Anchors Away!

Have you all missed me this past week? Sorry for the silence, but I was recently on a fabulous Caribbean cruise, and well…let’s just say I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done for my little blog here.

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Let’s face it, there’s nothing like a cruise in December to really get you in the holiday spirit! The fact that Christmas music was often being played through the ship’s speakers and there were Christmas trees in various ports of call was an almost jarring experience! But when you’re laying out in the hot Caribbean sun with a good book on your Kindle who can really be bothered by anything? It was also a family cruise with parents, siblings, and loved ones, so you can’t ask for much more!

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First stop on the cruise was a relaxing beach day at Princess Cays.

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Then we had an amazing day in Jamaica, and oh my goodness you guys I have to tell you about it. My dad and I decided to take an excursion for a private rum tour at the Hampden rum estate. There was about a 30 minute delightfully bouncy car ride through the beautiful Jamaican countryside before we arrived at our destination.

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Upon arrival at the estate we were immediately greeted with a potent glass of rum punch, and then proceeded to have an introduction to the history of rum, as well as the history of the estate. And lo and behold, when our tour guide mentioned the founder of the estate I couldn’t help but exclaim in shock and glee when it was revealed that the patriarch of the family had fled Scotland following the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 to establish the estate in Jamaica. My mouth dropped open, and I whispered an audible “Oh…my…God”, when the tour guide looked to me in surprise and asked, “Oh, you know of the Jacobite rebellion?” Ummmm, I’m an Outlander and Jamie Fraser fanatic, of course I know about the Jacobite rebellion!!!! Such a delightfully unexpected fun fact. After that I couldn’t help but picture Jamie and Claire Fraser walking arm in arm with us throughout the rest of our tour.

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After Jamaica we had another relaxing beach day at Grand Cayman, and it was a fun throwback to about 3 years ago when I went for a week-long vacation there with my sister. As some of you may know, that was the trip which first inspired me to start a romance novel blog. Ahhh, memories.

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Our final stop was in Cozumel, Mexico, where my family and I rented a catamaran for the day. We went snorkeling, hung out at a private beach, and eventually ate the largest lobsters I’ve ever seen at one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been to: Mission. Highly recommend.

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All in all, a fabulous trip! There’s really nothing better than having your phone in airplane mode for an entire week as you soak up the sun. Oh, and consuming an average of about 3 desserts a day. I also may have come back with a few souvenirs 🙂

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What’s Your Favorite Bookstore? 

I was in a discussion the other day with my friends about a new brick and mortar Amazon bookstore that’s coming to town. Needless to say, it got us all to wondering…um, why? This is a company that’s pretty much synonymous with making actual book stores a thing of the past, yet now they’re opening up right next door to what used to be a Barnes & Noble that went out of business. Basically the definition of irony.

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However, while my friends and I contemplated the reasoning behind Amazon opening a physical location, it also got us to talking about our former bookstore loving glory. When I was little, going to the local bookstore was my favorite pastime. I would spend hours roaming the shelves, looking in the bargain bins, and discovering new titles that would whisk me away from small town Ohio.

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While I do still enjoy browsing through bookstores, I’m sad to admit that the joy isn’t exactly the same as it used to be. Nowadays I often find myself overwhelmed by such a wide array of books, constantly asking myself if the book I’m holding is actually a later book in a series and I just don’t know it, or what the user review rating might be. 9 times out of 10, I find myself pulling out my phone, and checking Goodreads or Amazon when I’m in an actual bookstore. I know…it’s positively shameful.

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That being said, I will say there is one bookstore that, to this day, remains my ultimate favorite. It helps me hearken back to a time when I was like a kid in a candy store, only I’m surrounded by the written word. I can still spend hours upon hours browsing through this particular bookstore whenever I have the great opportunity to be in the city where it’s located, and that would be Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing, China.

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Hands down, this is my favorite bookstore I’ve ever been to in my entire life. It’s actually a converted parking garage, which is cool enough in and of itself. But it also has thousands of volumes, from Western and Chinese classics that you can find in both English and Mandarin, to art books, law, history, economics, pretty much anything your heart could desire.

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I first discovered it when I was studying in Nanjing for graduate school, and whenever I get back to China I always try and revisit one of my favorite places on Earth. It’s quietly serene and 100% unique. The entrance is hard to miss, again, seeing as the darn thing is basically underground. However, if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend you pop in for a visit.

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So that got me to thinking, what are some of your favorite bookstores? Maybe it’s one you’ve been going to since you were little. Maybe it’s a new beauty that you’ve recently discovered. Or maybe it’s a place that’s on your bucket list to one day explore. Feel free to share in the comment section below!

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Happy Birthday to Me Indeed!

Hello everyone! Sorry I’ve been MIA for the last week or so, but birthday celebrations, work time madness, and apartment redesign means I’ve had less time than usual to sit down with my Kindle.

