the eldest Nolan brother Mark, his newly orphaned niece Holly, and Maggie Collins. The summary of the story above is quite accurate and I'm not going to repeat it, instead here are my impressions of this holiday romance.

Maggie, Holly and Mark are all in the process of recovering from grief and loss, and in each other they ultimately find love and hope for a bright and happy future. Mark comes from a dysfunctional family and doesn't believe in love until he falls deeply in love with his orphaned niece Holly and becomes a father. Slowly he recognizes that there is a big difference between what he feels for local toy store owner Maggie and what he feels for his girlfriend Shelby. And that is one of my problems with this romance, for most of the story Mark is committed to someone else while his attraction for Maggie evolves into a friendship and suddenly more. Maggie is immediately attracted to Mark, but she takes longer to come around and is not necessarily willing to love again after losing the love of her life. 

As always Kleypas knows how to pull those heart strings, particularly when it comes to Holly. I found, however, that the story is too short and the characters and this romance not developed enough. There's baggage on both sides. Deep feelings of loss, grief and doubts to overcome on Maggie's side are addressed but I'm not sure that she's really ready to fully commit to Mark by the end of this novella. Mark's background is explored with a light touch. And although there are references to a dysfunctional family and a tough childhood that affected all three brothers to attempt to justify his cynicism when it comes to love, not enough details are given to really understand him.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor begins a few months before the Christmas season and it includes a very funny Thanksgiving scene, as well as a Christmas family reunion between the three brothers, Holly, and Maggie. The hope for happiness at the end of the novella gives this story that holiday touch and Holly's circumstances and character provides sweetness. Unfortunately, there's just not enough in this story to make it a memorable holiday read for me.
Theme: Holiday

Category: Contemporary Romance/Holiday
Series: Friday Harbor #1
Publisher/Release Date: St. Martin's Press/ October 2010
Grade: C

Visit Lisa Kleypas here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TBR Review: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The theme for this month's TBR Challenge is "all about the hype."  The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is a best seller, and in certain reading circles this book definitely qualifies under that theme. It has been in my own "to be read pile" since March. Does it live up to the hype? Let's see.

The Snow Child
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone—but they glimpse a young, blond-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
Definition (Wiki): Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the "real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of thought.

The Snow Child is a realistic portrayal of the rough and often violent life as it was in Alaska in the 1920's, combined with a magical fairy tale. I wanted to know what the hoopla was all about, and found that what makes this book so special, besides the beautiful prose, lies in how well Ivey brings the magic of a fairy tale into the realm of the possible and the beauty and harsh realities of 1920's Alaskan rural life become magical until together they become a possible magical reality to the reader. Magical realism? Absolutely.
"Wife, let us go into the yard behind and make a little snow girl; and perhaps she will come alive, and be a little daughter to us."

"Husband," says the wold woman, "there's no knowing what may be. Let us go into the yard and make a little snow girl." --- Little Daughter of the Snow by Arthur Ransome
Jack and Mabel moved to Alaska to start over almost ten years after Mabel lost her baby during childbirth. Jack is breaking under the brutality of working an Alaskan farm alone and thinks himself too old to start over. Mabel is dying of loneliness and depression to the point of becoming suicidal, but having drifted apart she doesn't tell Jack, and of course Jack doesn't share his concerns with Mabel.

It is after a fun, light visit to neighbors George, Esther and their sons that during the first snowfall Mabel and Jack playfully build a little girl out of snow in their front yard and spend an evening together. Next day, for the first time both see a little girl running through the woods wearing the mittens and scarf previously worn by their snow girl. A game of hide and seek ensues, but the little girl, who always seems to be accompanied by a red fox, is so quick that neither Jack nor Mabel can catch her. 

Eventually, the child decides to become a part of Jack and Mabel's life, on her own terms. She comes and she goes, the woods always a part of their life... until summer arrives, when the child disappears and everything seems to go wrong. There are desperate, dark moments as Jack and Mabel work and almost give up on the farm and each other. Thankfully, George, Esther and their son Garrett are there to help whether they want it or not! But when winter returns, will the child return with it?

Through this first part of the novel, Ivey sets the atmosphere for the story by using the beauty and danger that nature in a barely explored Alaska presents. Ivey incorporates nature into the story by making the snow girl part of it, and through her both Jack and Mabel come to appreciate and respect its bounty, beauty and danger. Through Jack's experiences with the child, Ivey brings to the reader moments that are both wondrous and hard to explain combined with a stark reality to the little girl's seemingly magical existence, firmly placing this novel into the realm of magical realism. 

The second part of the book is one of the most heart wrenching of the story, yet one of the best!  Mabel and Jack finally confront much of their past. I love the way the balance teeters and shifts between the main characters -- Mabel, Jack, and Faina. Secondary characters also gain depth in this section. Esther!! I love her down-to-earth, loud and take-over personality. The contrast between Esther and Mabel is sharp -- where Mabel's flights of fancy take the reader into the world of fairy tales and magic, Esther serves to ground the reader to reality. At this point, her youngest son Garrett is groomed as an important character as he plays the role of teacher to Jack and Mabel and soaks up the respect and singular attention focused on him by these two lonely people.
As she gazed upon him, love... filled every fiber of her being, and she knew that this was the emotion that she had been warned against by the Spirit of the Wood. Great tears welled up in her eyes --- and suddenly she began to melt. "Snegurochka," translated by Lucy Maxym
Ivey uses a Russian fairy tale as the base for her story, and as in all fairy tales there is magic and in this one love, but also as in all fairy tales there is a dark side. I think it is best said by Ada, Mabel's sister, in one of her lovely letters, " Why these stories for children always have to turn out so dreadfully is beyond me. I think if I ever tell it to my grandchildren, I will change the ending and have everyone live happily ever after. We are allowed to do that, are we not Mabel? To invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow?" The sorrow is expected, yes? Ohhh, but there is also joy and happiness in this story!

