Good Enough to Come Out of Hiding For…..

So I just finished Julie Lessman’s Daughters of Boston series, and the first book of her newest series, Winds of Change. If you are looking for something great to read, or if you just want to sink into a new series – I highly recommend it! She has now solidified a spot on my auto-buy list and cannot wait until her next book comes out.

These series are connected, so I do recommend reading them in order…..and if you do pick them up, let me know what you think!

Julie is a Christian Romance writer. You can learn more about her here: http://www.julielessman.com

Instant Attraction by Jill Shalvis

Just Finished:
Synopsis: The first in a sensational new series, Jill Shalvis introduces Cameron, Stone, and T.J. Wilder – three bad-boy heroes who effortlessly mix breathtaking adventure and scorching sex appeal . . .

GET WILD . .. AND THEN GET WILDER . . .

Accountant Katie Kramer is a quintessential good girl – working hard, recycling diligently, all the while trying to ignore the feeling that she doesn’t fit in anywhere. That’s all she wants. Well, that – and amazing sex, and the kind of daredevil escapade she can look back on when she’s crunching numbers in a dusty cubicle. Which explains why she just took a job in Wishful, California, working for Wilder Adventures and Expeditions. Waking up to find a magnificently built stranger towering over her bed – that part defies explanation . . .

After wandering the planet for months following a life-changing accident, Cameron Wilder has come back to the only home he knows. Under other circumstances, he might be thrilled to find a gorgeous woman sleeping in his cabin, but now, while he’ll risk his body taking clients on adrenaline-drenched excursions, his heart is off limits. Still, Katie’s killer smile triggers something deep in his gut . . . among other places. Showing her how exhilarating it can be to stop balancing her life as if it was a checkbook is the biggest rush he’s ever felt – and an adventure Katie’s wishing would never end.

My Thoughts: Once in a great while, a book comes along that is so perfect, it touches the core of who you are as a person. This book is that for me. I enjoyed it thoroughly from beginning to end.

Katie and Cam had a rather unique way of meeting. From that first meeting, I was hooked. Cam had just returned home after a year of wandering, and Katie was trying to mentally recover from a horrifying accident. There were fireworks from the beginning of this book that continued to the very end.

I laughed a lot. Katie has spunk, that’s for sure. And sometimes, I think Cam was completely dumbfounded by her. Their story held everything that I the reader look for in a good book. I cared about the characters and actually felt like I was there the whole time. I knew Katie. I knew Cam. There was a lot of heart in this story, amazing chemistry, and it was hot. Really hot.

Then there’s Annie, the aunt that raised Cam who is trying to fight for her marriage to Nick. Loved her. And every apron she wore had some kind of zinger on them. Loved that too. Poor Annie. She went through a lot of embarrassment to try and get her man. But, when he finally got it, he got it and it was completely rewarding for me as the reader.

No to mention, Jill has laid a beautiful groundwork for more stories. Stone, the middle Wilder, and Emma Sinclair, the new town doctor; Harley, the mechanic, and TJ, the eldest Wilder brother. Then there’s Serena, Cam’s ex. I like her. I’m hoping for more of her in the next Wilder book.

Take my word for it. Get this. You will not be sorry.

Verdict: The story was Excellent. I loved it from the very beginning and was sorry to see it end. I became submerged in this story and fell in love with the town of Wishful and everyone in it. I am now impatiently waiting for July when Stone’s story is published. I cannot wait.

The Trouble with Paradise by Jill Shalvis

Just Finished:
Synopsis: When Dorie Anderson meets a cute guy, she becomes a huge klutz. But one phone call has turned her dead-end dating life into an adventure: she’s won a trip on a singles’ cruise to Fiji. On board, she soon meets pro baseball player Andy, and the ship’s hunky French doctor. She’s sure she’ll fall head-over-heels in no time. Unfortunately, she’s right: soon, she trips over her luggage right in front of them. Mortifying. But a bigger disaster is just on the horizon. Dorie finds a man murdered in his bunk the same night a storm wrecks the ship, stranding everyone on a deserted shore. It’d be a perfect setting for romance-if it weren’t for the fact that there’s a killer among them.

