The Wedding Duel (Dueling Pistols, #1) – Katy Madison

the-wedding-duel-katy-madison
Source: Goodreads

Keene Davies is set to duel his one-time friend over the honor of their common best friend’s new wife. His brother’s old friend will stand as his second, but John has a secret up his sleeve. He’s brought a pair of cursed pistols to be used in the duel. The legend tells that the true winner will live happily ever after; something Keene has never intended to do.

After the duel goes awry with John’s help, Keene’s father forces him into marriage to Sophie Farthing, his rambunctious and forever in trouble cousin. Sophie knows that her prudish parents want to marry her off, but never did she suspect it would be to Keene, her childhood rescuer.

Sophie and Keene’s relationship is interesting enough to make the book, but the author actually splits the story, so we also follow Keene’s friends George and Victor, as well as George’s wife, Amelia. Jumping between points of view, Madison does a fantastic job of weaving everyone’s stories together in ever more complex ways. The number of twists this story takes while still holding onto the central two issues is astounding, and I could never quite put it down, or put it out of my mind when I wasn’t reading it. I took it out to read everywhere I went, and not all them were appropriate places for reading a romance book. At least I was reading it via iBooks, so no one could tell what exactly I was reading unless they peered over my shoulder.

My only issue with the book is that the miscommunication between Keene and Sophie was dragged out for far, far too long. One of them should have caught on sooner. It was a bit unbelievable, but at the same time, miscommunication is what happens when people don’t outright say what they mean. Sure, George and Amelia take forever to resolve their issues as well, but their’s is a much more legitimate thing to be fighting about for the 4-6 month time period during which the book takes place.

Overall, I really enjoyed it, and heartily recommend it for those over the age of 16.

HHC Rating: 3.75 stars

NaNoWriMo Update #3 – Week of November 15-21

writing-darthvader-1

Source: Tumblr.com

This week went really badly. As opposed to last week when I was ~5,000 words behind, I am now ~12,000 words behind. And do you know why? Because I hit another atrocious scene. One that I never thought I would have any trouble writing, but it turns out that I did. I wrote a TOTAL of about 3,000 words in the past week because I was so stuck on this scene. What was supposed to be a flirtatious scene between two characters (one with rather dubious intentions) quickly devolved into an awkward silence between the three of us. They had nothing to talk about. Finally, after FIVE DAYS of tip-toeing tediously through this scene, I just gave up and let them have their awkward silence while I moved on to the character change about 1,000 words before I had planned to.

Of course, now I’m at my parents in New Jersey for the week for Thanksgiving, and I have to go out and visit people who I haven’t seen in a month and socialize, and renew medications, and get my oil changed, etc. etc. My time gets eaten up very quickly. I missed nearly all of Sunday because I was volunteering at the television studio that I used to run at my alma mater for the Big Brothers Big Sisters annual telethon. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but it killed an entire day that I could have been writing.

Now I’m behind, and my favorite holiday is only two days away, so who knows when I’ll be able to catch up. Here’s hoping inspiration strikes shortly. Also, since when is my parents’ house so cold and dim? Even in the morning sunlight, I’m finding myself squinting and giving myself a headache just trying to write without some weird glare being in the way.

I also took no notes this week, because 1) the baby wouldn’t sleep, and 2) I was doing laundry and packing to come here. But let’s take look at my numbers so you can see just how awfully I did.

(Tuesday) Day 15 – 25000/20721 (643) (-4279)
Hit the yucky scene.
(Wednesday) Day 16 – 26666/21315 (594) (-5351)
Added more unnecessary details to the yucky scene.
(Thursday) Day 17 – 28333/22130 (815) (-6203)
Written whilst doing laundry. Still adding details to the yucky scene…
(Friday) Day 18 – 30000/22130 (0) (-7870)
To be completely honest, I went to go see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and did almost all of my packing (and the 6-hour drive home) this day, so… I can’t say I’m surprised that I wrote nothing. Also, I was becoming quite frustrated by my scene.
(Saturday) Day 19 – 31666/22433 (303) (-9233)
Finally got to the trickiest part of the yucky scene… And the characters are refusing to speak to each other. Suddenly I cannot even come up with anything they have in common to talk about. This is terrible.
(Sunday) Day 20 – 33333/23022 (589) (-10311)
Gave up and let them have their awkward silence.
(Monday) Day 21 – 35000/23794 (772) (-11206)
Moved on to a new scene, but I’m still not inspired. Also, I have errands to run and family members who’re willing to distract me.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7) – J.K. Rowling

hpatdh

Source: Goodreads

Harry James Potter is about to turn 17. He’ll finally be a full-fledged wizard, legally allowed to cast spells outside of school. He’s also leaving home for the last time. The magic that protects him at the Dursley’s ends the night of his birthday, and he’ll be free game for any dark wizards who wish him harm. With a whole list of things to do before he can even attempt to face-off with Lord Voldemort and stand a chance of surviving, Harry will make some of the toughest choices of his life.