The Snow Child is Eowyn Ivey's debut novel, and an excellent debut it is! It is a tale of contrasts where the renewal of the human spirit is brought about by nature's glorious beauty and stark brutality, by believing in love given and accepted freely with all those harsh realities that just make the magic so much more powerful. I recommend it to lovers of fairy tales, nature, magical realism, fans of Alice Hoffman, and to those who just love a gorgeous story with beautiful prose and unforgettable characters.
Theme: All About the Hype

Category: Historical Fantasy Fiction
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Reagan Arthur Books/ February 1, 2012
Grade: A-

Visit Eowyn Ivey here.

NOTE: This was a wonderful book to read right before the Thanksgiving holiday!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

TBR Review: On Thin Ice (Ice #6) by Anne Stuart

On Thin Ice by Anne Stuart
Elizabeth Pennington has come to the war-torn South American country of Callivera to volunteer at a tiny mission. Kidnapped by the local rebels who are more interested in ransom than politics, she ends up at their camp in the Andes where she meets Finn MacGowan, member of the infamous Committee, a covert organization dedicated to destroying terrorism. MacGowan has been held hostage for almost three years, and he's chosen the night she arrives as the night he plans to escape. When he does, she follows him, heading down the steep mountainous terrain with another hostage, the teenage son of a Hollywood millionaire. Rebels, soldiers, traitors and near-drowning follows them on their journey. As they travel from the mountain fortress to a transatlantic freighter, an old cafe in Spain ending in a shootout at a farmhouse in France, MacGowan reluctantly falls in love, and Beth learns that the cynical, dangerous soldier-of-fortune might be worth saving after all.

I first read Black Ice (Ice #1) for the TBR Challenge this month, but having had some pretty mixed feelings about that book decided to read and review another book by Anne Stuart that I had waiting in my Kindle, the last book of the same series, On Thin Ice (Ice #6). It was a great move on my part. On Thin Ice has all the elements that I really enjoyed about Black Ice, the thriller non-stop action with a male character who has all the skills to survive in a dangerous environment, and a plot full of violent danger and twists and turns, where the differences between the villains and good guys are not always clear to the reader. However what's different in On Thin Ice is the romance and the fact that the male and female protagonists turn out to be likable, and our female character doesn't immediately fall for the "hero," although of course she does fall for him.

Both Finn MacGowan and Elizabeth Pennington have been kidnapped by the Guiding Light in the fictionalized South American country of Callivera. Elizabeth arrives on the camp, where MacGowan has been held for three years, and that same night they escape along with sixteen year-old Dylan and another captive. Once they're on the run the action doesn't really stop until the end of the story as they are pursued by the members of the Guiding Light through the mountains, and later on by CIA agents. MacGowan is running towards revenge against anti-terrorist organization members of the Committee whom he believes let him rot as a captive for three years, and Elizabeth rightfully believes she can only survive by sticking with him.

Throughout the dangerous escape, Finn and Beth develop and maintain a dialog that is both entertaining and sexy. Finn wants Beth, at first because he spent three whole years without a woman (this becomes an ongoing joke between them), and slowly because he truly falls in love with her, but Finn's failed Irish charm and the way he goes about turning Beth around to his way of thinking is the best part of their romance. I love Finn's character and the fact that he is ruthless but caring and tender with Beth, and that he uses his ruthlessness to fight his own needs in order to protect Beth from himself.

On the other hand, Beth hates sex and doesn't understand why she's attracted to cynical Finn, a man who kills for a living, and convinces herself that her conflicting emotions surfaced as a result of Finn saving her life more than once. Beth is rather stubborn and frustratingly straight at times, but I like that she gives as good as she gets from Finn, and that she doesn't roll over for him or is intimidated just because she is dependent on him for survival.

Characters from other Ice novels make appearances as secondary characters. Peter Madsen plays a big role, while others play small roles. This is the last of the Ice novels, so it serves as sort of an epilogue novel with babies and happy ever afters for some of the Committee agents, but they don't take page time away from the main couple. The climactic scene is actually anticlimactic and not as good as the action that takes place up to that point in the novel, and the romance between Finn and Beth ends with a really good line that is "very much Finn," but it is a rather abrupt ending for my taste.

These two novels, Black Ice and On Thin Ice, are my first reads by Anne Stuart. Black Ice is super exciting when it comes to the thrilling action, but for me the "romance" is questionable and did not work. However, I'm glad that I read it first and picked up On Thin Ice which turned out to be a well balanced thrilling romance suspense with likable central characters. I will probably give some of the other Ice novels a try to see if they work for me.

Theme: PNR/Romantic Suspense
Category: Romance Suspense/Thriller
Series: Ice Series
Release Date: September 15, 2011
Grade: B

Visit Anne Stuart here.

Black Ice, #1
Cold as Ice, #2
Ice Blue, #3
Ice Storm, #4
Fire and Ice, #5
On Thin Ice, #6

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TBR Review: Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

I've become familiar with Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden character, first through the long-defunct and short-lived television show featuring this character, and more recently by reading a few short stories in anthologies. Long ago, I decided to read this series and purchased the first book Storm Front. Unfortunately, the book has lingered in my TBR pile for years. Finally, this month I found that the theme for TBR Challenge -- other genre besides romance -- was the perfect way to plunge into this series.