My Thoughts: I don’t even know where to start. I loved this story. Dorie and Christian? Amazing! From their first meeting before the start of the cruise, was hooked. Poor accident-prone Dorie, and smoldering Dr. Christian, who can’t keep his eyes off her. And the two just seemed to come together from there, in spite of themselves.

I enjoyed the friendships Dorie made with the other passengers on the boat as well. Cadence, Brandy, and Andy were all great additions to this story, as were the other members of the yacht crew: Denny, Ethan, and Bobby. I also enjoyed the fact that there was a bit of a mystery involved in the read, and I literally didn’t know who did it until it was revealed. JS gave each of the characters just enough of an edge, that even though I as the reader liked the character, he/she very well could have been the guilty party.

Going back to the reason I read this: Dorie and Christian. Let me sum it up. Dorie and Christian in the cabin, trying not to succumb to their attraction? Hot. Lagoon Sex? Hot! Shower Sex? Hot.

If you haven’t read Jill Shalvis before, start with this one. JS has written a fun, witty, humorous, romantic read that was a wonderful thing for me to curl up with on a cold, blistery day.

Verdict: This was Excellent. I could not stop reading this story and looked forward to every breathtaking page. Keeper, definitely.

Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas

Just Finished:
Synopsis: He has tried hard to forget her.
Kev Merripen has longed for the beautiful, well-bred Winnifred Hathaway ever since her family rescued him from the brink of death when he was just a boy. But this handsome Gypsy is a man of mysterious origins—and he fears that the darkness of his past could crush delicate, luminous Win. So Kev refuses to submit to temptation…and before long Win is torn from him by a devastating twist of fate.

Can she remember the man he once was?
Then, Win returns to England…only to find that Kev has hardened into a man who will deny love at all costs. Meantime, an attractive, seductive suitor has set his sights on Win. It’s now or never for Kev to make his move. But first, he must confront a dangerous secret about his destiny—or risk losing the only woman he has lived for…

My Thoughts: I have been looking forward to Kev and Win’s story ever since I finished Mine Till Midnight (I know, I know, that was just last week….). This one did not disappoint.

Seduce Me at Sunrise takes up where MTM left off. What I liked about how SMAS started is that LK devoted two chapters to Kev’s history with the Hathways, going back in time to explain why Kev is the way he his. The instant connection between him and Win also added so much to the story for me. Additionally, there was also the history of the Hathaway parents and getting to know them as well.

No surprise, I absolutely loved this story. I really felt for Win, putting her heart out there to only be trampled on by Kev, thinking he is doing the right thing for her by not letting her be with him. I honestly wanted to delve into the pages myself and slap him upside the head a time or two.

Then came page 244. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet, but that was the turning point for me. That was where Kev became my #2 favorite LK hero of all-time. If you’ve read it, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t read it, you need to and when you come to this page, you’ll figure it out.

Additionally, there was the relationship between Cam and Kev. I enjoyed seeing them come closer and bond. I look forward to seeing even more of this in future Hathaway books.

Now, Dr. Julian Harrow. He was predictable. I had him figured out right away. Again, not going to go into details, but you already know Kev and Win are going to end up together by the end of the book. So, you know one of two things are going to happen with Dr. Harrow. He’s either going to be exceptionally good and back away gracefully, or he’s going to be exceptionally bad and try to rid himself of the competition so that he can have Win all to himself.

Then there are the Hathaways. I still don’t feel like I know Poppy very well ~ hopefully she will be explained in more detail in upcoming books; Beatrix has matured somewhat and I cannot wait to see how she’s grown by the next book; Leo ~ I’m so looking forward to his and Miss Marks story (someone put a shout out to LK to finish it soon!); and Amelia and Cam were an integral part of SMAS so I felt justly caught up with them.

In MTM, we either saw or got mentions of all of the four wallflowers. In SMOS, we got to see Simon and Annabelle! I hadn’t realized I’d missed them so much until they were featured here. It was great to catch up on these characters and their lives as well.

Win and Kev’s story was everything I expected and more. I’m so glad to see how strong Win became. She’s a wonderful heroine. As for Kev, I’m so glad he came to terms with demons and allowed Win to love him; and allowed himself to love her. It made for a great story.