This book. THIS BOOK. Oh my goodness. When I first read it (9 years ago) in 2007, it was July, and I had just finished my freshman year of high school. We always pre-ordered the Harry Potter books because if you didn’t it was sold out for like a month, and by then everyone had already told you what had happened. So, on the morning of July 21st (or it might even have been the 20th. They sometimes delivered a day early back then because there were just too many copies that had to be shipped out.) it just happened that no one was around except me when the UPS man arrived. I took the package and sprinted up to my room, where I closed the door, tore the book out of the box and immediately started reading. I didn’t even bother telling anyone it had come, because when the previous book arrived my mom and brother had started trading it back and forth to read it, and I had had to wait through an entire agonizing week of listening to them talk about it before I was allowed to read it. Their reasoning was that I read too slowly. So this was a combination of excitement, straight up selfishness, and maybe even a wish for revenge.

I hid the book under my pillows whenever anyone came into my room (thank goodness they always knocked so I had time to hide it), and I only left to use the bathroom or attend meals. It was summer. I didn’t have responsibilities. In the end, it took me about 36 hours to read the entire 759-page novel, and I don’t think I slept more than 3-4 hours. It was worth it. Not just because I loved the book, but also because the look on my brother’s face when I knocked on his bedroom door and handed him the book whilst saying, “Here you go, I just finished it.” when he didn’t even know it had arrived yet was PRICELESS.

Of course, I’ll have to argue about whether I read the whole book in 36 hours or not for the entire rest of my life, but who cares. I know I  did it, and that’s all that matters. And they thought I read too slowly. HA!

So, clearly, you can see how much I love this series. The first book came out in 1998 in the U.S.A., when I was just 6 years old, and my mom read them to us the next year, so we read books 1 & 2 back-to-back before eagerly awaiting the publication of book 3. For all intents and purposes, I learned to read with the Harry Potter books. Those 10 years of my life were incredibly magical because of them, and don’t even get me started on going to see the films. I was that child that immediately poked holes in all of the book/film differences the second we left the theater, to the point where my family banned me from speaking for the entire rest of the day after we saw the last three movies. I’m a pretty diehard fan.

Rereading this series has been pretty magical, too. There’s nothing like reading it for the first time, not knowing what’s coming, but reading it a second time is pretty amazingly wonderful also. I really appreciate all of the secondary characters a lot more now. Everyone is human to me, even Hannah Abbot who we hear about a total of maybe three times in the whole series. When I first read the books, and the films came out, I desperately wanted to be Hermione. To the point where I wanted to hate Emma Watson for getting the part, even though I was only 8 when the casting happened and was too young (and not anywhere near British enough) to try out. Hermione was smart, she was pretty (but not too pretty), and she had great friends. During my reread, though, I found that I identified a lot less with Hermione, and a lot more with Ginny. She’s quiet, she’s fierce, she’s determined, and yet she can still be silly in love sometimes, like when she sent Harry the singing valentine in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Her peaceful courage and undying loyalty are two of my favorite things about her, and I identify so hard with that. I’m even considering dying my hair red, though not exclusively because of my admiration for Ginevra Molly Weasley. I’ve been thinking about it a lot longer than I’ve been rereading the series.

Still, reading the first 300 pages of this book was agony. And trying to stop reading it is like wearing a Horcurx, or asking a dementor to please follow you around every second of the day while you wait to find out the fates of your favorite characters. It feels like there’s not a whole lot going on, and in the movie it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot happening, but it is. Inside of you, the reader, and inside the characters. Everyone is rising to the challenge, marking off their to-do lists and gearing up for war. All 759 pages are needed because that’s how long it takes for you to be ready to fight the ultimate evil that is Lord Voldemort. That’s how long it takes for your courage to rise to the top, to stamp down your fears, and face the true evil head-on. And after countless deaths that you can still feel, echoing through the years, you are finally prepared for your destiny.