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And speaking of Kindle!!!! A couple of months ago I asked you all for some input regarding what kind of new e-reader I should consider to replace my 2nd generation Kindle. I’m happy to announce that after weighing all my options and reviewing your suggestions, I finally came to a decision. Exactly eight years to the day after receiving my first ever Kindle for my birthday, I was thrilled to open my second one for my b-day last week: Kindle Paperwhite baby!!

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Look how pretty!! I’d like to introduce you all to the new extension of me. You guys, this thing is tiny and freakin’ amazing. It should be called Kindle Paper-lightweight if you know what I mean. Look at it compared to my last one!

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Seriously, this thing is life changing, merely in the fact my purse will no longer feel like it weighs 20 pounds. I can’t tell you how many times in the last week I’ve picked up my purse on the way out the door to work and had a mini panic attack thinking I’ve forgotten something important from my bag.

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In the brief amount of time I’ve had to play with my new baby I’ve quickly discovered some key differences from my previous brick of a Kindle, aside from the weightlessness of it. First, the fact a light is built into the actual Kindle, rather than having to rely on an external case or light source is an A++ bonus feature. It’s also so incredibly nice you can adjust the light based on your preferences. My former light came in two settings, off and bright as f*ck. This one has a delightful spectrum.

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Second, I think the biggest adjustment I’ll have to make is in regards to turning the page. Not gonna lie, I kind of miss the fact that I could turn the page using buttons on either side of my last Kindle, and with this new one you have to be sure to hit the right side of the screen. It kind of makes reading whilst brushing my teeth a tad more difficult, but I have a feeling with time it will become second nature. And yes, I realize that is about as first world of a problem as you can possibly have.

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Lastly, this Kindle is FAST! And I LOOOVE it!! No longer do I have to go make a cup of tea and wait forever just to load some new books into a collection. Instantaneous satisfaction. I also love that with the case you simply have to close it to put it to sleep, and then open it to wake it back up. Simplicity. Well, now that I have a beautiful new device to indulge my reading addiction, I should be back to finishing books and writing reviews in no time. Stay tuned!

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A Call for Historical Romances!

Hear ye, hear ye! This is a desperate plea to all my historical romance readers and writers out there. I am in serious need of your assistance!

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I have approximately 788 unread books on my TBR list. Excessive. Disgusting. I know. And yet, believe it or not I am asking all of you out there to send me more. Why, you ask? Because of those 788 tomes silently waiting in my Kindle for selection, only a meager 18 of them are categorized as historical romance. The fact that I have over twice as many sports romances as historical romances fills me with a particular kind of dread and sadness.

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I have always been a fan of historical reads, whether it be romance, fiction, non-fiction, or essays on archaeological digs in Egypt. History is my jam. As a matter of fact, the first novel to ever get me fascinated with the romance genre was a historical read set in Russia during the start of WWII. Sadly, as the years wore on, Goodreads lists multiplied, and review requests came in, the contemporary world took hold. Now I see a definite hole in my blog posts of historical reads, and I mean to change it!

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So send me your suggestions! What are some of your favorite historical romances? Some of my ultimate favs include The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simmons, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and the entire Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I’d be happy with Highlanders, swashbucklers, Regency era lords and ladies, soldiers preparing or returning from war, time travelers and explorers. I will say of the minimal number of historical reads I do have on my Kindle, and those which I’ve posted recently, there’s a decent number of westerns featuring cowboys or frontiersmen. I’m pretty much set with those!

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And to any romance writers out there with a historical work on your hands, I’d be happy to read a copy for review. Be sure to check out my “Review Policy” tab above for some notes to keep in mind, and how to submit your work for consideration. Looking forward to seeing what some of your favorites are, and what you recommend I check out for myself!

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The Ultimate Betrayal!!

My dear readers, I hate to admit it, but I am considering committing one of the most terrible atrocities of all time. After 8 years of loyal service, and perhaps the most meaningful relationship of my adult life, I am debating the purchase of a new Kindle.

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Now, why is this such a betrayal you might ask? Simple. This is the only Kindle I’ve every owned, and I’ve come to view it as something I could never live without. Hands down one of the first things I’d need with me if I were to be deserted on an island. More importantly, technically it is in working order. I can read through a book just fine, the battery still holds a decent charge, the screen is in ship shape (for the most part), and it just has a few minor scuffs on its edges from being dropped an indeterminate number of times.

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I can also still load new books and divide them into my fabulously organized categories. But this is where the problem arises. It…takes…forever to do so. Several minutes will have passed by the time my Kindle manages to sync with my new purchases, and the lag time in moving a book to a new category has reached a point of hilarity. I find myself having to open the Kindle app on my phone to read a bit just to pass the time. Also, every once in a while it freezes up and I have to hold the power button to “off” for a good five minutes to force it to restart.