Verdict: The story was Excellent. Of course, I actually read this one “on time” so now I expect it’ll be another year before I get my fix of the Hathaways (although I hope not!!!). I know I said it before, I cannot wait for Leo and Miss Marks’ story!

Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

Just Finished:
Synopsis: THEIR LIVES DEFY CONVENTION.
When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother was easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton. Even more challenging: the attraction she feels for the tall, dark, and dangerously handsome Cam Rohan.

THEIR DESIRE CONSUMES THEM BOTH…
Wealthy beyond most men’s dreams, Cam has tired of society’s petty restrictions and longs to return to his “uncivilized” Gypsy roots. When the delectable Amelia appeals to him for help, he intends to offer only friendship—but intentions are no match for the desire that blindsides them both. But can a man who spurns tradition be tempted into that most time-honored arrangement: marriage? Life in London society is about to get a whole lot hotter….

My Thoughts: I cannot believe that Cam and Amelia’s story has been languishing in my TBR pile for almost a year. I should be banned from the romance reading community for this one.

That being said, I’ve been anxious for Cam’s story since Devil in Winter when he stole a kiss from Daisy. In fact, I bought this book the day it came out. Just shameful, I know.

I enjoyed Cam and Amelia’s first meeting. How he went out of his way to try to help her look for her brother, and then when Leo was found he kissed her goodbye with every intention of never seeing her again. And how sweet was it that he stole one of her ribbons from her bonnet? I was already hooked, but that right there sealed it for me.

But they did meet again on several occasions and each time they met the attraction grew, and I as the reader became more and more submerged in the story. And then came the turning point, as I rooted “He’s got to go back to her!”

I absolutely loved this story. I enjoyed Amelia and how protective she is of her family. In fact, I enjoyed the whole Hathaway clan and cannot wait for each of their stories. I cannot wait to see what LK has conjured up for each of them: Win, who’s health was affected by a bout of fever ~ who isn’t rooting for her and Kev after they almost stole the show in MtM???; Poppy, I cannot wait to get to know her better; Beatrix, still so immature and I know LK has a great story planned for her (she said so over at Book Smugglers this week); and Leo, I cannot wait to see how LK redeems his character after this one.

As if it weren’t enough to have such a great story between Amelia and Cam, I got to see the Wallflowers again. Lillian, Evie, Saint and Lord Westcliff all got some time in this novel so I felt I was able to catch up on their stories; and Annabelle, Simon, Daisy, and Matthew were all mentioned! That in itself is enough of a reason to read this for those of use die-hard Wallflower fans.

The one thing I probably loved the most is Amelia didn’t automatically give up her independence. Cam actually had to work pretty hard to convince her that they were meant to be together. Her resistance and his determination kept me turning each page until the very end.

Verdict: The story was Excellent. Of course, I really expect nothing less of LK by now and cannot wait to read Seduce Me at Sunrise.

Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer

Just Finished:
Synopsis: An irresistibly delicious novel about the power of love and dessert.

Like other well-meaning mothers, Julie Mueller’s believed she did the right thing when she secretly ended her teenage daughter’s crush on Michael Slayton, a wild older neighborhood heartthrob with a penchant for Shakespeare and the pedigree of trailer trash.

Twenty years later, Betty Mueller has come to realize that was a big mistake. Her daughter Julie — divorced and raising a teenage daughter alone — is a workaholic obsessed with her career. And Michael, the one man who could make her happy, is the one man to whom she won’t speak.

Now dying and determined to make amends, Betty stages her last great feat of motherhood by reuniting the couple in a dessert class where she hopes the sweetness of a chocolate almond Torta Caprese will erase the bitterness of a wretched misunderstanding.

”Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said thy edge should blunter be than appetite,” Shakespeare once pleaded — though it will require more than poetry and passion fruit for Julie and Michael to renew their love.

It will, in fact, require the sweetest sacrifice of all.

My Thoughts: I’m forewarning you now, this is not a light fluffy read. I thought it was going to be. After all, it has my two favorite elements: a woman who becomes reacquainted with the man she fell in love with when she was seventeen, and food. I thought it would be cozy read for a Sunday afternoon. And it was, to a point, until chapter fifteen.

The story starts off in Betty’s point of view. Knowing there’s something wrong with her health, she purchases tickets for her daughter Julie and Michael, the man she never got over, to attend three dessert classes by a local chef. Julie fell in love with Michael as a teenager, but nothing ever came of it. They did remain friends, however, until a work-related snag kept them from speaking for the past six years.

The tale is told in the first-person from Julie’s point of view. Now in her forties, Julie is a single mom on a career path at a local news station. She doesn’t date, and devotes any of her free time to her family; either her daughter, or her parents who share a duplex she purchased so that she could be close by in case she was ever needed in a hurry. She is the typical middle-aged woman, trying to juggle a teenage daughter along with the responsibilities of caring for two aging parents, all the while attempting to have a successful career that at the very least pays the bills.

Michael and Julie’s relationship was very well written. I enjoyed watching them become reacquainted and tenuously rebuild a friendship that had been fractured six years ago. Add to that the fact that Michael is the one that Julie never got over and it’s a great story.

There are things that happen in this book that I’m not going to divulge here ~ I just don’t want to take away from the story. The title of the book says it all. Sweet Love It’s not just a romance. It’s unrequited love, it’s familial, it’s friendship, it’s history, it’s food, it’s just life in general. Love isn’t always the roses; sometimes it’s about the thorns and what makes us stronger.

Verdict: The story was Excellent. I’ve never read Sarah Strohmeyer before, but I’ve been impressed. I’ve heard this is her best work to date, and though I haven’t read any of her other work, I’m not about to dispute it. This is a powerful story that touches on so many factors. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Just Finished:
Synopsis: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” —Randy Pausch

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave—”Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”—wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

My Thoughts: I first fell under the spell of Randy Pausch in the fall of 2008. At that time, a co-worker of mine had shared with me the link the youtube presentation of Randy’s Last Lecture. I was mesmerized. Here’s a man who had every reason to be angry and to lash out at the injustice of his mortality. Instead, I watched a man whose grace and integrity touched a part of my heart and really made me think about what mattered most in life.

When I first opened the pages of The Last Lecture, I started crying. As I read the pages, I visualized the man I watched giving his last lecture at Carnegie Melon University; at the time of the lecture he appeared so vital and so healthy; it was hard to believe that he was even sick. Reading this book tonight, it was even more bitter-sweet because I was reading the words of a man who had passed away in July.

As I continued reading, my tears dried and I became submerged in the stories that Randy regaled about his life. I enjoyed the stories of his childhood and his dreams at the time. It was clear that Randy had a close relationship with his sister and his parents. His stories were lovingly told with such humor and intelligence; I couldn’t help but be taken with him.

I continued reading about how he met his wife Jai, about the birth of his first child, about the realization of so many of his dreams. I enjoyed the memoirs of Randy Pausch. I liked reading about a young, cocky Randy in his adventures through childhood, college, and career.

Dr. Pausch included a lot of little witty mottos, otherwise knows as “Pauschisms” in his book, the fundamentals of which are essentially common sense and common decency. Some of these “Pasuchisms” were his own; some were lessons he learned through others on his life journey.

Some of the ones that stuck with me?:

The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. (p51-52).

Give yourself permission to dream. (P.133)

If you wait long enough, people will surprise and impress you. (p. 145)

There were several others. The book was filled with them. This is a man who was terminally ill and he’s trying to put a lifetime of learning down into a 200 page memoir. Something to think about.

I continued reading and then I got to the last section of the book. My heart broke for the father trying to say good bye to the three children who may be too young to ever remember him, for the wife who loved her husband so much she begged him not to die, and for the husband who loved his wife so profoundly that I literally felt it as I read every word he wrote about her.

Verdict: This was Excellent. As I read the book, it was never far from my mind that I was not this book’s intended audience. This book will serve as a memoir to Randy’s children who are so young that they will more than likely not have any memory of their father. This is his story in his words, for them. This is the legacy he leaves for his kids.

I encourage everybody to read this one. The world lost a great man the day Randy Pausch died.