“That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.” pgs. 709-710 (US 2007 Edition)

So, yes. This book is wonderful, amazing, magical… everything you hoped and wished the final Harry Potter book would be. It is also heart-tearing, gut-wrenching, and exhaustingly sad, yet somehow we still love to read it.  This book, I am convinced, is why the series is so beloved to this day. Also, I blew off NaNoWriMo for a day in order to read the last 459 pages because I couldn’t take the waiting any longer. It was worth it.

HHC Rating: 5 stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Book #3 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Book #4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Book #6 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book #8 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Fantastic Beasts #1 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

November Update – 2016 Goals Check-In

november-update

Well, I can’t say the past two weeks have really flown by, but neither can I say they crawled. They seemed a mix of endless days and quick parts. I am now mostly settled into my new residence in Boston. In case you’ve missed the past two updates, I’m living with my aunt and uncle and watching my baby cousin during the day because they needed to go back to work.

Thus far, I love it. In fact, today might be the first day of real rain we’ve had since I arrived, and I find that I don’t mind it at all. The sound is actually pretty soothing as I write. I’ll be sharing a post about my adventures in the city probably sometime next week.

Watching the monkey, aka my cousin (who like myself and my uncle were born in the Year of the Monkey!) is actually pretty fun, though mostly only because I’m not on night duty, so I start each day with enough sleep and energy to keep up with him. It’s interesting to watch him develop and learn new things. So far, I’ve taught him how to do raspberries… which may have backfired in the form of me getting spit on every time we feed him solids. Oops. My Bad. But it is adorable to hear him practicing though the baby monitor when he first wakes up from a nap.

We celebrated my grandmother’s 80th birthday at the beginning of the month! She’s one of my favorite people in the world, and while my mom and I couldn’t attend the actual party, we both drove to Connecticut (my mom from NJ, I from Boston) and had our own party the next weekend. Any time I can spend with her is always well spent.

I’m headed to my parents this weekend for the first time since the move! Sometimes it’s weird to think that I don’t live there anymore, but to me it will always be home, whether I’m at college, living with my aunt and uncle, or living on my own. I’ll be home for a whole week, and I’m excited to get some quality family time in, as well as some quality writing time. NaNoWriMo is hard work! Hopefully, I’ll be able to pop down to the bridal shop to visit my old co-workers as well!

So far this month, I think I’m doing pretty okay with my goals. Let’s check them out:

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – Almost! I’ve missed a total of three days, and I half-assed it for two more. So, I’ve basically written 10 of the first 14 days. Two-thirds isn’t bad, though!! I’m only down ~5,000 words from where I’m supposed to be word count wise for the month.

Apply to Full Time Jobs – COMPLETED!

Apply to Grad School – After attending the open house at Emerson, I really like their program. AND I found out that I don’t have to take the GRE! So, come December when NaNoWriMo ends, I can start on the essays, brushing up my professional/academic resume and speaking with contacts about recommendation letters.

November Goals:
Write 50,000 words of the Everest Chronicles – I’ve just crossed 20,000 words yesterday! I’m on track for 40,000, but I’m still hoping to hit that goal of 50k! See my NaNoWriMo weekly updates for more information. Links will go live with the posts.
NaNo Prep
Week One (1-7)
Week Two (8-15)
Week Three (15-21)
Week Four (22-30) + Wrap Up

Write 8 posts – This is number 3? I think? I have the first two weeks of NaNoWriMo updates posted already, and there should be 2-3 more of those, as well as 1-3 posts pertaining to my exploration of Boston. So far it is much smaller than I expected.

Walk 30 miles – Being in a new city means there are endless things for me to explore! I use a step counter app on my phone, and so far I’ve walked ~22 miles! It’s not much, but I’m getting there!

Read 5 books – So Far: 1. As in, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It took me a while, as you can see. And yet,  it was the first 300 or so pages that took me the longest to read. I spent them curled up in the fetal position, waiting for the pain to start, rather than tearing through the plot like people sometimes rip off band-aids. I knew what was going to happen. I’ve read the book before. And yet… and yet trying to stop while you read that book is like wearing the Horcrux too long, or asking a dementor to please follow you around every minute of the day while you wait in agony to find out the fate of your favorite characters. Let’s just say there is a reason I finished the novel in 36 hours when it first came out. And yes, I still cry for every death, and yes, the first time I read about THE DEATH, I threw the whole book against the wall. Or, well, I would have, but at the last minute I aimed for my pillows because I had signed for the book when it came and hadn’t told the rest of my family it had arrived yet, and therefore didn’t want them coming in to find out what the noise was. I felt that I deserved to read it first after having to wait a solid week when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out before I could pry it away from my mother and my brother, who quite literally just passed it back and forth 24/7 until they finished it. Apparently, they thought I read too slowly.