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Therefore, I think the time to purchase a newer version may have finally arrived. And this is where a new dilemma comes to the forefront, and one that I’m asking for all of your help in solving. Which one should I buy as a replacement? I currently own the 2nd generation Kindle, and while I always thought it was light and convenient to carry around, I’ve discovered that compared to some of the more recent generations it’s basically a brick weighing down my purse. Considering I literally carry my Kindle with me every day, something lightweight is extremely important. Although, I won’t lie it’s also kind of nice to be able to turn my purse into a battering ram when necessary.

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In addition, seeing as I read almost 150 books last year, a version that doesn’t strain the eyes is also paramount. I don’t want anything that looks like a computer screen. While a Kindle will never feel like a real book, it needs to look like one as much as possible. So, do you all have any suggestions? Honestly, I’d prefer to stick to a Kindle rather than another brand, but if you have a compelling reason to consider something else, feel free to put forward any recommendations in the comment section!

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Headed to the Beach!

Well ladies and gents it’s that time of year once again where I need to get the hell out of dodge, and head to the sun and surf of the beach. Not gonna lie, I am in absolute desperate need of a vacation! I’m headed to Florida for a whole week, and I couldn’t be more excited.

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It’s simply been too long since I’ve had a proper beach holiday, and by God I’m planning on enjoying every second of it. My Kindle is loaded, my audiobooks queued up, and my work email is ready to be ignored. Oh, I also plan on consuming more seafood and delectable desserts than any human probably should in a given week.

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But don’t worry, I didn’t forget about all of you! I have some reviews all lined up and ready to post in my absence. Enjoy!

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2016 in Review!

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post everyone! Personally, I blame the holidays, and the fact that I entered into a food coma basically every night for the last week and a half. Who knew home cooking could be such a deterrent to productivity?

After the New Year celebrations officially conclude, I usually provide a wrap-up of some of my favorite books from the previous year, as well as a total count of how many books I read. I’m sorry to say that for the first time in three years I failed my designated reading challenge goal!

At the start of 2016 I had set a reading goal of 150 books, and sadly I only finished reading a total of 108. Such shame and humiliation!! You’d think with all the flying I did to China, Australia and all over the USA that I would have found some more time to read. What can I say though? The free movies always call to me on airplanes. That being said, I’m happy to report that just three days into 2017 I’ve already finished reading a book, and it was freakin’ amazing, so hopefully that’s just a sign of good things to come!

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Alright, let’s take a look back at some of my favorite reads from the past year. If you’d like to read my full review of each one, just click on the title!

Andromeda’s Fall by Abigail Owen: An amazing paranormal romance read that contains cougar shifters, polar bear shifters, and a tantalizing amount of sexual tension that will leave you wanting more. Some other great reads from Ms. Owen I read this past year include Crimson Dahlia, Her Demigod Complex, and the Worse for Were. This woman makes me love paranormal romances!

Breathe for Me by Natalie Anderson: Nothing like experiencing a range of fun sexual fantasies with an ex-lifeguard. It’s a quick read with interesting characters, and there’s a good mix of sweet, sexy and a touch of sadness.

Clingstone by Marti Ziegler: One of the best Civil War romance novels I’ve ever read, with an amazing male hero that I want for myself. Suspense, emotion, war, and awesome character development.

Haunted Souls by Kathryn Knight: I’m not normally one for ghost stories, but this one draws you in and won’t let go. A soldier returns home with PTSD to discover he has a son he never knew existed, and a ghost is haunting the house of the woman he loves. Talk about a stressful homecoming.

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Love in the Light by Laura Kaye: This was definitely one of my top reads of the year. Laura Kaye’s writing is superb. You’ll laugh, cry, and possibly even weep like I did, as we get a glimpse into the world of someone living with depression.

The Marriage Ultimatum by Charlotte O’Shay: Taking the concept of the “marriage contract” to a whole new level! Lovable characters who seem different on the surface find they have more in common than they thought by having survived difficult pasts. They also have some explosive chemistry.

Of Love and Betrayal by Louise Lyndon: This historical read has the perfect mix of intrigue, suspense, lust and romance. Not to mention two lead characters you can’t help but adore.

Seize the Flame by Lynda J. Cox: This novel has everything you could possibly hope for in an exciting western romance: a brooding bounty hunter, a brave woman on the run from an abusive husband, and the two of them trapped together in an isolated cabin during a snow storm. Loving it.

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She Laughs in Pink by Jessica Calla: An emotional read that left me in tears, no matter how hard I tried to keep them at bay. Filled with endearing, yet also imperfect characters, you’ll probably roll your eyes at some of the silly mistakes that all young college kids are bound to make. But if you stick with it, you’ll see the beautiful relationships that can bloom and evolve in Sheridan Hall.

Tangled Vows by Stella Hunter: Definitely one of the better romance novels featuring a love affair between a male celebrity and an average woman that I’ve read in a long time. It’s a quick and sexy read. A little bit of suspense is thrown in at the beginning, and there’s the hint of enough family drama to make your household seem like a haven of serenity!

That One Moment by Amy Daws: In my opinion, this was definitely one of the best of the entire London Lovers/Lost in London series. It covers some intense subjects, but there’s also a decent amount of humor woven in as well. From Vi’s over-protective footballer brothers, to her ball-sniffing dog Bruce. Oh, and did I mention it’s sexy as hell?!

Wedding Day by Erin Bevan: If you’re looking for a light-hearted romance featuring a dashing cowboy, a bit of intrigue, a good handful of sexual innuendos, and not too many detailed sex scenes, then this is definitely the book for you. From single parents to stalkers, bets, a cowboy contemplating his rodeo career, and a virgin heroine torn between two men, it’s all here! Another great read by Ms. Bevan is the delightful Christmas romance, Wrapped Up in You.

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Well there you go! That’s just a small sampling of some of my favorite reads from 2016. Thanks for reading everyone! And here’s to hoping that I actually reach my reading challenge goal in 2017.

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Whenever I tell a friend of mine that I’ve finished reading another book, I always brace myself for one inevitable question. Sure, they’ll want to know if it was good, and maybe what I plan on reading next. But there’s another question that is always bound to come up: how do I find the time to read?

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I have a pretty average 9-5 job, manage to socialize at many a happy hour with friends, watch more TV than I should, and even practice a little piano every now and then. People always seem surprised when I mention that I can find some time to read in there too, and they often express sadness over the fact that they don’t read as much as they’d like to. Believe me you guys, it’s not as hard as you think to find a little time every day to open a book. You just have to keep your eye out for the perfect opportunity.

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It might sound strange, but one of my favorite times to read is during the commercial breaks when I watch TV. It’s the perfect example of “killing two birds with one stone”. My family always likes to record TV shows so that they can fast forward through the commercials later, but you can actually get a lot done during those commercial breaks! Whereas some people complain about how long commercials can last, in my opinion, the longer the better! Every night I love to watch Conan O’Brien on TBS, and when the commercial break comes around I boot up my Kindle and get some reading done. You’ll be surprised at how much you can actually read in an hour-long TV show that airs four nights a week.

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In addition to that, I’m a huge fan of listening to audio books whenever I walk to work, do my nightly meal prep for dinner, or when I clean the dishes. Yeah, not having a dishwasher sucks ass, but you just gotta find a way to turn that negative into a positive. So for all of you who think you don’t have the time to read, just try to find some creative ways to open a book a little bit each day. You don’t always have to sit down for hours at a time. Believe me, all those little moments can definitely add up, and you’ll be finishing a book in no time!

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Headed Down Under

Well everyone! Once again I get to spend a lot of time catching up on my romance novel reading while on a long-ass flight across the Pacific. Last time I was headed to China. This time I’m going to Australia!!

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I’ll be gone for a two-week business trip to the land down under, spending time in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane before taking another plane on over to New Zealand for the weekend. Woot hoot hoot!

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Seeing as it takes about 24 hours of straight travel time to get there, I imagine I’ll be spending quite a bit of that time with my nose in my Kindle. Then I have the whole flight back to look forward to. If only I had thought ahead and picked out some books with a few hunky Aussie lead male characters! Dammit Lauren, use your head!!

Unfortunately I’m heading to Australia during their winter, so I’m coming to terms with the fact that I probably won’t get to spend all day admiring Chris and Liam Hemsworth surfing in nothing but their swim trunks. But alas, that’s ok! My new goal is to see a kangaroo fight. Catch ya on the flip side!!

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Rest in Peace

Dear Aunt Sue:

You may have left us behind unexpectedly yesterday, but know that you left behind a loving family who will miss you forever. Things won’t be the same now that you are gone, but I for one will try to remember as many of the good things as I can.

Your brisket was legendary, as were your mashed potatoes that must have contained at least 2 full sticks of butter. I love that you always made sure to have a new box of orange sherbet push-pops at the ready for whenever I came over, knowing that I could put away at least 5 after dinner. I’ll never be able to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas again without thinking of you, and how he was your favorite Christmas character of all time. You also may have been the only other woman in the world who loved her Kindle more than I love mine.

I’ll miss your infectious laughter, your smile, and the fact that you loved your family more than anything. You’ll always be in our hearts, and we’ll think of you often. Rest assured that we’ll all rally together to look after your husband, 2 children, and tenacious grandchild. They won’t be alone. I hope that you are now at peace, and free from the pain of this world. We shall see you again someday, but not yet. Goodbye for now.

Love you always,

Lauren