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.
Harry is a real wizard, and no he's no Harry Potter. He's the only wizard in Chicago who practices openly and uses his magic to make a living, going as far as opening a P.I. agency and working as a consultant for the Chicago P.D. whenever they encounter "out of the box" crimes -- not that he makes much money out of either of these endeavors.

When we first meet Harry he's at his office reading novels, broke and hoping the phone will ring and a new case will come his way so he can pay the past due rent. He gets his phone call from a woman who needs her missing husband found, but barely talks her into meeting him at the office. Then he immediately receives another phone call from Detective Karrin Murphy of the Chicago P.D. to consult on a horrifying double murder that just stinks of black magic.

Soon Harry is embroiled in an investigation where people that talk to Harry begin to die, infamous Crime boss Johnny Marcone gets involved, a demon almost demolishes him while he's on a date, and a giant scorpion almost does him in, but worse than that as Harry gets closer to an answer the powerful black wizard behind the murders focuses on him, and he knows Harry's name so that his life is surely in terrible danger. But poor Harry also has to watch his back as a White Council representative spying on him believes that Harry himself is culpable and capable of the murders. Harry has to solve this case to save his own life even if he has to lie to Detective Murphy and experiment just a little with black magic to do it.

I felt a bit sorry for lonely, clumsy, inadequate Harry Dresden in this first installment of the series. I like Harry with his wonderful narrative voice. His inadequacies when dealing with women and even as a wizard manage to be both amusing and endearing. Harry is supposed to be a great wizard, yet his potions come from assistant Bob (a oversexed spirit living in a skull), half of the time he forgets his magic staff, weapon, and other magical paraphernalia, so that when most needed he is not prepared, but Harry has guts and somehow gets out of tight situations. Most people avoid looking Harry in the eye because he can see into their souls. I found this "soul gazing" aspect of Harry's powers fascinating and hope to see it further developed in future books. He is ambivalent about his own nature when it comes to dark and white magic and resentful of wizards in the White Council for whom he sacrificed much and was punished.

This book introduces some very interesting secondary characters: Detective Karrin Murphy and Johnny Marcone are two great examples. Harry has a strong narrative voice full of dry humor but not too much sarcasm, and I really enjoy the fact that Harry doesn't hide his magic in a world where humans are not really aware of a hidden magic world. It's an interesting concept.

Storm Front did not blow me out of the water, but I think it is a solid introduction to the series and Harry Dresden quite interesting as central character and narrator  -- more detective than great wizard. I like that the series begins with an investigation but love that it also delves into Harry's internal struggles and insecurities as a character.

After reading Storm Front, I purchased the second book of the series, Full Moon. So, I will definitely continue reading this series. :)
Theme: Genre besides romance

Category: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dresden Files, #1
Publisher/Release Date: ROC/January 1, 2000
Grade: B

Visit Jim Butcher here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TBR Read: Dirty by Megan Hart

This is what happened...

I met him at the candy store.

He turned and smiled at me and I was surprised enough to smile back. This was not a children's candy store, mind you--this was the kind of place you went to buy expensive imported chocolate truffles for your boss's wife because you felt guilty for having sex with him when you were both at a conference in Milwaukee.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

I've been hit on plenty of times, mostly by men with little finesse who thought what was between their legs made up for what they lacked between their ears.

Sometimes I went home with them anyway, just because it felt good to want and be wanted, even if it was mostly fake.

The problem with wanting is that it's like pouring water into a vase full of stones. It fills you up before you know it, leaving no room for anything else. I don't apologize for who I am or what I've done in--or out--of bed.

I have my job, my house and my life, and for a long time I haven't wanted anything else.

Until Dan. Until now.
I've been meaning to read Dirty by Megan Hart for years, and it has been in my "to be read" pile for quite a while too. This month's theme for the TBR Challenge is a "steamy read" and boy does Dirty fit that theme so far! Yes, so far. I was not able to finish the book in time to post a complete review due to my usual challenging family life. However, I wanted to post my impressions of what I've read so far and how I feel about it.

Dirty is narrated by Elle and it begins with the above passage when she meets Dan at an adult candy store. She's a brilliant woman with an excellent position, her own home and what on the surface could be a satisfactory life for anyone. But it is almost immediately apparent that inside Elle is broken, and in the past her way of fixing that empty broken space has been through mindless sex with strangers and the consumption of alcohol. She is a "black and white" woman, leading a colorless life and hiding behind a mask by wearing conservative clothes and displaying a distant, detached and bland personality in public, but we know that Elle is a very different woman.

Angel? Demon? Ghost? What is she? Who is she? That is what Dan wants to know once the two of them meet again and following his instructions, as well as inciting the moment, Elle more or less has public sex with Dan on a dance floor. However, Dan soon finds out that although Elle enjoys following directions during a sexual haze, she is not willing to do so when it comes to her personal life. There is no room for intimacy in Elle's broken life. She won't allow it, at least not until Dan slowly manipulates and begins to coax personal information out of her, talking her into seeing him again and again.

I'm absolutely taken with the story and characters. There are some very exciting, erotic and sexually charged moments in this book, all beautifully rendered by Ms. Hart. But frankly, I can't wait to find out the reason behind Elle's behavior. It is obvious to me, that there is a reason behind the fact that Elle has slept with 78 men throughout her young life and has only had 1 boyfriend, and there is definitely a reason behind the nightmares. Elle is an intriguing character.

I'm also curious to find out, why Dan? He's one sexy man! Dan can get any woman's blood pressure up in less than one minute. But, he's also hmm. . . perfect for the circumstances -- willing to unravel the mystery that is Elle without judging her. So you can imagine that at this point I'm loving Hart's characterization of Dan.

I'm about half way through Dirty, and so far I would say that this is not "romantica" (erotic romance), nor is it your typical fluffy erotica read. I'm finding that it's definitely darker erotica with a deeper plot than I expected, intriguing characters and excellent writing. There's a good balance between the erotic moments and the deeper plot that involves Elle's life, all interwoven of course. I'm hooked and can't wait to finish the book!

Theme: Steamy Read
Have you read Dirty by Megan Hart? If you did, what did you think of it? Besides Dirty, what book by Megan Hart have you read and recommend?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TBR Review: Open Season by Linda Howard

Be careful what you wish for....

On her thirty-fourth birthday, Daisy Minor decides to make over her entire life. The small-town librarian has had it with her boring clothes, her ordinary looks, and nearly a decade without so much as a date. It's time to get a life -- and a sex life. The perennial good girl, Daisy transforms herself into a party girl extraordinaire -- dancing the night away at clubs, laughing and flirting with abandon -- and she's declared open season for manhunting. But her free-spirited fun turns to shattering danger when she witnesses something she shouldn't -- and becomes the target of a killer. Now, before she can meet the one man who can share her life, first she may need him to save it.

Seamlessly blending heart-pounding romance and breathless intrigue, Linda Howard delivers a stylish and provocative novel that absolutely defies readers to put it down.
I've been wanting to read Open Season for a long time. Don't ask me why I never picked it up, I usually end up loving Linda Howard's books and Open Season is no exception. A romance between the small-town librarian and the Chief of Police? What's not to like? And a romance it is. Open Season is categorized as a romance suspense, however because the suspense is not substantial and there's no real mystery, this book is really what I think of as a thinly disguised romance where the suspense serves to drive the romance. So let's talk about what constitutes the meat of the story.

Daisy Minor is what people think of as a "typical" small-town librarian. Well-respected but overlooked by all, Daisy lives with her elderly mother and aunt. She pretty much acts like an old fashioned naive spinster from another era and dresses the part. On her thirty-fourth birthday Daisy decides she's had it with being a "good girl" and makes major changes in her life. A makeover and some shopping are a good beginning and moving to her own apartment helps, but her answer to finding a man is to hunt one down at nightclubs by becoming a party girl. This leads Daisy into trouble when she inadvertently witnesses a murder and becomes the killer's target.

Jack Russo was a big city cop and SWAT officer in both Chicago and New York City, but after his divorce and the death of his aunt exchanged that life to be the Chief of Police in the small town of Hillsboro, Alabama. He runs a clean, dry town and the last thing he expects is big trouble, murder or to become helplessly attracted to the town's prissy and naive librarian. But that's just what happens to Jack.

Daisy is looking for a man, but Jack is not her type: he's an outsider and too muscular/fit for her. Jack is not looking for a woman, and although Daisy's eyes and smile are truly attractive, she's not his type: she's too prissy and conservative for him. But as Daisy undergoes her makeover and gets in the way of Jack's ongoing investigation in the nightclubs, he can't help but feel protective and more attracted to her, and the more she tells Jack he's not her kind of man the more he gets on her way. Their physical attraction grows and whether she likes it or not slowly but surely Jack becomes her man.

Oh Lord! There are such great scenes in this book between Daisy and Jack. Under the guise of protecting Daisy, Jack basically seduces her, and she helps along by spilling the beans to her family and the whole town. I mean almost everybody has an idea of what's going on between Daisy and Jack even before they do! And while there's sexual tension and their bedroom scenes are super hot, others are fun and hilarious. Just read the PartyPak condom scenes, there are two of them. The discussion that follows had me laughing, and I mean out loud! Those two didn't know when to stop!

The suspense involves sexual slavery and transporting females illegally from foreign countries for that purpose, date rape drugs are used to subdue the women and one man is using the drugs on local women at the nightclubs. There's no mystery as to who is involved in the crimes, so this becomes more of a police procedural (how Jack and company figure out the truth), and of course keeping Daisy safe from the killers. The resolution to all of these threads is a bit surprising, but not really dramatic.

On the other hand, the romance is very satisfying. This romance grows from prickly dislike between Jack and Daisy, to a sort of friendship, some pretty hot and steamy scenes because they can't keep their hands off of each other and on to love. I loved their dialogue throughout the story, particularly how Jack went out of his way to rile and tease Daisy, and his attempts to play down jealousy and protectiveness when other males came into the picture. I loved that Daisy found her man and happiness, but the real Daisy didn't change... much. Open Season was a surprise because as a romance suspense it turned out to be a fun and very enjoyable romance with a suspense plot that just happened to be part of that romance.
Theme: Free Pick Month
July Review

Category: Romance Suspense
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Pocket Books/August 2001, Hardcover
Source: From Mariana, NJ Blogger book swap on July 2011
Grade: B

Find out more about Linda Howard here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TBR Review: Logan's Outlaw (Men of Defiance #4) by Elaine Levine

Confident and coolheaded, nothing shakes a Man of Defiance—except a woman he can’t resist...

Sarah Hawkins survived capture by the Sioux, but after her escape she faced public scorn. Now, she’ll do anything to start over, and the dusty town of Defiance promises the anonymity and security she needs. Before she melts into the shadows, though, it’s her mission to put a great injustice to rights, and that means jeopardizing her safety once more.

But this time, she’s not alone. Without meaning to, Sarah has fallen under the protection of Logan Taggert, a rough-and-tumble trader unused to caring for others—and yet unable to ignore the tempting, tenacious woman’s plight. Though she refuses to trust him, Logan won’t leave her side, keeping her one step ahead of danger…even as she takes hold of the very thing he never thought he’d risk: his heart.
Logan's Outlaw by Elaine Levine is the fourth installment in the Men of Defiance series. I read Leah and the Bounty Hunter, Book 3 and enjoyed the "real, somewhat gritty western" atmosphere in that story, and plan on reading the complete series. Logan's Outlaw is a western romance with plenty of violence and events covering the not-so-pretty history of the West. This story takes place during the painful times when the Sioux Nation was in flux, when gold was found in the Black Hills, and while some tribes were left with little choice but to move to reservations, others fought to maintain their way of life.

The story begins with Sarah, a white woman who survived torture as the white captive of a Sioux chief. This beginning worried me a bit, I've read these types of books before (from the 70's and 80's) where Native Americans are often demonized or romanticized. However, pretty quickly I realized that in Logan's Outlaw, Levine goes out of her way to portray both sides of the story. I can't tell you how politically correct the book is, you'll have to decide that for yourself, I can say that it is apparent that Ms. Levine conducted research before writing this story and did not romanticize either side.

Through Sarah, Levine explores life in the aftermath of a surviving white captive who was tortured and married to a Sioux chief. Also through Sarah, the author addresses the subject of how land, when not gained through treaties, was taken through foul means. Through White Cloud and his people, Levine explores the wisdom of the culture and how deeply they were wronged, and through Chayton her exploration goes into the pain and loss of the plains people.

Logan is the linchpin in this story. His position as a trader allows him to straddle both sides, and he appreciates and experiences the pain from both sides. Actually Logan turns out to be the perfect knight for a woman like Sarah. He understands what she went through, has endless patience with her, and all the right connections and courage to save her from her Sioux husband and to protect her from white scorn. There were very few moments when Logan showed his flaws... and even then, his reasoning was quite human. I wondered a few times along the way if there are men out there with his kind of patience. As a fictional romance hero, though, he is just that... quite a hero.

The romance between Sarah and Logan serves as the central focus. When Logan meets Sarah at a coach stop, she is a wounded, traumatized soul. Logan takes one look at beautiful and haunted-looking Sarah and fearing that the coach leaving to Cheyenne is headed for danger, appoints himself her silent protector and joins the group on their journey. That journey is a harsh one. They are attacked by a band of Sioux warriors, their coach is burned and the passengers killed. Although Sarah and Logan survive through Logan's knowledge and brave cunning, their adventures through Cheyenne, Defiance, and eventually to the Circle Bar Ranch continue to be filled with danger.

Levine uses the journey and the different obstacles that Logan and Sarah encounter along the way, including persecution by some goons that are after Sarah, to develop their relationship and romance. When Sarah and Logan find out that she is wanted for forgery, Logan marries her and slowly but surely begins the process of helping Sarah heal from the terrible fears and horrible nightmares that plague her from her days as a captive. She doesn't believe she'll ever be able to have a normal relationship with a man again, and he's willing to have her on any terms as long as he can protect her. How can Sarah not fall in love with Logan?

There's nothing pretty about some of the violent scenes portrayed in this story. There are burned bodies, scalpings, and people are killed ruthlessly. There's no sparing a character for the sake of making this a pretty romance, even as the characters experience their happy moments. This is a warning for readers who cannot tolerate violence with their romance.

Levine's prose is not complex or lyrical, as a matter of fact I find it rather straight forward and easy to read and the dialog can be said to be awkward at times, however the plot carries the day in this romance. Levine handles Sarah's healing, the aftermath of being tortured and raped, quite well (those torture and rape scenes are not shown in the book). The action is there from beginning to end, with quiet, romantic moments in between where Sarah and Logan get to know each other. Logan's attraction is instant and more protective than passionate in the beginning with passion taking over later on in the story.

Logan's Outlaw, like Leah and the Bounty Hunter, is a gritty western with both central and secondary characters that are confronting seriously hurtful situations. In contrast, the romance is sweet and by the end of the story there's a sense that the love found by our couple will endure. A quick western historical romance read, full of action that might not be enjoyed by everyone.

Theme: Western Romance
June Review
Category: Historical Romance/Western
Series: Men of Defiance
Publisher/Released: Kensington/March 2012
Source: Kensington Books
Grade: B-

Visit Elaine Levine here.

Rachel and the Hired Gun
Audrey and the Maverick
Leah and the Bounty Hunter
Logan's Outlaw

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TBR Review: The Charm School (Calhoun Chronicles #1) by Susan Wiggs

TBR Challenge 2012 Theme: Old School Romance

I had a tough time choosing a book and actually began reading three of them before settling on one. In the end I chose The Charm School by Susan Wiggs, a book first published in 1999. This historical romance has been in my TBR since November of 2011. How did it get there?  JenM mailed this book to me after she recommended it while commenting on a post. I mentioned that I had never read a historical romance by Susan Wiggs, only contemporaries! Thanks again Jen!

Isadora Peabody is an awkward misfit in her beautiful and accomplished family. She turns from the polite Boston society of 1841, taking a job as a bookkeeper on Captain Ryan Calhoun's ship, "Silver Swan." Sailing to Rio de Janeiro, Isadora discovers not only adventure on the journey, but passion and friendship.
The Charm School by Susan Wiggs is a great example as to why a book should never be judged by its cover, or its title. I've seen this book around countless times, and I've passed it by without ever reading the blurb. Mostly because of that title, but frankly the cover didn't help either. No kidding.

In The Charm School, Susan Wiggs brilliantly reworks the 'Ugly Duckling' fable into a romance. Izzy is the plain, dark and socially awkward ugly duckling in a family of beautiful and socially adept parents and siblings. Her journey from that ungainly, plain, and insecure person is helped along by the reluctant, handsome and roguish Captain Ryan Calhoun of the Silver Swan. Ryan resents the way Isadora gains a position as translator in his ship, and that she will be a part of his crew during the voyage to Rio de Janeiro, but he figures he'll make her pay while teaching her a lesson or two along the way. Neither Ryan nor Isadora knows that on their way to Rio they will find friendship, passion, love and more.

This romance surprised me with its charm and unexpected turn of events. There are two reasons to love this novel: Isadora's character growth from beginning to end is measurable, and Wiggs develops the romance between Isadora and Ryan in increments until it is believable to the reader. Additionally as interesting plotting points, Wiggs incorporates some serious pre-Civil War subjects and dark moments into the characters' present situation and background histories, while using humor and excellent dialogue to give the story an unexpected light and fun atmosphere.

Isadora and Ryan are both memorable characters. Isadora because of the slow transformation she undergoes from the unattractive and prissy self-proclaimed spinster into a beautiful, confident and smart young woman, and Ryan because of the way he appreciates Isadora's qualities and pushes her to acknowledge her strengths. I love the way their relationship goes from enmity to a bickering, almost reluctant friendship, and from a surprising attraction to passionate love.

I was further surprised by where this book got its title, The Charm School. I don't want to give it away, but those scenes on the ship were some of the sweetest in the book. I mean, really! There are some great secondary characters in this story. Additionally, this book has the distinction of being the one and only historical romance I've read where the heroine loses her virginity while both protagonists are high on hemp! That was an unforgettable scene. "Isadora, I adore-a."  Somehow Wiggs made it work. Of course there's some expected drama before the happy ever after, and although the ending is a bit over-the-top (no question about that) I think it is appropriate for this story.

This pre-Civil War historical romance offers a sailing adventure that takes the reader from Boston to Rio de Janeiro, and through Virginia. I enjoyed the journey, but most of all I love that in the end I finished the story with a smile on my face. I'll be reading the second book of this series, The Horsemaster's Daughter.

Theme: Old School Romance
May Review
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Calhoun Chronicles
Publisher/Released: Mira/March 1, 2001
Grade: B+

Visit Susan Wiggs here.

The Charm School, Book 1
The Horsemaster's Daughter, Book 2
Halfway to Heaven, Book 3
Enchanted Afternoon, Book 4
A Summer Affair, Book 5

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TBR Review: Almost A Gentleman by Pam Rosenthal

This month instead of going with the TBR Challenge 2012 theme, New-to-Me Author, I decided to just go with the flow and read what I was in the mood to read. Although I do have quite a few new-to-me authors in the historical romance category in my TBR pile, this is the book that "called" to me.

For three years, London's haute ton has been captivated by the cool elegance of Philip "Phizz" Marston. Tall, refined, an expert gambler with a cold, unerring eye for style, what keeps the ruthless social climbers attuned to this dandy's every move is something more unsettling.a grace and beauty that leaves women and men alike in a state of unthinkable yearning.


Lord David Hervey must be losing his mind. How else explain the disturbing desires he feels whenever his eyes meet the penetrating gaze of Mr. Marston? When he overhears a threat on the gentleman's life, he intervenes and alone discovers the glorious truth.beneath the bindings of Mr. Marston's masquerade hides an exquisite body that is every bit a woman's.


Armed with desire and entrusted with her bold game, Lord David won't give up till the lady gives in, revealing herself to him completely, surrendering her deepest secrets with every persuasive pleasure he can offer.
I first became acquainted with Pam Rosenthal when I read her Rita Award winner The Edge of Impropriety in 2009. I enjoyed that book and promptly purchased Almost A Gentleman. Unfortunately, it has been lingering in my TBR ever since.

Although Almost a Gentleman has a bit of that same style that I enjoyed in The Edge of Impropriety, I found it to be a vastly different read. First, the trope(s) used in this story are all familiar and then some. We begin with the familiar female to male masquerade and that oh... not so subtle attraction of a man's man who becomes attracted to another man, but doesn't quite know why. This trope has been done well, and it is loved by many.

The success of this past three years' masquerade lay precisely in the fact that she didn't feel like a woman. She didn't stand or sit or act like a woman because she didn't want to feel like a woman. Not ever again.
Rosenthal's gender bending Phizz/Phoebe is interesting in that she doesn't masquerade for a moment or for a short period of time, but instead assumes the life and follows the lifestyle of a gentleman for a period of three years. Successfully. Phizz gambles, drinks, socializes and through an agency that caters to males with 'certain tastes,' engages the services of a boy to service him/her sexually. Phizz is known as a dandy with much influence, particularly at White's where with a comment he can have gentlemen accepted or denied membership.

[...]Three years of Marston had accustomed her to doing things for herself. Three years of educating herself about her own tastes and passionate desires had made her aggressive -- a taker of pleasure rather than its humble recipient.
As you can well imagine, he makes many friends and foes. The one thing you can say about Phizz is that even though he's ruthless, he seems to be both admired and desired (passionately in some cases) by both males and females. Particularly by males. Phizz doesn't want to be a woman, he prefers the life of a man, the sophisticated lifestyle, the freedom, and the power. Phizz resents being a powerless female and for most of the story he fights to stay afloat as the dominant personality. But of course David comes along and changes everything.

David is a country gentleman, a widower nearing 40 and looking for a new wife. He meets Phizz Marston and is both confused and appalled when he's passionately attracted to the young man. He unmasks Phizz as Phoebe pretty quickly into the story, but I found it interesting that before that David went as far as trying to play the hero for Phizz and even throughout the whole story, although he denied it, he was really turned on by Phoebe when she was Mr. Marston.

Stop it, David, he commanded himself. Stop this idiocy at once. For he would certainly lose his oldest friend if John Wolfe caught the merest whiff of suspicion that David hadn't been in any way drawn to the young lady. He winced, imagining how shocked Wolfe would be to learn that what had roused decent, solid Lord Linseley's attention so profoundly had been the elegant posture and extraordinary eyes of a young man in black.
And his ass. Let's not forget the young man's ass!

Although understandable, his denials didn't carry much weight with me particularly when their sexual exploits take place. He loves the woman and insists that the woman is what he wants and needs, but Rosenthal introduces certain ambiguous sexual play as well as reactions in this story that leaves the reader thinking that David enjoys that double/gender bending personality that Phoebe/Phizz projects. David protests a bit too much, no?

The above are the interesting aspects of this story. Unfortunately, Rosenthal doesn't follow through  and leaves much of it unexplored. We rarely see Phizz in action within society, so there's little depth to his character from that perspective. And although Rosenthal's portrayal of how the homosexual male was viewed during those times is more in the historical context than PC, that portrayal is not necessarily well balanced. 

Once Phoebe makes a full time appearance and her real reasons behind becoming Phizz come to light, the story goes into the realm of the ordinary. Her final choices contradict her preferences, the blackmail plot becomes a non-issue, and the 'miracle of conception'? Well... what can I say about that one? I found it a shame that although I enjoyed Ms. Rosenthal's writing style (yes, it is different), and there's great potential and some intriguing moments throughout Almost A Gentleman, as a whole the story ends with a whimper.

April Review
Category: Historical Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Kensington/December 1, 2007
Grade: C

Visit Pam Rosenthal here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TBR Review: Dalton's Undoing (Cowboys of Cold Creek #3) by RaeAnne Thaynne

TBR Challenge 2012 Theme:  Series Catch-Up

I have lots of series to catch up on. However since I already read the first book in the Cowboys of Cold Creek series by RaeAnne Thayne for this Challenge, I decided to end my curiosity about these brothers, and just read Dalton's Undoing, the third book in the original trilogy. I've had this book in my digital TBR for over a year, so it's about time!


He was known as a major player who'd left a swath of broken hearts across the Teton Valley. Yet when single mother Jenny Boyer saw the tenderness in Seth Dalton's eyes when he looked at her children--not to mention her--it was impossible for her to believe it was all a game.


She was new to this small town, a school principal who needed to be respected. The last man she should be getting involved with was the Hunk of Cold Creek! But every time Seth came near, Jenny could feel herself all of the women who'd come before her. So why did she hope that her story would have a different ending--as in, happily ever after?
Trope: The Womanizing Charmer and The Prissy School Principal

Dalton's Undoing is Seth's story. Seth is the youngest Dalton brother, and if Wade is serious and grumpy and Jake known to be studious, Seth is the charmer of the lot. He has a reputation in Cold Creek as a womanizer, date them and leave them, although of course he's not exactly a dog either. He's also a hardworking man, kind, giving and sensitive. But, that's not what Jenny hears when she eavesdrops on a conversation between two women at the school where she's the new school principal and immediately forms a negative opinion about this man.

Jenny Boyer recently moved to Cold Creek with her two children. She went through a terrible divorce that left her and her son traumatized and troubled. Moving to this new place in Idaho is the answer to her prayers, particularly for her troubled teenage son, but that doesn't last long. Her son steals Seth's GTO and goes for a joy ride, crashing the car. Jenny is surprised when Seth makes a deal with her, and instead of pressing charges, suggests that the boy pay for the damages to the car by working at his horse ranch. This agreement brings these two very different people together, as well as the Dalton/Boyer families.

Jenny is not Seth's type, but still finds himself attracted to her. He does what he has always done and tries to charm her. On the surface it doesn't work and Jenny rejects him even though she's attracted right back. Initially she becomes a challenge for Seth, but slowly he falls in love with her and with her children. Jenny is attracted to him from day one, however interestingly enough her concerns are not that she's a bit older than Seth or that she's not "good enough" for him, her concern is what "people might say/think" because he's the town bad boy and she's the school principal, God forbid!

This of course doesn't preclude Jenny from having a fling with Seth later. But even when she sees with her own eyes that Seth is a great man with her, her children, neighbors, and family, it doesn't make a difference to her. She rejects and hurts him over and over again, ashamed of being seen or connected with him. This is the real conflict of the story.

This is a HSP, and as such the story is very well developed. The background stories for both Jenny and Seth are well documented, and the children are given a great many pages in this story. This romance is a family affair. Seth develops a relationship with the children first while he plots Jenny's seduction, and although it is clear that he is to blame for his reputation, Thayne doesn't make Seth into a black/white, two dimensional character either.

Jenny on the other hand is pretty standard fare when it comes to heroine material. She is the classic prissy, judgmental, type of woman who jumps to conclusions and won't trust herself or her own eyes even when she says she loves, instead she trusts only when reassured by others. Her love is conditional and as such it doesn't really impress me as real or abiding. So, although Seth shows personal growth throughout the story, Jenny does not. The secondary characters are wonderful, the children in particular are excellent in their characterization, and they also show excellent personal growth in this story.

So how to rate this romance? I again enjoyed Thayne's rendering of her characters, they are flawed and in some ways realistic. I appreciate that. The horse ranch as part of the setting gives this story that wonderful contemporary western flavor I love and that's always a bonus. As the end to the original trilogy, Dalton's Undoing does a marvelous job of taking the whole family and closing a circle. I loved Seth's characterization (his undoing) and the way he falls for Jenny, for that alone this book is worth reading. So I do recommend the trilogy with Book #1 being the weakest, Book #2 the strongest, and this book, #3 falling in between.

Theme: Series Catch Up
March Review
Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: Cowboys of Cold Creek
Publisher/Released: Harlequin Special Ed/Jan 1, 2006- Kindle Ed.
Grade: B

Visit RaeAnne Thayne here

Light the Stars #1
Dancing in the Moonlight #2
Dalton's Undoing #3

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

TBR Review: Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

TBR Challenge 2012 February Theme: Recommended Read

I read my first novel by Jennifer Crusie in September 2010 thanks to Tracy who sent me a copy of Welcome to Temptation. The following month in October 2010, Nath came to visit and recommended and gifted me with Anyone But You (plus quite a few other books in Crusie's backlist). The book has been sitting in my TBR pile ever since. So, thanks to both Tracy for convincing me to read this author, and to Nath for recommending this book.


She was beginning life fresh -- new job, new apartment. No husband. All she wanted was a puppy. A happy, perky puppy. Instead she got Fred. Part Basset, part beagle, part manic-depressive.

Nina loved Fred. Everything was great. Well, her best friend went through men like tissues and somehow Nina had to single-handedly save the company she worked for, but her life was great. Until Fred brought home Alex Moore -- poster boy for lonely women. No, no, no she yelled at her hormones and her heart. Anyone but Alex.

Still, Fred did have very good taste...
Anyone But You was first released by Harlequin in 1996 under their Love & Laughter line. I chose to read it not just because of the author, but hoping that the story would be filled would love and laughter. It was.

Nina moves to her new apartment after a divorce. She's finally happy with her life as is except that she wants a perky dog to keep her company. But when it comes down to it, instead of choosing a perky little dog to cheer herself up, falls in love with the smelly, depressed-looking Fred in a scene that immediately hooked me on this story. By next day Fred brings home drool-worthy Alex Moore, the gorgeous downstairs neighbor. Soon the attraction turns out to be mutual, and even after Nina finds out Alex is an ER doctor, she keeps reminding herself that he's just a kid.

The two become friends who share their daily concerns and well... Fred. The attraction grows but here's the main conflict between Nina and Alex, age. Nina just turned forty and Alex just turned thirty, so this romance has an older woman/younger man theme. Of course Alex doesn't care about the age difference, but to Nina this is a big deal.

This was an enjoyable read for me with the promised love and laugh out loud moments here and there. The main characters in the story are likable and fun. There are really three main characters: Nina, Alex and Fred. They are a trio, and their scenes together are the best. Oreo cookies, milk, and a special bra become part of their intimate, relationship-building moments, and a watchful Fred doesn't just bring this couple together, he becomes a witness to more than just their movie nights.
He looked at Fred.
"Pay attention. You may pick up some pointers here."
Nina moved against the pillow. "He's just a child. He shouldn't be watching."
Whether you are a dog lover or not, these scenes are there to be enjoyed. :)

Although this is a short, quick read, the romance is stretched out throughout and well developed. Nina and Alex become friends first as Alex basically woos Nina in a sideways sort of way, and Nina accepts that wooing even while telling herself that she's too old for him. I love the apartment window-hopping, Alex's miscalculations when it comes to wardrobe (loved the Daffy Duck shorts), and their movie nights together, plus once they get between the sheets there is more than sizzle between them.

There is a conflict that arises because of those age insecurities mentioned above, both Nina's and interestingly enough Alex's. Having read a few of Crusie's books now, I found it interesting that even this short, fun book touches on certain themes found in her later novels: dysfunctional and unhappy wealthy families, cold, uncaring parents (see dysfunctional families), couples that might not want a family, and a yearning for a simpler life as the ideal for happiness.

There are not too many secondary characters in this short story, but the ones that are highlighted are excellent. I particularly like Alex's brother Max and Nina's best friend Charity, both secondary characters that show personal growth throughout this short romance without taking the focus away from the main couple. Plus the upstairs senior neighbors, Norma and Rich, are a wonderful addition that contribute to the overall story.

Anyone But You is light, funny and fun, and although it is a bit dated with 1990's pop culture references, reading this contemporary romance is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Plus, if you haven't read it yet, good luck with not falling in love with Fred!

Theme: Recommended Read
February Review
Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Harlequin/August 1, 1996
Source: Gift from Nath
Grade: B+

Visit Jennifer Crusie here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Joining In: TBR Challenge 2012

The TBR Challenge 2012 hosted by Wendy of The Misadventures of Super Librarian is one that I definitely need to join this year. I've been accumulating books and that pile grew more than it went down this last year. Time to cut it down a bit (even if it is by 12 books!).

This challenge has simple rules. Choose one book per month that has been lingering in that old TBR pile, read it, and either leave a comment at Wendy's blog on the scheduled date, or review it.

Wendy is also providing some theme suggestions each month for participants, but this is not written in stone. I'm actually loving that aspect of the challenge, because now I'll have to start hunting my TBR to find books that match her themes, and I can't wait to see what I find in there. Hopefully some good reads.

This post will serve as my summary page for the Challenge.

Monthly Review Dates And Theme Suggestions:

January 18 - Light the Stars by RaeAnne Thayne: Category romance
February 15 - Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie: Recommended Read
March 21 - Dalton's Undoing by RaeAnn Thayne: Series Catch-Up
April 18 - Almost a Gentleman by Pam Rosenthal: New-to-Me Author
May 16 - The Charm School by Susan Wiggs : Published prior 2000
June 20 - Logan's Outlaw by Elaine Levine: Western (Western )
July 18 - Open Season by Linda Howard: Not on theme
August 15 - Dirty by Megan Hart: Erotic Romance
September 19 - Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher: Genre besides romance
October 17 - On Thin Ice (Ice #1) by Anne Stuart: Romantic Suspense
November 21 - The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey: All About The Hype
December 19 - Holiday themes (Christmas, Thanksgiving, it's all good!)

Wish me luck!