I started Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but that’s a whole other story I don’t need to get into right now. Basically, I had to stop because it was distracting me from NaNoWriMo. My brain simply could not process new Harry Potter information while trying to live in the made up world that I’m writing about.

I have a list of other books I want to read this month, but I have no idea how far I’m going to get with them, especially since I’m already behind on NaNoWriMo after spending two days travelling for my grandma’s birthday and another day that was devoted simply to reading the last 500 pages of Deathly Hallows. Not sorry about it. Not at all.

Updated November TBR:
Definitely Reading:
Harry Potter (7): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Completed
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – 25% finished
FB&WTFT (1): Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Still on Pre-Order
Big Magic – Just started
2016 Best American Travel Writing – This is my read-on-the-train book. Quite good so far!
Ebenezer Scrooge Mysteries (1): The Humbug Murders

Hopefully Reading:
You Are A Badass
Present Over Perfect
Pretty Happy

December TBR:
Definitely Reading:
Thrive
The Boston Girl
The Keepers (1): A Wizard Named Nell
Lois Lane (1): Fallout
TH&TC (1): The Hammer and the Cross
TH&TC (2): One King’s Way

Hopefully Reading:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Manage Your Day-To-Day
Explorer’s Guild G (1): A Passage to Shambala (~300 pages left!)

NaNoWriMo Update #2 – Week of November 8-15

writin-edmund-narnia-1Source: Pinterest

Ok, so I’m separating the month into weeklong chunks rather than actually adhering to the conventional ‘week’, but who cares. This week was all about getting back to where I needed to be. Annnnd then the U.S. Presidential Election happened and I needed a minute. And then Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows was begging me to finish it. Also, the combination of those two was not pretty. I had actual nightmares where I went for a walk or a drive and ended up on a hill watching whatever town was below me being bombed. It was awful.

So, I’m not back to where I should be word count wise. In fact, I’m just about 5,000 words behind (mostly because I haven’t written yet today, but I’m about to as soon as I’m done here). We’re supposed to be hitting 25,000 today and I just crossed the 20,000 word count threshold yesterday. Still, I’ve gotten significantly farther than I did last year, so I’m not too mad about it all. However, I am going to keep this short and get right to it.

This week I finished that awful scene I was writing and moved on to the third character… where I’ve been ever since. Clearly, I’m eventually going to have to cut back huge chunks of this section since it’s already 9,500 words and will probably be closer to 13-14,000 by the time I hit the character change. I didn’t realize I had this much to say about this character, but somehow she suddenly became much more complex than I thought she was. Surprise, surprise. I think that’s my favorite part about NaNoWriMo so far, actually, just writing and seeing what happens to the characters. I don’t always know what they’re going to say or do before they do it. I just know that they have to get from point A to point B and a few people have specific things they need to do or say along the way, but a lot of it is just kind of happening, and that’s really exciting. Add this character’s complexity to the fact that she’s actually interacting with people (whereas the first two have barely spoken to anyone beyond themselves so far), and you can see how what was supposed to be a short chapter has ballooned into half of my current manuscript. Oops. Anyways, onward and upward!

And now let’s look at the notes I made this week along with my actual word counts:

(DAY) # – WORD COUNT GOAL / WORD COUNT ACTUAL (Daily Total) (+ Ahead/- Behind)

(Monday) End of Day 7 Total – 11666/9444 (2134) (-2222)
(Tuesday) Day 8 – 13333/11848 (2404) (-1485)
Not bad! Catching up! That makes two 2000 words days in a row!
(Wednesday) Day 9 – 15000/11856 (8) (-3144)
That’s right. I wrote 8 words. I think we can all understand that I was exhausted, etc. after staying up to watch the U.S. Presidential Election results. I shouldn’t have done it, but I couldn’t sleep.
(Thursday) Day 10 – 16666/12575 (719) (-4091)
I’m still exhausted, and I need to finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s haunting me and hanging over my head, and I just need to finish the last 500 pages because I can’t think about anything else. Also, my review of it is scheduled to go up in 2 weeks, so I kind of have to finish it. Also Also, I really want to finish it as well as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child before my copy of the screenplay of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them gets here next week. This problem has quickly spiraled out of control, as you can see. But I’m trying to write. I am.
(Friday) Day 11 – 18333/12575 (0) (-5758)
I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. #NotSorry
(Saturday) Day 12 – 20000/14619 (2044) (-5381)
Feeling supremely unmotivated.  I started Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and it’s thrown me for a loop. Trying to get off this ride and back on to my own, thank you very much, so I can write. Broke down and opened up my copy of 300 Writing Prompts to get the ideas flowing. That sent me off on a tangent of looking at baby names, which eventually led to my breaking down and watching a movie (Love, Rosie), which made me bawl my eyes out, but ultimately kicked me off the Harry Potter ride and allowed me to jump back into my writing and actually do some quality work.
(Sunday) Day 13 – 21666/17873 (3254) (-3793)
Attended a write in! Whoopie! Also my biggest writing day to date!
(Monday) Day 14 – 23333/20078 (2205) (-3255)
Finally broke 20,000! SO EXCITED!

Only a Kiss (The Survivors' Club, #6) – Mary Balogh

Only-A-Kiss-Mary-Balogh.jpg

via Goodreads

Imogen, Lady Barclay, is adjusting slowly to living alone with her elderly female family members and their horde of stray animals. She is hoping to move into the dowager house as soon as the roof gets fixed, and is looking forward to starting a garden.

Percival Hayes, the Earl of Hardford and the new Lord Barclay, realizes that he will have to visit his estate in Cornwall eventually, but he never expects to find so many people and animals living there. Setting up an estate takes a lot more work than Percy realized, and before he can begin to decide what to do, things begin happening. Mysterious things that nobody will explain to him, and it is soon up to Percy and Imogen to solve the mystery of what or who is trying to run them off the estate.

I recently checked this out of my library so I could refresh my memory before writing this review, and also because my mom hadn’t read it yet. Wouldn’t you know it, but she lost the book. We haven’t lost a library book since I was maybe 6 or 8, so this is really quite frustrating. Not to mention that I hadn’t gotten around to writing this review yet, so now I have to go by memory.

This book has a lot of elements. Multiple houses and family members, not to mention an entire town full of people. This book easily wins the award for ‘biggest cast’ of the series. Also, there are a million stray animals and PIRATES. This book is not just a romance, but also a full-on mystery novel. It was very cool.The chemistry between Imogen and Percy was quite good. I tend to think of Imogen as a young and slightly more roughed up but less strict Professor McGonagall (from

The chemistry between Imogen and Percy was quite good. I tend to think of Imogen as a young and slightly more roughed up yet less strict Professor McGonagall (from Harry Potter). She’s delightful in a serious kind of way that just really makes her endearing and spunky at the same time.

Percy, for a character we are just meeting, is extremely well developed, and there were times when I felt we almost knew him better than Imogen. Not to mention that Percy is the only male lead who is not a member of the Survivors’ Club, which, thankfully, doesn’t seem to phase him that much.

Overall, I would recommend it, especially if you’ve been loving the series so far! As with all of Balogh’s books, this series just gets better and better.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Proposal
Book #2 – The Arrangement
Book #3 – The Escape
Book #4 – Only Enchanting
Book #5 – Only A Promise
Book #7 – Only Beloved

The Cowboy's Email Order Bride (The Cowboys of Chance Creek, #1) – Cora Seton

the-cowboys-email-order-bride-cora-seton

Source: Goodreads

Autumn is a writer. A writer fighting the rising number of layoffs happening at City Pretty Magazine in Manhattan. Desperate for a story to wow her boss and save her job, she answers a video ad for a cowboy in need of a wife. She’ll get in, she’ll get out, and she’ll get her story.

Ethan is a rancher. He’s inherited the place from his parents and is desperate to keep it despite his sister’s attempts to sell it out from under him. His fiance’s left him, but with some help from his friends, he might just recover. That is if he can survive their latest practical joke.

I came across this book while testing out a new e-reading app.(Kobo) Once I figured it out, I felt the itch to browse the free books (because who doesn’t love free books?), and I came across this. The title sounded a bit cheesy, and even the author makes fun of it at the end, but it looked like a light read, which I needed to get out of the reading slump I was in at the time.

The story was actually quite good. Many romances feature one or the other half of the couple lying about something and it blowing up in their face, but in this case, both Ethan and Autumn have their secrets that they will have to overcome as a couple. It was heartening to see and feel them go through all the turmoil and eventually come out stronger.

Highly recommended to any fans of romances and/or cowboys. This story is one cute read that packs quite a punch of information. My only gripe is that the end wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars